Which thought-leadership styles do your C-level execs prefer?

by | May 18, 2017 | Public Relations

In an age where ideas are increasingly conveyed through infographics, snackable soundbites and limited characters, Forbes Insights and Deloitte have produced a report that stands counter to the general perception that brevity and digital content are most effective in the field of communications in the 21st century.

The study shows that many C-level executives buck these trends, with more than one-third of them preferring traditional longer data-based formats, in print.

The firms jointly surveyed nearly 300 C-level executives globally to analyze how top executives prefer to receive business insights. The resulting report, Thought Leadership in Action: Strategic Content to Help CXOs Learn and Lead, explores how executives consume the thought leadership insights that shape how they steer their businesses into the future.

Key findings include:

C-suite executives expect to be able to access insights in multiple ways

While C-suite executives (CxOs) like being able to access shorter formats and visualization tools online (particularly true for CIOs, CFOs and COOs who often times need access to data quickly and easily), the majority continue to benefit from traditional longer formats, such as presentations, books and comprehensive papers.

Bruce Rogers, Chief Insights Officer of Forbes Media, puts this in the context of the level of the audience who participated in the survey. “Short-form content serves as a gateway to more information,” he said, according to a news release. “Nevertheless, CxOs need to think and act strategically, which is why they want access to longer pieces, which take them from hypothesis, through case studies, to conclusion, and are based on credible data.”

Big data is a mixed bag in terms of its usefulness for business insights

Big data is considered a critical source (63 percent), but 62 percent of surveyed CxOs said that insights from big data are not always useful.  At the same time, 71 percent of the CxOs believe that traditional surveys remain valuable.  CxOs need to find a way to process all types of data, as only 30 percent say that their organizations value the judgment of executives over insights from customer data. Relying on gut instinct is finally becoming the way of the past.

“Evidence-based decision-making is more critical than ever before for setting strategy,” said Gina Pingitore, managing director of Deloitte’s Center for Industry Insights, in the release. “That’s why thought leadership needs to present CxOs with data-based insights that are credible, relevant to their organizations and lead to business outcomes.”

Online is growing, but print is not dead

While content needs to be designed for and distributed via multiple channels, print is still an important medium. Half of the C-suite says that reading business insights in print is still critical, particularly for longer pieces, and over 84 percent indicate they would choose to read a four- to five-page report off-line, followed by on a PC (75 percent), tablet (70 percent) and smartphone (59 percent).

Professional publishing and consulting firms produce the most valuable content

CxOs obtain the most valuable content from organizations that can analyze information and put it in a narrative context: general news media and business publications (54 percent), consulting firms (48 percent) and management journals (47 percent).

The report also provides several sections on content creation, based on Forbes Insights’ publishing acumen. It includes guidelines for how to write, edit and structure content to create engaging thought leadership insights that will be widely read by business executives. Forbes Insights also offers ideas about what’s coming next—top thought leadership themes for 2020 and beyond.

For marketers, 90 percent of whom told Forbes Insights that they must develop a publishing function to execute growth, the report presents the “Keys to Enabling the Enterprise Publishing Process with Technology.”

Download the complete report here.

This report is based on a global survey of 283 C-level executives conducted by Deloitte and Forbes Insights. Half the respondents represent companies with annual revenues of at least $5 billion. 

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