The Forum Buzz: thought leadership still deserves a place at the top table in 2021

David Cowan

Managing Director

The Financial Services Forum

It feels as if we are now fully into the swing of our 2021 event programme, having enjoyed a stellar lineup of speakers across the board at our two events this week.

Next week, we’re back with a fintech community event on Tuesday, looking at how fintechs are meeting the increasing demand for responsible investing with innovative solutions for under-served customer bases.

Then, on Thursday, we’ll be joined by Mintel’s Director of Research EMEA, Toby Clark, and Cowry Consulting’s Senior Behavioural Designer, Ella Morrison, to discuss the consumer of tomorrow from both a lateral incoming consumer trend perspective and a more granular, behavioural science, level.


Thought of the Week: The content marketing world may be more crowded than ever, but thought leadership still deserves a place at the top table in 2021.

Jasmine Butler, Brand and Membership Marketing Manager, The Financial Services Forum

“It’s fair to say that over the course of the past decade, we’ve lived through the ages of thought leadership 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. We’ve written blogs, published whitepapers and thought pieces ad infinitum. At Forum events, we’ve heard about how ‘content is king’, and how we’re now living in an age of content fatigue; fighting not only against our competitors for time and mindshare, but multi-screens, dwindling dwell times and an increasing propensity to scroll.

Despite the inevitable eye-rolling at the mention of a (now hackneyed) ‘content is king!’ proclamation, now is not the time to drop the ball, as Man Bites Dog’s CEO Claire Mason discussed at yesterday’s webinar.

In fact, Man Bites Dog’s recent research found that a massive 84% of UK investors and 66% of global investors think that the future vision and orientation of the CEO is more important than past performance when making investment decisions. In 2021, more than ever, business leaders need to have a clear, engaging public voice – and, meaningful subject matter that’s worth listening to.

Carving out space to focus on future strategy and vision – and, how it will be articulated externally – is something that the Forum Members we surveyed during yesterday’s webinar clearly hope to have more time for in 2021.

Our snapshot poll found that 50% of attendees were able to allocate 20-40% of their time to long-term strategic activities versus short-term in 2020, with 25% of the group reporting that they allocated 10-20% of their time, and 25% stating 60-80%. Despite this, looking to the year ahead, 50% hoped to use more – 40-60% of their time – for long-term strategy activities.

With so much at stake, Claire shared some top tips for creating unique, future-thinking, angles for your thought leadership strategy (plot spoiler: in the interest of keeping to 500 words for this newsletter, you’ll have to watch the webinar here for the full how-to-guide!). To provide a very brief snippet, here are Man Bites Dog’s 3 critical success factors for a successful thought leadership strategy in 2021.


1. Have a very strong idea or a concept that’s against the grain. Tell your audience something new and different that they haven’t heard before. As Claire explained, in the world of news, dog biting man is not a story. Man biting dog is. The digital echo chamber of ‘same but different’ information that we now live in is full of dogs biting men, which by nature creates content fatigue. Use a different perspective, angle, or voice to incite interest and grab your audience’s attention.

2. Avoid big ‘state of the nation’ research pieces. Instead, opt for a clear hypothesis, based on a unique idea or insight you are trying to prove or uncover. Claire noted that the most common error companies make when planning a research output is to conduct broad, big-picture research, in the hope that they will uncover something interesting that will enable them to retrofit a narrative.

Realistically, anyone can ask all the questions to all the people, so this type of study or research is likely to result in a generic output. Starting with a distinct question or unproven hypothesis first will help you create clarity and distinctiveness of argument foremost, which will make articulating what’s unique and interesting about what you have to say easier when it comes to the write-up.

3. Thought leadership is about leading, not following. Yet, often our default position is to create content that examines the past or discusses confusion or contention around the current state of play. Of course, there is a time and a place for this type of discussion piece. But, to improve your chances of creating thought leadership that cuts through, be brave enough to be different by focusing on future trends and what is coming up ahead.

With new research finding that a whopping 90% of investors believe that when it comes to climate change, the net zero transfer story articulated by the CEO is more important to their investment decision than past performance, despite the fact that the tech required to reach net zero has not even been invented yet, refocusing on your future-looking strategic agenda can pay off in dividends; literally.


This is only a whistle-stop tour of some of the useful and practical pointers from yesterday’s webinar. So, if you didn’t get a chance to tune in, I highly recommend watching again on demand. Expectations of company-level content output are continuously evolving, and allocating time to refine your future-thinking C-Suite level angle looks to be one of the most important tools in the marketing toolkit for 2021”


Without further ado, I hope you have a restful weekend and will look forward to hopefully seeing you at one of our webinars in the next few weeks.


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