It had to happen. A global brand bravely saying they’ll no longer be part of the content marketing machine that pumps out content for the sake of it. Step up to the plate EY Australia.
Three years ago I interviewed Merryn Stewart, EY Oceania’s brand marketing and communications (BMC) director. At that point she had three areas on which she was focusing their thought leadership efforts:
- To start cutting back on the volume of content
- To personalise content as far as possible
- To use thought leadership as a change management driver internally i.e. to get all internal parties, but mainly the partners, to think about it differently and use it across practice areas.
Three years on, it’s clear to me that not only has EY achieved this, but the firm is taking even bigger steps in the evolution of their thought leadership journey. As Merryn says: We’re producing a lot less content, but doing a lot more with it. Click To Tweet
Their last report: “Digital Australia: State of the Nation 2014,” will soon be benchmarked with their 2015 report, captures everything the BMC team set out to achieve and more.
Thought leadership is first and foremost a business tool
Critically the Digital Australia report came about because the Digital Practice within EY had great team members with deep expertise, but didn’t have a high enough profile. Says Merryn: “There was a real business purpose for evolving a point of view we could own. We needed to raise the profile of the Digital Practice across the group, and with our own clients.”
Another important business driver was the launch of their core purpose in 2013: “Building a better working world.” Merryn points out that everything EY does hangs off this business purpose. And it’s our experience at Leading Thought that those thought leadership propositions that are true to the purpose of an organisation are the ones that not only survive, but prosper over the long-term.
Your thought leadership should be sustainable
Critically for the Digital Practice team, E&Y wanted a thought leadership proposition that was sustainable; it had to have longevity. “While we had one umbrella piece—the Digital Australia report—we needed something from which we could run a year-long content and engagement program,” says Merryn.
Teaming up with recently-acquired E&Y Sweeney Research, the BMC team set about creating a year-long program for the Digital Practice team which included:
- An internal launch to the entire business to educate everyone about the research and what was available from a content perspective, the key findings and how to use it.
- A microsite linked to their main site.
- Multi-media touch points. Merryn points out that while E&Y were initially slow to embrace social media, they are now using it very effectively to promote and guide people to their microsite content. Other media they use include video, infographics and pdfs for download. And the great things about these downloads is that you don’t have to give any personal details to access them.
- One-on-ones with clients and partners. As Merryn says: “We encourage our partners not to go to client meetings when talking about digital on their own, but rather to take one of the Digital Practice partners with them.”
- Media launch and interviews.
- Social media sharing.
- Sector reports and follow up meetings with clients in those sectors.
- Use of the content in CEO and CFO speaking events.
What I love about this is how the team maintains its focus on driving every aspect of the research. Too often we see great ideas and possible thought leadership points of view fail, because not enough time is spent up-front defining the business objectives and how best to leverage the content across multiple channels and stakeholders.
The EY keys to successful thought leadership
For Merryn there are four keys to success for their thought leadership platform:
- The management team needs to be behind it
- It should have depth and longevity
- It needs the right resources to achieve the business objectives
- It should deliver to the team and the partners an engagement tool to sell work.
Says Merryn: “We want to focus in each of the areas in which we do business and explore and deliver to clients and prospects in that sector the one thing that can really make a difference and that matters to them.”
Re-purposing an old campaign into a thought leadership platform
Merryn also shared with me how they are re-purposing a 15 year old event into a thought leadership platform for the brand.
The EY Entrepreneur of the Year AwardsTM is considered one the world’s most prestigious business awards and is held in more than 145 cities and over 60 countries worldwide.
In the past it has comprised of regional and national judging and award ceremonies, media coverage and interviews, as well as an e-magazine profiling the winners. The EY team has recognised the power of this brand and there is a real business impetus to align more closely with this segment of the market.
So EY will soon be launching an Entrepreneurs Barometer and some in-depth research conducted by EY Sweeney that covers entrepreneurship. Watch this space I think there could be some really exciting material on entrepreneurship coming out of EY in the next few years.
Craig Badings is a partner based in the Sydney office of SenateSHJ. He is a co-founder of Leading Thought.