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Overcoming the three hurdles to thought leadership that truly works – case study  


Clayton Utz and KPMG's Urban Renewal Guidebook a great case study in thought leadership.

Clayton Utz and KPMG’s Urban Renewal Guidebook a great case study in thought leadership.

In a previous post my colleague, Dr Liz Alexander, identified the three hurdles brands or individuals face when identifying or taking their thought leadership point of view to market. These included:

  1. Not focusing too far into the future – people want information that can help them implement or make changes today.
  2. Focusing on the positive – your audience doesn’t want to be overwhelmed by negatives or scare tactics. Rather, your thought leadership should focus on the positives.
  3. Think of your audience as a classic Bell Curve. It’s not the fast movers who need convincing, rather it is the middle majority and conservatives. These are the tough audiences to sway and all the more reason to focus your thought leadership on insights that directly address their interests and concerns.

Case study – Clayton Utz and KPMG Urban Renewal report

Tier one Australian law firm Clayton Utz, is a great example of thought leadership that addresses these three hurdles. I had the good fortune to be involved in strategizing this point of view with the Property Practice & Real Estate team right from the outset, as we identified a) their clients’ biggest issues b) what was being produced to address these by other firms, and c) the space they could ‘own’.

Clayton Utz then partnered with global management consulting firm KPMG to produce a research report titled: Urban Renewal Guidebook 2014. Clayton Utz had previously worked on the $6billion Barangaroo urban renewal project on the western harbor side of Sydney.

The following bullet point summary covers why we think this report works and how it overcomes the three hurdles mentioned above:

  • The Foreword begins by pointing out that: “Massive opportunities exist – improved competitiveness, productivity, livability and economic viability.” From the outset, the report is upbeat. No time is wasted on doom and gloom.
  • The authors speak directly to the pragmatists and conservatives on this topic, by selecting eight global urban renewal case studies with which their readers can immediately identify. Each case study smartly underlines who is succeeding, why, together with the benefits they derived quantitatively and qualitatively from the urban renewal project.
  • The topic of urban renewal is framed as a current challenge, not a future one i.e. the authors stress the importance of renewing and revitalizing urban areas NOW. As such everything they write is practically focused on how to create cities that reflect the current needs and demands of city residents and businesses.
  • The report cleverly focuses on the opportunities for economic and social growth by highlighting the key drivers in answer to the question: ‘What’s in it for me?’ The authors point out how this methodology can increase tourism revenues; support population and business growth; boost local employment; increase investment from outside investors, and result in more affordable housing, etc. These are just some of the many positive outcomes that accrue from a well-managed urban renewal project.
  • In short, the core content of the report covers issues and concerns that city planners are grappling with today, related to questions that readers might have, such as: “What can I do to secure more outside investment?” The answer to which, of course, is: Urban Renewal. Or:  “In what ways might we boost tourism revenues?” Answer: Urban Renewal. Or “How can we develop more affordable housing?” Answer: Urban Renewal.

As you can see, this report has been tied to practical concerns facing the target audience in such a way that it become extremely relevant and valuable. This is illustrated by the report’s design:

  • Highlighted “Insight” sections speak to challenges that City Planners and their counterparts in law firms care about, not least the issue of how much revenue urban renewal projects can  generate.
  •  By including valuable case studies such as the Toronto Waterfront–ten years into a 25 year project—the authors are able to practically outline what this particular urban renewal project has generated in terms of employment and revenue.
  • The layout is very clear, making for a compelling, page-turning read. The authors take the reader step-by-step through the urban renewal process, cheering readers on with messages such as: Now’s the time! Create a vision!  Prepare for what’s to come! Design and plan! Get everyone on board!
  • At 28 pages, the length is manageable for busy readers. And, as I’ve pointed out above, because it’s designed so well it’s not only a quick and easy read, but an enjoyable one.

Clayton Utz and KPMG did such an excellent job with this report I wanted to catch up again with Gary Best, the partner in charge of the Clayton Utz Property and Real Estate practice, to find out more.

Gary pointed out that they wanted to speak to the public and private sector with something relevant and practical and, as a means of “leading thought” and showcasing leading examples of urban renewal globally. It has clearly worked. How do we know that? Well, subsequent to the release of the report Gary was invited to speak at a number of conferences, events and industry seminars, including a function at the Office of the British Consul at which Sir Michael Bear was speaking about investment in UK urban regeneration projects. Clayton Utz  has used its Urban Renewal report in numerous tenders for urban renewal projects. The report has also opened engagement with UrbanGrowth, the NSW Government’s urban transformation delivery organization. In addition, the report has generated media coverage for both firms.

Said Gary: “We purposefully focused on projects from around the world to illustrate themes relevant to others who are involved in urban renewal processes. For us, this had to be about relevance. It was all about the here and now – literally providing insights that could help people implement ideas immediately.

“I still take the booklet to meetings. It is as relevant now as it was last year.”

Gary adds a powerful conclusion and strong evidence of the efficacy of getting this kind of thought leadership right: “It gives our practice the authenticity, believability and credibility as an expert in this space.”

Not a bad outcome, wouldn’t you say?

Speak to us if you need help in developing, designing, and delivering something similar to your target audience.  


About Craig Badings

I am passionate about thought leadership. I help/coach companies and individuals arrive at a robust, strategic thought leadership position and help them take it to market. I have written four books on the topic. The latest, "#THOUGHT LEADERSHIP Tweet: 140 Prompts for Designing and Executing an Effective Thought Leadership Campaign" was co-authored with Dr Liz Alexander. My first book on the topic was: "Brand Stand: seven steps to thought leadership" which outlines a methodology for arriving at a thought leadership position. Both can be found on The third was written with Mignon van Halderen and Kym Kettler-Paddock and is titled: Thought Leadership - how to differentiate your company and stand out from the crowd and the fourth was an ebook with Dr Liz Alexander on five global thought leadership case studies which can be found on this site. I have spent 28 years in the PR consulting industry working across South Africa, London and now Australia where I am a partner in privately owned PR company, SenateSHJ. My areas of expertise include:Thought leadership and strategic communications, corporate and brand positioning, reputation management, crisis and issues management, media coaching and media relations.

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