LinkedIn exec says B2B firms should take a Disney-like approach to thought leadership

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The content they create may have little in common with the Avengers, Star Wars or Doctor Strange, but a LinkedIn executive told Content Marketing World 2017 that Disney’s approach to hit movies could help B2B firms improve their thought leadership strategy.

In a Thursday session at the conference, which is taking place in Cleveland this week, LinkedIn vertical director for the tech industry, Mike Weir, showed an unconventional form of content calendar: Disney’s roadmap of movies over a three-year period. The films in release or production included new installments in franchises from Marvel Studios and Pixar. There were about six to seven movies planned each year — a lot less than the volume of blog posts and white papers produced by the average B2B content marketing team.

“They’re not spending $10,000 on a million movies. They’re uderstanding the marketplace, what characters and topics resonate and they’re placing bets to own them,” Weir said.

Besides managing a limited but consistent schedule of content, Weir pointed out that Disney also focuses on what is already deeply familiar to audiences. As much as some might complain about the plethora of movies based on comic books, franchises such as Star Wars go back to the 1970s, making them easily recognizable to consumers making a decision about to watch.

At LinkedIn, the company has done something similar with its own intellectual property, Weir said. This is its annual eBook, The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide To LinkedIn, which positions the Microsoft-owned firm as the best expert in working with its own service. Over the past three years, the eBook has emerged as the No. 1 driver of sales to LinkedIn, Weir side, reinforcing the value of having thought leadership in an area that’s important.

Looking to Disney for inspiration might seem like a stretch for B2B marketers, Weir admitted, but it makes more sense than trying to emulate the newspaper business, which is where a lot of content marketing strategies began. The notion of a “brand newsroom” with a constant output of content ignores the differences between journalism and marketing, he added.

“The problem is that you’re not hitting value, not creating consistency,” he said. “(The newspaper) model is different than what businesses need to do to engage their client base. News is meant to be short-term. It’s meant to be timely, topical and lightweight. It’s meant to be consumable.”

Instead, content marketers should be trying to make their assets as “extensible” as a Disney franchise. Many of its films have easily moved into new formats, including TV shows, digital video and many other things. There’s even a Star Wars-themed drone coming out soon, Weir said.

LinkedIn has done something similar with its eBook, spinning off webinars, podcasts, SlideShare decks and many other assets that repurpose or align with the core content in some way. The effort is worth it: Weir showed stats that said 83 per cent of B2B decision believe thought leadership creates trust and 63 per cent believe it can lead to vendors proposing a project.

“Opinions are won over time through education,” he said. “And education earns the clients day in and day out.”

Content Marketing World runs through Friday.

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Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.