Essential rules for creating research for thought leadership

Data can underpin thought leadership campaigns. Make sure you avoid these pitfalls.


Creating your own survey is a great way to build thought leadership platforms and drive a conversation with your subject matter experts.

However, you should think twice before spamming your customers with pulse surveys to turn out a half-baked report. Research and knowledge creation is tough and requires no small amount of enterprise and tenacity.

For Abbey Lunney, managing director of the thought leadership practice at Harris Polls, there are three criterial of good research that underpins a thought leadership platform.

  • It has to grounded in good data with sound collection and measurement practices.
  • It has to be about something that hasn’t already been dissected and examined by others.
  • Cultural relevance. It has to matter to a wider audience beyond your internal stakeholders.

“It needs to have something proprietary inherent to it, and it needs to contribute to a larger cultural conversation,” says Lunney.

Mistakes to avoid

Even if you manage to satisfy those basic criteria, there can be other pitfalls that ruin your efforts to create a conversation with industry research.

One danger is when you have too many stakeholders contributing to a single report or study. If there are too many needs, the report can be pulled in so many directions that it fails to make a clear point.

“It’s really easy to fall into a trap of maybe getting a little bit myopic,” says Lunney. What might be interesting to your company could fail to spark the interest of others. In order to really stand out, she says that communicators and brand managers must be willing to take risks.

“It can be scary to really push the envelope to find something surprising,” she says, “There can be a tendency to kind of stick to what is familiar and known.” But such caution won’t lead to a report that makes the headlines.

“You’ve gotta be willing to say something new, different and innovative and push the conversation forward in a way that it hasn’t been before. Otherwise, you might not be noticed at all.”

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