David Bersoff is the Head of Research for the Edelman Trust Institute, Edelman’s think tank dedicated to advancing the study of trust in society. As the Institute's Chief Trust Scientist, David is responsible for ensuring the quality, integrity, and scientific value of all of Edelman's trust-oriented research, which includes the annual Trust Barometer.

The 2024 wave of the Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report is based on data averaged across seven geographically diverse markets: Australia, Canada, India, Germany, Singapore, the U.S., and the U.K.

Averages, by their nature, mask individual country-level differences. This raises the question of whether this year’s key findings apply equally in every country, or if very high numbers in a handful of countries are skewing the results, creating the illusion that thought leadership is more globally important or effective than it really is.

The short answer is that all the markets we studied are surprisingly similar when it comes to their attitudes and beliefs about thought leadership.

Specifically, here is a breakdown of this year’s key findings and how they play out across the individual markets:

  • Overall Quality of Thought Leadership: Across the seven markets surveyed, scores ranged from a low of 52% in Germany, who rated the overall quality of the thought leadership they read as “good,” “very good” or “excellent” to a high of 76% in India.
  • What Distinguishes the Highest-Quality Thought Leadership: In all markets surveyed, three attributes consistently rose to the top as features of the highest-quality thought leadership: strong supporting data, concrete guidance and case studies, and helping the reader to better understand a business challenge or unearth a missed opportunity.
  • Thought Leadership as a Demonstration of Organizational Competence: A majority of respondents in every country expressed the belief that thought leadership is superior to conventional marketing materials and product sheets as a means of evaluating an organization’s capabilities and competencies. Agreement with this sentiment ranged from a low of 66% in the U.K. to a high of 77% in India.
  • Capacity of Thought Leadership to Expand the Market: Across all the countries surveyed, thought leadership had the ability to pull organizations into the market for a product or service that they had not been previously considering. This happens “occasionally” or “often” among a low of 63% of respondents in Germany to a high of 78% in the U.S.
  • Under-resourcing as a Barrier: The number one barrier keeping organizations from producing more effective thought leadership, in every market, was that it’s under-resourced within their organizations.
  • Lack of Rigorous ROI Measurement: In all seven markets, the most common way for evaluating the effectiveness of thought leadership as a business-development tool was simply looking for increases in traffic to an organization’s website and social media pages after a piece of thought leadership is released.

In general, thought leadership as a marketing tool performs in similar ways, has similar potential, and suffers similar challenges in all of the markets we surveyed. This suggests that organizations can and should have a global thought-leadership strategy as part of their brand management and business-development activities.

At Edelman, we go one step further by not only having a global thought-leadership strategy, but also a centralized thought-leadership team. We have found that a centralized—versus a decentralized —approach facilitates better coordination in our thought-leadership efforts, shared learnings and resources, and consistent messaging and quality standards across markets.

Still, just because the basics of thought leadership are consistent globally, this does not mean the same piece of thought leadership will be equally effective in every market. The importance of thought leadership may be universal, but the relevance of any piece of thought leadership is not likely to be. Localizing content, both when it comes to having in-market data and the specific issues addressed, is key to the success of a global thought-leadership strategy.

To learn more, see the full findings of the 2024 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report.