How to Measure Thought
Leadership Success

Marketers tell us that they struggle to measure the effectiveness of their thought leadership. Why is it so difficult, and what could they do differently?

The four challenges in measuring effectiveness




long term




Getting the
right data

Laura Bishop

"If we can demonstrate a clear line of sight between themes covered in thought leadership through to selling a solution and then to helping the client improve their business, then that is the best way of demonstrating our value."

Laura Bishop
Laura Bishop
Managing Director – Marketing and Communications, Finance Services, Accenture

Framework: To overcome these challenges, we recommend a composite model

This framework outlines the three components that form part of an effectiveness measurement model for thought leadership.

Treat each piece of evidence like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. When you pull them all together they form a clear picture of thought leadership’s impact.

We can sort these jigsaw pieces into three categories; alignment, engagement and influence and impact.



Success is impossible without alignment: buy-in from every relevant function in the business, as well as agreement about the overall goals.

Strong alignment means thought leadership is woven into the organisation’s business model.

"Making sure that people across the business are aware of what we do helps to drive enthusiasm for our content. People across the business want to see us being recognised and talked about in the media, in policy circles and among other stakeholders. You can't underestimate the value of that."

Paul Lockstone

Paul Lockstone

Managing Director for Corporate Communications at Barclays

Paul Lockstone

How to measure alignment


Intranet downloads / requests for content

Are colleagues engaging with content? Do they want to learn about it and take it to clients and prospects? The number of intranet downloads of requests for content will tell you.

Opinion articles and internal citations

When senior leaders cite thought leadership or write opinion pieces based on it, your campaign is gaining traction at the highest level.

Use of thought leadership in pitches and proposals

If your salespeople are using evidence from research and content in their sales materials, that’s a good sign that the content is being adopted and starting conversations organisation-wide.

Use of materials in speeches and conferences

Thought leadership that’s aligned with the wider organisation’s needs finds its way into speeches, media appearances and conferences.



Engagement metrics are useful for benchmarking purposes but are usually a weak indicator of wider impact. Companies often focus too much on engagement metrics because they’re easy to track, but they don’t easily map to commercial and marketing outcomes.

It’s important to ensure that these metrics span paid, earned, shared and owned channels.

Andy Crestodina

"Thought leadership is all about redirecting the prospect or client’s attention to the unknown need, and then giving them deep content on that unknown need to the point where they have this ‘A-ha!’ moment about their business that the other vendors never gave them."

Andy Crestodina
Andy Crestodina
Co-Founder, Orbit Media Studios

How to measure engagement

Landing Page

Landing-page conversion rates

Clicks and downloads don’t tell you much about impact. But if audiences give up their contact details in return for your content, then you know it has value – and, crucially, that your landing pages are optimised for conversion.

SEO Ranking

A high organic SEO ranking for your campaign shows that it’s asking and answering the right questions. However, truly original thought leadership may have a lower SEO ranking because fewer people are asking questions about such a new topic.

Social shares and engagement

Strong engagement on social media indicates that your thought leadership contains ideas that matter. Comments – even if they disagree with you – suggest that you have something worth saying.
Press Coverage

Quality and quantity of press coverage

AMEC’s Barcelona Principles are a valuable guide for tracking PR effectiveness. Remember that quality and quantity are both key, and avoid advertising value equivalent (AVE) – it’s now discredited as a metric.


Influence and impact

This is the most important measure of a campaign’s value, encompassing influence, brand equity and commercial benefit.
Metrics should match up with wider business objectives, and KPIs should demonstrate a link between content and outcome.

"Anecdotes about how content is used can be very compelling and more real in our context than trying to come up with quantitative measures about the return on investment from a piece of content. We want to hear how it’s changed the relationship or led to interest from new types of clients who perhaps wouldn’t have previously considered us."

Lucia Rahilly

Global Editorial Director, McKinsey

How to measure influence and impact


Perception of expertise

Is your company recognised as a thought leader in brand surveys? Is there a clear relationship between exposure to your content and perception of expertise?

Enhanced profitability

Investing in brand-building thought leadership should enhance your pricing power and increase price elasticity. So look for evidence of this, but be cautious about placing too much emphasis on it.

Meetings generated

Thought leadership provides a great hook for conversations with clients and prospects.


Marketing contribution to pipeline/marketing qualified leads

It may be difficult to prove a direct link between thought leadership and closed sales, but it’s easier to demonstrate its contribution to the pipeline.

Customer lifetime value (CLV)

CLV is often downplayed in the traditional marketing funnel, where the focus is on new customers rather than repeat ones. Thought leadership should do more than win new business – it should also encourage upsells, customer loyalty and advocacy, and repeat business.

Related media

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Download your free copy of the report

Drawing on the knowledge and experience of leading thought leadership practitioners, we share insight on the following:

  • Key challenges in demonstrating value
  • A framework for identifying success metrics that align with business objectives
  • Six principles of measuring thought leadership effectiveness
  • Recommended KPIs
  • Practical advice for how marketers can introduce this model into their company

Due to high demand, it could take up to four business hours to receive the report.

Book a thought leadership workshop

Longitude, the Thought Leadership Network’s commercial partner, is running a series of online workshops designed to tackle the biggest challenges marketers face when developing insight-led campaigns. From early planning to measuring the impact, we share new ideas and best practice on how to create a successful campaign.

What prevents effective measurement?


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