Op-ed piece on the leading B2B portal Consulting.de with ~ 55.000 readers and ~ 95.000 page views monthly
Why every third corporate influencer program in consulting fails
April 18, 2023
No one wants to be a clone warrior or a corporate parrot.
Smart strategy consultants and savvy accountants certainly don’t. That’s one of the reasons why one in three corporate influencer programs in consulting fails. Depending on the size of the house even more.
A hard thesis?
It may sound like this. But it reflects the harsh reality. And this is where some professional services players are currently waking up.
At the latest with the outbreak of the pandemic, most of strategy consultants and accountanting firms started with large financial investments. Under pressure, budgets were allocated, service providers were screened, suitable brand ambassadors were cast, and LinkedIn was launched.
When decision-makers today look at the goals they have set, they often discover:
Unfortunately this did not work at all.
Although the LinkedIn profiles are now shining professionally, the feeds show ‘Radio Silence’.
Why is that?
Six reasons brand ambassador initiatives fail
1. Time – the most trivial, but powerful factor.
Something that is often forgotten at kick-off: Time for training is one thing. Time to maintain a successful feed something completely else. The LinkedIn algorithm is hungrier than ever. It prefers two to three posts a week. On top opinionated comments and network expansion.
But consultants and accountants often already work 70 hours anyway. Who has time for continuous content creation? Especially as the days of pandemic driven lockdowns are over, and #remotework has a different purpose than nurturing the LinkedIn feed.
2. No content – although life actually tells the best stories
Daniel Kehlmann may claim “We are always in stories. Stories within stories within stories.”
But in the end, the majority of corporate influencers fail due to a lack of content.
Anyone who reads SPIEGEL can see: It is motivated by all means. For example, the CEO of a Munich-based company now pays each employee €25 per LinkedIn post – regardless of the topic.
3. Short cuts out of desperation
Those who are under continous stress in the job are looking for short cuts. Often these look a bit desperate like those:
- The sharing of corporate posts
- Comments under the corporate account á la “Strong study“.
- Likes distributed from the iPad at night under posts from corporate or colleagues.
The problem: Apart from noise in ‘echo chambers’ that no client ever enters, not much happens. Because the algorithm no longer incentivizes “sharing is caring“.
Instead, it punishes such short cuts with extremely throttled reach. This is how even the bravest lose their desire.
Smart strategy consultants and savvy auditors then make the final statement.
“My career as a clone warrior or corporate parrot is over“.
After that, the feed becomes deserted. The marketing dollars invested are going out the chimney.
4. Complete outsourcing to third parties
LinkedIn is full of posts from Content as a Service (CaaS) providers. Attention-grabbing carousel posts like this one garner hundreds of likes and comments. They show the pressure: Where to get content?
What are CaaS providers offering?
They build content machines. Their promise: We will find your target group guaranteed!
And: We write the content for every corporate influencer at the same time.
Is the high budget worth it?
Honestly, no! In the end, only external parties such as LinkedIn agencies and working students communicate with each other in – alleged – personal accounts. Increasingly ChatGPT is used for this purpose. Because AI has come to stay. Nobody can then talk about authenticity anymore. Nor of sustainable brand positioning or differentiation.
5. Even the strongest critic together with scissors in the head
If there’s one thing I have been experiencing in my LinkedIn programs over the last decade, it’s the sharp ‘scissors in the head’. Especially at the entry and mid-level, young consultants and accountants edit themselves. Instead of trying their hand on LinkedIn, they prefer to post less to nothing when in doubt.
It’s either the concern about being more visible than the senior partners. That’s because those are often Boomers or Generation X, hence no big LinkedIn fans. Or they shy away from rough edges, as strength of opinion is not always part of the DNA in professional services.
Influencer programs that don’t provide massive empowerment as well as support from the top unfortunately peter out faster than you can look.
6. Corporate marketing does not let go of the reins
Of course, corporate marketing would prefer to control all channels centrally. But that doesn’t work for LinkedIn. Neither from the capacity, nor from the philosophy and intention.
In consultancies and the Big Four, however, there are often still social media policies in place that tend to restrict rather than empower. Digital natives and even more so Gen Z rule out second corrections for their posts as well as rigid corporate language.
Those who do not credibly signal in their ambassador programs that personal responsibility and self-efficacy are honestly meant values end up in a dead end.
All in all, these elements are massive. They leave CMOs and HR/recruiting managers wondering about their investment decision. But this can be managed: Corporate influencer programs can also be successful in consulting and the Big Four.
The following three levers describe how they create closeness, authenticity and credibility – and without clone warriors.
Three simple tricks to make your corporate influencer program more successful
1. Make yourself honest and respect: Being a brand ambassador is NOT a hobby
The deal: “You’ll get expensive training over three to six months in a dozen sessions. After that, use your nice Lenovo Think Pads and write your posts on the weekend or after 10pm!” is a mission to fail.
Why? Being a brand ambassador is not a hobby.
Ask yourself honestly before the kick-off: Can and do I want to ‘free up’ my LinkedIn ambassadors for at least two hours a week for their social media activities?
If the answer is “No!” in the poly crisis, better postpone the program.
2. Build a long-term strategy instead of “let’s see, let’s see“
Nothing against Franz Beckenbauer. But his “let’s take a look and see” breaks the neck of any corporate influencer program. Please refrain from impulse buying from external service providers “because everyone is doing it that way in these days“.
Invest intensive time beforehand for medium and long term plans. Do you have precise ideas about your positioning as well as content strategies? Do you know how your consultants can implement these concretely in their everyday work? Do the senior partners go along with these long-term programs or do they sanction them as sales-irrelevant shenanigans?
3. Break the silence from above: Go into visibility yourself
Especially in the beginning, corporate influencers don’t just look at what other influencers are doing. Instead, they look upwards, i.e. at their own CEOs/country managers and marketing teams. After all, both parties should be the most visible business cards.
But if your own CEO is anything but a social CEO, or if it’s known that his/her account is fed 100 percent by others, that massively lowers motivation. If consultants then discover that their marketing and PR bosses have fewer than 2,000 contacts on LinkedIn and do not use the channel themselves, the commitment is gone.
So lead the way as a social CEO.
Because yes: “Consulting CEOs belong in the spotlight – even if they are “only” primus inter pares“. And: As a press spokesperson, be active on LinkedIn. Because the journalists from Germany’s leading media have been on the move here for a long time.
Want to make your own corporate influencer program a success?
Then let’s talk on the phone about how we can specifically support you here!
Author: Susanne Mathony
The positioning of brands and people are my passion. For more than two decades, I have lived out my calling with CEO positioning, strategic marketing and communications consulting, PR and business storytelling.
Added in 2014 was the Social Media Consulting. Here, the focus is on #SocialCEO and personal branding and positioning of boards and teams on LinkedIn.My home is Professional Services. At GSA and EMEA level, I worked for AlixPartners, Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), Strategy& as well as Russell Reynolds Associates, among others.
As a political scientist and trained journalist, I started my career at a Washington, D.C., think tank.