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Survey says: Industry reports generate thought leadership

One goal every client we work with has is to become a thought leader. Why? Because not only do bold, innovative companies that stake authoritative positions on an industry’s past, present and future garner greater media attention, but there’s a sense of prestige that accompanies their brands (think Apple or Netflix). Using PR to establish thought leadership can also generate leads.

As we mentioned in a previous post, there are four rules for B2B thought leadership success. Here, I’ll take a deeper dive into one of those rules: Do more than state the obvious.

One way to offer a perspective that goes beyond a trend or topic’s surface is through commissioning a forward-thinking research project that gives insights into where the industry is going – a State of the Industry Report (SOTIR), if you will. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, a 3D printing service provider and Inprela client, has done just that.

Since releasing its report, the company has received a steady stream of media coverage that’s helped position them as a thought leader with its fingers on the pulse of 3D printing’s future. There has also been a notable spike in the number of media reaching out and asking for comments on trend stories, a perk that comes with being seen as an industry trailblazer.

Here are a few points to consider when developing a SOTIR of your own.

Be unique

One of the most critical components of a successful industry survey, and subsequent report, is for it to be different from anything else out there. That could mean surveying a different audience, asking unique questions or focusing on another aspect of the industry entirely. Attaching a timeline (e.g. 3-5 years) is another way to distinguish the report, while also giving it a timely and immediate impact. Whatever differentiators you may choose, a report that separates itself from other SOTIRs is a must.

Give the people what they want

Know who you want your survey and report to speak to. Is it executives? Salespeople? Engineers? All of the above? You may have gobs of data, but if you’re not talking to the right people, then it’s all for naught.

Once your audience is determined, focus on extracting data including attitudes and beliefs this audience finds compelling, relevant and fresh; no one wants to rehash old facts and figures. Asking the right questions helps uncover compelling findings that haven’t been previously discovered. These new insights will take you far in attracting media attention and earning a reputation within the industry as a thought leader.

 Have credibility and transparency

The media and general public are savvier than ever. Any distortions of the truth or bending of facts and statistics will easily be found and called out, harming not just your report’s credibility but your brand’s as well. That makes it important to be upfront about your methodology and explanation on how you came to these conclusions. It’s an obvious truth, but it bears repeating: Don’t be misleading with your statistics.

Having a non-partisan, third-party research firm conduct your survey further enhances its credibility and transparency. While hiring a researcher may be more expensive upfront, it can pay off bigtime at the back end.


When – not if – tough questions about the results are asked, having a third-party expert answer them, rather than an internal representative, helps establish greater trust and confidence that the statistics are not being manipulated in any way.

 No pain, no gain

There are many other factors to consider when creating an industry survey and report, but a differentiated report that unearths compelling findings and is backed by a third-party research firm will get you far. While they require a lot of work, SOTIRs can go a long way in establishing your company as a bonafide thought leader.

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