Intelligent Ink’s journey to thought leadership

Like many other businesses, Intelligent Ink has transformed over the years. And, while we’re always learning, we feel pretty at home where we’ve ended up. More than anything we’ve ever done, empowering thought leadership feels like our greatest fit.

For those who have been along on the ride for some time, you’ll know there weren’t any shortcuts taken to get here. We sowed the seeds of thought leadership a long time ago, and have spent years building from our foundation of long-form, compelling, thought-provoking editorial (as opposed to advertising) content.

We’ve had to make some bold decisions over the years and while we’ve in no way reached the end of those yet, as we pass into a new year, I’ve been reflecting on how we got to thought leadership. Intelligent Ink is approaching a decade in business – so what better time to look back on how we came to believe – whole-heartedly – in the power of leading with great ideas?

Our beginnings

When I started Intelligent Ink, I believed content could be better – and that ethos still holds true today. I was frustrated seeing businesses with content that was letting them down and undermining how good they were. They deserved better! So many businesses I came across were doing absolutely incredible things but weren’t managing to get that magnificence across in their communications.

It was because of this that we first found our non-profit niche, which saw us spend a proportion of our first few years helping some incredible causes get the word out. It was a marriage of necessity on both sides (we had the love and the lower overheads and they needed professional support without a full agency price tag!) but we ended up falling in love with the space and helped many great charities with their comms over the years. Some of these we feel lucky to still be involved with today and many more of them we happily consider friends.  

Soon we were running the full gamut for communications – including both public relations and content work – and, as we grew out of my Sandringham home office and into our Durham Lane space, we bought on more talent in both areas so we could not only craft great stories, but also get our clients the attention they deserved.  

Some years later, alongside our relocation to Ponsonby, we underwent something of a transformation, and Verity and I were reminded again of our passion for owned media. More than ever, we wanted to create powerful content that belonged to our client, rather than relying on the news media (and the direction that NZ’s news media was headed in). We decided to move away from the public relations work we’d been doing, and instead get back to what we’ve always known best – powerful and intelligent content.

Why we’re drawn to long-form content

Having come from a journalism background, I’ve always tended towards long-form, in-depth content that takes people on a journey, stirs some emotion, and gets to the heart of a story. Whether magazine articles, blog posts, ebooks (and later full books) or white papers, we felt we could tell stories better when we had the scope to dig deeper into great thinking and awesome ideas, and the ability to truly showcase the incredible things these companies were doing in their pursuit of better.

For us, long-form content isn’t just for the sake of getting people’s attention. This means we can deliver fewer clients with so much more value. Longer-form content also means we get opportunities to chat with, and really get to know, great people. We get to go deep. We’re required to unpack people’s expertise and passion and hear their stories in order to craft thoughtful (and intelligent!) pieces. It didn’t take us long to realise we were talking to thought leaders – changemakers and trailblazers who were true leaders in their industries.

Why we went all in on thought leadership

It wasn’t much of a jump from there to thought leadership. Especially when we got hooked on discovering and sharing what inspires, drives, and lights people up. In thought leadership, we saw an opportunity to combine our love of intelligent, thoughtful, and well-crafted content with elevating more incredible leaders’ impact.

Thought leadership brings together some of our favourite things – quality thinking, curiosity, generosity, the chance to talk to amazing individuals doing cool things, and the stories or evidence that comes from them walking their talk.

It’s not a standardised thing – rather every thought leader’s journey is unique, and that works for us. We’ve never been an agency that operates from a list of services, but have always been completely bespoke – doing what’s best for our clients to help them achieve their goals. Thought leadership is exciting (and fitting!) because we can help individuals harness their passion, knowledge and experience by working closely with them in a way that leverages their unique capabilities.

While there’s been a wealth of content marketing studios in recent years, there’s been no one really staking a claim in thought leadership in New Zealand. Even just a year ago, people weren’t talking about thought leadership the way they are now. We want to be the people leading the conversation about thought leadership here.

An exciting new chapter

I’ve always been reflective and considered and while some of our defining moments were forced on us by circumstance, we’ve also made a very conscious and deliberate decision to go all in on thought leadership. For years, we’ve been laying the foundations to get where we are now – and it has required us to ask some hard questions of ourselves about where we can have the most impact and what we most want to do. Thought leadership is our answer.

Thought leadership is a continuous journey – and it’s one that we’re also on ourselves. We’re the first to admit that we don’t know everything about thought leadership, and that we’re still polishing our own systems – but that’s what makes it exciting. We are completely invested in the value of thinking and learning, still doing our own thinking about thought leadership and its place in New Zealand.

We’ve got 10 years of history behind us that echoes in everything we do. We’re committed to empowering Kiwi thinkers and doers, and harnessing the potential of thought leadership in New Zealand and beyond. And we are working towards our own legacy that will bring a shift in the way that people and organisations value thinking and ideas – because we believe this will help to better equip us for where the world is going. It’s a journey… but we’re excited for anyone who feels similarly inspired to come along!