The PDF report isn’t dead—but it shouldn’t be the only option

  • Rachel Ainsworth

When we run training sessions for creators of thought leadership, one query invariably arises: Have longer reports had their time and should we be focusing on snackable content?

Our answer is firstly that these options aren’t, and shouldn’t be, mutually exclusive, and secondly that both are important.

Last year, when we surveyed buyers of consulting services in the US, we asked them about how they liked to consume thought leadership. As we’d seen in our previous research on this topic, our respondents confirmed that there’s an audience out there for every type of format. At least 40% of buyers of consulting services “really like” each of single-page articles, webinars, infographics, PowerPoint presentations, videos, and longer reports.

But why not just pick off the most popular format (a report of four pages or more) and stick to this? Two reasons: Firstly, it is the preferred option for less than a quarter of buyers of consulting services—others would be more likely to view a video or scan an infographic, formats that your competitors might be offering on the same topic. Secondly, senior executives are careful with their time. Our survey also highlighted that one-third of your target audience is not willing to devote more than 15 minutes to a piece of thought leadership. If what appears to be a long PDF is their only option to accessing your insights, they may well choose to step away.

In our experience, the optimum solution is to deliver your insights in an array of formats. This approach gives you the best chance of appealing to your target audience as well as enabling you to make the most of different channels. Articles and infographics can also act as stepping stones to a longer piece—many who wouldn’t consider a long report at first glance can be drawn in through less time-intensive formats.