Are you aiming to write articles or blog posts that demonstrate thought leadership? It’s becoming a popular strategy for professionals, consultants and business owners, to increase visibility, build credibility, increase connections and even generate high level leads. But thought leadership writing isn’t as easy as it sounds, as you might have already discovered.
The following 7 tips briefly cover some of the topics included in our recently launched Thought Leadership Writing Course for professionals, consultants and business owners.
It’s the thought that counts – don’t forget to include yours
The term ‘thought leadership’ defines itself, but I’ve recently created my own definition:
Thought leaders are individuals who are forward-thinking experts in their field, who by sharing their views and perspectives, have the capacity to change the way we see something.
To be a thought leader means you must stand out from the crowd of topic experts, by having a unique perspective, or be sharing something of greater value than most ‘experts’ are sharing.
That means you won’t be simply repeating other people’s ideas. It means you’re not locked on the current way of doing things in your role or industry. You want to improve the way things are done. And you have an eye to the future. How are things changing? How might we be doing things in 5 years or 10 years from now? What changes or trends could impact our industry or the way we do things? How can we prepare for that?
Back up your thoughts with facts – real ones
For some topics, your personal experience and some compelling logic might suffice to make a convincing argument. But often, your thought leadership articles will require research. You’ll want to find facts, relevant research and sometimes statistics to back up your statements and ideas.
In an era of ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ you need to be able to sort the fact from fiction, identify reliable sources, and be comfortable reaching out for information when you need it.
By way of example, have you ever seen that statistic about the goldfish and its 9 second attention span? Someone appears to have made it up – or at least drastically misinterpreted a study on fish. Since then, numerous people have casually stated it as an accepted fact. The flighty fish even made its way into some well-respected publications before a few diligent writers pointed out the fishy facts, or rather the lack thereof. But that hasn’t stopped the goldfish from popping up regularly in blog posts, eBooks and social media images.
Take a professional approach
You might be considered a professional in your own field, but you’re probably not a professional writer.
Professional writers and journalists typically understand copyright issues and the need to avoid plagiarism. They’re familiar with the practice of citing sources. Are you? If you aren’t, take the time to learn how to quote and cite sources, and to understand plagiarism and image copyright.
I was initially surprised to realise how many people don’t know that they can’t simply copy an image they’ve seen online and use it to illustrate an article – but for many non-writers, copyright issues just aren’t on the radar.
Understand the audience you most want to connect with
Who are the people you most want to connect with? It’s a question so simple that people often get it wrong, by not thinking much about it.
Do you have one audience or two or three? Many businesses offer services to individuals, but also market to referral partners. If the people you most want to connect with are potential referral partners, be sure to write with their pain points, challenges and buying motivations in mind, rather than the pain points and motivations of your retail level audience.
Choose an appropriate style, tone and voice for your audience
There are several considerations when it comes to choosing the style, tone and voice of an article. If you work for a large enterprise, you may have to work within their ‘style guide’. However, if you’re a freelance consultant or a business owner, you’ll have to make your own decisions.
If you’re unsure on the difference is between voice, tone and style, and the factors you should consider, visit our Thought Leadership Writing School lecture on that topic – it’s a free preview lecture, so you’ll be able to view the entire lecture.
Give your articles visual appeal
We do judge a book by its cover. We just do. If your article ‘looks interesting’, people will be attracted to it, and if it looks polished and professional, you’ll be creating an important first impression.
There are 2 aspects to visual presentation:
- Use short paragraphs and sub-headings to break up the text. Big blocks of text look like hard work and are unappealing to the eye!
- Include images and/or diagrams. We like pretty pictures – but there’s more to it. You can use pictures, charts, diagrams, infographics and even cartoons, to tell a story and help convey your message.
If you want to stick to basic images, you’ll find free image sites online (check attribution requirements), or you can purchase images from sellers like Shutterstock. For those who want more pizzazz, there are free and inexpensive tools for creating everything from basic charts and graphs, to infographics and cartoons.
Don’t rush – and don’t publish that first draft!
If writing is a bit of a chore for you, you probably can’t wait to finish an article, hit ‘publish’, and move on to a more enjoyable or important activity. That’s likely to be a mistake.
A common habit among professional writers is to set the first draft of work aside for a short period, then go back and re-read it. There’s an excellent reason behind this practice. Whether it’s a couple of hours, or a couple of days, distancing yourself from that first draft gives you ‘fresh eyes’. When you go back, don’t be surprised if you spot an error you’re sure wasn’t there when you left, or find a section that’s confusing, or realise that you’ve left out a significant point.
And always give your articles a final proofread before publishing.
Improving your thought leadership writing skills
If your writing skills are rusty, or you’re struggling with article structure, don’t give up on yourself too soon. As with many things in life, perseverance and effort can bring rewards.
If you aren’t confident and would like to improve your skill level, our Thought Leadership Writing Course might be ideal. We cover everything from article structure to copyright issues and finding good sources to handy illustration tools. There’s also a practical component – we’ll provide assessment and feedback on an article you write, to highlight issues and help you improve your skills.
Click the image below to view the curriculum or to enrol now!