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Write Like a Thought Leader
Rhea on the Thought Leadership Leverage Podcast
An interview with Rhea Wessel about creating an engine for content creation rooted in expertise.
There are two major challenges thought leadership practitioners face when they sit down to codify their ideas:
Too many ideas, and a big, blank page.
This is a reverse outline of the story you're about to read on reverse outlines
Reverse outlining is a technique I love to apply when my longer-form writing starts to wander. It also works well for editing the first drafts of your short-form work or restructuring and tightening pieces written by teams of subject-matter experts.
What is a reverse outline? It’s a lineup of the points you make in your story from top to bottom that is done after the text is written, not before it is drafted.
Breaks for better writing
If you write articles regularly for your business, you might feel “trapped” by the production schedule you have laid out for yourself. Since it’s a must for you to produce, your joy in finding an idea and shaping it might be compromised.
Recently I heard Catherine Baker, who works with Olympic gold medalists, speaking at the PM Forum, a gathering of professional services marketers in London.
Searching for the story is like searching for the message
Over the last decade or so, as I transitioned out of journalism and into writing for companies, I was asked to participate in and lead messaging workshops.
One of the earliest ones that I can recall was a workshop for an agency to come up with a claim for their client, a retail holding company. I can still remember the positioning statement I argued for and reflect on why it was not selected.
Noticing what works in good writing
During my summer travels, I had the pleasure to read “Women, Food and God” by Geneen Roth. Not to overplay the metaphor, but I gobbled up this book.
As a writer, book coach and teacher of journalistic writing, when I find books or articles that are well-written, I ask myself, “Why is this so good?”
With the so-called Great Resignation in full swing, some commentators have pointed out that it’s not so much a great resignation but a great “job swap” that we’re observing.
Somehow, I can understand. The global pandemic had a levelling effect for many people, and it certainly gave us all more time than usual to think about the way we want to live and work.
Many teams gather near the coffee pot, stand in the hallway, or fill the atrium to have a weekly, or, in some cases, daily “stand up.”
What if you called a “story standup” once a week and took stock of what people are thinking, writing and discussing with clients?
Let’s face it. We’re all guilty of procrastinating on some level
For those of you familiar with the book “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, you’ll know it’s all about resistance to doing the creative work you were meant to do.
My focus is on teaching writing in the thought-leadership style, but occasionally, I teach people copywriting for their business.
This was a fun session with people from diverse fields, including justice, medicine, and beauty & wellness.
As a journalist, I usually think in story.
I would storify long before that word was made common by the now defunct chronology and curation service on the web.
When someone scans the headlines on your blog, can they understand what you do?
Sometimes I do a bit of a “test” to see if I can grasp a person’s positioning quickly: I scan their blog or the articles they have written on LinkedIn and see if the headlines tell me a single or coherent story.
I find this a very interesting and important question. People writing for their businesses aren’t doing so for their own amusement. They’re writing articles and posts to engage with their audiences, gain trust – and win sales.
Below I have brainstormed three types of conversations that can come out of content you publish that serves your audience and is born out of your thought-leadership niche.
Some people have a life coach, a business coach, a sales coach and even a book coach. These are all useful forms of coaching for people who want to make changes and improvements in these areas.
Ideas coaching is very similar to book coaching, but the approach in ideas coaching is more exploratory and open.
When writing thought-leadership articles or books about solutions to pressing problems, you need to show that you understand problems at a deep level – the practical level, but also the meta level.
That’s why understanding motivations, intentions, key turning points (for instance in the project) and reversals is a good thing.
Recently, I dreamt a very vivid scene.
I had a small red rental car and a remote control that was supposed to help me park the car while I stood outside.
The scene went on, but what struck me about it in the morning was how much of a scene it really was.
Write Like a Thought Leader - Introducing The Story-Framing System
I’m proud to say that today my book is for sale on Amazon. It’s for subject-matter experts who have great ideas that need to be heard. It’s about shaping your ideas and forming them into a story that serves your audience and provides your expertise on your topic, work or research.
Thought-leadership writing has a commercial intent, but it doesn’t have a salesy tone or character.
In “Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within,” Natalie Goldberg says that writers don’t need to lock up their best ideas and hold them back. Instead, we need to trust in ourselves that our great ideas can be put forth into the world and then, after they’ve been released, we’ll just have more great ideas.
It is our responsibility as experts on a journey to thought leadership to contribute uniquely and authentically to the bigger conversation and do it in a way that makes it easy for general audiences to digest our thinking.
It’s not only good for you and your career prospects, it’s also good for society at large.
Thought leadership is a term that has reached buzzword status and, as happens with buzzwords, it has gotten over-used and abused.
Thought leadership is about building trust with your audience. If you have click-baity headlines, then you break the trust.
Finding the right frame for your story can drastically improve your writing about your business.
Story framing is one of the most important parts of good writing, but it’s one of the most overlooked. If story framing isn’t currently part of your content-creation process, don’t blame yourself. Frankly, it is also under-taught.
Value is an ever-changing concept. Each industrial revolution from steam and electricity to automation and computing professed its own version of value.
Yet the nature of new value requires more than dry description. New business value deserves a gripping story to transport and share it.
How do you know if you have a big-idea book brewing inside of you?
Sometimes you have an idea for a book or article, but you're too close to it to know if it's a really good one.
Writing in the thought-leadership style is writing that meets the needs and cravings of your audience.
In many cases, subject-matter experts stuck in the academic style of writing produce stories that are uninspiring, or the writer states something that is very obvious and well known.
If you’re on to something good, and you know that your ideas about your niche subject are valuable – but you’re not reaching your audience – you need to approach the story in a different way. You need to find and tell the story like a journalist would. You need to write like a thought leader.
Bite-sized inspiration for emerging thought leaders
Join us for occasional ideas and input on how to write like a thought leader.