Updated: Feb 17
Because of poor writing and the most frequent problem – uninteresting story angles – companies and individuals squander the chance to be seen as thought leaders.
With all the hype around content and “content marketing,” companies and individuals know they need to produce written materials that are of high value and interest to their readers.
They want to present themselves as experts in a specific niche – as thought leaders – but they are unsure how to do it. The best and brightest struggle to tell a story from a fresh angle. Instead, they write articles that are salesy, dry, or read like a study.
Here are some other frequent problems in writing that is meant to be in the thought-leadership style. Writers may:
● be afraid to give away their knowledge and therefore say little or nothing in an article
● try to appeal to high-level readers but instead talk down to them
● miss the chance to tell a bigger story
In some cases, the writing is so uninspiring, or the writer is stating something that is so obvious and well known, that individuals and companies actually do the opposite of what they intend: Instead of gaining the reader’s trust, they begin to lose it.
If you’re on to something good, and you know that your ideas about your niche subject are something your audience needs and craves – but you’re not reaching them – 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.
The 3-step process
To write like a thought leader, subject-matter experts must go through a three-step process (See Figure 1):
Find and articulate your thought-leadership niche (Step 1: Find It).
Frame stories born of your thought leadership niche (Step 2: Frame It).
And write stories in a journalistic style (Step 3: Flesh it Out), which means you must abandon the academic or report-writing style and use a conversational tone and personal touch.
Each step is important but framing your story – e.g. getting the right angle – is the most important to write something new, interesting and, above all, useful to your audience.
Three Steps to Thought Leadership Writing
In addition, those who seek to write like a thought leader must follow the golden rule of thought-leadership writing: They must give away their knowledge for free. With no strings attached.
Writing in the thought-leadership style is an act of generosity toward the reader. Thought-leadership stories are not a platform for advertising services, solutions or products. In thought-leadership writing, experts do have a commercial intent. But they have separated out their offering from their thought-leadership stories.
The commercial offering goes alongside the writing, in which the higher goal is to inform, educate, advise, influence and make ideas and solutions available for those who need them.
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-Rhea Wessel is the Founder and Head of the Institute for Thought Leadership