First things first: what’s a thought leadership article?
Thought leaders are the people of reference in their field of expertise, the go-to specialists whose innovative ideas and informed opinions are valued by their industry peers.
Publishing well written, informed articles on reputable industry publications can help consolidate a spokesperson’s role as a thought leader in their space and will create engagement with customers, too. A recent study showed just that: more than half of the decision makers surveyed said they spend more than an hour a week reading thought leadership content, and 89% think an informative thought leadership piece can enhance their perception of an organisation or a brand.
But this needs to be done right, as a superficial thought leadership piece can do more harm than good and undermine the author’s credibility rather than raise their profile. In fact, the same LinkedIn study found that poorly executed thought leadership can lead to decision makers removing a potential partner from consideration altogether.
Do your research
The Internet is flooded with written content, and the temptation to go for quantity over quality might be strong. In the long term, however, this strategy proves counterproductive. It is certainly better to have a single, informative paragraph published on a reputable publication than ten full articles that are published only by virtue of being the result of a sponsorship agreement.
And the first rule to producing good content is making sure that there is a solid basis for all the claims that are being made. While you don’t want your article to be just a collection of sources, it is important to corroborate statements with relevant statistics and to cite reports, studies and research papers that will be useful to a reader who wants to dive deeper into the subject.
It is not a marketing piece
Thought leadership articles and marketing pieces are very different entities. The temptation to mention your company or services might be strong, but it is important to remember that the purpose of a thought leadership article is to inform and educate, rather than promote a product.
Your article should not read like a press release, you want to address real-world business challenges and offer a solution that isn’t obvious and trite. Expressions like “cutting edge”, “disruptive”, “industry leading” belong to marketing material!
The focus should be on storytelling and problem solving, rather than shameless self-promotion: readers will see right through over-hyped statements. Remember: your audience is only a click away from moving on to the next article.
Don’t forget about the style
Simple language is key. Sure, you want decision makers to read your thought leadership article and walk away with a more positive impression of your brand, but the target audience of your piece are the readers of the publication where you are going to publish it, and you must tailor your writing to their level of expertise.
As a rule of thumb, it is better to stay clear of long, tedious sentences and overly complicated jargon. In certain fields acronyms are inevitable, but even so it is important to define them as they are introduced. Shorter sentences not only make it easier for the reader to grasp and better remember the message, but are also easier to share on social media, which is always a plus.
Proofread and fact-check
Writing a solid thought leadership piece takes time and effort, and the backlash of publishing bad content can be spectacular. So, unless you think all publicity is good publicity, it is always a good idea to have at least two set of eyes going over a draft before sending it to publication. Mistakes are avoidable as long as your goal remains clear: thought leadership aims to inform and spread awareness!