The basic rules of thought leadership writing

Sue's daisiesWe all like to be thought of as experts in our respective fields. The ‘go to’ person on certain topics or industry issues even if it is just among our colleagues and clients.

In a digital world it’s much easier to share your insights on a wider stage such as by using the LinkedIn blogging platform or your company’s blog even if it is difficult to achieve cut through with so much content in the ether. However, that’s not necessarily a problem when the people you are probably seeking to influence are more likely to be in your immediate sphere anyway.

Establishing yourself as a thought leader will help boost your professional profile and isn’t too difficult to achieve. You just need to set yourself some time to write and follow a few basic rules:-

1) Keep it current

You need something to hang your hat on. If you are going to write a comment piece or explore a particular industry issue, it needs to be up-to-date and something which your peers will find interesting, thought-provoking and timely.

2) Stay focused

Once you have decided what you are writing about, stay focused, get to the heart of the matter and don’t wander off on a tangent.

3) Find your tone of voice

Decide on your tone – is it friendly and conversational or serious or educational? Whatever your style, stick with it, don’t mix and match.

4) Do your research

Even if you know your industry inside out, chances are you won’t know every last detail about the topic on which you are offering additional insight. Besides, you will need to know what others have written and you may even draw upon their comments or industry stats.

5) Acknowledge your sources

If you do use other sources, industry articles, surveys or research, make sure you quote your source and even link back to the original information. Doing so gives your own article credibility.

6) Structure your thoughts

Understand the point or points you are trying to make and ensure your thread of an argument is easy to follow with explanations and evidence as to why you hold a particular point of view.

7) Add value

Whilst it is perfectly acceptable to draw on a number of sources, you need to add something extra whether that’s your personal opinion or you are offering a solution to a certain issue or you draw on your own experience for additional insight.

8) Write simply and with clarity

Be clear and concise to ensure your writing flows. Don’t use flowery language when it’s

typewriter

not necessary, the simpler, the better. Every story needs a beginning, a middle and an end, so don’t forget those basic lessons you learned long ago in the classroom, they are just as relevant and provides a structure for your article.

9) Write your headline last

Putting together a catchy headline which perfectly sums up your piece is much easier to write once you have finished. Most of the time it will write itself.

10) Read it thoroughly and ask someone else to proofread

Take a step back and read it dispassionately through the eyes of your would-be readers. Be your own worst critic, but know when to stop and don’t over obsess about your use of language. Check your spelling and your grammar.

When you’re satisfied, ask someone to read it through. No matter how many times you check yourself, you are likely to read what you think should be there rather than what is actually written. A fresh set of eyes is more likely to spot spelling mistakes, typos and discrepancies and if there’s something they may not understand it won’t make sense to other readers either so change it. Don’t get precious about your writing.

11) Publish, promote and engage

When you’re happy publish your article whether its on LinkedIn, your company website, company blog or personal blog.

You will need to promote your article and ask colleagues to do the same for as much traction as possible. Post on your own LinkedIn page, tweet the link and highlight the article on the business’ Facebook page. In fact, anywhere and everywhere to broaden the readership.

If someone makes the effort to make a comment, reply, even if it contradicts yours, just don’t become embroiled in a war of words, politely acknowledge their point of view and thank them for taking the time to read and comment. If someone makes a complimentary remark about your insights, thank them.

12) Don’t leave it too long

Finally, don’t just write one piece and never write another or leave it for weeks or even months before you take to the keyboard again. Thought leaders need to regularly comment and write about the industry issues or business topics frequently to establish themselves as a worthy commentator.

Final thought

If you think you have something to say, insights to share and comments to make then get writing and publish. Be realistic, though, don’t expect your views on how to hold a productive business meeting to go viral. In fact, chances are your LinkedIn connections and your Twitter followers are the ones you want to do business with or extend your current business relationship. It’s these people who you want to read your thoughts, anyone else is a bonus. Don’t get too hung up on the numbers.

Practice may not make perfect but it certainly makes you better so the more you write, the more you will improve and before long you will find yourself on the thought leadership road which is good for your personal profile, benefits your business and the rest of us just might learn something.

 

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