Bloody Google. While it’s great for so many things, it is equally frustrating and annoying when it comes to finding good content that actually means anything. Take the topic of thought leadership as a case in point.
Enter those two words into the search bar and you will be inundated by a mass of links to various websites all promising to hold the key to how you can become a thought leader in your sector, providing you follow their ‘golden rules’ of course.
Trouble is that most of these articles are quite frankly bollocks – written, in the main, by people who a) probably had to Google the term ‘thought leadership’ in the first place, or b) people simply don’t know their arse from their elbow when it comes to business let alone what it takes to really stand apart from your peers.
We’re different (of course we’d say that). We’re different because a) we write about this stuff all the time, and b) we have provided personal branding and PR support for business leaders for…ahem, well a fair few years (we don’t want to age ourselves too much of course).
So if you are serious about finding out how to produce great thought leadership articles to feature on your LinkedIn profile keep reading.
1. Carefully decide on your subject matter
The very definition of a thought leadership article means that you need to write about topics in which you are already an expert. It’s fine to tackle an issue that others are already talking about, but you need to be able to add to the conversation, not just repeat what everyone else is already saying. It’s not the topic that needs to be unique, but your perspective on it.
Most thought leadership articles start with a problem or question. Think about who you want to read your article and what challenges they tend to face in their professional life.
You can then go on to offer your opinion and advice on how to overcome the issue.
Generally, the more practical the advice, the more widely your article will be read and shared.
2. Allocate time specifically for writing
Writing articles is one of those jobs that tend to get continuously sidelined by more urgent tasks, so it’s important to schedule dedicated time for writing.
It’s easiest to do the job in two stages – researching and planning the structure of your article and then writing it up. Separating these two stages out can make the task a bit less daunting and gives you time to think about your ideas.
It’s also vital you remember to proof your article before posting. Sense-checking is just as important as spell-checking, so you can’t rely on your software to pick up errors.
Reading your article out loud is absolutely the best way to make sure it reads well.
3. Ensure your ‘voice’ is on-brand
While you want to maintain a professional tone in your online writing, don’t be scared to inject a bit of personality. Using metaphors, stories and opinions, or even a touch of humour, can really help to make your article much more engaging and fresh. If in doubt, try and write as if you are speaking directly to a colleague.
It’s really important when writing, particularly online, to make your copy as easy to read as possible – most people simply don’t have the time or the patience to read long blocks of dense text.
Avoid unnecessary jargon and pompous language and break up blocks of text using paragraphs, subtitles and bullet points to make them easier to read.
4. Back up your opinions with proof
While a thought leadership article is all about your opinions and ideas, they are going to be better accepted if you do a bit of research and provide some information to back them up.
Quotations, statistics and examples from your practice are all great ways to give more depth to your article and make your point of view persuasive. Don’t forget to attribute or cite your sources with hyperlinks or footnotes – it’s only polite.
Most online platforms like LinkedIn will also allow you to insert rich media into your articles, such as images, videos or even social media posts. This helps to add visual interest, breaking up your copy, and reinforces your opinions.
5. Spread the word…literally
After you’ve put all that time and effort into writing, you’ll want to make sure as many people as possible see your article, but you need to guide them to it.
Share posts across multiple platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) linking to your article.
Remember, not everyone will see each post, so you should share the article several times, ideally at different times of day with different posts.
After you’ve published several pieces online, you’ll be able to see which ones were the most popular and tailor future content to get every more reads, likes and shares.