Asked to write a thought leadership piece? Don’t panic.

by / Tuesday, 06 September 2016 / Published in Blog

I had the opportunity recently to work with two brilliant technical experts who were making their first foray into writing thought leadership articles for mainstream publication. It reminded me that everyone has a first time some time. But even if the blank page scares you, here’s how you can clear your thought leadership hurdle gracefully.

Whether you’re working with an experienced copywriter who can put your thoughts into words, or whether you’re tackling the article draft yourself, start with the following principles, and you won’t go far wrong:

1. Don’t panic

Douglas Adams said it best in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — don’t panic. You got this. You’ve been asked to write a piece of content because you are, for sure, good at what you do, with a brain full of insights that may just need some coaxing out. You don’t necessarily need to scour the web to locate someone else’s insights, though it can be useful to find facts and figures to back up what you’re saying. But you probably already have supporting stats in your inbox, thanks to publications you subscribe to, Gartner research your company receives, or interesting articles colleagues have forwarded to you.

2. Be specific

Avoid packing your thought leadership piece with generalisations. Can you ground your statement in a specific anecdote, a discussion you had with a customer, or an experience you had in a previous role or during a recent meeting? Any supporting detail like this is great, because it helps readers grasp what you’re saying through the power of example.  In this information security thought leadership piece, for example, the author didn’t just say “ransomware is bad and it’s everywhere;” he pointed out that it’s dominating all the research he subscribes to (Cisco recently devoted its entire Cybersecurity Report to the topic), and he referenced the 700,000-plus documented cases of ransomware attacks last year.

3. Be yourself

Your article shouldn’t be a bunch of numbers and disconnected facts. Include your interpretation of what you know…that’s where the value is for readers. Don’t be afraid to use “I” and to communicate real emotion, either. If your first draft sounds too over-the-top in this regard, you can always edit back. But using the first person and letting your feelings show can make it easier for the words to flow, and easier for readers to connect with you and your viewpoint. It will also make you more memorable. Speaking of which, don’t forget the credit line or bio at the bottom of your article, specifying who you are, what your background is, and a way to get in touch in case readers are so struck by your brilliance they want to reach out immediately.

If you’ve been asked to contribute a thought leadership article to a publication, how did you tackle the challenge?

Sheila Averbuch is managing director of the content services agency ENNclick, with offices in Edinburgh and Cork. A former USA Today correspondent, she founded Ireland’s first technology newswire and now works with high-tech and professional services companies on content marketing. Get in touch with Sheila on LinkedIn. 

Photo by Marc Falardeau on Flickr

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