Ideas are the currency of the 21st century. But generating great ideas is one thing – the ability to persuasively share and sell those ideas is quite another. In an age of constant distractions and shrinking attention spans, creating engaging content is core to conveying effective thought leadership.
As communicators, we’re charged with churning out top-notch thought leadership content – and more of it than ever. Here are 10 proven tips that will make the job easier and the results better.
Capture Your Thought Leadership Voice – On “Paper”
- Tell a story. Since childhood, we’re wired to want to hear great stories. Most every day conversations are heavy on data and light on stories; yet, you need the latter to reinforce your ideas and get people to want to listen. Incorporate anecdotes and don’t be afraid to appeal to emotions; we all connect with content that is genuine and relatable.
- Write with an outlet in mind. Just as keeping a target audience in mind is crucial, so is your desired outlet. Whether it’s your brand’s blog, a trade magazine or The New York Times, knowing who you’re writing for will help inform tone, style and format – giving you a solid starting point while minimizing rewrites.
- Stake your claim. Differentiating your writing – style and message – from the oodles of other content “out there” is essential. Choose a compelling, possibly counter-intuitive angle, and infuse your voice and expertise throughout. Always take a strong stance (one way or the other; don’t waffle!), provide unique perspective and offer tangible, action-oriented takeaways.
- Shake it up. Sentence structure, that is. Contrary to what we learned in high school English class, it’s okay to start sentences with a conjunction or preposition. And you shouldn’t be afraid to try new words (but not too many at once!). Choose clear, active verbs that add color and emphasis, and get your audience excited to read more.
- Keep it short – and tight. With constantly diminishing attention spans and more mobile consumption shorter content is often more effective.
- Answer the “why?” question. The goal of thought leadership content is to change opinions and behaviors, and to do so, it needs to answer one pivotal question: “Why should I?” Identify the drawbacks of taking no action, as well as the benefits of your proposed solution.
- Make connections. Just about anyone can contribute to the conversation on almost any topic, but the best writers and true thought leaders see connections, draw conclusions and offer solutions to bigger problems. Help your audience understand the full picture.
- Open memorably and close creatively. If you don’t grab your audience in the first few sentences, they’ll keep scrolling by. Use your opening as an opportunity to give readers a reason to stay. Also, don’t miss the huge opportunity at the end of your piece. Your closing is the last impression your audience will have of you and what you offer them – make it count. Leave them wanting more and ready to take action.
- Call to action. Speaking of action, make what your audience needs to do as clear and straightforward as possible. Inspirational stories are encouraging, but people shouldn’t be left to connect their own dots. Tell your audience exactly how to apply the knowledge you’ve imparted to their lives or business. What can they do – immediately – to reap their own results?
- Practice – and proof. We’ve all heard it before: practice makes perfect. It’s an overused adage because it’s true. In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. The ability to deliver an effective presentation is no different. Record yourself – using video if possible – to refine your delivery. And of course, the more you’re writing and publishing thought leadership content, the more convincing and compelling the results will be.