What it Takes to Think and Write Like a Thought Leader

Marketers, communicators and PR practitioners play an important role in shaping the next chapter in the tech industry’s evolving story.

This creates a heavy burden for those among us writing for top company execs who wish to be known as thought leaders. Such leaders must master all the various perspectives on tech’s latest regulations, user requirements, ever evolving technical capabilities and more.

As communicators, our job is a daunting one. We must present a clear vision that elegantly offers an advanced perspective on select topics that could only come from someone who is experienced, thoughtful and visionary. This is how you earn trust in an ever-changing market landscape. 

Why our job is so hard:

Longform, written content—drafted on behalf of an executive spokesperson—is a labor of love, to say the least. The resistance,  pushback and sometimes even stagnation we often encounter with clients, although understandable, can be gut wrenching. But such executive and other internal reviews are just the tip of the iceberg in a long sequence of events that happens before you get to the equally—if not more—rigorous editorial review.

The good news:

It’s widely accepted that content must be consumed in small portions to hold the attention of the reader. Blogs are now an average of 350 to 400 words, and most contributed articles are 500 to 1,000 words. Long gone are the days where you sit down to write a 10-page white paper, unless of course you are in academia.

The name of the game in marketing is to collect clicks. The more clicks you generate, the more impactful the piece becomes. You will write smaller thought leadership segments that can be arrange in a series (called page pathways) that include tactics that are highly executable and rank high in terms of impact visibility and efficacy.

The bad news: 

It isn’t enough to draft a thoughtful, engaging and otherwise well-crafted piece of content. You will ultimately not be measured by your ability to write but by how well your writing performs. You must continuously write quite a high number of these segments and include something actionable to keep website visitors engaged and returning to your site.

With the proficiency of tools on professional publication websites and even company websites, it’s quite clear how many visitors click on the content and how long they stay. This helps identify those who read from those who merely skim the content. Ultimately, your content will be judged for its efficacy.

Boosting your value:

You can make it easier for people to find your content by designing the content with key words that allows modern search engines to reach your key personas. Before you begin the writing process, be sure to do some persona research using online tools and reviewing editorial calendars on related topics. This will help you achieve the engagement to support the thought leadership goals your executive has in mind. Speaking to things buyers care about will compel them to join the conversation and engage with your content.

Resist the Urge to be Redundant by ensuring you have created content that is unique and authentic. Contrarian points of view supported by data or noteworthy experience can present a new perspective that will bolster a thought leadership role. Your executive spokesperson may be a seasoned security expert or a notable networking guru, but the overdone angle of “top X security/network threats to the enterprise” is, well, completely overdone.

Daring to be different will pay off in dividends when it comes to landing a valuable thought leadership opportunity. But it is equally important to write original content. AI tools these days are very good at rooting out plagiarism, inadvertent and otherwise. Any such instances of plagiarism will ensure a permanent closed door for contributed content to a publication.

“Pay-to-Play” is growing in importance and no longer considered a negative. While there was a time when those who paid for coverage only did so because they could not secure earned coverage, that is no longer the case. With a changing economy, a shortage of reporters and shrinking advertising budgets, sometimes the only way to secure strong placements is with paid content.

Everyone in the industry is taking part in this practice.

Think of it this way: you’re not paying for the opportunity to publish, you’re paying for the opportunity to communicate with an in-demand audience that’s inundated with messages from companies like yours daily. This is your chance to stand out. In addition to the opportunity to reach a key audience, a recurring contributor opportunity—like the Forbes Technology Council—is a great way to guarantee a steady stream of content over an extended period of time.

Merchandising, Maximizing and Marketing Your Thought Leadership Win

Assuming one of the above tips landed you a home run thought leadership placement, be sure to make the most of it by:

  1. Continuing to elevate your thought leader’s profile through social sharing, using bite-sized summaries of the article in newsletters and on the company website;
  2. Creating condensed summary formats for LinkedIn posts or blogs. Please also note that many outlets—such as eWeek—also accept contributed content in the form of a slideshow. If the contributed piece would play well in that format (i.e. a “listicle” concept), re-work the copy to ensure it’s differentiated, and then pair it with some strong imagery to further the value of your already-placed piece.

Let us know if these tips have been helpful, and feel free to share additional insights you have advice or tactics that have proven especially helpful for you or your team.

Find the next entry in this series here: Crash the Keynote!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *