This article was first published on December 23, 2021.
Since you know what thought leadership is and why it is crucial for brand positioning, let us explore the how. How to use writing to build thought leadership. This resource will teach you how to craft an article that conveys the message, reads well and encourages readers to respond to your call to action.
A well-written op-ed or thought leadership content can help your brand get more exposure, attract new business opportunities, and convert leads. As per LinkedIn research, 58 per cent of decision-makers read at least one hour of thought leadership content every week.
In the same study, 60 per cent said that this type of content had directly convinced them to buy a product or service they hadn’t previously considered.
Writing great content used to be privy to grammar nazis and literature lovers, but in the digital era, almost anyone with an idea, opinion, comment or observation can write a good thought leadership piece with some guidance and knowing the right tools to leverage.
This article is for you if you are an expert in a given field and keen on leveraging your thought leadership for better brand positioning but are hesitant about your writing skills.
Without any further ado, let us look at the fundamentals of writing a great article:
It all starts with an idea and how it is relevant
It all starts with the idea that eventually becomes the basis of your argument. So, the first step would be to identify the comment, observation, opinion, statement or idea you want to talk about.
The idea does not necessarily have to be “unique”, but it must be relevant. The relevance should be in the context of
- the target audience- the people you want to speak to
- your brand- how will it help your brand and your story
- industry trends- how relevant is it for the theme/topic widely
Another important thing to keep in mind when identifying the article’s main idea is to focus on your strengths. What is it that you have the most experience in? What are your strong suits? What do you know that the world can benefit from knowing?
Sharing an idea that stems from your pool of strengths or subject matter you know most naturally makes the entire process easier. Plus, you can share insights that add real value to your readers while cementing your position as a thought leader in that field.
Research and planning are crucial
The next stage will involve research. The article will discuss a topic that you are familiar with and have enough knowledge in, but adding proof like external references, statistics, and data will validate what you are saying. This is where research comes into play.
Identify keywords relevant to your topic. You can leverage free online tools like SEMRush and UberSuggest for keywords. Then, look up these keywords to find relevant data and studies on reliable external websites, such as Statista, McKinsey, Bain and Harvard Business Review, to name a few.
Always remember to keep the region of your target audience in mind. For example, if you are talking about how digital banking is vital in Asia, then stats about America’s banked/unbanked population would not be relevant here. You need to lookup data in Asia.
If your company or community has conducted internal surveys, feel free to quote results from those studies as well. If you are arguing about using a particular tool or solution, case studies or examples are great ways to back your views.
Once you are done with your research, plan a rough outline of the article. This simplifies the final writing process further. Now, get started on that first draft.
The writing process
Once you have a clear idea of what your article will be about and have gathered all the necessary notes, stats, etc., the next step would be to write it.
- A basic article has three main parts- an introduction, a body and a conclusion.
- Keep the intro short and dive straight into the argument. Just about two paragraphs at best.
- Articulating what the article covers and explaining why the article is important are the two most essential elements of an introduction. You can do that by mentioning the problem or question you are addressing with the article and explaining why that issue is relevant to your readers. Rely on facts and state engaging proof points.
- Remember, the point of an introduction is to engage readers and ensure they keep scrolling. Many thought leaders make one mistake while writing the introduction is repeating the title or simply reiterating it. In other words, do not repeat the title. Instead, use the opening to create a solid pathway into the body of your article.
- In the body of the article, you make your argument and validate it with proof points. Identify two to three main points you want to discuss and validate those points with data, stats and examples.
- A concise summary of the key highlights and a call to action, such as a link to your website or an email for queries, generally entail the conclusion. Remember, the decision is your chance to relate with your audience. This becomes even more important when the article is a technical post. Leverage the conclusion and use it as a breather by making a few personal comments. This will help people respond better to your CTA.
Do not skip the editing
After your first draft is ready, reviewing and editing the article is extremely important. Spending at least thirty minutes reviewing your first draft is a must.
It helps you identify silly mistakes, typos and gives you a chance to enhance the flow and readability.
Editing before submitting helps you present a polished and final piece to a media and makes your content more likely to be published.
Here’s a quick checklist to help you edit your draft:
- Leverage free online tools like Grammarly for spelling errors and grammar
- Check for accidental plagiarism on free online plagiarism checkers
- Check for clarity of thoughts in each section
Is the article coherent and readable? To ensure, check for the following:
- Do you have a clear heading?
- Is the article divided into subheadings?
- Does the article need images, charts and graphs to support the text?
- Check direct quotations and paraphrasing for accuracy
- Check to make sure you appropriately credit all sources through hyperlinks
- Check the consistency of your opinion throughout your article
- A standard op-ed or thought leadership article is between 800-1000 words
- Avoid flowery language. Write small, clear sentences. Remember, you are not writing this article to score an A in an essay but to inform your readers of your views
- Keep the paragraphs short and always start them with topic sentences. These are typically the first sentence of each paragraph that gives an overall idea to the readers of what’s to follow
Let’s look at this example
To get a better idea, check out this amazing thought leadership content on e27.
This article explores how edutech is solving the global teacher’s crisis. Thought leader Neelesh Bhatia, co-founder and CEO of Akadasia, explores the importance of education technology with a clear focus on educators.
He discusses the lack of support and proper training for educators, thus addressing the global teacher crisis and presenting technology as the solution. One important thing to note here is that Bhatia backs his statements with relevant statistics and data.
Further in the article, he explains how technology can be leveraged to empower educators with the right tools. Hence, they can create better courses and impart education at par, backing his statements with relevant research.
The following section introduces Akadasia’s Freejoo – its digital ecosystem that supports educators globally and gives them the knowledge, resources, and connections they need. The mention of Akadasia at this point in the article feels very natural and not sudden like a forced plug.
He validates his argument by sharing real numbers of how Akadasia’s Freejoo has helped over 130,000 teachers from 36 countries. Finally, he presents some more data and research to summarise the need for education technology for future-proofing the industry.
Bhatia’s article does not contain flowery language or rich lexical. It focuses on one problem, discusses solutions and shares research and data to back what he says. Plus, he runs a company relevant to the industry he is talking about adds more credibility to what he is saying.
In a nutshell
So, select a topic relevant to what you do, are studying or have experience in. Pin the main idea and get started. Do relevant research, add some data and get your first draft ready.
Finally, review, edit and make sure the article is easy to read and has a clear message. Voila! You are a thought leader!
Want to become a regular op-ed contributor and establish yourself as a thought leader? Take that leap of faith and join our Contributor Program to start your journey today.
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