Create world class high impact thought leadership to help drive your business and establish your personal and company credentials as an expert and a ‘thinker’.
Use this SIMPLE CHECKLIST to help frame your thinking.
1. Decide why you want to create a thought leadership document.
2. The title is key. You want a title that will drive people to read the full document!
3. Pick on just one topic that you know really well and in which you can claim some expertise.
4. Check what is already out there – make sure you are different, and better.
5. Be thought provoking, challenging, engaging, even controversial. Does your content provoke questions (it should do)?
6. If it helps, write to a structure or rough template.
7. Think about length of content, you want something short and sharp ideally.
From the first idea of creating thought leadership content, consider what you want to achieve. What are the objectives – brand (company brand or personal brand) enhancement, client engagement and sales, or both or something else? Keeping in mind your objectives will help steer the overall tenor of your content and make sure you end up with some form of call to action.
Think about the title. The title will drive people to read the document so don’t make it too functional. I think the ideal is a relatively short title that instils a fear of missing out if they skip the document. Words like ‘revenue’, ‘risk’, and so on are good hooks. Draft a couple of alternatives to mull over.
Talk about a real issue or problem – but focus on just one. Having multiple issues in your document will make it longer than it needs to be and can dilute your message. I have found it best to pick on just one issue and do that really well. What you are writing about should interesting because it concerns an issue or a problem that directly affects your audience.
Also do some basic research to check what content is already available (if you don’t already know). Thought leadership is not about critiquing or collating existing material, but about creating something original. The clue is in the title, so write something that moves the needle! And not everyone needs to agree with you either!
I find it often helps marshal my thoughts to write roughly to a structure. Here’s one rough template you can use, for content where you want to discuss a problem or situation and what you see as the solution:
Example thought leadership structure
· Describe the issue that customers or clients face
· Why is this a problem – what are the implications for their business? See if you can dig out unexpected impacts that shows you know your subject matter. Highlight a different angle.
· Is it getting more complicated? A problem that is changing is especially difficult! Here you can talk about your view of the dynamics.
· Now talk about your solution or analysis or whatever – your view on things. Here you can be more creative and thought leading, thought provoking. What new questions does this raise?
· Close with a forward view – what new issues does you audience need to be aware of?
. What do you want them to do next (the call to action).
There are of course many other content structures you can use, so adapt the one above or come up with your own. I think the key to whatever structure you use is that is has a thread of continuity through it. Readers can follow your structure and storyline.
Plan to write to a given length of document. I tend to think that 4 pages is a good target, though I usually end up writing 5 pages or so. Its better to write more and then pare down to the core content as that makes you edit and refine what you have written. Its also worth remembering that if this is going out under your company’s flag, then it likely has to conform to some form of branding guidelines that may affect the structure as well. If you are writing as an independent expert or commentator, remember the perhaps obvious point of including your contact details etc. as your content may end up being circulated on its own.
Lastly, read it back and make sure the content delivers what you said in the title! I have seen many examples where the content, while interesting, simply does not deliver what was promised in the title. Its gone off in a different direction!