Increasingly, you and your company/firm are in the business of selling ideas. Customers want to know how you think – and how your thinking translates into action steps and recommendations. This makes the development and promotion of thought leadership (e.g., books, blog posts, articles, white papers) critical.
Whether you are writing a blog post, a bylined article, a white paper or a book, here are six starter tips for identifying a strong thought leadership topic and developing an interesting point-of-view.
- Select a topic. The best sources of article/book ideas include:
- Questions you’re getting from the marketplace. If 2+ clients or prospects ask you the same question, it’s in play.
- Emerging trends in the news or management literature. You rarely see one blockbuster book, article, video or blog post on a topic. More often, several books on a given theme/topic break at the same time. It’s their moment. The key is to anticipate these trends and catch the first wave – or at least the second.
- Client assignments that taught you something or that illustrate a bigger idea/take-away.
- Research/analysis that you did for one client or industry – the take-aways for which are relevant to others. Here, you may not be able to publish details (due to confidentiality concerns). But general learnings and aggregate findings are usually fair game.
- A hypothesis that you’re eager to research and/or tes
- Develop a Point-of view…using the 4 Ps. In general, the best writing meets at least one of the following criteria. It must be:
- Predictive OR
- Prescriptive OR
- Provocative AND
- Refine you story idea. Do a quick literature search to see who else has written on your topic – and what they’ve said. You want your point-of-view to add to the conversation…but stand out from the crowd.
- Pick a structure. Good writing is one part inspiration, one part structure. To make your writing more persuasive, consider adopting one of the following popular formats:
- The Interview
- The Q&A
- Point, counter-point
- Problem -> solution
- Mini case study
- “How to”
- The challenge story (e.g., David vs. Goliath)
- More and more … (e.g., show a trend in the making, or an uptick in need/urgency)
- The first…( e.g., propose a new way of thinking to rival old ways)
- A defined point-in-time (e.g., the first 90 days, transition from work -> retirement, etc.)
- Select a platform. Once you’ve picked a topic and structure, think through which platform works best:
- Bylined article (how-to, case study, problem -> solution, extended Q&A)
- Book (multiple case studies; a complex concept that is best described/illustrated in multiple chapters; a new framework or way of seeing)
- White papers (detailed analysis of one key issue or theme)
- Blog posts (list, mini-case study, challenge, interview, short Q&A)
- Panel discussions/speeches (high-level, motivational, point-counterpoint)
- Research your selected platform and/or publication. Pay attention to format, tone, length, point-of-view, use of examples, level of detail etc. It’s your job to make your content work for the publication, site or forum.
In my next blog post, I will share four additional tips for making the writing process less taxing – and the end-product more engaging.
In the meantime, what’s missing from this list? What questions do you have that we haven’t addressed?