It’s becoming increasingly important for leaders to cast themselves as a thought leader. Unlocking that perception from your colleagues and peers opens up all kinds of doors on both a personal and a professional level. It could lead to new friendships, landing a major contract, or receiving an exciting job offer.
But you can’t just anoint yourself a thought leader – you have to prove yourself. That means consistently creating content that cuts through the noise. It means building an audience across different platforms: whether that’s through your Twitter account or on a company blog. And it means providing lots and lots of free value.
That takes a lot of work, and while many aspire to it, few actually do it. It’s easy to look at someone with thousands of Twitter followers, or articles published in Forbes and the Wall Street Journal and think it’s an impossible goal, but everyone starts somewhere. The best time to start building an audience was ten years ago. The next best time is right now.
Another issue: the types of people that actually are thought leaders don’t have the time to write about it: they’re too busy signing new clients and racking up promotions. But in reality, a lot of the thought leadership content you read isn’t written by that person – it’s carefully crafted by a professional writer.
A professional writer can––over the course of a short interview––easily get enough content to create a full-length article on pretty much any subject. The thought leader (that’s you) logs on to Zoom for half an hour, and a few days later, receives a publication-ready article that perfectly encapsulates their thoughts.
Once you get the approach down you can create great content at scale. But what does the process look like and how can you start building towards becoming a thought leader in your niche? Let’s unpack those questions.
Your first step is finding the right writer to partner with. Ideally, you want someone specialized in your niche. Personally, I work with technology and professional services companies. Others at Hire a Writer have their own specialties. You can work with any or all of us.
The right writer has a track record of creating thought leadership articles in your niche, and a portfolio and testimonials to prove it. If you’re browsing through a writer’s website or checking out their Upwork profile, you should see this right away. If you don’t: ask for it. All writers worth their salt have portfolios and testimonials they can share.
Before you hire anyone, you’ll also want to have a quick, informal chat with them. This doesn’t need to be a full-on job interview: you just need to make sure you connect with them. Creating thought leadership content is very personal, much more so than an SEO blog article or ad copy. You’re trusting this writer to transmit your philosophies and viewpoints to the world, so make sure you feel comfortable working with them.
So, you’ve found your writer. Next up, you’ve got to decide what to write about. There are two main ways to do this.
The first is driven by you, the thought leader. Pick topics you know matter to people in your industry: emerging trends, new innovations, unanswered questions. Choose subjects you have an informed perspective on. If you’re stuck for ideas, look at the agendas for upcoming conferences or ask your colleagues.
The second way to choose your topics is to work with a content strategist to select topics and keywords that will drive more traffic to your site. A content strategist will research keywords, build out plans for different topic clusters, and provide metrics that you should aspire to. Need help with setting your content strategy? The team at Hire a Writer can help: get in touch today.
Once you’ve settled on your initial list of topics, it’s time to work closely with your writer to actually start creating content. That process often starts with an interview.
The Subject Matter Expert (SME) interview is the backbone of effective thought leadership content creation. As the thought leader, it’s one of the highest ROI activities you can do: for a half-hour call, you’ll receive high-quality content that mirrors your thoughts.
Before the interview, your writer will carry out some research and share a list of questions with you. It helps to mull over these questions before you hop on the Zoom call, but if you don’t have time, it’s not necessary.
The interview itself is relatively informal. The writer will ask open questions that give you the freedom to talk about what you think is most relevant and steer the conversation towards the most interesting insights. The call will normally be recorded so that the writer can refer back to it as they write your content.
Send your writer additional content you feel would be helpful. Examples might include an article you referenced during the call, an internal slide deck, or additional points that came to mind once you got off the call. All of this will help create the best possible thought leadership content.
Your writer will take the contents of your conversation and work to turn them into an article that cogently outlines your thoughts on the topic. They’ll then share this with you and you’ll have the chance to add your feedback.
When you review the article, there are a few things to keep in mind. Consider how the information is presented and whether it will provide value to your audience. Pay attention to the voice and tone of the writing: readers will closely associate this with you. And think about where the article will be published and how the style matches with that platform.
At this stage, if you feel the article is way off-base, it’s best to hop on a quick call to walk through the edits instead of leaving endless comments on a Google Doc. That way, you can discuss more nuanced points in detail, and make sure that you’re both on the same page.
Once you’re happy with the content, it’s time to publish it. Putting yourself out there in the public sphere can be intimidating, but if you’re confident in your content, there’s nothing to fear. It’s often said that growth comes from doing things that make you feel uncomfortable, and that’s true nowhere more than with thought leadership content.
Go ahead and hit that publish button – it’s the first major step on the road to becoming a thought leader. Need some support translating your thought leadership into meaningful content that helps you connect with the right people? The team at Hire a Writer is the perfect fit: get in touch with us today.
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