I reread the email three times from the brand representative. I drafted at least two different versions of polite responses turning down the project. In the assignment letter, she had instructed that my next blog post be a “thought leadership piece” on the impact that Generation Y was having on the staffing industry and I was positive that there was no way I could pull this one off.
With a little bit of Googling, I learned that ‘thought leadership’ is writing an article or blog post that presents a unique opinion or idea on a topic. And while I had spent the past three years writing on business topics, my role was to just report what I learned from other sources, not generate new ideas. I was very accustomed to writing other people’s ideas, but not my own, which is why the idea of writing thought leadership put me into a panic.
But, I followed my rule of waiting 24 hours before turning down an assignment. During my cooling off period, I began to think through the article more logically and realized that I had learned a lot about human resources and business over the past years. And in many ways, I was actually an expert in my own right because of the many hours I had spent researching and interviewing the top experts in the field. So, I decided to write a rough draft and see how it turned out.
Here are the five steps I followed:
- Read a variety of different articles on the topic form different sources and points of view. Make sure to check out a variety of types of documents including trade articles, whitepapers, and blogs.
- Look for statistics or studies on your topics. A great strategy for thought leadership is to base your post on a study that you found.
- Review your notes from interviews you have previously done on the topics.
- Form your own opinion and thoughts on the topic without plagiarizing your sources, but using them as input. Make sure that the position that you are taking in the post lines up with the message that the brand wants to convey.
- Write a rough draft on the subject without thinking about it too heavily. You can go back later and clean it up.
If you have developed a niche as a content marketing writer, then you most likely have learned a lot more about the industry than you actually realize. And since most writers are typically pretty opinionated, I am positive that you can come up with original thoughts and opinions on the topic.
So, if someone asks you to write a thought leadership piece, save yourself the agony that I went through and just sit down and just say yes. I bet you will be pleased with the result.
Have you written thought leadership pieces? If so, what advice would you give other content marketing writers?