How to Write a Thought Leadership Article: Don't be afraid to take a stand
Updated: Mar 7
Thought leadership is a buzzword that has been thrown around for years in the marketing world, but what does it actually mean, and how can you establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry?
In the B2B world, thought leadership is particularly important as it helps build trust with your target audience, increase your exposure, and differentiate your brand from the competition. In this article, we look at the value of thought leadership, how to establish yourself as a thought leader, and provide a checklist for writing a successful thought leadership article.
The Importance of Thought Leadership for B2B Marketers
Thought leadership is the practice of sharing knowledge and expertise in a way that provides value to your target audience. More than that it involves developing a position on important issues in your industry and offering unique insights and perspectives.
When done well, thought leadership can have a significant impact on your business. According to a survey by Edelman, 48% of decision-makers say thought leadership content has directly led them to award business to a company and 54% purchased a new product or
service from the organization that they had not previously considered buying.
It can be a powerful way to connect with key decision makers. According to the same survey almost 40 percent of final decision-makers spend more than one hour a week reading thought leadership content. However, 71% of senior decision makers say that less than half of the thought leadership content they consume leaves them with any valuable insights.
One example of a company that has successfully established itself as a thought leader is Goldman Sachs. In 2020, the company launched a podcast series called “Exchanges at Goldman Sachs.” The series features conversations with Goldman Sachs employees and industry experts on a range of topics, from the impact of COVID-19 on the global economy to the future of sustainable investing.
How to Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader
Now that we understand the value of thought leadership, how can you establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry? There are several steps you can take to develop your personal brand and share your expertise with your target audience. In addition, these steps also apply to strengthening the personal brands of you corporate leadership team.
Identify Your Area of Expertise
What topics are you passionate about, where do you have valuable experience? Ultimately, where are you able to offer unique insights and perspectives? For a brand or company, your expertise should be in understanding the problems your customers face, and how to solve them. For example, if you are a commercial real estate company who helps companies find the perfect office space, then you would want to position yourself as experts in the workplace of the future.
Develop a Strong Personal Brand
Your personal brand is the way you present yourself to the world, and it should be consistent across all of your marketing channels, including your website, social media profiles, and thought leadership content. Your personal brand should reflect your values, personality, and expertise, and it should be designed to appeal to your target audience.
One example of a company that has done an excellent job of developing a strong personal brand is HubSpot, a company that provides marketing, sales, and customer service software. HubSpot’s co-founders, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, both established themselves as thought leaders in the marketing industry. Shah even wrote a book about inbound marketing. These personal brands allowed Halligan and Shah to establish HubSpot as a trusted advisor and thought leader in the marketing and software-as-a-service industries.
Find Your Voice and Define Your Style
Once you have identified your area of expertise and developed your personal brand, the next step is to find your voice and define your style. Your voice should be authentic, engaging, and conversational, and it should reflect your personality and expertise. Your style should be consistent across all of your marketing channels and should be designed to appeal to your target audience.
Drift, a conversational marketing software company, has established a strong brand voice and style. They use a conversational and engaging tone that reflects their brand values of being human, helpful, and playful. This tone is evident in all of their marketing materials, from their website copy to their blog articles and social media posts. By developing a consistent and engaging brand voice and style, Drift has established itself as a thought leader in conversational marketing.
Build Your Network and Increase Your Exposure
There is no point creating great content if you don't share with an audience. To make an impact as an thought leader you need to grow your network and increase your exposure. This involves connecting with other leaders in your industry, attending conferences and networking events, and sharing your thought leadership content with your target audience.
Salesforce, a CRM software company, is an example of a company that has done a good job of building its network. Every year it hosts an annual conference called Dreamforce, which brings together thought leaders and experts from around the world to share insights and ideas. They also have an active community of users who share their experiences and insights on social media and other channels. This has established Salesforce as a thought leader in the customer relationship management space.
How to Write a Thought Leadership Article
Having explored the value of thought leadership and how to establish yourself as a thought leader, let’s turn our attention to how to write a thought leadership article. Writing a thought leadership article or report involves taking a stand on an important issue in your industry, Here are some steps to follow when writing a thought leadership article.
Choose a Relevant and Timely Topic
To start writing a thought leadership article you need to choose a relevant topic. Your topic should be related to your area of expertise and should be something that is of interest to your target audience. You should also consider the current state of your industry, trends impacting the sector (socio-economic, technological, political, regulatory, demographic, environmental) and how those issues that are affecting your customers.
Take a Stand and Express Your Opinions
Think about these issues and develop a clear point of view. Don't be afraid of expressing your opinions. Your article should present an interesting perspective on the topic and it should offer valuable insights and ideas. It can be helpful to develop an mental or analytical framework for understanding the issue you are writing about. A clear framework will help to ensure that your conclusions are logical and consistent with your argument.
Conduct Research and Back Up Your Statements with Data
Having developed a concept (or a thesis), you now need to back it up with evidence. Your thought leadership article, white paper or report, should be backed by sound research, data and should offer evidence to support your opinions and ideas. You should also be willing to cite your sources and provide links to any research or data that you have used.
Write for Your Target Audience
When writing a thought leadership article, it is important to write for your target audience. Your article should be tailored to the needs and interests of your audience. The format and style of your article ,matters. It is important to choose the right format for the audience and distribution channel. Your article should be well formatted and use headings, subheadings, and bullet points to make it easier to read and digest. Whilst not always appropriate listicles can make it easier for readers to consume and digest.
Use Clear and Engaging Language
Your article should be clear and concise and written in a way that is easy to understand and engaging. Avoid jargon or technical language that might be confusing to your target audience. It is a good idea to use examples, case studies and data to illustrate your ideas and make them more relatable.
Establish Your Credibility with Your Readers
The final step in writing a thought leadership article is to establish your credibility with your readers. Your article should demonstrate your expertise and knowledge, and it should present you as a trusted advisor and thought leader in your industry. Include your professional credentials and experience to support your opinions and ideas.
Tips for Overcoming Common Challenges in Thought Leadership
While thought leadership can be a powerful tool for building trust with your customers and differentiating your brand in a competitive marketplace, it can also be challenging. Here are 4 tips for overcoming common thought leadership challenges.
1. Pushing Your Fears Aside and Embracing Your Expertise
One of the biggest challenges in thought leadership is pushing your fears aside and embracing your expertise. Many people are hesitant to share their ideas and opinions for fear of being judged or criticized. However, if you want to establish yourself as a thought leader, you need to be willing to take a stand on important issues and present your opinions in a clear and convincing way. Becoming a thought leader in your field is something that anyone can do, not just CEOs. Often, it is people willing to conduct research, look at problems and think of solutions who have the greatest insights. Not a luxury that many busy CEOs have.
2. Balancing Self-Promotion with Providing Value to Your Readers
There is a common misconception that thought leadership is all about self-promotion. It's not, but it is important to put yourself out there, expand your network and connect with your target audience. However, if self-promotion is not backed with providing value to your readers then you will ultimately be unsuccessful.. Your thought leadership content should be informative, engaging, and valuable, and it offer solutions to your customers’ problems.
3. Maintaining Consistency and Authenticity in Your Writing
It is important to maintain consistency and authenticity in your writing. Your content should be consistent with your personal brand and should reflect your values, personality, and expertise. It should also be authentic and sincere, and offer genuine insights and ideas.
4. Get help
Thought leadership has become a mainstay of B2B marketing strategies. Many executives are excited about the prospect of establishing themselves as thought leaders, attending conferences and presenting at industry events. however, the reality is that many of these experts do not have the time or capacity to create thought leadership articles, reports and white papers that can extend the life span of a conference speech or webinar. This is where content partners such as Interpretive Economics can help. As a content creation partner we provide a range of thought leadership services including ghostwriting articles, creating research reports and writing white papers.
Establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry can be a powerful tool for building trust with your customers, increasing your exposure, and differentiating your brand in a competitive marketplace. By following the steps outlined in this article for writing a thought leadership article, you can create content that is engaging, informative, and valuable to your target audience.
Push you fears aside, embrace your expertise, balance self-promotion with providing value to your readers, and maintain consistency and authenticity in your writing. With these tips and strategies, you can establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.