Why All Your Excuses for Not Writing Thought Leadership are Dead Wrong

By Hippo Thinks

If you’ve been in the business world a while, you’ve seen a lot of buzzwords come and go, from “corporate restructuring” to “cross-platform synergy.” These days, “thought leadership” looks like the buzzword of the moment. Everyone who asks to connect with you on LinkedIn has some of it to share; you’re bombarded with it when you read publications from the Wall Street Journal to the Huffington Post. It seems overly trendy; the market looks saturated.

It’s just not for me, you think.

But don’t let the trendiness of “thought leadership” distract you from the benefits of it. The space may be more crowded today, but thought leadership content still generates 3x the leads of traditional marketing. Here’s why you should consider jumping on that train even if you’re convinced it’s left the station (spoiler alert: it hasn’t).

Excuse: I don’t have enough experience to be a thought leader!

Why it’s wrong: There are thought leaders as young as in their early 20s.

You don’t have to work in an industry for 30+ years to have interesting observations about it. In fact, if you’re a bit of a newbie, you’re at an advantage: your fresh eyes can help shape your thought leadership skills. You might be able to observe things that older coworkers have grown inured too.

We’ve worked with plenty of clients in their early twenties, like Sriram Krishnan (whose piece appeared in Fast Company) or Slater Victoroff (who was published in TechCrunch). There’s no age limit on writing compelling thought leadership articles, so don’t convince yourself that you’re too young to start writing just because you still vividly remember freshman year.

Excuse: There’s way too much thought leadership out there—and no place for me.

Why it’s wrong: No one else has your voice (or your LinkedIn login).

Perhaps you’ve seen pieces with lines like “today’s online marketplace of ideas is ‘noisier’ than ever.” Or you know that Forbes is publishing upwards of 7,000 pieces a month, and are intimidated by the thought of jumping into that fray. With all that “noise,” how can you make your voice heard?

The humble blog post is an ideal place to start. Publishing something on LinkedIn or Medium is a great way to dip your toes into the thought leadership pool and see if you like it (and if readers respond). A cursory search shows dozens of thought leadership content examples resonating with readers there. Of course, you don’t want to just throw up any stream-of-consciousness rant—you still want to put your best foot forward and use the sorts of titles and keywords that help readers find you. (We can help you with that.) But it’s low-stakes and easily actionable.

Still feel frozen? Here, try this writing prompt: What are the three biggest mistakes you see people making in your field today?

Excuse: No one cares about what I’ve experienced.

Why it’s wrong: Your experience is what makes your thought leadership stand out.

Humans crave stories, period—and the best stories out there always have a personal touch. In some of the most popular TED talks of all time, the speakers share their expertise through the lens of personal experiences, like being an introvert or a stuntman. Many popular memoirs and novels have a similar narrative arc, but readers keep devouring them just for the pleasure of hearing the writers’ individual voices.

A similar idea applies when sharing thought leadership examples. No, you can’t write about things that have already been exhaustively covered. But editors and readers want to know what your specific experience has been like—not just the lessons you’ve learned, but how you learned them, and what conclusions or predictions about your industry you can draw from them.

Excuse: I don’t even have a Twitter account.

Why it’s wrong: Your editor doesn’t care.

Some people like to lump thought leadership in with another 21st-century marketing trend: social media. They claim you can’t really have one without the other, and that a strong thought leadership article absolutely must be supported by a strong Twitter or LinkedIn presence. However, I’ve been helping c-suite executives craft thought leadership articles for several years now, and not once has an editor refrained from publishing a piece because its author didn’t have enough followers on one social platform or another. There is no correlation between the strength of your ideas and the number of times you engage on social media.

Of course, social media marketing is its own useful tool, but it’s not the same as thought leadership—nor should it be. You’re not honing your thought leadership development solely as a strategy to get more Twitter followers, and editors don’t care how many hashtags you use when you share a link to your story. All they care about is the strength of your ideas.

Excuse: I can’t do this without outside help!

Why it’s wrong: We’ve got your back.

Maybe you’re sitting here thinking that this article is missing the point. It’s not that you’re nervous about your lack of Twitter followers—it’s that you simply don’t have the time.  

That’s where we come in: to make your life easier. We’ll hop on a phone call with you to mine your personal leadership expertise for ideas, and before you know it, you’ll have your first piece of thought leadership in the books.

Why aren’t you writing thought leadership yet, anyway? Drop us a line and we’ll see if we can help.

Photo courtesy of Jad Limcaco on Unsplash.

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