With so many brands shouting across the web today, everyone’s looking for a way to differentiate themselves. Companies are engaging in specific styles and positioning themselves as experts in smaller niches to gain traction with the right audience, and one of the ways they’re doing it is through thought leadership content.
The good news for writers: First, the need for more content means more available work. Second, many companies are willing to pay a bit more for thought leadership than they do for basic SEO or a unique regurgitation of the facts.
The current challenge: The problem that we’re seeing is that not all freelancers know how to write thought leadership content or even seem to understand exactly what it is.
What Is Thought Leadership Content?
Thought leadership occurs when content provides a comprehensive, high-quality answer to the audience’s biggest or most pressing questions. It doesn’t have to be the most unique content on the subject, but it does have to be some of the best. The good news is that it can come from anyone. One of the things that makes thought leadership content so valuable is that it can level the playing field. It’s not about credentials or pedigrees. It’s about what someone knows and their ability to communicate it to build trust, develop respect and position themselves as a leader in the space.
What Thought Leadership Content Is Not?
To better understand thought leadership from a content creation perspective, let’s look at some of the things it isn’t.
- Thought leadership isn’t a regurgitation of information sourced online (or even in books), no matter how unique of a spin you put on it. Reworking information into new content certainly has its place in online marketing, but thought leadership means going above and beyond regurgitation to explain, respond or expound on existing ideas.
- Thought leadership isn’t a gathering of relevant statistics or thoughts on the topic. That’s a curated list: again, a valuable type of content, but not one that delves into someone’s expertise on a subject.
- Thought leadership rarely sounds like an encyclopedia article or text book. It almost always has voice and verve that is unique to the brand or person noted as the author.
Tips for Writing Thought Leadership as a Freelancer
Expanding into thought leadership content may help you find more lucrative assignments or build your bylined portfolio. Before you agree to write this type of content for someone, consider these tips.
- Don’t agree to write thought leadership on topics you know nothing about. While you could research your way into it, you might find the struggle to write as a expert on a new topic takes too much time and tanks your hourly.
- When possible, write thought leadership in areas where you are an expert. Even if you won’t be bylined, you’re more likely to please clients looking for an expert voice. Choose niches where you’ve worked or have other extensive experience. For example, my background is in project management and healthcare revenue cycle management. I regularly ghostwrite thought leadership pieces in those niches.
- If you don’t have an expertise outside of writing (You probably do: are you a gardener? Have you manned PTA positions? Do you cook from-scratch meals every day? All of these things make you an expert at something), you may have built up expertise over the years by writing extensively on a subject. I currently write thought leadership in the cremation space, though I’m not a funeral director. I’ve just written hundreds of thousands of words in that niche through the years.
- Keep open communication lines with your client, especially if they are the expert. Ask for links to previous work, video transcripts or audio copies of interviews or a quick phone call to get some original quotes.
- Cite current, relevant and high-quality sources; a thought leader doesn’t have to fill an article with info sources from basic sites because they are familiar with current research and cutting-edge publications in the niche.
- Incorporate original material and thought. Don’t just reiterate what’s already being said on the topic online. Respond to quotes, statistics and facts with an expert opinion, recommendation or argument.
- When possible, incorporate new quotes and material (if the type of content allows it). You might use HARO queries, or simply put the question to your social feed to get feedback.
- As always, follow the feedback and instructions of your client. While the definitions of thought leadership in this post are broad and appropriate, we all know that clients might mean something slightly different when they ask you for it.
For more tips of the trade and to stay on top of managed content work at Crowd Content, don’t forget to join the writer forum. It’s a friendly, efficient place where admins and writers share news and tips.