By David Roche, 31 May 2019
Thought Leadership – What is it & how can I do it?
We sometimes meet that exceptional individual within an organisation who is recognised by everyone as being an authority within a specialised field, someone whose expertise is frequently sought and rewarded, the go-to person in their field of expertise – that is a thought leader.
A different level
The gap between a leader and a thought leader is vast. Leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal. The leader is the person in the group that possesses the combination of personality and leadership skills that makes others want to follow his or her direction.
A thought leader is a trusted source who moves and inspires people with innovative ideas, turns those ideas into reality and knows and shows how to replicate their success. The thought leader also possesses the qualities of the leader.
I currently have the pleasure of working with an outstanding thought leader, an individual who is not only an authority within his chosen field but also someone who encourages and promotes the whole concept of thought leadership & business excellence.
The business is CEEQA (Central & Eastern European Real Estate Quality Awards) and the thought leader behind it all is the Managing Director (some would say Commander-in-Chief) - Richard Hallward.
There are many strings to Richard’s bow; and a career and history heavily intertwined with music and large-scale event management has shaped him into the inimitable individual he is today.
CEEQA has been the Oscars of Real Estate awards within the CEE & SEE regions for 16 years, many imitators are out there trying to cash in on the sector; however they will always play second fiddle to the philharmonic orchestra that is CEEQA, they don’t have Richard at the helm, steering the ship – simples!
One of the many things that sets Richard aside from many – is his ability to write thought leadership articles; which are one of the hardest forms of content marketing to get right. Perfection requires in-depth research, remarkable writing and impeccable style.
The objective of this article is to help you to become a thought leader; to identify the elements required to become one and the journey you must take to get there.
The goal of thought leadership marketing is not to create sales heavy content, but to provide an entry point to your business by branding yourself as an expert.
Let’s look at this in more depth:
Thought leadership articles require a deep insight into the problems or challenges facing a particular sector in addition to a good understanding of current trends and future threats. Add to this a solid industry knowledge backed up by impeccable, objective data and then weave in your company’s position and expertise without compromising credibility – a walk in the park it is not!
Assuming that you are fairly new to the concept of thought leadership, here are a few pointers to get you on the right path:
Start at the source - Dive deep into any resources at your disposal, the intranet, internet, brochures, videos – anything that can help. Digest all of this and break it down into a format you can work with.
Expert advice – Within the company or sector you work in, there will be experts that you can ask, perhaps a product expert, a third party specialist or even a happy end-user / customer. There is always someone out there who knows more than you do. Remember the golden rule though: Your role is to listen and absorb information - so a structured interview is recommended.
Current conversation – What’s in the headlines? Where is hot, where is not? You need to know what the current conversations are about the specialised subject you are writing about. Start with Google News and then drill-down into interest-specific and industry publications.
A good and established thought leader such as Richard has a unique style of writing articles and a reader will recognise that style within different publications. Before you arrive at that level of excellence however; it makes sense to look at publications you wish to emulate or imitate. Many people consider the writing style within The Economist as a benchmark for good business writing.
It is worth noting that The Economist is not all business and the reason this publication is successful is because they inject some panache and verve into their writing. Richard will often inject a level of playfulness into his articles; doing so captivates and retains the reader and makes what could be a boring, all-business write up – something else completely!
Be willing to bend your tone of voice to the topic and audience.
Use your sources – sourcing means gathering information, writing with it and keeping track of where it came from. Attribution is how you report where it came from within your writing. Sourcing is always a good thing. Attribution is more subtle.
Footnotes - don’t litter your thought leadership article with footnotes; which you need to do when you use someone else’s words. Instead, use examples, synecdoche & metaphors to express an idea.
Direct quotes & unique ideas – these should be cited
Ideas - any idea that has entered the general consciousness and is being talked about as part of a public discussion should be treated as such.
Value – does the attribution add value for the reader? Ask yourself this and then decide if you really need it.
If you want to write a compelling, authentic, persuasive & convincing article – it will take practice – lots of practice – but you have to begin somewhere so once you have the materials and facts that you need – commit and put pen to paper.
Here’s a few pointers to help you on your journey:
Read – spend some time reading articles about writing copy, writing to a deadline, storytelling & visualisation.
Headlines – It is important to get these right. Headlines are really the most important part of your article writing. It is the first thing that can grab the attention of your reader or web visitor. Your headlines, in effect, are your first real point of connection with your prospective customer. Actionable, punchy and surprising and maybe shocking are all good things to aim for.
Grammar & Typos – it is very important that your article is checked for spelling mistakes, typographical errors and grammar – so check it – check it again – and get someone else to check it.
Thought leadership is not something that happens overnight, it can take many years as it involves expertise and knowledge in a specific sector, a big level of commitment and a willingness to put yourself in the spotlight and buck the trend.
If you want to increase your visibility and standing with the people who matter, then thought leadership is one of the best paths to achievement.
Footnote - CEEQA
Building the Future of New Europe - The rebuilding of Central & Eastern Europe and Southeast Europe following the economic and physical devastation of large parts of the region through two world wars and communism is one of the most important projects in European economic history.
The CEEQA platform seeks to encourage thought leadership and recognise business excellence across 18 countries in New Europe, as well as to showcase the achievements of the New Europe commercial real estate market place to the international investment arena, through its acclaimed market insight platform and the sector’s main annual industry awards.