A thought leadership article does not need to be written as if it were being placed in a college textbook to be read by professors, scholars, and scientists. If you are writing a thought leadership article for readers who hold such professions, then yes, it should be scholarly.
However, if you are in a B2B organization providing insights and advice for others in that industry, nothing could be further from the truth.
A thought leadership article should be written in a simple, easy-to-understand manner that effectively communicates your ideas to others in your industry.
Further, the article should avoid jargon or technical terminology. Some writers add these terms in an attempt to show how clever they are or to demonstrate that they are industry insiders. However, if terminology confuses the reader or makes them move on, the impact of the article has been lost.
Here are some other tips you should know when writing a thought leadership article, whether in a trade publication or in a blog post on your company website:
The first two to three paragraphs, depending on the length of the article, are crucial. After reading the first couple of paragraphs, readers will decide if they want to read more, so make them interesting. Often, starting with a story, a case study, or an industry challenge you wish to discuss will encourage the reader to read on.
If the article is long, more than 750 words, it will need subheadings. View subheadings as a lead into what will be discussed next in the article. Subheadings also make it easier for readers to navigate the entire article.
Many times, a subheading that asks a question or encourages the reader to act will prove more effective than a simple sentence. For instance, the subhead “How Do You Turn Words into Sales?” would likely encourage more readers to read the next section of an article compared to a subheading that says “The Mechanics Behind Turning Words into Sales.”
If posted online, make sure the subheadings are SEO friendly. For instance, in our example just discussed, the words “turning words into sales” would be search engine friendly if that is what the article is discussing. Also, make sure they are formatted using “H3” titles rather than regular text.
Quotes from other thought leaders and industry experts, as well as references to studies and research papers, are encouraged. If you do this, however, be sure to provide citations at the end of the article. If writing for a trade publication, the editor may or may not publish the citations, but she will appreciate that sources were provided.
Once the article is written, put it aside for at least a day. This will give you time to review the article for content. This first review is designed to ensure your article conveys the message you want to present to your readers. Expect to rewrite some sections.
After the first revision, put the article aside once more. This time, check it for grammar. Online grammar checkers can prove very helpful. However, having the article read by a second person or a professional copy editor will help ensure that there are no grammatical errors.
End the article with a recap. In most cases, you began with a situation or challenge facing the industry. Now repeat your solution – the more real and relatable, the more powerful.
Make sure your bio states your title, company name, web address, and contact information. In many ways, your bio becomes your call to action. If the reader is impressed with your thought leadership article, now they know who you are, who you are with, and how to contact you.
Short video on thought leadership articles is available here.