Small businesses are the backbone of the Australian economy but many small business founders dismiss their ability to position themselves as subject matter experts and ‘thought leaders’ who can enhance and add to wider industry debate and media commentary, Kathryn Van Kuyk, co-founder and co-CEO, Media-Wize
Thought leadership is often left to big businesses and innovative startups with charismatic founders and leaders. Small business owners tend to miss the opportunity to share their views and perspectives and secure media attention.
Many small business leaders don’t feel confident and struggle to find, articulate and share opinions and experiences in an interesting and informative way. Having thought leadership published is a powerful way to establish subject matter expertise and credibility and widen brand awareness.
Learning how to write compelling opinion pieces and getting them published in mainstream media outlets should be a key part of your PR strategy. But small businesses need to understand what thought leadership is and what it is not in order to achieve success.
Thought leadership is not reporting. Journalists report the news and track breaking stories. Thought leadership is about providing an expert opinion – with an emphasis on having an opinion. That could be how to do things better, gaps in the conversation that people are overlooking or not considering, or specific advice such as ‘top three tips’.
The opinion should not be thinly veiled marketing or advertising. It should be objective advice explaining best practice and sharing knowledge gained through many years of in the trenches small business experience. The media will not run opinion pieces that are blatantly promotional and self-serving or featuring links to buy your products or services.
How to write a great thought leadership article
1 – What goes into thought leadership?
Opinion pieces don’t need lots of background and a summary of facts – journalists cover that. Focus on writing your opinion or best practice advice. Make sure you convey that in the headline and the first paragraph and then explain it. Opinion pieces should be 500-700 words long. They need to be punchy, topical, relevant and engaging.
2 – Thought leadership is not advertising or marketing
Although marketing departments can encourage their spokespeople to write content, thought leadership is about thought and leadership. It is not marketing or advertising. The value is having your company name in the by-line. If you want to plug your business in the article, then buy sponsored content or use your blog and social channels. The focus is on earning media coverage through merit.
3 – Know the audience
Small businesses should read the media outlets they aim to get published in. Not all publications run opinion pieces. If they do, it’s important you understand the style they accept. For instance, do they run informative articles like “5 ways to save your business time at tax time?” Or do they prefer a strong or controversial opinion?
4 – Don’t ambulance chase
Do not use thought leadership for ambulance chasing. Taking advantage of someone else’s misfortune will make your brand look like an opportunist rather than a credible source of information.
5 – Don’t attack your competition
It is also important to be wary of jumping all over a competitor in an opinion piece. Remember if you attack them and later on your business makes a mistake, they’ll attack you back. And, how will your customers react if you engage in cheap shots? Think carefully about the positioning.
Writing thought leadership for media success is an art. It’s probably unlike any other type of writing you’ve done. Think about getting expert help to hone in on the angle that will work and to write it in the style a media outlet will accept.
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