How To Write Thought-Leadership Pieces that Get Published

Thought Leaders have a lot more in common with journalists than you might think when it comes to getting published.

Writers hoping to have their pieces picked up by authoritative publications all have to focus on being a reliable source of information as well as creating quality content. And most editors that consider your pitch or article won’t publish “thinly veiled marketing messages,” says Shane Snow, in How to Write Thought-Leadership Pieces that Get Published and Don’t Make Editors Want to Die.

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“[W]hereas entrepreneurs can learn much from the journalism trade itself, some of today’s top business leaders are actually participating in journalism, with enterprise-worthy results,” Snow says.

There are many ways for industry experts to share their opinions and expert commentary.This can include guest writing Op Eds, blogs and columns for magazines, newspapers and websites. Snow recommends four tips for Thought Leaders to follow in order to increase their chances of having their points of view heard in the publications of their choosing.

1. Establish credibility. Most editors don’t just publish anyone. They are the gatekeepers of a publication and establishing legitimacy as a credentialed source helps to convince them that your piece is worth a shot. Snow says you can establish credibility using at least two of the three:

By highlighting your track record of any previous articles published in legitimate places and showing your ability to write in the brief pitch you will send an editor to read for consideration. “Your pitch email itself is another opportunity to show your writing ability, so let a little personality in,” explains Snow. “If your email bores them, why would they want to subject their readers to a longer version of it?”

By featuring your strengths as a writer in your email pitch. Snow says the ideal story pitch should be concise and no longer than 300 characters. And by establishing ethos as a writer by displaying the relevant credentials, the “CEO of a relevant company, Albert Einstein’s apprentice,” for example, says Snow.

2. Have something to contribute to a larger conversation. To gain respect and establish yourself as a Thought Leader, says Snow, you have to add to audience’s understanding of an industry and its trends and the subjects you cover. Guest writing for various mediums, publications and platforms offers many opportunities to tell a compelling and unique story as well as reaching new audiences.

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“Telling compelling stories about your personal experiences or citing case studies from your own company in some instances can help illustrate points about your industry or area of expertise and give you material that no one else has,” says Snow.

And, he says, don’t be afraid to “take a stance, if you have one.” The most successful guest writing articles are the ones that have something to say. That’s what Thought Leadership is all about, after all, pushing creativity, out-of-the-box innovation and changing the way we perceive and interact with the world.

3. Use Journalistic Rigor. Use the tried and true methods of the journalistic trade for verifying information, attributing sources and for preventing your piece from being accused of hackery. If you mislead your audience, knowingly or not, you risk losing their trust.

“As the prestige of a publication increases, so does the credibility and rigor necessary to be published,” say Snow. “For example, in a recent Op-Ed I wrote about America’s freelance economy for The Washington Post, I researched and interviewed economists, business professors, advocacy groups, and man-on-the-street freelancers, and pored over dozens of government reports in order to back up my point, that the growing number of freelancers in the U.S. is helping the economy and needs infrastructure.”

Another vital aspect of good journalism is to be ethical. The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, one of the most widely adopted guides for ethical behavior, includes a preamble and specific guidelines for journalists to follow under the general themes to minimize harm, act independently, and to have journalistic accountability for any mistakes that are made.

4. Focus on what you can contribute, not self-promotion. Writing Thought Leadership pieces shouldn’t be viewed as another marketing exercise. Both editors and readers will see right through a promotional tactic that doesn’t tell a compelling story or contribute to audience’s understanding of your company. It’s simply “not the best use of guest writing opportunities,” says Snow.

“For young companies with small footprints, or established organizations wishing to align with certain topics, guest writing raises awareness, builds brand equity, and cements the idea that a company cares about an industry, topic, or cause,” he says.

Having good Thought Leadership articles that are picked up by reputable publications is the best way to establish ethos, credibility and have your views heard. “And in the long run,” says Snow, “it can drive business success.” However, producing quality content that will appeal to editors means dipping a toe into journalistic waters.

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