Do you remember the last article you read? If so, chances are it’s not because of what it said, but how it said it.
Anyone can write an informative article, chock-full of dense, dry text that reads more like a term paper than an engaging piece of thought leadership – but why go through the effort of writing the professional equivalent of a high school book report when you could create something truly memorable that people will be talking about and sharing for weeks, months, maybe even years to come?
Informative Is Not Enough — Retain, Remember, Share
Being an executive influencer means every article you publish must engage a reader in three ways. First, it must contain enough relevant information your audience will find so useful, they’ll retain it. Second, it must engage readers in a way that makes them want to know who wrote it so they’ll pay attention to your byline and remember your name. Third, the way your article is written has to move people so profoundly that they’re compelled to share it with their peers.
People are reading more today than ever before, so whatever you write has to stand out upon an ocean of words they’re struggling to navigate every day. However, that doesn’t mean you need to cram more and more information into every single article. You can, but being informative alone just isn’t enough anymore.
To leave a lasting impression, your article must entertain while it informs. Tell a story, build a narrative, and develop your own voice that will carry over the roar of the crowd. Don’t be afraid of pouring emotion into everything you write. Make readers laugh or drive them to tears – either way, they’ll remember what they just read.
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Engaging Through Emotion
The craft of writing brings emotion together with information and mixes them into a powerful potion that cannot be ignored. Entertaining your readers with a particularly clever witticism or moving them with a heartfelt personal story woven into the very fabric of the information you’re presenting is what sets a true thought leader apart from every other executive with a keyboard.
For example, lacing an important topic with a few jokes along the way helps the medicine go down. It encourages readers to retain the information they just absorbed because they were enjoying themselves while doing it. Remember – just because it’s funny doesn’t mean it can’t be serious.
Likewise, stirring strong emotions in your reader through a heartwarming (or heartbreaking) story leaves a lasting impression they’ll remember. It’s like seasoning your food. A dish without flavor will still nourish the body, but the same dish properly seasoned will keep you coming back for more — and, perhaps more importantly, asking for the same chef.
The Power of Personality
Putting your whole self into your work is widely recognized as a secret to success, and the same applies to creating thought leadership content. In the Information Age, it’s a virtual certainty that someone out there has already written about the same thing you’re writing about. There are already dozens, if not hundreds, of articles that all say the same thing because none of them have the unique perspective of your experience.
There is nothing more special than your own story because no one else has it. No one else has seen what you’ve seen or endured what you’ve been through, and no one has learned the hard-earned lessons you’ve picked up along the way. So tell your story in everything you write. Weave your personal experience into the tapestry of the articles you draft, down to the last detail. When your thoughts get emotional, put them on the page. Relate them to the information you want to convey. Tie them together and you’ve got something special. Something shareable.
Authenticity Is Key
The modern media landscape is so saturated with sanitized, polished, PR-approved copy that audiences have begun to dismiss more traditionally informative articles in favor of those that convey a feeling of authenticity while delivering their messages. Content is king, but what content?
Niche publications target specific readers who are seeking specialized information that is absolutely essential to include in every piece of thought leadership you create, but weaving your authentic self into every paragraph is what will set you apart as an executive influencer. Your story told in your voice is what makes you as important as the information you’re presenting. It’s what will make people want to look you up and follow your content, wherever it may appear.
Personal anecdotes, interspersed witticisms, narrative flow — these are all seemingly ineffable concepts that are absolutely crucial to successful thought leadership. People may not immediately recognize each personal element you add to an article, but they’ll certainly feel them when they’re there. And, perhaps more importantly, when they’re not. Intangible as the individual parts of the whole may seem, neglecting them deprives readers of connecting with you as an influencer.
Writing is a partnership between the author and the reader. When you talk with your audience instead of at them, you’ll form a connection that cannot be bought or coerced. It must be earned through having the courage to put your authentic self on the page. Be genuine and passionate in every sentence you write, and your words will resonate with everyone who reads them.
If there’s a secret formula for thought leadership, it’s this: engage first, inform second, and always put your whole self into everything you do. You are the only person who can tell your story. What’s stopping you?