| Apr 21, 2021 | Modified on Apr 23, 2021

Thought Leadership is Critical for Your Executive Brand — But it Requires Time

Carving out your niche and publishing articles can't be that hard — right? Here's a realistic look at the time and effort involved in developing Thought Leadership content.
By Allison Igwe
Executive Author

Executive Editor, Massive Alliance

Allison Igwe is the Executive Editor at Massive Alliance. She has several years of experience in professional writing and editing across multiple industries. view profile

If you’ve ever thought about publishing content online but haven’t found the time, you’re not alone. Thought leadership requires lots of it, and other priorities often take over.

Sure, when a genius idea comes to mind, it’s easy to get caught up in exploring the enormous publishing opportunities available online. But a generic blog post here and there isn’t enough to craft a well-thought-out executive brand. To do that, you’ll need a good strategy and extra time on your hands. Something most executives don’t have.

How to Originate Thought Leadership Content

It almost seems too obvious, but the first step in becoming a thought leader is to decide what topics to hone in on. For example, if you’re a Michelin-rated pastry chef, it wouldn’t make sense to pump out content geared toward dads who love grilling. Carving out your niche and remaining on-brand with all content you produce is the only way to establish your status as a leader in that specialty. For executives who want to maintain their status as a leader in their fields and build their executive brands, publishing thought leadership content is a great foundation. Once you’ve got your niche picked out, it’s time to create.

1. Write the Perfect Pitch
Ahh, production. The start of something new. Whether it’s a lightning strike moment or born out of research, knowing what topics are relevant in your industry gives you the opportunity to set the record straight or offer advice, as an expert in your field.

Once you’ve got a few angles to work with, you’ll have to find a home for them. Pitching is an art, in itself. It requires skill to match the right angle to the right publication. You wouldn’t want to pitch a high-level self-help article to TechCrunch, for example. It’ll be rejected.

Before you can even begin pitching, you need to find a way in. Sometimes, an editor’s contact information readily available on their website, or you can gain access by filling out a submission form. Other days, it’s just good to know someone who has an “in.”

I can’t stress this enough. Always review editorial guidelines before reaching out, or your pitch could win a fast-pass to the trash bin. Check that you’re offering what they want before you press send.

Some editors require full drafts with the pitch. Others don’t want to waste their time clicking through an 800-word article they never asked for in the first place. It sounds negative, but it’s realistic: think about how many pitches these editors receive in a week.

2. Dive into the World of Editorial
Editorial guidelines don’t only help you pitch angles — they also ensure the article you submit is up to par. They unveil the required length of articles, any stylistic preferences, the topics they cover, and more. After editing your piece for structure, content, clarity, and grammar, cross-compare it with the editorial guidelines.

Does this particular publication use AP style? Do they have exceptions — like using AP title case, but also using the Oxford comma? Get familiar before submitting anything.

Minimizing the amount of time they need to edit is a good step toward forming a lasting bond. When your next big idea hits, your reputation will make your editor more willing to consider publishing you again.

A professional writer can write a well-researched, well-outlined piece within a couple of hours. Although an expert on the subject, an executive may struggle to create a piece that is properly outlined and formatted in a timely manner.

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3. Ramp Up Your Communication Skills
While you probably expected to carve out time for writing and editing, the communication aspect is one of the most time-consuming parts of thought leadership.

You pitch an idea. You follow up. You follow up again. You hear back — they have interest! You make a draft and send it to the editor. A few days go by. You wonder, “Did they hate it?” You follow up. You follow up again. You finally hear back. At this point, it’s either accepted (hooray!) or rejected (back to the drawing board). Or they might even come back with revisions. I told you this wouldn’t be easy.

Editors’ inboxes are usually flooded with a constant barrage of emails, so they have a lot to juggle. It’s on you to make sure you’re pulling your weight and then some.

Knowing how to communicate is the next step in the battle. There are no training grounds for this. It’s an earned skill that comes with experience. Understanding the nuances of what works with editors and what doesn’t is simply trial and error.

Reduce Your Stress: Let the Experts Handle Your Publishing

Because our team pitches to a wide range of editors on a daily basis, we can extract their behavioral patterns. “This” worked, but “that” didn’t. It’s not an exact science, but we are able to use this data for each customized pitch. For an individual author to accumulate this type of data would easily take months or even years. Instead of entering the world of thought leadership alone – without guidance — imagine having an editorial expert pitch your ideas on your behalf, saving you the irreplaceable resource of time.

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