The Secret to Writing Great Thought Leadership Content

Tom Popomaronis | May 20, 2021

When writing, there’s an unmistakable gap between the theoretical and the practical. Opinions and theories are OK for the speculative observer who is embarking on unknown topics which have not been codified. This may work for the researcher or the scientist, but not industry thought leaders.

The world of books, magazines, and news is filled with theories, opinions, and subjective speculation. If by the end of an article, chapter, or white paper you don’t have something actionable to take away from it, then there is little value.

When I am reading an article and run into a phrase like, “The only way to manage your employees is….”, I immediately turn my head and sigh.

The author is making a blatant, universal statement as if it is the very laws of physics. Without empirical evidence or studies behind any universal claim, it probably should not be stated that way. It is misleading. Is the author truly describing the only way to manage your employees? I doubt it — and so would many others.

What the author stated may have worked for them, at that time, in that specific scenario — but we must be careful not to apply isolated situations toward generalities. Rather, the environment should be painted in full.

Because this distinction isn’t always made by the author, thought leadership content has become polluted. Today, we see articles, videos, and podcasts like this:

3 Steps to Feeling Happy at Work

  • Be Positive
  • Be Happy
  • Be Strong

OK — but what can I DO that has been proven to get results in this area? We don’t need basic ideas and opinions. We need actionable tips and advice. Readers, editors, and publications want to know why you have been successful, and what you did to make it that way.

How to Write an Actionable Thought Leadership Story

This format for creating actionable thought leadership content will give value to a reader:

Identify a problem you observed and overcome

In 2018 I lacked the capital to support a project I believed in.

Describe the environment you experienced

The market was uncertain and investors were not looking for new ideas — only tried and proven technology. I had met with over 20 VCs to no avail.

Identify: when/how did this start to change?

By early 2019, I was on a live webinar and the speaker commented that investors are 90% more likely to take your calls if introduced by someone they know and trust. 

What I did (How the reader can take action)

  • Organized my phone and LinkedIn contacts to highlight people who had successfully launched a financially-backed startup.
  • Designed three soft introductions I intended to send out. Before sending, I passed these by a few friends, asking them which one they would respond to.
  • Sent the most popular script to 400 contacts.
  • I received 6 positive responses from founders and CEOs.
  • 2 of the founders introduced me to a hedge fund and a VC.
  • I was red-carpeted into meetings and successfully secured funding.

Provide Deductive Logic

Summarize your deductions based on your success above. The key is to go top-level. Ask yourself, “What did I do here that others can implement — even if they’re not in the same situation as me?”

Here’s an example of deductive logic for my scenario above:

  • The solution to the problem was always there, I just hadn’t seen it yet.
  • By persisting and communicating to more people about the problem I eventually found the solution.

Bring More to the Table

The greatest value in life is to help another person. As a thought leader, you can do this by providing valuable, actionable content that others can learn from. Think about it: the characteristic of helping others is probably a trait of anyone you respect at this very moment.

EVP, Innovation
Tom is a serial entrepreneur, product development expert, and content management strategist. Every hour of every day (perhaps too many hours) he focuses on strategies for our Executive Leadership Branding clients to build a powerful and credible online reputation.