For centuries, thought leaders have emerged from every industry and niche field imaginable. Although the concept of becoming a thought leader isn’t necessarily new, becoming one requires a deep subject matter expert with views that are considered influential in one’s chosen field.
To that end, it’s extremely difficult — if not impossible — to become an effective thought leader without working on your writing. Be it through blogs, essays, or social media content, writing is the primary avenue thought leaders use to reach their target audience and get their ideas out into the world.
If you’re seeking to become a thought leader, but the very idea of writing makes you want to think twice, the good news is that you don’t need to be the next Hemingway in order to be a great thought leader. What matters more is that your writing is done in your own unique voice.
Honing a particular tone of voice can help thought leaders attract an audience that will be more likely to meaningfully engage with their content — leading to effective influence — but how does a thought leader develop this unique voice?
Luckily, it’s not nearly as difficult as it may initially seem. Here are some tips to help you find your voice as a burgeoning thought leader and influential writer.
When you’re first beginning to write, you may be tempted to try and sound as formal as possible. After all, who’s going to take advice from someone who doesn’t come off as well-read and intelligent?
However, a tone that comes off as too formal or authoritative can be a turnoff to readers who are seeking to connect with a more down-to-earth piece of writing. Writing how you speak may seem awkward at first, but once you get used to it, it helps lend an extra touch of authenticity to your written content.
Although writing the same way you naturally speak may need to be tweaked depending on the outlet you are writing for as a thought leader, many outlets you’ll contribute your writing to will allow for a more relaxed tone of voice. Interjections, slang, and asides can add personality to your message, and open the door for a connection with people who speak the same way you do.
When people “hear” themselves in a piece of writing, they’re far more likely to engage with the content and seek out additional forms of engagement with you and your platform.
If possible, write a little bit more every day
They say that practice makes perfect, but this adage may hold more true nowhere else than it does with writing. After all, the more often that you write, the better your unique voice will become.
Before trying to snag a guest contributor spot with a well-known outlet or an op-ed piece on someone else’s blog, you should already have your own website that features your past written content. Using your own outlet in this way will give you an opportunity to practice writing naturally.
Additionally, looking back at your older written content can help you refine your work and analyze what has worked, or what may have fallen flat with your target audience of readers. As you look at your previous writing, you’ll likely begin to notice certain themes emerging, allowing you to better identify what your unique voice truly is and sounds like, as well as how to adapt it to different audiences in the future.
Always consider your target audience and the outlet’s readers
The people who read your content matter immensely. As a thought leader, it’s your duty to consider who they are, what they want to read, and how they engage with content online if you have hopes of reaching them with your words.
While your voice should always remain unique to you, it may need a tweak here or there to fit the audience of whatever outlet you may be writing for or whatever audience you hope to reach with your own content. Content published by a website like Buzzfeed, for example, is going to sound wildly different from content accepted and printed by an outlet like The Atlantic.
Just like when you’re starting a new business, you must first deeply analyze your target audience when you’re starting out on the journey to establish yourself as a thought leader. Why are they your audience, and what specific demographics do they comprise? How do they speak? What products or services do they gravitate toward? These are all questions that you have to ask yourself when trying to pinpoint who is most likely to engage with your writing.
Keep your writing focused
Successful thought leaders are those that hone in on a particular topic or area of expertise. You can try to be multifaceted — some have succeeded in making that work — but it’s more likely that you’ll end up confusing your audience, causing them to go elsewhere for inspiration.
Remember that there are thought leaders present in virtually every niche, and that some of those spaces — health and wellness, for example — are already incredibly saturated. By focusing on your niche, you can better engage an audience that’s likely already interested in reading your particular content. Take a deeper look at your content writing strategy and weave your niche expertise into everything you put out into the world. This will enable you to more easily establish yourself as an effective thought leader in your chosen sector.
With the rise of social media, the barriers to entry for thought leadership have been lowered. By establishing a unique voice and applying it to your writing, you can set yourself apart in a crowded field and make a meaningful impact on readers who are clamoring to hear your message.
Amanda Reseburg is a writer for Otter PR.