Tag Archives: writing for business

Want to achieve thought leadership status? Hire a professional writer

If you work in a large business that is seeking to become an industry thought leader, the assistance of a professional writer is imperative to achieve success.

As thought leadership expert Russ Alan Prince has detailed in Forbes, competition for high-caliber clients is “becoming more intense”, and thought leadership has become a powerful way to secure new business amid a sea of “increasingly fungible” competitors.

McKinsey & Company is the example to aspire to

The bar to superior thought leadership is a high one.  The leader in thought leadership for professional services is, as Prince explains, McKinsey & Company, who first published McKinsey Quarterly in the 1960’s.  It’s effectiveness, he details, “has resulted in many other management consulting firms following suit”.

Vital for firms to consider is Prince’s prediction that: “There will be an increasing bifurcation…between the relative few [firms] that are thought leaders and the majority that are not.”  

Becoming a thought leader requires hard work

But Prince also cautions that: “More often than not the biggest obstacle to a professional services firm becoming a thought leader…is a willingness to put in the requisite hard work.” Firms aspiring to thought leadership, he explains “have to seriously commit to the endeavor, or they should avoid it altogether.”

He cites Hannah Shaw Grove, Executive Editor of Private Wealth magazine, who explains that: “‘originality and quality are the keys to lasting success as a thought leader. The barriers to entry are pretty low right now; virtually anyone can make a three-minute video or produce a six-page white paper. But if you can demonstrate depth of knowledge and bring fresh insights to areas and industries that have suffered from decades of conventional thinking you have the ability to transform the game. Nothing else will make the cut.’”

Why a professional writer is helpful

Any large organization seeking to become a thought leader requires a professional writer.  As Maria Wood explains on McGuire Editorial Blog, corporate CEO’s under tight time constraints regularly utilize the services of ghost-writers to help them craft “thought-provoking articles that build their personal brand and show their companies as cutting edge pioneers in their respective industry.”

Addressing corporate content marketing managers specifically, she explains her reasoning for the need to hire ghost writers capable of producing thought leadership pieces: “You know that your company’s leadership and other individual experts in your organization hold a lot of valuable insights in their heads, but you’ll never get them to sit down and write a “big idea” piece.”  “But”, she continues, “you’re hesitant to do thought leadership writing for several reasons: Writing isn’t your CEO’s forte (as it isn’t for many executives and entrepreneurs), and the process would take precious time away from his or her real job of building and growing the business. Fortunately, working with a ghostwriter provides the perfect answer to those challenges.”

“A great ghostwriter”, she explains, “elicits expertise and enthusiasm during… interviews [with corporate leaders]”. A ghostwriter then helps put into writing a CEO’s “big ideas and point of view”. She concludes by explaining how: “A packed schedule shouldn’t prevent your leadership from [publishing thought leadership]. If they don’t have the time to craft a stellar article personally, hire a ghostwriter.”

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Harold Evans explains “why writing well matters”

Former editor of Britain’s Sunday Times and Editor at Large for Reuters Sir Harold Evans explained why he’s driven crazy by a lot of the “increasingly incomprehensible” business language today in a recent interview with Charlie Rose.  “What Orwell predicted would happen has happened” he told Rose, in introducing his recent book entitled “Do I Make Myself Clear?: Why Writing Well Matters.”  The book is now a New York Times Bestseller which The Financial Times calls: “practical advice for those seeking to improve their writing skills.”

Evans explained the increasing incomprehensibility, citing the example of a friend who got a call from someone who wanted to help him sell a company.  The caller, Evans detailed, identified the sale as a “liquidation event” instead of referring to it in more simple terms.

He says he wrote the book “because euphemisms are used more than they should be” — and that  “with the arrival of digital – the velocity of information is speeding up.  To find the real message [it] takes longer than it should ‘because there’s so much verbiage’”.

Evans identifies 10 ways to make writing clearer:

  1. Get moving – use the active voice.  Passive voice creates more words and is harder to understand.
  2. Be specific – all great writing focuses on simple, concrete terms – not abstractions
  3. Ration adjectives and raise adverbs
  4. Cut the fat – check the figures
  5. Organize for clarity — sentences should be short because they’re easier to understand and speak
  6. Be positive – sentences should assert a positive instead of a negative
  7. Don’t be a bore
  8. Put people first. Using a healthcare example, Evans advises: use a name — not a case number
  9. Propositions are pesky and can confuse who’s doing what
  10. Down with monologophobia — don’t be afraid of using the same word twice

Evans’ life and career

Evans love of journalism began in World War 2 – where he encountered a soldier who’d died of tuberculosis at 27.  Evans explained how he became “obsessed by many bad things that were hidden” in Britain’s railways and coal mines.  He made his name in helping investigative teams for the UK’s Sunday Times – in particular his work on exposing the treatment of babies impacted by thalidomide — as well as the Kim Philby spy case.  He later worked for US News and World Report and Conde Nast. He explained the difference between British and US journalism:  In American journalism news and opinion are separate.  In the UK, he explained, opinion-editorial and news were fused during his career.

Evans went on to detail how he first fell in love with the writing of Tina Brown, then a writer for the Times and later Tatler, Vanity Fair and the Daily Beast. He later fell in love with Brown herself and they’ve been married ever since.  “Long may you flourish as the Great interpreter of American life”, he told Rose to end the interview.

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If there’s ever been a time to build your own audience for your company…it’s now

Frank Strong, writing recently in Sword and the Script Blog, details how traditional advertising and social media have become, except for the very well-funded brands – more difficult to utilize to promote companies.

Without well-researched, trustworthy written content, Strong explains, companies without deep budgets will have a hard time building an audience.

Crowded news and information markets makes building an audience difficult

As Strong details, the ad has been replaced by sponsored content. And social media channels are crowded with numerous brands, individuals and companies all vying for attention.  

At the same time — earned media coverage – the type most commonly driven by traditional public relations efforts to court journalists to write stories which might highlight a brand — is much more difficult to secure.  Why?  Because traditional media outlets will often select promoted content over traditional stories as a means to generate revenue.  And important for companies to keep in mind — trust in traditional media is waning, which is making earned media on traditional channels less appealing.

Strong calls this set of circumstances a “perfect storm” for companies seeking to generate awareness via both traditional news outlets and increasingly crowded social media channels.

Create your own initiative to build a loyal audience

To build an organic audience Strong recommends companies consistently create and publish content that is substantially different and passionate, utilizing case studies, white papers and webinars – as readers now consider them to be the most trustworthy forms of content.  

Patience required as this is a long-term strategy

Finally, he advises patience — as content production to support corporate goals – including sales – is a long-term strategy – whose full measure must be taken over time.

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