We spill a lot of virtual ink writing about what thought leadership can do for your business. That makes sense; we’re a thought leadership agency and that’s our sales pitch. Like it says atop our website, we “We turn experts into thought leaders.”
But how can content directors, marketing officers and editorial directors get the best out of us, or any other thought leadership agency?
Here are five tips:
1. Get your SMEs excited about working with us. An SME who approaches talking to us like it’s a trip to the dentist is not going to give us the material – fresh ideas, interesting anecdotes, real-world experiences with clients, quantifiable results – that we need to write compelling articles. How do you get your busy SMEs enthusiastic about giving us 30-to-60 minutes of their time? You can point to how successful we’ve has been. Here’s where you can find articles, studies, and white papers we’ve helped firms write and publish. Those articles have led to… yes, recognition and revenue. Perhaps they will impress your SMEs.
2. Explain to your SME what a real-life example is. Often, when we ask an SME for a case example of their solution working in the real world (which is what your potential clients are looking for), we hear something like this: “We implemented the solution and the client lowered its costs while boosting revenue.”
We ask, “How did your solution cut costs?”
“By implementing it rigorously, thoroughly and quickly.”
This kind of thing can go on for a long time… wasted time.
A case example has detail. It shows what a client did, how it did it, the barriers it overcame in the process, and the results. And if there are numbers attached to those results, so much the better. Your clients love numbers; all business people do, as my colleague Laurie Cunningham recently points out in “Why Results Are Critical to Thought Leadership.”
3. Make sure your SME reads the outline. Rhetoriq’s method is to begin an article with a detailed outline. That way, we can be sure the SME’s ideas are being properly represented before we begin a draft. (You can see what our outline process looks like – and more on why we do it that way – here.) Unfortunately, sometimes – not always, not even often, but sometimes – the SME signs off on the outline without reading it, figuring, I guess, that he’ll wait for the prose. Then, when he sees the draft, he says, “That’s not right,” and we’re back to square one, and – tick, tock – what should have taken a couple of weeks will now take a couple of months, and cost you more.
You don’t want that. We don’t want that. Nobody wants that.
4. Appoint a project lead. When an article has three, four, or more authors, it’s important that one – not all – has the authority to determine what the article should say, and how it should say it. Writing by committee is a bad idea. It takes a long time to achieve consensus, and when (or if) it’s achieved you most often end up with a compromised piece of work that will produce neither recognition nor revenue. It’s not always possible for content directors to appoint that decider, but the senior-most author (or senior partner) can, and the content director can urge her to do so.
5. Ride herd on your SMEs. Again, we know your SMEs are busy, and we often nudge them to respond to outlines and drafts, but that can become awkward. If getting an article or study done in a certain timeframe is important to you, convey that to your SMEs. Your word often counts for more than ours.