In theory, sharing your expertise is simple. But turning what you know -- what you live and breathe every day -- into concise, actionable articles is hard. Where should you start? How do you know if your idea is any good? Will readers actually care?
Fortunately, when you reverse-engineer your favorite thought leadership articles, you can boil a lot of what works down into a few simple questions -- questions that you can use over and over again as prompts, customizing your response each time depending on who you are trying to reach and what your goals are.
Here are 20 of my favorites to get you started:
- What is the last big problem you solved in your organization and what steps did you take to fix it?
- What is one way you have improved your output (in terms of productivity, innovation, work-life balance, energy, etc.) recently and how can others take advantage of it?
- What is the very best (or worst) business/career/leadership advice you ever received, and how do you recommend readers apply it to their own thinking?
- What is one dangerous myth or misconception others have about your industry?
- What are some surprising things your organization uncovered during market research recently, and what do those findings mean for other businesses?
- What is one industry trend you think other business owners or executives should follow? (Or should not?) Why?
- What are your top 3 or 5 near-term predictions for change in your industry or niche?
- How should someone in your industry hire for X [insert a role, quality or vendor you hire for regularly]?
- What are some unique ways you have improved your organization's relationship with its customers, and how might other businesses do the same thing?
- Does your business give back to the community? If so, how -- and how might other businesses make time for this?
- How did a recent change or development (e.g. in technology) affect your business and what have you done to change with the times?
- What is one commonly held opinion other influencers in your industry share that you disagree with (and why)?
- Ideas are easy to come up with, but how do you execute them? What ingredients are needed for execution?
- Can you reveal any industry secrets or "insider tips" that others outside your industry could benefit from?
- What’s one major mistake you made as a leader and how can others avoid this?
- What is one creative marketing or sales technique that works for your business that you can teach others?
- What is the No. 1 piece of leadership or management advice you would give someone else in your position and why?
- What is the last major success you had in your organization and what steps did you take to achieve it?
- Teach readers one high-value business strategy that you use daily in 800 words or less. (Not a question, but it still counts!)
- What's one game-changing takeaway from a recent speech/book/event you can't stop telling others about?
These questions only scratch the surface, but looking over some of our top-performing articles, I think this shortlist represents a good cross-section of approaches, from how-to to "How I did it" -- and each promises the reader a nugget of wisdom only you could offer because it's based on your experience. At the end of the day, that's what makes your articles memorable: you.
Don't stop here, of course. Ideas are everywhere. Your customers, your colleagues, the questions new hires ask, that thing you just looked up (or answered) on Quora — all are potential sources of great material. Look, listen and take notes for later. You'll be glad you did.