While we often talk about what to write about (and for whom), one topic that’s easy to overlook is how to write in a way that feels credible to your target audience.
Without credibility, you can’t earn your reader’s trust — the most crucial ingredient for effective thought leadership.
Neil Patel wrote a great piece recently, “Is Your Content Good Enough? 6 Questions to Find the Answer,” that highlights six reasons your content may not be as good as you think. His first point covers the “why” — your content must solve a problem, inspire action or teach. That’s important too, of course, and I’ve written about it before.
But it’s his second point that matters just as much: Your claims must be backed up by credible sources.
Research definitely has its place in business writing, but I believe there’s more than one right way to persuade your readers that you know your stuff. Here are a few such strategies you can deploy in your next article (the more, the merrier):
Weave in Firsthand Experience or Share Case Studies
Many people back away from sharing anecdotal evidence or case studies, assuming it may be self-promotional. But provided you are using examples to illustrate a point (vs. toot your own horn) — e.g., explaining how you applied one of the strategies you recommend in your article, and what the results were — anecdotes and brief case-study-style examples can bring a lot of color and life to your piece. They help readers understand where you’re coming from and more importantly, why your advice is trustworthy.
Mentioning your role and experience upfront also helps dispel any notion that you might have an agenda other than educating and informing. On your company blog, you can do away with this, but in the media, it’s important to give readers context.
Find Key Stats From Trusted Sources to Support Your Points
You might think this is obvious, but when you’re in the trenches, it’s easy to forget that your readers may not be looking at the same headlines and white papers you are every day — so you neglect to share surprising or timely facts that could impact their perceptions.
For example, if you want to write a piece about the state of digital marketing in your industry, pull in some compelling recent stats from a trusted source of marketing data (not an infographic or an article about the data, though). Doing so helps make the case for (1) your expertise and (2) why the reader should care about your insights or proposed solutions.
And as Neil points out in his blog post, linking to your sources also makes the fact or claim itself more credible — if you tell me that 95 percent of Americans hate their jobs, I’m reluctant to believe you unless you can back it up. (I hope that’s not true, incidentally, but Gallup would be a good resource to start if you need employee engagement data!)
Teach, Don't Tell
When you’re able to teach the reader how to do something, typically by leading them through a series of steps or action items, you’re also helping to build credibility for yourself. Why? It’s easy to say, “Do this.” It’s a lot harder to teach it. Walking a reader through a process you or your team devised to solve a business problem shows readers exactly why you are the right person to share this information. Bonus: Readers are more likely to want more content from someone who imparts a new strategy or insight that has immediate application to their work day.
If you’re polishing up an article right now, go back and give it a second look and see if you’ve used one (or more) of these strategies. It can help transform a potentially ordinary piece of writing into one that creates real visibility for your personal brand and your organization, too.