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Writer’s Block? 4 Guest Article Ideas to Inspire Thought Leaders

By Rudi Davis 29 August, 2016

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Everyone has a novel in them, right? But what about a thought leader article? If you can write a successful guest contribution and get it published on a top publication, you’re going to see a mountain of benefits; a growing reputation for you and your company, an engaged community, a bigger network and more traction for future announcements.

However, coming up with an idea that is interesting, insightful or disruptive enough to shake your industry is one of a CEO’s greatest public relations challenges. Business leaders may fantasize about creating provoking opinion pieces on highbrow publications, but without significant social proof this is far harder than you’d think.

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Estimated odds of getting your unsolicited Op-Ed contribution on the New York Times are 1 in 50,000. But while you may be forced to put your Times dreams on the backburner, there are a number of article styles that let entrepreneurs tap into their true expertize. By following a clear set of guidelines you still have a good chance of getting published on other leading sites like VentureBeat or Entrepreneur. With that in mind, here are a few ideas to get you over that initial writer’s block.

1. Weigh-in on industry debates on specialist blogs

What is the biggest problem people in your industry face? What trends are you aware of and what direction do you see this going? An Op-Ed piece from an industry expert that provides a fresh perspective on a current issue your audience already cares about will help to capture their attention.

This could be a media mogul discussing the evolution of digital content, or a startup veteran proposing a change in new business culture. This style of article needs to outline a tangible problem. Paint a picture of the current challenges. Give examples and if you can back this up with statistics it will strengthen your argument. Next you need to explain the current solutions and finally your own vision of the future.

Remember, your own product or service cannot be the answer to this issue, but don’t be afraid to mention your competitors or a larger trend you see emerging. These articles work perfectly on both larger industry publications and niche blogs. Depending on your audience and theme this could be a broader tech blog like TechCrunch, or a more niche industry publication such as CMSWire.

2. 5 innovative technologies that solve a problem

If your problem is more of a market opportunity and your solution pulls up a variety of different approaches, a listicle might be more appropriate. The ubiquitous listicle has gotten a bad rep from the clickbait scams that fill our social media feeds, but this type of article is a great way to curate a group of ideas in a simple, easily digestible way.

Perhaps your business experience means you are aware of cutting edge tech. You could use a listicle to explore startup solutions, such as AI tools to curb growing concerns over cybersecurity. Or maybe you understand the solution in-depth and you want to explore the industries this technology could be applied to, for example “7 Unexpected Virtual Reality Use Cases”.

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Outline the overarching trend that connects your points and explain each in a neutral voice. By offering a number of solutions you appear knowledgeable in multiple industry developments. But remember, you’re piling a lot of information into one article, so get to the point quickly.

A number of publications such as The Next Web or Entrepreneur regularly post listicles that reach large audiences, and as a bonus, you might even benefit from an appreciative retweet from your subjects.

3. Leadership lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs

If brainstorming emerging industry trends provokes little inspiration, then you might need to cast your net a little wider, outside of your niche. As an entrepreneur you have a wealth of experience that can be shared with a growing community. There are an estimated 27 million entrepreneurs in the U.S. alone and this is a vocal community, catered to by a number of publications, such as Fast Company and Inc.

To get started, think about your experiences, milestone events and any valuable lessons you can share with other business leaders. You may have successfully pivoted your business, perhaps you’re an HR genius, or maybe you have a unique take on an popular business maxim.

It needs to be original, so you’re going to have to highlight why this is important now, and how your tips are different. Your article shouldn’t focus on your personal story, rather the lessons you learned, and the recommendations you have for others. The most powerful leadership lessons are packed full of takeaways, giving the reader resources and examples – a blueprint to navigate their own challenges – so make sure you do your research too.

4. Original research can provide a fresh argument

A study or in-depth analysis of data can provide unique insights and intel on a trending topic to spark your inspiration. If you can get your hands on your own unique information or data you’re adding some serious ammo to your thought leadership piece. So, how can you do this?

Consider the information you already have to hand, your company may have conducted independent research, a white paper with some interesting results or perhaps you have the big data to explore. AI driven analytics platform BrandBastion regularly conducts in-depth case studies into social media threats — check out its CEO’s article on Facebook pirates, published on Variety.

Alternatively, you could interview other leaders to create a well-rounded view of a larger trend, for example “Tech trends that will impact your home” from interior design company Decorilla. By adding a variety of viewpoints on emerging tech this company was able to target a larger publication outside of its niche audience.

When deciding which route to pick, think about who you want to reach – is it investors, connecting with a new customer base or establishing yourself in the entrepreneurial community. Then ask yourself, how are you qualified to comment on this trend or impart this advice. Finally, why should anybody care — why is this important now?
These two pieces of information – social proof and context – should be added to your pitch once you start approaching editors, but you’ll need to think about this before you start writing. Check out your target publications, any guest contribution guidelines that may mandate length and style, and then get writing.

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