A lot of people say to me, what does a great B2B thought leadership article look like? Not just clients either, random people in the pub. It’s weird.
No matter who’s asking the question, I always tell them the same thing.
1. Get your headline right
The headline drives the entire article. Whether you’re asking a question (‘How is technology destroying the marketing funnel?’, offering a list of things (‘5 ways to wash a llama’s legs’) or exploring something a little more esoteric (‘Spectacular content: A Situationist’s view on content marketing’), the headline is the coat hook upon which your article anorak hangs.
But it’s not just a north star, the headline itself must grab the reader’s attention. Charm them, amuse them, draw them in.
2. The intro
We always talk about wining and dining your audience – not jumping straight in, but giving them a taste of what’s to come. That could look like:
- A surprising statement
- A story
- A quote
- News or Celebrity Link
- Setting the scene
However you open, try and attack the problem set out by the headline early. If your intro is too opaque, people will switch off. Start the article by saying ‘the article is about doing great social media’ is too abrupt.
Aim for a healthy middle ground.
3. Main body
There are so many different types of article that it’s difficult to pinpoint the right way. The best thing to establish is the purpose of the article: What does it offer the reader? What do you want them to gain from it? What do you want to say?
Some ingredients to think about:
- Do you have a premise or point of view?
- Do you have a specific theme?
- Does the body copy have compelling descriptions, stories, points, facts, explanations and arguments?
- Do you have or need supporting material like anecdotes, case studies, research or quotes?
Get those in line, and you have the proper foundations.
Legendary newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer said: “Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge said prose is “words in their best order.”
Both are true. Great body copy needs to have action and energy; each sentence needs to push the reader to the next. It needs to be easily understood and grasped.
And, of course, order is paramount, not just of words but of the article itself. Do the points and the subheads naturally flow to create your argument?
The beauty (and challenge) is that you have free range to do what you like! General advice: make sure everything you write supports the argument set out in the headline (or at least relates to it).
It can be tempting to show off all your knowledge in one go. Don’t. Be laser focused.
There are so many great ways to finish an article off:
Reiterate the most important point in the article
- A summary
- A relevant quote
- An anecdote
- Encouraging action
- Future prospects
After a brilliant article, the worst thing is to read a wet fart of a conclusion. Make an effort.
The person then usually turns to me and goes: “Cheers for that mate, a lot more comprehensive than I was expecting. Kinda sorry I asked now.”
Then without saying another word, we go our separate ways, never to meet again.