From Boring to Brilliant: Writing that Transforms Your Thought Leadership into Must-Read Content

From Boring to Brilliant: Writing that Transforms Your Thought Leadership into Must-Read Content

June 5, 20243 min read

Insights from our Webinar with Author, Rhea Wessel

Ask anyone who develops Thought Leadership programs, and they will tell you that experts are essential to a successful program. But experts are busy people. That makes expert engagement strategies a very popular topic with our Comms and Media Relations pros. That’s why we invited Rhea Wessel, Founder of The Institute for Thought Leadership, to join us last week for our ExpertFile webinar.

Rhea, a former tech and financial journalist and author of “Write Like a Thought Leader,” has worked with organizations such as Harvard, CFA Institute, Accenture and the Max Planck Institute to help their experts focus on developing unique story angles while getting high-quality work produced. Having seen her in action at last year's IABC Global Conference, speaking to a standing-room-only crowd, I was really impressed by Rhea’s approach. 

Rhea uses a system that experts and comms teams can use to brainstorm topics and craft story angles that frame expertise and research to make them more compelling. In the session, she showed us how she helps brainstorm and select the best angles for thought-leadership stories using ideas such as “origin” stories, “what if” scenarios, personal-impact stories, and opinion pieces.  Experts often have issues with the "dreaded first draft.” The frameworks Rhrea showed us from her book were clever and designed to pragmatically move experts from brainstorming into a writing mode that doesn’t feel forced.

Here are some key points I took away from Rhea’s session:

Defining Thought Leadership

An essential attribute of Thought Leaders is that they share their knowledge for free, using journalistic skills to engage their audience by articulating emerging ideas, steering conversations and influencing others.

Finding the Niche

Finding and framing thought leadership is not about covering a broad topic. The best topics are often very narrow. And they are best found at the intersection of the expert’s passion, purpose, and big ideas.

Think Like a Journalist

Write in a conversational tone and include data, quotes & statistics, but not too much. Use short sentences and paragraphs while keeping the story fast-moving. And don’t forget your sense of humor.

Spend Time on the Headlines

By “thinking like a journalist” and focusing on headlines, one can narrow the focus when examining research and insights to create more clarity. Quoting Author Sean Coyne, Rhea referred to headlines as having the benefit of being an “enabling constraint."

"One of the curses of subject matter expertise is that your experts know a lot. They tend to pack a lot [of their knowledge] in, and for a good story, you've got to slice out a narrow bit. That’s the constraint.” 
Rhea Wessel

Time & Place Matters

Stories are best anchored in time and place. When you are working with an expert and you want to enrich a story, don’t just think about how they developed their research and insights. Also, think about “where they were” and “when did it happen?” A good origin story explains why an insight is significant for the expert, creating a more emotional, relatable connection for the audience.

Frame Your Story

Keep it focused on a single yet relevant problem the audience has. Then explain why this matters to your audience and why now.

Based on the feedback we received from this session, we'll have Rhea Wessel join us for more conversations on topics related to storytelling. We'd love to know what you think. Details about this session are below:

Full Webinar Recording

Presentation Slides
To get a copy of the presentation & Templates, just hit the connect button on my profile and let me know.  Enjoy!

Connect with:
  • Peter Evans
    Peter Evans Co-Founder & CEO

    Recognized speaker on expertise marketing, technology and innovation

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