Why is this sentence captivating:
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away.”
And this one, well, not so much?
“It is important to remember that not only is life not measured by the number of breaths you take but it is also measured by the moments that take your breath away.”
These sounded different in your head, didn’t they? Welcome to the magic of voice. (And wow, did Maya Angelou have an incredible voice.)
Content creators need to know their voices inside and out. But oftentimes, thought leaders-in-training get tossed to the content wolves before they’re ready. Writing bylines and thought leadership articles differs from writing sales copy. And voice is a key differentiator.
So, how do we find our voice, and how do we deploy it in our writing to captivate our readers?
Voice In Brief
Thought leadership and the universe of content it spawned has added words like voice, tone and brand to our business vocabulary. Sorting through them can get confusing.
Here’s our approach:
- Voice is you. It’s the sum of your experiences and expertise and how you choose to communicate it to the world.
- Tone is a part of voice. It relates to how you convey an emotional state in your writing. Paired with cadence and diction, it creates your voice. (See Abbey Woodcock’s work on the elements of voice in copywriting for more.)
- Brand is the promotion of a company’s voice — how it presents itself to current and potential customers. We can also include “personal brand,” or how you promote yourself and your ideas.
Thought leaders consider all of this when creating content, but understanding their particular contributions to the conversation informs their voice. It’s the unique perspective they bring to a topic relevant to their experiences.
Mining For Your Voice’s Golden Nuggets
Now, how do we translate your uniqueness into captivating content? We’ll often see thought leaders separate their personalities from their business writing. Thinking they have to maintain a certain “sound” or “air” to their work-related articles, they exclude the key bits that make them them. Every thought leader has a personality — and voice is how you introduce it to readers and present your business case without sounding like auto-generated sales text.
To find your voice’s peculiarities, let’s don our hard hats and mine your past content for gold. And yes, even if you haven’t written anything before, we can still dig. Here’s how you start prospecting:
- Read. Content you’ve written before is a great place to start — which includes LinkedIn posts as much as it does published articles. But really, the more words you see, the better you get at arranging them. So, read everything: your company’s blog, your competitors’ blogs, industry publications and content you simply enjoy reading.
- Listen. Have you been a podcast guest? Or had a summit presentation recorded? Listen to yourself and focus on your speech patterns, rhythms, attitude and tone. Do the same for other thought leaders you admire, too.
- Write. Would a baseball player step up to home plate and swing if he didn’t spend endless hours in the batting cage beforehand? If you want to hit home runs, practice the writing muscle. Try freewriting, journaling or anything else to get your fingers typing.
With your voice’s golden nuggets in hand, you can infuse them in your writing. Your voice then shines through, and you bring a unique perspective to a business topic.
Writing With Voice
Writing thought leadership articles is your voice’s weight bench. It’s how you train, learn and improve your communication with the world. Practice it and, over time, you’ll build your voice muscle. You’ll not only write better content, but you’ll be clearer with your message — and clarity in thought leadership matters most of all. Plus, you’ll grow your thought leadership presence and attract potential customers through interesting, insightful content.
So, the first step in practicing voice? Write. Do your research, find your angle, draft content and repeat.
Tips to consider as you write:
While you might be tempted to leap right into an article and fill pages with your knowledge, build a box for yourself:
- Do you want a short 500-word post or 2,000+ words?
- Is this for your company blog or do you want media outlet coverage?
- Who’s your ideal reader? Customers looking to buy, industry experts, the general public?
- How deep is your knowledge of the subject?
Answering these questions makes creating a short content outline much easier. You’ll know your key message and how much room you’ll have to communicate it. Instead of fretting over what you’ll say, you can focus your energy on how you’ll say it (i.e. portraying your voice).
Read the room.
Consider your tone before you draft. Keep things light if that’s your style, but as good comedians know, different environments change how jokes land.
For example, suppose you’re being sued (generally regarded as bad news). You hire a top-notch defense attorney, and she emails you about your case:
Hey Thought Leader!
How ‘bout dem Colts? What a game last night! Anyhow, the plaintiff on your case will subpoena you by EOD. Let’s hop on the phone and chat about your options!
How much would you freak out?
Content is much the same way. Context matters: there’s time for lighthearted takes and time for serious discussion. Depending on your thought leadership topic choice, consider your tone carefully. Review other content in the space if you’re stuck.
Don’t fear the rewrite.
You wrote your first draft — congrats! But after reading it a few times, you realize you sound like Microsoft Sam.
To fix this (apart from having more cowbell), rewrite one paragraph. And then more paragraphs. Keep doing this until you feel it’s right. Read it aloud to yourself and listen to the flow of your words. If they sound good to your ear, you’re on the right track.
Then, ask someone else to read it and use their feedback for more improvement. Give yourself a deadline to submit or publish the article — it’s easy to park something in eternal revision limbo — but seek feedback. You can try a free solution like Slick Write to map your content’s flow if other readers are scarce.
Great thought leadership doesn’t come easily, and airing your voice is a scary proposition. But so long as you’re curious about your topic of interest, and you’re fearless in sharing your opinion with the world, your voice will shine through. The next time you draft a thought leadership piece, try these tips and see how much of you you can include.
Still stumped on voice? Don’t panic! We can help. Contact Lindsey Groepper at BLASTmedia for more information about our approach to thought leadership.