Part 3 of a 3-part series of articles exploring how your firm can develop and support thought leadership. Check out our other posts in the series by starting at the top.
Writing articles or preparing to speak at events can feel overwhelming for those who are creating content. When you add the pressure of presenting your content as a “thought leader,” it can become even more challenging to know where to begin.
Content marketing is not necessarily a new concept for accounting firms, but expectations for the quality and amount of content has become increasingly higher. Many firms recognize the importance of creating a content marketing strategy in order to streamline the process and get the most impact.
Many of us who have stared at a blank piece of paper understand the feeling of procrastination and excuses. Some of those excuses are legitimate fears and concerns surrounding perceived obstacles to getting started with your thought leadership content. Below, we’ve highlighted some common obstacles that we often hear from firms and our recommendations for overcoming those obstacles.
“Why would someone listen to an accountant about industry trends?”
One of the toughest obstacles to getting started on content development is not believing that what you have to say is valuable enough to publish. Many accountants are comfortable with writing technical briefs but worry that their opinions about industry trends and business practices may not be taken seriously. You can overcome this obstacle by recognizing the credentials you bring to your content. As a business advisor in accounting or tax, you have access to the numbers that are the heart and story of a business. You also have relationships with people that shape their industry – business owners, finance executives, and board members. Your work with clients, as well as what you learn at industry events and in trade publications, makes you more than qualified to state an opinion on trends and best practices (see “How to Convert Industry or Service Specialization into Thought Leadership”). When you consider the additional credential that as a partner, you are a business owner too, you’ll quickly find that people will not only take your opinion seriously, but they’ll actively seek it.
“I’m not a writer.”
When many accountants are asked to create content, they quickly joke back, “There’s a reason I became an accountant, not a writer.” But, all joking aside, the writing role that a thought leader plays in creating content can vary by skillset. For some people, they just need to warm up to writing. If that sounds like you, we recommend starting small by adding a sentence or two that states your opinion about an article before sharing it on LinkedIn or emailing it to a client (see our past article for more ideas in leveraging curated content). Once you get comfortable expressing your thoughts and opinions, you can progress to creating outlines for blogs and articles. After you create an outline, you may find that you are better at filling in the words than you expected, and you will quickly recognize that you don’t need to write large articles to be effective. Most blogs and articles are between 300 and 600 words – that’s less than a page! If after creating an outline, you still don’t feel comfortable writing, we recommend that you write down what you can, and then collaborate with your marketing resources or outsourced writers who can help to finalize your content.
“That’s marketing’s job.”
Marketing and outsourced writers can be a valuable team member in creating content, as mentioned above. But, as the thought leader, you need to drive the content development process. After all, you are the subject matter expert who knows and owns the ideas. In order to drive the process, we recommend that you start by identifying one or two trends that will be your focus for the year. By narrowing your focus, you can dive deep into topics that can be used for multiple purposes throughout the year. For example, you can conduct research either through a survey or by curating third-party research. Then, you can summarize findings in a larger paper or article. With that content already created, you can break it into smaller chunks that can be used for speaking at an event, smaller blog articles, or even firm-branded events and webinars. Here is the story of how one firm used their thought leaders to drive all content creation: Taking Your Original Content from Zero to “Wow!.”
As a thought leader, you are a valuable contributor to the reputation and branding of your firm. If you are still unsure of how to begin, we also recommend reading our other articles on content development, including “6 Tips for Content Development in Your Accounting Firm.” And remember that your marketing team and writers can be a great resource to help with research, content development, and publishing.