Everywhere you turn on social media these days, you find people pushing out oodles of content, claiming to be thought leaders. But thought leaders aren’t self-appointed; they earn that title from others.
By definition, a thought leader is one whose views on a subject are taken to be authoritative and influential. And the one thing those select few have mastered is the ability to articulate their message through a distinct writing style using tone and voice.
Tone is the way you express ideas. It includes the words you use, the way you put them together, and their level of formality. Voice is the persona behind the writing with whom its readers engage.
Said another way, your voice is who your readers hear in your content, and your tone is the way you write it.
And if either is off-putting, confusing, or inconsistent with who your readers believe you to be, you’ll lose credibility and their attention.
Done well, thought leadership elevates your personal brand, increasing your “know, like, and trust” factor, provides value to your intended audience(s), and attracts the right people and business opportunities to you.
Here are three ways to nail your voice and tone to amplify your thought leadership:
1. Be focused
While it’s okay to have lots of interests, you can’t possibly be an expert in all areas. And if you’re writing about everything under the sun, taking a shotgun approach to your content, you’ll never make headway.
Instead, ask yourself what you want people to come to associate with you and what your “zone of genius” is. For example, before working with my social media ghostwriting clients, we always select three key themes and then revolve their content around those buckets. This keeps their writing focused and aligned with the subject matter they know best, reinforcing their expertise to their intended audiences.
Regularly sharing your unique point of view in those few areas where you have expertise will position you as an expert, eliminate confusion, differentiate you from your competitors, and draw others—employees, clients, partners, and investors—to you.
2. Be consistent
Like your topics, your word choice and formality of your writing send a message to your readers, whether you realize it or not. And the best way to send your intended message is through consistency.
To gauge your word choices, ask yourself if:
You use contractions like “they’re” or prefer spelling words out? You use profanity or avoid it at all costs? You prefer simple, direct language or delight in using descriptive words?
And does your tone tend to be:
More informational and matter-of-fact? Academic and serious? Conversational and friendly?
By auditing your preferences, you’ll get clues about how you’re sharing your ideas — and whether or not you’re consistent in their presentation. For example, if one day you’re writing in a highly formal manner and the next day you adopt a sarcastic bent, you’ll confuse people.
The thought leaders we admire embrace consistency because they know their audiences have come to expect a specific style from them. When in doubt, write the way you speak. This is usually your most natural communication style and the easiest to replicate long-term.
3. Be yourself
It’s wonderful to draw inspiration from others, but remember to be yourself. Rather than copy an influencer’s style, cultivate your own. Each of us has a unique perspective and set of experiences, which make our content resonate with the right people. If you spend your time emulating someone else’s style, you run the risk of attracting the wrong audience. Plus, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to connect with your true tribe, who is looking to learn from your insights.
Remember, thought leadership is about highlighting and sharing wisdom through a unique writing style. And by being focused, consistent, and yourself, you’ll solidify your tone and voice, bolstering your thought leadership.