MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2023

Thought Leadership & Story-Finding Generate a Constant Stream of Ideas to Engage Your Audience with Rhea Wessell

Want to stand out as a thought leader in your industry?

It helps to have experiences—and to write your content in a journalistic way, says Rhea Wessel.

Rhea runs workshops to help individuals and companies rise above the noise with the clarity and originality of their ideas.

And at B2B Forum 2023, she shared her process for creating thought leadership content.

Watch this clip from Rhea’s session to discover how you can create thought leadership content, or read the transcript below.

And for more inspirational, insightful marketing ideas and methods, join us at B2B Forum this November 12-14. With dozens of sessions on content marketing, writing, leadership, and more, MarketingProfs B2B Forum is the marketing conference designed by B2B marketers for B2B marketers. Tickets are limited and available now—click here for more details.


Okay, so these are the three steps to thought leadership writing:

Find it. Frame it. And flesh it out.

And the “finding it” is finding your thought leadership niche.

And you as a marketer also have a thought leadership niche.

If you’re going to help the subject matter experts in your firm, it’s very good for you as a marketer to go through the process of finding your own thought leadership niche before you reach out to help the experts in your firm.

So who in the room is working with content generated by the subject matter experts in your firm? Okay, half or more, definitely. Alright, so the idea here is…

Those subject matter experts are not just left alone and asked to write to fill all of the channels, but that they’re given some guidance and help and a safe space, and that they’re doing it from their thought leadership niche, right?

So you have to first do a purpose/passion understanding of yourself and your expertise to understand that thought leadership niche.

Once you’ve found that, then you frame your stories in a journalistic way. That’s step two.

And so they build on each other.

Yes, you might be able to just rattle off some headlines that are nicely framed in a journalistic way.

However, if they’re not born of a thought leadership niche, then ChatGPT could have probably done it as well, right?

That’s where I’m hoping that it remains a very human process here.

And then, “fleshing it out” is actually writing it.

So in our workshops, you send 10 experts to the workshop, you get 10 articles at the end of the day. That’s it.

And they’re framed in a journalistic way, and they’re born of a thought leadership niche.

So they’re much better than usual.

They could, usually, need a polish on top, but still much better than usual.

So that’s the three steps to thought leadership writing.

There are about 17 types of thought leadership stories. Here are just a few of them.

So these are a “reason why” story, or an “explore the solution” story, or a “what if” story.

This type of writing is distinguished from the research-based thought leadership in your firm, right?

This is born-of-expertise-experience!

This is something that the expert just loves. They’re living it. They’re burning to talk about this.

So the reason that we can get your experts writing excellent articles within a single workshop day is because this knowledge is on tap for them. This does not require any research, maybe one placeholder for one statistic, but this is about what has been going on with the client or the problem that the expert has been noodling for a long time.

And in this type of writing, there’s a trick for coming off in a thought leadership style, or coming off as a thought leader, and is using the journalistic approach to story finding.

So that’s the major distinction: in corporate writing, you very often come up with a salesy approach or an academic approach, and you need a journalistic approach.

And people in marketing comms often know what this is, but sometimes there’s not a language to explain that to the subject matter expert in a way that they can actually get it and do it for themselves.

So that’s what we do in the story framing system, is we line it all up to the problems of the audience. So you’ll see that.

So once you’ve framed the story in a journalistic way, then you’ve got to deliver like a journalist. And that means short sentences, colorful intros, maybe an anecdote, maybe not an anecdotal lead (it depends), fast moving, and so on.

Published June 12, 2024

B2B Forum is packed with marketing insights, strategies, and tactics taken from the real world experience of over forty industry experts, packaged into context you can actually put to use.

Join us in Boston for B2B Forum 2024 this coming November 12-14, 2024. Early buyers get B2B Forum tickets at their lowest rate, and discounted hotel rooms are available while they last.


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