By Kathryn Van Kuyk, co-founder and PR director, Media-Wize.
More than half of our population is women but you wouldn’t know that from their representation in the Australian media. According to the Women’s Leadership Institute, women account for only 34 percent of direct quotes and 24 percent of indirect sources in mainstream digital media sites. Women are also largely absent from photographs and greatly under-represented in opinion pieces and columns.
As women, we can suffer higher rates of ‘imposter syndrome’ because we fall prey to devaluing our experience, knowledge and talent. The pandemic has been a reset in many ways and in 2021, we desperately need more women to stand up and share their opinions to achieve greater gender balance and diversity in the Australian media and inspire the next generation of female talent.
Women are founding businesses in greater numbers than ever and our learnings, our journey, our insights, the lessons and the pitfalls we’ve gone through are just as relevant and important to share as that of our male colleagues and founders.
Opinion pieces are an excellent method to share your knowledge or opinion. But, becoming a thought leader is more than just promoting yourself, business or interests. It is about enhancing and adding to wider industry debate and commentary. To succeed at this you need to find, articulate and share your opinions and experience in an interesting and informative way.
Learning how to write compelling opinion pieces and getting them published in mainstream media outlets is important. You need to understand what thought leadership is and what it is not in order to achieve success.
Thought leadership is not about reporting. Journalists report the news and track breaking stories. Thought leadership is about providing an expert opinion. That could be how to do things better, gaps in the conversation that people are overlooking or not considering, or specific advice such as ‘top three tips’.
The opinion should not be thinly veiled marketing or advertising. It should be objective advice explaining best practice and sharing knowledge gained through many years of industry experience.
1. What goes into thought leadership?
Opinion pieces don’t need lots of background and a summary of facts. Focus on writing your opinion or best practice advice. Make sure you convey that in the headline and the first paragraph and then explain it. Opinion pieces should be 500-700 words long. They need to be punchy, topical, relevant and engaging.
2. Thought leadership is not advertising or marketing
Thought leadership is about thought and leadership, not marketing or advertising. The value is having it published under your by-line. The focus is on earning media coverage through merit.
3. Know the audience
It’s important to read the media outlets you aim to get published in. Not all publications run opinion pieces. If they do, it’s important you understand the style they accept. For instance, do they run informative articles like “5 ways to save your business time at tax time?” Or do they prefer a strong or controversial opinion?
4. Don’t ambulance chase
Do not use thought leadership for ambulance chasing. Taking advantage of someone else’s misfortune can make you look like an opportunist rather than a credible source of information.
5. Don’t attack
Be wary of jumping all over a competitor, an individual or a group of people in an opinion piece. Remember, if you attack them and later on you make a mistake, they’ll attack you back. Think carefully about the positioning.
Writing thought leadership for media success is an art and one that more female business leaders should leverage. It’s probably unlike any other type of writing you’ve done, so it can be worthwhile getting expert help to hone in on the angle that will work – and to write it in the style a media outlet will accept.
Media-Wize co-founder and PR Director, Kathryn Van Kuyk, is a multi-award winning PR professional with over 20 years of experience in writing thought leadership content. She has helped female leaders and companies secure publication in national daily papers and trade publications in almost every industry vertical.