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Want your written thought leadership to actually be read? Make sure it packs this 1–2–3 punch

A catchy title, compelling introductory paragraph(s), and substantive subheadings are the surefire way to get people to read your thought leadership content.

As you yourself have surely noticed, we are all way too busy today to be reading all the content that comes at us through email, social media, and browsing online.

If you’re an attorney creating thought leadership targeting clients or referral sources, rest assured they’re in that same boat.

They’re just too busy to read all the thought leadership that you, your competitors, and your peers are pushing out to them.

That’s why if you want your thought leadership to be read, you’ve got to make sure it packs a particular 1–2–3 punch.

First, it has a title that piques the interest of your readers.

Second, it has compelling introductory paragraphs.

And third, it has substantive subheadings.

Your title should make readers stop and click

The title of your thought leadership is what pulls people in. It’s what makes them want to click and read the piece of content.

If you’re not pulling people in through your title, you’ve lost them. No one’s going to look at a title and say, “You know what? This seems boring. This doesn’t seem of interest to me. But I’m going to click it and read it anyway. Maybe the author will surprise me.”

No! Your title has to pull people in, preferably by explaining who the article is for, what’s in it for the reader to read it, and what they’ll learn if they do.

The title of your thought leadership is the first and perhaps only chance you have to persuade a reader to click and to consume that piece of content. They are going to decide whether they think they should read something you wrote based on the headline, title, or email subject you gave it. Make sure it attracts them like a magnet.

Your introductory paragraph(s) should suck readers in

Even if you persuaded a reader to click your title or open up your email, if your introductory paragraphs don’t engage them, they’re not going to stick around. That’s why your introductory paragraph(s) must be compelling and suck them in.

The job of your title or subject line is to get your target audience to click or open an email. The job of your introductory paragraph(s) is to get them to want to read the content they’re now staring at.

Your introductory paragraphs should leave your readers thinking that they are going to want to read THIS piece of content.

Maybe it’s because you struck a particular tone or angle in your introduction that they found intriguing. Or maybe you laid out exactly why they need to learn about what you are about to tell them.

Your introductory paragraph(s) must retain your readers now that they are looking at your thought leadership content. If they cannot, your readers are going to close that browser tab, close that PDF window, or delete that email and walk away. If they do, your thought leadership won’t have the opportunity to make a favorable impression on them, which defeats the purpose of crafting thought leadership content in the first place.

Your subheads should guide and entice readers

When you, me, and most other people open up a thought leadership article these days, we first skim it by focusing on the subheads. We say to ourselves, “Is this interesting? Do I want to keep on reading? Do I think this will have something in it for me?”

If your subheads are “Introduction,” “Point one,” “Point two,” “Point three,” and “Conclusion,” that doesn’t hint to your readers about how relevant and valuable the content under each one might be.

That’s why your subheads should be substantive. Your readers need motivation to keep reading. Your subheads give them a sense of what they’re going to see and learn throughout the piece of content.

If there are no subheads and you’re producing one long wall of text, that’s its own problem. Good luck getting your readers to invest the time and energy to read what you wrote if they have no idea what direction it is going in.

For certain types of content, such as those discussing a particular number of drawbacks, best practices, or red flags, you’re going to want to use your subheads to indicate which drawback, best practice, or red flag you’re discussing. That will help readers skim the article and decide they should start from the top and read it all the way through.

Even for thought leadership regarding legal developments, like a recent court case, proposed piece of legislation, or administrative agency action, your subheads should break up your content and summarize what’s coming up next so you hold the reader’s attention.

The alternative is your potential readers saying, “I have no idea what’s going on here. I’m going to skip this.”

To attract and keep readers, your thought leadership can’t pull any punches

The target audiences of your thought leadership content, whether they are clients or referral sources, are just like you and me: way too busy to read all of the thought leadership content that comes their way.

If you want to give your thought leadership content the best chance of being consumed, and thus the best chance of leaving a favorable impression on its readers, you’ve got to make sure it packs a 1–2–3 punch with a compelling title, introductory paragraph(s), and subheadings.

Thinking about bringing on an outside writer to help your law firm strategize and create compelling thought-leadership marketing and business development content? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your firm.

Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm, and the Law Firm Editorial Service, a content strategy and ghostwriting service for lawyers and their law firms. The Law Firm Editorial Service helps Big Law and boutique law firm partners, and their firms, grow their practices and prominence by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building marketing and business development content.

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