How to write regular blockchain and crypto thought leadership articles
Although many people think they can’t do it, writing regular thought leadership articles is simply a process that you need to practice in order to master. Doing so can help senior executives and their blockchain or crypto project to truly stand out in a market that is littered with hype, FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and scams.
Writing regular thought leadership articles has a number of benefits. For businesses, it can increase awareness of your brand and help to drive lead generation, particularly when combined with in-depth eBooks and reports that exist as gated content. For individuals, writing regular thought leadership articles is probably the most effective way of building your reputation as an industry influencer and opening up speaking engagements, interviews and podcast appearances.
At first, this might involve employing a copywriter to ghostwrite blockchain and crypto thought leadership articles for you, so you can start to hit your publishing goals straightaway. Over time though, this can develop into a self-service model of strategy, planning and production that allows you to hit more significant lead generation and industry awareness goals. In this guide, we outline the steps you need to take to regularly produce thought leadership articles that meet your content, marketing and lead generation goals.
What is blockchain and crypto thought leadership?
But first, it’s worth looking at what great blockchain and crypto thought leadership actually looks like. As mentioned, these markets are unfortunately full or scammers and false profits. Crypto is a less regulated market than more traditional financial markets and is somewhere where huge profits can be made and lost in an instant. This kind of get rich quick mentality brings with it almost every type of marketing and sales tactic, some of which border on fraud.
Everyone involved in crypto and blockchain should receive any news of ‘the next big thing’ with a pinch of salt. They should also be aware that many highly skilled marketers and salespeople operate in these markets, waiting to take advantage of your emotional reaction to their messages.
However, this wild west atmosphere throws up a clear opportunity for anyone with a clear, consistent and customer focused mindset - thought leadership enables you to stand out from the crowd. That’s possible because the blockchain and crypto markets are not overwhelmed by credible thought leaders. There are lots of people that post short and shallow opinions on Crypto Twitter hoping for the immediate dopamine hit that the like and retweet counter can provide but very few who back this up with regular insightful, long-form opinion articles.
Having said that, there are some well known exceptions who regularly publish great crypto thought leadership.
Andreas Antonopoulos is one of the best known bitcoin advocates and has written a number of books on the subject. Having first discovered bitcoin in 2012, he went on to publish ‘Mastering Bitcoin’ in December 2014 and ‘Mastering Ethereum’ in Dec 2018. He has also published three volumes of his talks in his ‘The Internet of Money’ series, the latest of which was published at the end of 2019.
Antonopoulos has a clear and uncomplicated way of explaining difficult concepts so that even non-technical readers can understand them. This has led to him talking about bitcoin, blockchain and cryptocurrencies on some of the best known tv channels and most popular podcasts, including the Joe Rogan Experience.
Meltem Demirors first heard about bitcoin in 2012, when she was working as an oil and gas on M&A and corporate finance in oil & gas. She is now Chief Strategy Officer at Coinshares, an asset management firm, and has lectured on blockchain at Oxford University's business school.
Throughout 2019, Demirors regularly published thought leadership articles via Medium, often in parallel with the work she was doing with Jill Carson on the ‘What Grinds My Gears’ podcast. Using her background in finance, Demirors has a great way of linking the traditional finance world with the new, decentralised world. She has correctly stated that “crypto media tries to get the quick quotes in via catchy ledes, but doesn’t grasp the nuance”.
Balaji S.Srinivasan is currently a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz and was the CTO of Coinbase. He is a successful startup founder, including Earn.com, which was acquired and then rebranded as Coinbase Earn and has a particularly interesting crypto content angle.
Coinbase Earn allows users to earn specific cryptocurrencies by learning about how they work. With the crypto world more used to the spammy marketing tactics of the ICO boom, it stands out as a more sustainable and worthwhile knowledge-based approach to user acquisition. Srinivasan is clearly interested in quality blockchain and crypto content. Recently, he has (allegedly) relaunched Nakamoto.com in order to showcase long-form thought leadership.
Choosing a thought leadership theme
While there’s crossover between what these crypto thought leaders write about, they clearly attempt to plow their own furrow. One of the most important first steps any thought leader can take is to decide which topic they write about and stick to it.
That doesn’t mean never being able to change of course. But, if your approach simply involves picking a topic that has popped into your head and writing about it, your articles are likely to read like a diary of random opinions rather than a set of beliefs that you hold dear.
Your theme can and should evolve over time, as you publish more and receive feedback from readers. You’re unlikely to nail the theme of your writing perfectly on day one but a few tricks can help you move towards the right one as quickly as possible.
Firstly, you should look at your own experience and reference previous areas of work you’ve done. If you’ve spent a lot of time doing something in the past, you’ll have wracked up the hours needed to become an expert in this field and this is normally the best place to find your theme.
If your thought leadership strategy is part of a company’s wider marketing strategy, it’s important to think about how it fits into progressing that business’s goals. As with an individual’s approach, think about the background of the company and the key projects it has worked on but also consider the services it offers, the people in the company and its USPs.
Most important of all is your audience. An individual personality is a key part of thought leadership but too many people start off thinking their opinion is the most important part, rather than what an audience might find interesting or helpful.
Also, if you find it useful to refer back to your prior experience or a company’s previous projects, try to ensure it doesn’t narrow down your topic too much. Specificity is useful when you’re writing individual thought leadership articles but, at this stage, try to pick out what the big themes underlying a project are so you can build on them in your writing.
If you’re really struggling with what your theme might be, enlist some help. A colleague will do, especially if they’re something of a subject matter expert on a topic you are considering. If you can’t think of a theme but you have a pretty good idea of your audience, an even better approach is talking to someone who fits into that category. This might be tricky but, if you can enlist their help, you’ll be getting direct feedback before you put in any effort. They’ll also be able to tell you whether your idea is unique or has been written many times before.
It’s a good idea to think as divergently as possible at first, so you come up with lots of ideas that can be screwed up and thrown away. You only need to find one or two themes to choose from in the first place, so scribbling down lots of bad ideas on a few post-its is a good way or seeing which gems stand out.
Researching your thought leadership topics
Once you’re relatively happy with one or two themes, you should start to think about how you can structure them into a series of articles. In an ideal world, you’ll have the seeds of an idea that will grow into a book or piece of downloadable content, so you can start to get some real benefit from it. However, that’s also not necessary and your aim at this stage can simply be to publish a handful of articles.
You want to start to separate the theme into subtopics that can be written about. These might form into standalone articles or they might become sections of articles. Just as when you were thinking about themes, it’s a good idea here to think divergently about lots of ideas. Many of these can be scrapped later but, by thinking of too many, you’ll find small connections between ideas that might build into worthwhile themes.
A simple trick for doing this involves using question words to spark some ideas. Think about some questions for your theme that you can generate out of the 5 Ws, Who? What? Where? Why? When? Another useful question word to consider (as the title of this article demonstrates) is how?
Also, you should look again at the experience or projects you considered when picking your theme. Can you deconstruct the work you did to reveal some subtopics worth exploring?
If you are in a company or you can access some helpful individuals in your network, this is a great time to enlist the help of some subject matter experts. Not only are they likely to offer some strong opinions of their own, they will be able to spot details you have missed and critique ideas you have come up with.
It’s also important to remember that nothing is new. You should therefore research what other people are saying about the theme or subtopics you have picked. By googling a series of keywords related to your theme or some early ideas for articles, you will reveal which ideas look like tired, repetitive opinions and which stand out as entirely new angles. It’s also worth doing the same on Twitter, where many people have expressed opinions in tweets or threads but never expanded on them through long-form blockchain or crypto thought leadership.
When you are researching what others have said before, it’s worth doing a couple of things. Firstly, think about how your angle might differ from theirs. Secondly, if you find an article that has already said something you agree with, don’t be afraid to use it, just make sure you are linking to it in your work.
Once you’ve done all the research and divergent thinking you can, start to arrange these themes and sub-topics into some structures that you can turn into articles. In the first place, try to have at least two or three articles structured and ready to write. There’s definitely no set rule for how long an article should be but, so you’re starting to see how your first few thought leadership articles might look, 1000 words is a good rule of thumb to work off.
This sort of word count lends itself to three sections of around 300 words or four sections of around 250 words, so look at how your themes and sub topics might be divided into these chunks. When it comes to structuring these chunks into sections, you only need to make a few key points to write 250-300 words so, for each section chunk, note down 3-5 bullet points about what you’ll write in this section.
Finally, as your sections and sub topics start to build into clear skeleton structures for thought leadership articles, make sure that the sections, opinions and arguments flow. To do this, have a think about how the final thought in one section might connect with the first thought in the next.
Tips for writing regular blockchain or crypto thought leadership
Even if you’ve done all this important preparatory work to get to the point where you have the skeleton structure of an article ready, actually getting words down can feel like a daunting task.
The hard truth is that, like most things in life, being able to write with flow takes time and practice. However, there are also some shortcuts that will help you to find your flow sooner, rather than constantly hitting writer’s block.
Find the right time to write
Everyone is different but what’s important is to find the time when actually writing X number of words (as opposed to idea generating, structuring or researching) works best for you.
Charles Dickens famously rose at around 7am, wrote from around 9am to 2pm and then had the afternoon free to walk. Being able to wake up and write without distraction will certainly help some. Others may find that their brain really isn’t warmed up before noon or that there are fewer distractions during the evening.
Even if you’re not much of a writer at the moment, you probably know when you are most able to get into a flow during the day. Try this time out first to see whether it works for you and, if not, test other times until you find the right one for you.
Don’t be too precious, just write
While you want to find a time that allows you to get into a flow, some days are harder than others. This might be caused by all sorts of things. You might have slept badly the night before. You might have too many other things on your plate and be unable to concentrate. You might find that, for all the prep work you did, the structure you came up with just isn’t working.
The most important thing is to not let this stop you writing. However bad your first draft is, just make sure you spend your writing time, well, writing. One thing is for sure. You can always change it later or, if necessary, reform what you had planned as a standalone article into the section of another one or as a completely different piece of content. However, if you never actually write anything, you’ll get nowhere.
What to do if you get stuck
Even though you should write, you should also not beat yourself up when you’re really struggling. Every writer experiences writer’s block, sometimes multiple times on a single article.
Beating yourself up about exactly why that is is the wrong approach. Instead, try distracting yourself momentarily and see if that unblocks the issue. Take 5 minutes to stand up, walk around or go outside. Grab a coffee or a glass of water. Lean on a meditation or breathing technique you know for clearing your head.
Whatever you do though, don’t do anything that will distract you too much, like listening to the news or checking social media. You want to stay in your writing flow and just nudge this mini roadblock out of the way. Finally, if nothing is working and you just can’t make any progress, make a note of where you could go no further and have a go at a different section.
Edit, edit, edit
Any good writer knows that it’s all in the editing. For those that have worked in a news environment, most will appreciate the skill of an editor, even if they can’t perfect the process themselves.
What is important for anyone to understand is you’ll rarely get it right the first time. Writing is just one part of the process and editing is just as important. It’s often best to edit an article at a different time to when you wrote it. So if you finished writing in the morning, look at the article again in the evening or the next day. In this way, you’ll often see things with a fresh pair of eyes that spot the errors you've made but also recognises the best bits you’ve written.
When editing, always keep the audience in mind. Is it clear what you want them to take from this article? Have you mentioned this at the beginning and reiterated it at the end? Also, go through your adjectives and metaphors with a fine toothed comb. If they don’t work, delete them.
Employ a ghostwriter
Having read this guide, some people will realise that to write great thought leadership articles on a regular basis takes a lot of effort. Honestly, there’s no getting away from that. You need to follow a process and you need to dedicate time to it over the long-term. If you do, the benefits are clear, as the examples of great blockchain and crypto thought leadership demonstrate.
However, for those that can see the benefit but can’t see how they will fit the effort into their busy schedule, there is another option. Blockchain and crypto founders and companies can employ a ghostwriter to help them produce regular thought leadership. This might be fully outsourced but it usually works best as a hybrid model, involving senior execs and subject matter experts in the planning and research stage while handing over the writing and editing to a professional.