For someone who is just starting to produce content online, it might be confusing looking at the different blogs and articles that are out there. Some pieces are 3,000 words or more, while others are 300 words or less. What's the "right" template to follow when you're new to all of this?
In a series of three posts, I'm going to put together some of my thoughts about three different types of online content. I hope to give you a better sense of where you might fit in, depending on what stage you're at with your business and your content.
As always, I also hope to give you some concrete ideas you can use in your next piece of writing, along with the inspiration to get started with it now!
Content Marketing à la Carte, Part One: The thought piece
Today's post is about the thought piece. A thought piece is a longer, essay-type article that delves into a topic that interests you and/or (but hopefully and) your audience and ideal clients. It's a critical exploration, analysis or theoretical treatment of the topic, usually aiming to achieve one or more of these four goals:
- Define (what is it?)
- Deconstruct (what's it made of?)
- Differentiate (how is it different from other things? Or how are its elements different from each other?)
- Dispute (why another point of view is inaccurate or ineffective)
A thought piece will often come out of your own curiosity, or from a need that you've observed in the people around you. For example, the series I’ve written here is clearing up the confusion about which type of article is best for which situation, and it's also helping me better understand how I can help and when.
Sometimes a thought piece can be both highly personal and incredibly effective. This post from Glenda Watson Hyatt was clearly something she was writing as a personal reflection, AND it fully brands her as a thought leader whose courageous exploration is empowering other people to redefine themselves.
A thought piece may be formatted more like an essay, though headings and lists are still strongly recommended for better readability and to avoid that "big bad WALL of text." Thought pieces will often be longer than a typical 500-word informational marketing article, simply because it takes that long to investigate the topic. (Hint: If your readers aren't used to that length from you, divide it up as I've done here.) Thought pieces can easily be pieced together to create a larger work like a book.
A thought piece should still be able to answer that most important writing question, "What's the point?" It should stick to one main idea and support it with sub-points, though it won't necessarily provide a linear set of action steps or solutions.
In fact, sometimes the intended audience of a thought piece isn't even your ideal client or regular readers. It may be addressed more to your colleagues in the industry, or be a comment about something you've seen in the blogosphere.
Writing prompt: What are you curious about? How would you like to delve into the topic? Will you define, deconstruct, differentiate or dispute?
For more about how to use the thought piece in your content marketing strategy, see my follow-up post, "How different types of online content can help you build a relationship with your ideal client". Watch also for my next post about the second type of online content, the connective piece.