I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes kind of person, pleased to be part of an ongoing effort, maybe essential to it, just … quietly. Many of the engineers I work with are like that too — particularly the geotechnical people, whose work is literally buried underground.
So when all this talk about “thought leadership” started bubbling up, as in, “You’ve got to generate thought leadership content to move your career ahead,” I got uncomfortable.
But I’ve found that if I change my frame of reference, it’s easier. I now think of it as being helpful — providing insights that can be useful for someone else. That works for engineers too, because many of them are justifiably proud of their skills, and like to help others.
One of the best ways to build your career, and to help others, is to publish useful content on LinkedIn. It shows that you have contributions to make to your profession, and that you can be the go-to person for your field of specialization.
This is likely to get you noticed by someone looking to hire a professional with your skill set, a prospective client, or a colleague wondering if they should invite you in on a startup they’re planning.
You can learn more about how to work effectively on LinkedIn in the webinar I’ll be leading on EMI on January 12, 2021. One of the topics I’ll cover is how to host content on the platform. But in the meantime, here are four types of “helpful” content:
“Newsjacking” means taking some news and wrapping your ideas around it. Perhaps it’s a new regulatory standard, a new technology, or a new compound material.
The key is to find news that matters to the people you want to reach. If the news is limited to the way you do your work, it’s not a good candidate for newsjacking. Here’s how to design effective newsjacking content:
- Describe the news, where it comes from, and put it into context
- Say why it matters to the people you want to reach
- Give your analysis of how the news will unfold, and who it will impact
- Give your recommendations on how your reader, viewer, or listener can avoid a problem as a result of the news or access a benefit
Sometimes, it’s not a fast-moving change, but a more gradual one. Say you’ve noticed that a particular technology is becoming gradually less useful, and it’s being gradually replaced. Points to cover:
- Describe the trend and what’s changing
- Provide proof, either anecdotal, quantitative, or quoting a subject-matter expert
- Say what will happen as a result of the trend
- Your recommendations to avoid a problem or gain a benefit
A how-to is straightforward: how to do something. Maybe you’ve found a really great workaround for a common problem in your field, or you’re often being asked about a process. The key is, again, to select topics that matter to the people you want to reach. Here’s how to prepare a how-to:
- Describe the objective and what you are trying to accomplish
- Materials or tools (electronic or physical) required
- Steps to follow in an ordered list, e.g., in order of priority
- Potential problems, and how to deal with them
The Case Study
Many engineers gravitate to case studies. They can be an effective tool for thought leadership in that they show you as someone who gets it done and resolves practical problems. Points to cover:
- The original situation, and why this was unsatisfactory
- The steps you followed in resolving the issue
- Problems encountered, and their solution
- The outcome
- Lessons learned
In summary, in creating “helpful” or “thought leadership” content for LinkedIn, always think of the issues and interests of the people you want to reach. Then craft your content to answer the questions they would have.
About the Author:
Carl Friesen is a former journalist who has over 15 years of experience helping business professionals get their ideas published. He has published five books on thought leadership marketing, is a frequent public speaker (just not during COVID), and writer on this topic. To learn more about building your career through thought leadership, see the helpful resources at ThoughtLeadershipResources.com.
If you’re interested in your firm possibly joining the Civil Engineering Collective, please contact us here or call us at 800-920-4007 ext. 800.
I hope you’ll join us.
Anthony Fasano, P.E.
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success