In content creation, balancing audience needs with business messaging is a continuous challenge. This becomes even more pronounced under tight deadlines that require producing content swiftly.
Nicolas Cole, recognized as both a ghostwriter and the co-founder of Typeshare - an online writing assistant - provides insights into this challenge. He details five foundational writing templates on his X profile, revealing the structures behind the creation of more than 3,000 thought leadership articles over a six-year period, receiving many views across various industries.
Over the past 6 years, I have ghostwritten more than 3,000 articles for startup founders, C-level executives, Silicon Valley investors, and more.— Nicolas Cole 🚢 (@Nicolascole77) October 2, 2023
Want to know a secret?
I use the same 5 templates every time:
Template #1: The mistakes & the lessons
What’s the fastest way to… pic.twitter.com/QBg1XqwQnH
Template #1: the mistakes & the lesson
Nicolas describes this template as identifying errors in a given strategy and then offering solutions to the audience.
The format includes:
More importantly, Nicolas emphasizes that by identifying errors initially and helping readers learn from them, we establish ourselves as authorities on the subject.
Startup founder Sahil Lavingia's account of his failure in building a billion-dollar company serves as a compelling example of this template. You can read it here.
Template #2: the frameworks
"How to create a business thought leader article?" It's a question many grapple with, especially when trying to position oneself from the viewpoint of a business owner or stakeholder.
However, Nicolas simplifies this task, suggesting that for business articles, all one needs to do is identify a problem and offer steps to address it — summed up as "Want to solve X? Follow 1-2-3."
The proposed structure is:
- Name the problem
- Detail actionable steps
- Highlight the outcome
Nicolas emphasizes that the key difference between budding and seasoned leaders is clear communication. Using the analogy of a "box", this template organizes information methodically, facilitating easier comprehension, recall, and application for readers.
Pillar VC, a U.S.-based venture capital firm, has curated a library of advice for founders on its website. These articles serve as strong examples of this writing template.
Template #3: the future
Then, how about creating an article that establishes authority and gains reader trust? It might seem that detailed data and specific event predictions are essential. However, Nicolas suggests that the core of such articles lies in speculation and positioning oneself to address the issue.
The framework he recommends is:
- Speculate about your industry's future direction
- Provide the rationale for your speculation
- Support with 2-3 studies or statistics
Using this approach, the emphasis isn't on absolute accuracy. As Nicolas mentioned, “It usually doesn’t even matter if you end up being right or wrong—the simple fact that you’re willing to share what you THINK communicates authority and leadership.”
BRI Ventures, the venture capital firm in Indonesia, effectively utilized this template by publishing a guest post that discusses their investment thesis on the local fintech landscape. You can find the article here.
Template #4: category POV
When discussing a brand or product, Nicolas advises focusing less on the specifics of the product and more on its broader category.
By doing this, readers can grasp the current challenges they face and see how a particular product or brand provides a solution.
The Category POV template follows this structure:
- Introduce a fresh perspective on the category
- Address issues with the existing category
- Introduce and define a new category
Nicolas explains the essence of this approach: “You’re moving them FROM where they are TO where you want them to be.”
The announcement from tech firm 37signals, outlining its vision and thesis for the future of the SaaS industry, stands as another noteworthy example of this template.
Template #5: myths
Nicolas suggests the 'myths' template as a way for brands to showcase their expertise. The approach involves debunking widely held but incorrect beliefs about a topic.
The structure includes:
- Identify commonly held but mistaken beliefs
- Share crucial insights
- Explain the implications of these insights
Discussing the appeal of this approach, Nicolas recalls: “Years ago I wrote an article titled, '5 Myths About Exposure I Learned By Writing 400+ Columns For Inc Magazine.' This was an “insider information” article, conveying, ‘I've done this extensive work, and here's what I've learned.’ Readers value such insights,” Nicolas notes.
In conclusion, the value of content lies not just in originality but also in presentation and structure. Regardless of the number of templates one uses, it's important to prioritize clarity and relevance in communication with readers.
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