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Your Thought Leadership Byline and Your Foot Have a Lot in Common

Author: Mick Emmett
September 23, 2020

You know when you come across something that is completely unrelated to your job…but you think about it for a moment and realize that it actually isn’t? And then one day out of nowhere when you’re making dinner or running or taking out the trash, you think, “Wait a sec, this is basically the same concept?”

OK – you probably don’t use a term like “concept” in your random thought stream, but you know what I mean.

This happened to me recently. 

A little background: I write stuff for tech companies. Lots of stuff. If done well, the resulting byline, blog post, press release, or whatever should just make sense to readers, to the point where they don’t consciously think the structure should be changed or that there’s too much or not enough information. That’s the goal. Always.

Anyway, I was reading an article about “complexity” (don’t ask), and it made a great point about what actually goes into lifting your foot. What could be more innocuous, right? I mean, when was the last time you put thought into lifting your foot? But the reality is…more complex:

For instance, think of what it takes just to lift your foot. Electrical, chemical, and mechanical parts must continually coordinate across molecular, cellular, organ, and systemic levels. Genetic machinery inside cells generate proteins to power muscles; gastrointestinal organs digest and metabolize sugars to provide energy; motor centers in the brain plan and command movement, while nerves relay these messages to muscle fibers and deliver feedback to the brain about your foot’s location in space. As a whole, the process is something more than the sum of its parts.

Source: Nautilus.us, March 2017

In other words: it’s the same as creating a byline, only different. Allow me to explain.

I recently wrote an executive thought leadership byline for the CTO of a database company on a technical topic. But “wrote” is a slippery term. 

What I did NOT do was sit down and instantly write a perfectly structured, technical and error-free byline of 1,000 words in one sitting with no assistance. I wish.

What I DID do was akin to moving my foot:

  • Received a request from the client account team for a ghostwritten executive byline
  • Thought about topics that would support the company’s messaging and get published in one of their target media outlets
  • Connected with the executive to pass along the topics and see if he had any he was eager to address
  • Agreed over several emails on what the theme of the article would be
  • Researched, researched and researched
  • Scheduled an intake call
  • Did some more research
  • Prepared some questions to (hopefully) extract a lot of relevant information
  • Had the call
  • Ordered the transcript and started putting an outline together
  • Reviewed the transcript several times
  • Started filling in the outline
  • Did some more research to fill in a few gaps and locate relevant third-party resources to reference
  • Spent an afternoon writing the draft while fighting off 97 emails and 33 Slack messages about other things (no, really)
  • Had one of my content team colleagues review the draft
  • Sent the draft to the client
  • Made updates requested by the client
  • Sent updated draft back to the client
  • Made the last few updates and called it “final”
  • Sent to my account team colleagues and asked them to submit it to the media outlet’s editor
  • Received feedback from the editor, who asked for some changes
  • Made the changes and informed the client what was up
  • Waited for the editor to respond
  • Waited some more
  • The editor responded with the publication date
  • The article published

Time from inception to published piece? Just under a month. But then I read the article on the media outlet’s site, and it all just seemed so…simple. You know, like moving your foot.