Five Strategies To Become A Thought Leader
We often think that only executives can become thought leaders -- or that you must at least give keynotes and speak on camera. That’s only one aspect of thought leadership. If you are not comfortable speaking on camera, there are various other ways to demonstrate your expertise, especially in today’s digital era. I believe anyone can become a thought leader and benefit from the added visibility. All you need are passion, expertise and opinion -- and we all have them. Thought leadership enhances brand reputation, builds decision makers’ trust, opens the conversation and helps close business, according to research by LinkedIn and Edelman. I have the privilege of working with a variety of people, from founders and engineers to human resources and sales professionals. Everyone has a different goal for wanting to be a thought leader -- from taking the company public to career advancement. Here are five tips to get you started.
1. Set a goal. Educate others. Like any initiative, the first question to ask yourself is “why.” Why do you want to be a thought leader? Is it to get promoted, change careers, raise funds or boost brand awareness for the company? We are professionals, which means we are an expert in something. Our expertise could be in sales, engineering, computer science or finance. We are passionate about things outside of work -- golf, skydiving, cooking or parenting. So yes, we can share our professional expertise and hobbies with the world and let others learn from our experiences.
2. Position yourself. Personal positioning is very similar to corporate positioning. How do you want to describe yourself so that people know what you do -- preferably, in three or four words? Ask yourself what you’d want to be known for and how you can support that image. I use a seven-step process to position individuals as thought leaders and help define their brands. It includes identifying goals, passions, expertise and supporting facts that make the individual credible to their target audience. For example, based on my expertise and knowledge, I am a brand and buzz marketer because I build and boost brand and buzz for companies and professionals to help grow their businesses and careers.
3. Demonstrate credibility. Similar to the corporate or product messaging process, ask yourself the tough questions. What makes you an expert and why should others care? Once you’ve identified your area of expertise and the value that you bring, the next step is to prove your expertise to build credibility. For example, if you want to be known as an artificial intelligence (AI) expert, think about ways to bring that to life -- e.g., did you develop a product or sell AI solutions, and what were the results? Use examples and proof points to support your claims. It never hurts to share what the challenges were and how you solved them.
4. Build a story to humanize your brand. Having a personal story will give your company a face and a human touch. People often love personal stories, which allow them to relate to your journey, challenges and successes versus just hearing about a product and its features or functions. Your personal stories could be about why you launched a company or how your personal experience has shaped your current role and your impact on the company. Like your audience, journalists look for a human angle, too. Picture news stories, especially broadcast -- there is almost always a human aspect to the stories, from disasters to politics. We not only see a hurricane-ravaged area, but stories are focused on the impact of the hurricane on people, their hardships and neighbors helping neighbors.
5. Be a resource. Now that you know how you want to be perceived and have a narrative, think about how you are going to leverage the digital tools to share tips, tricks and best practices. Perhaps there is new research in your industry. Leverage that and use your know-how to add insight to the report. Provide value and share your experience. Don’t just sell a product or service. If you have 15 minutes a day, start by responding to questions and building credibility on social networks like LinkedIn, Quora and Reddit. If you can allocate a few hours a month, create a content calendar with a list of articles or videos you are going to produce to build your thought leadership status. The key here is consistency. Be heard and be seen on a regular basis. To recap, you don’t need to be a celebrity or a CEO to be a thought leader. Find your niche. Provide content and best practices to build trust and authority and help support your company’s goal or your career advancement.