A thought leader is recognized and sought after for his or her knowledge of a particular industry or area of focus, and is respected for their unique ideas and points of view. These individuals are leaders in their industries, regularly sharing thoughtful commentary and insights with their audiences through a range of different mediums.
Thought leadership should be considered a key component of any well-rounded communications strategy. But, if your organization hasn’t tapped into the power of thought leadership yet, now is a great time to begin doing so.
Below are several things to think through as you prepare your thought leadership strategy, as well as a shortlist of concrete actions you can take to start establishing yourself as a thought leader.
Identify your specific area of expertise.
Carefully identify your specific area of expertise. What are you most qualified to talk about? In what particularly area of your industry is your work most focused?
You might consider yourself the preeminent expert on skateboards, but without something tangible to back up your expertise, you’ll be just another voice in the skateboard industry crowd. Audiences won’t have a reason to pay you any more attention than the next ‘expert’ they come across.
Give people a genuine and compelling reason to listen to you and to value your commentary. Do this by demonstrating your credibility in a clear and precise way. Think about your relevant achievements, education, experiences. What have you done or achieved that gives you authentic credibility?
Develop your viewpoint.
To become a valued thought leader, you need have thoughts. Consider key issues or topics of discussion within your industry or area of expertise, and develop your viewpoints. Know where you stand and what you want to say about individual topics before you begin putting yourself out into the world as a thought leader.
Understand, too, why you think what you think – and why your target audience might be interested in what you have to say. Be able to back up your viewpoints with credible facts, figures, stats, and examples. Simply having an opinion isn’t enough to make you a thought leader; you must support your opinion with tangible reasoning.
Focus on learning.
As the world continues to change at warp-speed, thought leaders must always be learning. Keep up with news, events, and meaningful developments in your space, and be ready to comment quickly. [If you can demonstrate to the media that you’re able to share valuable, thoughtful viewpoints on current events quickly, they’ll be more likely to turn to you proactively when in need of expert comment.]
The more you learn, the more of an expert you’ll become – and the more unique your voice and your perspective can be.
Be honest & authentic.
Above all, always remain honest and authentic in all of your communications. Honesty and authenticity breed trust – and without trust, you’ll have a hard time developing your reputation as a respected thought leader.
Once you’ve identified your area of expertise, established your credibility, and considered your viewpoints, it’s time to take some active steps to put yourself out into the world as a thought leader.
Seek out speaking opportunities (virtual and in-person).
Research upcoming events in your industry – both virtual and in-person – and apply to speak at the ones most likely to be ‘attended’ by your key audiences. Think beyond standard industry events too, looking at organizations with a connection to your industry or area of expertise that might be hosting virtual events or speakers’ series.
Write op-eds and contributor articles.
Reach out to media outlets in your industry with an op-ed or contributed content idea. Think about what type of content your target outlets typically publish, as well as about what their audiences could learn from you and your expertise.
Post regularly to social media.
If you don’t already, start sharing your knowledge and expertise with audiences via social media. You don’t need to post to all platforms – but choose one or two that make sense for you and your industry, and work hard to post high-quality insights, thoughts, and information on a regular basis.
Comment on important industry news and goings-on.
Track the news in your industry closely. When major news breaks, or when something happens that has a meaningful impact on the industry, reach out to relevant reporters to comment on the news. Think about what the news event means for your industry broadly and come prepared to any interview you arrange with thoughtful insights.