If you want to be seen as a thought leader, you need to be comfortable talking about your views and finding ways to increase your visibility. This can be done by sharing your views online or find ways to be more visible in your industry.
This article covers the key components of an effective thought leadership strategy.
Thought Leadership Strategy
That’s thought leadership working in action. Thought leadership is a key personal branding strategy. It involves sharing your views and talking about problems you can help others with, in order to attract attention and gain a following.
This can help your message spread far and wide, as people who see your content are more likely to be interested in it if it has been liked, commented on, or shared by someone they already follow.
Being active on social media can help increase your visibility, which can lead to more sales. However, simply posting more content is not enough, you have to post the right content to be considered a thought leader in your industry.
How to Create a Thought Leadership Strategy
Jason Van Orden helps people boost their online exposure by sharing his expertise in personal branding. He believes that the best way to raise your profile is to share your ideas and stories through content creation.
If you’re creating content for your business or personal brand, you probably have what Jason calls a “beautiful mess of assets”. Having a lot of messy content can be a good thing for leaders! You might already have a lot of content to work with. This might include:
- Testimonials from clients
- Books, research, or white papers you’ve written
- Workshops, webinars, and presentations
- Blogs, podcast episodes, videos (including guest appearances)
Jason advises collecting all the content that establishes your credibility and authority. This way, you won’t have to start from scratch, you can reuse your existing content to create more content, and build your thought leadership content library from there.
Understand Your Goal
But without a goal, you’re likely to achieve very little. Your thought leadership strategy will be more effective if it has a goal. What do you want to achieve? Make an impact in your industry, get known outside your current community, or boost your income? These goals may be more business-related or personal. Without a goal, you probably won’t achieve much.
Create a Plan
At the suggestion of Jason, you should step back and analyze both your personal brand and your business as a whole.
Doing this will allow you to recognize any business opportunities you may have overlooked, what content assets you aren’t using to their full potential, and how you can better achieve your goals. The next step is to take this information and create a strategy that combines content with execution.
Once you have a plan, you can put it into action and become a thought leader in your industry.
Thought Leadership Must be Made Visible
More than just knowing the ins and outs of your industry, thought leadership requires creativity and a willingness to challenge the status quo. It’s about having fresh ideas and the courage to share them. Being a thought leader means being open to new ways of doing things and being willing to take risks.
When you are an expert on something, you are able to bring a new and insightful perspective to a common problem, or you are able to anticipate emerging trends.
A thought leader’s perspective is sometimes different from what is considered normal or traditional. But if they are successful, they can turn that new idea into something that is widely accepted.
It’s not enough to just have great insights, you also need to make sure that they are visible to as many people as possible if you want them to be influential.
Many people who have the expertise and insight to be thought leaders fail to gain recognition because their expertise is invisible.
Five Levels of Visibility
Our research has found five different levels of visible thought leadership. Each level has a greater level of influence and impact.
The resident experts
An individual who is recognized as an expert by clients, staff, and colleagues that work directly with the thought leader, but who is not well known outside of their firm, has minimal external influence.
The local heroes
Local experts who are well-known in their market or small industry niche often attract new business based on their thought leadership.
The rising stars
The reputations of these individuals are expanding to a regional level. They are gaining more notoriety as influencers and are pulling in new business and earning higher fees. Their influence is increasing.
The industry rock stars
They are some of the most well-known and respected people in their industries. They are often thought of as leaders in their field, and they bring a lot of high-level opportunities to their firm. They are often asked to give speeches at major industry events and are regularly quoted in the press.
The global superstars
The individuals referred to in the text have gained prominence and respect for their ability to think strategically and creatively. Their ideas and perspectives are valued beyond their particular industry and by a wide range of businesses and organizations.
They are in high demand as consultants, public speakers, and advisors, and their recommendations can have a significant impact on society as a whole.
How to Develop Thought Leadership Content
What can you do to become more insightful and influential in your field? While there is no guaranteed formula for success, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of making a difference.
Deeper, more relevant insights make better thought leadership content.
Narrow Your Focus
If you want to become an expert in your field, you should focus your research on a few specific topics. This will help you develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter and make it easier to become a leader in your field.
The reason is that going narrower allows you to gain experience and insight more quickly. By doing this, the process is accelerated and the impact of your content is improved.
Do Original Research
Original research gives you an advantage because it can produce new insights that can be applied to clients’ problems and shared with others.
Thought leadership content is created from new research findings.
Take a Contrarian Perspective
It’s a way of looking at things that others haven’t considered. An important trait of thought leaders is their ability to view things from a fresh perspective.
This means being able to see things from their client’s perspective, even when everyone else is looking at it from their own perspective.
It also means being willing to explore the opposite view to everyone else, even when it’s not the popular opinion. This ability to think outside the box is what sets thought leaders apart from others.
A contrarian perspective means looking at a problem from a new and different angle, rather than from the usual perspective.
Mash Up Your Expertise
Methods and thinking from one discipline can be applied to another to produce great results. For example, design thinking can be applied to accounting services.
A new understanding or perspective that changes the way others think.
Interact With Other Experts
Having a good working relationship with other experts helps you in a couple of important ways:
First, it allows you to connect with the most advanced and influential thinkers. Connecting with these thought leaders allows you to develop more insightful content and helps you become smarter.
Your colleagues can help boost your credibility by being associated with you. You can become more influential by being part of a group of experts. Your colleagues can also help you by sharing your ideas or referring new business to you.
How to Make Thought Leadership Visible
It is difficult to identify experts and thought leaders because they do not stand out visually.
Just because you say you are a thought leader doesn’t make it so. It could easily have the opposite effect.
Instead, thought leadership must be demonstrated. Generally this happens in one of three ways:
Direct Interaction and Networking
This approach involves working with people directly, perhaps as a client or coworker. The interaction must allow the professionals to demonstrate their competence.
Speaking to someone at a cocktail party or networking event will not likely be enough to establish a connection.
The interaction needs to be significant enough that people can experience the thought leader’s expertise. Think of it as an expert preview.
If you want to be considered a thought leader on a topic, writing a best-selling book is the gold standard. But if you find the idea of writing a book daunting, there are other ways to show your expertise through your writing.
Other ways to communicate your insights and build your reputation are through articles in trade publications, blog posts, white papers, and executive guides.
If writing is done carelessly, it can easily reveal a real lack of leadership.
Public speaking can help show you as a thought leader and result in new business leads.
Events where you speak live to an audience are also a great way to meet new people and get fresh input. Sometimes the questions audience members ask can be a source of new insights and inspiration.
Maximizing Your Thought Leadership Strategy
A thought leadership strategy should be closely tied to your other business and personal goals so you may want to work on more than one goal at a time.
It’s also a great way to build your network by connecting with other thought leaders in your industry. Jason advices to focus on one thing that will help to multiple goals.
An example of this is starting a podcast to bring in new leads while also building your network by connecting with other thought leaders in your industry. For podcasting, those benefits include:
- Having a rich library of content to use as you wish
- Raising your profile in a new space
- Networking with guests, listeners and other podcasters
- And of course, building your personal brand
Podcasting is a great way to share your thoughts and connect with your audience, but if it’s not for you, don’t worry. Jason says writing can have just as big of an impact.
You can be writing blog posts regularly, which can eventually turn into pieces of your book. Writing blog posts is a way to test out pieces of your book, but it also builds up anticipation for your book.
Jason’s advice includes using your content to test your ideas. Getting your ideas validated by your audience will help you understand what content they want more of and what they don’t like.
As a thought leader, you need to incorporate this feedback into your content strategy. Listening to what your audience wants and producing more content accordingly will keep them engaged.
Why Repurposing is Core to a Winning Thought Leadership Strategy
Jason believes that repurposing content is key to developing a thought leadership strategy, as it saves time and can be used to create new content types. He gives the example of one of his clients who took chapters from her work-in-progress book and used them as content for her membership site.
This allowed her to get feedback which she then used to improve the book.
By reusing her content in different ways, Jason’s client was able to create several new products and foster numerous relationships and income sources. This gave her the opportunity to develop her brand in multiple directions simultaneously and increase her return on investment.