So You Want to be a Thought Leader
Whether you’re a microbiologist for an organization specializing in food safety solutions, a product manager at a software company or the CEO of a regional carpet cleaning business, thought leadership can give you and your organization a boost. Thought leaders are well-respected experts in their field. They understand the industry, the needs of their target audience and can provide guidance at critical moments. While today’s social media influencers often focus heavily on selling, thought leaders are trusted authority figures who downplay hard selling in favor of creating relationships and offering solutions.
So how do you become a thought leader? Everyone wants to be one, but it takes time and effort to build your persona. It also takes dedication to maintain your thought leadership positioning once you’ve solidified yourself as an expert.
Consider the following tips for thought leadership success:
- Establish your expertise – Before communicating externally, you must map out your expertise. Which topics are you qualified to speak about? Which hot-button issues would you prefer to avoid discussing? Are there emerging trends that would allow you to offer a new perspective? Fine–tune these overarching themes and then brainstorm a few specific topics that ladder up to each. Then, establish approved talking points so that your messaging remains consistent and in control.
- Increase exposure – Get your name in front of your target audience by securing bylined articles with leading publications and online sites. These articles should be educational in nature, providing best practices for readers, rather than selling your products and services. While the content is not directly promotional, it can still help shape readers’ attitudes about key issues and will position your organization in a positive light if it helps people solve a business problem. Regularly contributing to leading news sources will establish credibility for you as a leader and for your organization, and has the potential to drive traffic to your website and boost sales.
- Seek out speaking opportunities – There are a variety of different speaking opportunities available to experts, including keynote addresses, educational seminars and panels at industry conferences, podcast guest appearances and webinar hosting duties. The best part about speaking opportunities is that they allow you to address your target audience. Whether you’re in the technology industry, construction, insurance or commercial cleaning, there are ways to interact with audiences at in-person events and remotely. Remember that every presentation should be a softer sell and focus on highlighting key trends and issues as well as strategies that will help listeners.
- Meet the press – Building relationships with journalists and editors in your field is crucial. The next time your business is exhibiting at a tradeshow, reach out to attending members of the media to secure interviews on your booth. Use this time to highlight recent product launches, share insights about trending topics relevant to the publication and discuss key company updates. Another classic tactic is to plan a press tour and visit relevant media outlets to establish more personal relationships. If budget allows, consider inviting media from around the world to a special event, such as the unveiling of a major new product or the opening of an R&D facility, that also provides time to network with and entertain these individuals.
- Get social – Social media provides experts with a way to directly interact with customers, employees, other industry experts and prospects. Establish a presence on the channels that your target audiences are most likely to be using. For example, many leaders view LinkedIn as a powerful tool for networking, sparking creative discussions and increasing credibility among other business professionals. Remember to stay on message, highlight your professional achievements and personal passions and weigh in on topics that are relevant to your business. Regularly blogging, joining discussion groups and publishing posts can help grow your audience and make you stand out from the crowd.
Organizations have a better chance of building awareness, gaining customer trust and maintaining key relationships when they elevate the profile of their experts. With the above best practices, you can set yourself up for success as you work toward becoming a well-respected subject matter expert.
Jess Messenger is a Senior Account Supervisor in Mulberry’s Chicago office and enjoys developing PR campaign strategies and writing for B2B audiences across numerous verticals such as retail, foodservice and healthcare.