So, you want to be a thought leader. Great! You likely have untapped expertise or industry insights due to your position as a leader within your company. While the media landscape may seem saturated with thought leaders, it’s because people are hungry for information. In our current always-on, information-seeking state, your ideas and unique perspective could reach prospects in the right place at the right time.
6 Tips to Become a Thought Leader
Below are a few tips to get you started as a thought leader, as well as the background behind each tactic.
1. Take a Stance
Form 3-5 marquee opinions you can expound on in interviews or contributed content. Doing so will also help you identify conversations to join and keep you from appearing to not have an actual platform.
We help our clients get their beliefs, expertise and thought leadership placed in media outlets to assist other practitioners or peers in their space, share insights and further industry conversations. A few examples that added a bold, unique or contrarian point of view include:
- The CEO of a company we helped drive to IPO says AI shouldn’t be seen as a “job stealer” and the conversation should focus on the good it could do.
- One CMO believes ABM is just good marketing and it takes AI and orchestration to elevate marketing tactics.
- Another CEO believes SEO is a tactic that should be elevated to the C-suite since it’s a bottom-line driver.
2. Cultivate a Consistent Social Media Presence
You might be rolling your eyes, but you would be shocked at how many thought-leader audits we perform where we find company leaders are missing out on opportunities because they lack a social presence. If you’re not engaging on social, you’re not building a network or community. Not only can this staunch conversation, but it can also hurt your chances of being accepted as a thought leader in general.
Think of it this way: Media will look at your social presence to evaluate how successfully their articles might perform if they feature your commentary or if your article will attract eyeballs, should they allow you to contribute a whole piece.
Thought leaders should start with Twitter. A good rule of thumb is to “like” 15 tweets per week, retweet three times a week and comment once. To increase exposure on LinkedIn, another important thought leadership platform, you should like and share articles at least once a week.
3. Identify Personal Voice
Outline tone and personal brand — and stick to it in every instance, including in your writing and during an interview. Is your voice authoritative, yet punchy and playful? Do you offer trailblazing and innovative comments? Are you formal and educational? Professional yet relatable? Do you like to make comparisons, share personal anecdotes or offer metaphors to get your point across?
Figure out your communication style and own it. Your PR team can then thread your message, voice and personal brand throughout all content and opportunities so media get to know you and readers/engagers know what to expect from your work.
4. Provide Examples of Presentations
Share old presentations such as speaking engagements or company presentations on Slideshare or via LinkedIn using the projects or media features. Doing so gives your PR team a place to point people to when validating if you’re a skilled presenter. Even a link to an old webinar or office presentation can be the first brick in the foundation being laid for you.
5. Write Content
Author content on your company blog. I’ll agree, this one is easier said than done. We don’t often have extra time to put our thoughts to paper in a cohesive and beautiful way. Nonetheless, this step is important. Much like uploading old presentations, authoring blog content is an easy way for readers and media contacts to see the type of thought leadership you’re capable of sharing, your style of writing, overall voice and whether or not your content is captivating.
If you just aren’t able to carve out time for writing, we have a few suggestions:
- Put some high-level thoughts together and let a colleague or marketing professional put your expertise into a polished format.
- Conduct story-mining sessions with your PR team who can write long-form contributed content pieces for you. Rework them so the actual wording is original, shorten and add to your company blog.
- Repurpose your social posts by transforming them into longer commentary pieces.
6. Conduct a Media Training
BLASTmedia offers 30 minutes of dedicated training to discuss how our agency will closely align with the thought leader to ensure quality opportunities are secured, deliver real-life examples and scenarios, and provide tips and tricks to navigate sticky situations.
Take time to conduct a media training session, whether with a professional or during your own time through research or YouTube examples, among other outlets. If you have a PR team, they can discuss how media opportunities are earned, what’s required from you and the media, the best way to prep and own the conversation, and tips to bring media back to focus if the conversation shifts away from what was originally discussed. Not only will you earn additional practice from training like this, but you’ll also be better aligned with your PR team and expectations from media contacts.
Other Ways to Grow Your Presence as a Thought Leader
You don’t have to speak at industry events to be a thought leader, but it is another avenue to bolster your profile. If you’re considering speaking opportunities, here are a few bonus tips:
1. Join an Industry or Community Group
Connect with like-minded or similar-passioned people to learn from them and discuss how they position themselves as thought leaders. You may find there’s an event locally that needs an emcee or a regional industry conference where you could keynote. Networking with peers is a quick way to learn from other smart individuals and it can only shed light on more areas for you to pursue.
2. Create an About.Me Page
This will display your personal brand and shouldn’t be tied to your company. You should list out your passions, areas of expertise, events where you’ve spoken, and content you want people to see. Include events where people can connect with you and information on how they should reach you if they’d like to use you as a source for media or to offer a speaking slot. A few examples include Ann Handley, Gene Marks and Patrick Schwerdtfeger.
Don’t let the above overwhelm you; many of these tactics are easy to execute and will further validate why you are a credible thought leader. For a snapshot of these tips, check out our checklist.