It’s a common assumption that a thought leader can be built from the ground up. And, while the tactical elements of this are true — like contributing more articles to industry magazines or improving the way you’re represented on social media — there are a few … shall we say, soft skills… every successful thought leader needs that can’t be put in place by a PR team.
Do you have what it takes to become a true thought leader? Here at BLASTmedia, we are more than just media relations experts. We’re research pros. So, we “reverse-engineered” a handful of great SaaS thought leaders and identified a few traits they all have in common:
- Thought leaders have talk-tracks that aren’t about product
A thought leader must have thoughts that aren’t based on carefully-crafted product messaging. Having a non-product-focused talk-track doesn’t mean you have to totally detach from your industry, it just means you need to detach from tying everything back to why your product can solve the problem in the end. A great example of this comes from HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan. Halligan is known for his thoughts around a flywheel vs funnel sales model. Sure, converting prospects through the buyer journey ultimately ties back to HubSpot’s space, but the actual talk-track Halligan works through isn’t focused on using the product to solve all your sales stage needs.
- Thought leaders know their personal values
Let’s face it: many voices in the tech world are basically saying the same thing. I mean, how many times have you heard someone talk about building a company culture that puts employees first like it’s revolutionary? That’s why taking a strong stance on an issue will encourage people to listen to you. It’s not easy to have a strong stance if you don’t know your personal values, though. As you establish these personal beliefs, it will make it easier to jump on important conversations and passionately deliver your insights. From time to time, this may even intertwine with talking about your industry as whole or your product directly — for example, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki recently held true to her personal values around her children’s media consumption, noting that she only allows her children to watch YouTube Kids and limits the amount of time they spend watching videos.
- Thought leaders have a personality outside of their profession
Sure, people want to hear about your professional accomplishments and great ideas — but you won’t be able to solidify a place in their memory without showing the personality that makes you human. Some of my favorite thought leaders have worked their way onto my list of go-to sources for industry trends simply by being a real human. Take Moz CEO Sarah Bird for example: she not only passionately shares her vision for the company, but voraciously speaks on societal issues in which she’s personally invested and even partakes in the occasional “Amazon Prime vs HBO” conversation.
Becoming a thought leader takes time and a whole lot of conversations with media to build a foundation — but it also takes inflection and, dare we say, thought. By establishing a talk-track that sets you apart from your product, identifying your personal values and letting your human shine through, you’ll be able to set yourself apart from the rest of the noise. After all, literally anyone could be a thought leader if all it came down to was a few blog posts about your product.
Once you’ve done some introspection, hone these thought leader soft skills and check out how you can tactically amp up your presence.