Four essentials of thought leadership

Breaking into the thought leadership arena can feel daunting. The good news is that there are a number of low-risk, entry-level ways to get started.


Today thought leadership can be credited with a powerful role in mainstream business thinking. It's no longer the preserve of just a few 'gurus' or academic institutions alone - it has been embraced by private and public sector alike as an important way for an organization to communicate with its key audiences.


Thought leadership has moved on from its roots in academia (you can thank Malcolm Gladwell for helping to bring the term into popular use) and is now honed by some of the world's largest companies, think tanks and consultancies alike.


It's no longer about who knows the most about a certain topic — it's who has the ability to communicate that knowledge and how effectively they do so.


That said, thought leadership is not easy to master and you cannot expect instant success without having done the groundwork.


Here are four essentials for successful entry into the thought leadership sphere:


1) Know your story

An essential part of becoming a thought leader is to know your story and understand how it can be applied to different contexts. For example, you might have decades of business experience and excellent industry contacts — but what makes you unique?


People who want to be thought leaders should consider what their area of expertise is – and, more significantly, what makes them distinct from others in their field. You must understand your X factor: whether it's because you're at ease in front of a crowd or because you have the ability to produce content. What makes you stand out from the competition?


That's not an easy question to answer, but if you can't articulate why someone should listen to what you say then chances are no one else will either.


2) Engage with your audience

It might seem obvious, but one of the best ways to become a thought leader is to get your audience involved. It's easier than ever for thought leaders to connect with their followers through social media.


You may begin having discussions, sharing data, and being seen by a large number of individuals in your industry by establishing a presence on social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter.


3) Make it easy to find you

When you're just getting started in the world of thought leadership, there's no point having great content if no one knows how to access it.


Thought leaders should consider what they would want if they were in their audience's shoes. What would I do if someone found me? What are the benefits for them?


A great initiative is to have a thought leadership website where you may distribute your material and where people may go to discover more about you.


4) Make yourself felt in the crowd If you want to have an impact, you must stand out from the crowd

Thought leaders should employ storytelling methods in their material. They should be aware of current events and issues that are impacting their sector and then engage with individuals more successfully.


Make sure you know your narrative, your target audience, and how to find you. But what are the business benefits of being a thought leader?


The most significant advantage is that if you are regarded as an industry leader, customers will be more inclined to buy from you rather than your rivals. You'll have more credibility in your field and will be seen as an authority. People want to trust you because you are a specialist in your area.


Concerned about how to get started?


Here are seven essential steps to becoming a thought leader:


1) Make a list of your objectives so that you know exactly what you would want to accomplish

If you don't have a goal in mind, there's no way to tell if you've accomplished anything, so it's critical to have one in place. Thought leaders should have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish.

Is it about raising your profile? Is it about growing your company's revenue?


2) Make the necessary preparations.

It might be tempting to get started on the strategy right away, but it's critical to have a plan in place.

Before they start executing, high-level thought leaders should know how they intend to accomplish their objectives. They need to be aware of the tools available to them, as well as the various platforms on which they may find material that meets their needs.


3) Learn what has been done previously.

Look for thought leadership on your subject to see where you fit in. Also, study what prominent individuals in your field are doing to figure out what they're up to. It's a good idea to avoid copying someone else in the process. As a result, it's critical to be aware of what's already available.


4) Create your content

Once you've decided what type of material will work for you and your target audience, you can start producing. This is the enjoyable portion since thought leaders are creating their own material rather than just issuing press releases.


5) Make sure it's easy to find

After you've written your material, make sure it's simple to find. Add social media links, establish a thought leadership website, or set up an email distribution list so that people may subscribe and receive updates when new material is released.


6) Be consistent

After you've completed your content, keep on producing. If individuals are going to learn that you're thought leadership, they must see your name again and again.


7) Measure the results

Once you're done with all of your thought leadership, don't just let it sit there. Stay on top of the results to see if they're what you had in mind. Also, try testing different methods or distributing material in various ways to help you figure out what works best.


One last thing - always have fun!


The key is to simply be yourself. You are not expected to take on someone else's persona, but you should always be the person that your fans know and love.