Thought Leadership is a marketing objective pursued by many in business today. The goal usually is to stand out from one’s peers so that we get increased exposure with others in our industry and drive revenue for our company. It is very easy to get caught up in attempting to elevate oneself but thought leadership today is about much more than ourselves. To be effective you must first benefit your audience.
Thought Leadership is more than podcasts, videos and newsletters. It is sharing your unique way of thinking with others. You must guide and offer insight to others. It is developing your own, authentic perspective and voicing it. Develop a reputation for helping those who follow you. As Adam Grant noted, “creating knowledge for the purpose of sharing it is thought leadership.” In other words, thought leadership should be measured by how you help people.
Where To Start
How does one develop thought leadership? Start by defining the area of expertise in which you want to be heard. Look at your experiences in the field and how they have shaped your views. How does your experience allow you to offer opinions on what is happening today and provide insight to the future? With that framework you should be able to bring a point of view to the public that can’t be found elsewhere.
A good place to start your thought leadership efforts is to sharpen the clarity and precision of your thinking. Consider your own thoughts on important topics that pertain to your field or industry. Ask yourself what you think about these issues. Think about how you would express those thoughts to others. Consider what’s unique and different and try to communicate that. Don’t be different just to stand out, convey how you really feel.
Focus On Issues
Too often aspiring thought leaders highlight themselves, and not the issues. Real thought leaders are skilled at examining subtle differences others missed. They don’t necessarily change the conversation, but they do portray it from a unique perspective. And that is the genius, by viewing an issue from a totally new perspective thought leaders allow others to see something new, or bigger, and further expand on the topic. Practice viewing subject matter through a different lens to understand different ways of expressing opinions.
In our ever-changing world people are more drawn in than ever to real world experiences. Media consumers relate to humanity more than ever. A good thought leader is not a robot, spouting out facts. They need to be empathetic. This does not mean tackling political or social issues but inserting experiences the leader or someone they know has gone through to illustrate a story. When thought leadership incorporates real people or situations into the narrative it is more compelling.
Use Your Values
Express your opinions in terms of values. Once you have clearly articulated what you stand for, tell a story that shows what you’re doing to promote your point of view. Incorporate timely, newsy topics into your subject matter. People enjoy hearing well-thought out opinions on a topic that pertains to them. And don’t be afraid to solve a problem. Examine issues that your audience is facing and offer solutions. If you don’t want to provide a solution, suggest ways your audience can solve the problem for themselves. People love problem solvers.
Find Your Channel
Then, find the right channel to express your opinions. There are a myriad of ways to reach people. Don’t stress about having an outlet on every channel. That is unrealistic. Instead, think about your strengths and use them. Some people are more comfortable creating well honed data filled documents. They should create newsletters and white papers. Others are high-touch and need the immediate feedback of a live audience. They should create virtual breakfasts and webinars. In this post-Covid world there are numerous outlets for your thoughts. Find the ones most suited for you.
Thought Leadership Today
Thought leadership can be a great way to increase exposure, help others and promote your business. However, if you don’t provide enough benefit to others, attempts to grow your own business will fail. This is not a vanity play. If you don’t provide real value consistently, your efforts at thought leadership will come up short. You already have expertise, credibility, and passion, so you’ve done the hard part. The next step is to translate those elements into a distinctive voice others want to listen to. That is the secret to thought leadership today.