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Positioning Yourself As A Thought Leader

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

What’s the Big Whoop About Thought Leadership?

While the phrase has appeared in the written form since the late 19th century, the meaning and connotations have evolved over time. Currently, there are a few definitions of thought leader and thought leadership that seem to be generally accepted.

In its simplest form, thought leadership refers to, “intellectual influence and innovative or pioneering thinking” – according to the Oxford dictionary.

Thought leadership is the expression of ideas that demonstrate you have expertise in a particular field, area, or topic. It’s the process of establishing authority and credibility in a person or brand by sharing expert comment, insight, and opinion. Executives and business leaders strive to become thought leaders in their respective fields because it boosts their professional brand and amplifies the corporate brand they represent. It takes dedication, patience, strategy, and education. Most thought leaders not only have a command of their subject area, they are passionate about it and eager to share their knowledge with others to benefit a company, organization, or cause.

Utilizing content marketing, social media, and other means to increase your authority and influence are key for successful thought leadership. It can even be inspiring, which is why many thought leaders are invited to speak at conferences and graduations, why they have many social media followers, why they become LinkedIn experts, and why their content marketing is widely followed.

You may be thinking: “What is thought leadership going to do for me?” The answer: Thought leadership targets the people you really want to get ahold of-- the decision-makers. According to a LinkedIn paper, roughly 60 percent of decision-makers read at least an hour’s worth of thought leadership content weekly. Moreover, over 60 percent of these individuals indicated that thought leadership content influences them to try new products and services.

A thought leader is an expert in their field, with innovative ideas and a full understanding of their industry, the key players, and strategies to succeed. Here are 3 Reasons Why Thought Leadership Is Important:

1. It Builds Trust Along With Your Reputation

Thought leadership is the perfect way to “show, not tell” your expertise. You demonstrate your competence through your content, which makes prospects much more likely to trust you.

2. It Promotes Brand Awareness

Thought leadership is an effective way to build your brand. Your website, visual branding elements, social media and all that other stuff are important, too, but your content is the substance behind your brand.

3. It Gets You In Front of the Right People

As previously mentioned, decision-makers are the ones who spend the most time engaging with thought leadership content. Specifically, those are C-suite executives.

Thought leadership is about how you inspire and influence your market, peers, coworkers, and industry. Thought leaders build their credibility, authority, influence, and reach through the content they create and share with others. It isn’t about leading employees but instead it’s about teaching within your industry. To lead the industry into new territory, you must be viewed as a visionary because you have initiated conversations, contributed ideas, and created value.

What you can do to boost your own thought leadership, daily:

  1. Determine your area of expertise

  2. Regularly produce content

  3. Avoid talking about yourself too much

  4. Stay consistent

  5. Create an online presence

  6. Establish yourself as a resource

  7. Be authentic

Thought Leadership is a powerful marketing strategy that puts human expertise at the center of the customer conversation. This provides an incredible opportunity for executives and leaders to step in and educate their audience while establishing authority and credibility. While it can be daunting to jump in and get started, I encourage you to experiment a bit in creating your first pieces of thought leadership content.

Examples of thought leadership content include:

  • An article forecasting trends for the upcoming year

  • A video providing clarity on an often-misunderstood tactic or practice in your industry

  • An interview on a key news outlet that shares takeaways from a significant conference and what they mean for the future of the industry

  • An article that showcases insights and guidance on something that’s negatively or positively affecting your industry

  • An answer on Quora pointing an audience to key resources and strategies to make their jobs easier, more strategic, etc.

Becoming a thought leader takes time. Many leaders begin by researching and communicating with customers or clients, then developing their thoughts and publishing them. Ultimately, thought leadership is an investment in time and effort. When this investment yields high-quality and relatable content, brands can position themselves as unquestionable leaders in their industry.

Some steps you could take toward thought leadership are:

  • Understand what customers and clients want to know about your business: Make a list of all the possible questions your target market asks related to your products or services.

  • · Craft Your Big Idea: Thought leadership always starts with a vision. What is your original, innovative, forward-thinking idea that will help your audience navigate the most pressing challenges and create new opportunities? Consider capabilities and knowledge that make you and your organization stand out from the competition.

  • Develop answers to each of the questions: Start with the most common or pressing questions and develop responses. Infuse your writing with personal anecdotes, knowledge, and insights.

  • Deliver your answers across various platforms: It’s unrealistic to be everywhere all the time, and yet, you need to deliver content regularly in a variety of places.

  • Repurpose, Re-use, and Remodel: When possible, save yourself some time. Instead of delivering different content across all platforms, find a way to repurpose it. For example, turn a blog post into a YouTube video. Check out my podcast to get some ideas on how you can do this.

  • Create Content That Sticks. Develop relatable and memorable messages to communicate your idea, and translate them into compelling, relevant, and timely content – blogs, articles, presentations, video – designed for the right channels, including traditional and social media, digital platforms, marketing and speaking engagements.

  • Encourage engagement: Thought leaders are approachable and responsive. They’re at the top of the industry because they’re listening and responding to the market. Be willing to authentically interact with those who have thoughts around your big idea.

  • Above all, deliver value: Give the market what it’s asking for in a way that provides a benefit. Understand your audience’s problems and issues. Does your solution have the potential to make an impact for the future?

Thought leaders bridge knowledge gaps with audiences, generate third-party credibility, trigger conversation, and ultimately create long-term growth opportunities for themselves and their businesses. It can be a lot of work to deliver the amount of content needed to be considered a thought leader. However, done well, you can become a top resource for consumers, the media, and peers in your industry.

Onward, thought leaders!

For more information on how to Build Your Thought Leadership Through Live Streaming, check out my 30-minute podcast:


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