Are you an expert in your industry? Do you see trends no one else does? Do you have insights you want to share? Would you like to stand out and get noticed for your expertise and insights? Then you need to develop a thought leadership strategy.
A thought leadership strategy will distinguish you from others in your industry and make you into a powerful voice that gains attention and respect. And it’s a boon for career success.
Read on to learn what thought leadership is, why it’s beneficial and the thought leadership best practices that will propel your strategy.
But before we get too far, let’s answer a key question in this conversation…
What is Thought Leadership?
We’ve discussed personal branding extensively on this blog. And you can think of thought leadership as an extension of your personal brand — it can even become a goal in your branding and content marketing strategy.
But what is it? Thought leadership taps into your industry expertise, your passion, and your talent, all to connect you with your audience. A thought leader produces valuable content that not only addresses the pain points of his/her audience but also delivers key insights and advice on industry trends that aren’t available elsewhere.
One of the most advantageous benefits of thought leadership is that it is accessible to anyone. It doesn’t matter your background or degrees. If you have knowledge and expertise, you can become a thought leader!
But there’s one caveat. While you can become a thought leader, it is not something that you can force. You can’t just label yourself as a “thought leader” and expect everyone to get the memo. This title has to be earned through great content, proven ability, and visibility.
But is it worth the effort?
The Benefits of a Thought Leader Strategy
This probably seems like a large investment of time and energy. And you would be right. It is.
So why go through the hassle of becoming a thought leader?
Because it pays off in very important ways.
Thought leadership is a stepping stone to career success.
In one report, respondents said that thought leadership improved website traffic, lead generation, media mentions, email subscribers, customer relationships, and backlinks. Any one of these things would be a marketer’s dream, but thought leadership helps with them all.
How does it do this?
It lends you credibility.
When people consume your content and see for themselves the value that you add to the industry, they are more likely to trust you and your brand. This trust makes you the first person they think of when they need something, including a source for an article, a product you sell, or even a weekly email newsletter.
So now we know more about what it is and why it’s important. Now let’s look at thought leadership best practices that will help you to skyrocket your own thought leadership strategy.
How to Develop a Successful Thought Leadership Strategy
1. Become Influential
It doesn’t matter where you come from. Thought leaders don’t have to be CEOs or published authors. It doesn’t even matter how old you are. All that matters is that you know your subject matter. That in itself can create influence.
Use your knowledge and expertise to create content that educates, drives action, and sparks discussion. This in itself will push you forward on your path toward thought leadership.
Another crucial element to building your influence is your presence. The more present you are in the industry, the more people will remember you and view you as influential. Social media, of course, is a great source of influence and a good place to start. You can also become a source for an industry journalist or a speaker at an industry conference.
2. Provide Expert Insights
Insight is an important component of thought leadership. And it helps to distinguish your insight from other industry leaders. How do you do that?
One way is to conduct your own research. Especially if you have a large audience, you can send out surveys and polls to get the most up-to-date and pertinent information. Analyze the data and extract your own insights. Consider creating a report or white paper to share your findings.
Another way to break through is to solve an industry problem. Of course, this can’t be forced. But if you do see a new way to approach and solve a problem that has plagued your industry, don’t be afraid to share it. Spearhead the conversation by talking about it on social media and at industry events.
3. Share Your Point of View
Being a thought leader means people seek your opinion. Don’t stand on the sidelines, simply commenting on what you see. Be part of it. Share your opinion on what it means, good or bad, and why it’s important.
Some mistakenly believe that to have a point of view means having a unique point of view or bringing something entirely new to the table. While a different point of view has the potential to make a splash in the industry, it’s not at all necessary. Just put your voice out there. If you disagree with the majority, lay out your reasons. If you agree, that’s fine too. Just speak out.
4. Be Visible
Visibility is everything in a leader. This harkens back to a familiar saying..If a tree falls in the forest with no one to hear it, does it make a sound? Of course, we know it does “make a sound” but there is no impact from that sound without someone to hear it. The same can be true of thought leadership. If you know your industry inside and out and deliver hard-hitting insights, but you have no audience, you’re not accomplishing anything.
So how do you get more visibility? To become a true thought leader, your influence needs to extend beyond the boundaries of your company or circle of associates. To do this, create opportunities outside of your group. Here are some things you can try:
- Seek speaking engagements at industry events.
- Engage and share meaningful content on social media.
- Offer to collaborate with other leaders.
- Guest post on other industry leaders’ blogs.
However you choose to do it, look for ways to expand your visibility. This will help you to have a real impact on your industry and get heard.
5. Develop Content for Your Thought Leadership Strategy
Decide what topics you want to discuss on your platform. And decide where you want to discuss it. Your content strategy could involve your blog, public speaking, social media…even uploading a video on YouTube.
Wherever you decide to share your thought leadership content, make the content itself unique and valuable. Look at trends that impact your industry and think about insights you can draw from those trends.
Make your content valuable. What makes content valuable? Value stems from your audience. If they need that information and it fills a void in the industry, then it is highly valuable. For content inspiration, you might check out social media, forums like Quora, or your own sales team for questions that arise.
6. Hang Out with Other Thought Leaders
Some might ask, “But why? Aren’t they my competition?”
Don’t think of other thought leaders as competition. Think of them as colleagues. And spending time with other thought leaders is a mutually beneficial arrangement that helps you in a couple of ways.
First, hanging out with other thought leaders gives you access to their knowledge and insights (and vice versa). Thought leaders push one another to think outside the box, innovate, and just get smarter.
Second, they can amplify your voice and gives you extra clout. When people see you around an established thought leader, many times it raises your reputation just by association. This can happen if another thought leader shares your content on social media or if you collaborate together on a piece of content.
There is no doubt about it — a solid thought leadership strategy and implementing thought leadership best practices can boost your overall strategy and lead to incredible career success.
Have you used thought leadership for career success? Please share your experience in the comments below!