One of the PR topics I get the most questions about is thought leadership. Some people doing the asking don’t even know the term for what it is they are asking my firm for help with. Luckily, I recently had the chance to clear up some misconceptions as the featured speaker at the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Business Education Committee meeting. The topic was “turning up the volume on thought leadership” and my charge was to educate attendees on what it is, why it’s important, and how to “up” their thought leadership game.
First, a quick definition: a thought leader is an individual or a firm recognized as an authority in a specialized field, whose expertise is sought and often rewarded. Being a thought leader means consistently talking about your area of expertise over time, in a way that builds credibility and positions you at the forefront. That’s important because people will do business with those they know, like and trust.
To turn up the volume on your own thought leadership efforts, try these five steps:
- Define the Dialogue.
Have a crystal-clear idea of what your personal brand is: who you are and what you know best. This article from my friend Elise Mitchell highlights the importance of personal branding and some best practices; while this one from Ryan Erskine gives you 5 simple steps to a personal brand – and comes up with a branding statement for Santa Claus!
- Talk the Talk.
Seek out speaking engagements that can help boost your credibility and position you as an expert in your field. Of course, that’s a scary proposition – public speaking is Americans’ number-one fear. This article from my blog gives you six reasons to fight that fear; while this one has nine pointers for nailing your next speaking engagement.
- Walk the Walk.
Write! Write columns for publications that target the audience you’re trying to reach, write blogs, write books or e-books – anything to get your name and personal brand out there. Ana Hoffman on Traffic Generation Café has some ways to hack the blog-posting process, and Jeff Goins has a good basic framework to get you started.
- Work Your Social Networks.
There are practically limitless social channels – from Instagram Stories to Facebook Live to LinkedIn Publisher and more – that you can use to forward your thought leadership efforts. This is where content marketing comes into play, and Stephanie Elsperman at Influence&Co. has some ways to take yours to the next level.
- Invite Others On the Walk.
This is where you get interactive. Let others ask you questions, whether via email or social media or the comments section of a blog. Share content from others in your field, even competitors. Be part of an ongoing conversation. As legendary entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk explains on LinkedIn, you only need to reach one person to have a big impact – if it’s the right person.
As you make your own thought leadership journey, remember: you already are the thought leader you want to be. Your hard-earned knowledge and expertise is valuable – so go out and share it!