Unless you’re a professional nose for perfumes or an astronaut, it’s unlikely you occupy a rarefied field of endeavor. For the vast majority of professionals, millions have the same job titles, qualifications and even skill sets.
However, this ocean of sameness needn’t be your destiny. With some planning, you can create a position for yourself where you are in a ‘category of one’. And the way to do this is by establishing yourself as a thought leader.
Far from being a bid for vanity, positioning yourself as a thought leader is an act of service to others.
For starters, as a thought leader, your online presence makes you accessible. Who wants to spend more time than necessary searching for someone who has a solution to their problem?
Secondly, the time and intention taken to establish a profile as a thought leader means that you reassure your prospective clients. Trust and credibility are non-negotiable elements in selling. Consciously creating a profile as a thought leader embeds trust and credibility from the first interaction anyone has with you.
The media is an essential part of a robust thought leadership strategy
You can’t become a thought leader because you have brilliant ideas swimming around in your prefrontal cortex. You can only be considered a thought leader when you step into the public domain.
Thought leadership is about putting forth your ideas, frameworks, strategies and forecasts – about where your industry is going – into spaces where other people can find them. This is how you attract prospective clients who resonate with your ideas.
Here is where the media comes in.
Don’t believe the negative hype about the media. Publishers still have huge, and growing, readerships. And podcast listenership figures continue to break records.
Sharing your unique ideas with the media will do three things for you:
- Introduce you to new audiences at scale.
- Differentiate your personal brand.
- Build authority by having your ideas published on a third-party platform.
Building communities is easier when you share your thought leadership
A lot gets said about building communities in marketing. But just because you have followers doesn’t mean you have a community.
When you share your thought leadership ideas, you begin to create a community of individuals who resonate with what you are saying.
Followers might like your content. A community, on the other hand, is all about building feelings and solidarity around an individual or group of people.
Clear examples are the many thought leaders building strong personal brands on LinkedIn. The communities growing around these individuals are cheering on both the thought leader and their fellow community members. There are real emotional bonds present.
The top five things aspiring thought leaders need to do to raise their profile
Establishing yourself as a thought leader doesn’t happen haphazardly, and therein lies the value. You need to follow a strategy to stake your claim as an authority worth listening to.
These five steps will help you get started:
- Invest in professional photos. Headshots are a must, but have some action shots taken, too. These have immense power to open media doors.
- Optimize your social media profiles. Editors, journalists and podcast producers will check your social media presence to get a sense of who you are and what you do.
- Identify your three main messages. You can convey your three main messages a thousand different ways, but you need to have three clear messages you stand for.
- Network. Whether it’s online or offline (preferably both), networking is essential as a thought leader.
- Create content. Don’t underestimate the commitment involved in becoming a thought leader. You’ll need to be publishing content on a regular basis. There are systems for how you can do this to keep your content output from becoming overwhelming. But make no mistake, content creation and thought leadership go hand in hand.
Your social media presence can unlock benefits as a thought leader
In early 2022, Harvard Business Review published an article entitled "Traditional B2B Sales And Marketing Are Becoming Obsolete."
The article went into depth about how B2B clients want to access information in places and at times that suit them. That doesn’t always mean your website or at an appointed webinar/seminar your sales team is running.
Your prospective clients are on social media.
LinkedIn might be the obvious B2B social media platform, but B2B thought leaders are also making Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and TikTok their own.
You don’t need to be on every social media platform. However, you do need to seriously commit to the one (or few) platforms you do decide to be on.
Your social media presence enables you to:
- Test and refine your messages.
- Build an audience. (Helpful for when you write your book!)
- Earn the attention of the media. An active and engaging social media presence signals to editors that you have a story to tell that others want to hear.
Being a thought leader is about more than a marketing strategy
There are undoubtedly benefits of a commercial nature to be had by being a thought leader.
This is a good thing. Prospective clients are people who have a problem they’re looking for a solution to. If you have this solution, the financial transaction is in both parties’ interests.
But thought leadership is not the exclusive domain of late-stage capitalism. It’s also a mechanism by which you can bring about real change in the world.
Perhaps you have insights into ways to create thriving corporate cultures? Or expertise on the insider secrets that can get a startup funded? Or you have a framework that reduces the overwhelm new executives feel stepping into their first C-suite role?
These are just three examples, but you can see how they illustrate a different way of doing things.
No doubt, your ideas and insights are powerful disrupters of the status quo, too. Now you need to put them into the world. And the way to do that is by stepping into your full power as a thought leader.
Claire Mason is a Thought Leadership Publicist. She works with CEOs, founders and executives to translate their vision into globally recognized thought leadership.