When you think of a thought leader, what words come to mind? Expert, Visionary, Inspirational, Passionate, and when done right, Credible. That’s why becoming a thought leader is the first key tactic I want to explore as part of your strategy to build credibility for your company.
But before we can explore how, you need to decide who is the best person to become a thought leader(s) at your company. In some cases, it’s the CEO of your company. But in many cases it’s the founder, the CTO, or some subject matter expert with many years of experience. In addition to knowledge though, this person needs to have all the attributes I outlined at the start plus writing and presentation skills along with a lot of time and true dedication to making the industry better. This role is not for someone who is going to fake it or is not willing to give everything they have to help people so choose carefully.
Finding the right person is not easy but that’s only the beginning. Not surprisingly, creating valuable content, the strategy I wrote about previously, is a major step in helping you become a thought leader. In fact, creating new, relevant and compelling content is the key to being a thought leader so the two are very intertwined. Even if your chosen thought leader is not the only one creating the content, they need to play a key role in generating the majority of it.
In addition to creating and publishing this content, the thought leader needs to get out there and share their knowledge within your industry. They can speak at conferences, write articles or columns for industry publications, become involved in industry consortium or organizations, write a book or industry-focused blog, or become a go-to person for editors and get quoted in articles. All of these tactics help spread your content more widely and raise your profile with your target audience.
The important point with all of this is that you are not sharing a product pitch but instead educating the audience on how to solve your market’s problems in new and compelling ways so you will get calls from editors, get invited to speak at even more conferences, or get other opportunities to share your knowledge and content. No one is going to call if you only talk about your product.
Essentially, you need to build a personal brand as a respected expert on your industry’s trends, with a deep understanding of the problems your target audience faces, and simple, clear solutions to these problems. There are many great example of individuals that have built strong, personal brands and helped their companies become credible through their thought leadership.
One last consideration which I alluded to earlier – if you think this strategy is easy to implement and that you, or the person you selected, has the desire to succeed and the knowledge to share, you must realize that becoming a thought leader and building your personal brand takes an insane amount of time and effort.
You’ll need to continually develop new content to tight deadlines so you get a book published, create a successful blog or write a column in a key publication. You need to travel to many conferences, in some not so exciting locales, not to mention the time it takes to develop the presentation you deliver. You may be interviewed multiple times about a certain topic and only have a small part of that interview appear in the article. It’s all of these tasks and more in addition to your day job, as rarely is the thought leadership role a job in and of itself.
So before the person you choose embarks on any of the tactics listed above to become a thought leader, you need to ask yourself long and hard to see if you have the right person. You need to make sure they have the time, dedication and patience to become a thought leader. If the right person is you, then look in the mirror long and hard to make sure you can handle it.
In the end, being a thought leader is not as glamorous as it first seems but it will bring many rewards to that person and your company by building credibility. And, to all the thought leaders out there that we all learn from, you have my utmost respect and admiration. You make your industry better as a result of your dedication so thank you and please tell us your stories in the comments below.