In recent years, thought leadership has transformed from a trendy phrase into a legitimate tool to build a business and personal brands. The insights of thought leaders are trusted and extremely valuable to others and help establish themselves as the go-to people in their respective industries. With a wealth of opinions readily available on social media, proving your status as an influencer in your industry with ACTUAL VALUABLE INFORMATION is the most effective way to stand out in a crowded market. Although the process of becoming a thought leader takes time, following these four strategies will put you on the path to success.
What is Thought Leadership?
At its core, thought leadership is a marketing strategy that focuses less on content that sells and more on content that establishes you as an expert in your field. The goal is to answer questions that those in your target audience are asking. You will still have opportunities to feature your service or product, but before that, you need to build trust and recognition as an intelligent, experienced and helpful leader within your space.
1. Build Thought Leadership Through Interviews and Media Engagements
In order to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry, you need to reach your target audience. This is where the media can help amplify your message as well as your brand. From traditional channels like newspapers, magazines and morning TV shows to growing mediums like podcasts, there are many avenues for you to reach and, in turn, influence others.
It’s important to note that media engagements will take some work on your part, especially in the early stages of your thought leadership. You’ll need to pitch your story to the media and journalists, build trust and make the case for why you should be featured in an article or interview. The influx of different channels helps tremendously in these efforts. If mainstream stations or publications are uninterested, focus on a niche publication that targets your industry. With patience and consistency, partnering with the media will help you get in front of your audience and establish your place as a thought leader. Once you are featured, it’s more likely other journalists or publications will become interested in connecting as well. But, remember, journalists can pick up on a fake a mile away. You’re only a thought leader if you truly showcase expertise in your field and offer valuable insights and opinions.
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2. Establish Your Brand on Social Media and Blogs
While media engagements require cooperation with a journalist or publication, social media and blogs allow you to get in front of your audience on your own terms. However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll want to post and share content on a whim. Creating a content strategy is an important step toward gaining trust with your audience while establishing yourself as a thought leader.
First, you have to determine your audience. These are the prospective customers that you are trying to reach. Who are your customers and what questions are they asking? Once you establish this, you can begin the process of crafting content that is targeted to this group. This step will also reveal which channels you should use to deliver your message. For example, if your target audience is senior citizens, you’ll want to focus on blogs and Facebook more than Twitter or Snapchat.
Regardless of how and where you are publishing your content, it’s essential to establish your frequency. You want to publish often enough that people remember you and identify you as an influencer, but you don’t want to flood your followers’ timelines with content lacking research and relevance just to hit a number. Each post should add value and include a call to action.
Another important concept is brand voice. Understanding how to find your brand voice can help improve the quality of your blogs and social media posts. This means injecting your personality into your content, which helps to create a connection with your followers and be more memorable than just regurgitating some industry thoughts.
3. Reach New Audiences Through Speaking Engagements
One search for “thought leaders” on YouTube will present hundreds of videos that feature speeches from various influencers across a wide variety of industries. Speaking engagements work because they allow you to share a message with a specific audience free from other distractions. Publications and social media will have other articles, stories or posts surrounding yours, which compete for attention. With a speech, it’s just you in front of a crowd showcasing your authority within your industry.
Seminars and conferences focused on your industry are the most ideal settings for delivering this message because they are filled with attendees that are eagerly awaiting your message. However, there are other ways to share your thoughts verbally such as a vlog or hosting your own podcast. Any medium that allows you to speak passionately about your industry will go a long way toward proving your status as a thought leader.
4. Consistent Engagement with Op-Eds or Columns
While daily and weekly newspapers once owned the op-ed space to shape ideas and influence communities, new digital channels have significantly expanded opportunities to reach new audiences. Even if your local newspaper editorial sections don’t reach the same size audience as they did 10 or 20 years ago, there are other websites and niche publications eager for quality content that may be happy to share your insights with their readers. Remember, the focus isn’t always on the number of readers as much as reaching the right readers.
Identify what publications your ideal audience is reading and reach out to their editorial teams. Many may already have an established opinion section or would be happy to share your thoughts in a column (with a valuable link back to your website).
Take an issue or debate in your industry, choose a side and express your thoughts clearly and effectively. This will make your writing stand out and an editor feel compelled to include your op-ed in their publication. Once your op-ed or column is published, then be sure leverage your media by posting it on other channels like social media, and include a link on your website and advertise it as much as possible. Even though an op-ed is different from a reporter citing you in a news story, you still benefit from having your name and ideas associated with a respected publication.