So you want to become an industry authority and trusted ‘go-to’ for your expertise … but where on earth do you get started on your thought leadership journey? What are the critical first steps?

In this week’s blog, I will talk about that all important planning and implementation phase … about those critical fundamentals you will need to put in place before you embark on your thought leadership odyssey.

Sadly this is the part of the process many would-be thought leaders often overlook in their haste to jump headlong into the more exciting work of spreading the word.

Step 1 – Know your thought leadership purpose

This leg of the journey involves getting to grips with why you want to become a thought leader in the first instance.  What are you key motivations?

Are they about:

  • Building the status and standing of your organisation
  • Creating competitive advantage in order to be more appealing to conference organisers, investors, journalists and customers
  • Getting access to people who can help you make things happen – such as leaders in your organization or community, innovators in your profession or industry, researchers or other important connections in government or regulatory circles.
  • Securing invitations to join corporate boards, serve on government commissions or participate in industry-wide committees
  • Shaking up your industry or profession, or
  • Changing the world and making it  better place

Step 2 – Define your thought leadership niche

Next, you need to determine what is it that you want to be known as a thought leader for?

What nugget of knowledge do you have that others don’t or what can you can provide a new perspective on?

Do keep in mind your niche does not have to be about topics that relate specifically to the business you operate in. It can be about your stance on an issue or something you wish to crusade on.

Once you’ve determined what ‘it’ is, find out who else is talking on that same topic. If there are others, you should be looking at taking an alternative standpoint or presenting another argument. Basically you need to have something to say that sets you apart from your competitors and other thought leaders out there.

Ideally stick to one topic. Trying to be an expert on a multitude of topics is a recipe for disaster. Opt for that one thing and dominate it!

Step 3 – Understand your audience

Understand the profile of the people you are speaking to – their professions, industry they work in, their geography, level of education, interests and age.

Also, do you have multiple target audiences – maybe business as well as consumers?

Another element of knowing your audience is getting to grips with where they hang out and what they are consuming.

While a significant proportion of audience engagement strategy is primarily online these days I do tend to be a strong advocate of both on and offline communications – blogging, social media, podcasts, videos, email newsletters, traditional media and publicity, conferences and events, whitepapers, business books and guides as well as training and mentoring.

My advice is to pick your handful of channels and do them really well!

Now is also an opportunity to talk about how often you should be out there taking your message to the world. As a rule of thumb, I’d be:

  • Blogging weekly. This could include both podcasts and video.
  • Engaging on social media wherever appropriate, potentially daily
  • Approaching the media monthly or whenever an opportunity presents itself
  • Getting onto the talk circuit at least 4-6 times a year

Step 5 – Determine your thought leadership content

This will involve a little sleuthing. You will need to know what your audience is talking about – what keeps them awake at night, what their pain-points are, what mistakes are they repeatedly making and how can you effectively plug their knowledge gaps?

Also think about those unanswered questions surrounding stories and news in your field of work and research and look to answer those.  In addition, figure out why people are coming to you for information, and capitalize on that.

Familiarize yourself with the emerging issues, trends, threats and disruption facing your industry and think about how best you can help your audience prepare for these eventualities.

One of the best ways of building great thought leadership content is to produce deep research on your niche topic. This will give you a depth of knowledge that no one else has and can become the basis for future blogs, media releases, articles, social media posts, white papers, public speaking presentations, podcasts, even a business book.

Step 5 – Brand yourself as a thought leader

No, I’m not telling you to ‘call’ yourself a thought leader (that is an absolute no-no) but to ensure your communications’ platforms – website, social media platforms – and other collateral look professional and reflect what you stand for as a thought leader.

  • Your website should be professionally written, easy to navigate, intuitive.
  • Once your website is up to snuff, run through your social media with a fine-toothed comb. If you have a logo, make sure it appears wherever you do, across all social media platforms. Use the same colour scheme, the same tone, even a version of the same short bio for LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever platforms you use to make yourself visible online.
  • Ensure your bio highlights your accomplishments and career skills while also articulating the value, expertise and insights you bring to your industry or community.

Only once your platforms are well established, it is time to build your buzz and begin taking your thought leadership message to the world.

Get started on your own journey. Join our Thought Leadership Masterclass at Hub Melbourne on Tues, 19 September.


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