Companies and business leaders have been using public relations and thought leadership for decades to build their visibility, status and standing in order to attract new clients and become the voice and authority for their industry.

Now with the advent of social media and the myriad of online communications at their disposal, individuals have the ability to do precisely the same thing … but often for very different reasons.

To find out why individuals want to become thought leaders – other than to sell a product or service – we decided to conduct our own bit of sleuthing. Although we already had our own hypotheses about ‘why’, we were interested in knowing if these matched up with what was actually happening on the ground.

What we found is that there are essentially FIVE key reasons why individuals want to be positioned as thought leaders. Here they are in order of priority

1. Achieve a career advantage for very senior roles

Because thought leadership positions people as the ‘go-to’ experts or authorities in their area of specialisation, ambitious CEOs, senior executives and professionals view this as a wonderful mechanism for improving their career prospects and providing them with an edge in the market.

Unlike personal branding which enables senior people to increase their visibility to some extent, thought leadership enables them to communicate their deep knowledge, innovative ideas and new thinking, cleverly positioning them for their next and  chosen role.

2.Greater visibility for themselves and their research

The second largest cohort looking to become recognized thought leaders are academics and researchers.  Given changes to the way research will be funded, there is now growing pressure on most academics and researchers to increase their visibility and engagement with the outside world (business and industry, the community and government).

However, while the appetite to engage is there, the biggest stumbling block for the majority of academics is not knowing how to manage the thought leadership process themselves and communicate their research, thinking and ideas in a compelling, engaging and easy to understand format.

An additional frustration is the inability to access the media, which can result in academics being overlooked when journalists seek out expert commentary in specific topic areas.

3. Challenge the status quo and people’s view of the world

According to our findings, thought leadership also provides the perfect platform for individuals looking to challenge current thinking, champion change and in the process make the world a better place. By way of example, one of our clients who is the director of a software company, was looking to champion change for his colleagues in the IT sector. He believes that IT professionals are considered ‘backroom’ professionals and rarely have much input into key decision making. He is determined to use his thought leadership status to change that.

4. Early buy-in for products or ideas ahead of going to market

The fourth largest group of individuals turning to thought leadership are start-ups and entrepreneurs looking to increase their visibility, ahead of launching a new service or business.

Their thinking is that by selling their big idea early on, they may attract media attention, secure interest from investors and future business partners … and better still, test the appetite of the market for their product or service ahead of outlaying a considerable fortune!

5. Secure appointments to boards, commissions of inquiry and so on

Another really significant group turning to thought leadership to build their visibility are late career professionals looking for appointments to boards, commissions of inquiry or high-profile appointments. Many lack profile and don’t have vital connections across industry, government or the greater business eco-system.

Also, while boards historically were composed of men from the same background and who in many instances, knew each other (the good ol’ boys club), there is now a growing demand for board members from more diverse backgrounds which means being an acknowledged thought leader would be enormously advantageous.

Thought leadership workshops and coaching

Parker Public Relations teaches individuals how to position themselves as thought leaders and communicate their big ideas, thinking and expertise to the world via training, coaching and mentoring.

In our highly customised workshops we will help you:

  • Determine you purpose and motivation for wanting to be a thought leader.
  • Articulate and define your topic niche or area of expertise.
  • Understand your audience
  • Identify your stories and create a spreadable stream of content that can be used in a variety of ways and across multiple platforms
  • Adapt your thought leadership messaging to your website, social media profiles and other key collateral to ensure it aligns with what you stand for as a thought leader
  • Develop a strategy and action plan for taking your ideas to the world.
  • Develop your personal branding
  • Implement thought leadership communication platforms and appropriate technologies
  • Help you access the media, conference organisers and other critical connections across your industry, government and the community.
  • Develop opportunities to speak authoritatively across your niche, effectively positioning you as the ‘go-to’ person for you thinking, ideas and opinions.

If you are interested in thought leadership coaching or a strategy workshop we’d love to talk with you. To get in touch, contact Wendy at