Thought Leadership is one of the most widely used, often abused and least understood communications tactics available to the marketplace. There’re differing opinions about what it is and fuzzy expectations about its benefits.

Our simple definition is that thought leadership is a sophisticated communications strategy used by individuals, businesses and organisations to build credibility by becoming the recognized expert or go-to resource in their industry or field.

It is this credibility that gives potential buyers the confidence to do business with you and media and conference organisers the preparedness to reach out to you. They want to know that the person or organization they’re dealing with or turning to for commentary or inviting to headline a conference is good at what they do and worth taking a risk on.

However to better understand the concept; let’s examine the behaviors that go against the spirit of thought leadership … in other words the big NO-NO’s of thought leadership.

The tell-tale signs you’re not a thought leader

You call yourself a thought leader

I must admit I have the urge to physically gag whenever I see or hear people give themselves that title … worse still, call themselves “visionaries.” Thought Leadership is not something YOU claim. It’s a title the marketplace bestows on you as a result of your knowledge and insights. It is something that is earned over time … bottom line, an unofficial status that’s assigned to you by other people.

You focus on the hard-sell

While I accept that most people are not in thought leadership for purely altruistic reasons and expect a return on your investment, show your audience that you’re in it for them, not just for personal profit. Rather than talking up your business’s products and services, provide your audiences with useful information, recommendations and advice and ensure that the way you deliver your content encourages a two-way conversation and that what you deliver, always adds value.

Your thought leadership has no purpose or intent 

Many people assume that what matters to them also matters to their audience and that sharing ideas on such topics will position them as thought leaders. Sorry it’s the other way round. It’s about getting to grips with the big challenges facing your customers, your industry and eco-system and providing the solutions and answers to those pressing problems and urgent questions. Doing this provides the foundations for long-term thought leadership.

You are an expert on too many topics

I get that it is very tempting to claim to be an authority on multiple subject areas. However this will not only confuse your audiences but will require you to be the expert across all these areas … in theory fantastic but in practise a nightmare. It is impossible staying abreast of what is happening in multiple areas. You not only risk diluting your authority but at times may appear a bit of a fraud. You are better off selecting the one or two niche topics where your expertise really shines, then zeroing in on these areas.

Your content is not original 

Thought leadership is about producing original content, not regurgitating what everyone else is saying out there. So avoid repurposing “archived” content (that’s other people’s thinking) and present your own ideas and experiences. The best mechanism for doing this successfully is to inject yourself into your stories and talk about your own experiences, what you’ve learned and the lessons you can pass on.  Remember, thought leaders drive the conversations … they don’t simply contribute to it!

You focus on being too perfect

No one is perfect … not even thought leaders! In this modern age, people want to follow people who are genuine and real, not larger than life. They want to know about your failures and where you have gone wrong … and importantly how you have learned from the process. Mistakes, mishaps and shortcomings are often teachable moments. Sharing failure stories reminds others that even big dogs have bad days. Your audience will feel closer to you and is more likely to listen to your insights and advice.

You expect instant gratification 

If you’re looking for instant gratification, and don’t completely believe in the long-term value of thought leadership, you are better off not bothering. Thought leadership is very much about the long-game. It takes time to establish yourself as the go-to authority in your industry or field so expect to be there for the long-haul.

And for those who stay the distance … the rewards are considerable!

Parker Public Relations helps individuals and organisations position themselves as authorities or thought leaders, strengthen their online presence and communicate their thinking and big ideas effectively.

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