How to be a thought leader (at the same time as everyone else)

It’s about being known for your clever thoughts, rather than just being known. When you’re a thought leader, you have earned some genuine respect, and admiration which comes from being innovative and sincere. It’s all very inspirational, isn’t it?

Even more inspirational are the potentially massive business returns. If people admire what you have to say and look to you as an authority in your industry, they will invest in you and trust your brand – no matter if you’re a B2B or B2C organisation.

Now comes the hard part – being the innovative one who stands out over everyone else trying to be a thought leader at the same time. Luckily, we can help with that.

Here’s how to be a thought leader at the same time as everyone else:

He shoots, he scores

As with any strategy, you’ve got to set goals. Otherwise, how do you know you’ve gained thought leader status? You need to be able to tell whether you hard work is paying off, or if you need to adjust your strategy to get your thoughts heard

You need to set KPIs. Whether that’s being quoted in so many media articles per month or getting retweeted a set number of times per day, you need to be realistic. Set yourself milestones and make sure they’re measurable. Maybe save your ‘getting-asked-by-the- BBC- to – give – your – opinion – on – a – story’ goal until you’re a little further down the line.

All of a sudden, the journey to being a thought leader seems achievable, doesn’t it?

Because you’re worth it

For once in content marketing, it’s time to think about what you do rather than your audience. Start with what you know and what you’re passionate about, and you won’t run out of things to say. Stick with your specialities, go niche and try to make sure that you’re saying something different to everyone else. You’ll be surprised just how much you have to talk about when you establish your unique train of thought.

A quick chat

Who is your favourite broadcaster? It could be John Snow or Jeremy Paxman, but both of these seasoned media professionals have one thing in common; they’re not afraid to engage in a debate. It gives them authority, which engages you as a viewer.

The point is that getting involved in conversations and having the confidence to engage in an open exchange of ideas is important for establishing credibility and authority. Rather than merely stating your views to  whoever will listen, develop them more by connecting with others. It’s great to join in with conversation that current thought leaders are having to show you can engage with the big dogs and give your own spin on a topic. Remember, try not to sell something when you’re getting involved with these wider conversations. When people admire you, they’ll seek out what you have to offer, but revealing an ulterior motive turns people off.

How may I help you?

Being known for your well written blog is one thing, but genuinely helping clients with your offering is even more important.

Offering all the help you can for clients is a great place to start, as it’s where you can really put down your thought leadership roots. Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions when you think they can do something better, send emails and letters just to  offer advice and open up conversations, rather than selling them something. You’ll be rewarded with recommendations and referrals.

Get offline

And whilst you’re busy helping clients and getting involved in conversations online, you also need to find sometime to go out and network in person. Try to get yourself out to industry events, and make presentations where you can. Of course, don’t blow your own trumpet, instead gush about the other people you speak to and learn from, not yourself. No one loves arrogance, which leads us nicely on to…

Much more Mr Nice Guy

Where thought leadership is concerned, you need to put politeness and intelligence over arrogance. No one wants to admit they’re arrogant but demanding to be listened to when you haven’t got anything interesting to say is egotistical.

Don’t try and be too clever, just simply be you and be interesting. You want people to think you know your stuff, but not that you’re haughty and out of touch with reality. Being approachable is far easier to respect and admire, and when people genuinely like you, and respect your opinion, they’ll stick with you as you become a thought leader.

That’s enough wisdom for one sitting, now it’s time for you to get out there and earn your stripes. For more information on how to be a thought leader, you can visit Stratton Craig’s website, here.

By Claire Wilson, Content Strategy Director at Stratton Craig