Becoming a thought leader
October 25, 2013
I have been hearing a lot about this seemingly new term “thought leader.” How does one become a thought leader, exactly? I have been in business quite a while and think that I have a unique expertise and so it would behoove me to be seen of as a “thought leader.” But how do I get the word out?
Back when I started writing this column 15 years ago (!), becoming and being seen as an expert (which is really all a thought leader is) was both easier and more difficult.
It was easier because there was less competition. The Web was new, there was no such thing as social media, and as such, those folks who were fortunate enough to have (or get) some sort of platform, as I was, were able to stand out a bit from the crowd.
Of course, things are much different now, and in many ways, the changes make becoming a thought leader more challenging. The biggest difference, as you well know, is that there is just so much competition out there, both in terms of things vying for people’s attention, as well as the number of very qualified people who now have the capacity because of social media to share their expertise.
The good news though is that these days there are no more gatekeepers (or at least a lot fewer). It used to be that editors had to say yes. Producers had to say yes. Secretaries even had to say yes. These gatekeepers made breaking out much tougher. But no longer. Today, anyone has the tools available to establish themselves as a thought leader, and doing so – even with the added competition – can be a very smart business move.
You will make more money. When you go to the market and choose a cereal, are you more likely to choose the no-name generic box, or Cheerios? Exactly. People like brands and are wiling to pay more for a brand. Brands convey quality, people pay for quality, and that is exactly what will happen with you when you begin to establish yourself as a branded expert.
You will get more opportunities: It is both the good news and the bad news about social media that it allows any and everyone a bullhorn. That said, when you do it right, when you have something worthwhile to say and share, people will begin to take note. You will likely get offered business and opportunities that you didn’t even know existed.
It will help your business: Employees and customers alike both will appreciate being associated with a person who is seen of as a leader in his or her industry.
So, all of this then begs the question: How can you get heard above the din and start to get noticed? Here are a few ways:
- Be authentic and have something to say: If you want to be considered an expert in your field, then you better be an expert in your field. You need to know your stuff and be able to communicate it in a unique, valuable, and interesting way.
- Pick a platform, any platform: You can tweet, write, post, pin, comment, share, and blog. You can create videos and e-newsletters. You can self-publish a book.
- Get the word out, again, and again, and again: Here’s the deal: Because there is so much noise out there now and so many people and companies vying for attention, you have to consistently post, and then post some more. Consistency, intelligence, and creativity are key.
- Have a great e-presence: You better believe that once you start to put yourself out there, people will check out your website, LinkedIn page, Twitter profile, and all the rest.
- Finally, remember, it’s about them, not you: What works in this brave, new e-world is giving. It is when you add real value to people’s day by sharing ideas and links and posts that help them in their business or life, then you begin to get noticed and appreciated.
And yes, thought of as a thought leader.
Today’s Tip: If you have ever tried to get publicity for your business, you know it isn’t easy. So how can you pitch effectively? Well, there’s a new book out written by veteran PR agent Ed Zitron called, Here’s How You Pitch. In it, Zitron shares a lot of very valuable tips, such as
- “Be human in your pitch: This is an obvious tip that’s missed by many small business owners and entrepreneurs. You can and will earn loyalty and interest through being a genuine person.
- Keep It Short: The average attention span when it comes to email ranges from short to non-existent. Keep it under 200 words.
- Show you passion: Whatever you write should be passionate, and written as if you’re grateful they are giving you the time of day. Because you should be.”