Derived around 20 years ago, the term ‘thought leader’ is typically applied to anyone worth talking about, or the individuals that had a huge influence, impact or success within their industry. It’s arguably a title many business leaders work hard to achieve, however simply being good at what you do isn’t enough to earn it, and ultimately identifies the individuals that are right at the pinnacle of what they do, at the cutting edge of their industry or making waves big enough to raise their profile. Thought leadership demonstrates and creates credibility, visibility and brand loyalty, and is an extremely powerful tool to get your own organisation noticed. Plus it can create supporters who can help grow your business. So how do you go about achieving recognition as a thought leader?
It may seem obvious, but differentiating yourself from others in the industry is a core factor in becoming a thought leader. You need to consider your philosophy, your message, and the outcome you want to achieve. By promoting a different way of thinking you’ll automatically stand out from the crowd, but it’s completely up to you to make a positive impression. Don’t focus on too large a topic or issue to become an expert in, take a niche element of that, something that few others may have covered – and don’t follow the crowd with your thinking either.
The media is one of the most powerful tools you can use to get you and your brand noticed. Talk to editors of the publications read by people in your industry, and offer to contribute content based on your niche. If you’re published in a prestigious industry title, this can significantly increase your credibility. This concept can also apply online too. With social media playing a more integral role in a business’ strategy, having a professional presence online increases your accessibility and can ensure that you’re providing interesting and credible content regularly, as well as constantly engaging with your target audience.
To understand how to promote your niche, you need to connect with your customers to better understand their needs, and identify how your expertise may apply to them and help them. This could be done by conducting some research and finding out what their psychological drivers are, and this would allow you to identify their needs and base your focus on these. By gearing your expertise around your customer’s needs, it’ll automatically draw individuals towards you as they’ll feel that you’ll be able to provide a solution to their issue. It will also show you’re genuinely interested and listening to their views.
Going to conferences and meeting new people can be a great way to promote your ideas, engage with other like-minded people and also educate about your expertise, and speaking at events is a great way to get in front of a captive audience who are already eager to learn (or they wouldn’t be there otherwise). Seek opportunities to attend trade shows, or find slots where you can promote yourself as the expert. Trade events are also a great way to put yourself in front of other influencers in your industry.
One of the key ways to ensure you become an authentic thought leader in your industry though is to drop the promotion of your own company. If you become too sales-focused and reference your own products or services too much, this can seriously dent your credibility and undermine your appeal as an industry expert, plus your peers will see straight through it. But, it’s worth bearing in mind your clients will start to trust and respect you as an industry leader, and in turn your brand will become more recognised, leading to more clients and sales, so softly does it!
By Hannah Noakes, PR Executive
(Connect with Hannah here)