Thought leadership can be a very effective marketing tool but successfully implementing a thought leadership strategy is a lot harder that it sounds.
A thought leader is someone who, based on their expertise and perspective of an industry, offers unique guidance, inspires innovation and influences others. Their views on a subject are taken to be authoritative.
To become recognised as a thought leader by your peers, you are going to have to write, speak, produce content such as video, be interviewed and produce original ideas about the topic you want to specialise in. You need to be passionate about your topic or you are unlikely to succeed in becoming a thought leader in that area. Focus on a niche area – if your topic is too broad or is already covered by lots of other industry experts, you risk getting lost in all the noise.
Once you have identified your topic, consider the angle. Are you going to challenge conventional thinking? Have you got an original idea that helps you to stand out? Go beyond just collecting and disseminating existing information into useable chunks for your audience. Look at your target market – what challenges do they face in their business or personal lives. Perhaps there is a gap where your firm’s product or service can help? Consider how you could go about educating your target audience in a way that adds value for them. Social media makes it easier than ever to disseminate thought leadership material. Start by producing a blog on LinkedIn. Set yourself a target to update your LinkedIn blog once a month, focussing on expressing and articulating your thoughts on your chosen topic in way that is relevant to your target audience.
Carry out research that relates to your topic, you could perhaps create your own online survey. Use that research to substantiate your point of view. Draw on your own customer data and use this to develop your thinking and report on your results. Over time, you will start to gain some recognition among your target audience. As your reputation builds, expand your range of communication channels to include articles for industry magazines, e-news updates, newsletters and posts on your company website.
Make yourself available to speak at industry conferences and be open to responding to enquiries from the media and trade press. The more you put yourself, your content and your views out there, the more your reputation will grow and develop. Make a point of sitting down at least once a year to create, review and update a rolling thought leadership plan. Consider what it is that you are trying to achieve and set out your objectives for your thought leadership in order to support your overall goals.