The term "Thought Leadership" gets thrown around a lot, but what does it mean?
Author and thought leader Adam Grant defined thought leadership as creating knowledge for the purpose of sharing.
When done right, it can be the hallmark of brand reputation.
There are many ways to enable corporate growth. But successful brands now look beyond conventional methods like sales, mergers, new products, and acquisitions to transform their brands and business. They see potential in the power of “sharing knowledge.”
But here’s the catch: To be a great thought leader, you need to create knowledge deep-rooted in unique perspective, experience, and expertise. Not imitate existing thoughts and frameworks.
A study by Survey Monkey and Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media suggests that two-thirds (66%) of marketers prioritize thought leadership in their marketing.
Marketers understand the importance of thought leadership in building brand awareness and lead generation. When you are a thought leader, you inspire trust and credibility which extends to the brands you represent.
In this article, we will guide you through how to be a thought leader in your industry. But before that, who is a thought leader?
Who Is a Thought Leader?
A thought leader is an expert who shares their ideas and experience with an audience for education, improvement, and the addition of value in their industry.
They are in the best position to create and share industry-related values based on their unique experience and expertise.
There are two common opinions on who a thought leader should be.
Some argue that thought leaders should present strong, counterintuitive, and controversial takes on industry topics. Others maintain that they should be subject matter experts (SMEs) and use this position to influence their industry.
Well, the two schools of thought are both on track. Thought leadership should be a mixture of both.
Source: Orbit Media
According to a study by Orbit Media, the best thought leaders are those that are experts in their field.
While public speakers, consultants, and authors must be experts in their fields, here are other attributes a thought leader should have:
Strong opinions: Thoughts and opinions go hand-in-hand. Thought leaders can also be said to be opinionated. They are very vocal about their views and beliefs – even when they are controversial and counterintuitive.
Knowledge: Thought leaders don’t just pop up out of nowhere. They possess the knowledge which makes them the best at what they do. It’s impossible to impact values as a thought leader in your industry if you are not an expert in your field.
Creativity: They should be able to think outside the box. Thought leaders don’t create and share values just for the sake of it, but to surprise and grab the attention of their audiences. They can do this by weaving known elements into a unique style.
7 Ways to Be a Thought Leader in Your Industry
Now that you have a clear understanding of who a thought leader should be, let’s take a closer look at how you can become one.
Pick a Niche That Aligns With Your Passion
The first step to becoming a thought leader is picking a niche that aligns with your interests.
However, don’t pick a niche because you see others thriving in it. Choose a unique niche that is suited to your knowledge and talents.
It helps to start by narrowing down your interest; what are topics you could talk about for hours without running dry? What are the things that get you excited or inquisitive?
Once you have those answers, it’s easier to pick a niche from there.
Storytelling: Take Advantage of Your Own Experiences
We can’t overstate the power of storytelling in attracting attention, building trust, and educating an audience.
Take a moment and reflect on how your journey and experience can inspire the audience.
Tell stories about you, the things you’ve learned, and what brought you to where you are today.
Do Original Research
Conducting original research allows you to come up with unique and strong arguments of your own. It helps you display your expertise by providing groundbreaking insight into your industry or niche.
Doing original research helps you make a name for yourself and the brand you represent. In fact it’s perfect for creating brand awareness.
It’s essential to note that you are not limited to fieldwork or surveys to carry out qualitative industry research.
Start by highlighting industry-related questions your audience might have that have not been answered yet. Tune to social media channels like LinkedIn and Twitter to come up with ways to improve lives and businesses with your services.
Have a Website that Stands Out From Competitors
Thought leaders need a website to share their values and beliefs with their audiences. You could do this with blogs, newsletters, podcasts, videos, or webinars.
You need a website for all of these. Not just any website, but a website that stands out in a competitive market.
Decide on the right platform. It’s important to choose one that’s suitable for you. Medium and WordPress are two popular website options you can explore.
Medium is a freemium platform that allows you to blog for free. It comes with an in-built audience, which may make growing and nurturing your audience easier.
On the other hand, you don’t have to be a developer to make the most of WordPress. It has thousands of plugins that let you maximize the functionality of your website.
Touch on Emerging Industry Trends
The challenges facing audiences are ever-changing. That’s why thought leaders should always position themselves as providing solutions to real-world problems, however and whenever they arise.
To follow the latest industry trends, you could attend events like webinars, seminars, and conferences. Not just to learn from the speakers but also to have discussions with other industry experts at these events.
Put Yourself Out There
To be a thought leader, you need to portray yourself as an expert in your industry every chance you get. Here are some of the mediums you can use to network as an industry thought leader.
Earlier we mentioned the importance of having a website that stands out as a thought leader. You can publish thought leadership content on your website. You could also guest post on other notable publications with maybe a bigger audience in the industry. Always be sure to abide by their publication guidelines.
Attend conferences, seminars, and other industry events. It’s a perfect avenue to network with other thought leaders in-person.
Don’t shy away from public speaking whenever you get the chance.
Be willing to help those that need your help.
In addition, share your values on social media platforms. You could join Twitter communities and spaces, or post content and news about your upcoming events on LinkedIn, for instance.
Strive for Improvement
Lastly, don’t get too comfortable with where you are in the industry. Always strive for growth and improvement.
You can never have all the answers. Therefore, never stop learning. Listening to other experts in your field is a great way to expand your knowledge.
Thought leadership is not an act, it’s more than a status. Before you can be considered a thought leader, you have to put in the work.
First off, pick a niche you are passionate about and embrace your subjective experience. Also, you should be willing to create and share values that would improve the lives of your audience.
And that’s a wrap. We hope these actionable tips will help you kick-start your thought leadership journey.
About the author:
Nikola Baldikov is a SEO specialist and founder of InBound Blogging, specializing in content and outreach strategies. Besides his passion for SEO, Nikola is an avid fan of football and he loves to dance.