Becoming a thought leader doesn’t happen overnight. First and foremost, you need to be an expert in an area. Then, you need to work diligently to establish yourself as an authority in your vertical. You’ll need to publish work, get your voice out there, and have other industry leaders recognize you as an authority.
While that may seem overwhelming, don’t fret, you want to become a thought leader to promote your ideas and help others with your experience. Follow these steps to become a trusted thought leader in your space.
- Establish a Brand Voice that Represents Your Principles
Thought leaders speak a lot about their values and beliefs, and that is honed by their personal brand voice. The principles you wish to represent within your space is the foundation of your voice, the key is consistency, with both your values and your brand. Ask yourself the following questions to develop your authentic brand voice:
- As a leader, what do you stand for?
- What models and beliefs have brought you the most success?
- Beyond your professional or personal success, what are the causes that are close to your heart?
- As a thought leader, how do you want to communicate those ideas?
If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ll likely know that answer to a few of these brand-shaping inquiries. Again, you can’t take an afternoon and figure out your values, its something that’s developed over time.“We almost started with our core values before anything else,” Debbie Evans, the founder of Libertine tells Distilled. “A few years of research had taught me that consistency with those was key to being authentic.”
- Identify Your Niche
In most industries, there are already large power-players that have earned their rights as thought leaders (think Neil Patel in Digital Marketing, Arianna Huffington in Publishing, or Alexis Ohanian for tech startups).
Your niche needs to match your passion because you have to adept in that area, and well-informed on the ins-and-outs and daily updates. You need to be able to provide expert commentary on most (if not all aspects) of your niche.
- Create Value-Driven Content
Creating content is the part where you actually start to get your voice out there. Remember, you’re not creating content just for the sake creating content. Your work needs to be in your unique and concise brand voice, and it needs to offer dynamic value to the reader.
Here are places to publish your work:
- Your company’s internal blog, you’ll want to work with internal marketing on this.
- Create a personal website with a blog.
- LinkedIn is a powerful network for both publishing content and interacting with other thought leaders.
- Medium is an easy publishing tool, that provides a built-in audience, and real engagement.
- Cision’s tool Help A Reporter Outk.a HARO is a platform where reporters ask for expert advice for stories or articles, if you sign up you can get updates and provide quotes for stories. This will help you be featured as an expert opinion in other’s content.
- Guest Posting on other publications will also allow you to spread your content beyond your platforms, this will be easier as you grow your network.
- Promote Your Expertise (Hint: Different than Self-Promotion)
While your expertise should be at the forefront, there’s a fine line between letting your success speak for itself and boasting. Especially when it comes to lending your voice to other publications, 79 percent of editors agree that self-promotion is one of the most common problems with contributed content, according to Influence and Co.
Instead of tooting your own horn, let your experience and your wins speak for you. Do a mental check of your big career or personal successes. What have you done, and done well? Those are the stories and experiences to speak on and draw from, not just yourself in general.
- Use Your Platform to Pay it Forward
A true thought leader wants to better their community, use their privilege and platform to pave a path for future leaders. One way to pay it forward is to establish a scholarship fund. This allows you to tell your story, the struggles you’ve overcome, and how you want to help future students overcome similar obstacles.
Nigel Blythe-Tinker is a successful global businessman and philanthropist, he established his scholarship “to help students who have overcome hardship in their lives and still achieved success by rewarding their efforts and providing financial support.” Scholarships also allow you an annual platform to promote the project, the winners, and the positive effect you’ve had on their lives.
You can, of course, take part in additional community-based charities and causes, but again—be careful of self-promotion.
- Network, Network, Network
You’re not a true thought leader until others corroborate the fact—self-proclaimed thought leadership won’t cut it. Focus on driving genuine connections with those in your industry. Networking has to come from a place of organic connection. You can’t meet new people and ask them to endorse you as a thought leader after a cup of coffee.
You’ll also want to meet and speak with other thought leaders, ask them to mentor you on your journey. Beyond growing your tribe, as you thrive and become a thought leader having a crowd in your corner that believes in you and cheers you on will be a fantastic motivator.
Ready to start your journey to thought leadership?
Becoming a thought leader offers you a platform to convey your beliefs and expertise, help others on their career path, and give back to your community. You’ll need to put in the hours and effort to becoming a thought leader, you’ll need to gain a reputation and prove your expertise. If you follow the above steps, you’ll get there in no time.