The phrase thought leadership has been trending for several years in the marketing arena. A thought leader is an individual or brand that’s recognised as an authority on a specific topic and whose expertise is keenly followed. The benefits of being a true thought leader are immense. Along with global recognition comes increased consumer trust, increased website traffic, higher conversions and better brand perception.
Thought Leadership Stats
Becoming a thought leader takes dedication and a lot of work, so is it worth it? The answer is yes. Look at the latest stats on thought leadership:
Thought leadership has a greater impact on potential buyers than all other forms of content marketing.
47% of execs and decision makers said thought leadership content had a direct impact on awarding business.
35% of B2B buyers spend 1-3 hours per week reviewing thought leadership content.
83% of buyers believe thought leadership builds trust in an organization.
American consumers say authenticity is the top quality that would attract them to a brand.
But beware.The above stats refer to thought leadership that’s been done correctly. The opposite can happen when it’s not:
49% of B2B buyers said their opinion of a company decreased after reading poor quality content.
One third of B2B buyers removed a company from consideration based on its thought leadership output.
63% of global citizens say CEOs are not at all or only somewhat credible.
If you see yourself as the next Seth Godin, Elon Musk or Simon Sinek, then there’s work to be done. Here’s our 5-point guide to becoming a thought leader.
#1 Create Your Personal Brand
Before we start out on our guide to becoming a thought leader, let’s start with the obvious question. Should you be a thought leader? Here are some essential checkpoints to review:
· You’re knowledgeable in your field of expertise
· You like helping others to succeed
· You enjoy sharing knowledge and insights
· Communication is your strong point
· You’re prepared to put in extra hours to succeed
· Your views and manner are not antagonistic
If you tick all these boxes, then you have the foundations needed to become a thought leader. So now you should consider your personal branding. Personal branding is the process of understanding who you are and what you represent so that you can become a thought leader with individuality. A key mistake many make is to create an alter ego of themselves to propel into the public space. Your audience will see through it quickly and it will be uncomfortable for you to maintain. Instead you need to analyse your existing qualities and look to amplify the right ones.
ü Think about your style – are you humorous and relaxed or formal and professional?
ü Consider your goals and motivations- what do you want to achieve through thought leadership?
ü Is your physical style representative of your thought leadership goals?
#2 Know (And Love) Your Niche
Knowing and loving your niche subject is key to your success as a thought leader. CEOs are often known for being avid readers and repeaters of ideas within Forbes, Huff Post and Bloomberg. But this is not thought leadership. Demonstrating a genuine knowledge and flair for your sector is essential in order to attain thought leadership status. And there are thousands of niches available to you. We often hear about marketing thought leaders. Perhaps because they are skilled at marketing themselves and their ideas. However, each sector has hundreds of thought leaders each specialising in a niche area.
Thought Leader and Chief Executive Officer at Maori Women's Development Inc
Teresa has 12+ years’ experience in corporate banking with CITIBANK. She was responsible for major corporate clients in New Zealand that were focused on global cash management. This enabled Teresa to travel extensively giving her a good grasp of the international arena and its diverse cultures.
Thought leadership arena
Teresa uses her considerable financial expertise to improve Maori economic development. Her thought leadership extends to non-profit, business planning, operations and life coaching with an emphasis on business and leadership coaching.
Be passionate about your niche subject and keen to explore new solutions surrounding it.
Regardless of your educational background, never stop learning, researching and expanding your knowledge.
Don’t try to cover a huge sector such as finance. It isn’t possible to be an all-round thought leader in loans, banking, stock markets, fintech, the economy and every other sub niche. Choose your area and be an expert in it.
#3 Find Your Home On Social Media
The best thought leaders in the world are at home on at least one social media platform. This is an essential part of becoming a thought leader because the benefits of leveraging your ideas on social media are immense.
For every niche topic, there’s an audience waiting to hear your ideas
It’s free to share your ideas and insights on social media
You can connect with other thought leaders and enjoy leadership opportunities
Answering questions and interacting with followers is easy
You can stay updated with the latest news and events in your sector
Tools like live video help to create authenticity for thought leaders
Happiness Project- Gretchen Rubin
What Gretchen Gets Right
As an active LinkedIn user, Gretchen has 2.6 million+ followers
Every day she shares two trending articles on the topic of mindset
She regularly tweets and answers followers on Twitter
She maintains a positive and upbeat tone to her posts
She blogs regularly on engaging and thought provoking topics
In an interview with the Huffington Post Gretchen said, “Getting responses to what I’ve written has enormously deepened my understanding of my subject. When I have a new idea, I throw it out there, and people tell me whether it rings true or not.”
Many thought leaders work with social media marketing agencies which is fine. However, you will still need to take an active role in your online persona.
Don’t be too salesy. In fact, try not to be salesy at all. Followers are not there to hear you promoting your latest product or service. Offer real value and the sales will come.
Be consistent. Thought leaders take the time to blog regularly, tweet daily, answer fans and update their channels.
Avoid social media arguments, controversial topics or impolite responses. A quick screenshot can instantly trash your hard-earned reputation.
#4 Get Media Savvy
If you really want to be a thought leader then you need to pay attention to the media. This means ensuring you are accessible and willing to participate in television, radio, magazines, newspapers or as a guest speaker at an expo. As you elevate your thought leadership status, it is likely that you will be invited to participate in more industry panels or opinion pieces. These are essential pieces of your thought leadership pie and shouldn’t be disregarded.
Media appearances can be nerve racking so serious thought leaders may want to work on their posture, speech and onscreen manner. There are many notable thought leaders who identify as being introverts such as Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg and Mark Zuckerberg. So this quality is definitely not a barrier to success.
Example- Warren Buffett
Renowned finance guru Warren Buffett is known as one of the world’s most successful introverts. According to Buffett, when he started out, he had the "intellect for business," but enrolled in Dale Carnegie's, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" course, because he didn't have a business persona.
Always be polite and accessible to the media and never look down on smaller opportunities even if you choose to politely decline them.
Stay on topic and avoid media opportunities that are way outside your field of knowledge.
Circulate your media appearances on social media thanking organisers and acknowledging other participants or sponsors.
Always be polite and helpful when communicating with the media.
#5 Be A Community Player
With power comes responsibility. Indeed, the world’s greatest thought leaders support causes, charities and community projects. Great thought leaders often hold down several additional roles such as charity ambassador, spokesman for a local community project or project advisor to start-ups. This is an exciting opportunity to use your knowledge, expertise and popularity for a greater good. Whether you’re passionate about saving the oceans, educating underprivileged children or helping new start-ups, there’s a space for you.
“Thought leadership is about pushing boundaries and moving the agenda forward.We can’t push an issue forward if we’re afraid to court controversy or take sides. It’s at the brink of provocation that change is brought about.”Lucy Hurst-Brown, Chief Executive of Brandon Trust
A renowned thought leader, Susan is a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Forbes and many more. Susan invests in, and advises women-led technology start-ups, serves on the boards of USA for UNHCR, Girl Rising, The PVBLIC Foundation, and the Lower Eastside Girls Club. Additionally, she is a member of the MIT Solve Women and Technology Leadership Group and serves as an adviser to several nonprofits, including Girls Who Code, Ocean Collective, She’s The First, The Adventure Project, and The OpEd Project. WOW- go Susan!
Great thought leaders pick causes they are passionate about promoting. In turn, people follow thought leaders who positively impact the lives of others, tell stories and share their real-life experiences.
ü Never get involved with a charity if your sole aim is to promote your business or brand.
ü Be prepared to blog, get active on social media and make charitable appearances.
ü Use your thought leadership influence to create new opportunities for individuals and charities.
Thought Leadership- a quick recap
1 . Stay informed and ahead of the curve
2. Use clear, understandable content that everyone can understand
3 . Anticipate changes in your sector and provide insights
4. Use your thought leadership authority for the greater good
5. Lose the ego, bragging and salesy content
6 . Captivate and engage your audience with your ideas
7. Remain humble, adaptable and agile
8. Listen and never stop learning
9. Utilise social media tools to reach your audience
10. Connect with other influencers in your field
Becoming a thought leader takes time, dedication and strategy. If you or your brand wants to take this route, then receiving professional marketing guidance is a good start. Connect with the team at Moondust to discover how we can help you achieve your goals.