Becoming a thought leader might sound daunting, but the good news is you’re already halfway there. An effective thought leader is the best of subject-matter experts and influencers rolled into one.
Your qualifications, area of specialisation and experience mean you’re already a subject-matter expert who uses your critical thinking and listening skills to solve complex problems for your unique client base.
You now need to amplify those skills to cut through the digital noise, differentiate yourself from competitors and establish yourself as a thought leader in your field. Here are some dos and don’ts to help get you recognised.
DO be specific
No-one is an expert in everything. It might seem counter-intuitive, but once you become highly specialised, a new field of expertise opens up and you can become highly prized for your knowledge. The best area of expertise is where your clients’ priorities and your own passions overlap.
Identify specific groups you want to target for thought leadership – for example, industry sectors, target clients or CFOs. This will yield results faster than using a scattergun approach.
Being specific lets you research your targets’ business challenges and concerns more accurately, letting you work out the best kinds of thought-leadership content to produce.
DO identify how and where you want to be seen
Do some research into how your target audience seeks out information and new ideas. What kinds of publications and blogs do they read? What kind of networking events, conferences and educational seminars do they attend?
Use these platforms to distribute your content and establish yourself as a trusted adviser and resource within your community and your field of expertise. Talk about accounting and small business case studies and issues that let people know what’s really involved.
DON’T be shy
Public speaking at events and on panels is as crucial as contributing content pieces for blogs, whitepapers and videos. Feedback and audience questions can be vital sources for new inspiration.
Social media is great for publicising your thought-leadership activities and providing links to your interviews, blogs and writings. Make sure you keep them all up to date and keep them about business, rather than just blowing your own horn.
Don’t forget, too, that being a thought ‘leader’ is all about showing leadership. You can’t just parrot others or always stick with safe opinions. You need to have something relevant and compelling to say, even if it means running the risk of being controversial.
DON’T be greedy
Be an active listener. Being a thought leader means showing that you care about others. Let people know they can come to you when they have a problem, rather than simply using them for marketing and self-promotion.
Be generous with your time, advice and resources. This doesn’t mean you should give everything away. Rather, let people know you’re available for comment on media interviews and industry podcasts, and to speak at events.
Bring others together. You can’t do everything yourself, so don’t try. There is power in creating a thriving business community initiating connections, facilitating links and promoting others.