The term ‘thought leader’ sounds like one of those labels that gets thrown around a lot with no real meaning or impetus behind it. And to a certain point, you can understand that perspective, given how much the corporate world enjoys a buzzword.
But as you look to scale up your business, the idea of becoming a ‘thought leader’ is one that should go from a vague concept to a desirable must-do. And there’s a very good reason why.
At its most basic definition, a ‘thought leader’ is someone who can speak with authority and credibility not just about their own business, but also about their wider industry. It’s the person who can put the ‘why’ and ‘how’ into the ‘what’ and ‘when’ because they’re immersed in so much more than just their own bottom line. Think the real estate agent who can tell you not only that 10 industrial sheds have sold in one suburb in the last three months, but also flesh out that data to explain why the suburb is so popular and why former residential property investors are now also looking to commercial real estate.
In short, they can speak accurately and with authority on wider issues such as trends, policy, history and forecasts.
So why is this important when it doesn’t directly boost sales and revenue? Because it helps position you as the go-to person in your industry, allowing you to be recognised and remembered. And that ultimately will give you the boost – albeit indirectly.
To explain, every day the media produces thousands of stories across all its forms – from online to broadcast and print. And a good majority of these stories will – by necessity – be written by people without the deep-dive knowledge to fully explain the who, what, when, where and why.
In the absence of their own expertise they’ll go looking for people who do have it and can share it in a manner that’s accessible.
So what do these experts get out of it?
Credit and exposure. Two things you can’t buy but which put your name and that of your brand and business in the ears and eyes of the audience – not as an advertiser who paid for their position, but as an expert trusted by journalists to contribute to subject knowledge and understanding.
That makes you the person the audience will then remember and turn to when they themselves are ready to act, for example to buy their own industrial shed in that popular suburb. Which is when you get your bottom-line boost.
So how do you carve out a position as a thought leader? Here are four steps.
- First, book in for some media training so that when the attention comes, you’re primed to present yourself to best advantage, not only in how you come across but also in knowing how to fashion key messages.
- Make sure you are up to date on issues impacting your industry, from government policy updates to sales trends and forecasts. This can involve measures as simple as subscribing to your industry body’s newsletter or making time to regularly have a catch-up coffee, not only with colleagues but also with others working in the space.
- Once you feel confident you can address a broad scope of issues, look at commissioning a media profile that presents your credentials and specialty topics for journalists, commentators and anyone else who covers your industry. This can be sent out on your behalf with an invitation to seek comment on any related story that may arise.
- Get in the habit of reading up on stories and events as they break, making time with each one to analyse the issues and come up with an informed perspective, insight and opinion. That way, when you do get a call, you’re able to speak fluidly and articulately, rather than trying to marshall your thoughts off the cuff. It’s all about creating an information value-add and, if you do this, your chances of being approached again and again rise dramatically. And pretty soon, your name, brand and business will be known as a thought leader across your industry and its audience, which is exactly where you want to be.
Want to discuss media training and speaker profiles, or map out a plan to become a thought leader in your industry? Reach out here.