We interact with different people every day, some of which educate us on how to do things, some encourage us to venture out of our comfort zone, some simply inform us of the latest news or their opinion on a particular topic. But how many of these people have truly inspired you and how many of them have made you switch off, and why?
Businesses are investing money, time and energy in further developing the skills of experts within their organisations. They appreciate that showcasing individual’s expertise needs careful consideration, and by promoting their gurus’ expertise and opinions, they can build brand strength and grow their business.
The key to becoming a thought leader is to appear genuine and not sales driven. Your aim should be to build your audiences trust so they respect you as a thought leader. As well as coming across as knowledgeable you must offer them solutions to their problems without mentioning your brand (company/products/services). It requires effort to help shape people’s perceptions to ensure that your brand, products or services is the first that springs to mind!
Here’s 5 tips to help you get started:
By writing informative and ‘opinion piece’ blogs, it demonstrates your knowledge of the industry you operate in, expertise of the product or service you promote and helps with visibility of your brand. You can use this content to raise awareness in industry publications, encourage engagement on social media channels and to also drive traffic to your business website.
2. Social media
Be active on social media, not only to share your own posts but to keep in touch with what your audience is talking about. By joining industry groups and participating in group discussions you will be seen as an expert and trusted for your advice. Once you are familiar with your audience’s challenges, you can then create your own group discussions and debates. This will give you valuable insight and further opportunities to help your audience. Provide benefit led responses to any questions asked, offer useful hints and tips and share your experiences of lessons learned. Where possible link your responses to relevant blog posts you have written. Take a look at discussions, questions being asked and what’s trending on Quora, Facebook, LinkedIn Answers and Twitter.
Keep up to date with industry news so you can form relevant opinions and hold topical conversations with your connections. By subscribing to news alerts these are fed directly to your inbox as and when news happens.
You could also benefit from a mentor as they will help to figure out your strengths and weakness to further improve your skill set. They also usually introduce you to other influential and knowledgeable professionals.
As well as connecting with your customers and key target audience, you should look to unite with other thought leaders. LinkedIn is the most obvious channel in which to do this, however, another really effective way is by attending networking events. Developing these networking relationships plays an integral role in getting ahead, because who you know is just as important as what you know.
The more you engage with your audience, you will see that they share similar challenges and pain points. Industry event organisers seek to answer these at their annual exhibitions, conferences and seminars. Look for industry events where your audience frequent and ask the event organisers for speaking slots. Often these are paid for opportunities however as you build your reputation trade associations and event organise will begin to approach you.
Working with your marketing team to run your own regional events is ideal as you can choose your own agenda and invite your key customers and prospecting customers. These events can be filmed to produce videos and run webinars for those that could not attend the initial event.
You must deliver a story for your audience. There’s nothing worse than a poor speaker, so invest time and effort in ensuring that your presentation, communication and media skills are good. Public speaking should not be underestimated – it is not easy!
As well as blogs, press releases, eBooks, whitepapers, videos, infographics, case studies, personalised newsletters and opinion piece feature articles are all ways to further share your knowledge, give advice and show that you understand the market that you operate in.
A good way to generate content ideas is through structured brainstorming, or going back to basics and reviewing your businesses SWOT always throws up new ideas. Work with media partners to hold round table discussions which inform multi-channel integrated campaigns.
By looking at forthcoming feature articles in industry-leading publications, you will be able to see what the ‘hot’ industry topics are and align yourself to these.
For some more inspiration take a look at some of these thought leaders:
• Richard Branson
• Pam Dyer
Remember, as soon as you start to promote your business you will lose credibility. Gain and maintain trust and you will see indirect results. However, it is also important to know that the results will be long term. Thought leadership is about developing relationships over a period of time, it’s not a quick fix. If you get it right and combine thought leading activity alongside marketing campaigns and advertising, you will be sure to see an increase in engagement with your brand.
If you’d like help becoming a thought leader or would like PR and marketing support for your business you can contact me on LinkedIn, or by calling (+44) 01635 898 364.