Up Your Thought Leadership Game in Four Ways

When I read this Forbes article on 2016 PR trends, I was ecstatic. Perhaps because it confirmed my PR fortune telling capabilities, but mainly because what's highlighted in each of these trends is something that’s bringing in the most PR visibility for my clients: Thought Leadership

As brands of all sizes struggle to cut through the clutter among today’s highly saturated influx of messages and media, most teams are starting to believe that the more money they spend, the more chances they have of getting their brand's message heard.

This is what ad agencies want you to think - but it is absolutely not true. 

Demand Metrics says positioning teams as thought leaders in marketing strategies generates 3 times as many leads and costs 62% less than normal marketing methods.

As John Hall points out in the Forbes article above, “Wouldn’t you rather become a keynote speaker because of your industry leadership and earn an invitation from an event organizer than pay $30,000 for the speaking gig?” 

The most effective way for brands it be heard is to position their team as authentic, passionate thought leaders both online and offline. If you’re not already positioning yourself and your executive team as industry experts, you’re behind the curve, no matter how big of a brand you represent. Here are four tips to up your thought leadership game.

1. Be authentic, give your opinion
Authenticity is by far the cornerstone of effective branding and positioning. In fact, it's proven to directly correlate to greater ROI for brands. As a thought leader, your personal brand should be authentic too. That means posting articles you found interesting and why on LinkedIn or Twitter, as well as sharing your lessons learned and things you’re passionate about in a blog post or speaking engagement. 

A past client of mine had an opportunity to contribute to InformationWeek. The article he wrote was a personal story around his journey from a data scientists to a CEO. To this day, the article continues to bring in traffic and garner social shares,  but most importantly, he was asked to contribute ongoing insight in the form of articles for a top trade publication because of his authenticity. 

Consumers want to engage with people, not brands. If VPs, CEOs and CMOS are authentic in a blog post, social media or day-to-day conversation, consumers respect that and want to build their digital community with individuals who embody this characteristic. 

2. You’re the expert, so act like one!
When my clients get the opportunity to contribute trend articles in trade publications, they cringe at what to say when we start to outline the article. It can be intimidating to have to talk like an "expert." Still, executives with 10+ years under their belt have seen a thing or two with the companies they’ve worked for and clients they’ve worked with. 

Today’s consumer feeds off of this information. They want to know where you’ve seen the industry develop, what you see that’s working with your clients or company, as well as where you see the industry headed. When my clients start to answer these questions, a light bulb goes off and they realize they have more things to say than what’s allowed in a 1200-word byline. 

3. Constantly stay educated in your industry
As an executive, time is money and time is also limited. It can be daunting to keep up with financial news, competitor news, politics and now - industry trends? Still, keeping up with what’s happening in your industry is not only vital for thought leadership, but critical to growing your business. 

Part of offering your opinion on a trend is knowing what the trend actually is! When thinking through a speech, byline article or blog, it helps to know what others in the industry are saying about the topic you're about to cover. 

Thanks to the rise of the newsletter, it’s easy to skim the headlines of news and trends happening in your industry. You can also register for push notifications to instantly stay in the know. (P.S. This information is great fodder to share on your social channels or improve small talk with industry stakeholders!) 

4. Engage, engage, engage
It’s common knowledge that most people are disengaged when all an expert does is talk about themselves. That’s why, as a thought leader, it’s critical to engage with other thought leaders. It shows you’re truly passionate about the subject matter and want to collaborate on how other colleagues feel about it. 

Whether it is a speaking engagement or a tweet, don’t overlook the power of asking questions and advice. When other colleagues ask questions, don’t be afraid to offer your expert opinion too. A collaborative dialogue will captivate your audience and make them want to find out more about you as an individual.

Being a thought leader may sound daunting, but it's absolutely necessary to help your brand stand out amidst competition. With a little intuitiveness, authenticity and confidence, you can easily position yourself as a passionate expert in your field. 

Want to know more about crafting an effective thought leadership strategy? Email me.