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When asked “who are you?” you might answer the question by saying “I’m a business owner” and sharing the name of your business and its offerings or services. As a thought leader, you might want to expand on your answer.
Who are you? What is your background? Why did you decide to pursue entrepreneurship? What kinds of successes put you on the map? What challenges gave you an opportunity to grow and overcome hurdles? What advice would you give to someone in your shoes, knowing what you know now?
All of these questions have answers. Each answer contributes to your narrative — and your legacy — as a business owner. Sharing insight and knowledge you learn over the course of your career positions you to become a thought leader within your industry.
Here are a few approaches that will help you get out there as a thought leader and reach your target audience:
Determine your purpose
Becoming a thought leader does not mean spending every waking moment trying to sell your products or services. Save that sort of brand awareness for advertising or marketing campaigns. A thought leader must determine their purpose. Once you have an understanding of your purpose, you may figure out how thought leadership allows you to create a lasting impact.
What is your purpose? These suggestions may provide you with extra guidance:
- Building personal brand recognition. Let’s use the example that your target audience is familiar with your business and its offerings. However, they don’t know much about the company’s leadership. A CEO may utilize thought leadership as a means to create or increase visibility and build upon their personal brand and overall reputation.
- Educating audiences through experience. Many professionals have years of experience in their field. Audiences may not have nearly this much experience and are hungry to learn what they don’t know. Thought leadership allows you to educate others and dig into the gritty details of what it’s like to work and succeed in a specific industry.
- Using content as a teaching tool. Some individuals use thought leadership as a tool to educate readers. Thought leaders may share knowledge about how processes or systems work in their industry. A good example would be my own thought leadership pieces. I write about what it means to incorporate a business and cover details like choosing an entity formation that matter within the bigger picture. Entrepreneurs may read this kind of content and come away from it feeling as though they learned a valuable new term or concept that will allow them to move forward with starting a business.
Content shared by thought leaders comes in all forms, both in the online space as well as offline. Here are a few approaches to creating content that allows you to make a lasting impact on audiences:
- Writing. Think blog posts, articles on third-party websites relevant to your industry, case studies and white papers. Pitch a good idea, research the material and publish the content.
- Audio. Creating a podcast gives you the opportunity to speak at length about a subject you are passionate about. You can build a loyal following of listeners and subscribers. There is no limit to the number of people you may reach with your message.
- Video. Vlogging gives you the chance to educate others, such as showing viewers a step-by-step process for how to put something together or complete a project or task. Some thought leaders may even offer online video courses that teach students at all levels how to master a certain skill.
- Presentations. These may be speeches held in person, roundtable panels hosted alongside other speakers or webinars hosted online. This kind of content gives thought leaders the chance to connect with audiences and to speak among other like-minded thought leaders in the same space. As an added bonus, much of it is usually recorded. This allows viewers to watch it again at a later date.
- Traditional media. Don’t forget about the audiences watching TV shows, reading magazines and listening to radio programs! As you begin to develop as a thought leader, it’s a good idea to build relationships with reporters and journalists to begin getting some of your thoughts and ideas out into media coverage.
Pick a platform
After you determine your purpose and the type of content you’d like to create, it’s time to pick a platform. This is where you will house your thought leadership messaging and ideas and where audiences may be able to easily find you.
Most thought leaders choose platforms that will always be able to house their legacy. The most popular spaces include your website and social media platforms where you may create business accounts. Even writing and publishing a book is a great platform for thought leadership.
Plan for content distribution
After creating this content, you’ll need a plan for getting it in front of your audience.
Typically, the best way to go about this is by using distribution channels. Social media platforms, like LinkedIn and Instagram, allow you to share your content and use relevant hashtags to reach a wide audience. You may also consider starting an email newsletter, encouraging readers to subscribe for updates. Engage with your audience whenever possible, and encourage healthy debates for discussion together.
Key takeaways: Where can thought leadership take you?
As you continue to share your ideas and grow a loyal following, you may find your thought leadership footprint expanding over time. You might become incredibly popular, and the doors may open to many exciting opportunities where fans want you to share your insight.
Don’t lose sight of your purpose as a thought leader. This purpose may shift a bit over time as you continue to learn more and evolve as a person. Remember to be true to the core of your purpose. Lean into what makes you unique and a true expert in your field.