At WMC Public Relations we are frequently asked to help someone become a thought leader as part of their PR and media outreach program.
Firstly, what is it? I’m happy with Wikipedia’s definition:
A thought leader can refer to an individual or firm that is recognised as an authority in a specialised field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.
The main reason for becoming a thought leader is to raise your profile, which can be beneficial for future career positions, as a consultant or a board member. It can also help grow your company and its brands.
To be considered a thought leader, you need to share your knowledge with your target audience. But not only educate; entertain as well, because no-one likes boring. Therefore, make your content and delivery of it interesting.
So how can you suddenly become a thought leader? You can’t; not suddenly. You need to create credibility over the longer term.
Here are my top 12 suggestions to become a thought leader:
1. Prepare content aimed directly at your target audiences. Start by preparing a list of half a dozen topics and cover the issue/problem and how you believe it is best addressed/overcome. Just jot down in point form to start with to give you the confidence that you have enough material for the many months ahead.
2. Create a strong online presence, starting with a blog, that allows you to publish your informed opinions. You can also guest blog for other popular sites, such as an industry association.
3. Monitor relevant forums with high memberships and answer questions authoritatively. Also you can pose issues and generate discussions. Maintain input and control of the thread. The questions raised can be useful in generating ideas for future content.
4. Write letters to the editor of newspapers, magazines, journals and bloggers and offer intelligent insights.
5. Submit original op-ed pieces (opinion editorials). These work well if it’s in response to a story they have recently published.
6. Comment on articles published by others, both online and in print.
7. Speak at industry and business events, or create your own masterclass for example, where you can express ideas and inspire others to implement them.
8. Publish a book and promote it.
9. Highlight your high profile connections and affiliations. Leverage them.
10. Nurture relationships with the media. Be the go-to spokesperson for your specialty subject, be available and keep in touch with them.
11. Continually engage with your target audiences, such as via regular e-newsletters and posts, along with podcasts, webinars and webcasts (live or recorded). If cost is an issue, look at getting it sponsored by a well respected industry leader.
12. Keep abreast of international trends so you can share your knowledge and thoughts in your thought leadership activities.
When you have established your credentials through the above, it will be easier to get TV and radio interviews and guest spots that your PR agency can organise.
PRO TIP: Social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook (including groups) are beneficial platforms to give advice, provide answers and comment, and share your expertise and knowledge.
Your PR consultant or PR agency is best placed to undertake a thought leadership program for you.
I would welcome any further suggestions.
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