Thought leadership – what you need to know

By Liz Marchant, director

Thought leadership - what you need to knowThought leadership has become a buzz word over the last few years. Reputation and influence are the new business currencies of the 21st century. In a world of easily accessible information and widespread sharing, thought leaders can wield significant influence over a sector and deliver valuable revenue for their companies.

As public relations consultants we’re often asked ‘how can I become a thought leader’? There is no easy answer or magic pill. In reality, many thought leaders are born, not made. That’s not to say that you can’t develop thought leadership. If you are trying to create thought leaders in your business there are several factors you should keep in mind.

It takes time and commitment
Thought leaders are not made overnight. To be a thought leader you must build trust and credibility with your audience. That takes time. This is especially true for thought leaders who work for the lesser-known companies in their sector, who might not attract the assumed credibility and exposure of their better-known counterparts.

Becoming a thought leader requires time commitment. Researching, developing and publishing ideas can be a slow process. Businesses should be realistic about these requirements.

You must have something interesting to say
To some extent, thought leaders must be willing to but themselves on the line. If you’re going to stand out from the crowd and make people listen, the status quo simply won’t cut it. As the name suggests, thought leadership is all about original thought and opinion. You will never become a thought leader by regurgitating other people’s opinions.

That’s not to say you have to have a completely new concept to become a thought leader. You can have a new take on existing information. The most important thing is that whoever is reading your content, feels like they really get something valuable from it. Something that makes them think about the topic in a new way, or re-think their opinions. This is what will keep people coming back to read your blogs, listen to your podcasts or read your whitepapers. This is vital as ultimately it is peers who decide who the thought leaders are.

It’s not for everyone
Thought leadership isn’t easy and it won’t suit everyone. Although a thought leader can be supported and helped to grow, the fundamentals have to be there. The best thought leaders have both original thought and an ability to express themselves and their ideas in an interesting, clear way. If either factor is missing, becoming a thought leader will be an uphill struggle.

For the people who get it right, thought leadership can bring real value to the individual, and their business. It can build credibility, raise both personal and corporate profiles and increase revenue. Done correctly, thought leadership can change the fate of a company. For this reason, it will continue to be a buzz word for some time.

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