Since the term “thought leader” was coined in business circles some 20 years ago, many business-to-business companies and executives have yearned to be thought leaders in their industries.
By definition, a thought leader is a person (or entity) who is recognized by peers for having progressive and innovative ideas, and who shares these ideas and helps to effect change with those ideas.
It’s not enough to develop great ideas. To be a thought leader, you need to be recognized for having great ideas, and you need to share and champion these ideas through effective communication.
Of course, in today’s world, this communication includes a full range of earned and owned media activities – PR approaches such as publicity, social media, speaking and blogging, to name just a few. And ultimately, recognition of a thought leader builds and gains momentum as media coverage and visibility are generated and sustained.
Here are seven things that can help you (or your boss) to become recognized as a thought leader:
- Create a viewpoint – Thought leaders have a viewpoint that helps shape their story and puts the facts and numbers into context. They provide insight and perspective on key issues, they offer opinions, and they foster a discussion around an issue.
- Lead a movement – Thought leaders become advocates for a cause that can help a group, an industry or a country. They educate us on a problem or issue, shed some light for us on the pros and cons, and lead us to explore the possible solutions. They urge us to take action.
- Show us the future – Thought leaders show us their vision, offer a forecast or make a prediction … and they persuade other people to share it, embrace it and support it.
- Make it personal – Thoughts leaders build their viewpoint and vision around their personal beliefs and life philosophy. They are credible because they are authentic; they don’t just talk about someone else’s solution, they own it, they feel it, they live it. They are committed.
- Get yourself out there – Thought leaders are pro-active; they put themselves out there. Their PR teams can help them find opportunities to push their viewpoint – such as speaking engagements, op-ed placements, guest columns, articles, blogs and vlogs, news releases, media interviews, etc.
- Make yourself available to media – Thought leaders take on the mantel of experts; they make themselves accessible to journalists and analysts and are ever-ready to provide quotes, color, context, clarification and perspective.
- Capture their attention – Thought leaders use word devices to gain attention and stay top of mind. They prepare sound bites, use controversy and paint mental pictures. They employ plain language, analogies and anecdotes to bring their point to life. They create a buzzword or catchphrase that capsulizes their view in a memorable way.
Think of the executives you view as true thought leaders. Which of these tactics do they use? And which of these tactics could work best for you?