A thought leader is a person who generates new ideas and drives innovation in a given industry. Thought leaders are objectively valuable human resource commodities for any organization, well-respected, charismatic, and revered by customers and peers within the industry. Becoming a thought leader is a legitimately desirable goal for any professional. But you cannot simply wish it to make it so. To position yourself as a thought leader in your industry, you must navigate a branding process to authentically bring yourself to that level. In short, you need to engage in an ongoing series of personal branding strategies, re-define your skill sets, and dramatically and continually expand your professional network. In addition to all of that, you must constantly generate new ideas and improve your name recognition both in and out of your target industry.
The first order of business is to establish your personal brand. “Establish” is the operative word here. Your platform of leadership, excellence, and innovation has to be rock solid before you engage in any hype or marketing campaigns. Don’t wait for others to mislabel you; clearly, define and articulate your personal brand and messages. Develop a marketing-oriented, strategic, and up-to-date website. Do not underestimate the importance of having a professional level, intuitive, and coherent web presence. Once your website is up to snuff, run through your social media with a fine-toothed comb for brand consistency. If you have a logo, make sure it appears wherever you do, across all social media platforms. Use the same color scheme, the same tone, even a version of the same short bio for LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, on whatever platforms you use to make yourself visible online.
Once your platform is well established, it is time to build your buzz. You’ll want to accelerate and expand your brand. It is tempting to overextend in this phase; many people feel like they cannot turn down any opportunity to speak, network, or otherwise promote themselves. However, choosing three to five core tactics leads to a far more sustainable effort. Some options include traditional PR, networking, awards/honors, and publishing or generating content on social media. Speaking, whether on the radio, on a podcast, webcasting, or at a conference, is another option.
Publishing free content is an easy way to establish brand awareness and credibility. The trick is to make sure that your content is high quality. In the heavy marketing era of today, people are being inundated with low-quality content; they appreciate real value when they see it. This can help you establish yourself and connect you with a prospective customer base.
Now, for the magic trick: your transformation from being an authority to being a leader. You have established your reputation as a trusted source of information. You are well connected and well liked. You consistently generate high-quality content. The secret ingredient is "novelty". To become a thought leader in your industry requires, not surprisingly, original thoughts, newer, bolder ideas. And lots of them!