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Leadership Growth

Becoming a Thought Leader

A view in winterWhy you should be a thought leader – in business, the arts, your career, or your hobby. And here’s how to do it:

Listening to a wonderful BBC radio programme about age (do listen to The Invisible Age, Let Yourself Go if you want a really positive perspective on your future), it struck me how many of those interviewed were thought leaders. I don’t suppose any of them would think of themselves in this way, nor set out to be one, but they were interesting people who thought about an aspect of life or their work in a particular and new way and shared their views.

The one who really got me thinking was Ronald Blythe who in 1969 was one of the first to spot that old people were changing – and growing in numbers. He wrote the book The View in Winter giving a new angle on ‘the pattern of our lives’.

Then, he would have had to sell his idea to a publisher, write a book and do a media road-show to get the book noticed and bought.

Now, with social media, you can do all this yourself. Here I want to persuade you that you should be a thought leader – whether you run a business, are on a career path, volunteer for a charity, or have a passion for a hobby. I will look at why you should position yourself and how to do it.

1. What is a thought leader?‘Thought leader’ sounds a very grown-up phrase. But, if you are any good at your job or running a business or working in the arts, you will have thoughts about how things are best done, what the trends are, the problems that customers are facing – and perhaps more to the point, how to solve them.Your expertise and ideas have value. They could get you a promotion, win more customers and get you noticed by the media who are always looking for commentators with strong views.Thought leadership should be part of creating a great personal brand. Karyl Innis also says this is so important for your career. Here’s how to do it.

2. A blog is the heart of great thought leadership.I said above that social media now makes thought leadership really easy. The most obvious first step is to start writing a blog – not on what you did today, but give it a focus and a theme. Here are some thoughts of what you could write about:

  • Trends – I was invited to give a talk on social media for in-house counsel. I did some research before and thought it would interest others to see what percentage of senior people were active on LinkedIn.
  • Tips – my colleague, Ben Pindar, did a blog in September talking about how this was the start of the season for business events. And then gave his tips on organising a good event.
  • Frank Sonnenberg is, according to his Twitter profile, ‘one of the top 100 thought leaders in America’. He blogs about how to make the most of life.
  • Review books – I reviewed a book produced by the PR industry, Share this Too.
  • Share your insights – I am doing this with this blog; I hope it will help you and others to take practical steps to become a thought leader.
  • Predictions – I just did this to say what I think are the business opportunities for 2015.

BloggingYou can also write white papers, carry out research, create an infographic – they will all position you as a thought leader.

3. Promote your blog.

You need to help people find your blog, encourage comments and debate. You can do this by posting the blog on LinkedIn – you may be picked up by Pulse, Twitter, Google+ and other sites.

Ask questions and share views. I did this when a client asked me a question, where should internal communications sit – in HR or marketing? I thought it was a great question and asked for views on Twitter and LinkedIn, got a great response, wrote a blog summing up views and then posted it and personally thanked those who had contributed.

There is another point to all this. If you type this question into Google (where should internal communications sit) you will see it comes top of Google. And if you listen to what your clients and contacts are asking for views on, they become great questions for blogs – and for search engine optimisation (SEO). There are more tips on how to do this in this blog on thinking like a search engine.

And don’t forget the basics – send a link to your blog to clients with a personal note if you know they are interested in the subject. You could tweet or email a journalist if you think you’ve written a particularly good blog with new thoughts. And use a few blogs as part of your credentials for getting speaking opportunities – and winning business.

What do you think – are you already a thought leader and have we missed anything here?

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