Now you can see the benefits of having an authoritative personal profile offline and online, how do you build one? The bad news is that it isn’t as easy as creating a few paid adverts with google keywords. The good news is, it’s cheaper, more authentic and longer lasting.
The first thing you need to do is identify what you are qualified to talk about. This doesn’t necessarily correlate with your job title or what your business does. Be prepared to be flexible about your thought leadership topics to reflect what the wider public are interested in. Then be clever and marry the two.
For example, I’m an author of a memoir about discovering triathlon in later life and qualifying to represent GB in my age group. My thought leadership topics are not simply ‘running, cycling, swimming.’ If they were, I’d have a limited audience.
I delved deeper into my story to find themes that resonate with the zeitgeist: How women are put off sport because getting grubby doesn’t fit with aesthetic feminine ideals, how we can overcome self-limiting beliefs, the wholesome effects of outdoor sport, how extreme endurance training has increased my mental resilience in other areas of life, how western society bases social activities on excessive food and drink instead of activity….
You can tell I’m passionate about this can’t you? That’s what thought leaders have to be! The reason I was able to make a book out of my personal story, which went on to be longlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, was because I extended my talking points to wider societal issues that other people relate to, instead of making it just about me.
Taking time to identify thought leadership topics is always our starting point for every client no matter what their budget. We schedule a one-on-one session lasting a few hours where we understand you, your views, your expertise and the journeys you’ve been on. This is where we use our combined experience of working in the media, public policy, TV production and publishing books to help people turn their experiences into strong stories.
The second thing you need to do is match your thought leadership topics (or ‘messaging’ if you want to call it by a corporate term), with a realistic vehicle to broadcast it. Writing is by far the best way to communicate that you can solve someone’s problem. So, writing a so-called ‘advice piece’ to an industry publication is a powerful way to be seen as a thought leader. But there are other mediums to showcase expertise too – TV commentary, podcasts, talks.
Your different topics won’t work for all platforms. If you have an unusual story of how you started your business it might fit for an entrepreneurial magazine, but if you want to show how much you know about recycling materials, for instance, you’d be better off waiting for the topic of recycling to come up in the news and suggest yourself as a commentator. This is where having knowledge of the international media and experience of building thought leadership strategically comes into play. This is why we never do blanket press release pitches to the media.
Finally, you need to amplify it. It used to be that a PR agency would get you a mention in the press and that was it – job done. But in a galaxy of digital content, you now need to amplify coverage through social media, a company newsletter, your own blog, SEO tricks and more.
And don’t forget the closing action, which is to have well written, consistent online bios. Thought leadership is the prompt for people to check you out. But your online profile must then also reflect what you can do for people and let people know you’re open for business.
For examples of how we’ve helped investors, CEOs, entrepreneurs, authors, academics and politicians with thought leadership see ‘who we’ve helped’.