Business development 3 July 2017

How do I become a thought leader in my chosen industry?

Becoming a thought leader doesn’t happen overnight

To become a thought leader in your industry, you work hard and ultimately earn it, it doesn’t just happen overnight, writes content strategy director at corporate communications firm Stratton Craig, Claire Wilson.

In the competitive world of business, to become a thought leader is to become known for your fresh and unique ideas, rather than just being a well-known name. To become a thought leader in your industry, you’ll have worked hard to earn respect and admiration for your innovative and genuine thoughts and advice.

If you’re known for being an authoritative figure in your industry purely because of what you have to say, people will trust you and your business – whether you’re in business-to-business, business-to-consumer, a business owner or simply starting out in your career.

How do you become the person who stands out against the rest in your industry? Here’s how to stand out and become a thought leader at the same time as everyone else.

He shoots, he scores

To reach thought leader status, you have to set goals, or your strategy won’t be effective. Setting goals will mean you’re able to soon tell if your hard work is paying off, or if you should make small tweaks to your strategy to ensure you’re getting your thoughts heard.

Goals can be anything from being quoted in a certain amount of media articles every month, or receiving so many website views per day but, in order for your goals to be measurable, you need to be realistic.

By setting yourself realistic milestones you’ll be able to meet and beat your goals, and perhaps set your more ambitious goals for later down the line. Setting these goals and milestones will make your journey to become a thought leader seem much more achievable.

Because you’re worth it

As professionals, we’re always told to think about what our audience would do. But, to be a thought leader, it’s time to think about what you would do. Focus on becoming a thought leader for a topic that you’re knowledgeable about and, importantly, what you’re passionate about, and you’ll never run out of meaningful things to say.

Identify your niche – what can you talk about that no one else can? You might be surprised at how many valuable things you can say when you focus on your unique skills and expertise.

A quick chat

By being confident in your own ideas and getting involved in conversations, your level of credibility and authority will grow. Being a thought leader isn’t just about stating your views to everyone and anyone, but being able to develop your ideas as you connect with new people.

A great way to show your talent is to join in conversations with current thought leaders to show you aren’t afraid to voice your thoughts to the professionals, and offer your own fresh and unique spin on a topic.

It’s important to be yourself in these conversations and not come across like you’re trying to sell something. Be transparent, and provide valuable thoughts with no hidden motive and you’ll earn credibility.

How may I help you?

Running a blog that is well-written and full of content is one thing. Running a blog that provides genuine support, advice and helpful content is the key for thought leaders. You can really demonstrate your potential to become a thought leader by offering all the help you can for your clients and audience.

You could offer constructive criticism and suggestions or send relevant emails that offer advice and start conversations, but don’t use these as a way to sell your services. By being genuine and honest you’ll be rewarded with both recommendations and referrals, all whilst paving your way to become a thought leader.

Get offline

Whilst a lot of networking and conversations now happen online, it’s worthwhile remembering that networking in person is equally as valuable. You could attend industry events and, if you can, do presentations or talks at these events.

Signing up to public speaking courses to improve your presentation skills is a great way to break into industry speaking events and to working your way to being a thought leader. Stay humble and be modest though, you’re not a celebrity yet!

Much more Mr Nice Guy

Intelligence and politeness will always prevail over arrogance when it comes to thought leadership. Of course, only a small amount of people will actually admit to being arrogant, but make sure it doesn’t come across when you speak to people. Never demand to be listened to, talk about something worthwhile and this will come naturally.

Touching back on our second point, being yourself and talking on topics that you’re passionate about is vital. Trying to be too clever can often come across as egotistical, and might lead people to think you’re out of touch with reality.

The process to become a  thought leader is simple – be approachable, and people will be much more willing to respect your opinion. By taking it one step at a time, you’ll be on your way to earning your thought leadership stripes in no time.

Claire Wilson is content strategy director at Stratton Craig.

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