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Why You Should Cultivate Your Reputation as a Thought Leader

Why You Should Cultivate Your Reputation as a Thought Leader

There may not be as powerful, or as admirable, a title as “thought leader” in the business setting. If you have earned this distinction, it suggests quite a bit about the respect and influence you command. However, it is important to emphasize that this really is a reputation that must be earned, despite the fact that the path to being seen as a thought leader isn’t always an obvious one.

What Makes a Thought Leader?

While expertise in one’s subject matter is an important piece of being a thought leader, it is by no means the only factor involved. As the term “leader” implies, there also needs to be an impression of authority communicated to one’s audience. After all, a leader is only a leader if someone is following them, which requires them to be viewed as having some authority.

This perception of authority can be achieved by not only having experience, but having proven that experience through a track record of success. Actions speak louder than words, and there’s a considerable difference between talking the talk and actually walking the walk.

A thought leader is also someone who not only holds considerable influence within their own business, but is also listened to and respected by a large segment of their industry as a whole. These are people who are not only viewed as a leader, but also as a teacher, a mentor, or a guide. Thought leaders are able to create a movement in their industry, spurring groundbreaking, drastic changes.

Obviously, this is the position you want to be in, especially if you are relying on influencer marketing tactics to draw people in. However, the tricky part is getting to the point that you may be considered a thought leader.

How One Becomes a Thought Leader

First of all, not by calling yourself one. Percy Bysshe Shelley provides a prime example of the problem of doing so in his sonnet, Ozymandias, which describes a traveler coming across the ruins of a statue, standing alone, deep in the desert.

“...And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

As Shelley’s poem makes clear, the king Ozymandias had no qualms about boasting of his greatness. However, Shelley also makes it very apparent that Ozymandias, the great leader, is long gone and forgotten, as is any evidence of his impact.

It is very easy to try and build yourself up with hyperbolic language and self-granted titles, but more often than not, doing so can make you seem presumptuous and unrelatable. Rather than proclaiming, as so many others do, that you are a thought leader, prove it. Remember, a leader is only a leader if people choose to follow them, and only the people can decide to do that.

So, instead of simply calling yourself a leader, make sure that you actually earn that reputation through your actions. To do so, it helps to frame yourself with the following behaviors in mind:

  • Add Value - A true thought leader does more than just influence the industry, they will also provide much more value by adding to the conversation as a whole. Not only will they share innovations, they will also provide their insights by integrating real-world examples. As a result, they will contribute to the advancement of their field, be it on a small scale or a comprehensive change.
  • Authenticity - One of the most important means of building up a sense of trust and reliance among your audience is to be straight and sincere with them. Instead of making promises that you can’t keep and essentially being all sizzle with no steak, be honest and straightforward. By dependably delivering on your promises, and maybe even surpassing them on occasion, your audience will soon be conditioned to trust you.
  • Lead By Example - One of the fastest ways for a leader to discredit themselves is by saying one thing and doing another. A thought leader will practice what they preach, not only because it works, but also to put their money where their mouth is.
  • Share Expertise - Just as any kind of leader will assist those around them and build them up, a thought leader will educate others to help them be more successful in their shared field. This not only brings the industry forward, it also solidifies the idea that the thought leader is someone to follow and turn to for assistance.

As it happens, your content can assist you in accomplishing many of these objectives. The trick is knowing how to leverage it, and what you need to include.

Using Content to Establish Thought Leadership

Your content is equally as important to your reputation as a thought leader as it is to the rest of your marketing. By embracing the use of content and doing the following, you can design your strategy to increase its effectiveness.

  • Create a Narrative - We’ve just established that your audience will not likely seek out your content for entertainment. However, despite their only looking for answers, you should still try to engage them with your content. Instead of just reciting facts and figures, share some personal anecdotes that relate to the subject of your content. This helps make you more approachable. After all, you have your challenges, too… just like them! You can also use a narrative to get them on your side in your content, driving them to root for you and your company’s success. Plus, a narrative lends itself quite well into materials that provide significant social proof, like case studies.
  • Provide Utility - Chances are, your audience will not be reading your content as a leisure activity. It is much more likely that they will either be seeking an answer to a problem they are experiencing, or trying to collect information so that they can make a more informed decision. If your content provides the information they are looking for, your reputation will benefit in two ways. First, you will have proven your worth, having made their task simpler and their life a little bit easier. Secondly, you will again reinforce your authority on whatever topic they are investigating. Doing so establishes you as a trustworthy beneficiary to their business, and not just another business trying to make a quick sale.

What Else to Include in Thought Leader Content

Of course, an effective strategy for establishing yourself as a thought leader requires more than an engaging story and a useful tidbit. You should also be sure to include:

  • Industry Knowledge - As you create your content, share plenty of knowledge with your audience, especially that which relates to industry trends and patterns. This will only boost your reliability and credibility when your predictions turn out to be accurate. However, if you decide to reach out and begin serving a new industry, wait until you accumulate enough experience and knowledge by serving its needs before you start to generate content. Otherwise, your content could turn out to be misinformed, and just reinforce an impression of inexperience.
  • Current Events - You should also tie your content back to the happenings of the day. Demonstrating a practical knowledge of what has the industry concerned or excited, along with potential ways to leverage or mitigate it, will show you in a positive light. As a result, you will be seen as someone who can be trusted to do a good job.
  • Know What to Cut - It is equally important to recognize what information shouldn’t be included in your content, as it will likely give your audience more of an unapproachable vibe. Let’s face it, nobody goes looking for industry insider jargon when they need assistance. They want simple, easily understood language and basic instructions. In other words, the KISS rule should come into full effect as you are creating your content.

As discussed above, be cognizant of how you are using numbers and statistics. Rather than just listing them out and breaking the flow of your content, try to tie them into your narrative by using them in context with the rest of your writing, or use them as a transitional statement to introduce your next concept. This will help you provide information in a way that doesn’t alienate your audience by pummelling them with an extended list of figures.

Developing a Reputation is an Ongoing Process

To truly be a thought leader, you need to do more than simply inspire the title. You also have to sustain it, maintaining your knowledgeability and continue to learn, innovate, and teach. If you can remain approachable in your audience’s eyes and you continue to readily hand over helpful and useful information, you will do more than just retain clients. You will also likely generate some positive word of mouth, drawing more prospects in need of your expertise to your door.

For assistance with your marketing initiatives and the strategy behind them, JoomConnect is here. Reach out to us at 888-546-4384 for more assistance.

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