Reputation is everything. In today’s interconnected and information overloaded world, it’s vital to professional success to not only be an expert but to brand yourself as a thought leader in your chosen field. Creating a reputable personal brand takes more than a few tweets. You need to actively engage in industry discussions – not in a promotional way, but in a manner that adds value across multiple platforms. Becoming a reputable thought leader isn’t a quick process, but diligence and engagement can get you there.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Listen to What Others Are Saying
One of the best ways to have something worthwhile to say is to listen to what others in your industry are talking about and form your own opinion on the matter. It won’t always be different, innovative or meaningful, but when you come up with a new perspective on the situation or even an interesting way of digesting and implementing known information, it’ll be worth sharing and worth listening to.
Don’t be afraid to take the position of contrarian or devil’s advocate, as long as you can back up what you’re saying. Innovators always seem crazy until their way of thinking becomes the norm.
Another great tactic is thinking about the challenges the industry is facing and sharing how you are personally overcoming them, even if your approach isn’t 100 percent right just yet. People are looking for a solution to their problems. If you can share your successes and failures and give peers a new approach to think about, you’re automatically setting yourself up to have a loyal following.
Every time you’re at a speaking engagement or networking event, make mental notes of the topics and questions that come up. Forming and sharing well thought out answers to trending industry discussions is what being a thought leader is all about.
“How do you become a thought leader? It starts with BEING a thought leader and then connecting the dots back to you.” – Brian Solis
2. Publish Yourself
Personal-professional blogs are great, but unless you’re a recognized name in the industry, it can be hard to get people to spend precious time on an unproven blog. Keep up your blog if you have one, but take advantage of the fact that LinkedIn opened published posts to everyone.
LinkedIn is the top social business platform and users are typically there to see business-related news, updates and posts. This is a focused, captive audience to start building a following among. Sharing relevant articles that you find interesting is a good way to balance your self-publication.
If you only ever promote your own content you’ll lose credibility. Thought leadership is as much about sharing ideas as it is about coming up with them on your own. Keep your posts (whether on LinkedIn or anywhere else) on topic and in line with your industry. If you deviate too much you’ll lose attention and damage your broader reputation as a focused, interesting thought leader.
3. Get Published
Take the next step in online publications and apply to be a contributor to a popular industry or business news site. If your industry is still heavily print-based, look into submitting an article or opinion piece to industry magazines.
Getting professionally published isn’t as hard as you might think. Many contributor-based websites either have an application form to be an approved writer or guidelines alongside an article submission form for a DIY approach.
When one of your pieces is published, share it to your social networks for extra reach. Keep an eye on the social share counters many media sites have on articles so you can tell which topics, formats and headlines resonate most with readers.
4. Start Speaking
Start sharing your thoughts in person by reaching out to regional groups about potential speaking opportunities. Regional professional groups, industry organizations, even the chamber of commerce will get you used to sharing your ideas with a live audience and help you network while you confidently position yourself as a thought leader and area expert. Even speaking with local student groups is a good way to spread your influence.
Apply to be a local TEDx speaker. These events are typically well attended by curious people who are eager to share what they’ve learned and tweet about your talk. If you’re scheduled to appear, let your local colleagues know you’ll be speaking so they can help spread the word and attend themselves.
As your name gets better known, set your sights on industry conferences. Annual conferences are beacons of excitement and knowledge in any industry – a chance to hear from top personals and sit in on workshops and panels that will provide valuable takeaways. Get in on the action by applying to be a panel member or moderate a discussion. Once your name starts rising to the top of the industry, you may even find yourself becoming a sought-after keynote speaker.
Formal publication and speaking are important factors of becoming a top thought leader, but simply getting out there and sharing your ideas with others in your field is just as helpful. Go to meet-ups, happy hours, anywhere really that people are gathering and sharing ideas. The entire purpose of professional networking is to meet people, make impressions and share ideas. So get out there and make your name the one everyone knows before they even shake your hand.
Whenever you’re at a conference or large industry event make mental notes for follow up articles and live tweet nuggets of insight from the event (be sure to drop in a thought or two of your own). Using the conference hashtag can gain you a lot of followers.
“Part of the role of a thought leader is not to necessarily have all the answers but it’s to be able to ask the right questions and the privilege of being able to lead the conversation.” – Michael Hyatt
6. Make it Memorable
No matter where you’re writing or speaking, if what you’re saying isn’t noteworthy and memorable it’s not going to be talked about, shared or give you a reputation as a true innovative thought leader. If people aren’t taking notes or tweeting, you’re doing it wrong.
Make sure what you’re saying is different enough that people want to stop and listen. To be a thought leader in a particular industry, you have to impress other experts in your industry – meaning you have to know what you’re talking about. Parroting the same tired information, techniques, pointers and thoughts won’t make you stand out or help your personal brand. Including an easily shareable (meaning under 140 characters) sound bite in your articles or speeches will help capture attention and spread your thoughts.
7. Be Patient and Persistent
If being a thought leader were easy, every working and retired professional would be on an equal playing field. To ensure you stay on top, take your time, think about the information and thoughts you’re putting out there and make sure they align with the personal brand you’re trying to build. If you share and produce enough thought-provoking and insightful information, your reputation will begin to climb.
What are some things you do to help become an industry expert? Comment below!
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