Don’t think of thought leadership as rocket science — think of it as rocket fuel. Positioning yourself, your team, and your company as top thinkers in a given space is an effective way to build credibility and grow your brand. Be it a keynote speech by your CEO, a contributed article by your head of business development, or a panel spot for your community manager — thought leadership opportunities are a reliably lean way to transform your team into rockstars. Keep these five keys in mind as you begin your thinking journey:
1. Know your stories.
Great stories are the key to great thought leadership. From customer testimonials to your origin story, identify the most compelling and inspiring stories associated with your brand. TaskRabbit’s Leah Busque posted a fantastic column about this on LinkedIn called “Five Stories Every Entrepreneur Should Be Able to Tell.”
2. Play the long game.
One great speech or contributed article does not a thought leader make. Building up your company’s reputation for thought leadership is not something that can be accomplished in a month, or even a quarter. Thought leadership is inherently about taking the long view, the wide view, and the high view. A little planning can go a long way (and it definitely keeps costs and time commitments down).
3. Get on the grid.
To build a foundation for your thought leadership initiatives, create a “thought grid.” The first column should include every thought leadership theme related to your company (from high-level concepts like collaborative consumption to more tactical areas like marketing, community, or UX design). Then, identify the people in your company who are passionate about these areas and add them to the second column. Finally, work with your team to articulate a position for each theme — be forceful and declarative here. Add these positions to the third column and revisit often to keep them up-to-date. Having this thought grid handy will help you inform the creation of content in each area, keep your team on message, and make it easy to prepare for any last-minute speaking opportunities.
4. Think public thoughts.
Your thoughts only count as leadership if you share them with others. Opening up content channels to act as platforms is actually way easier than you might think. Reach out to a publication that invites contributed content, turn up the frequency on your company blog, or submit a piece to content-focused communities (like Scoop.it).
5. Turn off the sales pitch (or you’ll turn off your audience).
While it’s true that thought leadership can keep your company top-of-mind and engage your community, heighten your brand equity, and lead to an uptick in your business, these things are externalities. Successful thought leaders don’t approach it as a sales pitch, they approach it as an opportunity to provide true value to an audience and spark larger conversations about important themes. Every speaking engagement, interview, and piece of contributed content is an opportunity to make your audience feel smarter. Don’t waste this opportunity with a lame sales pitch.