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How to become a thought leader

In our competitive and new knowledge age, thought leadership has emerged as a subtle but powerful way to grow your business, establish credibility and demonstrate expertise, enhance your profile and position yourself for future opportunities including Government appointments, company board nomination and global recognition. 

Thought leadership material can take many forms, including public speaking, media interviews, writing books, online forums, webinars and well-articulated commentaries on key national issues. 

Establishing yourself or your client as a thought leader in your chosen industry comes with several clear-cut advantages. As an industry thought leader you can reinforce your brand, establish trust and credibility, improve your search engine optimization, and get a competitive advantage. 

Thought leaders don’t just follow trends. They define and create them by being at the cutting-edge of their area of expertise. Getting to that point doesn’t happen overnight. But it’s far from impossible. 

Take these six steps to establish yourself as an authority in your space and begin leveraging the benefits of becoming a thought leader in your industry.

Step No. 1: Find your niche of expertise

The first step is one of finding balance. Thought leadership only works when focused on a specific topic that isn’t already occupied by lots of other experts who claim the same experience and credentials as you. 

Limiting yourself to your industry is the first step. But what topics within your industry are you particularly passionate about? What are some areas in which you could write or speak for days? Explore those as your potential niche.

Of course, that niche also needs to be relevant for your audience. That’s where the balance comes in. The topics where your own passion and your audience’s interests intersect are your sweet spot. Find them, and focus on them whenever you can.

Step No. 2: Define your core channels of communications
Next, think through the ways in which you want to release your view points.m

The choices are plentiful, but most thought leaders broadcast their voice and share their thoughts through the company website or blog, LinkedIn, media interviews, podcast and public speaking. 

It’s important to emphasize, the fewer the channels, the better. That way you gain more traction and credibility. 

Step No. 3: Find and define your voice

Thought leaders are not just unique because of their niche. They are  able to stand out from a crowd because they speak in a unique voice, and are able to connect with their audience on a personal level.

What will that voice look like for you? Are you looking to end up more on the professional or casual side? Is a connection with your audience more important, or would you prefer authoritative language that leaves no doubt about your expertise?

Step No. 4: Create consistent content and commentaries 
You now need to establish consistency without going overboard. 

A few articles or occasional comments will not be enough, regardless of how high-quality they are. Instead, you need to build a consistent, reliable stream of content and opinion statements for your audience to enjoy. Your goal, after all, is to build expectations to the point where your followers always eagerly await that next piece you will say or publish.

Consistency in content, social interactions, and publication contributions communicates authenticity. 

Step No. 5: Select speaking engagements

become a thought leader

One of the best ways to gain exposure is to speak at events and conferences [1] in your industry or related Being invited as a notable speaker also reinforces your position as an expert in your niche.

Regardless of the crowd and the event, always strive to deliver value. Make sure that your presentation has substance and will enrich the audience with new insights, that can be gladly picked by the media. 

Step No. 6: Stay intellectually ahead. 

become a thought leader

Thought leaders [2] tackle “big questions” and issues. It requires a solid understanding of the outside world and of the issues that are important to stakeholders. Thought leaders formulate and promote “big ideas”. These ideas need to be novel, convention-breaking, original, and engaging to the media. 

The PR check out 

become a thought leader

Thought leaders like Lamido Sanusi, Atedo Peterside, Reuben Abati, Bimbo Olashore, Chidi Okoro, Charles Soludo, Biodun Shobanjo, Sola Obabori, Reverend Kukah and many others, make it look so easy. 

They all have one thing in common- they know what to say, how to say, and when to say it. 

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2 Grant Butler
Public Relations + intelligence
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