How to Become a Thought Leader
By Pete Winter

How to Become a Thought Leader

Develop your brand’s reputation through thought leadership by adopting a PR-driven inbound marketing strategy. 

Thought Leadership is the key to success

Everyone wants to be a thought leader these days. What was once an off the cuff phrase – coined twenty years ago – has evolved into a strategic ambition. Thought leaders are those deemed to be exceptional in their field, people who lead the way and set the agenda. It’s traditionally a title that’s awarded, rather than pursued.

But by taking a public relations consultancy driven approach to growing your reputation with inbound marketing, you can grow your brand’s reputation for thought leadership. You can then reap the rewards of being positioned at the cutting edge of your industry.


What is thought leadership status?

People become known as ‘leaders’ because of what they say and do. They are respected for standing up for their convictions and for setting the bar. They are people that others look to for inspiration and, when needed, to step up and lead the charge.

But you can’t be a leader if no one is following you. That’s why the ‘thought’ part is just as important. In thought leadership terms, you have to have something of value to say if you want to have followers. You have to take a stand for what you believe in, to challenge the status quo and to offer answers that cut through the malaise. To do this successfully you need to be able to express your message with style and conviction.


Thought leadership isn’t a vague title anymore. It’s now quantifiable

Whether it’s in business, politics or culture, identifying the current thought leaders is a modern day obsession. You’ve got Time’s Person of the Year, Forbes’ World’s Most Powerful People List and the Thinkers50 website all vying to define the movers and shakers in their fields and why they are people with influence that others look to for sage advice.

The fascination with thought leadership and identifying the icons of ideas, has spread to the online world. Tools like Klout and Kred can be used to identify who are the bloggers, Tweeters and social sharers with the most influence. You can use these tools to gauge your brand’s own level of influence and how much work needs to be done before you can claim thought leadership status.


Thought leadership can offer rich rewards for your reputation and profit margin

The halo of authority that comes from thought leadership can work wonders in enhancing your brand, reputation and legitimacy. It creates the perception of being at the cutting edge, of being the go-to expert for new ideas and fresh perspectives on overcoming modern challenges. You become known as the company with ideas on taking the steps forward which have others stumped. This leads to attracting more customers, business opportunities and a boost to your bottom line as a result.

But to gain these benefits, you first have to be able to spread your brand’s ideas and underlying message to your marketplace. This requires acting like a public relations consultancy in promoting inspiring and valuable content with your name attached.


How to achieve thought leadership with inbound marketing

As mentioned, thought leadership status can be pursued by adopting an inbound marketing strategy. The first step is to identify what your guiding principles and message is going to be. Rather than add your voice to the hubbub, take a stand and break out of the echo chamber. Publish compelling insights and arguments that address industry challenges and offer solutions where others are scratching their heads.

Then adopt a public relations consultancy approach to targeting your messages at bloggers, journalists and existing thought leaders with large followings and influence, as well as all the relevant forums and media networks. After throwing your messages out like a net you can then reel people into your website to get subscribed to your inbound marketing machine. This will then feed them a steady flow of content that informs, educates and reinforces your eligibility for thought leadership status.


Key takeaways

  • Thought leadership is a title that can be pursued, rather than merely aspired for.
  • With an inbound marketing strategy you can spread your reputation and reach.
  • Having a ‘thought’ worth sharing is vital if you want to be seen as a ‘leader’.         
  • Use PR promotion tactics to promote your thoughts and ideas.
  • Target your messages at key influencers, forums and networks to get them spread and to reel people back to your website for more.
  • Setup your inbound marketing machine ready to convert visitors into subscribers, leads and sales.


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