Reputation is everything. In today’s interconnected and overloaded world of information, it is vital for professional success not only to be an expert, but also to mark yourself as a thought leader in your chosen field. Creating a reputable personal brand requires more than a few tweets. You must actively participate in industry discussions, not in a promotional way, but in a way that adds value to multiple platforms. Becoming a renowned leader is not a quick process, but diligence and commitment can take you there.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Listen to what others are saying
One of the best ways to have something worth saying is to listen to what others in your industry are talking about and form your own opinion about it. It will not always be different, innovative or significant, but when a new perspective on the situation emerges or even an interesting way to digest and implement known information, it will be worth sharing and worth listening to.
Do not be afraid to take the position of an opposing lawyer or the devil, as long as you can back up what you are saying. Innovators always seem crazy until their way of thinking becomes the norm.
Another great tactic is to think about the challenges the industry faces and share how you are personally overcoming them, even if your approach is not 100% correct. People are looking for a solution to their problems. If you can share your successes and failures and give your peers a new focus to think about, you are automatically setting yourself up to have faithful followers.
Make a mental note of the topics and questions that arise whenever you participate in a conversation or network event. Form and share thoughtful responses to the trends of industry discussions is what it is about being an intellectual leader.
“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 and professional blogs are excellent, but unless it’s a recognized name in the industry, it can be difficult to make people spend precious time on an untested blog. Keep your blog if you have one, but take advantage of the fact that LinkedIn opened published publications for everyone.
LinkedIn is the main social business platform and users are usually there to see news, updates and publications related to the business. This is a focused and captive audience to start building a follow-up between. Sharing relevant articles that you find interesting is a good way to balance your self publication.
If you only promote your own content, you will lose credibility. Innovative leadership is about sharing ideas and creating them on your own. Keep your publications (either on LinkedIn or elsewhere) on the subject and in line with your industry. If you deviate too much, you will lose attention and damage your wider reputation as an interesting and focused thought leader.
3. Get Published
Take the next step in online publications and apply to be a contributor to a popular business or industry news site. If your industry is still heavily based on printing, consider sending an article or opinion piece to industry magazines.
Professional publication is not as difficult as you might think. Many collaborator-based websites have an application form to be an approved writer or guidelines along with an article submission form for a DIY approach.
When one of your pieces is published, share it on your social networks to get a better reach. Keep an eye on the social action counters that many media sites have about articles so you can know what themes, formats and headlines resonate most among readers.
4. Start Speaking
Begin to share your thoughts in person by communicating with regional groups about possible speaking opportunities. Regional professional groups, industry organizations and even the Chamber of Commerce will accustom you to sharing your ideas with a live audience and will help you network online while positioning yourself confidently as an opinion leader and expert in the field. Even talking to local student groups is a good way to spread your influence.
Apply to be a local TEDx speaker. These events are often well attended by curious people who are eager to share what they have learned and tweet about their talk. If you are scheduled to appear, inform your local colleagues that you will speak so they can help spread the word and assist.
As your name becomes more known, fix your eyes on industry conferences. Annual conferences are beacons of excitement and knowledge in any industry: the opportunity to listen to frontline staff and participate in workshops and panels that will provide valuable information. Participate in the action by requesting to be a member of the panel or moderating a discussion. Once your name begins to rise to the top of the industry, you may even become a much sought after main speaker.
Formal publication and discourse are important factors in becoming a leader of higher thinking, but simply going out and sharing your ideas with others in your field is just as useful. Go to meetings, happy hours, anywhere people are gathering and sharing ideas. The whole purpose of professional networks is to meet people, make impressions and share ideas. So get out there and make your name that everyone knows before they give you their hand.
When you are at a large industry conference or event, make mental notes for follow-up articles and live tweets of event ideas (be sure to write one or two thoughts of your own). Using the conference hashtag can win many 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 are writing or talking, if what you say is not worth mentioning or memorable, we will not talk about it or share it or give you a reputation as a true innovative leader. If people are not taking notes or tweeting, you’re doing it wrong.
Make sure that what you say is different enough so that people want to stop and listen. To be an innovative leader in a particular industry, you must impress other experts in your industry, which means you must know what you are talking about. Repeating the same information, techniques, pointers and tired thoughts will not make you stand out or help your personal brand. Including a fragment of easily sharable sound (which means less than 140 characters) in your articles or speeches will help you capture attention and spread your thoughts.
7. Be patient and Persistent
If being an innovative leader was easy, all professionals who work and retire would be on an equal footing. To make sure you stay on top, take your time, think about the information and thoughts you are spreading and make sure they are aligned with the personal brand you are trying to build. If you share and produce enough stimulating and insightful information, your reputation will begin to escalate.