Much of what we do in PR is positioning our clients as thought leaders in their area of specialty. But becoming a member of the “who’s who” club is more than just leadership positioning activities, such as speaking engagements, panel participation and writing op/eds. Being a thought leader is a way of life, and if you want to be seen as one, you need to act like a thought leader all the time. Here are a few things that we have recommended to clients who want to become thought leaders in their space:
- Identify other thought leaders. Hopefully you already know who these people are, but if you don’t, do some homework. Find people who have their finger on the pulse of the industry, are speaking at conferences, are being quoted in articles and (if they are participating in social media) have a Twitter following. Once you know who they are, follow what they are saying. What trends are they discussing and what are their opinions?
- Rub elbows with other thought leaders if you want to be one. Take advantage of social media platforms like Linked In to introduce yourself, or begin following and interacting with thought leaders on Twitter. Go to conferences that the “in crowd” is attending. There is significant value in attendance, particularly at high-impact, specialty conferences that focus on the future of the industry, such as Health 2.0, even if you aren’t presenting.
- Develop a platform such as a “fireside chat” conference session where you lead a discussion about a relevant and juicy topic with additional thought leaders on stage. The combined reputation equity of several thought leaders can be a big draw, bringing people to listen to you share your ideas.
- Have an intelligent, well-formed opinion, and be provocative. Don’t jump on the bandwagon and opine about only trendy topics or simply agree with others. Say something different or controversial. Pull out your crystal ball and predict what trends are coming and the impact those trends may have on the space.
- True thought leaders—those who are the drivers of change—have a large sphere of influence that is only gained through good networking. That doesn’t mean just knowing a lot of people. That means having meaningful relationships with a lot of people through ongoing interactions. You will find that as you continue to interact in intelligent and thoughtful ways, people will take notice of what you are saying and will begin seeing you as a thought leader too.
- Most importantly, BE GENUINE! People can spot a phony from a mile away, and if you are just going through the motions, you won’t be seen as a thought leader because people won’t trust what you have to say.
Heidi Chokeir is an account director at Canale Communications and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.