FirstDibs by Amor Maclang • Published 12 February 2019

Beginning Thought Leadership for the Reputation Age

    What is thought leadership?

    Thought leadership is personal branding strategy focused on a particular industry or area of expertise.

    Who can be a thought leader?

    There is really no profile, because almost anyone can become a thought leader… eventually. You have the advantage because you are already an expert in what you do, so it can happen faster.

    Why do companies want their employees to be thought leaders?

    • Employee contributes to improved admiration for company and perception of overall organizational competence.

    • Increased confidence that an employee can “handle the public spotlight” if the need arises.

    • Increased confidence that the employee is “plugged in” to what is going on in the world at least regarding their area of expertise

    Why do employees want to be thought leaders?

    • In the simplest terms; employability and respect.

    • Thought leaders are demonstrated experts in their field, so they have a distinct advantage in job offers, interviews and salary negotiations.

    • When others already see you as a public expert they tend to give your opinions greater weight.

    • Having a solid public reputation will give you a distinct advantage in negotiations, networking or other circumstances where parties have no direct connection.

    Barriers to thought leadership

    These are some of the many reasons people give for not doing thought leadership. As you can see by the responses, none of these reasons are fatal.

    • No time to spend on thought leadership o Thought leadership can be accomplished with as little effort as 3 hours per month (you work 160hrs per month, that’s less than 2% of your professional life).

    • Concerns about privacy o May I be brutal? Unless you are super wealthy or a spy, a lot of privacy says only one of two things: You are professionally unimportant, or you have something to hide and are not trustworthy.

    • Controversy magnet: o No one is immune to controversy, but those who are used to public discourse tend to handle it much less embarrassingly.

    • Very Introverted: o Many thought leaders are introverts; you don’t have to see people AT ALL to be a good thought leader. But once in awhile wouldn’t hurt.

    • Nothing interesting to say, I’m not a great writer: o In thought leadership, what you curate counts equally as much as what you create. So reading and sharing the right way will do the job.

    • I’m not social media savvy: o A lot of thought leaders start out (and continue to be) digital foreigners. That’s ok, you don’t need to master everything, just pick one platform and engage with it regularly, you will definitely pick it up. Besides, not all thought leadership takes place online.

    • Concerns of appearing arrogant: o When you are out to help others, sharing your insights is an act of public generosity, don’t worry, you aren’t Kanye West.

    • No passion: o Hey, at it’s a job; you put in the time and you reap the rewards. No one said you have to do back flips. But if you can…

    4-part exposure system

    1. Social Media Platforms: Depending on topics and audience types we could be looking at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Quora, Medium, Reddit or Viber Groups. Posts are original plus shared curations appearing 3-5 times per week

    2. Traditional Media Exposure: Interviews (TV, Radio, Print, Digital, Podcast), pitched and unsolicited articles done monthly. In some instances it is possible to secure a column.

    3. Industry Event Presentations: (Not necessarily your industry) Gaining speaking slots in events where your desired audience is present.

    4. Internal Presentations: Branding starts at home. Making presentations to fellow employees or even teaching internal classes is a great way to project their personas.

    3 Tips for getting started

    1. Get into the habit of thought leadership. Just like exercise, contribute something 3 days a week. This tends to work best when you are talking about something near to your interests

    2. Your profession may be a benefit to everyone’s life, but it may not be a topic with a regular audience. It is much easier to build an audience who shares your passions and talk to them occasionally about what you do than to build an audience by talking about your profession exclusively.

    3. After you get in the habit, start to look at building a body of work for 6-12 months. You can then start to see what gains attention and what is ignored.

    About Pathfinding

    The Pathfinding Methodology ™ is an interviewing technique developed by Brad Geiser to help the Subject find a direction or way forward that they are connected to and inspired by. It is premised on uncovering natural, deep seated or hidden values of the individual, articulating them and connecting them to a concrete course of action.