- Geraint Holliman
Want to be a 'thought leader'? Well, have some thoughts worth following then
Updated: Jun 5, 2020
Who do you consider to be a genuine thought leader? No, please. Stop and think a moment. Whose opinion do you really, genuinely value? Whose point of view would you ensure you knew before you made your own mind up on an important issue?
Now consider, why do you value their view? What is it about them and their beliefs and pronouncements that have gained your trust?
I work with many businesses, producing content, and they say to me, "We want to be thought-leaders in our space". My initial response to them is,
"That's great news, do you have ANY thoughts WORTH following? And I don't mean a few thinly disguised sales documents masquerading as 'white papers'. I mean genuinely thoughtful, useful, insightful, and, potentially, provocative thoughts: thoughts worth paying attention to."
There usually follows an embarrassed and awkward silence. (Cue tumbleweed meme)
How can you be a thought leader when you've got nothing worth listening to? Talking about yourself, how you're so damned fabulous and why your products are hotter than a Habanero chilli, in a bikini on a barbecue is not thought-leadership - it's peeing in your own pants and enjoying the all-too-brief (though not entirely unsatisfying) warmth. It certainly won't inspire and encourage others to follow you.
Thought leadership is attained not gained. That status is ascribed to you by those that follow your thinking; they will determine whether you are thought leading or not. Claiming thought leadership yourself is akin to claiming that you are funny……. or handsome....or clever....... (cue tumbleweed meme, again)
So what are the key components of a thought-leadership approach? Essentially you have got to earn the right to speak to your customers and followers. I think the three principal components of thought leadership are: • Authenticity - give your audience reasons to believe: be genuine, original and credible • Transparency - be clear about why you are speaking on a subject (if you've got a vested interest say so) • Trust - make sure your own actions are consistent with the things that you say
How might you achieve this in your content? You don't have to be a deep, academic philosopher or a searing, razor-sharp wit. Here's some ideas of ways in which your brand could enhance its thought-leadership credentials : • To start with, simply have a point of view on current events in your market and expand on why you hold those views • Challenge the current thinking or the assumptions others are making • Observe something that others haven't about your market ('Have you ever wondered why...?') • Add to an existing idea to make it bigger and better • Transfer a concept from one market into another • Challenge your market or sector peers to raise their game • Speculate on how your market might develop • Speak the unspoken truths (that no-one else dares to)
And finally, remember, thought leadership cannot be bought; you have to earn it. It is earned by consistent behaviour over a long period of time. You can't become a thought leader over night - like all the good things in life you have to work for it - if it was easy everyone would be doing it, right?
Thought leadership is a highly prized goal for many businesses. Are you trying to achieve it for your business? How are you going about that? I would love to hear about your journey. If you want to know more about how to build your thought leadership position then contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the author: Geraint Holliman is Managing Director of Giantoo Content Marketing. A leading speaker and academic author he presents at events all over the world on content marketing, and branding. He will bore you to death on all content marketing issues if you give him a chance. Don't do it!!!! (But you could LinkIn to him here)