Thought leadership (TL) is the process of developing a person, a team or a company into a leading expert on a particular topic. Their role is to push their industry forward by elucidating their ideas for their audience. Their ideas often challenge assumptions, beliefs or practices that are common in their field, and present new ways of thinking about and addressing problems.
In the business sphere, as opposed to academia, thought leaders typically have years of hands-on experience in their field. Their ideas come from seeing how things work–and don’t work–in practice and creating new processes, products or services to make things better for themselves and their customers. They then share their ideas with their industry, their customers, their potential customers and in some cases the public at large.
The way thought leaders disseminate their ideas depends on how their audience prefers to receive them. In today’s information age, thought leaders typically use the following media:
- Writing articles and blogs for publication on their own platforms, such as LinkedIn or their website.
- Writing articles for publication in industry journals, many of them online.
- Creating and publishing videos that describe their thought leadership.
- Being part of the broader discussion on social media about their industry through commenting on other thought leaders’ content.
- Discussing their thought leadership position in face-to-face situations.
- Speaking at, serving on panels for and running workshops for industry events.
- Writing books about their thought leadership position.
Why strive to be a thought leader?
Building a TL brand and content program is a savvy and underutilized investment in your company and in yourself. A recent study by Edelmann and LinkedIn captured how highly business decision-makers value TL. Of business decision-makers:
- 55% use TL as a way to vet organizations they’re considering working with
- 63% agree it’s an important way for small- and medium-sized businesses to establish their reputation
- 46% of C-suite executives shared their contact info after reading TL
- 58% said TL directly led organizations to awarding business to an organization
- 61% would pay a premium to work with an organization with clearly articulated TL
- 60% bought a product or service they were not previously considering
- 55% increased the amount of business they did with an organization due to its TL
TL is also critically important for an individual’s career prospects. Being known as an expert in one’s industry makes it easier to command premium salaries and win leadership positions with companies.
How does one become a thought leader?
The most important element to TL is to develop a specific point of view about one’s industry. The POV should be unique, creative and original, inspired by years of experience and success. It’s not a bad thing if that POV is somewhat provocative because that inspires conversation and debate within your industry and is more likely to get attention from customers and prospects. We use our proprietary CCubed process:
Consult on the thought leader’s POV, key messages and branding. Through a journalistic interview and information-gathering process, we help you identify your audience and articulate your ideas to them in an impactful, engaging way. We also create an editorial calendar of content to develop to support your TL.
Coach on becoming visible to your audience. We develop a strategic, step-by-step roadmap to get the word out about you, your team or your company and your POV. This could include developing a calendar of potential speaking engagements and coaching you on applying for them and them delivering engaging content to your audience. For people who tend to be shy about self-promotion, we coach on developing confidence.
Create the content that supports your TL. Our content creators use journalism interview and research techniques to glean information from you and your key stakeholders. Then we craft the content in your voice from those interview transcripts. The upshot? All you do is talk about the topics you know best. No writing, no video scripts. Just authentic conversations with smart, curious journalists.
Ready to elevate yourself, your team or your company to TL status with your clients or prospects? Get in touch with us today.