One of the ultimate goal of any business – no matter what industry you work in – should be to establish yourself as an authority in your field. When people are looking for answers or insights, you want your company's name to be the first thing to pop into their heads.
Thought leadership is as important for your reputation as it is for your bottom line.
Achieving this kind of recognition is about more than running a great business or delivering exceptional products and services: you need to project a visionary, forward-thinking voice. Becoming a thought leader requires continuous, strategic efforts toward building a strong, trustworthy reputation with your stakeholders.
Whether you’re trying to establish thought leadership for your brand or for your company’s spokesperson, here are five tips for becoming a trusted authority in your industry.
Focus on one area of expertise
There’s a good chance that your business probably does many things well. But when you’re establishing thought leadership, trying to focus on too many areas of expertise will only lead to you spreading yourself too thin. As a result, your audience won’t have a clear picture to associate with your brand or spokesperson.
Start small. Find one specific topic that you’d like to connect yourself with in the eyes of your stakeholders. This topic needs to be well-considered and strategically linked to your brand identity, without being too broad: it’s a delicate balancing act.
A great example of this is Jordan Ahli Bank’s focus on entrepreneurship and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). As a full-service bank, there are obviously many aspects of banking and financial management through which Jordan Ahli Bank could choose to demonstrate its expertise. By focusing on its leadership in this particular area, the bank is hitting on a number of strategic positioning points: its rich understanding of business development and growth, its social responsibility toward local communities and entrepreneurs, its robust network of resources and partnerships… and the list goes on. It’s a brilliant strategy – especially in the Jordanian market, where SMEs are popping up left and right, but still struggling to get adequate financing and support.
Find the right channels to connect with your audience
Being a thought leader requires being thought of as a leader by the right people. If you’re a medical supply company, for example, it’s not terribly effective to target everyday consumers (especially if your products are marketed towards doctors, clinics, and hospitals): you need to connect with the medical community in a real, meaningful way. This means writing thought pieces for high-profile industry publications, participating in talks and roundtable discussions at medical conferences, and disseminating information that medical professionals will find insightful. Much like branded content, thought leadership should be demonstrated through selfless disinterest: it needs to be more about proving your expertise and offering up real insights than blatantly promoting your business.
Find out where your audience gets their information, and meet them there. If they have to seek you out, there’s a good chance they’ll never find you.
Establish a strong, regular presence
Thought leadership needs to be demonstrated continuously in order to be effective. It’s not enough to do a couple TV interviews, write a few thought pieces, and call it a day: your audience should look to you for regular, consistent insights and commentary. Even if you don’t have the budget for paid engagement opportunities, there are numerous ways to get your voice out there: develop a company or CEO blog, pitch compelling stories to media outlets, and always be on the lookout for events and publications that could benefit from your expertise.
Develop engaging, informative content
The worst thing you can do is waste valuable time, energy, and resources to tell your audience things they already know. Avoid the obvious, and avoid talking about issues that aren’t interesting to your stakeholders. Being a thought leader requires starting new conversations, expressing new ideas and perspectives, and providing new information.
It’s not easy. However, with the right support – as well as a willingness to be bold and different – your audience will soon come to see you as a unique, compelling voice worth listening to.
Look for timely opportunities to demonstrate your expertise
Opportunity is everything. Being a thought leader means being available whenever someone needs your informed insights – and that means being on the lookout for chances to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. Follow the news and current events closely, engage with stakeholders on social media, and be ready to have an answer or a response whenever circumstances calls for it. If you start speaking up at the right times, eventually, people will start running to you directly whenever they’re looking for information or analyses. And that’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it?
What other ways does your business demonstrate its thought leadership and expertise? Share your insights in the comments!