For years, executives hoping to improve their career trajectory have been advised to build and maintain a personal brand, but with increasing competition for top executive roles, it now takes more to stand apart from industry peers. Great executives are easy to find, but industry thought leaders are irreplaceable.
Positioning yourself as an industry thought leader, is no easy feat but there are six steps that executives can take to work towards that enviable professional goal of becoming a unique and in-demand industry expert:
- Develop a Strong Online Personal Brand
Before embarking on your journey towards thought leadership, you should take time to decide what your personal brand will be. Understanding your unique selling points, how you would like to be perceived by your audience, and identifying your ultimate objective, might sound obvious but without committing these key elements to writing, executives often lose focus, create ill-fitting online strategies and lack direction.
- Create Consistent, Concise and Cultivating Content
In today’s digital age, there are many ways to communicate with your target audience and get your message out. Articles, books, e-books, blogs, videos, podcasts, webinars, panel discussions and social media posts are all great methods for driving thought leadership and showcase your knowledge. But, in order to build a following, it is advisable to focus on 3-4 and to create content consistently and frequently.
Ideally, the content you create should ultimately make your audience feel wiser after reading or provide some perceived value. This will also make your content more likely to be shared within networks.
To stand apart from the countless other blog posts that are written each day, you should ensure the content you produce says something original or disruptive to your industry to make others think and reflect. It is also easier to gain visibility as a thought leader in less populated areas of specialism, or niche topic areas, before moving up to more generalist topics once you have created your following.
- Build Your Own Thought Leadership Network
Once you have begun creating your carefully crafted content, it’s important to get it seen by as many people in your target audience as possible. A great way to get your name out as a thought leader is by using online and offline friends and acquaintances to share your message and content. Creating a network of fellow bloggers who are willing to repost your content and drive audiences back to your own site or profile can be extremely advantageous, so it is well worth investing time in creating these mutually beneficial relationships .
In addition, if you have any well-known connections, particularly any who would be willing to write a testimonial quote for you, this should definitely be incorporated into your strategy. This includes connections to possible Ivy League schools, major firms or other industry leaders and speakers.
- Speak on a Public Stage
Whether online or in-person, public speaking events are a valuable way to catapult yourself into the realm of thought leadership. With so many executives shying away from public speaking due to its daunting nature, agreeing to speak at such events can make you stand out in your industry, particularly if you do so repeatedly. When public speaking, remember to take pictures and recordings of the event to share your success and create new content for your social media platforms to maximize your efforts.
- Position Yourself for Awards and Nominations
Awards and nominations can give serious weight to your name and define you as a more credible thought leader, but it can be difficult for executives to enter the nomination process passively. To achieve success in this arena, many executives nominate themselves, or ask a colleague to do so on their behalf. Stay ahead by researching key awards in your industry, be mindful of crucial deadlines and requirements, and don’t be afraid to nominate yourself.
- Ask Friends for Constructive Feedback
Like with any endeavour, it can be important to ask for feedback from those you trust and to monitor audience responses in order to adapt and improve your efforts helping you to work smarter, rather than harder to achieve your goal. Collecting new perspectives and ideas can be vital to the growth of your brand and in building your identity as a thought leader. Friends and colleagues can also be a useful sounding board for vetting ideas before making them public to improve your chances of success.
Becoming a noted industry expert can be a length process that requires strong commitment and substantial effort, but those who do achieve the status of thought leader are often rewarded with increased visibility among recruiters, an improved career trajectory, and a plethora of new executive opportunities open to them.
If you are considering a becoming a thought leader and would like further information directly from those thought leaders within the search community, watch our BlueSteps webinar, “How to Brand Yourself as a Thought Leader.”