Google “how to become a thought leader” and you’ll get a lot of advice. And if you take stock of all the tips, you’ll learn you can do it in five steps or 13 steps, in a month or less, on a stage or via LinkedIn. But what happens when you’ve tried the tips and your thought leadership, or that of your brand, still fails to make an impact?

Check your three Rs to thought leadership strategy.

You may be engaging in all the right tactics, but more often than not, your thought leadership strategy is likely failing for one of these three reasons:

  1. It’s not built on an idea or concept that RESONATES, is relevant and speaks directly to audience concerns. Thought leadership is all about promoting thinking and ideas. When considering whether your idea has what it takes, first explore what your audiences are talking about or concerned with. Read related industry headlines, check out what topics get the most traction in relevant LinkedIn groups or on Twitter, ask your sales team what issues and priorities your customers or prospects tend to bring up time and again. Then ask whether and how your big idea speaks to those same themes and issues, and help bridge the gap between the existing industry dialogue and your idea.
  2. They are not built on an idea or approach that is RARE. You need to stand out. To do that, make sure you’re not saying what everyone else is saying. Identify competitors in your thought space, which may or may not be the same as your market or business competitors. Other thought leaders on your theme may include business or government leaders, high profile columnists, authors, speakers, academics or celebrity voices. Do some analysis of the topics they speak to, the tone and language they use, the angle or position they take. Map it all out and find the white space – identify the gaps you can fill so your thought leader compels others to think differently.
    Map it all out and find the white space – identify the gaps you can fill so your thought leader compels others to think differently.Click To Tweet
  3. They are not RESPONSIVE with readily available and easily accessed content and engagement. Being a thought leader means being an individual or organization that is helpful and approachable. If you want to be the “go to” source, you need a place your audience can go to in order to find you, and you need to offer a level of engagement that is responsive to their needs. Before you start pushing out information on your new idea or positioning your experts on the topics for media interviews or speaking opportunities at conferences, make sure you have a digital homebase you can send people to, such as a microsite or blog. Ensure this homebase has new and fresh content regularly and that it has options that make it easy for audiences to connect with you. If you have a presence on social platforms, make a point of regularly checking your profiles and news feeds, and actively interacting or engaging with followers.

If you want to increase your odds of success and hit the thought leadership trifecta, it might be time to go back to the basics. Evaluate your thought leadership strategy against the 3 Rs. And if you’re not sure where to start or need some help along the way, consider engaging outside experts who can work hand-in-hand with you and your team to offer perspective and coaching to guide you toward your “aha” moment.

Strategy Workshops with Stern Strategy Group

For more than 15 years, Jen Zottola has helped bring clients’ stories to life – through media opportunities, digital and marketing content, executive presentations, employee communications and more. Fusing creativity with strategy, she crafts compelling, award-winning copy proven to reach and resonate with the right audiences in the most impactful ways. As editorial director, Jen collaborates with clients and account teams to provide counsel on messaging and voice, as well as writing and editing support. Her creativity isn’t reserved only for writing; Jen also gets a kick out of party- and event planning.