Expert. Guru. Authority. Thought leader. Your research and insights are meant to be shared with the world to improve business practices and combat social challenges. But the title you choose for yourself is nothing without amiable brand qualities to back it up. The most effective and widely recognized authorities (and the marketers and communications pros who counsel them) have mastered three strategic thought leadership practices that keep their names on the tip of top executives’ tongues.
Build relationships with your customers
You may have been hired to deliver a 60-minute keynote at an organization’s conference, but it’s to your benefit (and that of your brand) to take advantage of your time “off stage” too. Seek opportunities for conversation with key members of the leadership team. By cultivating these relationships, you not only learn more about the company and its employees – and show you’re truly invested – but you’re also opening up the possibility for future opportunities, whether another one-off presentation, or more immersive workshops or advisory services. This type of networking adds significant value – positioning you as an expert who is interested in and informed about your customer’s business.
Be generous (but not too generous) with your time
Most often, you only have a short amount of time on the official agenda, but surely there is something else you can offer to add further value to your customer’s event – without compromising other commitments on your calendar. We’ve found many customers appreciate “special” opportunities, such as a 30-minute meeting with you and top leaders of the business or a book signing where you can interact with the audience. These offers elevate the experience for all in attendance and leave them wanting more. They will remember these interactions and will likely talk about them with others in their networks. Word-of-mouth referrals are powerful.
Consistently deliver content
Your own (written) words can be equally powerful. Spread them! Do you have a recurring blog with a prominent publication? Are you regularly publishing articles, or offering commentary and insights via interviews? How about a digital content platform on your website? These are important and influential channels for sharing your expertise with those who matter. Tech experts should be posting a blog every time Apple, Google or Amazon sneezes. Education experts should publicly react to any federally mandated curriculum change. And health care gurus should be posting on everything from Zika to electronic health records to health care reform. With the help of social media, you can also drive traffic to your website to broaden your brand’s audience and deliver your ideas to the world. This is also a great way to keep in touch with past customers. Show them what you’ve been working on lately.
Through all of your interactions, you must remain authentic and personable. As emotional as the human race is (in various levels depending on culture and geographic location), keep in mind that your customers are people who require attention and care. When they receive it, they consider you and your brand one to be loyal to.
Establishing – and sustaining – your thought leadership takes considerable effort, from you and your communications and marketing teams.