One way to get online publicity is to position yourself as a thought leader within the industry you operate. It’s a great way to stand out and get your message heard amongst the general media noise, and believe us there is a lot of noise. But a thought leader isn’t just someone who woke up one day and thought “I’m going to become a thought leader”.

Thought leaders are only created when other people say they are thought leaders.

Have we put you off yet? Becoming a thought leader isn’t an easy path; you have to prove your worth to some of the most influential people in your industry and slowly, but surely, that level of trust will grow and grow.

By working with journalists, providing expert comments on relevant industry news, you’ll be able to secure online exposure within highly relevant online publications. It’s all very possible, it just takes a little time and effort. Ok, a lot of time, but it’s well worth it.

Ready to get started? Here are our top tips on how to become a thought leader.

1. Define your area of expertise

And don’t be afraid to be specific! Defining your expertise will help to ensure your message is reaching the right people, so carving out your own little corner of the market should be top of your list.

Many business owners set out on becoming thought leaders by commenting on general subjects that affect broad, undefined audiences. This usually results in their comments being lost amongst all the other people shouting to be heard. Don’t be afraid to go really specific; journalists get dozens of emails every day and you want your expertise to be the shining needle in the haystack.

You should consider talking points specifically aimed at a (very) niche demographic as this will ensure your voice is heard by the relevant people. If you’re having trouble, start broad and then work your way inwards – a great little tip is to see what has been said in the past, and make sure yours is different. Once you’ve established yourself amongst relevant audiences and journalists, your comments on broader subjects are more likely to get picked up.

2. Put your opinion out there and in your own voice

Once you have defined your areas of expertise, it’s time to create your own identity. And the best way to do that is with practice. If you are a small business owner, put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and start writing. Your voice and identity will form around that, and you will position yourself as a credible source at the same time.

Scour the biggest news stories in your industry, do your research on the topics people are talking about, and provide useful posts that are accurate, informative and engaging. And don’t forget to inject a little personality into there; it’ll help you stand out in the future.

Post regularly in order to build up a decent archive of posts, and once you’ve got a good platform, write a new blog at least once a week and get it shared across social media.

3. Target and work with influencers

Whilst you’re putting your opinion out there, it’s also time to start cherry-picking the influencers and journalists that you most want to work with. Get your content in front of them, even if it’s just by tweeting them and saying “hey, I’ve written this piece on [insert your niche topic here] and thought you might be interested”. You never know what they might do with it.

If the idea of this is a little intimidating, then don’t be afraid to (again) start small and then work your way up. Speak to other content creators like yourselves who are starting out, and share each other’s content. It’s always good to have a support network around you; people who will cheerlead when you write something new. Just don’t forget to reciprocate!

Slowly you can work your way up to the big fish who call the shots at your dream publications.

4. Have an opinion

To establish yourself as a thought leader you need to highlight why you have an authority in your industry; you need to become a leader.

Of course, you already know that you have to have an opinion, but we mean really share your opinion – probably the thing that you’re keeping to yourself! Don’t just skim the surface of your subject area; be confident in why your opinion matters. And certainly don’t be afraid to go against the grain. You want to stand out, so now is not the time to play it safe and say exactly the same as everyone else. Unless you’re saying something extremely immoral or unethical, stirring up a little controversy can be good for you.

Our tips? Share bold statements and make wild (but realistic) predictions on changes in the industry. This will provoke a sense of intrigue, and your audiences will begin to seek your opinion (instead of anybody else’s) to help them form their own.

5. Be generous with your advice

Don’t just stop at your opinion. Your thoughts and advice is what’s really going to help your target audience relate to the message you’re trying to convey.

Share your thoughts on how you’ll deal with changes in the industry and you might actually start to encourage people to follow in your footsteps. As a thought leader you should be inspiring new trends and best practices, and you can do this by offering tangible advice to those in a similar position.

 

Becoming a thought leader won’t happen overnight. But, if you continue to place yourself as an authoritative source and build relationships with relevant online journalists providing them with information for their articles, you’ll start to build a great online profile and reputation. And, with some real hard work, journalists will start coming to you for exclusive comment to include in their features. And just think how good that will feel!

 

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