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How to Become a Thought Leader

Thought leadership and public relations only work if you have a point of view.

A thought leader needs real ideas. If the thought isn’t authentically yours, the leadership won’t be either. And don’t mistake confidence for competence.

If you’re an entrepreneur or business leader, here’s how to become a thought leader and really elevate yourself from an ordinary spokesperson:

# 1: Lead with how you think, not what you do. A good test: Is it possible to have an entire conversation about this topic without mentioning your company’s product or service?

#2: Stay relevant. What’s happening now? You want to be relevant enough to be part of the news cycle, but differentiated enough to stand out.

#3: Be authentic. Audiences want the truth (and also want something real). People trust business leaders more than the government. Always tell the truth; it’s almost always easier to deal with. If you don’t know an answer, say so. And immediately refute untruths. Bottom line: Be you — online, in-person, and on paper.

#4: Point to change. A clear vision for how things must change or will evolve over time helps you get heard. When you inspire engagement — and action — you can also build a community.

#5 Have good intentions. Actions speak louder than words. Employees, customers, and other key stakeholders are following, listening, and watching your every move. Bad intentions can haunt you, especially when you post them online. Cancel culture isn’t just for celebrities.

#6: Root your POV in data. Unless you have facts and proof points to support an idea, it’s just another opinion.

#7: Understand your audience. Empathy will get you everywhere. World events such as the pandemic can shift virtually everything about how your target customer makes decisions. To become a thought leader is to educate and inform people about new ways to solve existing problems in the world.

#8: Amplify your ideas. Ideas need a digital home. You don’t need to become a Twitter or LinkedIn warrior, but you do need to participate or post content to get noticed. The most valuable social media metric? Connection in real life. Isn’t that what we’re really after?

#9: Repeat your message. A thought leadership program is built over time. Stick to a consistent story and use it to humanize your company.

Beth is the CEO of Inkhouse, which she co-founded in 2007 and has grown into one of the top-ranked agencies in the country. Beth’s been recognized as one of the Top Women in PR by PR News, the Top 25 Innovators by The Holmes Report, and as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist. Beth believes that shared values, and the freedom to create are the foundations of all meaningful work. She brings this philosophy to building a culture of creative progress at Inkhouse.

A version of this post first appeared on Inkhouse.com.

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