Dave Wendland, vp strategic relations at HRG, is passionate about the retail industry and optimizing results across the retail supply chain.
Brand integrity can be built in a variety of ways, not the least of which is consistently and authentically communicating views and demonstrating expertise. Public relations can be a perfect tool to achieve this without great monetary investment. Contributing articles, speaking at industry events, cultivating relationships and connecting others provide exposure, and when done thoughtfully, can lead to positioning yourself as a thought leader.
From my experience, thought leadership evolves from placing oneself in situations where you can showcase your expertise in a particular industry and impart knowledge that is valuable, relevant and trustworthy. When that is done consistently, over time, you’ll gain a reputation for insightful knowledge sharing and having an important viewpoint on and in the industry. Think of it as a response when offered a penny for your thoughts.
My journey to gaining recognition as a thought leader did not begin by accident nor did it occur overnight. Thoughtfully crafting articles, speaking at industry conferences and sharing my opinion across various social media channels (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter and others) allowed me to reach a wide audience, which helped me become more known throughout the industry, and my reputation naturally began to build. Not terribly long thereafter, various publications and associations were reaching out to our organization or to me personally for editorial input or opinions. Throughout this journey, I’ve also recognized that great thought leaders surround themselves with other thought leaders because I’m humble enough to realize other viewpoints matter and other subject matter experts know far more than me.
Becoming a thought leader is not a self-proclaimed title. An audience must “award” you that honor. Like my journey, it is audience engagement that can be the most effective indication of how useful your insights are and how others are responding to your thoughts and viewpoint.
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Another key is that effective thought leadership is never explicitly about products or services. Rather, a delicate balance must be maintained to ensure that the reputation that is being fostered is not self-serving but focused on interesting ideas or concepts. I have seen countless instances where thought leaders create a personal brand without relevance to their company—this is a pathway to unwanted confusion, internally and externally.
As you begin your quest, you may find it a bit overwhelming. It’s important to answer questions such as: What information or ideas really matter? How often should this content be shared? Where will my audience best be able to access the insights?
Here are five suggestions to successfully utilize public relations efforts to establish a market position as a thought leader:
1. Be authentic.
Meaningful content must originate from a personal source of understanding and knowledge. It is impossible to fake expertise and convince others of its relevance without well-founded experience.
2. Be provocative.
Insight must go beyond trite commentary. True thought leaders drive conversations instead of being mere contributors to them.
3. Be consistent.
Consistency is key to creating a successful thought leadership strategy. This means making sure each piece you create remains true to your company values and aligns with the overall perception people have of your brand.
4. Be collaborative.
Seek ways to partner with other thought leaders to gain momentum and expand your influence. Remaining open to sharing content from other individuals in your industry enhances your reach, invites new readers and brings forward other points of view and experience.
5. Be strategic.
Focus on delivering true value to the audience and taking the spotlight off yourself and your products or company. The views that you share should engage at a strategic level to help followers solve problems or broaden their perspectives.
Investing in public relations to establish thought leadership can be a great path to earning trust and drawing attention to your expertise. Consistent efforts to implement a thought leadership strategy may be one of the most valuable things you do for your business. The benefits of this approach can lead to unprecedented results.
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Author: Dave Wendland, Forbes Councils Member