We have many individuals, companies and organizations that reach out to Prosper Strategies with the goal of becoming a thought leader. In fact, identifying thought leadership opportunities and building platforms for our clients to share their expertise is not only one of our favorite things to do, but it also happens to be one of the things we’re best at.
The challenge is that because it’s such a highly valued tactic, there are a lot of people looking to become guest speakers, media contributors, writers and bloggers, and depending on your industry, it can be extremely challenging to break through the clutter and offer new insights when there are so many others trying to do the same thing.
A true thought leader brings a new perspective to the conversation, a different approach and, in the best cases, proprietary information or data that can’t be found anywhere else. So, are you looking to become a thought leader? Following are a few suggestions on where to start.
Evaluate your perspective and approach
Look within to determine if your perspective or approach is different from others within your industry. Do you have a framework, process or patent that sets what you do apart from others? If not, can you (and I would say should you) build one?
For example, at Prosper, we developed our 4-D Approach — it’s the process we apply in the development of our client strategies. It’s not only important from the perspective of guiding our execution, but it also allows us to demonstrate what we do, how we do it and the results our clients can expect when it’s followed.
How does this relate to thought leadership? Essentially, when we launched our 4-D Approach, it was a hypothesis. We said, ‘we think if we deploy this process in every client engagement, it will lead to better outcomes.’ Through testing and application, it’s turned into a proven methodology that when used for changemaking companies, helps them to drive revenue and make a positive impact. From a thought leadership standpoint, our 4-D Approach makes our process easy to articulate, but more importantly, it allows us to demonstrate credibility, value and real results that underscore the fact we’re experts in what we do. We can share our approach and those insights when we speak, write, blog or engage in industry conversations.
Identify gaps in the conversation
Turn to industry publications, online news sites, popular blogs, newsletters and mainstream conversations to understand what is being talked about in your industry. Don’t be surprised if you see the same topics coming up over and over again – write those down so you know to avoid them. Also evaluate content formats, for example in many industries, you’ll commonly read “how-tos,” “tips and tricks,” and trends based on little research or fact. If you’re seeing similar content formats across the board, you’ll want to avoid those as well.
More so than what to avoid, use this assessment to gauge where you think you could lend your expertise. While gathering these insights is really important to inform your writing or blogging, it can also be informative for developing white papers, speaking topics and other thought leadership content.
Seek opportunities to create your own proprietary data
There’s nothing as powerful as proprietary data when it comes to developing thought leadership opportunities. Research and insights can be shared with current and potential clients, the media and industry influencers on your website, in white papers and talks and through your own writing. It provides you the opportunity to give people something they want that they can’t find anywhere else.
To gather your own proprietary data, you can employ tactics for information gathering, including surveys and interviews. Your big question: what is your target audience really looking for?
Create value and incite action
Your entire goal for thought leadership should be to create value for the individuals you are ultimately trying to help by sharing your knowledge, wisdom and expertise. Spend time with those who fit your target profile and interview them about the types of information they find most relevant and helpful. In addition to anecdotal insights, you can also conduct online research to see what other thought leaders have to say about your target audience.
Through the steps outlined above, hone in on your point of view and think through how you’re going to start sharing it. And, regardless of where you share your expertise, remember the best thought leaders incite action by providing meaningful ways their target audiences can use the information they’re sharing.
If you want to learn more about thought leadership or Prosper’s approach, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.