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How not to become a thought leader

If you're thinking about how you can become a 'thought leader,' chances are you'll never get there. But if you're serious about making it work, here are a few things you might want to avoid along the way...

The blind leading the blind
The first thing worth flagging here is that it is probably impossible for every marketer and brand to be a thought leader. If everyone is a leader, it leaves no one to do the following. In most instances it is probably enough to add meaningfully to the conversation occasionally, and ensure your core proposition is coherent and relevant to the messages you’re sending out. We can't all be sheperds. 

Google ‘thought leadership’
Semantic issues aside, the genuinely ‘leading’ thought leaders did not attain their status by Googling: ‘how to become a thought leader’. They probably didn’t even really set out to become thought leaders. Thought leaders, innovators and those operating at the top of the games don’t tend to be bandwagon jumpers; they are more likely to have discovered new things by trying things out, having ideas and embracing a willingness to fail.

Fear of failure
Real thought leaders don’t write things they think people want to read. They write new things; things that other people may not agree with or might not be able to see the value of yet. Content marketing best practice usually dictates that you should produce content your audience wants to consume. But with thought leadership the focus should be on producing content your audience don’t yet know they want to consume, and that’s much harder.

“I am a thought leader”
This may be a personal preference, but I think actions speak louder than words. If you are putting out insightful content, advancing understanding and discussion in your space, people will regard you as a thought leader (or at least a trusted content producer) and look to you for inspiration. Labelling yourself as a ‘thought leader’, however, especially if the thought leadership content isn’t quite up to scratch, can come across as rather jarring.

Greater than the sum of its parts
If you’re trying to negotiate thought leadership status for your organisation, rather than as an individual, don’t forget to leverage the collective brainpower of everyone on the payroll. Though marketers and PR professionals are likely to be the ones turning insight into digestible content, almost everyone in the company could potentially have something to offer your thought leadership efforts.

In short, here’s how to become a thought leader:
Produce content offering meaningful insight beyond that which gets regurgitated day in day out across the internet.