Becoming a thought leader – someone who drives innovation, ideas and trends – can come with huge professional benefits, both in and outside your company.

This is especially valuable if you’re hoping to find new customers, wanting to expand your network or looking for a job. Your brand is how you appear to the world. Thus, it makes sense that a strong brand is preferable to one that’s unpolished and uninteresting.

Most of us were taught growing up, however, not to talk about or promote ourselves. You may have heard, “Hard work is required to be recognized and that any effort to attract attention is wrong.” Well, the world has changed. The growth of the Internet and social media has led to the importance of what many describe as a “trusted source,” “subject matter expert,” “change agent,” “go-to person” or “opinion maker.”

According to Forbes, “’Thought leadership’ is, without question, one of the most effective and efficient ways to generate new business from new clients as well as from existing clients. Thought leaders are also able to bring in higher-quality talent to their organizations as well as upgrade the capabilities of the talent within their organizations.”

For starters, check LinkedIn Influencers, a feature from LinkedIn that allows you to get access to some of the world’s best thought leaders. It’s an amazing way to learn from people who have had major success.

LinkedIn Influencers are selected by invitation only and include 500+ of the world’s foremost innovators, trendsetters and champions of change. As leaders in their industries and geographies, they discuss topics such as geopolitics, technology, diversity, culture, work/life balance, productivity and career development. Some of the top LinkedIn Influencers are Dr. Travis BradberryEd TriceLiz RyanGuy KawasakiJack WelchBill Gates and from Dallas Danielle Dimartino Booth.

While becoming a LinkedIn Influencer is a lofty goal, you can become a thought leader. Begin with these three steps:

  1. Create a robust online presence. Your online profile is becoming more important than your paper resume. Start by creating or improving your social media profiles, especially LinkedIn and Twitter, with complete descriptions of your credentials and career accomplishments. If you also haven’t registered at, I recommend that you do that now. Then, create your own blog or blog on your company’s website and start contributing regularly. Share your blogs on your social networks and get involved in appropriate groups and chats.
  2. Become a networking rock star. Networking is about making connections and learning what you can do to help others – it’s about service. You’ve probably done it your entire life. It’s not complicated and shouldn’t be frightening or uncomfortable. Networking can happen anytime, anywhere – on an airplane, at a community event, in the grocery store, at a restaurant or at a meeting of a professional organization. The more individuals that are in your network, the more authority you’ll have, and the weightier your words will be.
  3. Drive change and innovation. Offer insight, observe trends and make bold predictions in your content and conversation. Color outside the lines and explore new approaches. Remember, you cannot steal second base with your foot still on first.

For those wanting to reap the benefits of thought leadership, consider it part of your overall business strategy. As a marketing and public relations professional, for example, I help business and community leaders:

  • Develop talking points, key messages and elevator speeches
  • Draft expert content, byline articles, blog posts and tweets
  • Integrate social media
  • Secure print, broadcast and digital media coverage
  • Get speaking opportunities
  • Enter awards competitions
  • Create, plan and market events
  • Assess networking and community leadership opportunities

Does your company have an effective thought leadership strategy? What other techniques do you use to build a reputation as a thought leader? Let me know your thoughts.

Finally, we’re all inundated with marketing messages that only make people tune out. To distinguish yourself and reach your target, you must offer value. Instead of pushing information about your company and products, think about filling a need by establishing yourself as a reliable authority. When your target needs your skills, product or service, you and your company should be the first to come to mind.

Randy E. Pruett
Vice President & Account Manager