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So You Want to Be a Thought Leader: 5 Steps
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August 17, 2022
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Female business leader conducting a meeting

Thank you to SCORE for republishing this blog post, one in a series RubiSparks Communications is sharing on its site, www.rubisparkscommunications.com/blog. We are very appreciative of all that SCORE provides to both budding and established businesses. We have benefitted from and can readily attest to the value of SCORE mentorship, and highly recommend it!  — Sharon Rubinstein and Leonard Sparks

If you want to be a thought leader, you’ve got lots of company. Who doesn’t want to be respected for their work, knowledge, and insights, while being the “go-to” person or organization when journalists are seeking an expert, clients are seeking help, and customers seeking a supplier? 

We’ve got good news - and a cautionary note. Building one’s reputation as a thought leader, with all the benefits that entails, is a goal that can be reached with methodical effort and strategies. But don’t expect immediate results. As you strive for greater and greater quality in whatever products or services you offer, you should include a well-developed communications plan and products integrated with your strategic business goals, and in tandem, those aspirations and activities can help lead you to a place of prominence and influence. 

So what does it take?

First, watch the fundamentals. If you are relatively new to your business, then don’t get ahead of yourself. Refine your product or services. Start to develop ideas to share, and consider vehicles, including a blog, to do so. If you are unsure where to start, find tips on blogging or consider a ghostwriter. Meanwhile, make sure your website represents you well, and create communications and business strategy plans with a set of realistic timelines. 

Second, start joining groups and coalitions, and participating. Most of our clients are in the idea business. Get and stay on top of the pulse by collaborating with others. There will be speaking opportunities, and opportunities to inform your community or local officials about important issues. Get out there.

Third, create content, and deliver it widely. Social media can be daunting, but it’s powerful. Look for a combination of images and words. Understand you can repurpose writing across platforms. If you’ve prepared testimony or given a speech, blast it out! Make sure you take lots of photos at events - and disseminate them. Is there someone within your organization already available to keep those content coffers full, or can you contract it out? (We can help!)

Fourth, have a media relations strategy, and implement it. We will have separate blog posts about how to engage reporters and producers, and how to get your own content - such as op-eds or video clips - published or broadcast. (Sign up here, and don’t miss upcoming tips!) “Earned media” is a very valuable way of establishing yourself as an authority, and it’s a feedback loop - as you become more recognized, the media will want to seek you out more  - and as they seek you out more, your luster as a thought leader will grow.

Fifth, operate from a spirit of generosity and engagement. It’s important to view yourself as a resource - and back that up. There’s a concept called “inbound marketing” which relies on giving out content or other valuable items for free to your audience. The main point: give of yourself and your ideas (within reason). Be a mentor; be a positive community member. It’s a good thing to do - and it’s a good way to gain respect and appreciation. 

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Copyright © 2022 SCORE Association, www.score.org

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