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What Does It Take to Become a Thought Leader?

by M&Co. Staff

As a company spokesperson, regardless of whether you are in the C-suite or a senior management position, when engaging with the media, cutting through the noise, and going beyond marketing speak is key. 

If your company is perceived as undifferentiated in its views, its ability to both compete and achieve profitable growth is diminished. Differentiation is central to achieving an effective corporate positioning, and that requires defining spokespeople as demonstrable thought leaders who can become go-to sources for the news media.

These are the key elements of achieving a true company thought leadership strategy.

Stay Informed  

It is important to know how the media is perceiving your industry and your competitors. Be a leader who has a “thirst” for trends, keep your finger on the pulse of your industry, and think about how that shapes your views. Monitoring the news not only keeps you informed but also elevates your understanding of how the media thinks about relevant topics—what they got right and where you can help deepen their knowledge.  

Understand What Your Competitors Are Saying 

Everyone is aware of their competition, but paying close attention to precisely what they are saying publicly. Being differentiated in your thought leadership also means standing out relative to your peer group. Ideas aren’t innovative if everyone else also has them. Industries are constantly evolving, and news cycles are dynamic, so staying a step ahead of the competition means advancing a truly unique narrative. 

Have a Strong Opinion  

Voices that stand out can lead news cycles and have a bigger impact on your target audiences. Address topics that you have thought about deeply and convey a strong conviction. Make sure your views are substantive and reasonable, as opposed to ambiguous or overstating your impact. Being confident in your delivery and genuinely believing in what you are saying results in greater authenticity—all of which translates into achieving a higher level of influence.  

Do Not Be Salesy  

It can be tempting to revert to a standard sales pitch when speaking to journalists. Using marketing talk will deter reporters and undermine your credibility as a thought leader. Reporters are interested in not just authentic ideas but also differentiated ways of expressing them. The goal is not to sell a solution or a product, but to assert a compelling voice that stands out as unique and persuasive and attracts others to engage with your ideas and, ideally, to see them as a call to action.

Define the Future 

Knowing what to say, and when, or what not to say, is both a key strategic and tactical imperative. Your words can be the catalyst for driving innovation in your industry. Know which trends need to be analyzed and the likely future they are pointing to in order to create a powerful company thought leadership strategy. In the world of ideas, after all, the future is always now.