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We hear the term “thought leader” thrown about often, but what does it really mean? Here’s a definition I like: Someone whose views on a subject are authoritative and influential. This is about becoming the de facto voice that people think of whenever your cause or issue comes up.
For instance, let’s say you’re involved in an Alzheimer’s education organization. If someone hears a conversation about Alzheimer’s while they’re in line at Starbucks or over the water cooler at work, you want their next thought to be, “I wonder what [name of your organization] says or thinks about this?" Whatever the question is, your nonprofit should be their next thought.
There are many things you can do to become a thought leader in your field, but the most important thing to remember is this: Thought leadership is a commitment; it’s not a campaign. It’s about sharing your expertise through blogging, conversing with constituents and educating the community in an ongoing manner.
Here are three ways to establish yourself as a thought leader.
1. Commit to creating and posting great online content. This adds value to the conversation. If I’m interested in a topic that relates to your cause or mission and I find content (an article, a blog post or maybe a video) that affects my perception of this issue, you’re on your way to becoming a thought leader. So number one, commit to creating and posting great content that will impact individuals who are interested in your cause.
2. Don’t hesitate to be the established expert. Someone has to step up to the table and be the expert on the issues you raise—so why not you? Be confident and comfortable in that role. I’m not talking about just posting content on your website; this is also about going to forums and online discussions and contributing your thoughts as a representative of your organization. This will help get the word out that your organization is, indeed, the voice of authority on your cause.
3. Inspire action. You can do this by your words and the content you post, by your choices and how you relay information, and by how you carry on your conversations in the community. What do you want people to do as a result of learning more about your cause? Give them options on how they can actively support you. Thought leadership doesn’t end at simply positioning yourself as an expert or educating people about what you do. Inspire them to get involved as well.
It doesn’t matter what platforms you use to disseminate information—whether it’s Facebook or Twitter, YouTube or your blog. Thought leadership success is about the wizard, not the wand. Consistently share your expertise through whatever means you choose, and you will eventually become the authoritative and influential voice.