We are delighted that Ceri-Jane Hackling, Managing Director of Cerub PR, has written such an insightful post about thought leaders. Ceri is an award winning entrepreneur who started Cerub PR in 2003.
Cerub PR works with thought leading individuals and companies to raise their profile using traditional, digital & social media. Clients regularly appear on TV, radio, in national newspapers & magazines.
Did you know that you’re a Thought Leader?
They say you can’t see the wood for the trees and as a business owner this is probably an accurate way to describe how you work. You’re so focused on the bottom line, your product, your service, your customers and your business you fail to notice one important factor: you have become an expert in your own field.
Whether through modesty or too close a perspective, most business owners don’t see their own knowledge as particularly interesting or insightful and would balk at the idea that they could call themselves a ‘thought leader’ and stand up and confidently voice their opinions more prominently than other ‘experts’ in their industry – thereby making themselves more prominent to potential customers as well.
We help our clients to stand out from the competition by raising their profile and shaping their reputation to become known as thought leaders in their field – authoring articles, offering tips, commenting on current industry trends – yet as PRs, one of the most challenging parts of our job is convincing our clients that they do actually have something worthwhile to say.
So, if you want to reap the benefits of standing out in a crowded marketplace and generating a connection with your brand as your customers come to recognise you as an authoritative individual or company, put aside your misgivings on how under-qualified as a ‘thought leader’ you think you are and consider the following:
The difference isn’t expertise, it’s delivery
It’s very easy to assume that the industry ‘expert’ used in the article you just read or interviewed on the radio programme you just heard has views that are more important than yours, and that’s exactly what your customers will think as well – assuming that the ‘expert’ in the media is the one who will sell the best product or offer the best service. The truth is that all that separates you and that ‘expert’ is the fact that they have found a way for their voice to be heard and you haven’t.
You’re both professionals in the same industry – the difference is that you just haven’t built a platform for spreading your message yet. Journalists call on experts who have made themselves known to them, or publish articles from experts who have bothered to pitch an interesting idea. There’s no mysterious, magical equation that gives them more right to be in the spotlight than you. The difference is that they offered and you can too.
You know more than you think you do
When you are surrounded by people in the same industry as you who all have a similar knowledge base, speak in similar terms and have a common understanding, it’s very easy to assume that the knowledge you have is commonplace and, therefore, unimportant. It’s only when you start discussing ideas with people outside your industry – drawing out ideas as we do with our clients and viewing things from the knowledge starting point of your average customer – that you realise your views and expertise have value.
Sometimes it helps to take a step back and try to see your knowledge from an outsiders perspective. It’s difficult to do, but you’ll realise you know more than you think you do.
It’s all about the angle
One of the tricks of PR and journalism is to find the best angle for a particular story. This is especially true when pitching yourself as a thought leader. You need to adapt the way you view the information and skills you have. For example, very few people would be interested in an article or blog post entitled ‘My Personal Thoughts on Sales’ but if you were to pitch the same piece as ‘The Top 5 Ways to Increase Your Sales’ you would suddenly find people were interested. Same content, just angled slightly differently.
Likewise, you’re shouldn’t feel that you’re limited to only comment on topics directly relating to your own industry. By thinking more widely you’ll increase the opportunities for you to be seen as an expert in your business by more potential customers. For example a body language expert can comment on a celebrity break-up story, a public speaking trainer can comment on how politicians deliver their message, a pet product manufacturer can comment on how pets behave when they’re scared – all of which are examples of how our clients have widened the reach of their media coverage by appearing in media their customers consume rather than industry-specific titles.
Positioning yourself as a thought leader is one of the most effective ways to stand out amongst your competitors and build a reputation with your customers and potential customers as a knowledgeable and authoritative human ‘face’ of the business. Customers will come to associate your brand with quality and expertise and your company name will be foremost in their mind thanks to increased media exposure.
The first step is to change your perspective and see things from our view – you absolutely are a thought leader in your field.