Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Growing access to online platforms has made it so much easier for individuals like you and me to use our personal brands in order to be positioned as thought leaders, to build online audiences and to ultimately increase revenue-earning opportunities.
A thought leader, or the “go-to expert,” is defined as “an individual or firm recognized as an authority in a specific field … to consistently answer the biggest questions on the minds of the target audience on a particular topic. “
Thought leaders get the opportunities to be invited to speak at events, be a guest on TV shows, radio shows and podcasts, are invited to write columns in local and international publications, host and moderate events and so much more. Thought leaders also get paid for their knowledge/expertise and for bringing more of a unique or different perspective to a topic.
Let’s look at some thought leaders across industries:
Steve Jobs: innovation and technology
Brene Brown: authenticity and vulnerability
Shonda Rhimes: screenwriting and TV
Oprah Winfrey: philanthropy and media
Richard Branson: rule breaker and entrepreneurship (and the list could go on and on)
Each of these thought leaders have done at least five, if not all of the things listed below, but out of everything listed, what they all have in common is a strong personal brand that they were willing to share with the world through multiple platforms.
Your personal brand is the thing that sets you apart from others based on your skills, experience, knowledge, expertise and, of course, your own personal journey. It is about combining all of the above and becoming known for a particular thing. Thought leadership comes when you are consistently sharing your perspective, insight, new thoughts, ideas and trends around this thing, sharing it with others and providing immense value.
Here are 11 ways you could be using your personal brand to become a thought leader or influencer in your industry:
1. Find out what you want to be known for
Ask yourself, “What do I want to be known for?” When people hear or see your name, what are the keywords that you want to come to mind? Think about your personal and professional journey — what are you already known for? How are you different? What new value or insight are you bringing to what can sometimes be a pretty full table?
Related: 5 Steps to Becoming a Thought Leader in Your Industry
2. Talk about it
People need to not only know who you are, but what you have to say. It’s great if you are knowledgeable about a particular topic or if you are even the best in a specific area of your industry, but it doesn’t help you or anyone else if you don’t speak about it. We have so many more opportunities to create our own platforms or to reach out directly to others with existing platforms in order for our voices to be heard and to take space. Think about how you could be using your existing platforms to talk more about what you do and how you do it, to share your knowledge, and be an active participant in conversations that impact your industry.
Being online provides an immediate platform and visibility, as well as the opportunity to grow your reach and your online audience while providing value and creating impact. If you have a smart phone you can get online, create a post, record a video, connect and collaborate. Being online levels the playing field and gives you immediate amplification once you are positioning your content to your ideal audience. There are so many online platforms to choose from. Start with the one that you are comfortable with and start sharing.
4.Write a book
Writing a book can provide you with credibility as well as a reference for people to see your work. It serves as your foundation, pulling together all of the knowledge, expertise and experience into a body of work. You can use a publishing house, or you can even self-publish. Writing my first book in 2018, A PR Chick’s Guide To Building Your Personal Brand, was the catalyst for my career as a personal branding coach, trainer and now international speaker. It has also opened the doors to numerous revenue-earning opportunities.
Related: Why Writing a Book Is the Most Powerful Step In Becoming a Thought Leader
5. Start a podcast or YouTube channel
Ever thought of being the host of your own radio or TV show? Now, you can easily start a podcast or even a YouTube channel that will give you another way to share your thoughts on a particular topic within your industry. Invite other industry leaders, and become the go-to channel for content that you want to be known for.
6. Be a guest
Maybe you aren’t quite ready to start your own show, but you could definitely be a guest, a speaker, a moderator or a panelist on someone else’s show or event. Get your speaker kit and bio ready, and start pitching your topics to shows or events that you know the audience would get immense value from what you have to share.
7. Create your own personal brand website
What will people see when they Google your name? Having a personal brand website where you control the look, feel and content is important when being positioned as a thought leader. You do not want to rely on what shows up or doesn’t show up for you in an online search. Claim your domain name, and create your own website that truly speaks to your area(s) of expertise and your key topics of interest.
8. Host an event
With many events still virtual today, this is a great time to test out hosting your own event and a great way to create something on a small or large scale that is focused around your topic(s) of interest. Collaborate with others who can add value to your topic and host a virtual, hybrid or physical event. This could be in the form of a mastermind, retreat, coaching group, webinar or summit.
Related: 5 Reasons to Host Your Own Event
9. Write about it online
Start writing about your key topics. You can begin with your social media channels: LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook — or you could start a blog on your website or start a newsletter that interested individuals can subscribe to. Did you know that you can now do newsletters on LinkedIn? I tried it and now have over 2,000 subscribers. Take your writing a step further by reaching out to a local or international publication with your pitch to become a contributor. This could immediately expand your reach and audience.
10. Create a product or service
Create something that supports your insight. This could be workbooks, courses, coaching services, a customized program, etc. Think about what your audience needs from you, and brainstorm the products or services that could support them with actual results while also positioning you as an expert.
11. Think different
Steve Jobs said it best when he said, “Think different.” What is going to make you stand out? Why should someone listen to what you have to say? Think about your industry, what you are doing that is different or better than anyone else in your field, and why someone should pay to hear what you have to say.
Related: How To Win the Thought Leadership Arms Race in 2022