Thought Leadership: Conferred or Secured?

Think of the key technology thought leaders you know of, how did they get that way? Was it good marketing, or was it from having a dynamic personality and a point of view that was highly relevant at that time?

We often talk about “becoming a thought leader” as part of our marketing campaigns. In fact back in my PR agency days, every new business pitch had a campaign to “become a thought leader.” It usually involved writing articles, getting on the speaking circuit, doing media and analyst interviews, and carrying a specific “stump speech” or point of view into every interaction.

Today I am sure those plans include using Blogs, Twitter feeds, community engagement, LinkedIn groups and a host of other social media tools to drive a point of view.

But I think you need to have something more.  Kind of like catching lightening in a bottle. You need to have the right point of view, at the right time, the credibility to give it teeth, and perhaps most importantly, the personality and passion to see it through.

I have met a number of so-called gurus over the years and it is easy to separate out who was real and who was not.  The real gurus had a real following.  It wasn’t measured necessarily in the number of followers or how hard they worked at it, but rather in the power of their ideas.  And it was rarely done for the gain of their company. Sure their company benefited from the profile they created, but their profile was not created for the good of the company.

The power of social media only means that you have more tools at your disposal, and gives you a global reach to your ideas. But if your topic is also a personal passion, no amount of marketing or PR is going to turn you into a thought leader –the community at large will sniff that out too quickly.

Instead today we are not talking about “becoming a thought leader.” Instead our goals are more inline with what we can impact. We are taking a “leadership position” and using the tools at our disposal to communicate that position to our customers and prospects.  Over time the market may confer thought leadership upon us.

That will be just fine with us, but we are not waiting around for it either.

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