Are you a thought leader?
A good friend recently emailed with an interesting dilemma and I’d love your input.
Within the next couple of years he would like to become a thought leader and “go to” guy in his industry.
When I think of thought leaders I think of people like Seth Godin, Jeff Pulver, and Derek Sivers who set themselves apart from all of the noise by consistently delivering ideas that either provide tremendous value or force us to rethink, re-strategize, and refocus our energies.
My friend who emailed primarily mentioned blogging as a way to spread his ideas with the main issue being that he holds a corporate job and they might frown upon him sharing his thoughts…
The following is the input I had to offer him.
I don’t think I am a thought leader but I’m happy to offer my suggestions & most importantly, it looks as though you have some well identified goals.
When I read your email, your three main goals seem to be:
- Raise your profile in the industry.
- Be seen as a thought leader.
- You want to work for yourself one day.
The coporate diplomatic dance will be a tricky one, but it can DEFINITELY be done!
In this day and age you have every right to publish your thoughts (within reason and respect to company X of course). I would have to assume that the person who got in trouble for tweeting was not using much common sense.
What I would recommend:
First – before anything else, get off of the WordPress hosted domain and get your own domain. I just checked GoDaddy and surprisingly thedomainyouwant.com is available. I would claim that name NOW if that’s the one you want. You can setup 301 redirects for your WordPress hosted site to your new domain.
Second – What are the keywords you want to rank for in the future? How will organic web traffic within your industry find you via web searches? Spend some time with Google Keyword tool. Whatever you want to rank for, make sure it is in your Header tag and Meta description.
Third – Who is your audience? What forums do they hang out in? Find the top three or four forums and start going to them and be as helpful as you can (answer questions, point people in the right direction, etc). With full disclosure of who you work for of course.
Forums are where you can really begin build an audience. People want to deal with people. You helping them in forums is the first step towards gaining trust. In the online social world, trust = capital that can be “cashed” in at a later date.
Remember, never be spammy.
Fourth – are you using Tweetdeck? Setup up search columns for whatever it is you want to promote yourself in (hint… use the keywords you chose). Check in on those columns and see if there’s a person you can help or question you can answer.
Fifth – All of your social media activity is designed to eventually get people to your home base, which is your blog. Along with the obvious — Home, About, etc. pages, you will need a “Disclosure” page.
Check out the blog by Matt Cutts. He is head of spam for Google but does a great job of balancing the walk between corporate and personal. (Note: If it was me, I would speak to my boss. Even if you blog anonymously, sooner or later someone will find out it’s you. )
I would be VERY surprised if company X does not have policy in place for personal blogs. Really, all you need to do is assure them that you’ll never be disparaging to them as a company but that you also have interest in other developments within the industry. Can you draw upon certain industry examples that excite you? Do they tie in with company X at all?
With respect to your wider interests, there must be at least 20 posts that you can write about that wouldn’t seem threatening to company X. My humble opinion, but if your boss ever gave you a hard time and if you wanted to make an issue, it would be a PR nightmare for them to give you grief about industry trends.
Sixth – if you’ve made it this far…then we can discuss creating content after you’ve done steps 1-5. :-) Do you read Seth Godin? He is an amazing writer about all things marketing, new media, and being remarkable. I would start on his site and read every post that you have time for.
(As an addendum to #6 what I would recommend this person do is write. Every day. The blog posts do not have to be a 2000 word thesis extolling the virtues of current industry trends. But rather, 500-800 words of easily digestible thoughts that challenge people and helps them improve.)
Now over to YOU! What would you recommend my friend do to become a thought leader within his industry?