Becoming a thought leader takes time, discipline, and innovation. But, in its basic form, it comes down to engagement.
It takes time to convince an industry of an idea. Some voices will sound against you, and you have to be prepared to translate your ideas into practice. Some won’t even listen to your idea.
A good thought leader doesn’t give up. Trial and error aside, he or she will effectively engage with your members without missing a beat.
Here are three questions to ask yourself while building your thought leadership strategy (based after Forrester’s IDEA graph):
How do your members think? What’s the overarching purpose of thought leadership? You’re sharing thoughtful ideas with those who need them for their professional development. Most of your members come across the same problems on a daily basis. They want your help, but first it’s important for your association to show them you understand and care. As Forrester says, focus on your target audience’s issues and how your association can appease them.
Forrester may be referring to a consumer business model, but the concept is applicable for associations. If you build resourceful content that will help them every step of the way, their loyalty will follow. “This is key to a central value of thought leadership—a brand gets differentiated by striking out an original position on something of interest to customers, cutting through the clutter and helping to build trust that the brand is on your side,” Barry Levine writes for CMSWire. “It’s providing informational value to buyers, in exchange for buyer attention.”
What ideas are you communicating and how? To be a thought leader, you need to be a trusted expert in a particular field. It’s not just about what ideas you’re sharing, but the vehicles and tone matter, too. Use social media channels, magazines, newsletters, and the like to find a voice in your community. Set up an association blog and invite guest bloggers or encourage your staff to contribute their own ideas about the industry. Most importantly, have a creative eye for inspiration and recognize potential opportunities for your industry.
As Forrester points out, this level of engagement is its own discipline. You can have a great idea and do nothing with it. But developing that idea to the point that the entire industry follows suit can make you a thought leader.
How will this idea impact your association? Fast Company‘s Daniel Rasmus would probably agree with Forrester on the discipline front. In his article “The Golden Rules of Creating Thoughtful Thought Leadership,” Rasmus highlights why thought leadership takes time to establish. “Thought leadership is cumulative. Although thought leadership can and should have tactical elements that reveal the evolution of an idea from concept toward implementation, all thought leadership should be strategic at the onset. Thought leadership should be about a big idea that changes how people perceive the world.”
How has your thought leadership impacted your industry? Share your story with us! We’d love to hear your thoughts (pun intended).