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Thought leadership and managing your voice: What does it mean?

Like innovation, disruption, visionary and out-of-the-box thinking, thought leadership is perhaps one of the most overused and often wrongly applied terms.

The dawn of the digital age has enabled pretty much anyone with a voice to become a thought leader. More people than ever can aspire to have the same voice as a Sheryl Sandberg or Larry Page. But few deliver that voice with authenticity, relevance and value, to truly become a thought leader.

Thought leadership now is almost synonymous with content marketing – especially for brands and individuals with a public agenda and startup entrepreneurs trying to establish their identity through an online voice.

If you are focusing your efforts on becoming a thought leader, here are a few suggestions that could help in building your public identity.

Inject personality into your digital dialect

Whether you talk on behalf of the brand or represent yourself, always inject personality into your digital dialect. True connections are forged from experiences that impact people on a personal level.

While it might be easy to run campaigns and source followers, in the longer run, your credibility is built on the value your inputs add into the daily lives of your r. Be honest (as much as you can) and reflect your personality in your conversations and you’ll see resonance from your audience.

Conversations not broadcast messages

Being a thought leader is not about broadcasting or sharing 20 posts daily about an industry topic. The content strategy that helps establish you as a thought leader should focus on engagement more than quantity. Are your audiences reading your messages, are they engaging through responses or re-shares and most importantly, are they interested in the content you put out?

Try and have meaningful conversations with your community – both online and offline, to get them to value you as a thought leader. If working with agencies that manage your brand, jump in regularly to share your voice as well. As a Harvard Business Review article noted, using “trade capital” or packaging and presenting the opinion of others, does not make a thought leader.

Helping your customers

Another downside to just broadcasting messages is the lack of value to readers or customers. While you might think that you are doing others a favour by sharing interesting information, remember that your audience is choosing to tune into your messages – thus helping build your profile as a thought leader. If you are not giving them value, they will tune out.

Clarify your purpose and build on that as you develop your image as a thought leader. Look at your competitors, assess what voice and presence they have and set yourself apart from them. Understand your audience and try to help them through your connection points; be it through mentorship, industry commentary with your opinion, sharing tips from personal journeys and insights or observations.

Do not plagiarise or regurgitate

We have access to more content than ever now. It is easy to use relevant information written by others and “share” it with your audience – especially in blogs or long-form content.

The golden rule is to always credit the source of information when sharing with your audience. Statistics, interview quotes and references repurposed or used in your communication that aren’t attributed could get you followers, but could also harm your credibility and image with other industry experts.

When you do share ideas, observations, concepts or anything else that is already published, add value by giving it your interpretation.

In conclusion, be open to learning new things and sharing what you learn with those around you. Through it all be honest – in your purpose, communication and respect for those around you.

About the author:

This article was writen by Renata Cooper, CEO of Forming Circles and Angel Investor.

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