Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
December 1, 2011

Five Points to Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader

Join the PRSA New Professionals Section and personal branding expert Hajj Flemings for the online training session, “Personal Branding: Develop Yourself as a Thought Leader,” on Wednesday, December 7, 2011. Registration is only $35 for members of the New Professionals Section and for members of PRSSA.  Register Now

Do you want to become the next Seth Godin, Steve Jobs, or Daymond Johns? I am going to walk you through some points to help you establish yourself as a thought leader in the era of digital technology. One disclaimer: Having a blog doesn’t make you a thought leader in the same way that having an iPhone will not make you think like Steve Jobs. The context of thought leadership in this article is helping individuals understand how to use digital technology, content curation and branding as a thought leadership strategy.

According to Wikipedia, Joel Kurtzman coined the term, “Thought leader” in 1994, and the context was to designate interview subjects who had business ideas that merited attention.

Five Points to Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader

  1. Zig When Others Zag – Thought leaders get out of the box and think outside the box — they zig when others are zagging. You have to get out of your comfort zone and create stuff that others want to share. People are inundated with information, so you have to cut through all the noise that is online and create a strong signal that makes people want to connect with your ideas.
  2. Own Your Niche – It is very difficult for the average person to do more than one thing well at any given time. Focus on one thing and own it. I know this sounds cliché, but it is critical to identify a subject/topic/area that you are passionate about and focus on doing that one thing well versus many things average.
  3. Create a Digital Footprint – Identify the online platforms you are planning to use to generate content (i.e., WordPress, Twitter, YouTube, etc.). As a starter, you should establish a blog as your online hub and use social networks as outposts to create and distribute content across media and across platforms.
  4. Social Proof – We live in an age when everybody is a quote-unquote expert, and the meaning of this word is truly diluted because it is used very loosely. Social proof is providing people with examples of tangible work that you have done in the real world and not just theoretical thoughts or ideas. This helps to validate your experience. Tip: The Internet is run by links and it is very easy to use tools like to provide digital breadcrumbs to your content.
  5. Content Curation – Content is the new currency and can be used to establish credibility in the business world. Quality is the new quantity as it relates to content; establish a schedule and create stuff that matters.

In the end, thought leadership has the ability to translate into revenue in the Web 2.0 world for thought leaders who are infopreneurs (entrepreneurs who generate their revenue by creating content). The typical streams of income for thought leaders/infopreneurs come from creating products and creating experiences: writing books, speaking at conferences/events and creating other content products.

Hajj Flemings is CEO/Founder of Brand Camp University, the largest personal branding conference in the Midwest and the author of “The Brand YU Life: Re-thinking Who You Are Through Personal Brand Management.”

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