How to Become a Thought Leader

No Comments Yet | by Elise Perkins

I attended a “Thought Leadership Panel” a few weeks back, hosted by Washington Women in Public Relations, ColorComm, and Johns Hopkins University MA in Communication program. Panel experts included Bess Bezirgan Winston, Principal and Founder, Winston Agency, and faculty member at The Johns Hopkins University; Shonali Burke, President & CEO, Shonali Burke Consulting, and faculty member at The Johns Hopkins University; Robin McClain, Vice President of Marketing & Communications, Destination DC; and Trisch Smith, Executive Vice President, Edelman. Some really impressive women.

Communicators gathered to hear discussion on how to raise the profile of an organization or its leadership as a thought leader for a topic or industry. And while the discussion mostly revolved around just that, elevating others, the undercurrent was really about elevating yourself.

Turns out, its quite simple if you these rules:

  • Figure out what issue you (or your thought leader) cares about;
  • Learn said issue (determine what you believe, and study what others believe);
  • Talk about your issues (this is where social media, the great equalizer, comes in handy); and,
  • Talk some more.

The three caveats to the above edicts are as such:

  • Individuals of any age, or level of experience, can be thought-leaders; consider Malala Yousafzai.
  • But…not every expert is primed for the limelight; should your economist be giving a TED talk?
  • Time is your friend; building an overnight spokesperson is easier if they have a record of speaking on an issue.

Turns out you CAN become a thought leader if you set your mind to it. “Leap, and the net will appear,” Bess Winston encouraged in her closing remarks.

So, write. Tweet. Write some more. Become a thought leader before you NEED to be one. Or, as every entrepreneurial book I’ve ever read says: do the work.

To discover all of the great insights in 140 characters, follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #LeaderPanel.

About Elise Perkins

Elise Perkins founded ep communications in 2014 after seven years of working for trade associations and think tanks. Today she focuses on building brands for businesses and people, using a savvy mix of content and influencer strategies. She sits on the board of Washington Women in Public Relations.

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