is174841097 expert largeWe live in a world of specialization, where anyone who is an expert in their field is highly respected. This means building thought leadership can do wonders for your reputation, not only as an individual but as a business leader in your industry. Ultimately, your reputation is a critical factor in growing your business, winning potential customers, and attracting talented employees, but it doesn’t happen without some work.

Developing Thought Leadership

[quotesright]The best aspects of building your reputation are that they don’t have to cost much money, and that the playing field is level for everyone from small business owners to corporation presidents. [/quotesright]

Here’s how to use thought leadership to establish your expert reputation, and the benefits you and your company can enjoy as a result. Becoming a thought leader requires you to build a powerful, personal brand, and then take certain aspects of it to a higher level. A thought leadership strategy typically includes the following steps.

1. Plan Your Positioning

Personal positioning is very similar to business positioning, especially if you’re doing it with the intention of building your business reputation. Examine your company brand mission and personality. [quotesright]Identify your goals and passions and consider what will be the best way to position yourself to explain what you do and what you want to be known for. [/quotesright] It’s useful to do some basic research to identify how competitors in your industry have positioned their companies, so you know what you’re up against.

2. Demonstrate Credibility

Demonstrating credibility in your field begins with having the right qualifications, followed by significant experience and an impeccable record of delivery. You’ll need to gather a range of materials and make them easily available to interested parties to achieve this, because in these days of false advertising and identity theft nothing less than clear evidence is convincing. In addition to lining your office wall with framed certifications, there are a number of actions you can take to show credibility.

Write blog posts. Whether these are for your own blog, guest posts for other websites, or appear on LinkedIn or places like, getting published with your byline helps raise your profile both in Google and in your industry.

[quotes]Get interviewed.[/quotes] Few publicity options have quite the same level of credibility as does getting interviewed on TV or radio. If that’s difficult to set up, try filming a video of yourself delivering a short address and share it on various sites. Video enables a much deeper connection with the audience than written material does, and if you can deliver interactive events such as live webinars or round-table discussions that are also recorded for later viewing, you’ll really hit the ball out of the park.

Network online and in person. Establishing a reputation is irrelevant if nobody knows who you are, so it’s essential to expand your network of business contacts, both virtually and in 3D. Online networking can take place on LinkedIn, where you can join groups focused on just about any topic, as well as in industry forums and associations such as, Builders Network, and various local Chambers of Commerce.

All these tactics help to make you more visible, which will bring attention to your business. [quotesright]People tend to follow other people, so the more “human” you can make your business appear, the faster you’ll develop a following. [/quotesright]

3. Establish Expert Status

The next logical step after establishing thought leadership is to position yourself as an expert. An overwhelming amount of evidence shows that experts are made, not born, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Subject matter experts or SMEs are usually people who have been in the business for years and have had the experience of implementing proven solutions. Become the go-to knowledge resource for your industry, the person who has lived a long history of client relationships and who knows your counterparts’ strengths and weaknesses.

Promote the use of best practices to encourage more effective operations and talk about them with confidence. Identify innovative breakthroughs and new technologies that your business and clients benefited from, and don’t keep them a secret. Leverage every opportunity to improve your organization, team, brand, and customer relationships.

[quotesright]SMEs know where industry pitfalls exist, as well as what has historically worked in the past and present. [/quotesright] This puts them in a powerful position to advise anyone from potential clients to representatives of the media, which boosts credibility and enables them to build influence significantly.

Maintaining a Business Reputation

Developing your status as an expert and a business leader is not a process you do once and then you’re done. It requires an ongoing investment of time and energy. For example, it’s not practical to simply join the online forums and then forget about them. [quotes]To reap the benefits, you’ll need to be an active participant, attend public events, answer questions, and provide in-depth, quality information online. [/quotes]

It’s also important to keep track of what others are saying about you – on social media, on your blog comments, and especially in company reviews. Reputation management can allow you to address anything negative that is said before it becomes a major headache. Set up alerts to notify you of any comments about you that are posted and make it a point to respond and to resolve the issue. Ask the poster to update the complaint afterward so other readers can see you resolved it.

Getting Started

Developing a solid reputation as a thought leader or expert comes from continuously improving your knowledge, leadership skills, effectiveness, and engagement of all your employees. The good news is that it doesn’t take as much time and effort as you might think, and you don’t have to tackle the process alone.

A leadership coach can help you plan your strategy, and there’s an army of freelance writers, photographers, website designers, and videographers out there who can help you define the messages you want to impart and the ways in which you want to deliver them. [quotesright]Just by investing a few hours each month, you can create a lasting impact for yourself, your business and your employees. [/quotesright]