The number of changes hitting the retail industry are piling up like mohair sweaters on a sales rack in July. For the retail executive, just keeping up with the latest technology shakeout or millennial shopping shift can make the usual challenges of logistics, buying strategies and mobile sales promotion seem like a proverbial walk in the park.
How to Break the Mold and Top the Charts
Let’s face it, the endless stream of articles, infographics and webinars on thought leadership is a little overwhelming. Not only that, if everyone follows the “thought leadership” formula, then aren’t we all at risk of becoming a packaged success product, instead of a true industry influencer?
Possibly. Which is why 2016, the “Year of Thought Leadership” according to business-focused publications, may need to be re-titled “the year of you breaking the thought leadership mold and becoming a rock star.” That may not be exceptionally catchy as a record title, but I hope it resonates with you.
The reality is that all of those thought leadership must-do’s are very helpful – as a starting place. At some point, however, you need to leave the playbook behind and create your own, fresh, original voice if you really want to find your place as opinion maker and chart-topping influencer.
After all, Led Zeppelin rock icon Robert Plant would have been just another high school dropout with a few chords under his belt if he hadn’t cultivated that eerily cutting banshee wail that became his hallmark.
Fortunately for you, there is no need to sing “Stairway to Heaven,” but harnessing your industry knowledge to a fresh, unique point of view is a must.
Here’s What You Don’t Know
In my 16+ years with some of the world’s smartest executives and entrepreneurs to share their stories, I’m here to tell you: You have thought leadership capabilities within you that you haven’t even guessed at. The key is to acknowledge your unique industry experience, and partner it with your you-and-you-only point of view. You may not be able to play a 16-string guitar, but I bet you have a fresh take on your industry that could turn a hum-drum conference presentation into rockstar-worthy chatfest.
The key is to turn what you know into how it impacts your target market. Your knowledge of a manufacturing process isn't fascinating, but your ability to tell an audience how lean manufacturing will create better work environments and a greener world certainly is. Don't think "what," think "why," 'how" and "impact" when you inventory your knowledge. I think you'll be surprised at how much you have to share.
So What is a Thought Leader?
A thought leader is someone with subject expertise, who is generous in applying their knowledge to educate, engage, inspire and explore.
Don’t sell. Inform, engage, question. Maybe even inspire if you are truly passionate about your subject. You don’t necessarily have to have all the answers, but knowing the questions to ask, and being able to offer a reasoned look, is key.
Where’s Your Stage?
OK, you’re ready to take your act on the road and share your thought leadership chops. Great. But where? Fortunately for you, the options for connecting with your fans (oops, I mean market community) are endless. The social world of owned media under your control is great: blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, all good. Speaking engagements and white papers? Equally good and necessary.
May I suggest, however, that you not overlook the awareness and credibility-builder that’s transformed the careers of CEOs and actual rock stars alike: the press, or earned media, as we call it these days. Turning your expertise into media-worthy topics, shared by top journalists and embraced by their community, is one of the most effective ways possible to share your expertise and unique viewpoint with the world.
Want to discover your inner thought leader rock star? Book a free 15 minute discussion; there is no obligation, only fast and furious discussion on how to get yourself on the road to industry expertise stardom.