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  • Writer's pictureBrian Castle

Finding Your Reach as a Thought Leader

As the leader of Parklife’s thought leadership practice, my primary role is to advise entrepreneurs and executives in small and midsize businesses on the best applications of this concept within their company’s overall marketing mix. While I’ve written in this space that thought leadership isn’t for everyone, it may be the best-performing element of your mix when it comes to attracting like-minded clients and partners to join your journey of growth.

There’s a common misconception with regard to thought leadership, and this misconception is actually well and historically founded. It’s easy to fall into thinking that thought leadership is part of having a global reach, one where you’re invited to speak at Davos, offer an op-ed to the New York Times, or sit for an interview with Oprah Winfrey. While thought leadership certainly traces its origins as a concept to certain industries and professions (technology, government, economics, healthcare) and was typically confined to those who had achieved some measure or mix of wealth, celebrity, and power, that’s no longer the case. The advent of new media and associated technologies have had a democratizing effect (thankfully), opening the floodgates to virtually anyone with something original and relevant to say.

That someone could be you. And while we say that these platforms and technologies are democratizing, that doesn’t mean the organizers at Davos will be calling you. But that’s okay, really, because what you need to focus on as an entrepreneur or small business leader isn’t about global celebrity, but more about helping your business grow. To do that, you need to focus on achieving a reach that matches that of your business and its aspirations.

In this regard, think about thought leadership as you would advertising. Many local businesses simply need to reach their neighbors. But others may need to reach both their neighbors and those who may visit as tourists throughout the region. Just as you can advertise within your market and outside of it, as well as in traditional print and broadcast media outlets (and their associated digital platforms), you can similarly aim for a thought leadership reach that meets those same goals centered on the needs of your business.

Let’s back away from media types for a second and consider thought leadership in its most elemental forms, writing and speaking. If you think about these forms, they translate into multiple media types that you, even in the small and midsize business world, have immediate, direct access through your own team or a qualified external partner.

Let’s start with ways to go local. With speaking, you should target local civic groups for talks and panels within your area of expertise. In addition, there are always the locally-based and targeted print and digital outlets, as well as broadcast television and radio. Going more regional and national in your reach isn’t necessarily trickier, but rather a result of better targeting. This might mean speaking at events (and paying to do so, at least at first), that bring professionals together from around the country or even the world. Rather than targeting local outlets, trade publications may be the answer.

Perhaps the best news relative to finding your reach is that when you use your own platforms, such as your website, social media accounts, podcast, and video channels, your profile as a thought leader extends as these platforms grow in reach. Through the power of hashtags, keywords, search engine optimization, and marketing, borders and boundaries vanish. That’s why it pays most of all, typically, to invest in yourself for greater thought leadership return on investment. Build your website content in ways that attract people to the edges of your market and go beyond to places and levels where you aspire. Speak to topics in video content and/or podcasts that attract viewers and listeners in the places where you want to grow.

Finding your reach as a thought leader is at your fingertips. As professionals in this space, we can help you determine the reach that’s appropriate for your business and its ambitions; craft a strategy that’s sensible and powerful within your budgetary and time constraints (which we all have); and execute the plan with the right mix, cadence, and platforms to help you grow.

Contact us today to get started.

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