• Brian Castle

Keeping It Real As a Thought Leader

The Parklife Guide to SMB Thought Leadership, Part 4: Keeping It Real

In our previous installments we defined thought leaders and what they need to do to achieve that status, as well as why thought leadership is great for your marketing mix and how you go about asserting yourself. Then, we illustrated how some business leaders supercharge their thought leadership efforts by working with ghostwriters.

In this final installment, let’s take a look at the realities of thought leadership as you continue to explore the question of whether it’s right for you and your business.

Anyone Can Do It, But It’s Not for Everyone

If you’re doing the work—excelling in your profession, innovating, charting a course that others could follow to their own discoveries and success—there’s no reason you can’t become a thought leader. Or is there?

You may be daunted by what you see, numbers-wise, when you look at the influence and reach certain people have in social and digital media. Remember, there are two ways to achieve influence in these circles. For less than one percent of us, that means celebrity. You’ll see celebrities ranging from models and sports figures to entertainers promoting brands and even creating their own to license to leading manufacturers. They are aligning their goals to the scope of their influence. You should, too.

That means that you—the small or mid-sized business owner, founder, or executive—simply need to adjust your goals and expectations to what’s right for your business and career. Is your business national or global in scope, or do you have a local business? Do you need to appeal to the general public, or to a select, targeted group?

Our business is national in scope, with a preponderance of our clients spread across North Carolina. Our thought leadership strategies are geared not at achieving millions of followers from the general public, but at growing our base of founders and executives of startups, small businesses, and mid-sized companies. These leaders often lack a full complement of marketing resources in-house or see the value in outsourcing services like mine, even if they do have a lot of resources. While we do put some efforts into creating local appeal, that’s more to lift up the community where we live.

But if your business is local in scope, you can still be a thought leader. That might mean some of your tactics are similar to mine—blogging and podcasting, for just a couple of examples—but others may be different, like speaking at local civic organizations or doing talk radio interviews with the local station.

Words of Caution

Like virtually any other life pursuit, pursuing thought leadership as an entrepreneur or executive isn’t without its perils. The good news is, you can control your destiny.

Our first words of caution: The path to thought leadership isn’t for everyone. It’s perfectly fine to do what you do, love it, and still stay out of the influencer game. Thought leaders typically make up about 10 percent of a given professional population. Does that mean that only 10 out of every 100 professionals are leaders? Of course not. But it does mean that these are the ones who put in both the work of what they do, and the work of communicating about it to their peers and other targeted audiences.

But if you’re a thinking person, passionate about what you do, and you’re bringing something new to the table, this is a way to lead and give back to your profession, as well as attract business.

Some final words of caution: There’s really only one way to sabotage yourself as you develop as a thought leader, and that’s being inauthentic. You have to be authentic. Being authentic of course means having integrity and actually doing the work that you represent in your writing and speaking. But it also means staying in your lane and not writing checks you can’t cash; just because you’re an expert in selling real estate doesn’t mean you’re an expert in real estate law, for example, much less other practice areas of the law. If you’re a broker, leave the legal where it belongs, with the lawyers.

Remember, nobody knows what you do like you do, so don’t feel the need to embellish. If you can’t resist yourself, just know that there’s an army of armchair skeptics out there waiting to feast on you, but only if you let them.

We love working with entrepreneurs and executives who are looking to add thought leadership activities to their marketing mix, in order to achieve their business and career goals. Our team can craft a plan that plays to your strengths and help you execute efficiently. From a value perspective, this is some of the most important work we do. Contact us today at to get started on your path to thought leadership.