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  • Brian Castle

Thought Leadership: It’s Not for Everyone



I’ve been working in the area of thought leadership for a decade now, and with the rise of blogs, social media, and other online tools, it’s easier than ever for those leaders among us to promote their ideas to a much larger audience.


Notice what I said there: easier for those leaders among us to promote their ideas. You’ll see lots of articles out there about using the above-mentioned venues, as well as traditional avenues of exerting thought leadership, like speaking to groups, associations, and conferences, to build yourself as a thought leader. But there’s some consideration to be had, as to who qualifies.


We had innovators well before the digital age. There are always those who lead, and there are always those who follow. But the last ten years or so has also seen the rise of an imposter class online. Case in point: There are purported digital thought leaders in healthcare who neither practice medicine nor conduct medical research. Nor do they do anything, really, in the medical field. They are simply professional bloggers and tweeters--if they are thought leaders about anything, it’s about digital self-promotion.


Thought leadership is a concept marked by its duality. You have to have thoughts--original ones, at that--and a willingness to advance them, to lead in a given subject area. That area can literally be anything, from healthcare to technology, from etiquette to landscaping. In healthcare, for example, thought leaders develop intelligence and wisdom through treating patients and conducting research, such as their work leading clinical trials. In turn, they publish their findings in scientific journals, and they speak to their colleagues in small groups and even major congresses, to advance their thinking. Some of them even write for medical blogs and use social media to educate their colleagues and the interested public at large.

But don’t think that you have to lead the world in some breakthrough fashion. Some thought leaders are just that in the existential sense. In my career, I’ve worked with some notable entrepreneurs and executives--several come to mind--who are either adding new wrinkles to freshen up an old business playbook, or they’re turning old models on their head. Others simply outlast their competitors and accumulate unmatched levels of industry wisdom.

Becoming a thought leader doesn’t simply boil down to blogging or tweeting or speaking. There must be substance first, or else you’re just a noisemaker. Perhaps this is why many of us who work in content marketing can feel at times as though we are trapped in a sea of white noise. Have you checked your LinkedIn feed lately? The signal-to-noise ratio is incredibly off-kilter.


There’s no need to be a human cowbell or vuvuzela. But if you are that person of substance, a wide world of opportunity to lead others in your field awaits you. One of my favorite aspects of technology is how it democratizes. Now, with virtually any budget, you can work with an agency like ours to advance your thought leadership. And if you’re savvy enough and disciplined enough--and have enough time--you can do it yourself. If you’re in the majority who realize they can’t do it alone, don’t worry. We can help. Contact us today to start a conversation.

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