Ask the PR Pro: How do I become a thought leader?

Have you noticed that it seems the same people are regularly quoted in industry publications? Have you ever thought, “Hey! That should be me!”

If you have strong industry knowledge, a knack for distilling information and a thick skin, you too could become an industry thought leader. But, it takes time and effort.

For starters, set realistic expectations. Since reporters often reach out first to sources they trust to provide background and information about timely topics, it’s important to focus on gaining the trust of a few key reporters. Trust is built over time by responding quickly to reporters’ needs, and providing accurate information and lively interviews.

To become an industry thought leader, consider investing time in the following or hiring a PR firm to do this for you:

  1. Become media trained. Reporters are experts at what they do, so you should learn how reporters work, what kind of news will interest them and how to deliver an interview that will further your goals while also meeting the information needs of reporters. While most interviews today happen by phone, good media training will include videotaping your responses and demeanor. This is becoming even more important as reporters get  comfortable using video chat and expand their channels to include podcasts and video casts.
  2. Read voraciously. One of the best ways to provide value to a reporter is being able to quickly provide commentary on current events in your industry and to be able to forecast trends. The best way to prepare to do this is to read both industry and general market publications daily.
  3. Hone your writing skills. Reporters are crunched to deliver an expanding amount of coverage to a growing number of channels, and may be open to help. Trusted thought leaders often can secure an opportunity to contribute an article. These articles must be engaging, educational, factual, non-promotional and non-biased, and they must be delivered on deadline.
  4. Speak up. Every industry has a number of conferences and meetings that feature speakers who are experts on a variety of topics. Research these venues and keep of calendar of application deadlines. Remember that most conferences begin looking for speakers eight to 12 months before the event.
  5. Get social. One of the best ways to showcase your expertise is by blogging and being active on social media. Create your own blog or contribute to your company blog, then share your work on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
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