Thought leadership has become one of the most popular ways to build one’s personal brand and to boost one’s professional growth. If it is done correctly, it can help stand out in one’s industry, strengthen one’s reputation and establish one’s position as an expert. Becoming a thought leader is now easier than ever before because social media platforms and personal websites help share one’s content and engage one’s audience more easily. However, if thought leadership efforts are incorrect, they can damage one’s personal brand and prevent from reaching one’s target audience effectively. Therefore, it is important to be aware of common mistakes.
Mistake 1: Creating content of poor quality. According to an Edelman-LinkedIn study, good thought leadership content can generate more business opportunities than previously thought. For example, about half of decision makers admit that thought leadership has directly resulted in award business to their companies. They also believe that thought leadership helps command a premium for their products and services. Despite these gains, many business leaders do not pay enough attention to the quality of their content. They either create it hastily or use ghostwriting services to keep up with demand for industry insights, thus securing their market position. These practices, however, inevitably result in poor content quality, which can negatively affect long-term business growth.
Mistake 2: Sharing ‘safe’ ideas. One of the cornerstones of thought leadership is sharing unique and thought-provoking insights. If business leaders share only ‘safe’ ideas, their content will not create much impact on their target audience. Only providing “a unique and interesting perspective” on a relevant topic or sharing a different point of view on important industry news can attract a lot of attention and create value. To increase one’s outreach online, it is also important to actively interact with one’s audience: to respond to user comments, initiate discussions on relevant industry topics and react to other people’s posts, each time trying to provide some valuable and thought-provoking insights.
Mistake 3: Focusing on success stories. Many people taking up the thought leadership challenge believe that the most interesting part of their professional story is their success. By contrast, most journalists and conference organizers are more interested in hearing about professional failures and vulnerabilities as they want to better relate to that experience and understand how leaders have managed to overcome the darkest moments for their business. These stories are of particular interest to the business community as well because many professionals seek guidance on how to overcome their own problems.
Mistake 4: Doing everything alone. When developing a thought leadership strategy, most individuals in charge believe that they have to do everything on their own. This attitude contradicts what the most well-known thought leaders have realized over the years: they cannot be in charge of every single activity relevant to their role. To cope with a heavy workload, well-know thought leaders typically have a team that assists them with various tasks such as research, content creation, audience engagement online, event schedules, networking with other leaders or scheduling collaborations. Without having a support team, business leaders trying to do everything on their own risk experiencing burnout, which in turn can lead to costly mistakes such as providing incorrect information or poor audience engagement.
Mistake 5: Mixing one’s personal and professional life. Although personal and professional lives are closely intertwined, business leaders should avoid sharing too much personal information in a professional context to prevent costly misunderstandings. All content that they share on social media and their online interaction should always be kept professional. They should never post anything that they do not want their audience to know about them, regardless of their privacy settings. Online self-control will help avoid a faux pas that can harm one’s professional reputation.