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So You Want to Be a Thought Leader? Here are 5 Steps to Take Younger generations are buying from people they trust and who provide value — not brands. They are buying from thought leaders.

By Hannah Cranston

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The term "thought leadership" has become the latest buzzword on the lips of industry experts and C-level executives alike. But what exactly is thought leadership, and why has it gained such popularity recently?

Customers are looking to founders, CEOs and other brand representatives to communicate expertise and their value proposition more than ever. In fact, almost one-third of GenZers report that they unfollow or block brand social media accounts weekly. But, 83% say they shop on social media and a whopping 97% report that social media is their top method for researching shopping options.

So what gives? Younger generations buy from *people* that they trust and who provide value, not brands. They are buying from thought leaders.

Related: What Exactly Is Thought Leadership?

Thought leaders are individuals who not only possess expertise and knowledge but also possess the charisma and personality that captivate audiences. Establishing yourself as a thought leader is a surefire way to elevate your brand and position yourself as an authority in your industry to drive engagement and ROI. It goes beyond being a subject matter expert and embraces the art of inspiring others, driving meaningful conversations and shaping the future of industries.

Thought leadership represents a shift from traditional expertise to a more holistic approach that combines knowledge, innovation and influence. So how do you get started?

Step 1: Establish your unique value proposition

Thought leadership starts with a laser-focused approach. Determine the niche or area of expertise where you can truly shine. Ask yourself: What unique perspective can I offer? What challenges can I address? Find your sweet spot, the intersection of your passion and expertise and stake your claim in that domain. Remember, it's better to go an inch wide and a mile deep than to be a jack of all trades.

Related: How to Enhance Your Brand Through Thought Leadership

Step 2: Unleash your expertise

Once you establish your unique value proposition, study it inside and out. Become an expert in your niche, and I'm talking next-level knowledge. Stay on top of industry trends, devour the latest research and constantly challenge yourself to learn more. You want to be the go-to person, the one people turn to for guidance and insight. When you speak, people should feel the gravitational pull of your expertise.

Step 3: Craft your unique voice

Let's talk about the secret sauce that sets thought leaders apart — your voice. The magic here is where your knowledge meets your personality. Are you witty? Sharp? Compassionate? Whatever it is, own it and let it shine through in everything you do. Inject your unique flavor into your content, speeches and conversations. People will be drawn to your authenticity, and that's how you build a loyal following.

Step 4: Get social!

In this digital age, your online presence is your stage. Embrace it. Show up and show out on social media. Amplify your message on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and even TikTok. Share valuable content, engage with your audience and become a regular fixture in their feeds. Consistency is key. Create a content strategy that aligns with your niche and deliver quality content consistently to build trust and grow your following.

And hey, don't be afraid to sprinkle in a little personality. A meme here, a GIF there — let your digital swagger shine. Remember, thought leaders aren't just knowledgeable; they're relatable too.

Step 5: Expand your reach with PR

Partnering with a PR agency is key to maximizing your thought leadership potential and expanding your influence. These experts will help you secure valuable media opportunities that can skyrocket your reach within the industry by publishing you in relevant industry trades, prestigious publications and authoritative platforms.

Related: 5 Effective Ways to Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader

A good PR agency will help you craft compelling content, such as press releases, articles and op-eds, showcasing your unique insights. They'll also assist you in securing speaking engagements at conferences and panel discussions while arranging guest blogging opportunities and interviews with influential figures. By harnessing the power of PR, you'll amplify your voice, establish dominance and attract a wider audience, making a lasting impact as a thought leader.

Becoming a thought leader requires more than just expertise. It demands passion, dedication and a strong personal brand. By following these five essential steps, you can begin to pave your way to thought leadership success. So, take the leap, showcase your unique perspective, and inspire others with your expertise. The world is waiting for the next thought leader to emerge. Will it be you?

Hannah Cranston

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of HCM

Hannah Cranston is CEO of HCM, a PR & communications agency that helps changemakers share their story with the world. HCM's clients have run for President, developed a TV series, created a YouTube channel with millions of followers, interviewed the top business leaders in the world, and gone viral!

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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