Whether you call it thought leadership, being a niche master or a subject matter expert, it boils down to the same thing – you own some intellectual real estate. Indeed, you have some claim to knowledge that you and others find valuable.
Do you think of yourself as a thought leader? Do lots of people ask for your opinion on matters concerning your area of expertise?
Whether you call it thought leadership, being a niche master or a subject matter expert, it boils down to the same thing – you own some intellectual real estate. Indeed, you have some claim to knowledge that you and others find valuable. In fact, intellectual real estate will separate you from your competitors and help you stand out in an increasingly competitive environment.
However, there are several things you need to do to use this real estate so you can expand your influence and your knowledge base.
First, you must define precisely what niche you claim as your own. What competitive advantage have you developed that differentiates you and your company from others in your field? And you must define it in sufficient detail and in several ways.
That can include developing a niche within a niche. For example, if you are a cybersecurity expert but your niche is information assurance, you need to lead with your IA credentials and experience. You can even take a component of IA (confidentiality, integrity, authentication, availability or non-repudiation) and make that your area of expertise.
Second, establish your ownership claim to this niche. That should include education and experience, professional affiliations and accreditation, articles and white papers authored, speaking engagements, quotes in the media, blogging and whatever else you have done. Remember, owning intellectual real estate is never exclusive, and it is not a passive activity. It requires you to be active and to constantly grow, adding value to your niche on a regular basis.
Third, incorporate this ownership information in all of your collateral material, online and offline. For our purposes, we will consider your LinkedIn and other online profiles as collateral. If you are establishing an area of expertise for a company instead of as an individual, you need to carefully manage how each individual profile is worded at the various social networking sites your company belongs to. Provide each employee with a template of the proper wording to use for their online profiles when describing the company and its activities. Use those key words and phrases for your niche in all collateral activities.
Fourth, at this point blogging becomes almost mandatory. If you have an area of expertise, you must create venues to share at least some of that knowledge to foster interest and create buzz about you as a focal point.
Well-written blogs brimming with solid information become niche magnets. They become an online destination where others in your niche will congregate and comment. And once started, your blog must be regularly stoked like a fire to keep people interested. Posting at least once a week is advisable if not crucial. Even if you have nothing new to say, comment on something in the news related to your niche or discuss a book about your discipline.
Fifth, tie all the activities together. Each online presence representing your company, your company website, LinkedIn profile(s), Twitter account(s), blogs, podcasts, and any other activity should be linked.
Sixth, remember that owning intellectual real estate is never exclusive and you will have competitors. While it is not usually necessary to cite them directly in any of your activities, if you are commenting on their ideas, you have to acknowledge them. Such citations not only do not diminish your role, they increase the trust your overall niche will have in you.
Seventh, make certain you have active relationships with most or all of those in your niche. This will include customers, competitors, journalists, associations and event producers – anyone with a vested interest.
If you aspire to be a thought leader, to own some intellectual real estate, you need to understand that the process is neither passive nor exclusive. It requires you to actively grow and share your knowledge base, to acknowledge the contributions of others, and to add value to the entire niche.