shout out and give a nod: acknowledging your community and your competitors
We're wrapping up this series on thought leadership (although technically it's not over until the end of January), and we're talking about the people you lead as thought leaders and the people with whom you share the trailblazing status. Next week, we're going to do our first case study on CommCorner, and since we talked about thought leadership all month, we wanted to feature a real OG (that's Original Gangster, Mom), someone who has rolled with the changing technology and the changing demands of the masses. Who else would you think of but Oprah? So, next week, we're going to do a case study sketch of the life and work of Oprah Winfrey because we just really can't think of anyone who's been around this long, done this much, and still exists within that glittery space with glamour and poise and serves as a beacon to the hoards of fan(atics?). Get ready because that's next week.
Without further ado, we're talking about shouting and nodding this week. First up, let's talk community and then, we'll talk competitors. We've identified the plug-and-play ways to pay it forward/keep it classy/share the love/connect with Your People. So, without further ado (yes, we said that already)...
It was probably pretty grassroots (grassy, even, as in vacant...) around your blog and social media in the beginning. I mean, everybody gets it - it takes a significant amount of time to get the word out. You don't just drop out of the sky a thought leader. That sort of status is reserved for deity only. So, your community, as it has evolved, is absolutely the most important thing to you in your venture as a Touchstone of Truth in your industry. So, how to give back?
Invite feedback, opinions, insight, advice, and the opportunity to make real connections.
Your People have, by and large, shaped your current status, and they're absolutely the ones who you should be listening to as you take this whole thing forward. If you're doing your job right, you're garnering attention from your niche's interest groups - the people that really dig the stuff that you dig. They're into you. So, on social media and your blog and (hopefully!) in person, create the space for those people - your followers - to talk to you. Thought leadership can teeter dangerously close to just speaking AT people, but anyone who's even caught a whiff of a leadership development text will tell you, that's the very worst sort of leadership indeed. Ask questions. Respond to comments. Email back obsessively. Create opportunities for real meet-ups, real connections, real handshakes. Sometimes emojis even work. :)
Endorse, recommend, and elevate the ones who are really doing it right.
In the world of blogging, social media, vlogging, podcasting (...), there are a lot of opportunities to share the love without compromising your status, your spotlight, or your brand messaging. In fact, seizing opportunities to highlight the people you know and are proud of will only, over time, build your personal brand loyalty and your general taste approximation (basically, the standard by which people judge whether or not to invite you to an art museum or to a book signing). Invite guest bloggers from outside your specific industry. Share the links of those you're connected to online - to their businesses, their promotions, and their big wins. Take the time to play the role of "Connector" from time to time. Send the introductory email. Each of these transmissions and bits of communication underscore your appropriateness and aptitude for the position you occupy.
We're of the firm belief that there's plenty to go around for the people who are interested in doing the right things the right ways. So, competitors is a word we use to accurately describe who we're talking about, but we also want to provide the immediate disclaimer: you should really probably think about these people more as your peers. First, identify the people who exist in your space and are seriously worth giving a nod. And then do it with abandon (but cut it off before you get whiplash). If you accept the truth that there's enough for everyone, then it's easy to see ways to peacefully (and beneficially) coexist. We could probably teach at least one sociology lecture on this topic as well, but that's for another day.
Share your airspace - invite to guest blog, interview on your podcast, take over your social media for a day, co-present at an event, or work on a project together.
Content creation is hard. One way to make it easier is to loop people creating similar content in to amplify your own. If people are always "masterminding," they're pretty much always getting better. As an example - we're uber excited about the new guest blogging thing we have going on CommCorner. Now, this is kind of an abridged version of this concept and the concept of elevating those within our community who are really doing it right. But, in practice, here's how it breaks down: our content production is improved because we're bringing in diversity of background, topic, expertise, personality, and experience. On top of that, it's not actually much more "work" on the content creation side, so it's a win all around. However, there are a million ways to do this, depending on your particular scenario, channels, and platforms. So, explore this as an absolute must and figure out how you can work others in.
Defer and refer to expertise.
As a thought leader, people come to you all of the time for answers and for advice. If you know of a peer or a competitor who's really a better person for the task, recommend them lavishly. The goal of this entire endeavor should be to get better yourself while providing the best possible information to your audience. This sometimes means directing them to someone else who really knows what they're talking about. Also, in your own writing and your own social posting, reference the work of others when it's relevant. In fact, do this so often that it's almost not a conscious decision to do it. Surround yourself with peers/competitors that drive you to make yourself better, and you won't have to ever worry about the impact on your image when you reference or give deference to their work or their expertise or their blog or their Tweet.
Thus concludes our series on thought leadership. If you missed any of the previous three installments, catch them here, here, and here. Next week, we're taking on Oprah. Well, not really "taking her on" as much as case-studying (as a verb...we'll try it) her life and work as a near-timeless thought leader. Back here - next week with Oprah.