tackle and rattle: covering controversy and taking on the big issues
We’re officially well into January and really in the thick of things with this series on thought leadership. Last week, we covered connecting people to your message and this week we’re talking the heavy stuff. The deep stuff. The stuff that you think about but question how to approach your audience with as you share your opinions and your expertise. Turns out, it’s exactly this sort of thought material that will differentiate you as a thought leader. This blog is outlined into five basic tenets of truth to internalize and digest as you continue your quest for Thought Leadership status and flirt with the idea of taking on issues that aren’t unanimously stamped as Universal Truth.
You are an individual.
This will probably come as no surprise. In fact, you may have been aware of this fact for quite some time now. However, what you might want to think about at this fork in the road is your personal brand or point of view. What kind of stance are you taking? As an individual in a very, very, very large pond, you can’t take the subject lightly. Differentiating yourself, particularly early on, will be of primary importance for two significant reasons:
1.There’s a finite amount of room at the party for niche thought leaders.
2.Your individuality will be the factor that makes or breaks whether you are in attendance.
Thought leadership experts contend that actually taking a stance is often what will get your thoughts noticed. The temptation exists to dance around issues and appease everyone (and delight no one), but when the name of the game is actually getting loyalty and traction, being wishy-washy or noncommittal is rarely (read: never) in your best interest. We’ll cover the two primary reasons in the next section.
You have opinions.
As a living, breathing individual, you have formulated opinions about things over the course of your life. Since you’re part of the smaller subset of breathing individuals pursing That Thought Leadership Life, your opinions are by and large what are going to make the summation of your career with this gig. So, there are two primary reasons (as we mentioned above) to take a stance:
1.Opinions are the substance of your craft.
2.Sharing your opinions is authentic. (our next point)
People are buying into two things when they begin to follow you as a thought leader. First, they’re buying into you as a individual. Second, they are buying into your ideas (read: opinions). Now, you can have half-baked ideas that can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, but those aren’t the kind of ideas that stick around to build a following. So, fully baking the opinions you want to cover within your particular flavor of thought leadership will certainly not be time wasted, and time waste was the primary risk on the table in the first place. What a relief!
We established at the outset that you are an individual. As an individual, you have an authentic self – an identity that is accurate and based in reality. It’s easy in this online world to pull out a box of tricks and costumes that suddenly feels very different than the way it felt to wear our original opinions and ideas. The thing is, the façade is easy to spot and it doesn’t really work. Well, it could work for a while, but eventually it’ll be ho-hum at best. So, two things (didn’t see that coming?):
1.The real you is going to be the only one you’re going to be able to stick with long term.
2.It’s pretty easy to spot when your connection to your real self is spotty; ergo, "to thine own self be true."
Your authentic self has opinions and they’re individual to you. As a thought leader, it’s up to you to package it in a way that’s beneficial to your target audience. You’re just trying to make the world a better place, after all. So spend some time deep diving into your opinions and sand them down into marketable content. Badabingbadaboom.
You are backed by knowledge and experience.
It’s easy to start to doubt yourself. Maybe you’re coming on too strong? Maybe you’re going to alienate a significant sector of your audience? (Well, if that’s about to happen, maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board…but back to the point) The thing is, you got in the Thought Leadership arena because you had thoughts (read: opinions and stances and positions and Big Ideas). Now you have a platform and a target audience to share all those things from and with.
Two things to internalize:
1.Unless you’re completely delusional, you got into this thing because you had good ideas and people told you they were good. You were confident in your ideas.
2.Your confidence was based in reality, and provided you keep your eyes and ears looking and listening, you’ll get better. So go forth and share!
Constantly check your temperature. Sometimes you could be accused of coming in a little hot. But don’t let that hinder your sending your ideas out there with a sense of commitment and firmness that’s unmistakable. “These are my ideas. I stand behind them because I’ve studied, experienced, and learned from those experiences. I want to connect people to my ideas because I think they solve problems existing in the world and create the space for more clarity in our global communication.”
You should go for it, but do it right.
Managing your messaging will be critical to your success when tackling the big issues within your niche. Put your brand management hat on before you press publish. Tone is critical. Response to rebuttal is also critical. It’s not just putting something out there – it’s interacting with the feedback that creates the environment in which your content is received. So, two major things:
1.The tone of your initial assertion should be firm and confident but approachable and invitational for feedback.
2.Your follow-up should be receptive to new ideas while maintaining your well-outlined stance.
By setting the stage for an open forum in which to discuss new ideas or controversial positions or touchy subjects and moderating the discussion in a way that enforces collaboration and receptiveness, you’re differentiating yourself from the masses. Let your ideas springboard someone else into having even better Big Ideas. Pay it forward. Shrink the universal body of ignorance.
Tune in next Monday for our capstone on this series – Shout Out and Give a Nod: Acknowledging Your Community and Your Competitors. The Internet is inextricably linked to thought leadership and the Internet, from its birth, has fostered an environment for collaboration. Sharing the stage is the name of the game in this sphere and we’re talking about how to really connect with your followers and your peers in your interest group - online, offline, all the time.