THE BLOG

5 Steps to Becoming a Recognized Thought Leader

05/09/2014 03:29 pm ET | Updated Jul 09, 2014

Sales and status are inter-related but not the same thing; you can turn a pretty profit while remaining obscure. To position yourself a recognized thought leader, you need not only to be an expert in your field but also to proactively establish yourself as one. Here's how:

1. Refine your brand, target audience, and message.
Get clear about the essence of who you are, what you do, and why you do it. Spend a little time soul-searching! Reflect on how your personality, life experience, spiritual beliefs, and professional training uniquely equip you to do your work in your signature way. The distillation of these answers is your brand. Next, think about who needs exactly what you do, the way you do it, and why. Voila! Now you have your target audience. Keep in mind that your target audience is not "everyone." If it is, you have not done your homework. Lastly, play matchmaker with yourself and your target audience: Choose language that communicates your brand in such a way that your intended demographic immediately feels drawn to you -- recognizing you as the one who understands them and meets their needs.

2. Write a rock star bio.
Establish why someone immediately should trust you and recognize you as an expert in your field. To this end, make a list of all your formal and informal credentials -- professional degrees or certifications you have received; awards you have won; venues where you have presented; media where you have published or been featured; VIPs with whom you have collaborated; and relevant life experience you have acquired. You may not have a culinary degree, for example, but you may have grown up in a family of gourmet chefs. If you are a restaurant owner, that life experience is key to include in your bio. Once you have your list, select between one and three of the most prestigious examples of each; ditch the rest; and make it consistent throughout -- for example, two of each category, Noah's Ark style.

3. Revamp your online presence.
Invest your money into designing a customized, professional website with a domain name that people naturally associate with you or your brand -- for example, "YourName.com." Be sure to incorporate a blog and social media icons linking to the most prominent sites -- Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Keep the social media URLs as consistent as possible, with each other and with your website -- ie, "SocialMediaChannel.com/YourName." Design your website so that it is easy to navigate, using menu items that clearly identify where to find what, and be sure to have both a testimonials page and a media page, to help develop your credibility. Organize the media page with the sub-headers, "Print," "Video," "Audio," and "Press Kit," and list each entry according to clip title, media outlet, date, and embedded clip or link to clip. Busy media professionals have zero time to futz around on your site, so keep this page well-organized.

4. Enhance your credibility
Public relations (PR) is based on the triad of perception: VIPs, media and venues. Start with the people and places you can access now, and methodically step-ladder your way up. For example, if you are a raw food chef, approach a local cardiologist about co-facilitating a presentation on foods to eat for optimal heart health. Set the presentation date for sometime in February, national heart health month; offer the presentation at the doctor's clinic or at a local library; and approach the neighborhood newspaper about covering the event. The more local and low-profile the VIPs, media, and venues, the more apt they will be to work with someone who is not already established. For your next PR campaign, aim a little higher and leverage your accomplishments to date. In honor of Mother's Day, for example, approach an OBGYN specialist at a large local hospital, proposing an event about foods for optimizing health during pregnancy; offer the presentation at a conference room at the hospital; and approach the local TV stations about covering the event. Keep working your way up the chain, showcasing your latest and greatest accomplishments on your website, until you climb all the way to the top.

5. Blog your way to fame
Blogs are an essential way to establish your authority on a topic and develop relationships with VIPs in your field. Start by writing articles on your own blog, to establish your unique voice. Next, identify key people in your field - from A listers to D listers - and invite them to blog-swap, starting from the most accessible individuals and working your way up the prestige hierarchy. When you write an article for someone else's blog, promote it heavily on your social media channels, both as a sincere thank-you gesture and as an investment in your relationship with that individual. When others write articles for your blog, request promotion on their social media channels as well. Over time, begin looking for blogs with large platforms. Don't be shy! Contact the owners of blogs that appear on the first few pages of a search engine result on your area of expertise. Tell them why you are interested in their blogs; send your rock star bio; also send examples of previous blog posts you wrote; and propose what you would like to write for their blogs. Once you are well-established as an independent blogger, approach top media outlets and propose blogging for the appropriate sections of their blogs as well.

Just because you are doing ground-breaking work does not mean you automatically will get recognized as a thought leader. If you truly have the goods, however, and if you run a strategic PR campaign, you can work your way to stardom.