Personal Digital Brand: Establishing Thought Leadership

Personal Digital Brand: Establishing Thought Leadership

Filter tag: AI and Digitisation, Change Management and Executive Outplacement, digital transformation

In the first instalment of our Personal Digital Branding series, we introduced the foundations to creating a representative ‘personal’ profile. In the second blog of the series, we delved into the ‘digital’ side of personal digital branding and provided our top tips for selecting the right social medium and using it to your advantage.

This article continues the series, exploring the ways in which you can bring your brand to life through thought leadership and the creation and curation of quality content. The right thought leadership can make the difference in positioning you as an aligned and relevant leader in the future world of work, thus ensuring you are better known and sought after in target areas.


What is Thought Leadership?

Every industry has its key players, the individuals that others turn to for insights or expertise on selected topics. These individuals are considered thought leaders and have earned that distinction through the active and strategic building of their profile within their designated space.

If executed properly, thought leadership can be a hugely beneficial tool for differentiating oneself in an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace. This may prove helpful in an executive career transition, with securing new business, or attracting other opportunities for networking, NED roles, or further reputation-boosting publicity. Implicitly, people want to work with someone they can trust; an individual who they believe is best suited for the job. Thought leadership helps build that trust, authority, and credibility.

Thought leaders actively connect with others in their industry and attract valuable connections from outside of their immediate network, too. They are up to date with the latest developments and engaged in discussion about the issues, trends, and news impacting their space. They may be frequent commentators in the media, or active on the global keynote circuit (virtual or face-to-face). Alternatively, these individuals benefit from having a really strong and active social media presence or a great content strategy.

Our previous blog provided guidance for developing this strategy, but a key question is what should you actually be sharing in order to build your credibility? What separates good thought leadership content from average material?


What Do Thought Leaders Share?

We work very closely with our Personal Digital Branding clients, helping each Executive to perfect their thought leadership. In doing so, we help them to stand out from the crowd. Typically, once a client reaches this point in the process, they have already completed the essential work of clarifying their objective – for example, identifying the top organisations for whom they would particularly like to work and clarifying the compelling value proposition they have to share. They will understand their personal digital brand and areas of expertise. Our experts will also have helped them research the best ways to reach their target audiences and helped them to articulate key messages through different communication channels. Strong digital content is the next step for bringing those elements together to create results.

The types of content you should share as a thought leader will and should vary. Here are just a few examples:

  • Blogs/Articles: The long format of this type of content allows you the space and freedom to go into depth about your key topics. You may choose to publish these directly on your personal website or your company’s site, if allowed, and share a link to the article via your chosen social platforms. Alternatively, LinkedIn allows its users to publish ‘Articles’ directly on the platform. These articles function exactly the same way a blog would and are an excellent option for executives who lack a platform for posting elsewhere.
  • Personal updates: These posts provide your network with glimpses into your professional life. This may include news of any nominations or awards won, initiatives you have taken part in, promotions or new roles you have taken on, and attendance of or participation in any relevant industry events. However, do not confuse the definition of ‘personal’ here. Any updates you share about yourself should pertain to your professional developments or achievements.
  • Company updates: If allowed and appropriate, you should share the projects your company is working on, relevant news or updates from your organisation, any mentions of your company in the news, case studies, or awards won.
  • Third-party resources: Sharing news, articles, blogs, or other content from credible third-party sources about relevant topics is a great way of showing that you are tuned into what’s happening in your industry and the wider world around you. That said, when you share this type of content, you should always ensure that there is some sort of value add. Do not simply share a link and go. Always try to add a bit of insight, commentary, or critical thought.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, a great way to get a feel for what this content looks like in practice is to examine the profiles of the thought leaders you admire. Visit their social profiles, read their blogs, and note the things you feel that they are doing right. Take those lessons back with you and adapt them to suit your style, goals, and strategy.


Thought Leadership Content Tips:

Thought leadership takes time to cultivate. To become a thought leader, you need to remain vigilant and stay on top of your posting. Here are a few final pieces of advice to build your personal digital brand:

  • Tag to build your network: Tag in posts wherever you can in order to draw more eyes to your content. Tag anyone directly related to the content, or you can even tag individuals who you think might be interested in what you have shared. Actively interacting with peers is a great way to continue growing your network and raising your name recognition in the industry.
  • Add value: Reiterating our earlier point, thought leadership content should always come with a value add, no matter what the style of content. When sharing third-party content, avoid presenting it without any type of commentary or simply recapping what is there. A few brief lines of analysis will help to establish your position as a thought leader in that particular topic or area. When writing a blog, share any advice or insight you can with your readers. Do not be afraid to inject your own professional experiences in order to provide real-world context.
  • Let your brand shine through: After all of the hard work you have put in up to this point, you should have a very clear idea of what your personal digital brand identity is. This should hopefully make it very easy to shape the content you create and select the topics you discuss. The time has come to let your brand shine through. Be your own champion. Do not be afraid to voice your opinions or share your insights and expertise on the topics you are experienced in and passionate about.
  • Stay active: This will play into the strategy you previously devised, but in order to become a thought leader and stay that way, you do need to engage with your audience regularly. Our previous blog provided tips for determining the frequency of your activity. But a mistake that many professionals tend to make is pursuing thought leadership to achieve a specific goal, and then dropping their activity once that goal has been met. Maintain it if you can. If your thought leadership activity helped you to secure a new role, it is likely that your new employer was drawn to the idea of having a respected expert on their team. If thought leadership brought in some new connections or opportunities for you before, it will continue to do so if you maintain momentum.

Personal digital branding and thought leadership can be hard work but can also bring about some incredible and valuable opportunities for your career including internal promotion or external appointments. Once you have found your stride and determined which content works for you and your audience, keeping up with thought leadership should become a natural and effortless part of your normal professional activity. Make it part of your daily routine. Be patient, as it will take time to build trust and credibility. But with time, you are likely to find that putting in the work to pursue thought leadership was a worthwhile investment in your career and professional development.

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