Thought Leadership and Personal Branding

Japan and India- Two Angles

Peter Sterlacci-View from Japan

4 Driving Tips to be a Thought Leader
It should be no surprise that 'personal branding' is quickly becoming a household term. The current global economy combined with the huge role social media plays in our daily lives demands that each one of us considers how we can stand out amongst all others who offer similar skills, talents, and backgrounds.  Of course our credentials still have value as they are the table-stakes that anyone must have for a specific job or position. But, it is our character, our personal brand that ultimately gets us recognized. 

One of the ways we demonstrate our personal brand is through thought-leadership. Our resume might tout our expertise but in the day of Web 2.0 people are looking online for how we communicate our expertise, knowledge, and brand message. 

Being a 'Driver' not just a 'Passenger'
So how do you use your personal brand to drive discussions and build a reputation as a thought-leader? Here are some 'driving' tips to get you started on the road to being recognized for your unique expertise.

Driving Tip 1: Be a Personal Publisher
William Arruda identified 'personal publishing' as one of the key personal branding trends in 2012. Blogs and other online portals are enabling any one of us to be 'published' and extend our personal brands.

In our joint May column, I shared how Japan has become the largest blogging culture in the world with Japanese now slightly edging out English as the dominant language of the blogosphere.  However, while 40% of English-language bloggers blog to raise their visibility as a thought-leader, only 5% of Japanese bloggers are motivated by the same reason. 

Other ways to be a personal publisher to drive your thought-leadership forward is to write a white paper or manifesto to state your position on a topic. A great site for this is EzineArticles. Or, search for opportunities to be a guest blogger on blogs related to your area of expertise. Blog owners are always looking for great content. Appearing in a blog owned by a top influencer in your field is surely a way to get recognized. A good resource for this is My Blog Guest where blog owners post daily requests for guest bloggers.

Driving Tip 2: Be Active on Twitter
Twitter is probably the best platform to drive your thought-leadership. After all, it is a form of micro-blogging and your expertise is available for the whole twitter-sphere to see. Always keep in mind that your role as a thought-leader here must follow the '80/20 rule'. Spend more of your time sharing the thought-leadership of others and the remaining time contributing your ideas. Keep your tweets consistently and constantly related to the area you want to gain your reputation as a leader. 

In our joint February column, I referred to Japan as 'The Twitter Nation' as Japanese write nearly 8 million tweets a day - close to 14% of the global total. The Japanese language is well suited for expressing thought leadership in tweets as much more meaning can be conveyed in 140 Japanese characters versus English. 

Driving Tip 3: Comment, comment, comment
Commenting on other blogs or in LinkedIn groups within your area of influence is a great way to drive forward your thought-leadership. Your comments will show up on Google searches of your name, and the blog owner and others will begin to recognize your input. Just remember to upload a headshot to Gravatar so your image consistently appears next to all the comments you make. 

The blogging culture in Japan, however, does not lend itself as much to commenting. While Japanese are 5 times as likely as other cultures to read a blog every week, they are far less likely to actually act on what they read. Therefore, for Japanese to express their thought-leadership more they will need to be active drivers of comments on the blogs they read.

Driving Tip 4: Use video as a tool 
Video is fast becoming the best way for you to be seen as a thought-leader. Simply put, video is the most complete form of communication to build your reputation. Your ideas are supported by visual imagery and your actual presence, which creates trust and authenticity. Remember, your videos do not need to be professionally produced. Most smart phones now have HD quality video and current apps enable you to record a thought-leadership clip and immediately share it. For example, videoBIO has released a free iPhone/iPad app as a quick way to record a video clip anytime, anywhere. 

Driving Tip 5: Be a Resource for Media
Journalists and reporters are always looking for resources for their articles. By signing up with HARO (Help a Reporter Out) you will receive daily emails with requests from major media outlets for expertise in a wide variety of areas. Once you find a request that matches your thought-leadership you can contact the reporter to express your interest and hopefully your idea will be picked up. HARO does take commitment and while it may take time before your story is selected, you are likely to be featured in a high profile publication. Another great resource is The Reporter Connection.

"You cannot be a Thought Leader if Others Don't Follow"
I read this in a recent Forbes article by Shel Israel and to me it really sums up the most important condition of being a thought-leader. The key here, however, is to ensure that those who do follow are truly engaged with the thought-leadership you provide. Do not get caught up in the numbers game. It is not important how many followers you have on Twitter, how many people 'liked' a post on Facebook, or what number Klout gives you for your influence.  

Move away from measuring "how many" and focus on WHY your page, post, tweet, etc. is popular. Was it a question you asked that prompted a lot of comments? Did a video you post result in a high number of retweets? Did a thought-leader in your sphere of influence mention your post in their blog or tweet? All of these are authentic indicators of your thought-leadership.
Brief Profile
Peter Sterlacci has handled many senior roles including Director-International Outreach at San Jose State University and corporate training before venturing out into Personal Branding in Japan. He specialises in Intercultural Personal Branding and his philosophy is "Empowering you to Believe, Become and Be your Brand"

To know more:-

Dr Amit Nagpal-View From India

Let me tell you a fairy tale today.

ONCE UPON A TIME thought leadership was a tough job indeed. One of the earliest thought leaders in the world, Galileo claimed that the sun does not circle the earth but the earth circles the sun. He was tried, found suspect of heresy and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. The Catholic Church, which at one time, officially disagreed with Galileo, has come to accept that he was right about this. No wonder they say that great ideas are initially ridiculed, slowly accepted and finally appreciated.  

CIRCA 2000 
Welcome to the digital world. Thought leadership still has its challenges but it is not so cumbersome anymore. The period of ridicule is shorter and so is the process of gathering followers. IT industry has made thought leadership easier for all of us with social media tools (to connect), digital/social media tools to gather a following; get acceptance/appreciation and sometimes commercial support to convert ideas into products (e.g. crowdsourcing). 

IT industry across the world promotes thought leadership among its employees too by encouraging them to develop innovative products and experiment with ideas which seem ridiculous at the first sight. The concept of brainstorming in fact encourages foolish and impractical ideas because you never know; a foolish idea may become the parent of a great idea in future.

How do I become a Thought Leader?
According to Wikipedia, “Thought leader is business jargon for an entity that is recognized by peers for having innovative ideas. Thought leaders often publish articles and blog posts on trends and topics influencing an industry. The term was coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the Booz Allen Hamilton magazine, Strategy & Business.” In simple words, thought leader is considered as an authority in the area of expertise by his peers and comes up with ideas which are ahead of the times. Some tools which you can use to become a thought leader include
Mass media
Public Speaking

A thought leader is a futurist and sets the future course by coming up with better practices. She often causes disruption by voicing her innovative and potentially controversial opinions. She inspires others to follow their dreams by becoming a role model and a true expert. A thought leader speaks with passion and her passionate disposition attracts followers. These followers who have the capacity to understand and appreciate the new ideas spread the word. 

So to develop your personal brand signifying thought leadership, be the king of a mole hill and be famous in a small group to begin with. I always ask my clients in a humourous tone, “Given a chance what do you prefer to be; a subject in heaven or a king of hell.” 

The company of Yes-men is dangerous for thought leaders. So surround yourself with constructive critics, who criticize you without malicious intentions. Larry Chase uses an interesting concept which he calls "ice pick" test. He advises to invite the critic to punch holes in the assumptions and check if there are any leaks. As a thought leader you must be focused but you must maintain the delicate balance between being focused and developing a tunnel vision. 

India has a way to go
Thought leadership is about risk and few people are ready to take risks in developing countries. But thought leaders are emerging in India and Indians are getting featured on platforms like TED Talks. India being one of the leading players in the world in IT and ITES industries is seeing a surge in thought leadership. 

It’s truly a beautiful world
TED (Ideas worth spreading) is the best international platform for thought leaders. If you have the brilliance, getting interviewed on TED Talks can even make you a celebrity overnight.

Gone are the days when corporate leaders lived rich and thought leaders died rich (they were recognised very late). Today’s thought leaders tend to be the most successful individuals or firms in their respective fields. As Russ, A.P. and Bruce R. point out in the Forbes magazine, “Becoming a thought leader is about making money and making history.” So nowadays, thought leaders develop into Great Personal Brands and LIVE HAPPILY THEREAFTER.

“Thought leadership is about delivering new ideas and content to your target publics based on deep insights into the business issues and challenges they face.  In the process, the value you deliver should go well beyond merely selling your product or service.  Your thought leadership point of view should differentiate you from your competitors, establish you as the ‘go to’ expert in that field and position you as a trusted advisor – all with the intent of underpinning the sale.”  Craig Badings   

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Brief Profile
Dr Amit Nagpal is a Personal Branding Consultant & Social Media Trainer. He is based in New Delhi, India and specializes in personal branding with a holistic touch. His philosophy is, "Enlarge as a Human Being, Excel as a Social Media Being and Evolve into a Personal Brand(ed) Being."


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