To transform your human and knowledge capital into thought leadership requires careful and calculated steps. The most prolific approach has been to author your own book on a subject that you or your firm masters. This has been done by several advertising agencies to varying levels of success. For example, Nancy Duarte of Duarte Design transformed her firm's expertise on presentation design into a best-selling book, "Slide:ology" and accompanying blog. Imagine the number of executives who will read the book or the blog and decide to give her a call for their next big presentation. A pretty lucrative proposition, never mind the revenue gained from sales of the book alone.
At Ziba Design, where I interned a couple summers ago, they are dabbling in a bit of everything. Just recently, they launched their own book, "Authenticity is Now: A Working Definition of the Fluid State of Being as it Applies to Business and Design." But they also have an active Twitter account, which they periodically update with tidbits on the design industry. They also offer workshops in which they invite you into their office and deliver a crash course on design and innovation. Finally, founder Sohrab Vossoughi periodically writes for BusinessWeek.
Outside of the communications industry, Stanford's E-corner collates small, digestible videos of speakers who come to their school. They have successfully leveraged the knowledge capital of their partners to elevate Stanford's entrepreneurship program to thought-leader status.
What all these things have in common is that they abandon the typical short-term pitch mentality for a sustainable long-term strategy: the solidification of their expertise in the minds of their consumers and partners.
But how do you apply these models of thought leadership to yourself? The easiest way to start is likely what many of us are doing already: As masters of social media, we are accustomed to blogging, tweeting and sharing our knowledge and opinions on the internet. The trick, though, is to consolidate it and begin to grow your own brand. Be focused on what you share, have a common thread and be real. If you are coming up on Google searches and writing about things that matter to future employers, then you, too, can be a thought leader. And you may even land yourself a job as a result.
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