Becoming a thought leader is not a quick transformation you can make in a month or even three. We’ve written more about this in our post, “So you want to be a thought leader?”

But if you’re committed, and we think you’ve got what it takes, this is what the process might look like:

Phase 1

(Define your strategy, build your portfolio, gain clarity, learn to distinguish real thought leadership (TL) from BS)

  1. We’ll meet together to define your strategy. We’ll work through a worksheet to answer questions like: What are the big ideas you want to focus on? What are your goals? What opportunities are you hoping will open up from your TL efforts? Who is your audience?
  2. We’ll take inventory of your distribution options. What work have you done to already build an audience? Do you have a social media team? A newsletter? Will you be outsourcing those? Taking them in-house? Not worrying about them for now?
  3. We’ll build your portfolio. Working from the topics we brainstormed during the strategy consultation, we will create a series of articles (a minimum of 6, recommended 12 or more) through interviews (we can tackle up to 3 articles per interview, or take them one at a time). It typically takes 45 minutes to develop your thoughts into a robust argument with anecdotes and data.
  4. We’ll test the waters with your audience. This is not about getting huge. It’s about measuring the impact of your writing with your existing network. It’s about finding opportunities to use the pieces we create as digital assets for your organization, to send to a prospect that you’re developing a relationship with, or to use as an email capture digital upgrade, or to share with your employees so that they learn more about who you are and where you see the industry headed. We’ll do this by teaming up with your social media team, or for an added fee, doing it for you.

The impact you can expect from phase 1:

  • You gain clarity about your vision for your industry, your perspective on controversial issues, or your own career focus
  • You have a portfolio of articles that you could submit to a major publication as proof of your ability to create impactful content
  • You have learned to distinguish between true thought leadership, and useless promotional BS
  • You have built a habit of producing content, of sharing your opinions, and you’ve gained confidence in letting yourself be vulnerable.
  • Your immediate network is taking notice
  • You might be ready to take over the effort on your own

Phase 2

(Building your audience, pitching to other platforms, adding other platforms/media)

The steps you take in this phase are up to you and your goals. You might be ready to pitch directly to major outlets like Forbes and Entrepreneur (personally I don’t really care about these outlets … but they can certainly amplify your reach). You might want to hire a coach to help you land a contributor spot somewhere.

Or you might want to focus on the channels that you own (your newsletter, your website, your social channels), but start amplifying your reach by investing in social media marketing. You might like to start repurposing content into other formats (slideshares, YouTube videos, podcasts, Tweet storms, an email drip course).

The impact you can expect from phase 2:

  • People who don’t know you personally are paying attention to your thoughts/interested in your business
  • You’re getting more inquiries about your business from better-qualified leads who align with your values
  • You’re getting noticed by leaders in your industry and getting invited to collaborate to turn your vision of the future into reality
  • You’re getting asked to small speaking gigs to discuss your vision for a different future

If your plan going forward is to keep creating new content with me, then we will continue our interview process. We could even expand our services to speechwriter. Or you might feel empowered and energized to take it over yourself.

Phase 3

(Get huge, get on the speaker circuit, write a book?)

Your success so far will determine what Phase 3 looks like.

If you’ve been producing consistent content, and seeing a positive impact, and you’re committed to the process, you can consider taking your TL game to the next level. This might mean advertising yourself as a speaker, and starting out with small unpaid speaking gigs, and working your way up to larger conferences. It could mean launching your own digital publication, investing in SEO, and inviting guest writers into your work.

It might mean streamlining your TL down to the one or two platforms where you have the most traction, and looking for ways to monetize your audience. It might mean preparing to pitch for a book deal.

We’ll be there to advise you and refer you to our trusted partners, who can help you accomplish these goals, while still providing the same consistent content creation services you’ve come to rely on.

The impact you can expect from phase 3:

  • Your industry starts to change, the vision you have set forth becomes a reality
  • People start calling you the Warren Buffett of X, or the Sheryl Sandberg of Y
  • You’re generating a small amount of passive income from a book
  • People you admire start asking for your advice
  • You can spend less on advertising about new initiatives because you have a captive audience excited about everything you do
  • You now have a platform to elevate others’ ideas and achievements, to pay it forward and pass on the torch to the next generation of innovators
  • Who knows, maybe you’re even getting invited to party with Richard Branson, if that’s your thing
  • Better yet, you’re inviting Richard Branson to YOUR private island. JK. That’s Phase 5.

We’re here to take you from 0 to 25, and then point you to the partners who can get you from 25 to 100+. Our Phase 1 process works for anyone, from a no-name startup founder, to the CEO of a $100 million company, and beyond.

Client Success Series

Thought Leadership v. Content Marketing

So you want to be a thought leader? 5 questions to ask yourself

Becoming a thought leader in 3 phases

Ghostwriting FAQ