Thought Leadership

How modern-day thought leadership builds awareness, credibility and trust

| January 17, 2023

A headshot of Ashley Aram, a white professional woman with brown hair, wearing a green top

Ashley Aram

Director, Public Relations

The arrival of the social media influencer, which started with the first wave of Mommy blogs and quickly escalated to the full-time video content creators of today, proved that human connection and shared life experiences help build credibility and trust. Peeling back the curtain and getting a peek into the real lives of people we know or admire is what we crave. It’s also made us experts at sniffing out content that feels inauthentic and driven by a faceless brand rather than a person.

That’s bled into how we feel about companies: We want a sneak preview before we apply for a job or buy a product or service, and it’s much easier to connect with a person than a “values and culture” page on a website. This is why modern-day thought leadership is such a critical part of any organization’s success – and looks a lot more like being an influencer than an executive.

Today’s thought leadership centers the person. Whether it’s pitching a media story, writing an opinion column or building out a social media profile, effective thought leadership is a combination of views, expertise and vulnerability based on a person’s values, perspectives and life experiences, not so much their job title.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few steps to build a modern-day thought leadership platform:

Create a Venn diagram.

One circle is your leader’s personal values, areas of interest and perspectives. The other circle is your organization’s values, areas of interest and perspectives. The overlapping topics can be used to center a thought leadership platform. (If your leader’s values don’t align with your organizational values, they likely won’t be with you very long. Or worse, it’s a crisis waiting to happen.)

Set boundaries.

While vulnerability is key to building a leadership platform, it doesn’t come easily to everyone – and that’s okay. Agreeing on what topics are off-limits and where they may be comfortable delving deeper in the public eye is important, from sharing about their children and families to their upbringings and personal struggles.

Lead with the person.

The goal is to build a platform that goes beyond your organization. This means considering speaking opportunities, awards, media and podcast interviews, and other external visibility opportunities that aren’t about what your leader does in their day job, but rather the unique perspective that they have based on their whole selves.

When someone can connect with a leader on a personal level, it builds credibility, awareness and trust for the leader and the place they’ve chosen to work. It is worthwhile for a company to consider how they might elevate their leaders as part of an effective public relations strategy, recruitment and retention strategy, and crisis prevention strategy.

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