Smart thinking. Quick thinking. Big picture thinking. As an entrepreneur, you're always thinking, but it takes more than that to be a thought leader. It's not enough to be perceptive, or a good communicator, or good at what you do. In an age where thousands of people are vying for attention on social media, an emerging thought leader needs to strategically and skillfully leverage their expertise.

One well-established thought leader of note is Rohit Bhargava Founder and CEO of the Influential Marketing Group. Bhargava sends out a weekly email focusing on the less obvious trends in marketing and communications. By simply noticing things others have missed, he positions himself as someone to follow, read and admire. How can you aspire to this kind of clout? Read on for some useful strategies for achieving admiration in your industry.

Pull out your crystal ball

Got a hunch about a trend, or even the future of your industry? Take the plunge and share. "You don't stand out just for creating something anymore, " says Bhargava. "When I started blogging in 2004, there weren't that many marketing bloggers. Today, the challenge is earning the attention. I would say not to cheapen your content by talking about things that are obvious."

What if your crystal ball leads you astray?

"If I predict a trend and I am wrong, it is okay to admit it. " Bhargava advises. "By admitting I didn't get something right the first time, I am building more trust and that's a big piece of being a thought leader."

Scan what's trending

Business defines environmental scanning as "the careful monitoring of an organization's internal and external environments for detecting early signs of opportunities and threats that may influence its current and future plans."

Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, the New York Times, Facebook, and Twitter all have "what's trending" mechanisms you can follow to see what the world is buzzing about. Think about the trending story, what issue it raises, and whether it pertains to your expertise. Review the facts and opinions around the story and see might be able to add to the conversation. What's trending plus perfect timing can make your message, and your business, more relevant.

Build up your media cred

Media exposure gives you that extra stamp of legitimacy. Smartphones have dramatically increased the rate of online media consumption and mainstream media outlets are racing to keep up. That means media outlets, both on and offline, are always on the hunt for smart contributors. Know what people in your industry read and pitch yourself as an expert. If you need help, consult a PR firm.

Pick one social media channel to dominate.

As an entrepreneur, you're probably short on time to spend on social media. Bhargava believes being on too many channels splits your traffic and dilutes your message. Instead, he writes emails to his followers and duplicates the content on his blog.

Bhargava cautions against dismissing email as a dated form of communication. "For me, email is still the best way of having a direct relationship with your audience. There is a misconception about it being old school. It is simply not true."

If writing is not your strong suit, choose a channel that better suits your talents and personality. Not everyone is a born blogger.

Be a contrarian

Who are the most polarizing people or beliefs in your industry or profession? Why those people or ideas elicit such strong opinions? Polarizers have a talent for dividing the room. Often, it's because they are revealing views that are extreme, or counterintuitive, common unspoken fears, or untapped opportunities. A polarizer may bring up an unspoken or unanswered customer concern that needs to be addressed.

What common industry beliefs do you question, disagree with, or flat out reject? How can you make a convincing case for your point of view? When you figure that out, you have the ingredients for effective, clutter-busting thought leadership.


Industry conferences are great for networking and catching up on what's new, but they can also provide invaluable speaking opportunities. Unless you're an absolute natural, Bhargava recommends taking a class. "No matter what your level, you have to invest time into it. If you are just getting into speaking, speak every chance you get. If you are good, speaking leads to more speaking," said Bhargava.