If you're a thought leader, or an aspiring one, you hope to grow your audience and gain opportunities to speak and share your content. You have a topic you're passionate about, and you're excited to bring your insights to the world. Excited, that is, until it seems that your content isn't resonating and your audience growth is nonexistent. Every thought leader faces challenges as they grow their brand, but prolonged periods of stagnation can cause us to second guess ourselves.

Thought leaders' progress can stall because their background is not aligned with the content they're producing. For example, you may be excited to write and speak about the gig economy, but if your career is in manufacturing, it's a stretch to call yourself an expert in that field. You may have plenty of knowledge on the subject, but knowledge isn't the only thing that builds your brand. There are other factors behind a strong brand that necessitate content that's aligned with your field of expertise.

1) Credentials

Credentials set you above your competition as a testimony to both your subject area knowledge and your commitment to your trade. You must have a proven track record in a field--a solid job history, a degree, credentialed training--for the people who are watching that field to notice you.

Highlight your job experience and degrees on LinkedIn and your personal website, and weave stories from your career into the content you produce. If the subject matter you're most interested in doesn't line up with your history, you'll need to get creative to find an angle that brings relevance. If you're truly dedicated to a cause or a subject that's not aligned with your background, perhaps it's time for a career shift to cultivate expertise and notoriety in your new field.

2) Audience

The audience you're trying to build first wants to relate to you. A tech leader will be able to speak to tech enthusiasts in ways that a lead editor at a publishing house will not- namely, through shared experience. One of the key goals of building your thought leader brand is to produce a loyal audience. To do so requires a story that people can relate to and rally behind.

Your potential audience  begins with people in your industry, especially those closest to you. Set aside time a few times a week, if not every day, to interact with followers on social media and connect with experts in your space. While you'll primarily post content that's relevant to your audience and your area of expertise, don't be shy about interspersing some appropriate personal content to help drive human connection.

3) Publicity

A publicist's job is to seek out opportunities for you to share your expertise and gain exposure to the right audience. If your background is in health and wellness, but the only content you create is about the history of the Civil War, your publicist will have trouble finding placements that are a fit for you in either your career field or your field of interest. To take full advantage of media placements and bylined articles, your experience should align with the subject matter of the segment or the publication.

If you're passionate about becoming a thought leader in a particular area, find a narrative that aligns your experience with it. If you create content and share insights that come from years of experience, you'll gain trust and loyalty from your audience.

Published on: Apr 6, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.