I was with my client Sara Simmonds, a highly respected fashion consultant who is developing a new platform – and I mean digital platform, not the shoe – for the luxury fashion industry, today (that’s us in the photo up there!). And we were talking about how Sara wants to become, and really needs to be considered, an industry leader, both in order to give her project credibility and to be taken seriously when it comes to raising investment for her project in the future.
Just think about it like this. If a business launches and its owner is John who lives at number 26, noone cares do they? But if a business or project launches and behind it is the most talked about, highly regarded and respected person in that industry, then everyone cares and the project gets a huge momentum and head of steam behind it, all of which just makes this a little easier in terms of everything you need for marketing, publicity, credibility and profile.
Thought leaders are considered informed opinion leaders, they are trusted and inspirational and not afraid to step forward and have a ‘thought’ on something.
So the question is, how does Sara go from where she is today to being one of the fashion industry’s ‘seen-everywhere, go-to people’ who is known for her powerful, accurate and insightful thoughts and comments. The method to achieve that is thought-leadership, and it is certainly not about sitting at home and waiting for someone to visit your website and ask to talk to you.
It’s about staking your position at the top of your industry and staying there, which is usually done via a blogging/content strategy that involves being the first to publish opinion pieces on what is going on in your industry whilst keeping subtly stating your expertise and opinion. Here, using Sara and the fashion industry as an illustration, and bringing to bear my own experience from how ideas are generated on national newspapers and magazines, are five ideas for thought-leadership.
Use the news cycle of your industry, and turn it on its head
Whatever industry you are in, there is always industry news so keep on top of all your industry publications and what they are talking about. As we are using Sara as an example, in the luxury fashion industry at the moment, there is plenty of doom-mongering news about how it’s all over for luxury fashion and there have been several high profile fashion label closures, such as Jonathan Saunders. If Sara joins the fray talking about how it’s all belt-tightening from here for luxury fashion, her view will get lost in the noise. So instead, she should turn the story on its head. One idea might be ‘Why there has never been a better time than 2016 to launch a luxury fashion line’ (and obviously come up with a load of credible and relevant reasons as to why this is the case). What is certain is that the closure of one label isn’t going to stop thousands of people opening more labels so why not try to be a positive and uplifting voice amongst the negativity.
Tip: What is the main headline and theme in your industry news at the moment? Can you (with genuine belief, reasononing and credibility) take the opposing view.
Move an industry story on to its next chapter
This is similar way of working up an idea to the above, apart from rather than taking the directly opposing view, you move the story on to the next chapter. Every story is linear and stories don’t really end. There is always something else that can happen next. In the case of the closure of high profile fashion brands, what can happen next? Now I don’t know the fashion industry at all but I would suggest the following from which opinion blog posts could result: new up and coming labels have more space to come to market, what’s next for the designer, what’s next for his competitions, fashion industry reaction.
Tip: Just ask yourself what questions you are asking yourself about whatever bit of industry news you are considering having an opinion on. Do any of the answers to your questions move the story on to its next chapter.
Offer an analysis of a topical situation
Another story in the fashion industry at the moment is the stepping down of Mark Bolland from M&S. Now, I know nothing about M&S (I liked their clothes this season!!) but I’m sure someone like Sara who works with brands such as Harvey Nichols on developing new products has LOADS of thoughts on what M&S got right and what they got wrong. Now is the moment to speak up and share them.
Tip: If you’ve got views on what someone else or another brand in your industry could have done differently or better, don’t be afraid to share them.
Offer a solution to an industry problem
Part of being a thought leader is to be the person that always seems to have the answer to a problem. And you’ll see this all the time in the national papers. Commentators are called upon to discuss solutions to problems. Do these commentators actually know best? Probably not. They just have the nerve to act like they do! So what problems are there in your industry and what solutions can you offer? Why might your idea be better than anyone elses’ solution? And remember, you don’t need to stress too much about your solution and whether it is actually the best solution in the world or not. Solutions are often subjective and there might be hundreds of different solutions to any given problem. Noone is going to hold you over a barrel if your solution isn’t right! You are only expressing your opinion, probably no-one will act on it at all, but the net result is that even offering up a solution positions you as an industry leader.
If only thought-leadership were as simple as publishing one blog post and suddenly becoming ‘industry famous’ and having a load of opportunities fall at your feet. Well, it’s not! I’ve just finished reading a book by Grant Cardone, a business leader in America. He talks about his strategy to make himself ‘omnipresent’ and the stand out leader in his industry, which is sales training. He states
In 18 months, I recorded more than 200 videos, wrote 150 blogs and articles, and did 700 radio interviews. I wrote more than 2000 posts on Facebook, Twitter and Linked in.
The result was his business exploded and people started saying to him ‘I see you everywhere.’ But it took consistency and effort (like succeeding at most things in life!)