If you start by knowing your audience and knowing your leader, you can build an online platform that demands attention.

Executive communications is often thought of as existing in the realm of internal communications. But increasingly, leaders are being asked to communicate directly with the public – which is, of course, where the PR team comes in. One way that many leaders are building their reputations and becoming go-to sources for industry news is through thought leadership.

Because LinkedIn is already a gathering place for so many professionals, it’s a natural fit for creating your executive’s persona as a thought leader. Jenn Spantak, senior manager of employee experience for Honeywell, recently shared her LinkedIn tips in “Showcasing Your Thought Leadership and Subject Matter Experts on LinkedIn.” Here are her tips for guiding your executive to thought leadership success:

  1. Remember your audience.

“The best thought leadership focuses on your audience, not yourself,” Spantak says. And, of course, it makes sense. When you’re at a party, everyone hates to be cornered by that one guy who just wants to talk about how he made a ton of money in crypto. The same is true on LinkedIn. If you start your thought leadership intending only to push yourself, you’re not going to succeed.

Likewise, remember that your LinkedIn audience is likely to be savvy. They’re reading other professional development posts. They’re actively taking steps to grow in their field. So, don’t think you can get away with sharing generic, bland insights.  “People want unique insights, original content and real-world experiences,” Spantak says.

Before you start producing any thoughts, first figure out whom you’re trying to lead. Sit down and map your audience. Are you trying to build your exec up to be a go-to media source? Do they want to hit the speaking circuit? Are you hoping to network with potential clients or employees? Whomever you want to reach, keep them in mind with all you do.

  1. Know your executive.

Likewise, you have to know who your thought-leader-to-be is. This is a two-step process.

First, you have to know who they are as a professional. (This is the easier bit.) Spantak suggests sitting down and writing five words associated with your leader’s area of expertise and the area you want that person to be recognized in. These words could be associated with the industry, their particular strengths as a leader or a specific problem they’re great at solving. This will help guide the topics of the content you create.

Next, you’re going to create a second set of five words, this time focused around who your leader is as a person. What kind of persona are they trying to build? Are they the wise, seasoned leader? Are they iconoclastic and playful? How can you make them feel more authentic? Are they comfortable talking about where they’re from, their identity as a parent or maybe a hobby?

Small glimmers of humanity can take thought leadership from bland to memorable. Work with your leader to make sure they’re comfortable but do push them to show some vulnerability and personality.

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