Thought leadership is the communications buzzword at the moment and everyone thinks they need to be a thought leader. Thought leadership isn’t simple though, and it’s hard to get noticed in a crowded field.

The reality is, becoming a thought leader just isn’t for everyone. And that’s OK; being a thought leader isn’t the only way to get positive brand exposure and increase sales.

If you’re determined to become a thought leader, it’s important to know whether you’ve really got potential. Because if you do it badly, your efforts could be counterproductive, making you and your organisation look uninformed at best and silly at worst.

There are six key questions to ask yourself to understand whether you could become a thought leader:

1. Have you got an opinion?
It sounds obvious but too many executives want to be a thought leader without actually holding any strong opinions. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to think differently from the crowd. That means coming up with new ideas or taking a stance that contradicts accepted wisdom.

2. Is it topical?
A strong opinion delivered by an accomplished speaker won’t gain any traction unless it is also topical. This means understanding your market landscape, including the pain points and opportunities facing organisations right now, then talking about them in a way that demonstrates your knowledge and expertise.

3. Are you bringing a fresh view to the issue?
There’s no point regurgitating the opinions of everyone else in your field. If you agree with them, that’s fine; find something else to talk about. Because the only way to demonstrate thought leadership is to offer a fresh perspective, one that others haven’t already thought of.

4. Are you speaking from experience?
Unless you have real-world experience of the topic you want to be a thought leader in, you are unlikely to have credibility with your target audience. Much like fiction authors are advised to write what they know, thought leaders must focus on topics they know intimately.

5. Does it make people want to hear more from you?
If what you have to say doesn’t make people want to hear more, then your thought leadership is wasted: audiences will not seek you out for further information and will not turn to your company for help.

6. Does it deliver genuine value?
The key litmus test for thought leadership content is that it should deliver genuine value to your audience. That means telling them something they’ve never heard before, making them think in ways they’ve never thought before, or encouraging to try something they’ve never tried before. Your content must help your audience be more effective, whether that manifests as business success, sporting performance, or personal development. Ideally you should provide actionable insight.

Remember, becoming a thought leader takes time, a lot of effort, and a smart communications strategy. If you’re ready to commit, make sure you’ve got a strong team around you to make your thought leadership push successful.