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Many companies I work with want to be a thought leader in the healthcare or senior living design industry. But what does that mean and how do you achieve it?

Well, first of all, both companies and individuals can become thought leaders. In fact, thought leaders who work for companies are often the "face" of the company and by association, create that perception of thought leadership for the company.

Thought leaders have a unique perspective on their industry -- offering guidance, inspiring innovation, and influencing others.

Difference Between a Thought Leader and Knowledge Expert

Thought leaders are usually knowledge experts in their fields, but what makes them thought leaders is that they demonstrate their views and opinions to others in their field. Or, in the case of famous thought leaders like Microsoft Founder Bill Gates, to the public at large.

Becoming a thought leader doesn't happen overnight. It takes work.

Many people in the healthcare and senior living design industry naturally fall into it because they are passionate about what they do and want to be change agents. They aren't afraid of sharing what they know.

Jane Rhode, who I profiled last year, is one of them. For years, she's led the charge to create better environments for seniors.

Healthcare sustainable design expert Robin Guenther is another one. And there are many others.

Becoming a Thought Leader

So how do you make you or your company a thought leader? You can hire a marketing agency or consultant to help you or you can begin by doing these three things:

1. Have a Strong Social Media Presence

Like it or not, social media is where it's at. Pick one or two platforms (I like LinkedIn and Twitter). Make sure you have strong profile pages and update them every once and awhile.

Build your followers by regularly posting content that interests you and also engages them. Mention or tag people/companies in your posts who you want to read them and share with others.

2. Have a Voice

There's nothing more boring than a generic "corporate-speak" article or blog post on your company's website. If you or your company is boring, that's one thing. But if you want to be a thought leader, you need to have a voice.

Companies often want to engage me to ghost write their blog posts in order to bolster their thought leadership in healthcare or senior living design. But I don't want to do this because: 1) I'd rather write my own blog posts and 2) it's better for them to have a knowledge expert within their company write the posts.

Now I know that some people are better writers than others. And many people are afraid of writing.

However, it's possible to have someone edit their work and teach them to be better writers. If you write about what you know and are passionate about, a good copyeditor can always polish it up.

Having a voice is also important on social media platforms. You're never going to be considered a thought leader if you just post or repost things without offering your opinion about why it is (or isn't) relevant.

3. Seek Out/Accept Speaking Opportunities

This is kind of a no-brainer, but speaking at industry conferences is a great way to build thought leadership. Most conference organizers in the healthcare and senior living design industry issue a Call for Presentations, so you can easily seek them out.

And be willing to accept speaking opportunities as well. I'm often asked to speak at events or moderate sessions, which are mostly virtual these days.

Since I'm an independent writer, speaker, and marketing consultant, I'd prefer to be paid for these types of gigs.

But if it's an audience I want to reach and a topic I'm interested in or passionate about, I don't let lack of compensation stop me. In lieu of payment, many companies/organizations have been willing to make a small donation to a charity of my choice.

4. Join/Be Active in Professional Organizations

Many thought leaders in the healthcare and senior living design industry have been active members of professional organizations -- volunteering their time to serve on committees and as board members or officers. It's a great way to make connections with others and build your network, which is also an important characteristic of thought leadership.

Thought leadership by association is also a good strategy for some companies. By sponsoring professional organizations' programs or research initiatives, product manufacturers can provide much-needed support that can be leveraged to elevate their own thought leadership status.

Want More?

Check out these articles:

What is Thought Leadership and Why Does it Matter? Business News Daily.

7 Steps to Becoming a Thought Leader. SKS Insights.

So Much of What You Knew About Thought Leadership Has Changed. Marketing Profs.

6 Tips for Preparing a Great Conference Proposal. Sara Marberry's blog.

P.S. Please do me a favor -- if you liked this post and like this blog, please share it with others by sending them the link or posting it on your Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. Also, don't forget to subscribe, so you'll get emails when new content is posted. Thanks!

Photo: 149876291 / Thought Leader © calypsoArt | Dreamstime.com

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Dr. Wayne Ruga

5 months ago

Thanks for your thoughts on 'thought leadership', Sara.

One specific attribute that many thought leaders have, that you implied - but didn't actually say - is an ORIGINAL THOUGHT, or an already known thought that enables systemic improvement that is meaningful to large groups, professions/industries, or the world. A measure of thought leadership is the magnitude of change that it enables, the sustainability of that change, and the ways that others adopt the thought and morph it into a derivative expressions that continues to advance the original thought.

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

Sara Marberry, EDAC, is a healthcare design knowledge expert, thought catalyst, and strategic marketing and business development consultant. The author/editor of three books, Sara writes and speaks frequently about industry trends and evidence-based design. She can be reached at sara@saramarberry.com.

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