It’s certain the people you look up to the most in your professional life qualify as thought leaders.
Which means you yourself aspire to be a thought leader.
Admitting it is one thing. Doing it is quite another. With so much noise out there and so many platforms to choose from, even deciding where to begin is difficult, let alone following through.
Pay close attention to those ahead of you, though, and you’ll notice some increasingly clear patterns. No matter your industry or niche, you’re likely to find its thought leaders in a few familiar places online.
If you’d like to follow in their footsteps, focus your attention on these six platforms.
Bloomberg can have the breaking news and deep-dive features. Inc.com is all about thought leadership, which makes it an absolutely critical place for aspiring business influencers to get a byline.
Inc.com contributors earn high-visibility directory listings as well. They’re nothing fancy — digital finance pioneer Steve Streit’s is a good example — but they sit on one of the most highly trafficked websites in North America. That’s worth more than you might think, perhaps more than the Inc.com byline itself.
Forbes is among the most valuable web properties for native content buyers. There’s a reason blue-chip brands like Dell Technologies invest thousands of dollars for placements like this — Forbes attracts millions of unique monthly visitors.
That’s also why Forbes is such a sought-after — and competitive — platform for aspiring thought leaders. For better or worse, a Forbes byline says, “I’ve made it,” regardless of your industry or area of expertise.
Entrepreneur.com is the digital home of Entrepreneur magazine, which still does have a print run (last we checked). It’s more niche than Forbes or Inc.com, focusing on the specific needs and pain points and so on of business owners and active investors (including celebrity investors like Emily Corcoran). But if these are the circles you run in, a byline here is arguably more valuable for your credibility than one on Forbes or Inc.com.
4. Business News Daily
Business News Daily is, as you’d expect, a high-volume daily digest of all things business. It’s a digital-native property, so it doesn’t have the cachet of a Forbes or an Entrepreneur, but its visibility and breadth more than make up for that. Cachet is overrated these days, anyway.
Of all the properties on this list, your LinkedIn page is the only one that you yourself control. Everywhere else, you’re at the mercy of an army of editors and business managers who can change or archive your content at a moment’s notice.
On LinkedIn, you’re not exactly in charge — you don’t own the servers, after all — but you can publish what you want without fear of editorial or business-side interference. That’s a tempting prospect for aspiring thought leaders, and all the more tantalizing given the concentration of fellow travelers you’ll find here.
6. Op-Ed Pages
They don’t hand out Washington Post or New York Times op-ed bylines to just anyone. But your hometown daily, assuming you don’t live in New York or D.C. (or L.A., probably)? If you’re decently well known in your local business or political or philanthropic community, you have a very good shot at sharing your take with (and getting noticed by) a captive audience of thousands. Which could open doors close to home.
Be Bold and Stand Out
The sheer amount of content out there is overwhelming, and it’s only getting worse. It’s reasonable to ask whether it’s even worth bothering to try to stand out amid all the noise. Maybe it’s better to keep your head down, focus on the relatively few personal relationships you consider core to your professional prospects, and hope for the best.
Maybe. Or maybe the crowded sameness of the so-called marketplace of ideas is an opportunity. An opportunity to be bold. To share strong yet defensible opinions that break through the noise not because they’re louder than the rest but because they’re thought-provoking, compelling, and persuasive.
To be a thought leader. You have it in you — but you have to know where to begin.