Mastering thought leadership in your industry is no easy task. Putting your ideas and opinions out there in the public and social space takes effort and boldness. And gaining the support and trust of your audience takes time.
Building your thought leader strategy naturally leads you to look to the outside world to define your audience. But I see many business and thought leaders overlooking one of their closest and most important audiences. You might even go so far as to call them captive: your employees.

Why They Matter

  • They are a built-in loyal fan base that wants to hear from you
  • They have an active presence on social media platforms regardless of their demographic
  • They are important to your overall thought leadership efforts; as they become believers they will share your message and convert others
  • They can help you build momentum and audience on social media

How to Engage Them in Your Thought Leadership

By now I hope you know that those occasional all-hands meetings and annual updates only go so far in building a connection with your team. Technology is just one way to build connection. These ideas will help to get you started:

  • Regular internal emails – think of these as your personal internal newsletter addressing a variety of topics:
    • Your ideas and your opinions about recent industry trends
    • Updates on how you are addressing internal issues
    • What you are working on and wins that deserve accolades
    • Words of encouragement, humor, stories about you, company history, the first employee, etc.
  • Be Human
    • Share your challenges, disappointments, excitement or personal thoughts
    • Lean toward a business casual or less formal approach
  • Internal Q&A
    • Thought leaders are everywhereHave your team submit questions that you answer on a regular basis
    • Or take turns, e.g. you answer a team submitted question one week and the team answers your question the next week
    • Connect with your team on social platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn or internal chat rooms
    • If your company has an internal communications platform, engage with your team, listen, respond and be active
  • What you gain
    • Momentum for your thought leader efforts, especially if you are just getting started
    • An enhanced  relationship with your team; they will appreciate that you are listening and care enough to engage with them regularly, especially if they are not all under one roof
    • Their respect; it may be their only means to get to know you better
    • A growing tribe of loyal confidants; if they liked you when they came on board, your communication will only deepen their loyalty
    • A feeder to a larger base of outside connections; let your team know when it’s OK to share your updates with their social networks
    • A stronger personal brand; take the opportunity to fine-tune your brand and your voice with a more forgiving audience

You are probably thinking that it sounds like a bit of work to pull this off effectively. And you would be right. But start small and keep it simple. Test the waters. See what works and what kind of response you receive. Keep in mind that these are the same strategies you use with your external audience, too.

Your employees can play an integral role in establishing your thought leadership and authority in your industry! Don’t overlook your closest audience and ally any longer.