How To Be a Thought Leader:
Insights From Peter Murphy Lewis

In the ever-evolving digital marketing landscape, thought leadership has emerged as a crucial component that can drive significant impact in any industry. But what exactly does thought leadership entail, and how does one become a thought leader? 

To answer these questions, we turn to a recent insightful discussion on Jon Tromans’ Not Another Marketing Podcast, where the host interviewed Fractional CMO and CEO of Strategic Pete, Peter Murphy Lewis. In this lively discussion, Peter demystified the concept of thought leadership by defining what it is

“If I were to define it kind of, in marketing terms, I would probably say that it’s more around the education of your audience from an individual point of view,” said Lewis. “So, you’re creating and sharing valuable content that offers unique insights and perspectives… Trying to solve problems and educating the audience.”

You can listen to the full interview below:

Differentiating Thought Leaders from Influencers

Lewis draws a parallel between thought leaders and important role models in one’s life, guiding and shaping our thinking and approaches to different aspects of life. However, there’s a critical distinction. Unlike influencers who may primarily promote a product or service without necessarily providing intellectual or educational value, thought leaders focus on sharing wisdom, insights, and perspective.

Influencers command a following and sway opinions, often in exchange for compensation. Thought leaders, on the other hand, are more akin to educators, leading their audience toward a greater understanding or awareness of a subject. Their influence is not transactional but rather transformative, making their audience more informed, critical, and adept at tackling challenges.

However, Lewis emphasizes that thought leadership should not be conflated with content creation.

“I think that there’s, there’s a lot of regurgitation of the same content out there, no matter what niche you’re in,” shared Lewis. “Just because you regurgitate more often and more consistently what everyone else thinks doesn’t make you a thought leader; that means that you create more content than anyone else.”

Fortunately, Lewis shares the qualities and approaches that can help one become an effective thought leader. These are: 

  1. Niche expertise: Thought leadership requires in-depth knowledge in a specific area. Developing niche expertise can position you as a go-to source of information and advice.
  2. Consistency: Consistently sharing valuable insights is key to thought leadership. Your audience should be able to rely on you for regular content that is both educational and insightful.
  3. Use of accurate stats and quotes: Backing up your points with accurate statistics and quoting experts in your field can boost your credibility and show that you’re well-versed in the latest research and trends.
  4. A unique point of view: Rather than simply regurgitating what others are saying, thought leaders provide a fresh, unique perspective. They are fearless in challenging the status quo or present unconventional solutions.

Building Trust and the Role of Storytelling

A crucial part of thought leadership is the ability to tell compelling and truthful stories. Thought leaders should connect the dots and narrate in a relatable and understandable way. This includes identifying pivotal moments in their lives and presenting them in a way that resonates with the audience. The reason for doing so is that real stories help to humanize complex concepts, making them more accessible and memorable for your audience.

“Storytelling is about finding the moments in your life, the pivotal, transformational moments in your life that makes sense, and connecting those so they make sense for someone else,” explained Lewis. “They end up being a benefit for the person who’s listening or watching you.”

Also, building trust and communicating authentically is key. This involves backing up your opinions with facts and data, showing vulnerability when necessary, and being honest about what you don’t know. 

Leverage academic approaches—such as incorporating scientific facts or data—as these can further enhance your credibility.

While it’s commonly believed that experience and maturity are vital for thought leadership, Lewis and the podcast host, Tromans, argue that they are not the only factors. True, experience can provide a wealth of knowledge and insights, but it’s not a prerequisite for thought leadership. After all, innovative ideas and fresh perspectives can come from anyone, regardless of age or experience.

“There are probably two things that I think people could do the best if they don’t have the years under their belt. One is don’t be afraid to quote others,” said Lewis. “The second thing is, some people would say you should zig when other people are zagging. Just have a different point of view.”

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The Impact of Thought Leadership

Thought leadership, while a significant aspect of modern marketing, does present a challenging question – how do you measure its impact? While many elements of thought leadership can be nebulous and hard to quantify, there are creative ways businesses can track the effects.

During the podcast, Lewis shared several indicators that can hint at the impact of a thought leader. These include:

  • Shortened sales cycles: When a thought leader effectively educates a target audience about a product, service, or concept, the time it takes to close sales often decreases.
  • Strong following on professional networking sites: A growing follower count, especially on professional networking platforms, indicates that the thought leader’s insights are resonating with their target audience.
  • Interest beyond the brand: If people show genuine interest in the thought leader as a person beyond their brand, this suggests they are successfully connecting with their audience on a deeper level.
  • Marketing metrics: Higher percentages of people visiting their homepage, requesting demos, or engaging with their content could indicate effective thought leadership.

Despite the above factors, thought leadership, particularly offline, can be challenging to track. Moreover, it often has a long-term impact, which may not yield immediate returns.

“I think that if you are a big brand, and you’re thinking of thought leadership as a long-term play, you need to know that there’s a lot of fuzzy metrics, or return on investment, or gray area that’s not going to make sense.” shared Lewis. 

To counter this, companies should conduct regular market research to understand better where their customers are coming from and what influences their decision-making.

Measuring thought leadership

The world of marketing has transformed and thought leadership has emerged as an influential force in shaping perceptions, guiding decision-making, and even driving industry trends. But, as Peter Murphy Lewis elucidated in his insightful discussion with Jon Tromans, thought leadership isn’t about gaining popularity or peddling influence. Instead, it’s about educating audiences, sharing valuable insights, and offering unique perspectives.

From defining thought leadership to exploring how one can become a thought leader and the potential of newcomers in this field, we have taken a deep dive into this fascinating area of modern marketing. 

One final thing worth mentioning is measuring thought leadership. Here, creativity is key. For instance, companies could: 

  • Check if mentioning their thought leader’s name increases the conversion rate for completing surveys or signing up for newsletters. 
  • Monitor the frequency and sentiment of social media mentions, 
  • Analyze website traffic and engagement metrics, 
  • Survey customers directly to understand the thought leader’s influence on their perceptions and actions.

So, are you ready to take the leap and become a thought leader? Remember, it’s less about the strategy and more about your passion for sharing unique insights and ideas. Start there, and your journey toward thought leadership has already begun.

For more on recent trends in digital marketing, read our blog and talk to us if you are considering hiring a fractional CMO. 

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