How to become a thought leader in your industry

Man and woman talking in an office.

Our article aims to help your business understand how to become a thought leader in your industry, explaining how to approach creating meaningful thought leadership content. We’ll guide you through how you can leverage your colleagues’ expertise to create a workplace culture that fosters thought leadership ideas, helping you to unlock a steady flow of authoritative content.

What is the definition of thought leadership?

There are many definitions of thought leadership.The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) recommends Mitch McCrimmon’s definition as the most useful:

Thought leadership can be shown by example, logical argument, factual presentation, or an emotional appeal where necessary. It is simply the championing of new ideas laterally to peers or upwards to superiors. Thought leadership is based on innovation but they are not identical. Some thought leaders are quiet innovators who, lacking influencing skills, must demonstrate the merits of their ideas. Other thought leaders are not personally creative but they are early adopters of new technology or new ways of doing something, and hence, quick to champion new ideas.

The key takeaway from this definition is that there are many different ways you can approach creating thought leadership; this is important to note because it means that businesses have lots of options for their thought leadership content. Too many companies limit themselves by trying to get their CEO or senior team to form a grand opinion on something. That can be tricky for a couple of reasons; senior team members are often very busy, and it can be exhausting having to come up with big, game-changing ideas constantly!

What are the benefits of thought leadership?

Thought leadership helps businesses raise brand awareness and cut through to a larger audience, providing media coverage opportunities. It’s an important part of content marketing strategies as it increases your online presence, giving you the chance of being discovered by your target audience through your blogs, white papers, podcasts, videos, social media etc.

At Luminous, we take the strategic approach of using thought leadership to build your brand’s authority. Not only does this lead to more meaningful content but it is also builds trust, which is the best way of increasing conversions from prospective clients and customers.

Thought leadership is also often a source of pride and excitement for your internal teams. By regularly asking your staff for opinions and then amplifying them through your marketing and communications machines, you’re showing your colleagues their views are valued. It creates a sense of shared culture and can help employee retention and recruitment.

What are some examples of thought leadership?

Before we list some examples of thought leadership, it’s worth pausing to review what’s meant by thought leadership. The word “leadership” is significant: to be a leader, you need authority.

If you approach thought leadership as a tool for building authority, it will help focus your efforts on creating meaningful content. Bad thought leadership always lacks authority. Readers can tell if you’re regurgitating bog-standard views or if you’ve put some thought into what’re you saying.

Leaders have authority because they have expertise, they teach people about new things, and they’re able to convince and guide people towards their point of view. Thinking of thought leadership in this way makes examples of great content easier to identify.

Examples of good thought leadership include:

  • Showing how your organisation is trying/experimenting with something new such as a new product or service or a new approach to an existing product or service.
  • Popularising something niche, such as a product development technique or a piece of software/hardware that makes things more efficient.
  • Challenging received wisdom.
  • Explaining the historical context behind something important to your industry.
  • Meaningfully assessing topical challenges that your industry is facing.
  • Discussing things in a way that brings a deeper understanding of existing processes.
  • Predicting what’s going to happen next, such as future industry trends.
  • Demonstrating experience through a case study of how your expertise uniquely solved a problem.

Can my business create thought leadership if we don’t have anything unique to say?

Businesses can sometimes get stumped because they don’t have anything profoundly new to say; this shouldn’t be a limitation. You can create perfectly interesting and helpful content by offering a reaction to some industry news, providing your interpretation of some new research, or by simply offering your opinion on something like a new piece of software that can help industry professionals with their work.

Who can be a thought leader?

Thought leadership DOES NOT always need to come from senior staff members such as founders, CEOs or owners (although they can often make great candidates for thought leaders).

The creation of thought leadership should also not be limited to your marketing or communications teams. While these teams can facilitate and polish your message and deploy it strategically, thought leadership needs to come directly from your experts.

Thought leaders in tech are often technical experts such as programmers, product designers, user experience professionals, architects, technologists or engineers. Thought leaders can also be the people who are closest to your customers and have the most conversations, such as your sales or customer relations teams.

How can my business generate thought leadership?

We recommend running ‘ideation sessions’, which is a fancy way of saying you should have good old-fashioned brainstorming meetings. These sessions are an excellent way for your company to gather ideas for thought leadership.

A typical ideation session should gather representatives from business departments such as sales and marketing, product development and management. These meetings should bandy about ideas, discuss their pros and cons, decide on topics and possible formats for developing into thought leadership pieces.

The key for these meetings is they should be formalised and regular to ensure that ideas for thought leadership are consistent. That doesn’t mean they should be so frequent that they eat up space in everyone’s diaries – monthly or quarterly is still fine – but they must be regular and treated seriously; otherwise, your content will dry up. 

How do I get my thought leadership noticed?

Thought leadership isn’t easy. You not only need to put effort into creating thought-provoking content, you also need to invest in strategically distributing what you create. That’s where we at Luminous can help. We’re experts at helping you to craft an authoritative thought leadership campaign that will appeal to journalists and resonate with your target audience.

Keen to find out more? Contact us.

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