How to Brand as a Thought-Leader

Seven Must-Ask Questions

This article is also available as a downloadable pdf

Here is the audio file for my recent telecall on the subject:

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1. What are you selling – a commodity or signature solution?

We all have to pay the bills. Often we end up taking the work clients ask us to do, even when it’s not our core competency, passion, or expertise. It happens all the time. Frequently, clients don’t know or realize what they really need. Which means you need to educate them on the value of your breakthrough solution, or else accept your fate servicing the status quo. In comparison, thought-leaders provide a fresh perspective and focus on the systemic issues at the root of the problem. It takes courage to be a thought-leader.

Desired Outcome: You are hired for your true value and unique expertise.

2. What do you want to be known for and associated with?

Your brand is only as strong as the stories that people tell about you. What do people say about you? In the effort to “fit in”, its easy for many of us to come off as “middle of the road.” It’s not that you have a bad reputation; you just haven’t made a distinctive impression. Or perhaps you’re too bold and provocative, to the point where people get confused what you’re really about.  People need help; signposts really, to reinforce the story you want associated with yourself.

Desired Outcome: You are remembered and thought of for the right reasons.

3. How are you inspiring interest and curiosity?

You want to give people a reason to talk with you and about you. When asked what I do, I say that – “I’m a business storyteller”. This invariably leads to a question, to which I respond, “I advise companies, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits on how to get others to believe in their story.” And from there, an opening is created to explore the topics of trust, perceptions, and communications. The possibilities are endless. I shape the dialogue by first catering to people’s natural curiosity, and connecting it back to what they do or care about.

Desired Outcome: You have a consistent and effective way to engage people.

4. Why must you invite others into relationship?

In today’s world, social capital is your rocket fuel. Whether you’re facebooking, linking-in, twittering, or doing it old school – you need to keep building connections. Leverage comes from the width and breadth of your social network. Of course, it’s not just about “collecting” friends. Your network is only as strong as the strength of the relationships themselves. It’s more than just the act of networking or making yourself accessible. The ambitious thought-leader creates the gathering places, forums, and mechanisms for their worlds to connect. Shape the network and you naturally become a central node, connected to everything.

Desired Outcome: You have activated a network of people around your ideas.

5. What structures will expand your marketing footprint?

Many aspiring thought leaders are guilty of voodoo marketing; the act of believing, wishing, and praying that new business will just appear from the sky. While a little magic never hurt, new business is built on the principles of trust, familiarity, and reach. People need to become exposed to your ideas on a repeated basis. Whether that’s a newsletter, an interview series, or live gatherings – if you’re a thought leader, you have to be in the business of publishing and education. Get used to it. Thankfully there are countless negligible or low-cost ways to build a platform that translates into a growing footprint.

Desired Outcome: You have a meaningful way to expand your reach.

6. What tables would you like to have a seat at?

You have a fresh perspective, a deep sense of purpose, and a desire to share your gifts with the world. Yet, you’re frustrated by the limits of your current standing. What kind of projects will allow your gifts to have the biggest impact possible? When you play at a bigger level, you gain access to new kinds of linkage and leverage. Being a real thought-leader translates into opportunities across geography, sectors, and culture. It starts by getting clear on what circles you want to be a part, and what you can contribute as an active member.

Desired Outcome: You are playing at the level you need for greatest impact.

7. What will make others believe and trust you?

If you make your living on your ability to sell “ideas”, you need to consciously cultivate your reputation – whether that’s based on pedigree, authenticity, or originality. Align yourself with existing ideas and institutions that make your thought-leadership and ideas more approachable. Yet, don’t let yourself become confined. Real thought leaders don’t wait around for permission, they lead by example. That’s why we call them thought-leaders.

Desired Outcome: You are recognized for guiding the path forward.

Free Telecall on How to Brand Your Thought Leadership

Here is the audio file for last Wed’s telecall:
How to Brand Yourself as a Thought Leader

Next 4-Week Course

Starting February 18, I am leading a 4-week TeleCourse, on positioning and branding one’s thought-leadership. It’s a hands-on interactive program, designed to help creative entrepreneurs, change-agents, and aspiring thought-leaders get clear on the right story to tell. Visit – http://www.getstoried.com/training/quickstart/


Join us for StoryU Online’s next course – Undeniable Story: an 8-week program where you learn our six-step storytelling framework for humanizing business. Priority registration opens in just a few weeks: sign up here for our early-bird discount list.


  • Pingback: uberVU - social comments

  • http://www.ameliacritchlow.co.uk/ Amelia

    thank you, I am inspired indeed. I am accessing so much at the moment I almost don’t know where to go next, or where to stop! But I love it.

    I know my story clearly, although the tactics around getting it out there properly is maybe what needs work!

    I don’t know how to access a teleseminar as I’ve never done or participated in one! I would like to know how it works!

    Amelia.x

  • http://www.ameliacritchlow.co.uk Amelia

    thank you, I am inspired indeed. I am accessing so much at the moment I almost don’t know where to go next, or where to stop! But I love it.

    I know my story clearly, although the tactics around getting it out there properly is maybe what needs work!

    I don’t know how to access a teleseminar as I’ve never done or participated in one! I would like to know how it works!

    Amelia.x

  • http://www.merge-education.com/ Mary-Helen Rossi

    Having received consultation from Michael, I can say that he has a rare ability to shine light on and frame a unique/new concept so it becomes more accessible and graspable to others. I look forward to working with him again once we’re in position to springboard our business.

  • http://www.merge-education.com Mary-Helen Rossi

    Having received consultation from Michael, I can say that he has a rare ability to shine light on and frame a unique/new concept so it becomes more accessible and graspable to others. I look forward to working with him again once we’re in position to springboard our business.

  • Mahelia

    Micheal – This is a great read.
    For someone who is passionate about networking and connecting people, I found this especially to be quite valuable:

    Why must you invite others into relationship?

    In today’s world, social capital is your rocket fuel. Whether you’re facebooking, linking-in, twittering, or doing it old school – you need to keep building connections. Leverage comes from the width and breadth of your social network. Of course, it’s not just about “collecting” friends. Your network is only as strong as the strength of the relationships themselves. It’s more than just the act of networking or making yourself accessible. The ambitious thought-leader creates the gathering places, forums, and mechanisms for their worlds to connect. Shape the network and you naturally become a central code, connected to everything.

    Desired Outcome: You have activated a network of people around your ideas.

    Thank you, Michael and keep the good stuff coming!

  • Mahelia

    Micheal – This is a great read.
    For someone who is passionate about networking and connecting people, I found this especially to be quite valuable:

    Why must you invite others into relationship?

    In today’s world, social capital is your rocket fuel. Whether you’re facebooking, linking-in, twittering, or doing it old school – you need to keep building connections. Leverage comes from the width and breadth of your social network. Of course, it’s not just about “collecting” friends. Your network is only as strong as the strength of the relationships themselves. It’s more than just the act of networking or making yourself accessible. The ambitious thought-leader creates the gathering places, forums, and mechanisms for their worlds to connect. Shape the network and you naturally become a central code, connected to everything.

    Desired Outcome: You have activated a network of people around your ideas.

    Thank you, Michael and keep the good stuff coming!

  • Michael

    Amelia –

    The telecall format is very straight-forward. You simply dial the following number using your telephone:

    (712) 432-0075

    You will then hear a prompt that asks for a Participant Code

    405468

    You will then join the call. Regular long distance charges apply.

    Hope you can participate

  • Michael

    Amelia –

    The telecall format is very straight-forward. You simply dial the following number using your telephone:

    (712) 432-0075

    You will then hear a prompt that asks for a Participant Code

    405468

    You will then join the call. Regular long distance charges apply.

    Hope you can participate

  • Michael

    Mary-Ellen –

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Your pioneering work in music education is an important story to tell. Can’t wait to hear how it evolves and grows, especially your national curriculum. Going to go listen to some jazz now…Ike Quebec. ;-)

  • Michael

    Mary-Ellen –

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Your pioneering work in music education is an important story to tell. Can’t wait to hear how it evolves and grows, especially your national curriculum. Going to go listen to some jazz now…Ike Quebec. ;-)

  • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

    Mahelia – Thanks for sharing your favorite section. i love the feedback. Funny, you helped me catch a typo – it should end with “node”, not “code”. I guess it sort of works either way. ha!

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  • http://www.everlutionary.net/ HawaH

    Beautifully said. Thanks for the continued inspiration!!!!

  • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

    Rock on Hawah! Glad you vibe with this.

  • http://www.everlutionary.net/ HawaH

    Beautifully said. Thanks for the continued inspiration!!!!

  • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

    Rock on Hawah! Glad you vibe with this.

  • http://www.jurgenwolff.com/ jurgen wolff

    clicking on the audio file bring message “file not found.”

  • http://twitter.com/ janlgordon

    Michael, I absolutely loved “Believe Me”! It is provacative, timely and relevant for the times we live in today as human beings. No matter where are in our lives, as marketers, human beings living our lives, storytelling is at the center of everything. We have the power to rewrite our story and connect to those who need to hear it so they will be lifted up and empowered to author their own stories in a whole new way. Discovering new ways to tell our stories and reaping the rewards of new insights and ways of being, collaboration, collective engagement, changing how we see and experience the world around us and how we can begin to play a bigger role in it in every faucet of our lives. You have briliantly opened the door for us to explore and participate in a very exciting process that is so crucial in these changing times.

  • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

    Jan –

    Thanks for articulating what its all about – at its sublime core. You put a big smile on my face. That is precisely the mission I am on, to help us all see how everybody is a storyteller and we have the power to re-story our lives and our world.

    Always excited and grateful to meet others swimming in the same stream.

  • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

    Jurgen – thanks for the heads-up. My web elves are trying to fix this blip in the matrix. Will send you an update when its finally back up and live.