Original Research Makes a Thought Leader

Over the next few weeks, I’m featuring excerpts from my new research report, “But Mom Told Me Never to Brag: Overcoming the Thought Leadership Hurdles.” Today’s post focuses on utilizing research as a thought leadership tool.

Your Mom probably told you more than once to finish your homework. I know mine did. Little did we realize it at the time, but those school research projects formed a foundation for our career. How? Well, there are few things that position you head and shoulders above the competition as conducting original research into a subject your target audience cares about (and, of course, in which you hold expertise).

Jefferson reading room

Research is more demanding for it requires more preparation time. Still, you don’t need a PhD. There is no rule dictating that research papers be thick tomes heavily annotated with footnotes written in dense academic language. Pick a topic in your wheelhouse and dig deeper. Interview colleagues and luminaries in the field, and quote them in your research report. Conduct surveys. Use new media channels to gather opinions. Utilize your local research librarian.

Contact others whose work and reputations you admire. Ask them a couple of questions, making it clear that you wish to quote them in your research report. Be sure to keep your questions brief so you don’t come across as a pest. Approached with respect and courtesy, many high profile authorities are happy to respond. After all, it’s another place for them to be quoted as an expert, adding layer of sheen to their reputations.

When seeking out publication options for your research, I am not necessarily suggesting that you aim for a peer reviewed journal (though if you are in science or academia that is certainly the way to go). You need to have your findings published in a respected source, such as a magazine that reaches your intended audience.

And regardless of the type of publication or depth of your research, there is value in having some type of peer review process. In fact, peer review for most writing is a good idea. Why not send drafts of your research reports to a handful of colleagues as part of a review process, one that provides helpful feedback and error checking capabilities.

You can also advance your research—and your thought leadership profile—by making it part of your speaking and writing endeavors. Target groups you want to reach with news of your research, seeking out presentation and article opportunities (note how the speaking/writing/research triad elements support one another).

Speaking and writing outreach represents one part of your promotional plan that highlights your research. And don’t neglect creating a plan to get it out to the public, for the best information is useless if no one knows about it. Your plan doesn’t need to be multiple pages replete with charts and graphs. A one-pager listing such factors as your intended audience, tactics you plan to employ, and timing will suffice. Include new media tools as part of your strategy, deciding whether Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, or other new media options make sense to broadcast your findings.



  1. Thanks for the good words, Ray. I hope you found a couple of techniques that help boost your business.

  2. Excellent suggestions, Ed. So many experts suggest writing for public consumption as a strategy to build credibility as a subject matter expert. Few approach it from the vantage point of the average professional services provider who doesnt write for public consumption for a living. Your suggestions are practical, implementable, and achievable. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: