How Research-Driven Organizations Become Thought Leaders

How Your Institution or Organization Can Help You Move Up to Level 3

Here’s the wrap for my six-part series on researcher thought leaders and how those just getting started should think strategically about improving their skills and impact. If you haven’t already, please take my health assessment for researchers — it can provide you with a baseline that you can use to guide your development as an authority. Please also send me your feedback and read the other pieces in this series.

Researchers often develop their thought leadership sides alone — but they shouldn’t have to. Your organization or institution should be supporting this growth, because it’s firmly in its best interests in so many ways, from fundraising to sales, recruitment to retention to marketing and product development. Here are my big steps for any organization to help their researchers just getting started in authority content move as quickly as possible to a level where that content is contributing consistently to their own careers and to achieving the organization’s strategic objectives.

Develop a clear growth plan for you as a public SME and metrics for your progress. At a minimum, you should have a 12-month growth plan based in an assessment of your competencies, skill levels and gaps as a communicator and thought leader (and, if you’re part of an organization, those of its other leaders).

Your growth plan should target developing those skills that serve a) your professional growth goals as a researcher thought leader as well as b) the organization’s strategic and research goals. If you have an annual workplan and work objectives, this plan needs to nest within those, so it becomes part of what you’re rewarded for doing — not an add-on that you’re fighting for time and resources to execute.

Science+Story also can assist in developing strategic growth paths for you and your organization’s other prospective thought leaders. Contact me for more information.

Communicate clearly to the organization that your thought leadership content is a strategic asset it should capitalize on. Your thought leadership activities should have clear support from the leadership of your organization/institution — from the CEO/director through the research program directors, VP of development/sales, and CMO/director of communications. That support can be formal or informal, but it needs to be there for you to grow as a thought leader — and for the organization to capitalize on that growth.

Pitch you as an expert. To elite media (for op-eds, columns, interviews); to podcasts; to conferences as a panelist and speaker; to groups in your organization’s sector as a guest webinar speaker; to all of your organization’s digital channels as a source of engaging content.

Help you intervene quickly and in the right venues as an expert. Ideally, a comms resource at your organization is using social listening platforms to scout opportunities to pitch you to elite media as an expert resource — either breaking news or trends that your expertise, POV and arguments present unique insights on. Then that resource is helping you craft those insight pieces or talking points.

Find you a great editor. Ideally, one already on staff who lives and breathes your field/discipline. Make sure the editor has experience either editing for elite media outlets (i.e., big online sites, newspapers or magazines) or landing pieces at them. “Editing” by another SME or your supervisor — unless they meet the above criteria — doesn’t count. If your organization doesn’t have such an editor, contact Science+Story to explore how we might provide expert editorial assistance for your situation.

Secure you media training and presentation training. See above; your communications staff should be able to point you toward professionals that can train you in these crucial skills if they can’t do it themselves.

Begin to deploy you for lead/partnership generation. Once your writing has won a few elite media placements, your organization should start to use you to talk with donor/sales prospects and in conversations with potential partners/collaborators, especially those in the private or non-profit sector.

Critique you in a systematic, supportive way. Ideally, your organization already has a strategic thought leadership program in place and you’re part of it or being considered for it. If not, be aggressive about soliciting regular critiques from your organization’s marketing and communications leadership on your writing, speaking, and social media activity.

Science+Story also can assist in developing strategic growth paths for you and your organization’s other prospective thought leaders. Again, hit reply to contact me about how.