5 Things To Become A Thought Leader
February 27, 2020Daniel Weinbach, the principal of the Miami Ad Agency, The Weinbach Group, sits down with Yitzi Weiner of Authority Magazine to share five steps to become a thought leader. While Mr. Weinbach and his healthcare marketing firm have earned a national reputation in the area of healthcare marketing, in this article, he talks about thought leadership more generally. He explains how he leveraged his role as the head of a family-owned healthcare advertising agency to become one of the most trusted resources for communications professionals seeking insights into the field of healthcare marketing. In this article, Mr. Weiner interviews Mr. Weinbach about his background and uncovers five tangible steps any professional can take to increase his or her value as a thought leader.
YW: Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to "get to know you" a bit better. Can you share your "backstory" with us?
DW: I started my career in the movie business after earning my master's degree in film production at the University of Southern California. Alas, showbiz was not for me, and I missed my family who was back on the east coast. So, in 1994, I took a job at my father's namesake Miami public relations firm, The Weinbach Group. It was serendipity because marketing turned out to be my true calling. Over the next decade, I took on more and more responsibility and transformed my dad's small shop into a full-service advertising, public relations, and marketing communications agency with special emphasis on healthcare marketing.
YW: Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
DW: With our company's roots in public relations, we have always leveraged clients' expertise to earn them recognition. Today we call that "thought leadership." In my own career, I've practiced what we preach to our clients and leveraged my own expertise to earn a national reputation as a healthcare marketing expert. We have won more than 100 Healthcare Advertising Awards, and I presented at the nation's most respected healthcare marketing conference for the Society of Healthcare Strategy and Market Development. We're also frequent contributors to healthcare marketing media, including HealthLeaders, Strategic Healthcare Marketing, Healthcare Marketing Report, and South Florida Hospital News & Healthcare Report.
YW: Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
DW: Working in healthcare marketing gives us a front row seat to nearly every aspect of healthcare in this country. From technology to insurance and finance, to direct clinical care, we have seen it all. However, nothing prepared me for a television commercial shoot we directed on behalf of a major public hospital system in South Florida. We were shooting in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and less than ten feet away from our setup, a preemie — no bigger than a pound and a half — went into cardiac arrest. One of the nurses calmly began performing CPR. She gently pressed on his chest with two fingers and pumped air into his tiny mouth until his heart returned to a normal rhythm. The episode lasted only a few minutes, but it was unforgettable.
YW: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
DW: I was trying to address a bumpy relationship with a client, so I figured I would give her some advice on how to be a good client. Specifically, I sent her an excerpt from David Ogilvy's book, Confessions of an Advertising Man. I thought it was a pretty funny way to approach the topic, but my client thought I was way out of line — downright rude. Well, she didn't fire us, but I certainly learned to tread more lightly.
YW: Okay, thank you for that. Let's now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a 'Thought Leader' is? How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
DW: A thought leader can be an influencer, but an influencer cannot always be a thought leader. Why? Because the term "influencer" is fluid. Thought leaders demonstrate expertise, and typically, that expertise lives on beyond their persona. Thought leaders often share their ideas through content, like articles and speeches. Influencers, by contrast, often inspire people en masse through visual appeal and personal branding. In fact, influencers are usually more focused on themselves than the thing or concept they are promoting. Whereas, a thought leader is all about subject area expertise.
YW: Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
DW: We oftentimes throw around words like "quality," and "value," but these adjectives ring hollow without proof. Similarly, terms like "expert" and "knowledgeable" require backup. That's where thought leadership comes in. As a thought leader, we instantly demonstrate our credibility and engender trust among the audiences we wish to reach. Thought leadership gives our clients proof of expertise they demand in order to feel confident about hiring us. Ultimately, investing energy into becoming a thought leader pays off in the form of enhanced credibility and increased demand for your services.
YW: Let's talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
DW: There are many ways to leverage a thought leader position in business opportunities. For example, thought leadership can take the form of a downloadable white paper on your website, with specific calls to action inviting prospects to seek out additional information from you or your business. Thought leadership can be a podcast that similarly offers opportunities to promote and sell your business. Most importantly, thought leadership serves as a platform for exposure to build awareness and interest in your company.
YW: Okay. Now that we have that behind us, we'd love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry? Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
DW: 1. Declare yourself a thought leader, say it out loud, and believe it to be true.
Sometimes the biggest challenge is proving to yourself that you're a thought leader. I remember giving a pitch to a prospective client, and I quoted another expert in the field, and one of the people listening took notes about what I had said. I realized at that moment that I was indeed a thought leader, and people trusted what I had to say.
2. Write, write, and write some more.
Today, we have more opportunities and more platforms to share our work than ever before. So write a blog. Write a white paper. Write a book. Sharing your expertise in writing is the most effective way to memorialize your thought leadership.
3. Speak at relevant conferences and events.
I've presented to industry conferences several times, and these opportunities not only give you a chance to meet people who can become clients or customers, but they give you a permanent claim on your resume.
4. Offer commentary on your subject area whenever news occurs.
The world around you is full of opportunities to showcase your thought leadership. For example, as a healthcare marketing expert, I will frequently share my thoughts about a new campaign, a new product, or a change in policy that affects the healthcare industry.
5. Stay informed as a subject area expertise. Read, consider, know your facts.
If you want to maintain your status as a thought leader, then you have to know what you're talking about. That means you have to stay abreast of changes and innovations that affect your sphere of influence. I subscribe to several industry newsletters. I attend professional meetings. And I always pay attention to other experts who have ideas about our area of expertise.
YW: In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person's approach.
DW: Oprah Winfrey is the penultimate thought leader. Of course, she's also an influencer, but beyond her social impact, her messages and thoughtful content guide the nation.
YW: I have seen some discussion that the term "thought leader" is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
DW: I don't think that the term "thought leader" should be retired; I do, however, think that "influencer" is becoming hackneyed. "Influencer," in my opinion, is used indiscriminately; "thought leader" has more substance based on tangible, trackable contributions.
YW: What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
DW: Pace yourself. You want your career to be a marathon, not a sprint. Keep in mind that your expertise will live in perpetuity, so make sure the thoughts and ideas you share demonstrate real value and differentiate you from competitors. And accept constructive criticism whenever possible.
YW: You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
DW: I would want to initiate a movement to recruit, train, and deploy great teachers in American public schools — and pay them a wage that would elevate teaching to the lofty place it belongs.
YW: Can you please give us your favorite "Life Lesson Quote"? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
DW: My dad always says, "How can it help? And how can it hurt?" This little phrase helps cut through the complexity of many of life's most perplexing dilemmas.
YW: We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have lunch or breakfast? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.
DW: I think a meal with Michelle Obama would be just awesome, but if she's busy, I would be fine with Barack.
YW: How can our readers follow you on social media?
YW: Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.