Are You a Thought Leader? How to Know for Sure

Aug 17, 2016 | Building Trust, Marketing, Social Networking, Thought Leadership

“When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be.”

–William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin

While I’m not as adamant about measurement as Lord Kelvin, the distinguished mathematical physicist and engineer, I agree that the ability to measure something can help assess the value of it.

Measurement not only quantifies value, but it can also guide decision making. In fact, if you can measure it—whatever “it” is—mostly likely, you can also manage it and improve it. If you can measure it, you can compare; you can win.

Professionals and business-people have long understood measurement as a guide and tool. From billable hours to return on investment to profit and loss, we quantify our efforts and their results. We collect, analyze, manipulate, and massage the data, so we can apply it in our strategic planning and to the next pitch, proposal, launch, or campaign.

Social media and digital marketing engage fully in measurement, counting posts, tweets (and retweets), impressions, likes, shares, clicks, friends, followers, interactions, conversions, and more. You can see who prospects and potential clients are and when and where they engaged with your post or website. Data flows constantly, and analytics abound.

And yet, people always ask me the same question, “How do I know if it’s working?”

Which, of course, is followed by: “How do I know if I am winning?” and “How much do I have to spend?”

Valid questions asked by smart, savvy lawyers, entrepreneurs, and executives who know that thought leadership isn’t some ephemeral, feel-good endeavor; it’s a strategic tool that increases credibility, builds relationships, and ultimately, pays off in new clients and revenue streams.

The answers to these important questions—for people who want to transform information into influence into increased revenue—lie in accurately measuring thought leadership activity across all media and venues and scoring those results against competitors’ efforts.

In short, to achieve success in thought leadership, you should: Measure. Score. Compare.


Start with a holistic measure of all potential media and venues and your engagement in them. For example, activity for an attorney might include social media posts, blogs, journal publishing, speeches, webinars, conference engagements, newsletters, interviews, mentions in the news, ratings in legal rankings (like Chambers or Super Lawyers), and more.


Next, evaluate and weight each thought-leadership activity by media/venue, content, and strategic value (to the individual, to the firm/business, to the industry).

For example, which pays off more—a publication in a legal journal or a keynote speech at a legal conference? Leading a national webinar or giving expert commentary on national news? Every industry or geographic region determines what is important and meaningful to its population, so each valuation is unique.


When you have measured and scored your own activity, start over and accumulate the same information for your peers or competitors. Thought leadership is a purely competitive process—you win by doing more than the other guy (or gal). You are a leader because you are ahead of the pack.

And then . . .

When you know your ranking among the professionals in your field—and what activities matter in that environment—you can allocate your time and resources to the project, posts, and presentations that pay off.

No wasted efforts, no misspent dollars.

You will know when and where to spend and when not to spend. If you are a firm of lawyers, knowing each attorney’s thought-leadership score will help you allocate resources among them.

  • Has one practice area achieved thought-leader status such that a monthly newsletter no longer returns high dividends?
  • Could bi-monthly publishing maintain that status?
  • Meanwhile, could those resources be put to work in different practice area to elevate their thought leadership?

The possibilities—and efficiencies—are endless.

In the increasingly competitive marketplace—of every industry, every field, everywhere—doing good work is no longer a guarantee of success and survival. Thought leadership offers an opportunity to not only differentiate yourself from the crowd but to rise above it.

Thought-leader status makes you the go-to-expert for prospects, potential clients, referral sources, and even competitors.  It opens doors that might otherwise have remained closed, especially access to senior executives. Thought leaders attract high-value clients and recruit exceptional new talent.

Measurement matters but only if the measurement is accurate, relevant, and actionable. One of our clients is developing software that quantifies thought leadership, so you can see how you compare to others and how much thought leadership you need to dominate your arena. If you’d like to know more, contact me at

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