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Our society generally frowns upon bragging. Your mom may have even scolded you when you tried to toot your own horn. We recall her wisdom every time we are cornered by colleagues who blow hot air about how smart they are.

But can we surmount the "mom hurdle" and accept the fact that bragging, done right, can help you further your career and your business? Most assuredly. But don't think of it as bragging, think of it as becoming known as a thought leader.

Let's take a look at three content-delivery approaches you can use to launch a thought leadership campaign for yourself or the executives you advise:

  1. Speaking
  2. Writing
  3. Research

Thought leaders speak

Social Driver Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder Anthony Shop pursues appearances that spotlight his expertise in digital marketing. "My approach is not to 'sell' Social Driver's capabilities or services as much as to educate [audiences] about what we have learned from working with a variety of clients," he says. "Whether the audience will be composed of potential business leads is not my sole concern. I also am interested in an engaging discussion where the audience and I can learn from one another."

Pro bono speaking opportunities can boost thought leadership and top-of-mind awareness. My own approach is to accept this type of engagement if it puts me in front of an audience that allows for an interesting exchange of views. One important note: no holding back when speaking pro bono; you still have an obligation to deliver meaningful content.

Video can support your speaking endeavors, too. Witness the Harvard Business School's Amy Cuddy, who made a name for herself with a video that became one of the 50 most-viewed TEDTalks ever. "Your body language shapes who you are" featured research-based yet accessible content related to nonverbal communication.

Thought leaders write

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image of Ed Barks

Ed Barks is a communications training consultant and president of Barks Communications. He authored The Truth About Public Speaking, and he serves on the National Press Club's Board of Governors.

Twitter: @EdBarks