Turn on the television or go online today and chances are good you’ll run into a gaggle of pundits sharing their opinions, analyses and observations on news programs, online forums, social media and blogs. Ever wonder why these experts are so ubiquitous? What makes them popular with broadcasters, producers, editors and the public at large?
Information overload, that’s what. A proliferation of media outlets are producing a lot of new data daily. How much? Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt estimated that today we create as much information in 48 hours as we did from the dawn of civilization through the start of the twenty-first century.
So how do mere mortals make sense of this tidal wave of data? By having experts explain it to us, that’s how.
If you're a business professional, this is good news; especially if you have specialized knowledge in a niche market. A wide world of media exposure may be waiting for you if you figure out how to tap into it.
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How do you know if you have what it takes to become a recognized authority? For starters, people will begin calling you an expert. And for that to happen, you need just two things: true expertise and visibility.
To be perceived as an expert, you must have technical mastery of your subject matter. That’s a given. But more important, you need to be able to communicate that expertise. And you do that by explaining the complicated things you do in easy-to-understand language. Simplicity slices through the background noise like a scalpel.
Before you can build a national reputation for your expertise, you need exposure. Visibility has to be earned, usually by freely sharing your knowledge and advice - think blogging, publishing a book, speaking at events and hosting webinars, to name just a few popular options. For our book, The Visible Expert, we interviewed more than 100 industry experts. Most experts in our study took a similar path to prominence, which we’ve broken down into five steps.
1. Understand your audience and their issues.
These are the people you want to influence. You’ll need to know what interests them and how to attract their attention. Don’t guess. Do a little research. You are guaranteed to uncover some surprises. These insights will help you cut to the chase and speak to the issues that really interest them.
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2. Determine your area of expertise.
Take a hard look at your audience and the issues they care about, and build your reputation around those issues. Keep your focus as narrow as possible. If you find this difficult, try looking at the intersection of two areas to create a unique niche.
For example, suppose you’re an attorney, and you have an interest in the automotive industry that aligns with your target audience. A growing trend in automotive development is driverless vehicles. Bingo. Become an expert on the legal ramifications of driverless cars.
3. Determine how to showcase your expertise.
Figure out the best way to expose your knowledge to your target audience. This might mean publishing content, giving speeches, posting to social media or delivering content in some other relevant way.
4. Identify promotional channels.
Once you’ve determined how you’re going to showcase your expertise, it’s time to figure out what tools and techniques you’re going to use. You have a wide range of effective offline and online channels to consider. Here are just a few.
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Social media
- Speaking engagements
- Mailing lists
Keep in mind that promoting for promotion’s sake is not an effective method for creating visibility. You’ll want to offer something of value - usually a piece of educational content -- and give it away for free to make it easy for people to sample your knowledge.
5. Identify resources.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to others who can help you become an expert. If writing or public speaking skills are not your strength, find a coach. Partner with an SEO expert to boost your search rankings. It’s important to know what you don’t know so that you can fill in any gaps, hone your skills, and start building your visibility.
Our research shows that high-profile experts are not always the smartest or most innovative individuals in an industry or niche. Instead, they are the people willing to put in the time to do the homework necessary to identify and develop a valuable area of expertise that fits their fundamental skill set. Their dedication, combined with excellent communication skills and the ability to simplify complex topics, quickly transforms them from average professionals into highly visible experts.