This is Part 6 in a series on Becoming a Visible Expert℠. In this series we cover why your firm should consider developing these high profile experts, the strategy behind it, and how to do it, step by step. An accompanying Executive Guide and book are available as free downloads.
In this series on how to become a Visible ExpertSM we have covered a wide range of topics. We started by defining a Visible Expert as a person who combines acknowledged expertise and a high level of visibility within their field of endeavor in a way that allows them to exert influence. Their expert status and high visibility can shape opinions, generate business for their firm or even influence the course of an entire industry.
We also explored how to assess where you are now, develop a strategy, integrate it with your overall firm brand and build out your toolkit. We’re now ready to take on the challenge of turning that strategy into expert status.
The Right Perspective
The process starts with the Action Plan that you developed as part of your strategy. But it doesn’t end there. In fact, the process is ongoing. And if done correctly, visibility and influence can continue to build with minimal incremental input. Once you are the leading expert, people will seek you out.
You begin your journey with a resource-intensive ramp up period, followed by ongoing maintenance. You must continue to stay relevant and active. But once you have achieved expert status, the level of effort and required resources to maintain it are much less.
The Initial Launch
It’s tempting to think of the initial launch of your ramp up as a personal rebranding. In many ways, that is a fitting analogy. After all, you are positioning yourself (or someone from your firm) in the marketplace of ideas and using tools to communicate your status.
But there is an important difference. With a firm’s brand launch you typically want to make a splash and draw attention to the change. With the launch of a Visible Expert, that sort of direct attention on an individual can backfire and come across as conceited or self-centered.
It is much more appropriate to deploy tools such as bios and an online presence and focus attention on the individual's ideas and perspectives, rather than on the person herself. If the ideas and information you present are sufficiently valuable, personal visibility and expert status will naturally follow.
Expertise is built on both formal credentials and the stature of your accomplishments. The formal credentials are usually the easiest, as most folks who want to become a Visible Expert already possess them. In those cases, it’s a matter of selectively highlighting the right ones.
Expert status also can be based on a person’s educational history or their work background. Other individuals may build their reputations around their published writings, their real-world experience or even their clients.
The stature of an individual’s accomplishments is often communicated by who has recognized them. Where have they been quoted or published? Being quoted in the Wall Street Journal is different than being quoted in the Milwaukee Journal. Where was your article was published, the Harvard Business Review or a small trade journal? The perceived quality of who you associate with matters when building your expert status.
Visibility is built differently than expertise. While perceived status is critical to establishing expertise, audience focus dominates visibility — how visible are you to your target audience?
Let’s say you are trying to reach construction firm managers. You would likely be better served by being quoted in Construction Today than in USA Today. Even though the latter reaches many more people, the former reaches more of the right ones.
Visibility is also boosted by the range of places you are seen. If you are active in social media, easily found via search engines, well known in relevant trade associations and often quoted in trade press, you are well on your way to target audience visibility.
How do influential people exert influence? Usually, it is not through the direct application of formal power. Rather, it is through the sharing of ideas and perspectives. This is also true for the Visible Expert.
Consequently, the expert is often in the role of educating her target audience through seminars, training programs, webinars, speaking engagements, publications and interviews. The person must have something to share and not hesitant to share it.
And don’t be afraid to share the “secret sauce.” In many ways, the more value you share, the greater your influence.
A Final Thought
The process of becoming a Visible Expert is never really over. As we mentioned already, it does become easier as visibility and expert status increase. But you must maintain the quality and usefulness of the content you produce and the opinions you share.
Becoming a Visible Expert is not about faking it. It is about focus, planning and genuine expertise. And if you do it well, the rewards can accelerate not only a career, but also an entire firm.
To get started, you may find Hinge’s book The Visible Expert℠ helpful. It’s a free download.