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September 12, 2011
It's the Age of the Expert
 
Establish a position of “authority” and you gain the power to influence others (from the Latin auctoritas, from auctor, ”originator, promoter”). The Romans understood this and used speeches delivered in forums as the primary tool for self-promotion, after which they were published for wider distribution.

Knowing your subject and having the ability to express what you want to say clearly is the key to authority. Of course, it never hurts to have a sense of style. The goal is to be the go-to expert in your field, whether it’s brand loyalty, social media, or web graphics. Credentials are established by posting on blogs, engaging in discussions, or publishing in trade periodicals — anywhere your customer base can be found. You will impress your potential clients — and the competition — with ongoing education designed to educate, inform, and attract new business. While you may be a mere big fish in a small pond, those small ponds often are filled with success, satisfaction, and wealth.

When you meet people who are smarter, wiser, and more experienced than you are, make them your mentors and teachers. Study their work, synthesize their best ideas, and make sure you give proper attribution because that makes you look even smarter and more credible.

K.I.S.S.

You are not going to be the most knowledgeable person on the planet, so don’t even try. What you need to become is the most accessible authority to your clients, potential customers, and peers. Enhance your readers’ lives by transforming tough subject matter into small, comprehensible bites, or create videos or podcasts from lengthy scholarly articles. Complicated concepts can be redesigned into simple, striking infographics that tell visual stories.

If you want to learn, TEACH.

There’s no better way to become an expert than to find apprentices and start teaching. Locate people who don’t know as much as you do — newbies and business owners who don’t know how, or have the time, to find out the basics for themselves. Teach the tried-and-true. It doesn’t matter how many of your competitors are doing it. If you do it well, do it regularly, and express your personality effectively, you’ll find an audience. As you teach, you’ll find that simple, basic information gains new depth and richness. You’ll gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for your topic. And, as you keep learning, you’ll attract a more sophisticated audience — both readers and potential publishers. Before you know it you will become a guru.

Keep the goal in view.

Understand that the purpose of becoming an expert isn’t to feel superior; it’s to help your readers, customers, and prospective customers. Remember, it is not about you, it is about those you are helping. If you present yourself at the outset as “the smartest guy in the room,” you’ll soon find yourself the target of an angry online horde, or even worse, a person whose writings are automatically scrolled by. On the other hand, the serious authority is respected. When you approach your subject with curiosity, a sense of humility, and a sincere desire to help, fans, friends, and followers will find you. Stay focused on the needs of your audience, be committed to an ongoing dialogue, and you will be rewarded both psychically and professionally.

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Len Stein founded Visibility Public Relations to position the full spectrum of creative marketing services companies for industry thought-leadership. 

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