Few things can have greater impact on your personal brand and your organization's brand recognition than developing and sharing your expertise with the world. Whether you call it becoming a thought leader or a public expert, or, as marketing guru Steven Yoder's book espouses, Getting Slightly Famous, you should do it. Trust me. I'm living proof that it works.
My first job was with Imperial Chemical Industries. I was fresh out of college at Yale, and like all new graduates, I didn't know much. But when I noticed that Total Quality Management was the consultant-driven business trend du jour, I decided to make that my expertise. I studied all the texts that were available, interviewed experts at conferences, and endlessly discussed and debated the issues with my colleagues. Soon, I was writing articles, contributing to a self-published book, teaching inside the company, and speaking at conferences. And when it was clear I was one of ICI's three go-to guys for TQM knowledge, the company crafted a new position for me as one of the leaders of TQM in North America, a promotion that certainly bolstered my application to Harvard Business School.
This simple formula: 1) Build expertise, 2) Get people to recognize it — is one I used throughout my career. At Deloitte Consulting, my rise from post-MBA consultant to chief marketing officer was accelerated by my "getting slightly famous" in the fields of re-engineering and customer relationship management. Then it was sharing my marketing acumen that helped me land jobs as CMO of Starwood Hotels and CEO of a computer games startup, as well as founding my own sales and marketing consultancy, Ferrazzi Greenlight.
Even today, it's that simple one-two formula that we help large sales forces, marketing departments, and senior executives implement through Ferrazzi Greenlight coaching and training.
For our purposes now, we'll assume that you already have an area of expertise. Here are the five steps to getting people to recognize it (originally taught to me at Deloitte by Bo Manning, who is now CEO of Orchestria).
- Talk about your expertise, with everyone you meet. Your clients, colleagues, superiors, everyone. Even in social settings, it also makes for the perfect, confident response to the inevitable question: "What exactly do you do?" Hey, if you can explain it to your in-laws, you can explain it to anyone.
- Prepare a formal one-hour talk with a deck of slides. This forces you to organize your ideas and structure your arguments to make the most profound impact on an audience. When you have it ready, give the talk whenever and wherever you can – a lunch meeting in the office, conference breakout sessions, and professional organization meetings.
- Write an article. It doesn't have to be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal to be effective. With a little bit of effort and a few phone calls, I guarantee you can find a publication that's eager for your contribution.
- Write more articles. Yes, this is important enough to warrant its own step. Turn sharing your knowledge into a habit, and your thought leadership will command much more respect.
- Write a book. Everyone, even you, can write a book. In fact, if you've written a series of articles, the book has already written itself. All you'll need to do is add a few anecdotes. If you can get a contract with a major publisher, great. If not, no worries. A good friend of mine, executive coach and productivity consultant Stever Robbins, published his first book It Takes A Lot More Than Attitude...To Lead a Stellar Organization by simply combining his best articles, and it's been a great calling card for his growing business. As long as it's bound and it doesn't look like it came from a personal printer, you'll be fine.
While following these steps, I guarantee you'll begin to see your personal and organizational cachet grow in the marketplace. And if you complete step five and have that book in hand, you'll enter a club I never knew existed before I was a published author. Because being a thought leader does take hard work, people have tremendous respect for those who have taken it to the final stage. And they put their money where their mouth is.
According to a recent study conducted by RainToday, 96 percent of authors report that writing a book produced positive results for their businesses. From personal experience, I can attest to that, too. My book Never Eat Alone has certainly helped my consulting business and completely exploded my speaking business. Now I can't wait to see what becoming a public expert will do for you.
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