When you want more from your career, chasing a promotion is just one of many options. Another is to become a thought-leader or a minor celebrity in your chosen field.
And if you think that you cannot become an influencer in your professional career…think again.
Let’s Kill Your Doubts with a True Story
Guy Kawasaki is one of Apple’s original employees, credited with much of the marketing success of the 1984 release of the Macintosh. Despite his success with Apple, however, he’s much more well-known for being a major influencer in the marketing world: popularizing the term “evangelist”, along with the broader ideas of “Evangelism Marketing” and “Technology Evangelism”. This is only the very beginning of a long list of Kawasaki’s achievements.
Kawasaki was able to leverage his achievements, lessons, and contacts from his earlier career, and use these as a spring-board to create the now much-loved personal brand of Guy Kawasaki. This wasn’t a fluke, or something reserved only for those who enjoy an influencer status already; it was the result of hard work and persistence.
It’s also achievable on a slightly less “grand” scale, such as becoming the go-to person in your town for a certain skill or knowledge-set. Or the spokesperson for a new idea.
Take Emilie Wapnick for instance. Emilie has become the spokesperson for Multipotentialites (people who struggle to focus or concentrate on only one or two things throughout their lives). By regularly writing a blog, launching a community, writing books and guides, and more recently giving a great TEDx talk (below), she’s become a leading influencer in this area.
You too have the ability. It won’t be easy.
But if you’re looking for a fresh way further your personal development consider trying out some of the following tips and ideas to build that personal brand.
Some won’t be right for you, you might fail, but you’ll learn what works. And then you can hone your approach to achieve those lofty goals.
Pick a Niche
By selecting a niche in which to build your influence, you’ll face less competition, and be able to keep up with developments in that area much more easily. If a story is breaking about the future of video streaming, for instance, who will the media most want to speak to: a general tech expert, or a thought-leader on the future of video streaming?
Focus on that one niche. You will become world class with much less resistance. You will take less time to become the go-to person in that area.
Make sure it’s something you’re able to stay passionate about for at least five years, and something you’d love to talk about over and over again without getting bored of the conversation.
Know What You’re Talking About
When trying to build your fame in a particular niche, make sure you know what you’re talking about when it comes to that industry.
Before publicly extolling your niche virtues, be sure to have the knowledge and ideas to back you up. Stay abreast of industry news through blogs, podcasts, and news websites, and be aware what other influencers are saying — these are your peers. Don’t pretend to be an expert, but actually become an expert.
There are no real shortcuts here. Buying Twitter followers and Facebook likes may look impressive for a couple of seconds, but if you don’t have the overall repertoire to back it up, people will see through this in no time. Instead, build authentic relationships and real fans.
Integrity is worth a huge amount. Consistently maintain your authenticity by gifting genuine offers of help, real discussions, and admit when you don’t know something.
Have Something To Say
Unless you have something interesting, controversial, or entirely new to add to the conversation, you’re flogging a dead horse. There is no point in merely repeating what you’ve heard elsewhere. Luckily, when you’re dedicated to becoming an expert, the information you pick up on the journey helps you to develop a strong viewpoint or vision that you can build into a more coherent worldview.
People listen when you have something valuable to say. Others will voluntarily be prepared to listen, and to choose to ask you to comment on something, rather than someone else.
Say It in Your Own Best Way
Once you have something to add to the conversation, you have to consider the best way to say it. This should largely be a matter of self-awareness (understanding your weaknesses and your strengths).
- If your strengths are in public speaking, consider arranging some speaking engagements or recording YouTube videos.
- If you’re more of a written person, start a blog, publish on Medium, or start writing for an influential website. If you love conversations, start a podcast.
- If you’re a more visual person, create animations, presentations, or infographics.
Whichever medium you choose to adopt, ensure that whatever you’re saying is valuable to your audience, and reflects your own unique insight into that particular issue.
Help Others Succeed
An effective way of helping yourself is to help those around you first. Gary Vaynerchuk titled his second book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook for a reason. Because to become influencers, and to become more successful, we must give, give, give, before we take. Here’s some practical guidance.
Become a connector in your industry. Introduce people to each other. Forward articles to people who will find them interesting. If someone asks for something, offer to help (if you can), and don’t expect anything in return. By putting out this good karma on a consistent basis, it’s more than likely that rewards will abound. This is what Jason Gaignard did, and he became a “mega-influencer” in less than one year.
Start Guest Posting
By choosing to guest post on a website other than your own, you’re able to have your unique views consumed by an entirely new audience. Many people stick to pitching guest post ideas to smaller websites when they first start out, but are afraid to be bold and pitch directly to the largest sites in their industry.
Build up the courage, and go for the jugular. If you have something interesting to say, there’s no rule that says you have to “work your way up” to the big guns. Those larger sites are often looking for interesting, entertaining and valuable content. There’s no reason why you can’t be the one providing it.
Attend Conferences and Events
Spend a lot of time on the groundwork. Do plenty of research, reach out to people who you would like to meet up with, and do what’s needed to get the most out of each event. Don’t forget to follow up with those you meet. The more people you meet and talk with, the more “famous” you will become in that area.
Partner Up with Other Influencers
Take an exciting idea and think about how to promote your unique viewpoint. Think about how other people may be able to benefit from this, too.
- Writing a book? Would another influencer benefit from your help?
- Offering a work-related service (consulting, for instance)? Are there others you could partner up with to offer more value to everyone involved?
- Starting a podcast? Interview bloggers and journalists in your area.
Talk to The Media
By carefully curating a list of media contacts (email or Twitter lists for instance) in your niche, you can work on building genuine, authentic relationships with these individuals. Again, these relationships should not be one-way. They should be beneficial to both parties, and if you do need to pitch something, make sure to read up on the best way to do this.
Ask the journalist or blogger questions, get to know them and their ideas, and try to add something valuable to the conversation.
By keeping up with this routine for a while, you may well see yourself being quoted or featured in stories and articles both online and in print, and possibly even preparing to speak in a live-broadcast interview.
Attending events such as webinars, online and offline conferences etc. is all well and good, but organizing your own webinar gives you the perfect excuse to mingle with other influencers, develop those relationships, promote your ideas, and build your reputation at the same time.
Work on bringing other thought leaders onto your panel. Try to partner with them when it comes to promotion in order to have as many people as possible attend (this can easily be organized on Google Hangouts). Most importantly, make sure everyone benefits from both taking part in, and attending, the event.
Start a Podcast
When it comes to starting a podcasts, there’s relatively little competition compared with websites and blog. It’s easier to become “famous” by choosing the podcasting route. The video above is the first in a fantastic multi-part series on setting up a podcast from scratch that’s well worth a watch if you decide to take this route.
Record monologues on certain topics, express and expand on your ideas, or invite other guests to your show to discuss those topics as a broadcasted conversation. A mixture between the two may be best.
You can also promote your own podcast by hitting the podcast circuit, and volunteer to be interviewed on topics in your niche, making this a great all-round strategy for building The Brand Called You (book).
Don’t Keep the Network to Yourself
By following some of the tactics recommended in this article, your network will begin to include thought leaders, influencers, bloggers, journalists, academics, and those with a very keen interest in your niche. Whatever you do, don’t keep this network to yourself.
Start introducing people to each other. By being a connector, you’ll appear to be the hub of your niche, and people will learn to see you as an influencer in this space.
If you’ve spent a while attending events, and possibly even organizing your own, now’s the time to consider speaking at events. By building relationships with those who plan events in your niche, you’re more easily able to pitch an idea to them, and more likely to have it accepted. Many events are run each year, so if you attend an event and feel like you’d be able to speak there next year, introduce yourself to the organizer(s), and keep in touch.
Plan the topic of your talk. Ensure you have something valuable and entertaining to say. If you’re nervous, work on improving your public speaking skills, and speak first at smaller events before working your way up to larger conferences.
If there’s a hot topic in your industry that you have deep knowledge of, pouring this knowledge into a print or ebook can be a massive boost to your credentials. It’s hard work no doubt, but the potential increase in your reputation and the opportunities that could spring from this are huge.
Ensure it’s a book you can be proud of. Something that rivals other books that are in your industry. If you’re not quite sure if it’s good enough, it may need some more work. It’s up to you whether to go the traditional or self-published route, and if you’re worried about funding, there are several crowd funding platforms that authors regularly use.
The following video gives some useful advice if you’re thinking of becoming a non-fiction author:
Becoming an influencer in your niche is not something that will happen overnight. As Confucius says,
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones”.
If you feel you’ve hit a brick wall, that may be a hint that you should try something slightly different, rather than throwing in the towel. Keep at it, build those relationships, always be learning, and stay open to serendipity.
What Else Is Worth Trying?
If becoming famous or influential in a specific industry is something you truly want, learn as much as you can, and try some of these ideas. Do keep in mind that this may be a long ride. Be prepared for that, and keep the motivation strong. Plenty of others have managed to do this successfully, and there’s little reason you can’t do the same.
What else do you think would be worth trying? Tell us an inspiring story if you have tasted success with any of the ideas?