We all know the power of developing a strong personal brand. As I discuss in my book Reinventing You, when your true talents are recognized by others, you’re more likely to receive job offers, promotions, and opportunities that match the areas where you excel.
But as I discovered in the course of researching my latest book, Stand Out – for which I interviewed more than 50 prominent thought leaders in business, technology, and more – there’s something even better than having a strong personal brand. That’s becoming a recognized expert.
When you’re understood by others to be not just good, but among the very best in your company or industry, the equation changes. You barely have to market yourself, because the opportunities come to you. Prospective employers and clients already know who you are, and already want to work with you. You don’t have to convince them; you can name your price. That’s the power of taking your personal brand to the highest level.
As I discovered through my research, and in the course of working with more than 100 students enrolled in my Recognized Expert course, there are three key elements involved in becoming a recognized expert: content creation, social proof, and your network. Here’s how you can make them work for you.
Content Creation. Sure, entrepreneurs might need to create content in order to market themselves. But, some might ask, why should people who work for a corporation bother to start blogging or podcasting or creating videos? The truth is, content creation is a powerful force for any professional who wants to stand out from the crowd. Of course, some industries are heavily regulated, and some employers have policies governing employee social media use, so it’s important to be aware of the rules first.
But because so few professionals who work for companies make use of this lever, it can be a powerful competitive advantage for you. That’s because – at a very basic level – if others don’t know what your ideas are, they’ll never know if they’re any good. Your talents will remain hidden to all but those who work with you directly, which is of course a relatively small number. But by sharing your ideas through content creation, you enable a much broader audience to see how you think, understand your outlook and approach, and begin to say, “That guy makes a lot of sense. We need to work with him.”
Social Proof. Social proof – a term used frequently in psychology – essentially refers to the markers of credibility that you assemble around yourself. The reason this is critical is that we live in a busy world, and you can’t expect people who have never heard of you to take the time to fully research you. More likely, they’ll just tune you out. So make it easy for them to trust you. Work to garner credentials they’ll recognize, such as a becoming a board member of your local professional association or a blogger for an industry publication or a chapter leader of your alumni group. People view those organizations as having essentially “pre-vetted” you, so they’re more willing to listen to what you have to say and give your ideas a fair hearing.
Your Network. Finally, your network is critical for several reasons. One is that we’re judged by the company we keep, so associating with other talented people in your field reflects well on you. Additionally, the people in your network can serve as trusted advisors, helping you improve and hone your ideas, and can also be early ambassadors, spreading your best ideas to the world. Taking the time to build a robust community – whether it’s getting to know interesting colleagues better over coffee dates or coordinating an online membership group – is an investment in your network.
Becoming a recognized expert doesn’t happen overnight. If it did, everyone would be doing it. But if you’re already working to develop your personal brand, you have a powerful head start. By focusing more intently on content creation, social proof, and building your network, you can begin to develop your expert reputation today.
Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and Stand Out. You can download her free 42-page Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook.