As a strategist that deals frequently with personal brands, on one hand I couldn’t be happier that more and more businesses are catching onto the importance of investing in their personal brand. Whether they be employees or business owners, more and more professionals want to be seen as the go-to person in their space – the ‘subject matter expert’. But on the other, social media has given rise to an onslaught of thought leaders, change makers and disruptors. Are you an expert just because you call yourself an expert?
The short answer is no. However, the good news is there are many ways you can verify yourself as an expert in your industry and in the wider business community. Being seen as a true expert and industry leader is not easy, and often the biggest ingredient is time. But here are some of the ways you can fast track your way to standing apart from your peers.
Know your point of difference
Many of the individuals and businesses I deal with are unclear on what their point of difference, or unique selling point is, and are even less sure on how to articulate that. The reality of the environment we are in is that in order to cut through the astronomical amount of marketing messages we get on the daily, you need to know what it is that makes you different. Why would someone buy from you rather than your competitor? This is no less relevant to a personal brand than it is to a business brand – knowing what you bring to the table that makes you unique and valuable is absolutely key. What combination of hard and soft skills do you have, and more importantly, what do you want to draw attention to and promote? Peer feedback and testimonials are one of the simplest ways to do this – as well as a good, old fashioned SWOT analysis of the other players in your space.
Create a brand and stick to it
One of the common misconceptions of a personal brand is that it is a total and unfiltered reflection of the individual, and this doesn’t have to be the case. A personal brand should be the intersect of how that individual perceives themselves, how they are perceived by others, and how they aspire to be perceived. The aspirational always plays a strong element in branding and personal brands are no different. Think about where you’re aiming to be and the intention or vision behind creating your personal brand and go for that – not where you may or may not be right now. And once you’ve got the elements of your brand story clear – be a stickler for it. Consistency is king when it comes to content marketing and building trust and brand equity – your audience needs to be clear on what you stand for.
Who (and what) else says you’re an expert?
Third party verification is key, but not as difficult to obtain as you may think. Of course, testimonials and case studies are a great way to do this, as are straight up years of experience. Another way to do this is to look at marketing your process, your framework or your qualification. Don’t make the mistake of being the fairy godmother that delivers the outstanding outcome without a hint of what it took to get there – there is a huge amount of value in the stuff that happens behind the scenes. Another incredibly powerful way to verify yourself as an expert in your industry is traditional media. Social media, whilst incredibly powerful, has very low (if any!) barriers to entry – anyone can create a piece of content and push it out to their audience. However, not everyone is in the media and it will automatically set you apart from your peers. Once again, the quality of your narrative is key here – the modern-day consumer is incredibly well versed at what is advertorial or ‘salesy’ content. Know the story you are trying to tell and make your objective connection and engagement, rather than the sale, and always look to add value.