She was a speaker at a conference, where we met. She had been given the most inhospitable speaking spot when most conference delegates were still waking up, or busy making connections over breakfast. She had decades of experience and was accompanied by a few of her long-time clients, who clearly adored her.
When I quietly asked her, she told me she hadn’t been paid for speaking. In fact, she’d had to buy her own conference ticket, and been offered a 10% discount from the ticket price, which was supposed to compensate her for speaking.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. I’ve met several people who’ve dedicated years to their craft while being the town’s best-kept secret. People who’ve invested in extensive qualifications, sometimes PhDs, and have accrued thousands of hours, and spent tens of thousands of dollars, to become experts in their field.
Yet without any recognition, beyond their own small circle of influence, nor access to the opportunities that flows from this.
And, on the flip side, I’ve endured listening to people boasting about their 18 months or three years of experience like it’s a distinction or, worse, lied about the amount of time they’ve accrued focusing on their thing.
Before I became a digital marketer and business coach 13 years ago, I worked in Public Relations, so I always knew the value of reputation.
Especially if you’re a soloist who has no desire to grow a team, building your professional reputation makes smart business sense. Your reputation in business is far more credible and hence, valuable than branding, marketing or advertising. Your reputation in business is a bankable asset.
The value of being an expert
When you are the go-to expert in your field, opportunities come to you, including free media publicity, speaking and teaching gigs, and a steady stream of inquiries and clients, courtesy of Google. There’s less need to pitch or hustle for a break, and far more ease and flow in your business, which further enables you to do your best work.
You can’t specialise in instrumental jazz, slow cooking, crypto-currency, and a month of Sundays. Defining where you’re going to have an edge is enormously important.
But so too is knowing how to find, identify, or develop opportunities where your skills, talents and aptitudes will fruit the most; this is part of what we teach in my Hustle & Heart program.
The right environment always beats the right effort, so before you think you’re lacking, first focus on getting into the right environment. It doesn’t matter how good you are if you’re in the wrong environment, hanging out with the wrong people who don’t get it, don’t get you and don’t like you. You’re an expert, not a miracle worker.
Stop being an island
People need people. People in business need people even more. As you’re growing your influence, you need to borrow other people’s audiences through partnerships and collaborations (we also cover this in Hustle & Heart).
Work to your communication strengths – if you like talking, focus on becoming a guest on other people’s podcasts, hosted on other people’s IGTV, or interviewed on other people’s YouTube channels. If you prefer writing, try to get your articles syndicated, contribute guest blogs, or pitch articles to mainstream media.
You can be paid to teach on other people’s paid programs or courses, be interviewed on someone else’s webinar, speak at other people’s events, or contribute towards someone else’s book.
Collaborating, partnering and contributing helps you further hone your skills by focusing on what you do best, and builds your audience by borrowing your collaborator’s audience.
Have a body of work online
Of course, nothing beats warm bodies in a room. But 2020 has highlighted the difference between those who are nimble and those who are stubborn. How are people going to find you and have an experience of you if everything you do is face-to-face?
Yes, your face-to-face work can translate onto the internet, and no it doesn’t need to cost you $10,000 in videography services.
If you’re a writer, you need a blog or a body of articles. If you’re a teacher, you need some videos of yourself teaching. If you deliver services face-to-face, you need a direct-to-camera piece introducing yourself and your business.
If you’re the ‘go to’ expert, people need a body of work that they can easily ‘go to’ online. You can’t rank on Google for a six-page website. We need more.
Be more generous in your marketing and use your website as a hub of your best information and insights, to help people reach you and experience your work. If you sell services, you sell promises, and you build trust by giving away your gold. (“But why will people pay if I’m giving it all away for free?” is the wrong question.)
Say something worth listening to
To be invited to contribute, you need to say something worth listening to.
- What is the popular discourse in your niche or industry?
- What do you think about it?
- What’s missing from the conversation?
- Where has the conversation not gone far enough, and why is this important?
- If you disagree from the topical conversation, why? And why should we care?
- How can we take a different approach to an old problem?
- How is your industry or sector relevant to the bigger events of the day?
- In mainstream media, how is your industry or sector represented in the major news story?
- If it isn’t represented, how could you make what you do relevant?
- What is likely to happen in the immediate future, what are the repercussions of this on your industry or sector, and why should people care?
Having an opinion is important. Having a well-formed opinion is more important. Having an opinion that you can make relevant to whomever you’re talking to is more important still. And having a well-formed thoughtful opinion that’s contradictory, but not just for the sake of it, and that you’ve got the ovaries to stand behind, means you’re saying something worth listening to.
Do something worth talking about
Don’t underestimate people’s intelligence. We can see through a ruse to gain publicity easier than you may think. Hype isn’t worth talking about. Action is. So put your money where your mouth is and do something worth talking about.
I meet so many business people who are spearheading community-oriented, social change movements, without any acknowledgment or publicity, making things far harder than they need to be. Remember, you’re not an island. There are no prizes for burnout.
To secure publicity, you don’t need a formal media release. Instead, a short, sharp email to a few relevant journalists can result in thousands of dollars of publicity, and help ensure that your impact goes far further.
The media are constantly looking for stories. Do something worth talking about – and don’t forget to tell the media about it.
More money, more impact
Don’t identify as an expert? But you’ve accrued 10 years or more at your craft, and invested in your education? Then you’re likely an expert. Experts call themselves specialists; other people call them experts.
If you haven’t yet accrued the recognition that your dedication allows, don’t blame yourself. It’s just marketing, branding and Public Relations. And unlike what you do, it’s not that difficult. In fact, it’s getting easier every day.
Want to learn how to create more money and more impact? Then join my flagship program, Hustle & Heart.