I started my career in the early 1990s as the press assistant at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. In this role I was surrounded by experts from around the world, and every day I witnessed their abilities to shape regional, national, and international issues.
Whether the speaker was President Bill Clinton, World Bank president James Wolfensohn, or movie star and AIDS activist Elizabeth Taylor, these experts commanded the attention and respect of others because their position, knowledge, or advocacy made them authorities in their fields.
There, I learned about the power of being an expert. I became fascinated by what it takes for someone to become known for their expertise, and over the past two decades I've honed the skills of positioning people and organizations as experts. That process has become a big part of what my PR agency does for both the executives and the brands we represent.
Arianna Huffington's career proves how a person can gain significant influence through the power of expertise. Not one to shy away from the spotlight, she put her name on the Huffington Post and she has become her own best advertising campaign. Sherry Cooper is another example. As the executive vice-president and chief economist of BMO Financial Group, Dr. Cooper established herself as an expert and has made a career of demystifying complex areas of economics and finance, a skill that has made her a sought-after speaker and writer.
To advance professionally, we all must demonstrate and share our expertise, putting ourselves and our talents into the spotlight. Here are a few insights into the process we use to position our clients as experts.
• Select the topic for which you want to be known. Align it with your knowledge, experience, interests, and the objectives of your organization.
• Decide on key messages that are clear, concise, and memorable. With repeated use they will serve as the foundation of all your communication efforts.
• Set clear, measurable goals to help you chart your course and measure your success.
• Identify who you want to reach and what you want the outcome of the communication to be. Do you want audience members to be introduced to you? Do you want them to think better of you? Do you want them to tell others about you? Or do you want them to take action? Be explicit and precise because unclear objectives will undermine the effectiveness of your strategy.
• Identify the channels that target the individuals you want to influence. There are more ways than ever to get your message out: newspapers, magazines, television, blogs, speaking opportunities, social media, and many others.
• Measure the results. What you measure depends on your objectives. It could be the volume of article downloads, media mentions, interview requests, or any number of other metrics. If you can't find a measurement associated with the goal you have set, your goal may be too vague and it's time to re-evaluate it.
Bringing in the help you need to position yourself or your organization as an authority can be invaluable. In other words, using the right experts to help you showcase your expertise is a smart way to help you get the results you want both quickly and effectively.
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