How to Become a Trusted Authority

What’s your vision for becoming an expert? You read all  you can about a your topic. You might rehearse talking about it in front of the mirror. You tape a piece of paper with a few key phrases over your bed so that it’s the last thing you see at night.

Okay, maybe that last part is going a bit over the edge, but all of those things will help you become the most knowledgable fact-spewing-machine anyone could want to be. But will anybody want to listen to you, Mr./Ms. Expert? Being an expert is a one-way street: a monologue. Being a trusted authority is a two-way boulevard: a dialogue. That’s a big difference.

A trusted advisor relationship. It’s the holy grail of professional services – to become a trusted advisor to your senior clients. To be viewed – and sought out – as a source of valued advice and support.
Ian Brodie

Thing is, you can be a brilliant without anybody knowing about it. It’s easy. All you have to do is not share any information. This is probably not a great business plan, and not a great way to make friends, so let’s move along and try something else. Suppose you tell everyone you meet everything you know. Not so good either, and so prevalent that it even has a name. Oversharing. This happens a lot on Twitter, and those are the feeds that I delete; on Facebook, those are the people I unfriend.

So there’s a middle way, right? Yes, there is. I’ve been working with a number of clients on email newsletters. We use MailChimp a lot, but we’re friends with Constant Contact and AWeber, too. Most  of our newsletters are monthly, some are weekly, but all are relevant to our readers. It’s part of our social media marketing strategy, and we connect it with the way we use Facebook and Twitter for business.

E-newsletters are a slow, simmering stew of information. You have to earn the right to talk to people to get them subscribe. If you want to keep them as subscribers, people need to know that they are part of something.

Every relevant business is really a cause, part of  something bigger, part of  a movement.

This is where blogs come in. Every solid newsletter, in my view, is built upon blog articles. These articles include people in a dialogue.Take a look at this excellent example, from BigAnimals.com, owned by photographer and expedition leader Amos Nachoum. Amos’ blog regularly covers the world of conservation, adventure and ocean exploration. We cover his upcoming trips, notes on people like Richard Branson, and sometimes we look at the work of other photographers and how people see it. His Facebook page carries this message too, and the same for his mailing list and Twitter feed. It’s a consistent, integrated approach that creates a strong dialogue. After all, if you’re going to go to the ends of the Earth or the depths of the ocean with somebody, well, first you have to trust them. People trust Amos. He is the trusted authority.

As Ian Brodie has written, “becoming a trusted authority doesn’t happen overnight. The position must be earned – and this takes time and investment of effort.” It’s good to know the facts, but you also have to make a genuine human connection. Then you become so much more than a technical specialist. You are a trusted authority.

Bookshelf by Seokwon Yang via Creative Commons license.

Lee Schneider is a consultant in social media strategy with Red Cup Online Strategy + Media in Santa Monica, CA. He analyzes your online presence, builds a communication strategy for you, and grows your visibility so that people recognize the value you offer. He manages lots of email newsletters.