Build a good foundation to be recognised as an influential communicator
While the reach of any writer’s readership will have a major impact on how much influence they have, audience size alone is far from the only factor determining the importance of a journalist/blogger/social media star. Influence means not just being read or watched, but also believed and even admired. Becoming an influential communicator means becoming a trusted source of information and an authoritative figure in your area of expertise. It means not being merely a marketer, but someone who helps, provides background and opinions, and it means when you share an idea, people actually listen.
Building influence doesn’t just happen. You have to have something unique to say it well and say it in the right channels, and for most people it takes time to develop.
In 2014 fame is more fleeting than ever, but influence is still a prized and hard-earned commodity.
So how do you become influential?
1. Provide insight and assistance.
The key thing influencers do is provide useful advice and/or insight. Telling people something that not only they didn’t - know before, but far more importantly that is useful to their understanding of work or life. If you’re not willing to share your expertise publicly, or at least point people in the right direction, then you’re not going to gain influence. Once you have established your bona fides in one area, often people will listen to your opinions in related areas as well. Influential people care about sharing wisdom, and that enables them to build influence and trust with a large audience.
2. Develop your brand.
The most effective method for an individual is to be known for something specific, or to work for an organisation that is already influential. Mia Freedman has built a unique and powerful brand with mamamia.com.au, but that was off the back of a long journalistic career at some of the most well-known magazines in Australia. The key here is that Mia used her existing profile, personalised it and built a unique brand that did not exactly match the organisations that she had previously worked for, but expressed her own world view, taking advantage of a “new media” format to directly reach an audience already familiar with her.
3. Use what’s available.
No-one can be stuck in a single platform of communications these days and maintaining influence the way newspaper columnists did may have in the past. The most successful influencers can translate their expertise from one format to others. They don’t just have a column, they appear on panel shows or even have their own program. They don’t just blog, they podcast. They don’t just do live webinars, they post on-demand videos on YouTube. They’re not just active on Twitter, they also post to other social media sites. They don’t just share things via Linkedin, they start their own groups and conversations.
4. Write a book.
Despite the rapidly changing nature of information and its distribution, developing your ideas in a longer form remains the most important way to be seen as a serious contributor to any topic or area of expertise. This is particularly true of people wanting to become influencers in a particular field, but even in the more general areas of politics and current affairs, writing a book is often seen as the sign of someone who deeply understands their area of expertise and can be trusted as an expert.
5. Be seen and not just read or heard.
In the past, some newspaper columnists or radio hosts were so trusted and admired that they could influence millions of people who had never even seen them, but that is far harder to achieve now. Influencers now have to know how to maintain their public profile across traditional and new media, in written, audio and video form and even in person on the speaking circuit. With the massive amount of different available channels, people forget a lot faster and if you aren’t maintaining a public profile across a number of media you will fall off many people’s radar.
Ultimately, becoming an influential figure in your field, like many things in life, can often be a combination of being in the right place at the right time, doing the hard work and having the talent to take advantage of that opportunity. But the most important part is the hard work, because with so much information and so many opinions so readily available to people now, it takes more effort than ever to remain the voice of choice.
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