Here are 5 steps to becoming a genuine authority in your field

Shaun H. Ruff

In a world full of competition, endless marketing messages, social media feeds, internet ads, and emails, how do you stand out in your industry? Suppose you’ve heard that positioning yourself as the authority in your industry will help you raise your rates, attract premium clients/customers, and have a consistent supply of opportunities coming your way. In that case, you already understand the power of positioning yourself as an authority in your industry.

Opportunities come to you when you become an authority. You stop chasing the deal, and you stop chasing the client. You stop chasing stages or platforms to share your message because the minute you become an authority, these opportunities find you. They see you, and they seek you out.

Regardless of how competitive the industry, there is always room for the best. When you position yourself as your industry’s authority, you no longer have to discount your prices because you are competing on value, not price. You will be the first in your market position when they seek advice, and you will be the trusted advisor people come to when they are ready to invest in having their problem solved. In other words, when you are the authority, you have no competition. You create a new standard in your industry, and you are seen as the one and only person who can deliver value at the highest level.

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I have used authority positioning in every industry I’ve been in. Using a proven strategy that combines publishing, marketing, branding, and PR, I’ve been able to position myself as an authority in some of the most competitive industries. Overnight successes aren’t necessarily the goal, nor should you aim for that. If you are one of the few who is willing to invest and play this game for the long-term, then you are going to get the five proven steps I’ve used to crack the authority code.

When you apply the five steps to build your authority, you’ll invest in an asset that will continue to increase in value every year of your career.

1. Publish your book

One of the fastest shortcuts to growing proper authority is to publish a book. You’ve probably figured out all kinds of new, innovative ways to improve how you do what you do to achieve faster and more effective results with the least amount of effort. These insights and discoveries will help other people in your industry to streamline systems and improve processes. You’ve probably been sitting on your unique approach for way too long, and if you have been in your industry for a while, this is valuable intellectual property. If you genuinely know you have something to share that is innovative and valuable for your industry, write that book!

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Make publishing a regular part of your authority building strategy. Don’t think it’s one and done. That one book isn’t going to carry you for a decade. There’s a famous quote: “You’re only as good as your last performance.” Well, when it comes to branding yourself as an authority, you’re only as relevant as your last book. When you are indeed an authority, you often share your ideas because you are on the edge of evolution. A thought leader ventures out to the very edge of possibility beyond the cutting edge (what I call the “next edge”) and is willing to disrupt the status quo. Authorities disrupt the current paradigm by evolving the conversation and going somewhere beyond where other experts dare. It’s essential to publish books often if you want to be a real, proper authority. Please don’t sit on it.

2. Capture media attention

It’s one thing to say you’re great. It’s one thing to buy an ad. For the most part, anybody can buy an ad. You can buy digital ads, buy billboards, and purchase all forms of self-promotion. But when you have third-party validation from the media, the weight of that validation is so much more credible because they are leveraging their authority branding to share your perspective with their audience.

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Just like with a book, getting media attention isn’t a one and done: One article does not an authority make. What establishes your authority position for the remainder of your career is to have ongoing media placement. Whether you’re being quoted or a contributing writer, authorities share their ideas with the world. Being quoted regularly in media is essential to establish yourself as an authority. Your name has to be out there continually. You have to share your knowledge frequently as a thought leader to be trustworthy and to be considered an actual authority instead of just some flash in the pan or one-hit-wonder.

When someone googles your name and sees that you are quoted and referenced in major media publications, they see you as a credible authority. That’s the difference between just getting media hits versus press interviews. It’s utterly different because anybody can get media hits, but this is about the authority positioning where these media organizations contact you for your ideas, opinions, and perspective.

Being an entrepreneur is challenging. Being an entrepreneur in the age of COVID-19 is even more challenging.
Being an entrepreneur is challenging. Being an entrepreneur in the age of COVID-19 is even more challenging.

The way to get ongoing media attention is to continually be out there sharing your ideas and publishing your books so that more people want to interview you and get your feedback based on your current intellectual property (aka how you are evolving your industry with your unique ideas, systems, and processes).

However, you need to be an auth
entic thought leader. The media will not align their brand with someone who has a bad reputation or who uses gimmicks in their marketing and branding. And that’s the perfect lead into the next step — they will look you up!

3. Invest in your online presence

What does your website look like? Does it demonstrate you are a thought leader in your industry? Are you active in sharing your opinion on platforms regularly? Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or something else, are you building a community and a following? An audience is what validates that you are someone worth listening to.

It’s just like when you google and research every person you’re thinking about doing business with: Your online presence is what verifies you are an authority. Are you helping other people to solve their problems? Are you generating solutions for your industry? Are your ideas, concepts, models, and intellectual property evolving the status quo? It’s not about doing this for yourself; being an authority is about whom you are serving.

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If you’re speaking from a podium, but nobody’s there, then you are not an authority. Proper authorities have an audience of raving fans that follow them.

4. Don’t feed into gimmicks or scams

In this day and age, it is so easy to get sucked into quick-fix gimmicks and scams. Avoid obvious schemes that will characterize you as a disingenuous person: Think diet pill scams or anything that sells a message that the product can’t live up to. You will never become an authority if you are chasing these quick-fix methods or having a quick-fix mentality.

You see, playing the long game is hard. It takes years of dedication, resilience, and deep inner strength. This is why trustworthy authorities are rare. Most people can’t remain on course with their integrity. It’s just too seductive to buy into the gimmick, but it will destroy your chances of commanding the authority position in your industry.

If you align your brand with a quick-fix gimmick or scam, it will destroy your reputation forever. It could take you 10, 15, or 20 years to build up your intellectual property and brand, but the moment you align with a gimmick, all of that hard work is destroyed. The fastest way to lose your authority status is to be fraudulent. It’s too great of a risk. If you align your brand and reputation with a gimmick, you will lose everything that you have ever worked to create, and your dreams of becoming an authority will vanish.

There are only a few true authorities in every industry, so the competition is fierce. It takes more than a flicker of attention or 15 minutes of fame to achieve this level of authority status. The authorities who make it to the top of their industries are the ones who stay true to their integrity and don’t chase the quick-fix gimmicks that will destroy their reputation.

5. Build other authorities

This step may seem counterintuitive because all the other positions are always in competition with one another. Still, a real authority knows that there is no such thing as competition, only collaboration. You see, being a leader comes with an immense amount of value (we’ve already talked about that), but it also has the highest level of responsibility. Trustworthy authorities know that their role is to serve their industry to evolve everyone, including investing and building up other leaders.

When the day comes when you are the best at what you do and how you do it, your role is to make sure others can grow and excel in achieving what you have achieved even faster and with less effort and obstacles. Authorities have an abundance mindset. They are not afraid of losing their position as an authority because they have evolved past the competition paradigm that plagues other levels of success. When you are a real authority, your solemn oath of service that has carried you to the top will be shared amongst your peers. Leaders know their status is not for self-grandiosity or personal gain but to help others become the best they can be.

Authorities have no fear of mentoring other people in their industry, giving back to employees, or sharing their knowledge to evolve the status quo. They have the confidence that can only come when you are aligned with your inner integrity, and they know they’re not going to lose that by helping others.

Authorities also know that they never get to the top alone. By reaching out, aligning with strategic partnerships, and establishing a reliable network built on long-term trust, authorities build up everyone with them as they climb to the top. Authorities know that when you invest in your team and alliances, you will stay at the top.

Authorities do not compete with one another. They strengthen one another and become an invaluable asset through alliance partnerships. Their ideas and attitude become the fertile ground for other authorities to prosper.

When you apply these five steps to building authority, you will find that you have no competition. The world is starving for real, authentic leadership, and if you are willing to play the long-term game and invest in your authority branding, your position will be solidified. The opportunities for the spotlight for your ideas to be shared will come to you naturally and effortlessly.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY Handout: How to become an authority figure in your field in 5 steps

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