Success ultimately comes down to one thing: getting known. Whether it’s in business, scholarship, entertainment or the arts , for you to rise to the top of your profession, people have to know who you are. It may not be fair, but when one person gets more notice and attention than another, we assume that that person has some distinction or edge or positive quality the other person doesn’t. And that’s the person that gets the job and leads the pack.
Every field has such a figure – Donald Trump, Real Estate Millionaire; Anthony Hopkins, the Actor’s Actor; Lee Iacocca, Mr. CEO; Margaret Thatcher, Madame Conservative; Walter Cronkite, Mr. Anchorperson; Harry Houdini, the Great Magician.
Even locally there are always a handful of figures who are the local doctors or lawyers or people to go to.
What gives them that edge? What can make you the acknowledged leader in your field?
A special kind of marketing. The kind that promotes not a product but a person.
How is it done? And how can you do it?
Start With A Niche
It’s easier to become a great anything than a great everything. To become eminent in a particular field, you have to first select a field, and the more particular and focused it is, the better. The more focused your area is, the less competition there is for the top spots, and the easier it is to master the unique skills or requirements of that field.
It’s easier to become a famous liberal or conservative politician than to become a famous politician, and a famous heart surgeon or neurosurgeon than a famous surgeon. You can expand that niche, but a niche remains the easiest place to start out.
So to become an acknowledged leader in your profession, first ask yourself what makes you unique within your profession.
And by get qualified, I don’t mean get over-qualified. The best known person in a field is not necessarily the best qualified person in the field. Shakespeare did not have an MFA in English, and Einstein’s failing grade in math is legend. But while future leaders are not always the first in their graduating class, by and large, they at least went to a good school or studied under someone good. If you want to be a notable doctor, you have to start by getting a medical degree.
Do you need to demonstrate expertise? The answer may surprise you, but no. You don’t have to be the very best at what you do, or even remarkably good at what you do, to be an acknowledged recognized expert at it. You can have exceptional skills. But even without them you can make a mark.
By organizing and directing people who have exceptional skills. Lee Iacocca was not a great mechanic, nor Leonard Bernstein a great instrumentalist. But they could organize and inspire people of talent.
Or you can associate with people with remarkable skills. Oprah is not generally considered a great writer or a leading actress or vocalist. But she continually connects with leading writers, actors, vocalists. Associate with the acknowledged leaders in a field and fame will rub off on you.
You can also simply explain or evaluate how it’s done. The thought leaders in many a field are not active practitioners in that field. They may well be academics or writers who have never run a company or acted on stage, but who explain and articulate powerfully and brilliantly. (Or have a ghostwriter who does it.)
Join Articulate Communities
Fame is social. No one ever became famous staying home hiding behind the curtains. You have to mingle, and you have to mingle in the right circles. What circles are the right circles? They’re not always expert circles – rather, they’re articulate circles: groups that not only hear what you have to say, but actively spread your words and spread word about you. A single journalist with no particular experise in an area can make you more well known than several colleagues renowned in that area.
Needless to say it pays to cultivate both. And the new social media has allowed articulate communities to spread their views so widely that it merits a later section all to itself. The principle remains: to become a hot topic of conversation, find and mingle with those who converse and whose conversations are followed.
Build Your Web Site
These days a web site is as necessary to a person as a business card or a personal ID. It is the one place where you can make a definitive case for yourself, and present the world the image of yourself that you want it to see. It’s the best means you have to say exactly what you want to say to the world.
But it can be so much more. A professionally constructed site can show you who’s visiting, what pages they linger over, and how long they stay. It can allow them to download your information kit, hear you talk, see you on video, make a payment, leave a message – the works.
In a world of global information, the first impression many people get of you will be through the web. If you shape that impression rightly, you’ve taken a major step to making yourself the knowledgeable and notable expert to call.
Build Your Blog
What’s the difference between a web site and a blog?
Roughly, a web site is about you and what you can do. A blog is you, speaking directly.
That's not to say that there aren't blog-style web sites that aren't compelling and powerful too. Blog-style sites may feature multiple bloggers, or may be comprehensive interactive content management systems, or may host truly massive amounts of information.
But the classical blog approach is one person, communicating his or her personal thoughts, often in the give-and-take of online conversation. That can certainly help highlight you as the obvious expert, and this personal, conversational style is at the heart of social media marketing. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the rest all stem in various degrees from the blog approach to developing a web presence conversationally.
Can blogging alone gain fans and followers, and build and even make a reputation? Sure. But why let your blog go it alone? The more tools you have, the more ways you have to build a compelling reputation. Create a dazzling web site, blog and tweet. The farther you stretch, the more you reach
Blogs can make you look casually knowledgeable, and books can make you the authority in a field. But is there no middle way between the offhand approach of the first and the major commitment in time of the second?
There is. Article marketing. Concise, keyword-rich, properly tagged pieces on particular subjects can drive traffic to your web site, pop up on page one in Google, and demonstrate expertise and a flair for articulate writing and thinking with a quickness matched only by blogging – and, the articles can be combined into ebooks and even eventually books themselves.
Optimization means making sure that every digital document you put out onto the net is written, designed and formatted so that search engines and content-hungry websites will pick it up. OK, it’s a little esoteric, and you may have to hire a specialist. It’s worth the money. If anything you have to say goes out on the web, be sure the document is written and formatted in ways that are search-engine and RSS friendly.
What you have to say doesn’t matter if no one reads it. Optimize. Bad optimization = zero readership.
Use Social Media
Can you get to the top of the list in your profession by working social media alone? Probably not. But if you don’t make it a key element in your efforts, you’re nuts. A thousand followers on Twitter, five hundred friends on Facebook, and two hundred and fifty connections on LinkedIn, is considered to be the ‘triple crown’ of social media influence, and the closer you approach that goal, the closer you will be to having and maintaining the kind of lasting prominence that builds notable careers.
There are well over fifty competing social media tools, and the landscape will surely alter sooner than we know. The fact remains that anyone wishing to advance their career needs to know these tools and get familiar with them, not simply because they can get you known and talked about quickly and widely (even globally!) in literally a matter of moments.
Social media affects us whether we take part or not, because those who do take part in it discuss and praise and criticize even those who don’t. And so everyone involved with others now either has or can have a social media presence, deliberate or not, and the effects can reach back in ways positive and negative, major and minor.
Should someone wishing to advance themselves take part in those conversations, or let others discuss them without knowing it? Clearly, it’s better to take part. And there’s no better way than to begin with the three current leaders: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Use Old School PR
I know, I know. Print is dead. Even TV is dead. Everyone keeps saying that. And everyone keeps picking up the paper at the newsstand, reading the magazine in the doctor’s office, opening up that junk mail, and tuning into Oprah.
Print is not dead. Nor is TV. When a newspaper writes you up, you get attention – not least because, these days, whatever appears first in print appears next online. When you appear on TV, tens of thousands if not millions of people see you. And then see you over and over again on YouTube.
Get into print. Get on TV. Talk to radio interviewers too, while you’re at it. Is using pre-internet media Old School? So what? Old School works, and when you use it it’s augmented by New School digitization, video, and podcasting almost at once. Do it.
And get out among people, too. Yes, you can be Max Headroom and become world-famous without ever making a personal appearance and even without being a person at all. That’s the exception, not the rule. Talks still work. Seminars still work. Workshops still work. Reality builds pretty good web traffic too.
Write The Book
If PR is Old School, books are straight out of the Paleozoic. But Old School or not, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can get you recognized as an expert or a leader in your field than writing a good book.
Why the mystique of authorship is so strong in an time so awash in Google and Yahoo is a mystery. But you don’t have to understand a mystery to acknowledge its power. Whether you’re George Soros or Bill Gates, Arnold Schwartzeneggar or Seth Godin, Barack Obama or David Ogilvy, if you are a person of influence you are the author of a book. Nothing sets the seal of expertise on a person more strongly.
Unfortunately few things are more time-consuming to produce or difficult to carry through. The actual text has to be researched and written and revised, publishers and distributors need to be involved, the physical book layouts has to be created and the book cover designed, and post-publication promotion can make or break the reception of the book. A manuscript alone is not enough. If a book is not part of an overall marketing effort, its creation may well be wasted.
But that’s all the more reason to think of a book project in marketing terms right from the start.
In a world without deadlines, taking the time to write a book might well be considered a pleasure. But if someone is a busy professional with a full To-Do list, writing assistance is mandatory. Should you have your book ghostwritten? Increasingly, many businessmen, professionals and experts do.
It's not a question of lack of skill but lack of time. An expert who takes six months to a year off to write a book will probably not be as competitive an expert at the end of that time, and his or her other marketing efforts and business may well have taken a back seat too. Using a ghostwriter can be the fastest way to the single strongest thing you can do to establish expertise. It's definitely an option to consider.
But solo or with assistance, the book is a must
Don’t have time to write a book? Haven’t got all day and night to wade through all the cutting-edge social media? Not sure how to reach, pitch, and get the attention of journalists? No idea how to design a web site, set up a blog, arrange for a series of talks and lectures, assemble and distribute a Press Kit?
Welcome to the human race. People who rise to the top of the profession have a well-known secret: they practice their profession. Promotion they leave to others. Yes, you can concentrate only at working at your profession, and being the best you can. Word of mouth marketing gets clients too. But competitors who are not necessarily less able will get the same word of mouth marketing, and amplify it many many times over through all varieties of print and digital media, and all without taking away from their regular tasks, if professional assistance is brought in.
Of course, if you have multiple promotional talents at the professional level across several areas, and can cram 48 hours into a 24-hour day, you can get known all by yourself. You deserve to be!
But if you’re human, you’ll probably need professional help.
Where can you find it?
A good starting place would be www.davidpascal.com. Humility aside, the site is the only one I know with sections on social media, writing for the web, book design, ghostwriting, search engine optimization, and, not least, an extremely wide-ranging section of informational links and resources. The site covers more marketing in general that personal marketing geared at advancing one’s career. But parts of it do, and if you don’t find what you need there, you will almost certainly find a link to what you need there. On the subject of online identity management, Radically Transparent, by Andy Beal and Judy Strauss, is the best book to read. And if you would look further into the subject, search Google.
All World-Famous All Of The Time
Whether you go it alone, or get help, or decide to try out only one or two of the above recommended steps, definitely realize that things have changed.
Andy Warhol once said famously that in the future we would all be famous for fifteen minutes. He was wrong. The future is here, and we are all world-famous twenty-four hours a day. What we are and what we do leaves light or heavy traces on the internet, and we can use this to our advantage to advance our careers and values and beliefs, or we can ignore it and let things happen to us as they will.
Intelligent professionals and entrepreneurs will respond actively, not passively, and shape their futures the best way they can. History and technology have given us extraordinary new tools. We only have to reach out and use them.
David Pascal has nearly twenty years of freelance and in-house experience in marketing, advertising, and corporate communications. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of the State of New York, and a second bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities, David began his career in marketing and advertising as an illustrator, became a marketing agency copywriter, and subsequently added web design skills to the mix. He has taught copywriting at the nationally celebrated writing center Writers & Books, published numerous articles, and spoken on marketing and other subjects at the Rochester Institute of Technology and other colleges and institutions. Contact information and samples of his writing and design work for clients is available at his web site at www.davidpascal.com.
Pascal & Associates
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