The emergence of new media technologies that allow anyone with passion and purpose (and a functioning internet connection) to become their own media channel has seen a changing of the guard in many industries, with individuals seemingly coming out of nowhere to stamp their authority and knowledge leadership.
For years, leaders within particular industries – the highly visible experts – boosted their reputation largely as a result of editorial coverage received via traditional media outlets.
Whether they were quoted in newspapers or contributed articles to trade journals, whether they scored interviews on radio or in some instances, television, regular coverage in such outlets contributed significantly to professional people growing their reputations as authorities in their field.
Today, while those tactics and outlets continue to be useful, if not still highly effective, they’re not necessarily the be-all-or-end-all.
To have an article published in a magazine – to score an interview or profile piece in a newspaper – means you have managed to get past the outlet’s editorial ‘gatekeeper’.
That was the case 20 years ago and 10 years ago and is still the case today. As a rule, it’s pretty damned hard, particularly in the early days when you’re trying to build your profile. Just ask any PR practitioner who has needed to plan and execute ongoing media coverage for their employer (company) or client/s.
However, the pervasiveness of – and easy access to – real-time global personal publishing platforms such as WordPress (blogging), YouTube (video),SoundCloud, and iTunes (audio) means that any individual can now develop their own media channel through which to build not only their audience, but also their profile and reputation.
High profile experts
Late last year some 400 bloggers from around the country descended on the Gold Coast to attend Darren Rowse’s annual Problogger Training Event 2013.
Rowse – via his two blogs Problogger and Digital Photography School – attracts a global monthly audience of around five million people. As a result of his efforts, he has built a reputation as one of the world’s leading bloggers and an authority on how to turn a blog into a six-figure-plus business.
But Rowse was not the only blogger at the Gold Coast event who has successfully leveraged the power of blogging to build their brand into one of industry or category leadership. The event featured numerous speakers and participants, many of whom have managed to rise from relative obscurity to become notable high profile experts in their field, thanks in the main to their blogging efforts.
This increased visibility, along with the growing personal and professional cache that goes along with it, has in many instances led to business and career opportunities plus the chance to score public speaking gigs and, perhaps ironically, traditional media exposure.
So what do the top bloggers do that passionate professionals, entrepreneurs and aspiring thought leaders can learn from?
1. They blog… often!
Duh, this is obvious, but focus on the last word: often. Successful bloggers bring their ‘A’ game day in, day out; even if they’ve got a day gig or are running a business, the best bloggers write. And write. And write. Please note, some choose to podcast and/or produce video but for the purposes of this article, I’m putting bloggers, vloggers (video bloggers) and podcasters in the same category.
This giving of themselves – the creation and free distribution of content that’s helpful, useful, interesting, perhaps even thought-provoking… without the expectation of anything in return – is what sets the successful blogger-turned-industry authority apart from the wannabe leaders.
Best-selling author Brian Solis calls it “relentless giving”. It’s about showing up and delivering value day after day after day after day, even if that means sitting up until 1 or 2 am writing a blog post or editing a video so it can be published the next day. This takes effort… a lot of effort.
2. They connect.
The best bloggers I’m aware of don’t just create content, but they’re passionate about getting out on the social web (and in person at physical events) and meeting and connecting with people.
It’s this building and deepening of relationships that ensures the blogger’s network is far more rounded and multi-dimensional than your average person’s can ever hope to be.
Sure, the common factor might be the blogger’s website and body of work they produce over time, but ultimately it’s the fact they’ve attracted and galvanised a following – and wherever possible increased the intensity of connection they have with those people. Don’t forget, if people have a connection with you, they’re more likely to share your content and give you props online to their friends and followers.
3. They build a sense of community.
It’s one thing to create content and converse with people via online channels – it’s another thing to develop and build a community of genuine fans, followers, supporters and advocates of you and your brand, your purpose and what you stand for.
The first thing the smart blogger comes to grips with is that it’s not about them – it’s about their audience. In this way, they’re more like theatre producers than writers.
They’re always looking at ways of involving their audience somehow – giving them an experience, helping them to become smarter and more knowledgeable, shining the spotlight on individuals other than themselves, and encouraging others to participate in discussion around interesting topics.
Every day we are seeing smart and passionate individuals move towards the front of the industry ‘herd’; this doesn’t just happen – they’re out there on the social web creating content, swapping stories and sharing tips, advice and information; they are using the likes of Twitter to connect with people whom in all likelihood they would never get to meet in real life; they are building their networks on Facebook and LinkedIn, and distributing content via alternative online channels such as SlideShare.
But at the heart of everything they do is a blog. It forms the basis of their communications platform – it’s the thing that launches their ideas and opinions into the world, and creates the foundation of a brand that people over time will get to know, like and trust.