Unfortunately, we can’t necessarily become proficient in everything we’d like to, but we can become knowledgeable about a specific topic. Here are some steps you can take to set yourself up as an expert.
1. Pick a niche.
The topic needs to be narrow enough that you don’t have a lot of competitors, but it also needs to be wide enough that it’s relevant to a fair number of people in the industry.
First, look at your experiences and see what they all have in common. I’ve worked in digital media, traditional marketing, and PR for a variety of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle companies, but I didn’t want to be a marketing or social media expert because there are so many people established as experts in those fields already. I thought a bit harder and realized the thing that tied them all together was luxury. However, that was too broad as well. I then attached a geographical location to it, China, and narrowed it down again to e-commerce. I therefore established myself as as an expert in luxury e-commerce in China.
If you don’t have that much experience, simply consider the one topic that you can just can’t get enough of. Read everything about it and then try to narrow it down from there.
2. Have an opinion, even if it’s difficult one.
This is a great time to stand out! Don’t be a contrarian just for the dramatic effect, but if you truly feel differently from others on a topic, it’s likely that this will gain you more attention. Journalists are often looking for balanced articles, so you may get quoted more often if you’re willing to offer the other side of things. When you’re taking a very steadfast stance, on one hand, you’re also more vulnerable, which allows people to relate to what you’re saying. On the other hand, be ready to defend your opinion!
3. Stay Updated.
Set up Google Alerts: Set up Google Alerts for your industry terms so that you make sure you don’t miss the breaking news on the topics you’re an expert in. You can also contact the author of relevant or interesting articles to offer them ideas or expert opinions for future opinions pieces.
Use Source Tools: Websites like HARO (Help a Reporter Out), Bottlesource, MediaKitty, MediaSpot (apply via LinkedIn), and ExpertEngine (Beta version) are all free tools that help you get noticed! Journalists and other members of the media constantly need sources for specific articles they’re writing—the perfect opportunity for you!
SEO: In your website’s titles and content, put your name next to words like “expert,” “source,” and “expertise” for your topic. Oftentimes, reporters just Google the topic and he word “expert,” and contact the top hits. Here’s a place where having a particularly niche topic is very beneficial.
4. Start local.
Set your sights on more national or international goals, but remember it’s okay to start small. However, don’t overextend yourself with too many local commitments, either. Just because they’re small publications doesn’t mean they’re small time commitments. It’s better to write one quality article than five small ones.
Here are some ideas:
- Write for a local newspaper column. It needs to be a pretty broad topic though, so be wary.
- Reach out to organizers of events and offer yourself as an expert for a panel.
- Speak at universities or schools. Classes always need real world speakers.
- Volunteer at your Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau to give a presentation on your topic.
- Organize events yourself and invite industry leaders. Afterwards, write up a summary of the points the panel discussed and pitch it to a blog.
- Write for free everywhere.
Guest blog: Contact the top blogs in your industry (often you can find lists already online) and pitch them a guest post idea. Do your research and make sure to send a specific pitch to each, rather than general idea. Give them a couple of options, but offer them fresh, new ideas that are relevant to topics they’ve covered before. If you can, try to pitch yourself as an expert and get yourself noticed.
Interview Real Experts: Not to say you’re not an expert, but there are clearly people even more knowledgeable than you are, so take advantage! Act as the middle man—pitch the media source to the expert, and pitch the expert to the media source. Many experts love to get quoted, but may not be inclined to write the article themselves, which is where you come in. Everyone wins.