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Gaining Exposure & Building Your Personal Brand as an Expert

At Hinge, managing partner Lee Frederiksen and his team have conducted research on branding and marketing in the professional services marketplace. Recently, they’ve been studying the phenomenon of high-profile expertise in professional services. This research is uncovering new insights on how firm and personal brands support one another, as well as how high-profile experts build their brands.

Following our webinar with Frederiksen on Gaining Exposure as an Industry Expert, he took the time to answer audience questions.

Q. What is the best way to increase your speaking opportunities?
A. Conduct research to find which organizations serve the markets you want to hear your message. Then simply reach out and let them know you’re available to speak. Often, these organizations are actively seeking expert speakers.

It’s also useful to have a speaking page that shows where you’ve spoken in the past. This page might include your credentials, topics you can speak on, and a well-edited, professionally produced video of your speaking that conveys your speaking skills. (My speaking page on the Hinge website is a good example.)

Q. Do you have any tips for establishing yourself as an expert on LinkedIn?
A. First, craft a profile laser-focused on your expertise. Position yourself as a specialized expert. Second, share educational industry content regularly, especially in relevant LinkedIn Groups for your target audience. Third, use this opportunity to meet and network with other industry experts. Developing collegial relationships with other experts helps build your own standing as an authority in your industry.

Again, these interactions shouldn’t be self-promotions. Instead, respond to questions and engage in dialogue with your target audience. Anywhere you can educate and participate in conversation is an opportunity to raise your profile as an industry leader.

Q. For early-career professionals, is guest blogging an effective way to build visibility and authority as an expert?
A. Absolutely. Guest blogging helps you to hone an area of expertise that you can write about knowledgeably and continuously. It’s a great training ground for developing and sharing your thoughts on your industry, and can help build recognition over time.

Q. How does building the visibility of your firm’s experts impact the firm as a whole?
A. In even more ways than you might think! The Hinge Research Institute recently conducted research on this very topic, surveying 1,028 professional services firms and 130 high-profile experts. We found that visible industry expertise can lead to billing rates up to 13 times higher, with even the lowest levels of expertise commanding premium rates of over 200 percent. Firms also reported that high-profile experts positively impacted lead generation, professional partnerships, and the ability to close sales.

Q. If you’ve started a business outside your area of expertise, how can you build visibility and credibility in your industry to drive sales?
A. In this case, you should hire or partner with a highly visible industry expert whom your target audience views as an authority in the area touched by your product. Once you find that person, have them write about or talk about your firm’s area of specialty. High-profile experts tend to confer a sort of halo effect on their firms – and of course, their expertise may help you shape your products and services in a more successful direction.

Q. How do you persuade a highly qualified yet shy professional that speaking as an industry expert is worth his or her personal discomfort?
A. One of the first things I’d recommend is presenting some of the data on the impact and value of having an industry expert in your firm to convince them that it’s worth the trouble.

It’s also important to remind the individual that these sorts of engagements are about education, not self-aggrandizement. A lot of folks are uncomfortable with blatant self-promotion – and in this case, that’s a good instinct! You build your visibility and credibility by educating people in your industry. That’s not just good for business. It also helps people.

If all of the above approaches fail, it’s possible to increase someone’s profile by writing rather than speaking. Encourage the expert to share their knowledge and perspective through articles, blog posts, and other publications.

Q. Should speakers expect to be paid? How long should they speak for free, if at all?
A. When you’re building your own visibility as an expert, it makes sense to speak for free for a while…until you’re doing it regularly for large organizations with budgets. Smaller organizations often don’t have as much money to spend on speakers, but these relationships and experiences can be valuable – so don’t be reluctant to hone your speaking skills with them.

At Hinge, we’ve identified five levels of increasingly authoritative industry expertise. Once you reach Level 3 on this scale – what we call a Rising Star, someone becoming more widely known in their industry – you’ll start to see more and more paid speaking engagements. When you’re getting enough unpaid speaking engagements that it’s starting to take too much of your time, this is a natural sign that it’s time to start charging.

Q. Are speaking bureaus more appropriate for paid or unpaid speakers?
A. Speaking bureaus are generally more for professionals who have already achieved a high degree of visibility and are in a position to get numerous paid opportunities. Put another way, bureaus are more for harvesting visibility than growing it.

Hear more of Frederiksen’s advice by downloading Gaining Exposure as an Industry Expert. To learn how to identify industry experts, register for Cision’s free webinar at 2ET on June 26.

Frederiksen is managing partner at Hinge, author of several marketing and management books, and holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. He also is Hinge’s resident cowboy, who suits up in a pair of cowboy boots every day.

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