Every expert or thought leader knows that authority is crucial. Without it, no one would ever listen to us.
Robert Cialdini, a professor of marketing, business, and psychology, famously wrote about the principle of authority, in his book Influence. He found that, because of the fast pace of the modern world, people have resorted to “fixed-action patterns.”
When it comes to the science of influence and persuasion, authority means that you’re respected by other people. When you have authority, others will listen to what you have to say. You will be trusted.
Since people are too busy to study everything in detail or weigh all the pros and cons before making a purchase, they rely on the simplified idea of authority. If someone is trusted by our peers, we also instantly trust them.
It’s no wonder that people are eager to appear authoritative in their fields. It’s the #1 way to get people to listen to you. So how do you become an authority in your field? Here are 4 steps that I’ve followed.
Step 1: Pick your field
In Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker talks about the importance of knowing and leveraging your strength: “One cannot build performance on weaknesses, let alone on something one cannot do at all.”
So let’s get the most important part of authority out of the way: If you want to become an authority in your field, you must be among the best in your field. And yes, YOU, can also become one of the best in your field. Why not?
But you have the highest odds of succeeding by picking a field that’s a good fit with your strengths. Authority is all about domain specificity.
Ask yourself: “Can I see myself in this field until the day I retire?”
The point here is to focus on an industry you really love. It takes time to master a skill. For example, I’ve been writing about investing and wealth building more lately. But what most people don’t know is that I bought my first stocks in 2007, and I’ve been investing ever since.
This stuff takes time! So pick an industry that you enjoy the most. You can also pick a handful of related fields, but I would avoid trying to be an expert in multiple unrelated areas.
Step 2: Publish your most important ideas
I can’t think of many thought leaders or experts who don’t have a book or who haven’t created something of value. The point is that someone who is “the author of” or “the creator of” instantly has more authority than someone who does not have that.
It sounds superficial and silly, but this is how people look at us. You’re either an expert who has a book, or you’re one of the millions of people who try to be an expert.
That’s why it’s important to be strategic about your career. When I started, I made sure to follow the principle of authority. Before I started blogging, I self-published a book with my most important ideas at the time.
It was something that helped me to stand out compared to other bloggers. And it was also something that was valuable to readers.
If you’re serious about being seen as an authority, you need a book. I’ve tried to find ways around it. But until now, I haven’t found another powerful method for building authority.
Step 3: Help other people and show their success stories
By showing others that you can give them value, you’re demonstrating the benefit of investing their attention, time, and money in your product/service. This helps you to succeed in the long run.
I’ve talked about how value is the most important thing in every business or profession. So if you’ve been making a difference in other peoples’ lives already, then you can ask them to be featured on your site.
Collect their testimonials. Angle them towards the specific challenges you’ve helped them overcome.
When new people discover your work, they can easily see what problems you can help them with. This makes your testimonials targeted—which helps your potential clients/customers easily determine that you’re the best fit for their needs.
Step 4: Get your “logos”
The quickest road to authority is to associate yourself with trusted people or publications. If you’re a business writer who’s published in Business Insider, it offers social proof beyond just publishing on your blog or social media.
When you’re building authority, focus on getting “logos.” It means that you want to put the effort into getting published in respected media outlets. This sounds sleazy, but it’s a sign of credibility.
Getting published in authoritative sources is easier said than done. There are tons of people who pitch to these big publications every day. And you’re competing with all of them. If you want to learn more about that, check out this article with 3 tips for writing pitches.
Authority is earned, not claimed
Many people are always on the lookout for the latest tactics or “hacks” to get more authority. But as you can see, all the stuff I shared with you in this article actually takes a lot of time and effort.
But it pays off. Let me ask you this: Let’s say you want to hire a marketing consultant to grow your business. Would you hire Joe Schmo who just has a website without any content or testimonials? Or would you hire a person who has published a book about marketing, has an active blog, and has multiple testimonials?
The choice is easy. Authority is ultimately a decision-shortcut for our audience or customers. If someone wants to hire you, they don’t have to actually hire you to know what you’re about.
They can simply look at what other people say about you. And if other people support your work, that means you’re an authority!
If you want to be someone who is respected, do things that others respect. Too often, we want to become an authority without deserving it. Sure, we all need to start somewhere. But the idea is to do something worthy of authority.