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#50 Three reasons why your professional opinion needs to be heard

#50 Three reasons why your professional opinion needs to be heard

Some of the technical professionals I’ve worked with don’t think much of marketing. “My work speaks for itself,” they say. “Do good work, build your reputation, and clients will find you.” A number of the people who’ve told me this take an understandable pride in having built a practice and a reputation that brings in repeat work and referrals.

And, I can understand that among many professionals, there’s a reluctance to be “pushy.” Many technical people – engineers, geologists, geographers, hydrologists, accountants, consultants and the like – think that it’s unprofessional and unseemly. It’s not long ago, that professional institutes in some parts of the world prohibited accountants and lawyers from marketing their services. “Gentlemen don’t steal each others’ clients,” was the common viewpoint.

So here are three ways creating thought leadership content, as a form of marketing, actually serves the greater good.

Just in case you’re new to this blog, here’s a summary of what thought leadership content involves. It can include your analysis of news or trends that are affecting the people you want to reach, a case study that provides lessons-learned, a “how-to” that shows the reader or viewer how to accomplish a specific task, or some other way to demonstrate your expertise. The idea is to provide really useful stuff, based on your expertise, that helps you stand out as a preferred service provider. There’s no sales pitch involved.

There are many forms this content can take. It could be a speech (more on what public speaking can do for you, here). Or it could be a blog post, an article in an online or print magazine, a technical or academic paper, a stand-alone white paper, a video, an audio recording, a slide show, infographic … and a few others I don’t know about yet.

Providing really useful information

The first reason that technical professionals should learn to love content marketing is that it gives them an opportunity to share really useful information. It’s a public service.

Consider an engineer I worked with recently, who had been born in Greenland, now living in the not-quite-former-yet colonial entity, Denmark. My client was eager to reach global companies in mining, and oil and gas, which are two of the sectors that Greenland is counting on for future revenue. However, he pointed out, any development in Greenland should be done in a way that does not harm the vital fishing industry, or tourism. It must also be done in a way that provides maximum training, employment and economic opportunities for Greenlanders.

So I worked with my client on an article in two London-based international publications – one for mining, the other oil and gas, that talked about these issues, and how international companies were welcome, provided they played by Greenland’s rules. I could tell that my author was really pleased to provide useful information to the world, but also to protect and promote the interests of his native country.

In the same way, you can use the tools of content marketing to provide information that is genuinely useful for the world, and also promote a cause you care about.

To do this, start by thinking about the subject matter expertise that you have, that matches the problems most pressing for the world (or for the people you want as clients, as I’ve talked about in Post #40). Be sure that this matches the kind of expertise you want to be known for, from a business perspective.

Develop the points you want to get across, and then create the core content, generally in text form – an article, blog post, paper or some other format – and make it available. If writing isn’t your strong suit, consider working with a freelance writer who can help you get a first draft of your ideas into concrete form – or maybe work with your first draft to make it flow better (see Post #44 for more on this). You can branch out into videos, speeches and other content forms after you have the ideas down in text form.

Providing your professional opinion

Second, “But I read it on the Internet – it must be true!” It’s a common meme – there’s just so much junk science available online, based on virtually no actual truth, or outright lies. Issues such as climate change, vaccination, the health effects of wind turbines, the groundwater effects of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), all seem to attract people who are loud of voice and light on scientific rigor. Many political candidates are accused of fabricating the points in their speeches, and distorting the truth.

I read about this recently in a book, “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?,” about how many people tend to trust celebrities on vital issues such as nutrition and health, even though the celebrities in question have no qualifications to discuss those topics.

As a credentialed, experienced professional, you may be in position to weigh in on topics of public interest and concern. For example, I’ve worked with many business professionals who have acted as sources of expertise at public meetings on contentious issues such as wind-power projects, pipelines, infill developments and the like. I’ve helped them provide information on their areas of expertise that keeps the discussion grounded in real information, rather than junk science.

In many cases, thought leadership gets published in the general news media, in the form of an opinion article. In old-media days, this was done as an op-ed in a newspaper; more currently, it’s published in online media like Huffington Post or Slate (two of my favorite ways to stay current). I’ve discussed four types of media to get your message in front of the right people, in this infographic.

To do this, keep an eye on public discussions, because it’s current and trending topics that are most of interest to the editors of online publications. In your content, be sure to summarize the issues involved in the debate, and why it matters. Then, set out your professional opinion, being sure to drop in reasons why the readers/listeners should trust what you say. Do your best to sound professionally grounded, but also to sound human – if you use technical terms, be sure to define them. Write in simple, straightforward terms – as you would if presenting at a stakeholders’ or public meeting.

Serving people who are considering becoming clients

Third, there’s the not-so-small matter of serving a specific group of people – such as those that you want as clients. Maybe you still think that actually marketing your services isn’t necessary. Sure, you can rely on your reputation and referrals. This works if:

You’re entirely satisfied with the kind of work you’re doing now, no wish to change anything
The demand for your kind of service will go on as long as you need it to
• Anyone who does the same work as you, has also decided not to market their services

If those three factors don’t hold for you, you’ll find plenty of resources on the Thought Leadership Resources website to help you boost your recognition and credibility.

You can also look at it as a way to help potential clients decide on whether they want to retain you (or continue retaining you). I went into this idea – creating an “avatar” or “persona” that describes your ideal client, so you can be sure to meet their needs, in Post #5.

In creating thought leadership content, you’re helping bring your service and skills to the awareness of potential clients. For someone who’s already heard of you, you’re informing them about your capabilities and what you can do for them. And lastly, you’re supporting your current clients, giving them a reason to go on working with you as a service provider.

All three reasons above – providing genuinely useful information, helping public debates be grounded in rigorous science, and serving the needs of current and potential clients – are all solid reasons to invest time in creating thought leadership content.

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Carl Friesen

Carl is the Founder of the Thought Leadership Resources and helps business professionals gain the skills they need to build their profile as subject-matter experts and thought leaders.

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