A man squatinfg on the floor in front of a fan making a violin.
A man squatinfg on the floor in front of a fan making a violin.
#authority #creativeauthority

5 Ways to Set Yourself Apart as an Authority

Paul Kiernan

When you set yourself up as an authority and back that claim up to the point where it is common knowledge, you’ll be the one that customers who have been disgruntled elsewhere will come to for salvation.

This has probably happened to a lot of us, you’re talking to a customer service rep online, or you’re in a big store like Target dealing with a clerk, and you don’t seem to be getting anywhere; what do you do? Usually, you ask the person who is not helping you, can I speak to your manager, or could you please put your supervisor on the line?


Because of the title, manager/supervisor, we believe they have some authority and will make the situation right. Never mind that this manager was hired by someone who then answers to someone; they have the title and will get it right. That’s the way it is.

Sadly, for your business, you cannot just rely on a title to give you authority in your field. You have to earn it, actively pursue it and continue to produce information and experiences that bolster your claims of being an authority.

When you set yourself up as an authority and back that claim up to the point where it is common knowledge, you’ll be the one that customers who have been disgruntled elsewhere will come to for salvation.

How do you get to that point, and what does it take to be an authority? We’ll take a look at five ways to be an authority.

What is an authority?

The good folks over at Merriam-Webster give us this: authority is the power to influence or command thought, opinion or behavior.

Now that definition really applies to politics and political leaders; they have authority, much the same as police officers have authority to arrest you, smack you around, and such. But unless you’re business is bouncers for hire, you’re looking at another definition of authority.

To be an authority on a subject or in a field is what we’re talking about. For example, today’s guest speaker is Martin Glomb, and he is the world’s foremost authority on the dung beetle. This tells us what about Mr. Glomb?

He is recognized worldwide, is very knowledgeable about dung beetles, and has spent time, education, and experience in this area. Mr. Glomb is a dung beetle authority. He has answers, or he knows how to get them. When speaking about dung beetles, we can feel safe knowing what he’s telling us is factual and backed up by education and experience.

This is the type of authority you want to be in your field. The go-to. The answer. Now how do you get there?

Pick Your Spot

A person standing on a beach examining a chart

You cannot be an authority on everything; that just doesn’t work. Being a jack of all trades but a master of none will not get the job done. You want to be the master of one thing. So you must find that niche where your voice can be heard above the din.

Think about where you feel your strongest. What subject can you speak on backed by knowledge and experience easily and for a long time? What’s your wheelhouse? Your business may offer a number of services or products, but it started with one. What foundation have you built your business on, and why?

Identify that specific service or product and capitalize on it. How do you provide it better than anyone else? Do you know more about it than anyone else? What insight have your years of experience given you? What makes your voice stand out from the others in this field?

Until you specify that one thing, you’re just waving in the dark without specificity, lacking a specific means, you’re spreading yourself too thin, and you’ll never be seen as an authority on anything because you’re trying to cover too many bases.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there a gap in your industry that needs attention?
  • What’s your ideal client’s most significant pain point, need, or challenge? Can you help?
  • What have existing customers told you about problems or concerns they’ve experienced? Do you have an answer?
  • What unique skill or view do you offer that is not being provided by anyone else?

Get specific. Nail your niche and know more about it than anyone.

Pick Your Pulpit

If you sell sporting goods, you’re not going to the local meeting of Wives Whose Husbands Pay No Attention to Them during football season to sell football jerseys. Read the room; this ain’t your spot. And that move can bring you negative results.

Where do your people, your community gather? Where is the best chance to get your voice heard? Where can you go with your ideas and experience that will land the loudest and get the most positive attention? Most of all, where can you go that gives you the best chance of having your words, ideas, and experiences passed on by others?

Your website should always be chock full of ideas, experience, information, and up-to-date. But what about those folks who don’t know of you yet? Where can you reach them, so they do know you, listen and eventually reach the point where they come to you for advice, guidance, products, and services?

There are the usual social media outlets, but here too, be specific. Be discerning. Figure out which social media platform fits your authority, supports it, and will get your voice to the best target possible. Again, you cannot be a jack of all social media. I mean, you can, but that’s not specific, and specificity is vital when establishing yourself as an authority. Find your bully pulpit from which to speak.

Pick the Right Conduit

A tangle of old red pipes

Here again, specificity. How does your audience best receive and digest information? Do they like articles, images, graphics, podcasts, videos, live streaming, Ebooks, puppet shows? Speak to the people in their language in their forum, making them more receptive to your messages.

How important do you think your message will seem if they see it anywhere? It’s the same theory you encounter when selling something on a local site. If you post something for free, generally, people will not be interested. However, if you post it for cheap, twenty bucks, and then you allow the buyer to talk you down to free, you’ll get more responses. Giving something away doesn’t make it more appealing, just the opposite.

Same thigh with your message. If you throw it everywhere, it will appear cheap and unimportant. If you pick one or two specific channels, it will seem unique and more refined and thus attract more attention.

Offer Something Worth People’s Time and Attention

Offer something of real value, which means value to your customers, present, possible, and future, as well as the community at large: something that addresses the specific pain points, questions, concerns, and problems discussed before.

Be careful here, don’t think that because you believe something has value, it will have value for others. Maybe you love your dog and think he’s the most intelligent dog on the planet, so you decide he shold run for president. Well, that’s fine, but that kind of idea requires your inside voice and shouldn’t be shared in earnest with the general public.

When thinking about value, keep in mind that the people you’re speaking to will immediately wonder, what’s in it for me? So, what’s in it for them? If there is no clear benefit for them, they will likely pass on by, and then you’re never going to be an authority. There are too many options these days, and people are more precious with their time and attention; make it worth their while to read, listen, and watch what it is you’re putting out there.

One of the ways to show value is to produce content. Here are some content ideas that can help.

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • White papers
  • Videos
  • Ebooks
  • Webinars

That’s just a start, do some research, and you can find more ways of connecting.

Earn Your Authority

A businessman standing in from of a large window with shades open

Businesses are about making money, and sometimes that translates to by any means possible. A caution here, if you’re trying to be an authority just because you think it will make you some more money, you will not be successful. You may make a little money to start, but once people see through to the fact that you’re heart and experience are not authentic, you’ll lose more than you’ve gained.

To be an authority requires commitment and a passion for the subject. Having a genuine passion and drive for what you’re offering the public will make it easier for you to spend the time necessary to become an authority and make it more enjoyable to grow that subject.

Being an authority presumes an all-consuming drive to know as much about the subject as possible. An authority is passionate about their area of expertise and never tires of studying, working, or experiencing all they can. A poser is obvious and in over their head if they are trying to establish some authority in a particular area just for the title. Not doing the work and not having the experience to back the authority claim will come to light quickly and do more damage.

Put the time in. Do the homework. Find your area and attack it full-on. Learn all you can and more. Decide what makes your view and your approach unique and use that. Put the work in, and you may find that you’re interested in something you never were before, and you may find that easy to become an authority.

Don't try to fake authority. It will backfire.

ThoughtLab Can Help

Maybe you’re not sure what your authority is. Perhaps you have ideas but need help focusing and getting specific. ThoughtLab is dedicated to elevating brands and helping people see further. Set up a free consultation with us, and we can help you focus your authoritative voice and get you heard above the din. Contact ThoughtLab today.