Five Steps to Authority

We’ve always revered authority. It was a privilege once reserved for academics, scientists, and top executives in organization.

Appearing in the Harvard Business Review will always be a career-validating achievement. At the same time, free and inexpensive publishing tools have democratized the concept of authority.

Here are five steps anybody or any organization can apply to become an authority.

1. Pick a topic.

Revered management authority Peter Drucker is not the model. He was the demigod who managed to be an authority on a broad topic like management.

The rest of us are mere mortals and have to pick a specific topic where we can reasonably establish some expertise. Here are some criteria to consider. It’s meaningful to your clients and prospects. It’s easy to understand. And it’s something your organization does better than its competition. Does this sound like a unique selling proposition? Then that’s a good place to start.

2. Research.

The first cut of research is within your organization. Ask your sales team about the most critical questions they are hearing from clients. Go back in time and understand the history of your topic as well as your company’s products and services.

The second cut is within the industry. Others are talking about the concept of authority. Brian Clarkhas an excellent e-book called Authority Rules. His point of view is similar, but different, from ours.

3. Contribute something meaningful.

Every business authority has made a contribution that makes other businesses more successful.

In 2001, Michael Stelzner was writing whitepapers for dot-com companies. And, then the bubble burst. He decided to do something that many friends cautioned him against: He wrote a 10-page whitepaper that included the best insights from his years of writing whitepapers.

4. Share.

Here’s where most organizations struggle. You have to give away your knowledge.

Against the advice of friends and peers, Michael gave away his whitepaper.

At last count, Michael’s whitepaper has been downloaded 80,000 times (yes, 80,000 times). Michael is now considered the grandfather of whitepapers and runs a whitepaper empire that includes a book, a consulting practice, a community with 25,000 members, conferences, and more.

Free and inexpensive publishing tools — blogs, Twitter, etc. — make it easy for anyone to share their knowledge and, in turn, attract a loyal readership. You no longer have to be published in a major publication to begin creating a network of people who share an affinity for your topic or point of view.

5. Network.

Authorities embrace the concept of competition. They network with their peers, share insights, post comments, aggregate news, etc. They become a go-to source for people looking for a solution. They are constantly observing and reporting.

Does authority really work?

As Brian pointed out, Google loves authority. Its whole business model is built on the premise of measuring how many people value a particular piece of information by the number of incoming links. Larry Page and Sergey Brin based their strategy on the academic practice of tracking the number of citations to a report or published work.

Recommended reading: Authority Rules by Brian Clark

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