You can pay PR pros like me a boatload of cash to make you a thought leader and build an audience for your speaking gigs, books and consulting services.
Or you can get a head start and do most of the heavy lifting yourself, with some practical advice from Becky Robinson. Robinson’s the founder and CEO of a marketing agency and author of Reach: Create the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book or Cause.
While a leader needs followers, a thought leader needs an audience. To reach and grow the biggest possible audience, you need to be online and show up in the right way.
Worry less about going viral and focus instead on delivering value. No one wants or needs videos of you dancing to Jon Batiste’s Freedom or humblebragging about your wonderful life while you sit in your SUV on the way to the gym or a wellness retreat. Instead, keep putting out great content that makes life easier and better for the audience you’re hoping to grow.
“Going viral is not the goal,” says Robinson. “Viral does not equal value. Most viral content has a very short life. Even if you can create viral content, you will still face the challenge of creating impact over time if you want to make real difference through the content.
“Instead, start with focusing on creating value. When you do that, you may be able to achieve true reach that expands your audience and creates lasting impact.”
How do you deliver impactful content? Share your deep thoughts, big ideas and wealth of expertise. Be generous by giving audiences the best of what you know. Don’t hold back or tease us with promises of giving more once we’ve handed over our credit card or signed a contract.
“If you know something that can help your ideal audience, share it as often and as widely as you can,” says Robison. “Sometimes people worry that giving away their ideas for free will undermine their business success by preventing people from wanting to invest in their book, product or service. While it may seem counterintuitive, I’ve noticed that the more generous I am, the more successful my business becomes. The value you provide through generously sharing your expertise creates trust with your potential customers and draws them to you.”
Robinson does exactly that at the back of her book by mapping out her four-phase plan for launching campaigns. She also offers up her reach framework for growing an audience online.
To follow Robinson’s framework, you need to start with your own website, a permission-based email list, great audience-building content and a presence on social media so we can get to know, like and trust you and then head over to your home on the web.
“The most important investment you can make online is your own website,” says Robinson. “Your website is a place where you clearly share the value you offer to the world, where people can very quickly understand your message and where you can invite people to learn more from you.”
Most of us aren’t famous and never will be. But all of us can still make an outsized difference in the world. “Choose to show up in online spaces where you share valuable content and ideas,” says Robinson.
“As you do so, you will create the greatest possible impact for your work. Over time, if you invest patiently and consistently, you will create wider reach for your work and ideas. You’ll become more well known and you’ll experience the benefits of a growing online presence. Those you are serving will benefit also. The more you give, the more you’ll gain.”
Jay Robb serves as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.