Whether you’re interested in building your own personal brand, solidifying your position as a thought leader, or just looking for new ways to market your business, you’re going to want to build your credibility (or, as I like to call it, your “street cred”) within your industry.
Before we talk about how to do that, I first want to address why building it up is so important for both your personal and business brand.
Credibility is all about being taken seriously, being deemed a trustworthy source on a given subject. When we go back to what drives us humans to make decisions, neuroscience research tells us that we make decisions based on emotions, not logic. And it's trust, a most powerful emotion, that dominates that decision-making process.
We hire people we trust. We book speakers we trust. We interview experts we trust. We share articles from writers we trust. We take advice from people we trust. We buy from people and brands we trust. If a hiring manager's deciding between Person A who has no notable mentions in the press and Person B who speaks frequently about the field, who's he going to more likely want representing his team and the overall company?
So, as you consider how to begin building your street cred, keep the people you’re trying to build your credibility with at the top of your mind. If you have an eye only on creating your empire, your strategy is going to backfire.
Now that we’ve got that down, ready to talk through five concrete ways to start building your street cred, no matter where you are in your career? Let’s do it.
1. Write a Guest Blog
Guest blogging is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to build credibility in your industry because, with one article, you introduce your community to both your expertise and your voice.
Not sure where to start? Google blogs in your industry. For example, if you’re a marketer looking to build your personal brand in the industry, you might consider blogging for outlets like Business 2 Community, Small Biz Trends, or Marketing Profs. While the audiences of these blogs are smaller than, say, Mashable, they tend to have really engaged audiences who will comment on and share your work.
Once you’ve got a handful of published articles under your belt, you can start pitching articles to the bigger outlets in your industry, furthering your reach, and improving your reputation.
2. Get Interviewed on a Podcast
Another way to build credibility in your industry is to find an industry podcast and pitch yourself for an interview. This will introduce you to new people in your industry, showcase your expertise and, most importantly, allow listeners to get to know—and begin to trust—you.
As with guest blogging, start with the smaller, more niche podcasts and work your way up. For example, I was interviewed on a podcast called The Introverted Entrepreneur earlier this year. The episode got great engagement, and I was able to include my participation in my pitches to larger podcasts in the industry. Not sure where to start? I developed a step-by-step guide to pitching your first podcast here.
3. Teach a Class or Workshop
This is a really effective, more personal way to build credibility in your industry. You can introduce people to your expertise by teaching them something useful, while creating a more intimate environment for them to get to know you. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you could teach an introductory course on how to use InDesign. If you’re a sales rep who knits on the side, spread the word that you’re starting a knitting course. You don’t need to be the CEO to teach a course. You just need to know how to do something other people want to learn how to do—and be passionate about sharing that knowledge.
While you can teach these courses in person (like at your local community center), your best bet is to become an instructor for an online course. This saves you the hassle of finding a space and allows you to reach and engage with people around the world—not just in your community. To get started, check out Skillshare. They have a community of experts teaching courses on everything from how to animate GIFS to how to create a social media strategy. You can learn more about how to teach a course with Skillshare here.
4. Speak at an Event
Whenever I talk to my clients about speaking at events, most of them imagine themselves on the TED stage and think, “Yeah, right. Like that’s ever going to happen.”
While giving a TED talk is an incredible goal, that’s probably not where you’re starting. If you’re interested in going this route, check out smaller, local conferences. The great thing I’ve found about the speaking circuit is that once you’ve knocked it out of the park at the first few, more event organizers will be knocking down your door wanting to book you for their upcoming events. This is a really successful strategy I used to increase the street cred of executive clients when I worked in the corporate world, and it’s a strategy I continue to use when the goal is to build credibility.
Starting small will help you work through those pre-speaking jitters before you hit the big stage.
5. Host an Event
Finally, consider organizing an industry-specific event. From a networking drinks gathering to a Google Hangout, putting together an event for people in your industry not only introduces them to both you and your expertise, but it also positions you as a trailblazer who cares about being known as a credible resource in the field.
You don't have to rent a space or spend lots of money in the process either. Locate a quiet bar or restaurant or choose a coffee shop with a good area for groups, and invite people in your field to attend and bring a guest who's also interested in the agenda. As your brand and credibility grow, you can start to think bigger and broader.
Here’s the truth: This entire process is all about the long game. The reality is that writing and publishing one guest blog is not going to turn you into a trusted, sought-after industry leader. But the more you introduce yourself and your expertise to your contemporaries, and the harder you work at creating a trusting relationship with each and every single person you encounter along the way, the closer you’ll get to increasing the street cred you need to catapult your career.