7 Steps to Being Recognized as an Expert

The Catch 22 of Being an Expert

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One of the hardest parts of business blogging is finding a niche where you know you can write successfully. Once you find that niche, naturally you’ll looking to find readers. Those readers that you’re looking for are looking too. They’re looking for a writer they have time for — someone they can trust and rely on — an expert.

Becoming an expert seems to be a Catch 22.
You have to know your stuff to be an expert. But . . .
It seems that “expertness” starts out as not what you know, but what you’re known as.

You have be an expert, before folks will see you as one.
A Ph.D. helps, but it doesn’t automatically translate to expert. Testimonials from other experts help too, but they aren’t a magic entry to the world of experts either.

The problem for the most of us is . . . if no one will look at what I know, how will I ever be recognized as an expert?

7 Steps to Being Recognized as an Expert

There’s no question that to be an expert, you have to be knowledgeable, authentic, and hardworking at what you do. Everyone pays dues to get to the top, but knowing what to work at helps a lot too.

To be recognized as a expert, someone has to see your work and know its quality, see its value, find it relevant and worth coming back to.

These are the 7 Steps to being recognized as an expert when someone comes to look.

  • Be the expert you are, not the expert someone else is. You are the only you the world has. That differentiates what you offer from the start. Know your strengths and play to them.
  • Be an expert in ONE thing. Find ONE niche that fits your strenghs. People like a “go to” person for a specific need. Once they come they can find out about the other wonderful things you know about.
  • Write expert content. Readers want top-notch, quality, relevant content — information, answers, AND analysis. They can get news anywhere. Add your expert opinion, analysis, evaluation, synthesis, or predictions.
  • Be an expert at keeping track of your niche. Don’t overwhelm yourself with feeds, but have an aggregator. Follow popurls to get the latest on the social bookmarking services. Read the magazines and the blogs that talk about the topics you cover.
  • Be an expert at specialized searches. Make finding interesting content tidbits your expert quest. Get to be friends with Google Alerts and similar services. Follow terms around the Internet.
  • Be an expert at getting the word out. Get to know the other experts in your niche. Talk with them. Visit and comment on their blogs. Ask them for an interview. Volunteer to guest post now and then.
  • Be an expert at going deeper into your niche. Saturate yourself in the trends, but go deep too. Find out what researchers are thinking so that you can offer your readers the highest quality and most relevant information and analysis.
  • Plus one: Be an expert at having fun. Nothing is more appealing than an expert who loves what he or she is doing. Share the joy of your niche with the folks who come to see you. They’ll want to know more about what it is that you do.

Striving to be an expert in your niche lets your readers know who you are and why they should keep coming back to see you. It’s a key centerpiece of your brand — quality, knowledge, and credibility as promotion. If you’re ready when that person comes to look, the rest will happen. Just keep counting to seven — seven key steps to being an expert that is.

What better way to promote your brand and your business than to have everyone see you as the expert? How can I help you do that?

–ME “Liz” Strauss

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  1. says

    For the sake of healthy debate, permit me to propose a counter theory that is probably more relevent today than it has been in several hundred years since the advent of industrial business enterprise evolved around the concept of division of labor, thus the era of niche expertise.

    I find nothing you say is wrong. All good stuff and useful generally. But today, due to the convergence of technology, finance, media, and culture into a new model for understanding what all is going on in business as well as the other realms swirling into new combinations and forms that I refer to as the “convergence vortex”.

    Today a business person, blogger, finance expert, or “consumer” (a term rapidly looked on with disfavor by the buying/choosing public who is fed up with being considered a dumb target for some ad agency or marketer) cannot afford the tunnel vision luxury of focussing on one niche in which to become an expert. We are coming into a time where the experts who will be successful in navigating the merging of technology, business, finance, markets, media are those experts in several of the realms at once. For only those persons will be able to see and trend the impacts and effects of the increasing collapse of specialties into combined forms. Blogging itself is a perfect example. It is neither a personal forum, nor a strategic marketing vehicle, nor a business enterprise, nor an easily defineable service product delivered via a technological interface. It is all of those and more. It’s also about the most democratic public platform for exchange of ideas and broadcasting opinions, values, rants and raves. It’s both media and audience simultaneously. If one wishes to claim being an expert on the almost instantly changing phenomenon today known as blogging, one must hold an expert’s knowledge on social interaction, media, technology, business, and several other realms at the same time.

    To be an expert thus in todays converging world thus requires becoming a generalist. Any expert who concentrates their knowledge base too narrowly in their chosen niche will be blind to the influences and impacts of influences from other realms steady crossing and redrawing the lines that separate bodies of knowledge.

    It is not one niche one must be expert within. Today, it’s several.

    Just my observation from having straddled several realms over a long period of time attempting to understand the larger picture of what is happening as technology creates new media forms and social interactions.

  2. says

    What a great point you make. It goes along with the idea of “Everything you think, think also the opposite.”

    I think the paradox might be that both are true. As in there are no absolutes except for this one.

    It is so that you need to know all of those things and therefore be a generalist in your expertise. However, I think you need to be seen at first as an expert in one field of thought so that folks who look to you can define and place your thinking from a point. Then once they know you they can expand from there.

    My thinking is that as an expert you need to start with one idea or area of focus in the same way that your business needs a tagline. So that new folks know what you are.

  3. says

    This is an interesting debate. I can relate to Dan because a solid foundation in many disciplines is really required to see the big picture – you can’t just look at issues or knowledge from one perspective anymore.

    By the same token if you’re trying to build an audience, that audience needs to know what to expect in order to have a compelling reason to keep coming back for more. The same is true if you’re trying to build a business. Why would someone work with you? What do you offer? There needs to be some degree of expertise offered in something – or at least highlighted in communications – so that people know what they’re paying for.

    Personally, I wrestle with this all the time. My area of “expertise” is change management, yet change management is in itself a conglomeration of many other areas (organizational dynamics, economics, ergonomics, psychology and human nature, general business acumen, communication skill (listening!), etc.). How can I communicate that without confusing people? Also how do they understand the tangible results they will get by employing me? In order to do that I often concentrate on “program and project management” as the product. It tends to be something that people understand they need.

    All advice welcome!

  4. says

    This IS one interesting discussion — how do you be all things and one thing at the same time? I’m going to be thinking on this question for days.

    It’s the elevator pitch idea. We really need on to start with. Even an elevator is defined first as something that takes you up or down to another floor. People understand that before they try to figure out how it works and what it replaces.

    Simple is elegant. Taking all of the complicated things we do and saying them in one niche statement is a chore, but it makes us understandable and it also makes us think through things we would necessarily think through if we didn’t take the time to do it.

    So there’s value in defining a simple, single niche besides the value of just being easy to understand from the outside in. It also clarifies things from the inside out as well.

  5. says

    Liz & Dan, you’re both right. The need for depth and breadth leads to the idea of “T-shaped people.” I like this model because it explicitly values all of the other things that make us real people, in addition to the specific expertise embodied in titles and labels.


    Ann, if the labels associated with your specialty are confusing people, you might try focusing your message on the benefits you provide vs. the actual work you do. If they understand “program and project management,” great. What do you tell family members who don’t get it? You may find useful messages in those watered-down stories.

  6. says

    Thanks for adding that to the conversation. I’d not heard of that T-model before. It’s totally intuitive.

    Much of the conversation really seems embody the need for the flexibility and fluidity of thinking that allow us to move from global to detail think to fit a situation.

    I stand my ground on the point that on an introduction less is more.

    Perhaps that comes from having overwhelmed too many people too often by offering too much. :)

  7. says

    Generalists ?

    Buzzzzzz ! Wrong answer !

    There were 634,215 searches last month, internet wide, according to Overture’s Search Tool for the word ‘shoes’.

    If all I know are shoes and all I sell are shoes, even just on the internet, there are more than enough customers to last me forever.

    I don’t have to know about socks, BUT they would make a nice sideline or upsell.

    I need no knowledge of arch supports or insoles, BUT they would make a nice sideline or upsell.

    The thinking that I need to become a generalist is what has made those of us who specialize even more valuable than ever.

    Thanks !

    Here’s your choice :

    You go to the doctor and he sends you to a specialist for further tests.

    Who do you think charges more per hour and gets the most respect ?

    Bang ! – That was the gavel…case closed.

    Next !

  8. says

    Thinking was not at a premium there for a few minutes.

    I’m glad to bring it back to the forefront.

    BTW – y’all can choose to disagree, it won’t hurt my feelings, nor will it alter my opinion. I’m mighty proud of that sucker…that’s why I show it off everywhere !

    It also won’t discourage me from fighting for your right to be wrong.

  9. says

    Well, shoe stores do sell socks (and belts, and occasionally other leather items), but there’s a difference between a retailer sticking to its market and a person being limited to an area of specialization.

    If all you know is shoes, then you won’t be selling any on the Internet without help, because you won’t know how. You can hire specialists to do the work, of course, but as the business owner, you’d better have some knowledge of other fields–say, accounting and finance, to say nothing of sales and marketing–if you want your business to succeed.

    Physicians are a narrow example, and yes, specialists make more (they also pay more for malpractice insurance and have higher costs of entry than primary care doctors). But specialists have blind spots, and when the cause of your condition is unknown, you want a knowledgable generalist to coordinate the efforts of the specialists.

    The point of the T-shaped person model isn’t to diminish the importance of depth of expertise. It’s to acknowledge the value of combining depth with breadth, so they can make connections across disciplines and put things in context. You need both [snarky comment about senior executives suppressed :-)].

    Or were we going into talk-radio mode (the dot-shaped person?)?

    Hello, St. Louis, you’re on the air…

  10. says

    Sorry, Nathan,
    Apparently you came at Askimet’s dinner time and for a while there it ate you. But you’re out now and good as new. At least you look so.

    In my thinking on this today. I realized what I was thinking of was the difference between being an expert and having expertise. I think you need to be an expert in a niche that is easily explainable to a large market — that can change to another market, but walking in the door it needs to be one thing and one thing only. The proverbial elevator pitch. As Mike says, I sell shoes.

    At the same time, I also need expertise. That’s where the T comes in for me. I need to know how to do many things.

    But I still say I sell shoes.

  11. says

    OK, that makes sense. When you ask me what I do, I present my specialty in a focused way. When I actually do the work, the horizontal dimension comes into play, but not before the vertical dimension has communicated my central value.

  12. says

    What a great term, Nathan! Central Value. Mind if I use that?

    It’s kind of like letting folks get the big picture before you slam them with all of the details. I want them to love me so much I forget sometimes. That’s why I know so well how to get it wrong. :)

  13. says

    Suddenly, it sounds like a discount store near downtown. “Come to Central Value for quality you can trust at a price you can afford!”

    Maybe the distinction between being an expert and having expertise is the distinction between marketing (positioning, message, value proposition) and personal development (personality, learning, interests).

  14. says

    No worry about how it sounds, Nathan. It is they, not you who are devaluing the words.

    Your observations are nicely drawn. I like your distinctions. Beautiful analogy.

  15. says

    I too like how Nathan clarified the points of difference between expert and expertise. And agree with the ME’s initial point that positioning oneself as an expert is a key to building professional credibility. I”d not run into the T shaped person model and find that very elegantly describes the initial point of the comment that brought so many good ideas into the conversation.

  16. says

    Hi DanL,
    How nice that you stopped back to check in! This is turning into one really insightful and growing conversation. Isn’t it?

    From expert how Nathan made that lovely analogy of expert and expertise. Your reminder of the depth and breadth of the T-Model. Mike’s grounding in the need to stay focused in one thing and know it well.

    Now I throw out the word experience. :)

  17. says

    Hi Gorgeous!
    Great to meet you. Thank you for coming by. I just read your post. Thanks for leaving the link here for everyone to read. I am delighted that you have found a shape that fits who you are. It is great and wonderful that you go deep.

    I hope you will keep coming round. We need your kind of insight here. :)

  18. says

    Sorry Gorgeoux, that I made a typo in your name the first time around. I hate that. Names are so important. I’m so happy to hear you’ll be around again. I need folks pushing back.

    You’re not a stranger here anymore, Octagon.
    You’re definitely a friend. :)

  19. jeffrey scherer says

    an expert is someone who helps you decide critical yes or no decisions to reduce the decision tree that has potential to solve your problem back into fimiliar knowledge that allows you to make choices likely to succeed after a reasonable number of minor expertiments you can handle.

    an expert must be concerned with treating all people well or his/her advice will ooze problems later.

    an expert listens first, thinks long and explains options of reducing your decisions by examining consequences of decisions like benefits and waste cleanup until those are a fit to your organizations skill and resource base.

    an expert should always be asked after he presents options what he feels would be the minimal changes needed considering your organizations skill and resource base that would get you no more than ninety six percent(layered 80/20 rule is 96/40 rule) of you target goal for each priority(sub-visions of your organizations one vision). that last four percent would consume sixty percent more resources which is why unemployment usually hovers around four to six percent.

    your priorities determine daily goals.

    an expert kills the dragon of to many combinations.

    theories need many combinations to become taylored into working models for your situation by prunning decision trees to become near solutions which you adjust to fit more perfectly.

    no solution is ever perfect or exact for complex theories or rubber meets the road solutions.

    i offer a service to liz an those she is connected to.

    i offer expertise on sound thinking and communication that connects when people are ready to talk real problems beyond chitchat.

    if other experts quote and pay me for my comments on thinking i will visit this site again and again as an intermittent commenting blogger only(no exceptions) otherwise i will never return to this site. please respond. you should have my email address from this site and notice this blog is extremely general but very specific, not vague.

    true generalizations are never vague, they come from generals in different areas of life. true generalizations are the directive of people in authorship (authority) at every level in an organization.

  20. says

    Dear Jeffrey Scherer,
    I’m obviously not at your level. I came from a small town and I guess I see experts differently.

    An expert is open to learning.

    An expert is always growing.

    An expert understands that he is working with people and has fine and tactful touch that puts their needs first.

    An expert doesn’t usually walk into my house and offer a service to my visitors without first asking me and then doesn’t usually do it in the form of an ultimatum.

    I’m wondering why you feel folks should pay you to comment on my blog? I’m confused by that. I find your self-promotion technique most unusual and more guru than expert.

    Thanks for your comment and your offer to educate me — at least that’s what I think it was.

  21. says

    That’s what I’m thinking, Nathan. I was just looking . . .

    BTW guru = G U R U . . . gee you are you.

    I thought about deleting it, but it was so fascinatingly rude, and there’s no backlink. :)

  22. says

    You are certainly right that being an expert and being seen as an expert are two different things. I’m a Performance Coach, and I have many colleagues who are fantastic at what they do … but no-body knows it! outside of their small circle of influence.

    Most of us who dedicate our lives to what we love, hate that we also have to market who we are. But, that’s part of the deal.

    Thank you again, for the helpful information.

    Coach Saij

  23. says

    Hi Liz,

    Great article. Have you read the fantastic book “The Obvious Expert”? It’s well worth a read if you haven’t already.

    Thanks for offering up this great article anyway.

    Take Care.



  24. michellegilstrap says

    Liz, I’ve learned more from the comments on this post today. I especially like the one where the Guru came in and offered his services to all of us. I think if someone has not ever tried to do what you are talking about, then it is easy to decide that your steps might not be the way.
    But you have been there, and you are guiding the way, and keeping many from making mistakes. Why people would argue with you is beyond me.

    I would not go to an expert who claimed to understand Public Speaking if they didn’t do it. Where would the credibility be? You were just trying to spell out in easy terms how to follow step by step.

    Bravo Liz.

  25. says

    Excellent advice! Know thyself is a time honored practice and this article confirms this. Thanks for taking the time to write this article. A definite must read for anyone carving out their place in today’s marketplace.

  26. Jessica Graefe Martinez says

    Thanks so much for the post, but I have to say that reading the responses and the dialog that stemmed from it, is almost as informative as the article itself! This is one of the meany reasons I love the internet :) Keep up the great work and the incredibly interesting posts.

  27. says

    It all seems great but I often feel like our business is too small for any of this to have an effect on sales. Maybe that’s why I read but don’t really apply your advice Liz.

  28. Wayne Mansfield says

    Love this: Be the expert you are, not the expert someone else is.

    More people should take note!!

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