Want to be seen as an expert in your field? Then work to own the space

by Kirsten Hodgson

I read a great article late last year by Allison Shields about repurposing content (and definitely recommend you read it). I absolutely agree that lawyers, accountants, engineers and other professionals should do that but I think that they should take it one step further…

If you want to position yourself as a specialist/expert in your field, then you need to own the space: you need to identify key issues that will impact your target market and then leverage all the channels available to you. 

How can you do this? 

The ideas below are based on some work I did with a law firm partner in 2004 that positioned her as a leader in her field in the climate change space. Those operating in the field say she's still right up there today.

The first thing you need to do is to brainstorm the upcoming big issues in your area of practice. When doing so, think about:

  • whether there is any new/emerging legislation
  • what your clients and prospects say their big-ticket items are going to be for the next year or two
  • what's happening in your area overseas that may impact your clients or may become legislation in your country
  • whether there's an opportunity to commission some research that will be of value to your target audience (such as research to uncover attitudes, future trends, issues etc) or to run round-table sessions

Then choose your topic or issue and create an action plan:

  • write down your goals ensuring they are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound). For example a goal might be to generate $X in revenues from water-related projects between Jan 2012 and Dec 2012. NB: goals don't all have to be financially related and could include converting specific prospects into clients, or to be the go to person for the media for enquiries in your area etc. 
  • write down the measures you will use to ascertain whether you have achieved your goals. For example, number of clients, number of repeat clients, percentage of overall work from this area, client feedback etc.
  • write down the actions you will take and when you will take them (see below for some ideas of how you can leverage the various channels). You may want to do this as a timeline so you can see what you are going to do when and include when third party decisions will come out that you will need to respond to (such as when Bills before Parliament are due to have their next reading). Doing this means you can allocate time to read through decisions and summarise these to your clients/prospects.
  • keep updating your action plan with next steps to ensure there is forward momentum.

How to leverage the issues

I regularly see professionals put out a news alert to their clients, and they may even speak at a conference and put together an article on the same topic but I very rarely see them proactively leveraging all communications channels open to them to really own the space. While it might look like a lot of work it's actually surprisingly easy to repurpose content. You can also ask your colleagues and marketing team to help with some of the activities. Using the example of some new legislation coming into force, here's what you can do:

  1. Call your top 5 clients who are likely to be impacted. Don't wait until the legislation comes into force. Give clients an early heads-up and then let them know you'll come back to them when you have more information.
  2. Talk to colleagues whose clients may be impacted by the upcoming legislation, including what it may mean for their client. If they agree this may impact their client, ask them to give their client a heads-up and offer to go and talk to the client when the time is right. If you want a colleague to set up a meeting between you and their client, give them a few prompts they can use when talking to their client as this will increase the likelihood of client buy-in.
  3. Talk to your main referrers about the issues and offer to speak to their clients.
  4. Put together a short newsalert setting out the issue, who it will impact and what it is likely to mean (or when further info will be available). Repeat as Bills have their next reading or become legislation.
  5. Put together a short video along the lines of the information in the newsalert.
  6. Speak to conference organisers early and look to get a speaking slot at any relevant events.
  7. Organise a seminar/webinar at an appropriate time. You may want to look at specific events for specific clients plus more of a catch-all session.
  8. Put the newsalert on your website, consider adapting it into a blog post, and share via social media networks. Do the same with the video and conference/webinar slides. You could also put your videos on your YouTube channel and they could double as your blog. 
  9. Identify the best publication to reach your target audience and call them to give them a heads up on the issue and how it might impact their readers, and to see if they would be interested in an article or some commentary on the topic. Repeat for other media including TV, radio, and online. 
  10. Do a roadshow in the main centres in your country.

Using a multi-pronged approach means you will achieve maximum reach and will be visible each time the issue comes to the fore. I strongly believe that taking an issue and leveraging it is one of the best things you can do to position yourself as an expert in your field.

What's your view? 

Specialising in professional services and law firm marketing. I help firms to retain and grow existing clients and attract more of their ideal clients. My core services include social media for lead generation, voice of the client programmes and tender strategy and development. Outside of work I love to run. I’m a bit like Forest Gump in that I’m not that quick but can keep going for ages. I also enjoy coming up with new inventions. Unfortunately, most of them have already been invented! | * Professional services marketing consultant | * Legal marketing consultant | * Law firm marketing consultant