There are certain industries where establishing and building trust between yourself and your target audience isn't just important - it's crucially so.
People don't tend to go to healthcare professionals for important medical procedures if they don't trust them to act appropriately. People won't return to a mechanic if they think they're being taken advantage of. The list goes on and on.
The same is true of tax and accounting professionals. People need to believe that you're acting with their best interests at heart and that you know what you're talking about. If they don't, they probably won't even walk through your door.
One of the ways to start forging that trust is to become seen as a thought leader in the field, particularly on the Internet. Simply put, this means that people recognize your expertise, your insight, and most importantly your voice.
While there's no "one right way" to become seen as a thought leader, there are a number of steps you can take to help accomplish precisely that over time.
Develop a Voice Worth Sharing
Again, the art of being seen as a thought leader involves getting people to pay attention to what you have to say. That means developing an approach regarding not only what you're saying, but how you plan on saying it.
Start reading industry publications and websites and stay up-to-date on all the latest breaking news and developments if you're not already doing so. Has something recently happened in the world of taxes, for example, that you have strong thoughts and opinions on? Jot down a few notes. Then, see if you can expand on that in a coherent and concise way.
Even if you only wind up with a few paragraphs, this is okay so long as the content you're creating is insightful. Part of developing your voice involves practice and repetition. If you want to learn how to be a better writer and thought leader, you have to do it on a regular basis.
Consistency is King
As you slowly begin to build thought leadership content, make sure that you're doing so as often as you're able to. If it feels like content creation can quickly become a full-time job, that's because it essentially can. Nobody is expecting you to sit down and write all day, every day when you already have a tax and accounting business to run.
But you do need to make it a priority to share your voice as often as you can. Even if it's just posting a few Facebook posts per week, or blog posts on your website, or content to your LinkedIn page, you really need to remind people that you're out there. Each time you post, it will again act as an essential practice to help develop your skills, and it will also give more people an opportunity to discover you as well.
Note that if you can't find the time, you don't necessarily have to sit down and write anything out. You can take those same thoughts and record a short video using little more than your smartphone on the same topic. This type of content in particular is great for social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Writing for Online Publications
Another great way for tax and accounting professionals to be seen as legitimate thought leaders involves broadcasting the power of their voice far and wide - just not necessarily in a way that is immediately obvious to most people.
If you're like most modern-day pros, you probably have a website of your own. That website even likely has a blog where you post your take on certain industry topics, on breaking news, and similar pieces. However, to do so only via this one channel is limiting - to get your voice out there, you need to think much bigger than that.
Make a list of industry publications that you like and check regularly and reach out to see if you can write "Guest Posts" for them. Writing for TaxBuzz for example, is a great way to become an Internet sensation by harnessing the power of our audience to your advantage. It's a great way to get your writing in front of people who may not have otherwise discovered it. If even a few of those people venture back to your website and start paying attention to what you have to say on a regular basis, the effort was absolutely worth it.
Don't Forget About Credibility
Finally, whenever you create thought leadership content, don't forget to convey credibility whenever possible.
Every Tweet, blog post, or status update will be someone's first exposure to your business - never forget that. Don't take for granted the fact that they already know you're a tax and accounting professional as opposed to someone who is just very interested in the larger topic.
When you write a blog post, be sure to include at least a brief section that includes your background, your work experience, and your education. When you explain complicated topics, go into as much detail as possible so that people can see you know what you're talking about.
Being a thought leader involves being not just one of the loudest voices in the room, but one of the most credible as well. Getting to that point will take time, but it will absolutely pay off.
In the end, it's important to understand that being seen as a thought leader isn't going to happen overnight. It's also not something that you "do once and forget about." Once you work hard and put in the effort to attain that status of someone with a voice to be trusted and respected, you have to work hard to keep it.
Continue to write guest posts for other publications. Continue to help provide as much education and insight to people as possible without necessarily expecting anything in return. Continue to offer something of legitimate value to people as often as you're able to. If you make it a priority to accomplish all of these things, you won't have to worry about whether people see you as a thought leader because your reputation will begin to precede itself.
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