If you want to be known as an expert in your niche, one of the best ways to build your credibility is to get published in popular media – whether that’s offline or online.
It is credibility through association – books and newspapers are generally associated with expertise, authority, research and knowledge, so if you end up writing a book or a column in a newspaper, you can establish your own credibility by virtue of association (this applies to industry-leading blogs too, by the way – why do you think guest blogging is so hot?)
Today I want you to look at it from a different angle – how getting published in a major newspaper or leading website / blog in your niche is NO guarantee that you’re any good at what you do.
These days self-publishing is easier than ever. Anyone can put together 50 pages and call it a book – slap it next to your profile on your blog, spin some hype and you’re on your way to being an expert.
And you’d be surprised at how much journalists usually know compared to the general population – usually it’s a lot of spin coupled with access to more news / gossip / rumours than the ordinary man on the street. Once you mash together opinion with half-truths, hype and metaphors you have the makings of a genius column.
As indicators of expertise, publishing a book and writing a newspaper (or blog) column are superficial signs – highly effective at manipulating mass perception on a subtle and subconscious level but not enough on their own to demonstrate expertise.
Earlier this week I got an article submission from an unknown blogger. It was an average article, and while we’ve published ‘average’ and sometimes below average pieces on that blog before, I chose to turn this one down because I wanted to stick to quality. In my reply, I told the author that the article was not ‘good enough’ to go up on the site. Perhaps a bit harsh, but that was the truth at the time.
The next day I get an angry email from an acquaintance, another blogger in the same niche and a friend of the first author. I was summarily presented with the original author’s ‘accomplishments’ and their status as an expert (thanks to them being a regular columnist for a leading news site).
The incident struck a chord with me because sometimes people – good writers – get to a point where they are too full of themselves to consider that their work is crap. I’ve been there, and I know how angry one feels at being ‘turned down’, but the reality is that if you’re not delivering what your audience wants and if you keep relying on your reputation rather than the quality of your work, you’re going nowhere, fast.
When it comes to trusting a blogger and estimating their expertise, don’t use their reputation or the fact that they wrote at so and so blog as a definitive criteria (although it does help to weed out the trash) – make sure that you read what they write without any bias and then decide if they are any good.