Last week I was talking to a talented CEO over coffee. We were discussing a recent competitor that, despite being smaller and less experienced, was quickly becoming an authority in his marketplace. At which point he said something that struck me as interesting. He said: ‘I know me and my team need to get out there more as experts, I just don’t really know how to find the right voice.’
Now at first glance this seems strange. We all have a voice. We’re born with it and generally it doesn’t change much in our lifetime. So why would he need to find it?
What he was talking about is one of the hardest things about becoming an influencer – finding and developing your unique voice of authority. The voice that will help you stand apart in the marketplace, become recognised as the trusted expert, come across as authentic and professional – yet unique enough to capture the attention of your target market.
Sound like a tall order? It is. Yet if you’re going to stand out as a thought leader in any space, it’s a skill you are going to have to master. In my experience, finding your voice is usually a journey comprised of three separate decisions:
DECIDE TO ELEVATE
This means stepping outside of what you think you do – the technicalities of what you deliver in the marketplace – and elevating up into a space that’s compelling to your target market. There’s a big difference. Jamie Oliver isn’t known for the technicalities of being a chef. He’s known for helping families create healthy food quickly and within a budget. He basically redefined the old conversation of elite chefs cooking for the superrich – to food that’s accessible to everyone.
Steve Jobs is another classic and often used example – he didn’t go to market talking about the technicalities of computing. Instead he chose to own the space of innovation, being unique and standing out as a creative force. Elevating means stepping out of your world, and stepping into a wider conversation that your target audience actually cares about.
FIND YOUR INFLUENCE INTERSECTION
So how do you find that conversation? You start by finding your unique influence intersection – that’s where you take two worlds where you have credibility and identify the space where they meet. Let’s go back to Jamie Oliver as an example. He understood the everyday person. He also understood what it’s really like to cook at home with a young family. He took that experience and combined it with his understanding of creating quality food – and where they met in the middle was a space that only he could own.
BECOME THE TRANSLATOR
So you’ve elevated the conversation and identified your space – now what? Now you need to become the translator. What new innovations, technologies or trends can you see on the horizon? What would be a compelling way to bring these to your target audience? How can you overlay your own insights as to how these might change the future landscape?
Once you become the primary translator for your industry, chances are very good your customers going to follow you and your company. They’ll want to know what you see, how you understand and interpret it and – most importantly – how it will impact their world. At this point you have become a trusted voice of authority.
Finding your voice isn’t easy – it’s about figuring out what you want to be known for – and then fully owning that. The truth is that it will be a work in progress, the space you choose now may not be the final one you land on. However, as with all things worthwhile, first you have to actually start and then give yourself permission to evolve.
As parting words, I love this quote from Elon Musk’s first wife Justine Musk, when asked the secret to her husband’s success:
“Choose one thing and become a master of it. Choose a second thing and become a master of that. When you become a master of two worlds, you can bring them together in a way that will create a competitive advantage – because if you can move between worlds, speak both languages, connect the tribes, mash the elements, you will wake up with an epiphany that changes your life.”
Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the soon to be launched weekly podcast Inside Influence. An exploration of what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes, Spotify or juliemasters.com.