You better really be an expert

Are you an expert?

At a recent luncheon hosted by the Publicity Club of Chicago I listened to a panel of Chicago area morning broadcast producers explain what kinds of material they like to cover, who they like to hear from, and what they expect from the public or pr professionals when they are pitching a story.

And I heard this:

“Nowadays anyone can make it look like they are an expert. A little high level graphic design help and you can have a great online image. But we need to know that person can back it up. Your expert better be able to really speak to what they say they are and not just have a pretty website.”

This year, in an increasing way, I find myself telling my clients to be sure to put their credentials up front. I want the brands, independent thought leaders and nonprofits I work with to talk frequently about their value proposition, their successes. Additionally, I am ensuring that their messaging gives their public a look at their longstanding history.

I want to share the years and the passion that they have put into this. I want everyone to know that they have skin in the game. I believe that consumers deserve to understand a company’s or an individual’s credentials.

That statement during the PCC luncheon felt a like vindication for a guided approach I have taken with so many of my clients this year and I almost shouted right out, “HURRAH!”

Here is why:

I am finding myself smack in the middle of an era of an increasing number of expert life coaches, business coaches, and self published author experts. I represent a number of people who fall into this type of category. I have colleagues I respect who are experts in their field.

Throughout this year I have found myself taking some of those “high level graphic design expert claims” a bit personally and not in a good way.

It is my job essentially to absorb CONTENT for my clients. I read newspapers, magazines and daily online news blurbs. I listen to the news in the morning and evening. I watch music videos and cycle through popular YouTube channels. I don’t fast forward through the commercials. I have to understand the trends. I have to analyze media and make some judgement calls for those who are relying on my creative work to drive their businesses.

After sorting through ALL OF IT, I’ve heard enough from individuals who, after a seminar or a published book, want to “sell” me their coaching services or even the next best thing in skincare.

Much of the time when I start to dive deeper and ask those questions about their life’s work — I don’t get sufficient answers. As a media junkie I’m looking for those answers right up front on their website, their LinkedIn profile, even their Facebook posts. I’m not referring to those wonderfully written endorsements either — though endorsements are a very good addition to actual credentials.

If you fall into a category of life changer, thought leader, healer, solver and etc. please answer these questions: Do you have a Master’s degree in your field? A Ph.D.? Great! You’d better tell me about it. Do you have 10 plus years of experience performing your skill?

You’d better put that expertise right up front.

You worked with individuals with ADHD for 10 years and found that transferred to helping all of us better organize our work lives. You started your career as a doula and now focus your massage and energy practice for the past 15 years helping women at all stages of momhood to decompress. Those are two descriptions of independent solopreneurs I respect. As a consumer, those are qualifications I can trust.

I can certainly be better at this myself.

Here is what I need to shout out more often:

I have 20 years of experience in community outreach. I’ve worked with internal teams. I have national and international experience. I’ve owned my own hands on small bakery business and I have worked with businesses and nonprofits for 25 years.

I have a Master’s degree in Education and Personnel Administration. As I look back on my lifetime’s worth of supervisory and leadership experience I realize I have supervised thousands. So when I talk about leading with kindness, I have put in some long hours studying what it means to lead others and then I have actually led them.

This is not bragging. This is making sure that people understand that I have the credentials and I’m not just good logo and a fancy website. You can cyber stalk me and find out just about anything about my life’s work, personally, on LinkedIn. As I grow my website and my firm’s presence — you can trust that I will include great examples of my team’s credentials on my website too.

Here is what I want from solopreneurs in all market segments:

I want more. I want to know you have put in the time, the sweat, the tears. I want to know that you have run the gauntlet, that you know your shit better than anyone and THAT is why anyone should finally pay you.

Until you can say that— and respond to my interrogation about your experience and expertise — don’t sell it to me. I’m not buying it.