New Year’s resolutions can be more than skin deep. While you are committing to building more muscle at the gym, why not do some heavy lifting to increase the power of your most valuable asset — your professional reputation?

Building a strong direction toward being known as an expert in your field helps you professionally and personally. You can grow your national recognition, find new partnerships and increase clients.

Here are five tips to help you achieve that professional brand makeover you’ve been wanting.

1. Start with identifying your expert niche.

You may have heard the phrase “know thyself,” which is essential when building your brand. To be known as an expert in your field, you need to know what makes you unique and how you can help people. Your niche is what sets you apart from other professionals in your field.

Perhaps you studied engineering and fell in love with the idea of flying cars while watching The Jetsons reruns as a child. Carving out a niche of expertise in the engineering of air taxis or “electric vertical takeoff and landing” (eVTOLS) aircraft or in unmanned ariel aircraft (aka drones) might be the subject matter to which you can apply both your passions and your expertise in a more significant way. Finding a unique niche can help you transition into that specific engineering field and help add valuable insights to the public discussion on these topics.

For another example, if you’re a nutritionist and want to build up your expert brand, start by identifying what type of nutrition advice could become your area of specialty. Are you helping parents guide diabetic children toward healthier futures? Or are you focused on supporting an aging population with strategies to navigate digestive disorders?

Your niche should focus on something that makes sense with your knowledge, skills and experience level — not just something that sounds trendy. If you are still unsure about identifying your niche, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I enjoy most about my work?
  • What do I wish more people knew about my industry?
  • What do clients ask me about all the time?
  • What have I learned in the past year that my peers should know?

When identifying your niche, be as specific as you can. Find a slice of your chosen topic that you feel you can already speak to as an expert or can develop an expertise that stands out from the crowd.

2. Simplify your thinking on the topic and identify how you are already comfortable delivering your expertise to audiences — whether it be posting to social media, writing white papers, joining a podcast or other approaches.

Make sure you’re doing what comes naturally in this area first and foremost. Consider starting small by purposefully discussing your niche expertise with friends, family members and close colleagues. These trusted advisers will help you identify which topics you can speak most passionately about within your area of knowledge and help you simplify your language around complex concepts.

A good rule of thumb is to explain concepts at a ninth-grade reading level. If you have a Ph.D. or decades of experience in a given topic, you might think this approach sounds like dumbing down the material or condescending to the audience. But, in reality, everyone appreciates a straightforward explanation.

“A good rule of thumb is to explain concepts at a ninth-grade reading level.”

In particular, media outlets generally aim for a seventh- to ninth-grade reading level in their articles and segments. This reading level ensures all their audience members can understand a given topic even if they have no background in it. So, if you can condense high-level discussions in a way that’s broadly accessible, you will be ready for media interviews in the future, and you’ll be ready to appeal to your broadest audience. Let’s face it, even fellow experts may be more apt to engage with your content if they can quickly grasp your concepts as they are scrolling through social media while waiting in line for lunch.

Once you have your initial talking points, you can begin sharing them in the ways you’re already comfortable. Perhaps you have an active LinkedIn account and are ready to share more about this topic to boost your networking efforts. If you have written many research papers in the past, translating some of the discussion into a white paper might be an easy addition to your outreach repertoire. If you have a friend who has started a podcast, why not pitch the idea to them as a topic to give you more interviewing practice?

Once you’ve identified how you want to share your expert knowledge with others initially and have started practicing those methods of delivery, then it’s time for the next step: getting noticed!

3. Brainstorm and research ways to expand the audiences you are reaching.

When you feel you have a higher comfort level with the topics, language and approaches you like to use, it will be time to progress to wider audiences. The options vary for each area of expertise, so you will need to brainstorm what you know about your industry.

Are there industry-specific media outlets, like magazines, blogs, e-newsletters, conferences and podcasts? Can you network with those at industry organizations to get more ideas?

Find out who is already in the market doing something similar to what you want to do. Dig into how those experts do it. Look at their websites and social media, read their books and articles, listen to podcasts and attend conferences where they speak. This research will give you ideas about how best to position yourself in the marketplace so that people will recognize and respect your contributions.

“Find out who is already in the market doing something similar to what you want to do. Dig into how those experts do it.”

A word of caution: When you are starting as an expert and are conducting this research on your peers, it may be tempting to copy the voice of other experts you admire. But this can limit your ability to build a brand that is uniquely yours. It’s essential to find your voice and use it consistently.

4. Think about other outreach methods with which you are not yet comfortable.

For many people, this next phase could involve considering moving into mainstream media interviews and publications. These approaches can feel scary at first because they are further from the industry that is already familiar with your topic, and you will have less control over the coverage.

These outreach methods could also involve speaking to much larger groups than you are used to or creating videos through which you can give your perspective. As your expertise grows, so will the interest in hearing from you.

Rather than judging yourself for feeling trepidation about these opportunities, acknowledge that traveling this road is not easy. It will require you to stretch in new directions. Your concerns may indicate that whatever approach you are considering could be a significant area of growth for you because it is beyond what you’ve already been doing.

With that in mind, think of at least one approach you are not yet comfortable with pursuing but can find good reasons to implement in the future.

5. Pursue ways to get more comfortable in those broader tactics starting on a small and manageable scale — and seek support.

Don’t let your fear be an obstacle. Let it be a motivator. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are in this alone.

For example, if you don’t feel comfortable speaking at events, take on the role of session leader for a group of people who want to learn more about your topic, or join a group to learn speaking skills, such as Toastmasters.

If you aren’t yet ready to write for publications because you’re more of a visual or auditory learner, or because English is your second language, you can begin by writing a short piece, asking a trusted friend to take a look at it for feedback, and then share the piece with your social media followers. Start with just one short article or blog post rather than drowning under the pressure of writing a long-form article. Or hire a writing coach or ghostwriter to convey your big ideas to your audience.

If you’re worried you won’t be able to share your message well in a media interview, you can develop simple answers to the most common questions. You can practice talking to a camera. Or you can work with a public relations professional to understand media objectives and tactics at a deeper level.

Becoming a nationally recognized expert is a process. You can start by defining your expertise, finding opportunities to be seen as an expert and diversifying outreach methods. As you build and grow your professional status, you will identify your unique value within your industry and to your customers.

Get started building your expert brand in 2023 right now — especially if you have a product or expertise to share. Resolving goals around your professional vision will create the energy to push toward them.