When Your Authority Is Being Tested

  • Category: ContentPoint of View

What happens when you’re in the midst of chaos, trying to guide your audience through a complex challenge?

Say like sorting out the impact of the coronavirus (nothing like a global pandemic to stoke all sorts of primal fears)…

Of course we’re looking for authorities to guide us on the obvious—infectious disease, health care and disaster planning.

But specific niche audiences will be clamoring for specialty advice: on travel, meeting planning, financial markets, oil and commodity pricing, working from home and perhaps even YOUR expertise.

How do you decide not only what to cover, but how?

Use the lens of your own authority and stick to your lane. Say you’re a business travel expert. You wouldn’t want to make broad pronouncements like “travel is safe” (sadly, more than one travel “expert” has done exactly that). You aren’t an expert on virus spread and your “authority” on such a statement would be suspect at best.

But you could advise on how to make business travel decisions (should we send our people to the XYZ conference?). You could align yourself with an infectious disease expert (or interview one on your podcast). You might share alternative ideas to business travel as usual (how to swap out an in-person conference for a virtual meeting).

Stick with your brand of authority—your style, your voice.

Lean into what hasn’t gotten enough attention and share generously. If you’re a deep expert in something related to the fallout from the coronavirus, this is your chance to dig down. Even if you’ve seen some of your topic covered elsewhere, make your take on it unique by designing it for your ideal audience.

If you’re an authority on global pharmaceutical teams working remotely for example, you might look at how to build highly productive teams to develop a vaccine. Perhaps source some success stories and describe best practices—you can write about it, be interviewed about it, develop content and practice around it.

This is a time for being generous, which means hoarding is a very bad idea. The consultant who limited his coronavirus webinar attendance and is not making recordings available risks looking like he’s more interested in creating false scarcity than sharing his wisdom.

Be sure any newsjacking you do is actually helpful to your audience. I’m sure you’ve received the same emails from business experts, reminding you to wash your hands or use sanitizer. How fast do you hit the delete key on those? At this point, they just insult your intelligence.

You want to carve yourself a space that will prove helpful to your ideal audience. If your thing is that people should invest for the long term and ignore market dives, you won’t be the hysterical talking head on cable, but rather the calm voice of reason.

You’d show your audience how to deal with financial chaos and suggest rational next moves (that don’t line your pocket with commission dollars). You’d not only demonstrate what it feels like to have a long-term mindset, but you’d show them how to develop theirs. You’d be building trust for the long haul.

When authority is being tested on a grand scale, it’s exactly the time to keep building yours.