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Amplify your impact with small audiences

I recently met with a client with whom I’d consulted on a political campaign in Chicago. He didn’t win, and now was wondering what his next move should be. What should he do now, while keeping an eye on four years in the future?

He wanted to make authentic inroads in his community, but wasn’t sure how to do it. One possible solution was to get on as many boards and get active in as many organizations or causes as possible to become known by as many people in the community as possible. In theory, this sounds like a good idea.

In practice, it is not. Here’s why I advised my client not to do this – and why you should consider a narrower vision in your approach to your brand.

First of all, I told him, you’re just one person. You can’t devote the energy you want to each and every cause that catches your eye, that you want to help or that you think has some strategic value. There is such a thing as having too much on your plate. And you have time to make your name better known.

Take it slow, grow your network, but don’t get overwhelmed.

The second reason is that you can be much more effective by focusing on one or two specific areas. What are your passions, and how can you align them with your goals? Are you passionate about children’s health, government transparency or the environment? Have a signature cause and make your name there.

There’s an old saying that when you try to speak to everyone, you speak to no one. If you find that one issue you can rally around, that becomes your calling card. You become known as the Government Transparency Guy, the Company That Sends You Boxes of Stylish Clothes or the Marketing Firm that Works with Green Companies.

This becomes powerful, because you end up speaking to groups of people that can become your biggest advocates, your raving fans and your vocal, viral supporters. It’s easy to see how that can translate, over time and with effort, to broader exposure – to constituents, to customers, to investors, etc.

Your ultimate goal is to have impact. To do that you need to build (your expertise/brand), expand (your network) and extend (your brand) until you have leveraged your expertise in that niche into wider exposure, thus impacting more people.

When you are in the building phase, you are learning more about your specialization, creating content (blogs, newsletters, videos, even retweeting), experimenting with ways to share that content – you are establishing yourself as an authority. Now, people might not know who you are at this point, and that’s fine. You’re laying the foundation for that. You’re finding your voice. You are preparing for world domination.

This goes for rookies just starting out and for established brands that haven’t engaged in sophisticated marketing. You need to find a process that frames you as an authority.

The next step is expansion. Expanding your network, amplifying your voice, growing your reputation. Here you’re engaging with audiences online, bantering with people on Twitter and finding a viral voice that is generating shareable, expert online content.

You’re doing this in real life, too. You’re meeting people at events, booking speaking engagements, creating valuable, memorable touchpoints – and following up with those people, too, whether by email, on LinkedIn, even a phone call. You have extended your network to include media who now know you (the brand) as an authority in your field, a resource that can be counted on.

This leads to impact. You’ve established the foundation of your expertise, you’ve built upon it, blog post by blog post, through speaking engagements, networking and media placements. Maybe you’ve found a way to leverage the world’s second-largest search engine YouTube, written a book (or an e-book), or started a podcast. (You can do all of these things with a relatively small budget, by the way. Hello, Fiverr.)

Impact means you lead the conversation. You are considered an expert in your specialty. When you talk, people listen. When you write, record or tweet, people consume it and share it.

Impact means what you say carries heft, travels far and establishes the record. It can influence decision makers and sway change. Ultimately, what we want is for our messages to have impact.

Impact isn’t measured in retweets or views, though. Often, it’s in proportion to our message and field. An expert in medieval tax policy won’t have the platform of an expert in food allergies, who won’t have the platform of an Instagram influencer. But it your message hits the right people, you can consider that a success.

Large impact often starts in small places, sometimes with a goal or a dream, and always with an idea. But impact doesn’t just happen. Without effort and strategy, it’s nothing more than a word.

What’s your story? Green Collar Communications is a digital marketing and PR agency serving companies in the green economy. We help bring your eco-friendly story to more people, helping you get more leads and clients. Interested in working with us? Contact us today.

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