The Society of Professional Consultants

Networking, Mentoring, and Education for Consultants and Solo Professionals

SPC Blog

The purpose of this blog is to provide information to help consultants and solo professionals. Please contact us if you're an active SPC member willing to provide content for our blog. 

  • Monday, May 01, 2023 9:30 AM | Erica Holthausen

    Once you publish an article in a high-visibility publication, you’ll want to make the most of that initial success. Writing for publication gets your ideas in front of a new audience, increasing your visibility. It differentiates you so you stand out from the crowd, and it gives you a great deal of credibility with your audience.

    But it’s hard to realize these benefits if you don’t continuously promote your articles (and ideas) in several ways. Here’s how to get the greatest return on your investment in writing for high-visibility publications:

    1. Syndicate your articles.

    Most (though not all) high-visibility publications allow you to syndicate your articles after a short waiting period. Syndication is the practice of republishing an article to other websites, including your blog and third-party platforms like LinkedIn, Medium, and Thrive Global. Syndicating your articles allows you to get your work in front of a lot more people.

    2. Promote your articles and your status as a contributor.

    Regardless of whether you are allowed to syndicate your articles, it is important to promote your articles and your status as a contributor to your audience. Here are a few ideas:

    • Share your articles with your email subscribers and online communities, including social media platforms, Slack channels, and other online communities.
    • Add the article to your list of Publications on your LinkedIn profile.
    • Share individual articles with other experts in your field, mentors, advisors, trusted colleagues, clients, or prospects — especially if you recently had a conversation about the same topic.
    • Share individual articles in the chat on a Zoom call if it directly addresses someone’s questions or concerns.
    • Add the publication’s logo to your website and link it to your author page.
    • Include the logo or name of the publication in your email signature.
    • Add the logo or name of the publication to your social media and community profiles.

    3. Repurpose your articles.

    Although promoting your articles is a crucial step in enhancing your visibility, paywalls and algorithms may impede the effectiveness of your efforts. That’s why it is also essential to repurpose your articles. For example, you might:

    • Combine a compelling image with a quote and share what inspired you to write about that topic.
    • Create an infographic that captures the process outlined in your article and share it on your blog and across your social media channels.
    • Write a series of social media posts that elaborate on each key point you made in the article.
    • Create a slide deck outlining the main points of your article and share it on LinkedIn.
    • Record yourself reading a key point of the article and create an audiogram to share across social media.
    • Use your article as inspiration for a short video, LinkedIn live, or podcast episode, and link to the article in the description.
    • Combine several articles on the same topic into a short ebook to use as a lead generation tool.

    Writing for high-visibility publications is incredibly valuable. One article can inspire a prospective client to sign up for a lead generation offer or a potential partner to reach out and start a conversation.

    You can significantly improve your chances of attracting that type of attention by syndicating, promoting, and repurposing your articles so you can share them with your audience multiple times. And if your articles are evergreen, continue to share them over time.

    Why not make the most of the time and effort you’ve already invested in writing articles for publication?

    * * *

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Inc., Entrepreneur, and Fast Company. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

  • Monday, April 24, 2023 12:49 PM | Raman Shah

    We have made it to spring. Spring, in all its blooming optimism, also concludes the season of New Year’s resolutions as those promises, mostly unkept, fade into bitter memory.

    To me, New Year’s resolutions represent a cruel, unsustainable notion. They suggest that an infinite well of personal capacity, untapped in our moral weakness, will fuel the habits we want in our lives. I suggest, instead, that we are generally trying as hard as we can — that to embrace a new habit, we must relinquish old habits to pay for it. The personal costs and benefits of the old and new habits must match, not only in quantity but in kind. I find that when a change is paid for in the sense of personal capacity, it can be surprisingly sustainable.

    (Unsustainable) Change as a Moral Crusade

    My interest in how to pay for change comes from a few places. At a personal level, I simply feel intimidated by people who seem to have strong willpower, because I don’t. I’ve spent much of my life substituting cleverness for willpower.

    Professionally, I measure operations. I spend my days bringing some of the precision of finance — budgets and ledgers, every penny like every other — to the realm of service delivery, built of far less interchangeable human efforts.

    Other times, I’m called when a large technology initiative goes sideways. Technology projects look suspiciously like New Year’s resolutions: the organization will buy some exciting new software, the software will make the organization more productive, and everyone will benefit.

    Right?

    Unfortunately, difficulties inevitably arise. Reality’s complexity is typically underestimated; the software’s capability is typically overestimated. Leaders I admire — good people who have often dedicated their lives to service — start to double down on the initiative. In doubling down, they eventually inflict callousness and cruelty upon their teams. These leaders often lose key personnel as well as the hearts and minds of many more, gutting the human capital needed to accomplish anything good at all.

    I believe this tragedy reflects something inside people. I notice leaders tend to have an impressive track record of crushing personal obstacles through sheer will. For leaders, I fear that a lifetime of waging moral crusades against their own limitations can turn moral crusades into an instinct. When the chips are down, the instinct can spill out and start to crush entire teams.

    (Sustainable) Change as Capacity Accounting

    The assumption behind the New Year’s resolution seems to be that personal capacity is unlimited — that anything is possible if you try hard enough. New Year’s resolutions can be seductive in temporarily confirming this assumption before blowing up. Trying anything new is a pleasant placebo. You can borrow extra energy from the future — for a little while.

    I suggest the opposite assumption: that personal capacity is fixed. And further, that there are categories of personal capacity that don’t substitute. For example, you can’t raise your capacity for empathy by doing less physical lifting. You can’t stop relaxing with your friends and solve world hunger in its place, even if you think both take four hours a week.

    Personal capacity fluctuates, particularly with health, over a lifetime. But assuming it’s constant opens a kinder, more pragmatic route to change. The costs of a proposed new habit must simply match the costs of old habits to relinquish. For example, to embrace a new habit requiring significant project management, you need to jettison another habit requiring a similar amount of project management. Conversely, if you give up a habit with benefits — like rest or social connection — you must take up new habits that offer the same benefits.

    Two Personal Examples

    Here is one mundane example from my life of what not to do. When visiting my doctor, he told me to improve my blood pressure by cooking at home more.

    Great. Now how will I pay for it? The fridge inventory, the grocery trips, the cooking time, the dishes? Unable to fund the planning and logistics, I borrowed some energy from the future and just tried harder. My diet improved briefly. The initiative imploded within weeks. After an especially overworked winter, I’m not sure I want to measure the restaurant food I eat in a typical week.

    Here’s an example of what can work. In 2020, I read a book that suggested that everyone has a “tribe” of roughly 150 relationships. It suggested that networking is about nurturing these connections regularly. I developed and gave away an open-source spreadsheet to implement the book’s suggestions. If you are in my tribe, a 16-week period never passes without hearing from me.

    When I mention this, people assume I have superhuman willpower. They are wrong. This change was sustainable partly for technical reasons — I crafted the most efficient possible algorithm to keep this promise.

    But more profoundly, I figured out how to pay for the change. I quit Facebook.

    Facebook’s main costs in my life were empathetic — caring about what was going on with other people. Its main benefits were social — feeling connected and listened to. My relationship algorithm comprises a tiny trickle of ongoing bookkeeping to record whom I talked to each day, then about one extra email or text a day to whomever is about to fall through the cracks.

    In its personal costs and benefits, the relationship algorithm was a drop-in replacement for Facebook. Yet it represented a huge improvement — I replaced shallow, distracted connections with too many people with a smaller number of high-quality connections. Paid for, the change has had startling staying power. As I write this, I’ve kept my 16-week promise to my tribe of 170-odd people — without exception — for about three years.

    Sustainable Change From the Inside Out

    I gave up on New Year’s resolutions long ago. I find change too important to put on a schedule. If a morsel of capacity accounting will improve my world, I embrace it immediately. If the calendar runs out without one showing up, that’s okay.

    Whether you make New Year’s resolutions or not, I encourage you to articulate how to pay for the habits you want. Your proposals will take deeper analysis (intellectual exertion which, itself, must be paid for). They will sound more convoluted. You’ll attempt fewer of them. Yet you may find that surprisingly large improvements start to take root for yourself and loved ones, not for mere weeks, but for years.

    Then — when time comes to lead a big change on behalf of your organization — you’ll have the instincts to pleasantly surprise your team and customers alike.

    This post was initially published by Engaging Local Government Leaders in its Morning Buzz series.

  • Monday, April 03, 2023 4:36 PM | Erica Holthausen

    If you're thinking of writing for high-visibility publications, and you're wondering whether it's a good use of your time, there's one thing you should know: While most high-visibility publications require original content, many allow you to syndicate the published article after a short waiting period (typically 10 to 14 days).

    But what does it mean to syndicate your published articles?

    When you syndicate an article, you republish the same article to other websites, including those high-visibility publications that accept syndicated content.

    Some publications require you to change the title of the original article before publishing it elsewhere. Almost all request that you link back to the original article. Here is a five-step workflow for syndicating published articles:

    1. Confirm your right to syndicate the original article.

    While most high-visibility publications allow you to syndicate articles you wrote for their platform, not all do. Double-check the guidelines to confirm your rights and the publication’s syndication requirements.

    How long do you have to wait before syndicating your published articles? Does the publication recommend using specific language to link to the original article? Can you use the original title, or do you have to change it? Are there any other requirements?

    Not all high-visibility publications have guidelines. Even those that publish guidelines don’t always address the question of syndication directly. If you have any doubts about the requirements, ask your editor.

    2. Publish the article to your blog.

    Once the waiting period is over, syndicate your published article to your blog. If you want to include an image, you’ll need to find your own. (Just make sure you have the right to use it.) And even if it isn’t required, link back to the original article:

    “This article was originally published on [Publication].”

    The words “originally published” link back to the original article, not the publication’s homepage.

    Why? Because that link back to the original article helps build credibility with those who visit your website. They not only see what you wrote, which gives them a better sense of how you think about your area of expertise, but they see social proof. Another publication vetted you and published your work because they found it valuable. That tells the visitor that you have something to say that is worth listening to!

    3. Share the article with your community.

    Depending on how you share the article, this step might be categorized as either syndication or distribution. Either way, make sure you share your article with your email subscribers and online communities, including those on your preferred social media platforms. The people you reach through these platforms have already expressed interest in what you have to offer. Sharing your work with them not only builds your relationships, but it just might help them find a path forward.

    4. Publish the article to third-party platforms.

    There are a ton of third-party platforms that allow you to syndicate your published articles. Consider posting your work on Medium. You might also consider researching outlets that syndicate published work, such as Business 2 Community, Thrive Global, or BIZCATALYST 360. If you belong to a membership association (like this one), you might also be able to syndicate your article to their blog. Just check with them first!

    5. Syndicate the article in your LinkedIn Newsletter.

    LinkedIn has always allowed you to publish original or syndicated articles on their platform. Now those articles can become a LinkedIn newsletter that you publish on the schedule of your choice. The benefit of LinkedIn newsletters is that your work reaches an entirely different audience than your blog or email newsletter — and because the article is republished in full, the algorithm doesn’t interfere (as much) with your reach.

    If you’re writing articles for a high-visibility publication that allows you to syndicate your content, do it. You’ve already invested time and effort into writing an article for publication. Syndicating the content gets the piece in front of a lot more people for a small amount of effort.

    And you don’t have to take all these steps — nor do you have to do them all at once. You may publish a new article every two weeks and decide to publish a newsletter on LinkedIn every month. So long as the articles you write are evergreen (remains relevant over time), you can make a plan that fits your schedule and gives you plenty of room to breathe.

    * * *

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Inc., Entrepreneur, and Fast Company. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

  • Wednesday, March 01, 2023 8:26 AM | Erica Holthausen

    Many publications have specific guidelines about how to pitch your ideas. Some want you to pitch an article, some want you to pitch a column, and some want you to submit a completed article for consideration. Others offer no guidance at all. But every pitch incorporates the same core elements.

    To determine which publication to pitch, you first need to develop a pitch strategy. The pitch strategy will help you create a series of filters based on your business goals and objectives so you can narrow down the list of potential publications to pitch. Once your publication roadmap is in place, you can evaluate the shortlist of publications to determine which ones complement your writing style.

    Once you’ve identified your top-choice publication, you can focus your efforts on crafting a pitch that editors will love. But you’ll need to do a little research first.

    Familiarize yourself with your top-choice publication.

    Does your top-choice publication have guidelines? Do they want you to pitch a specific editor? Or do they have a form they want you to complete? Do they want you to pitch an article or a column? Review their contributor guidelines, style guide, and media kit so you can understand as much about the publication (and its readers) as possible.

    If the publication does have guidelines, follow them. Exactly. Failure to follow their guidelines will likely result in your pitch being rejected. Not all publications have contributor guidelines, and those that do, don’t always make them easy to find. Use the publication’s search bar and look for terms like “contributor guidelines,” “contribute,” “write for us,” or “submission guidelines.”

    Subscribe to your top-choice publication and search for articles about your area of expertise. Review the headlines and notice how the articles are categorized. If most articles appear in a specific section on the website, look closely at that section. These articles are part of the conversation you want to enter, so read them carefully and look for places where you can add to the conversation.

    Develop your idea for an article or column.

    Your article or column must add something to the conversation about your area of expertise. What are the gaps in the conversation that you can fill? What is missing from the conversation right now? How can you give the publication’s readers a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the topic?

    If you’re pitching an article, you need an attention-grabbing headline and a few key points that show the editor how your article adds to the conversation. If you’re pitching a column, you’ll need to come up with several article ideas.


    Download the editorial calendar template to help you capture and develop your article ideas.


    Craft your pitch.

    A well-crafted pitch gets right to the point. It isn’t cute or clever; it’s clear. In a few short paragraphs, you must show the editor that you’ve done your homework, will be easy to work with, and will provide a ton of value to the publication’s readers. Unless the publication’s guidelines say otherwise, you will pitch your idea by email. Here are the seven elements every pitch should include:

    1. Subject. Keep the subject line of your email simple and clear so the recipient knows what to expect. For example, “Pitch: [Article Title]” or “Pitch: Column on [Overarching Idea].” If you’re pitching a column, spend some time developing the overarching idea for your column.

    2. Salutation. If pitching an individual editor, make sure you spell their name correctly! Keep the greeting formal and professional. Unless you know how they like to be addressed, it is often best to address them by their full name.

    3. Hook. Grab the editor’s attention with a strong first sentence. The hook is the same kind of lede you’d use in an article. What is your article or column about? Why should the publication’s readers care?

    4. Beat. What are you going to write about? If you’re pitching an article, give the editor the key details in a few sentences. Include a working title and a summary that explains how the article will unfold. If you’re pitching a column, explain how it adds to the conversation and why the publication’s readers should read it.

    5. Credentials. Explain why you are qualified to write this article or column in one paragraph. What are your credentials? Have you written for other publications about this same subject? Have you been featured in other publications? Have you worked with well-known clients? Were you trained at a prestigious institution? The editor wants to know they can trust you to give their readers solid, actionable advice.

    6. Clips. Links to three relevant clips (writing samples) that show you are a good writer and strategic thinker. Ideally, these links go to analogous publications, but they can also be links to your blog, Medium, or an article on LinkedIn.

    7. Close. Thank the editor for their consideration, and (unless the guidelines dictate otherwise) let them know that you will follow up in 10 days.

    Once you’ve crafted your pitch, you will want to refine it. Make sure it is as short as possible and easy to read. Incorporate some white space and use a bulleted list for your clips. If you have difficulty explaining your article or column in a few sentences, you may not have thought it through enough. Once you’re happy with your pitch, double-check your grammar, triple-check that you’ve spelled the editor’s name correctly, and then hit send. Make a note on your calendar to follow up with the editor if you haven’t heard back from them in 10 days, and then get on with your day knowing that you’ve done everything you could.

    * * *

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Inc., Entrepreneur, and Fast Company. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

  • Wednesday, February 01, 2023 6:09 AM | Erica Holthausen

    Every article follows the same basic structure. It’s like a recipe. The more familiar you are with your ingredients and the more knowledgeable you are about how to combine them, the stronger a writer you will be — and the more you can play with the recipe.

    ​If you’re new to writing articles for publication, it might help to stick to the recipe for a while because it will help you convey your ideas in a way that is clear and compelling. Because readers are also familiar with the recipe, it makes it easier for them to follow along and understand your idea and how to apply your insights to their experience.

    Articles are comprised of seven foundational ingredients.

    Business writing is practical and efficient. Your readers don’t have time to meander through a story that sets the stage — they want to know what they will learn from your article before they even start reading. So get right to the point and use examples along the way. Here are the seven ingredients to a successful article:

    1. The hed. The headline or title conveys the promise you are making to your reader. It should be specific and easy to understand. When possible, it should capture the spirit of the story. It gives readers a taste of what’s to come — and it does all of that in fewer than 15 words.

    2. The dek. The deck or subtitle allows you to expand on the headline and give your reader an idea of what's to come. Not all publications include a dek.

    3. The lede. According to William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well, the lede, or lead, is the first sentence (or paragraph) of your article and is the most important: “If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence [or paragraph], your article is dead.” The lede tells the reader what the article is about and uses a hook to get them to sit up and take notice.

    4. The nut graf. The nut graf is the paragraph or paragraphs that follow the lede. It transitions the reader into the body of the article and tells the reader where they are headed and why they should continue reading. It builds on the lede — revealing the point of the article quickly and all at once so that even if a reader goes no further, they know what the story is about.

    5. The subhed. The subhead or subheadline appears in the body of an article and divides it into sections. Most articles have at least two subheads that outline your main points in an easy-to-scan format.

    6. The body. The body of your article is where you fulfill the promise you made to the reader in your headline.

    7. The close. The close is the conclusion of your article. It circles back to the lede and summarizes the key takeaways.

    Every article follows some variation of this structure. From journalistic magazines like The Atlantic to business magazines like Inc., Entrepreneur, and Harvard Business Review, you’ll see this same structure used repeatedly. Even industry trade journals, which are much more research-focused, use this basic structure.

    To help you get more familiar with this structure, analyze an article published on your favorite business magazine’s website. See if you can identify each of these elements. Then use this structure to outline your next article — you’ll find the structure offers plenty of room for creativity. And once you’ve got the structure down, you can start to experiment. You’ve got to know the rules before you can break them effectively!

    * * *

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Inc., Entrepreneur, and Fast Company. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

  • Tuesday, January 03, 2023 9:20 AM | Erica Holthausen

    Quiet brilliance doesn’t earn you a reputation as an authoritative expert.

    Early in my career, I worked with an extraordinary researcher at a non-governmental organization in Washington, D.C. She was smart, insightful, and warm. Her colleagues respected her intellect and relied on her to edit and fact-check articles, reports, and speeches. But she never took the leap and shared her own research. When it came time to select the lead researcher for a new project, she was not even considered.

    ​This story is all too common.

    So many brilliant people want just a little more time to refine their ideas and make sure they are perfect before sharing them publicly. But perfection is an unachievable goal.

    And the pursuit of perfection is holding you back.

    There’s never been a better time to share your ideas.

    Fifteen years ago, it would have been difficult for a consultant or business coach to get a byline in Inc., Entrepreneur, or Fast Company. But these prestigious business publications now rely on experienced professionals to share their insights with their readers.

    Your perspective is invaluable to the publication’s readers, but it is crucial to the success of the publication’s business model. Let me explain:

    Magazines rely heavily on advertising revenue.

    A great deal of that advertising happens online.

    Online advertising revenue is proportional to website traffic.

    Website traffic relies on search engine optimization (SEO).

    SEO requires a steady influx of original, high-quality content.

    High-visibility publications need a tremendous amount of original, high-quality content. Their need for that content far outpaces their capacity for creating it. In fact, many of these publications would go out of business if they had to pay their staff writers and freelance writers for all the content they needed to produce.

    As an expert, you can help associations, trade journals, and business magazines meet the need for original, high-quality content. In return, you get to share your ideas with a well-established audience, demonstrate your credibility, and build your community while increasing your visibility and opening the door to new opportunities.

    The readers win.

    The publications win.

    You win.

    It’s not enough to be great at what you do. If you want to make an impact, your voice needs to be heard. Writing for high-visibility publications is one of the most effective ways to share your ideas and build your reputation as an authoritative expert.

    * * *

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Inc., Entrepreneur, and Fast Company. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

  • Thursday, December 01, 2022 8:15 AM | Erica Holthausen

    Writing for high-visibility publications is one of the most effective ways to build your reputation as an authoritative expert. It allows you to share your ideas with a well-established audience, demonstrates your credibility, and opens the doors to new opportunities and coveted speaking engagements.

    ​Building your reputation as an authoritative expert takes time and a consistent, focused effort. The options and advice can feel overwhelming. Even if you know that you want to write articles for publication, you still have to figure out which publications accept contributed content, how to choose the right publication, and what goes into a pitch. The good news? There's a recipe for writing for high-visibility publications.

    The PEACEFUL Publishing Method™

    The PEACEFUL Publishing Method is a step-by-step approach to help you identify, pitch, and write for the right high-visibility publications and get results as quickly as possible in a way that minimizes the risks and the time, money, and energy you invest.

    Building your reputation as an authoritative expert requires you to play the long game. There are no shortcuts. But the eight steps of my PEACEFUL Publishing Method will keep you focused and moving forward. It will save you a tremendous amount of time and help you develop a plan that fits into your workflow.

    1. Prepare Your Roadmap. The publication roadmap identifies and prioritizes your business goals, specifies your intended audience and their desired outcomes, and determines how writing for publication will fit into your existing workflow.

    2. Elucidate Your Idea. Clearly define your BIG idea and point of view (the things you want to be known for in your industry), identify the major themes you will write about, develop your article ideas, and establish an editorial calendar.
    3. Assess the Options. The assessment requires you to choose a strategy, compile a list of publications, evaluate each against the roadmap, and select a publication that helps you reach your goals while complementing your voice and style.
    4. Craft the Case. To make the case, you need to get to know the publication so you can persuade the editors to publish your work. You’ll need a contributor bio, writing samples, and article ideas that demonstrate how you will add value.
    5. Examine the Structure. Analyze the structure of the publication’s articles so you can write a compelling headline, craft the lede, and align your writing style with that of the publication. Tailor your writing samples to the publication’s structure.
    6. Fashion the Article. Commit to a writing practice, outline your ideas to minimize writer’s block, write the first draft quickly, rewrite and revise your article, and edit and fact-check your article before submitting it for publication.
    7. Understand Your Role. Understand the publication's guidelines so you can craft a perfect pitch and tailor your articles to the publication’s readers. Understand when to follow up and what makes an article work or why the editor rejected it.
    8. Leverage Your Success. To leverage your success, you must review your goals, promote your work, foster your relationships, expand your opportunities, and repurpose your article for maximum exposure.

    ​If you want to increase your income, expand your influence, and magnify your impact, you must invest in building your reputation as an authoritative expert. Writing articles for publication is one way to accomplish that goal. As a strategy, it is most effective if you already know your audience, have experience working with them and getting them the results they seek, and feel compelled to share your message so you can make an impact as well as a living.

    * * *

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Inc., Entrepreneur, and Fast Company. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

  • Tuesday, November 01, 2022 6:30 AM | Erica Holthausen

    Your reputation as an authority is your most valuable asset, and it is up to you to protect it. Years ago, almost every publication had a team responsible for fact-checking every article. Most large media outlets had teams of specially-trained fact-checkers, while smaller publications required the editorial staff to check the facts of each article they edited. But today, most outlets rely on the writer to fact-check their work and attest to its accuracy.

    As an expert, the responsibility for fact-checking your work lies entirely with you. Scrutinizing your work to find errors is not easy, but with a little practice, it will become easier. Here are five steps to help you fact-check your work so you can maintain your credibility with your readers:

    1. Prepare to fact-check your work.

    Collect all of the backup information you collected as you worked on your piece. If you interviewed someone, make sure you have their contact information. If you conducted desk research, note the author, title, date, link, and publisher for every book, article, video, or podcast episode.

    2. Step away from the piece.

    Fact-checking requires you to look at your work from the perspective of a cantankerous reader. To get into that mindset, give yourself a little time and space between writing and fact-checking.

    3. Review your article and shore up any areas of weakness.

    Read the entire article slowly. If you were tasked with discrediting the author of this piece, where would you poke holes in the argument? How do you know that a particular claim is valid? Are all of the cited sources reputable? What doesn’t ring true about the piece? Now, how can you address each of these concerns?

    4. Print your article and identify items to check.

    Read the article again, backward. Highlight proper nouns, underline facts (including superlatives and opinions masquerading as facts), circle numbers, and put a box around citations.

    5. Verify the information.

    Verify the spelling of proper nouns, statements of fact, numbers, and citations. Pay close attention to superlatives because these claims are rarely accurate. Double- and triple-check any discoveries that you find especially exciting or disheartening because our emotions can cloud our judgment, and things are seldom as straightforward as they seem. When stating your opinion, make sure it’s clear to the reader.

    ​Fact-checking is a skill. Anyone can be a better fact-checker, but it takes practice and must be done with intention. Download and use my fact-checking checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything.

    The better you become at fact-checking your work, the more your work will add to your credibility and authority as an expert in your field. And that is worth the extra effort.

    * * *

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Inc., Entrepreneur, and Insider. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

  • Monday, October 03, 2022 7:50 AM | Erica Holthausen

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term "thought leader" first appeared in writing in 1887. But it didn't take hold until more than one hundred years later when Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of Strategy & Business magazine, started a column profiling thought leaders of the day. "A thought leader is recognized by peers, customers, and industry experts as someone who deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of their customers and the broader marketplace in which they operate," said Kurtzman. "They have distinctively original ideas, unique points of view, and new insights.”

    As experts in our fields, we all aspire to be thought leaders. But that honorific may not work out the way we expect it to. Consider the evidence:

    1. Thought leaders must be anointed by others.

    The term "thought leader" first appeared in an 1887 book written by Lyman Abbott about his predecessor, Henry Ward Beecher. A prolific writer and public speaker, Beecher was a Congregationalist minister, abolitionist, and champion of women's suffrage, temperance, and Darwin's theory of evolution. After defending his friend's memory against ongoing rumors that he committed adultery, Abbott assured the reader that "Mr. Beecher retains his position as the most eminent preacher and one of the great thought leaders in America."

    Henry Ward Beecher was very well known, as was his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. But he wasn't referred to as a thought leader until after his death. The lack of that honorific during his lifetime did nothing to change the scope of his impact.

    2. Thought leaders don't always get the brightest spotlight.

    You are probably familiar with Steve Jobs, the visionary genius and co-founder of Apple. But does the name Edwin Land ring a bell? Land was the founder of Polaroid, which was once the hottest technology company in the world in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. In a 1985 interview in Playboy, Jobs referred to Land as a "brilliant troublemaker." He modeled Apple after Polaroid and himself after Land.

    Edwin Land was a true thought leader. But it was his protege, Steve Jobs, who received the accolades and recognition that lasted well beyond his lifetime. Land's contributions are not quite as obvious to the general public as Jobs's contributions, but that doesn't diminish their impact.

    3. Thought leaders are often ridiculed and ostracized.

    On the cover of the August 1997 issue of Nature, the term "wood-wide web" was used to refer to Dr. Suzanne Simard's article about the power of mycorrhizal networks. Her findings called into question the established wisdom espoused by veteran foresters — beliefs based on the Darwinian theory of the survival of the fittest. Her work was met with enthusiasm, followed by harsh (and baseless) criticism. It nearly ended her career.

    Dr. Simard's research was groundbreaking, but she paid a steep price for daring to disrupt her industry. She had to fight for her findings and funding to continue her research for ten years. Today, she is a respected forest ecologist, author, speaker, and professor.

    ​To be regarded as a thought leader, you must build your reputation and have the title bestowed upon you. But you have no control over others' opinions of your work and ideas, and those who confer this coveted title may not be the people impacted by your work.

    The truth is that you don't have to be a thought leader to make a difference. You don't have to be a thought leader to be an expert. And you don't have to be a thought leader to be a thoughtful leader.

    Instead of focusing on other people's opinions of your work, focus on the things you can control. Show up, provide value, and be your full brilliant self. If you end up being regarded as a thought leader, that's great. That is certainly a cause for celebration. But then get back to work. Because recognition isn't what matters.

    * * *

    Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Inc., Entrepreneur, and Insider. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

  • Friday, September 30, 2022 10:18 AM | Laura Burford

    The best consultants work hard to build trusted relationships but to build a trusted relationship a consultant needs to be seen as credible. The challenge is how does a consultant show a potential client that they are credible if they don’t already have credibility with them?

    Credibility is a quality given by a client and not bestowed to a consultant overnight. Not only does it take time to be deemed credible, a consultant needs to continually work on enhancing and retaining credibility. It is also easy to assume you have credibility with a client when you don’t. This means as a consultant, you need to continually evaluate if there is trust between you and another person.

    Credibility is fickle. It disappears faster than it is achieved. One wrong move can destroy your credibility for years, or a life-time. Think of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscar Awards or President Richard Nixon and the Watergate Scandal or Prince Andrew and his association with notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The credibility of each individual was shattered in all three scenarios. Nixon never regained his credibility; time will tell for Will Smith and Prince Andrew.

    *****

    While working at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), I was taught that there were three basic ways to achieve credibility: reputation, transferred, and earned. Most of us only contemplate the third way of gaining credibility, earned. However, consultants should not overlook the other two ways and their impact on building relationships.

    Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II gained credibility by reputation, by transfer, and by earning it.

    In October of 1940 when at the age of 14, Princess Elizabeth gave her first public radio address to the children of the Commonwealth. Listeners deemed her credible by reputation because of her membership in the royal family.

    Princess Elizabeth gained credibility by transfer when she ascended to the throne in February 1952 upon the death of her father, King George VI.

    Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II earned credibility by keeping until her death a promise made to the public on her 21st birthday:

    "I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong."

    *****

    Credibility by reputation is achieved by association. If Princess Elizabeth had not been associated with the royal family, her speech to the children of the Commonwealth would not have had the same impact. When I walked out the door on my last day with PwC, my credibility by association disappeared. I quickly discovered the impact of not having the backing of the “association.” Credibility by reputation for many people is temporary, coming and going based on with whom we are associated.

    Credibility by transfer is achieved by assignment. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was next in line for the throne after her father died. Although gaining credibility can be positional, a common way to gain credibility is by receiving an introduction from someone you trust to someone they trust. When a satisfied customer recommends you to a colleague of theirs, the customer transfers their understanding of your credibility, their trust of you, to their colleague. As a consultant, your referral strategy is instrumental in helping you gain credibility.

    The best way, even though it is perhaps the most difficult, is to gain credibility by earning it yourself. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II never faltered when it came to her life of service promise. When there was a misstep, she embraced the misstep and worked to regain trust.

    Earning credibility is between you and the other person. It is doing what you say you are going to do, delivering on your promise, and showing you are genuine and reliable. Missteps happen that make credibility fickle. It is how you deal with the missteps that impact your credibility either positively or negatively.

    *****

    If you have been following my articles or videos, you’ve heard me refer to 10 Consultant Credibility Essentials or Elements. The essentials are tactical in nature highlighting your experience, expertise, and intellectual property as well as your professional presence.

    • Can you explain your Point of View?

    • What do others say about your expertise?

    • Are you able to be found if someone performs an internet search?

    These essentials help display credibility and help support you, but they do not replace your actions, words, or how you make people feel. They don’t help you earn credibility. They help support your credibility once it is earned. If you don’t do what you say you will do, delivering on your promise, the 10 Credibility Essentials provide limited, and sometimes, no value. (If you are interested in 10 Ways to Display Credibility, here is a link.)

    *****

    Conclusion

    Are you being seen as credible?

    There are three basic ways to gain credibility: reputation, transferred, and earned. The best way is to earn it yourself by building a trusted relationship with a person. This requires you to be cognitive of your actions, words, and how you make people feel as you not only deliver on your promises, but, when possible, exceed expectations.

    A consultant never stops working on gaining and retaining their credibility. It takes time to build credibility and if not careful, credibility can disappear overnight and that is something no consultant wants to happen.

    My question to you – What actions are you going to take to ensure you are seen as credible?

    *****

    Laura Burford helps solo-consultants and smaller consulting businesses clarify their CORE (focus, ideal client, point of view and services), build relationships, and get clients. She is the founder of Laura’s Consulting Guide, publishes Consulting Insights on YouTube, and is known for her Consulting Mastery: A Path to a Sustainable Business program.  


  •  Follow us on LinkedIn
© 2014-2024 All Rights Reserved - The Society of Professional Consultants
PO Box 1156, Westford, MA 01886 | contact@spconsultants.org | 978-496-8653
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software