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Alicia C. Aebersold

Senior Vice President of Communications and Strategic Development

6 Ways to Give Your Voice IMPACT

October 22, 2015 | Marketing and communications | Comments
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It used to be a chicken and egg situation – you had to be a thought leader to be published, but you had to be published to become a thought leader.

Today, social media is the great equalizer. You no longer need traditional “power” to be published.

So make a plan to be heard—and build yourself into a thought leader. Even without a big budget or power, you can have true IMPACT. All you need is to Innovate, Move, Persist, Amplify, Connect and Think. Here’s how.

  1. Innovate. Be compelling. Be clever. Differentiate yourself from the crowd. Have you heard of Martha Payne? This nine-year-old was horrified by her school’s lunches. Instead of complaining, she came up with an innovative approach to make a difference—she started blogging about the lunches. She took pictures of them and gave them ratings. Her blog, NeverSeconds, got 10 million hits (you read that right) in February 2014.

From TIME Magazine:

Martha’s first post featured a lunch consisting of a pizza slice, one potato croquette, some corn and a small cupcake or muffin. She gave it a Food-o-Meter rating of 6/10, a health rating of 4/10, and as for mouthfuls taken: “forgot to count but not enough!” She wrote, “I’m a growing kid and I need to concentrate all afternoon and I can’t do it on one croquette. Do any of you think you could?”

What did young Martha do with this attention? She converted her readers and supporters to support Mary’s Meals, a food charity in Malawi and raised more than $200,000.

You don’t have to make a splash the same way everyone else does. Channel your inner nine-year-old and do exactly the opposite of the status quo.

  1. Move. Don’t wait for someone else to publish you. Do it yourself—on your own website or blog or on LinkedIn. There are many brilliant examples of advocates who took their message into their own hands and made a difference.

One incredible example is Dave deBronkart, now known as “e-Patient Dave.” Dave was diagnosed with Stage IV, Grade 4  kidney cancer in early 2007 and given just 24 weeks to live. He dug in, did research on the Internet and found other patients who led him to online patient communities and, ultimately, a treatment that worked. He recounted his journey in a blog called “The New Life of e-Patient Dave” and now manages, a community of patients who want to drive their own health as full partners with providers.

Dave turned his bully pulpit into advocacy for patient engagement and the right for patients to access their own data. Now a sought-after speaker and author of three books, he has created a TED talk, delivered countless keynotes and is a powerful voice for patients.

Dave didn’t wait for a major newspaper to call him. He just acted. Ironically, now newspapers DO call him.

  1. Persist. A 2013 survey by Lars Willnat and David Weaver, The American Journalist in the Digital Age, found that 40 percent of journalists said social media networks are “very important” to their work and more than half (53.8 percent) of all U.S. journalists regularly use microblogs like Twitter to gather information and report their stories.

So, journalists are out there looking for stories without gatekeepers on social media.

You don’t need a long-term relationship with reporters to get them to cover your issue—you just need to figure out who you need to talk to and then find the right way to get them to listen. Start following relevant hashtags on Twitter and see who is writing about your issue. Tweet at them. Ask a question. Point them to a resource. Keep pushing. Be noisy. Be everywhere.

  1. Amplify. Social media is the great equalizer. Reporters are no longer the only pathway to awareness. There are many loud voices on the Internet who will amplify your voice if you connect with them in the right way. Someone out there wants to write about your issue in their blog. Tweet about your content from their account or post about your passion on Facebook.

Find out who has a strong voice in your field and make those people ambassadors for your cause. Give them data, give them resources, give them attention – they are likely to return the favor. And some of them have a lot of followers.

  1. Connect. Power comes from relationships. Find and join in relevant TweetChats. Go to conferences in your field and talk to everyone you can. Be a voice people want to hear. Be a voice that is always in the middle of key conversations.

One inspiration is Alicia Staley (@stales). Alicia met Jody Schoger, another breast cancer survivor, on Twitter. Their conversation led to #BCSM, a weekly chat that now draws hundreds of people for hour-long conversations on everything from breast cancer research to support. They were featured in USA Today and Forbes and now have a companion website and YouTube channel. Most important, they are providing support to people who need it.

  1. Think. Everyone focuses on the “leader” part of “thought leader,” but you really need to start with the “thought” part. What idea do you have to share or what unique story do you have to tell? Be inspired and be inspiring. A ceaseless wave of mediocrity will just annoy people, not elevate you to the ranks of the influential.

You don’t have to be the foremost expert in your field to get attention. You just need to have a mission and ideas and be willing to work to get them heard.

What will you do to give your voice IMPACT? And what are you waiting for?