IOC Fellows's picture Submitted by IOC Fellows November 22, 2021 - 1:41pm

A group of people have their laptops on a desk, with clutter of headphones, snacks, and notebooks.


Contributing Team:  Allison Davis, Ashot Ter Avanesian, Mark Roy, Jonathan S. Marion, Keyaunoosh Kkassauei, Isik Tacoglu

In our previous blog, we explored Dorie Clark’s thought leadership on content creation and leveraging our networks to expand our own thought leadership. Her second step, Social Proof, is what coaches need to assert their expertise and expand on what you want to bring to the world. This blog explores Social Proof and using your network to gain credibility. 
You have found your breakthrough idea and engaged your network in helping you to develop it. You have created expert, thoughtful content and used your network to further define your thought leadership. Now, you need to get noticed! How will you get your message out?  
Once again, your network is critical to help you build your social proof. 
Clients often choose coaches not only because of their expertise, background, or education, but also because of the content they have created and put out into the world. Our networks are critical to successful coaching practices. According to Dorie during her April conversation with Jeff Hull, social proof is a shortcut to help people "instantly respect you." When credibility is communicated through establishing an association with reputable brands, universities or publications, people subconsciously let go of their internal hesitation, consider you an expert, and readily grant you several minutes of their precious time and attention to help you shape your message or complete data collection and research. Guest lecturing can be an easy first step to effectively link your previous professional expertise with current coaching practice. For example, a fellow who has been a CFO of two successful global technology firms is working on a lecture for London Business School MBA students. He discusses the challenges of human capital management in the periods of fast-paced transition from startup to an internationally expanding business. This is an excellent example of building social proof. How will he leverage it? He will make sure that when he is marketing his content, he references this work. His network will also add value. Ask people to share your content, join a blog, or read an article. 
The process of consistently creating content and using social media to push it out can establish social proof. Choose your channels and stick to them. Understanding your own experiences and leveraging them can start you on the path of social proof. Know and connect with others who are experts in your space to expand your knowledge and social circles. Your network can introduce you to people in your field and those who may contribute to your content. Dorie recommends using a client’s logos to “show” who you have worked with. A service like Help a Reporter Out can also help you share your expertise and voice as you can be quoted in the area you are trying to build social proof. 
Does this feel overwhelming? Dorie offers a great piece of advice: work in batches to systematize your content creation as you build your social proof with your network. 
When asked what coaches should focus on to build their brand, Dorie replied that a new coach can build their brand “based on the credentials they’ve amassed before becoming a coach.” She recommends exploring your niche, identifying areas of expertise, and creating content around that. In Stand Out, she stresses that when you start with a niche, you can expand into different areas.
A fellow from the legal profession realized he was coaching everyone from associates striving to make the partnership ranks to senior partners transitioning from managing a small team to leading an entire business unit (or practice group, in law parlance). He started his coaching practice and content creation in that niche. For him, that meant lawyers at the largest law firms in the world who were transitioning to new firms. He was working with a client at the time who was going through that very process, so any content he created would be directly relevant as a value add for that client. He then shared excerpts with links to his blog posts with his LinkedIn network, who offered social proof through their engagement with his posts. The network effect kicked in as people in his network began sharing his posts with their networks. Boom! Steps one through three were knocked out simply by writing a relevant blog post that provided helpful insights that his network found valuable enough to share with their networks—Dorie Clark’s thesis in action.

Takeaways for Coaches - Self-coaching Questions:
  1. What aspects of your career can help you build social proof? (e.g., have you taught? published? can you use your career to build on?)
  2. What does your current networking list look like? What works? What actions will help you expand the list?