Aren’t expertise and authority the same thing?

It’s a subtle difference, but it’s an important one.

An expert is someone who has exhaustive knowledge about a particular area. In the case of a marketing agency, you can claim expertise if you have a thorough understanding of social media marketing, content marketing, etc. If you’ve actually managed to launch and maintain a successful marketing agency, you’re assuredly an expert.

But don’t start congratulating yourself yet.

With a modest investment of time and money, anyone can become an expert in the modern era. Online workshops and certifications make it easy to learn a new field, which means experts in many areas (marketing included) are now a dime a dozen.

Sorry. Expertise just ain’t what it used to be, kids.

An authority, on the other hand, is someone who has the savvy to actually disrupt and alter a field though imaginative and surprising insights. Yes, an authority has expertise. An authority knows what she’s talking about. She knows her business, her industry, and her market. But she’s not satisfied with knowing. She wants to improve traditional methods and challenge conventional wisdom.

To put it another way, in a crowd of experts, the authority sets the bar for expertise.

Does your marketing agency’s blog reflect expertise or authority?

If you’re not sure, compare your agency’s blog with any other agency’s blog. How similar are your topics? What about your titles? Are you sharing the same insights slightly re-packaged? Or are you shaking things up with posts that offer a new take on the same old subjects?

Are you bored writing your agency’s blog posts?


If that’s the case, you may be stuck in expert mode. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being an expert. I like to think I’m an expert myself. But wouldn’t you like to be more? Wouldn’t you like to exercise authority? To say something different? To change minds and sway hearts? Don’t you want to stand out from the other experts?

How to shift from expert to authority mindset

As a copywriter, I have the opportunity on a daily basis to spend time dabbling in multiple industries. On one day, I might be learning about the effects of saltwater on welded joints for an industrial fabrication firm. The next, I’ll be tackling the best lighting for food photography.

Playing expert in a variety of fields (which is essentially the job of a copywriter) creates an ideal atmosphere for cross-pollination, and cross-pollination is one way to cultivate an authority mindset. When you compare notes with experts in other fields, you begin to see your own industry in a new light. When you pay attention to how innovators in other professions disrupt their industries, you’ll get ideas for how to make waves in your own pool.

Experts stick to what they know. They know it well, and that’s great. But sometimes knowing something well prevents you from seeing new possibilities.

Get out of your comfort zone. Read widely. Listen to experts in other fields. Take a new approach to an old problem. Don’t be afraid of screwing up. That’s how you shift from expertise to authority.

What are you doing to establish yourself as an industry authority?