On Monday, I posted about three elements of personal branding. Today, I want to cover another in more in-depth detail. One that I believe can set us apart, help us stand out and put us further ahead than just about anything else: Subject Matter Mastery. 

All things being equal, people do business with people they know and trust. Here’s the thing, though, things are never equal. Getting hired, getting a promotion or getting the client often comes down to a combination of things and being a subject matter expert can often be the deciding factor.

The good news, however, is that it has never been easier in the history of man to master a subject than it is now. Consider the following tools you have at your disposal:


In a matter of minutes, we can learn to accomplish virtually anything thanks to instructional videos on YouTube. That’s an awesome power, but the real strength of the medium are the thousands and thousands of lecturers available on virtually any subject. Simply taking ten minutes a day to learn something new about our industry can be incredibly beneficial, the fact that we can watch or listen to it as if we were in the room makes it an indispensable tool. 


Gone are the days of waiting for a trade journal to arrive in the mail. Between the digitization of old-line publications like Forbes and Fortune and the emergence of great online periodicals like Inc. and The Huffington Post, there’s more information at our fingertips than ever before. As if these weren’t enough, true subject matter experts are cranking out content on a near daily basis making it even easier to educate ourselves.

Social Media

First of all, I understand the YouTube technically falls into this category, but under this heading, I’m referring more to Facebook and Twitter. Used correctly, these mediums are a great way to pick up new information, industry news, and advice from those who really know what they’re talking about. I used to refer to Facebook as the black hole of productivity, but now, I see it as a useful tool for self-education. 


How old fashioned, right? Wrong! Getting books used to be a real hardship. You either had to buy what you needed or hope that the library had it in their business section. Not anymore. The growing popularity of ebooks makes getting the right information not only convenient but downright simple. Libraries with shared databases make it possible to get almost any title in hardback within a couple of days. These new tools make it simple inexcusable not to be reading today.

Seminars and Conferences

There’s a growing belief that the rise of TED Talks and online seminars are killing live events. This isn’t just misguided, it’s wrong. I love TED. I think it’s a great way to scratch the surface of important topics, but no one can become an expert in 20 minutes. Taking advantage of the seminars and conferences offered by our industries is still one of the most important things we can do to deepen our knowledge and master our subject matter. Networking and being seen at these events only helps to cement the image of someone mastering their craft and it’s impossible to put a price tag on that.

Early in my career, I received a great piece of advice that has always stuck with me. I was told to read compulsively and share selectively. When viewed through the lens of personal branding, this advice is about as good as it gets. Today it’s easier than ever to become a subject matter master, we simply have to use the tools and do the work.


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