Thought Leadership in Action: Priya Huskins, Woodruff & Sawyer

Lessons from a Thought Leader: Priya Huskins, Woodruff-Sawyer & Co.

I had an opportunity last week to speak with Priya Huskins, a partner at Woodruff-Sawyer & Co. and a recognized expert in the world of Directors & Officer Liability Insurance. Priya has a blog, D&O Notebook, that she started publishing in 2013. She is a regular speaker at industry events and authors articles for prestigious journals like the Stanford Law Review and Directors and Boards. I asked her about how she got started with her blog and why she keeps it going year after year. Here’s what I learned.

Think About How You Add Value

Throughout her career, Priya has built a reputation as someone who likes to be of service to those around her. As a result, people she knows frequently connect her with others who need her D&O expertise. Given her busy role as a partner at a large insurance brokerage firm, she must be selective about whom she is able to meet in person. Yet, she still wants to add value for everyone who is referred. To solve this dilemma, she began to publish blog posts on the topics and questions that were most likely to arise. Then, she could spend a few minutes with someone, identify their needs, and refer them to her blog for more information.

Blogging Will Establish You as an Expert

The happy outcome of these posts were many. First, the person seeking her advice was often a CEO or Board member and after they reviewed the post(s), they would often forward them to others in their company. This made it easier for them to bring others up to speed quickly, which was a service to them, and it broadened Priya’s reputation as an expert by bringing her to the attention of senior executives who were potential clients. She discovered that colleagues in her industry, as well as some direct competitors, were subscribing to her blog posts. While this surprised her, it was also flattering to learn she might have an impact with potential clients as well as with others with similar expertise.

Continually Sharpen Your Saw

The discipline of crafting a blog post once a week became a real undertaking that Priya does not take lightly. By Monday night, she commits to completing a post so that it can be reviewed and posted by Wednesday. Her posts have shortened over time to about 600 words, in keeping with shorter attention spans of the public at large. Her weekly blogging schedule has led to an unexpected outcome – it forces her to keep learning, to keep building up her expertise so that she has something new to publish. (Although she admits that not every post is wholly new – some of the content is repurposed over time.) She recognizes that this effort to continually ‘sharpen her saw’ has also helped her stay relevant and valuable to her existing clients and her firm. Because she must learn something new every week, she reads more widely, keeps her ears tuned at conferences for new information and regularly tests her ideas with colleagues and friends to identify differing points of view.

Claim Your Expertise Before Someone Else Does

Priya admitted there have been a few lessons along the way. Early on, when a competitor took one of the slides she had used in a client presentation — which depicted a framework she had developed — and without attribution published it as his own, she was furious. But the larger lesson was, if she didn’t claim her expertise, she risked losing the right to complain. If the content was going to be published anyway, why not copyright it and publicly assert ownership of her own ideas? That was a shift in perspective.

Regularly Rethink How You Add Value

Now rather than keep her expertise only for in-house clients, she recognizes that her ideas should not be seen as proprietary, but instead be shared widely. When she offers value to potential clients and referral sources, this in turn brings value to her and her firm. After all, as an advisor on tricky, hard-to-solve business issues, clients hire her to apply her framework or ideas to their particular problem, not for the framework itself. Thus, the more widely she is known as the author of these ideas the better. What better win-win is there?

What Can You Do to Get Started?

What can you learn from Priya’s experience? Think about how your expertise could be of value to others. Begin to compile the most frequently asked questions that you receive. Write short articles or blog posts to share your expertise in response to those questions. If your organization doesn’t have a blog, post your ideas on LinkedIn Pulse or Medium or compile them into articles and add them to your LinkedIn page. Make it known to others around you that you are happy to be of service to those who need your expertise. Make 2016 the year you become known as the go-to expert in your niche.

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