You know how, sometimes, you’re reading a conference line-up, trying to decide whether you’ll attend or not, and you see a name you’ve never seen, or heard, before? Happens to me every now and then. I like to think I know more than a few people in our “biz,” but sometimes I can’t help but go, “You, who?”

Yes, I get excited by events that are being headlined by the rock stars of our industry, or the folks I call the “WHOs.” These are the folks who – at least to me – are the real deal, not just big fish in whichever echo chamber they’ve taken up residence. They have terrific experiences and lessons to share, and it gives me a kick to meet them.

What I’ve started finding lately, though, is that the “whos” are often more exciting to me than the “WHOs.” Because they share new ideas and have fresh voices – the stuff that keeps our profession growing and relevant. And I’d really like to see and hear from more of them.

If there’s one thing you can do for yourself as a communicator and our profession at the same time, it’s to share what you know. Because that’s the only way others will learn, and we can continue to shape the body of knowledge that future generations will draw on. And what good are all those great ideas if you keep them inside yourself?

So if you’re a “who,” here’s my challenge to you: start doing something TODAY that will take you from a “who” to a “WHO.” Get involved with your local IABC or PRSA chapter. Look for and speak at local events. Share your thoughts on Twitter or your blog. Better yet, do both.

If you’re a “WHO,” are you paying it forward? Are you reaching to the “whos” of our world to help them climb the ladder you did so successfully?

Take it from a former “who” not quite a “WHO.” And if you won’t take it from me, take it from Smokie. Don’t be Alice… or the guy who lived next door to her.

Whether “who” or “WHO,” how have you been helped? What tips can you offer those trying to break the thought leadership ceiling? Do share, I’d love to know.

Photo: sfdavidz

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps purpose-driven brands bring big ideas to life. She teaches at The Johns Hopkins University, has gone back to school herself with the Harvard Business Analytics Program, and is creator/lead instructor at The Social PR Virtuoso® online training hub , where ambitious PR pros learn how to unleash their inner Social PR superheroes. Owned by Lola the Basset Hound, she's mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke