These days, the general public gets the bulk of its information from peer-driven news feeds instead of corporate-driven news channels. The public places more trust in technical experts, academic experts, and people like themselves than media, government, and corporate executives. While this may be less-than-stellar news for our longstanding social institutions, this is excellent news for brands looking to branch out.

Why? When trust is hard to come by, you have the opportunity to reach out to a small targeted audience and build long-term relationships based on real needs and solutions, not hype. Many thought leaders have achieved this with their large numbers of devoted followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

You can access the sphere of influence these types of thought leaders have in your industry by aligning with them to endorse each other’s brands, expand your audience reach, and create opportunities to increase sales. Here are a few ways to get started.

Tap your in-house influencers

Your employees are an A-list roster of subject matter experts at your fingertips, from customer service representatives to sales managers, engineers, and executives. Position them to share industry trends, answers to problems your audience is searching for online, and bits and pieces of your company’s inherent value. The Digital Age made self-publishing not only acceptable but credible. Take advantage of this opportunity to control the conversation.

Cross-blog promotion

Similar to how publications feature regular column writers, help your audience gain insight from like-minded people by inviting an industry peer to regularly contribute to your blog. Whether the guest post appears once a month or once a quarter, it will stand out, give your audience value and legitimize your brand. Return the favor by offering a guest post for their blog, or, at a minimum, link to their web properties often.

Featured speaker series

Panel discussions and workshops are excellent ways to attract new prospects, tackle industry issues, and get multiple experts in one room to discuss a problem with actionable solutions. Select trending topics that shy away from sounding like a sales pitch, and give the audience something they can take back to the office and implement immediately.

Form a team of champions

Are you trying to make new waves in your industry? Shake up established perceptions to make room for innovation? You need an inside group of well-connected influencers to vet ideas and share experiences. Then, externally you can show the solidarity needed to incite any long-term change.

Strategic sponsorships

Don’t support just any local event or initiative because you want to contribute to the economic vitality of your community. When you stand behind something that can deliver leads and grow your business, the impact is much greater when you commit time and creativity to promoting it. Develop an event or participate in one that attracts your target audience, covers a topic they are passionate about, and naturally gives you the opportunity to introduce your product or service.

What tactics are you employing to engage industry influencers? What have you learned from these efforts?