B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast
B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast

Episode 2076 · 4 months ago

The 4 Pillars of Thought Leadership Your SME's Must Have

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode, Dan Sanchez talks to A shley Faus about her entire thought leadership process as the Content Strategy Lead at Atlassian. 

Yeah, welcome back to BBB growth. I'm danSanchez, my friends call me dan says, and I'm here with Ashley Fathers, whois the content strategy lead at Atlassian Ashley, welcome to the show.Hey, good to be here. So today we are diving into Thought Leadership again,because that is the series that we're on, that's the deep dive we're doing inthe month of june if you're just jumping into this episode, maybe it'syour first time listening, but we like to do a deep dive every other month.And this time I was especially excited about doing thought leadership. It's atopic that I got into probably just a year ago and I've been readingeverything I can about it. I've almost read every book and and now I'm excitedto talk to all the practitioners out there, the people who get to do thisfor a living, whether their authors or people like Ashley who are in the thickof it at the lassie and creating thought leadership content day in dayout, orchestrating the programs. So I have some very exciting things that Iwas just talking to Ashley about kind of the pre call era area of this showin order to kick off today's episode. But before we do Ashley, I'd love toknow a little bit more about how you got into thought leadership. Like howdid your journey evolve in marketing to land in a place where you're coming upwith thought leadership content all the time. Yeah, so I started and have havehad a number of kind of marketing, generalist roles at a bunch of smallcompanies. And so because of that, I've been tasked with creating a variety ofdifferent types of content. I've been kind of the voice of the day to dayperson behind a ceo's twitter account and a company twitter account and avariety of executive twitter accounts, for example. Thinking about how do wemarket books from these people? Okay, how do we translate that and make aconnection between a product or service and the thought leadership? Well that'sa lot easier to do if I'm also close to the thought leadership content and kindof the original ideas that fueled those seminal works. So I ended up in it moreout of a necessity that hey, I'm doing a lot of these fragmented pieces. Sohow do I bring all those pieces together into a cohesive program and acohesive strategy? And was there something about thought leadershipcontent that drew you into making that kind of content? There's lots ofdifferent types of content that can be made, right? There's customer stories,there's asking prospective buyers questions and answering them rightthere is coming up with related categories that your customers like tohear about, you know, so how was Thought leadership? The thing thatkicked it off so early early even when I was getting my undergraduate degree,I was like I never want to sell anything to anybody and that soundscounterintuitive for a marketer, right? Like I think is a market or my job isto match problems and solutions not to sell you something that you don't need,so if I don't have a solution for you then I should not trick you into buyingsomething. And so when you look at a lot of thought leadership content umand you think about this, you know how how that works, it's really aboutbuilding relationships and building trust and so that dovetails reallynicely with kind of my values of I don't want to sell anything to anybodynow, yes, there are often product stories or service stories or companystories that get included in those things, but when you think aboutteaching people and empowering people to solve problems, the type of contentthat that tends to be generally is more thought leadership content versus, youknow, sales enablement or a case study um from from a specific customer orsomething like that. It's interesting. I can almost go into a whole othertopic around why you don't want to sell anything. I'm like, oh my gosh, did youjust say that out loud on a marketing podcast? I don't know if you're allowedto say that, that's all another episode right there later, but I kind of get itlike thought leadership content often doesn't sell and shouldn't sell. It'sdefinitely on the branding side trying to create a perception of the companyright usually to create, you know, demand to try to get people interestedin who you are and your thoughts right, That lead to sales eventually, which isa big part of setting up the sale. So...

...we're still driving back to sales, evenif you don't like to make it yourself, but I don't know, maybe maybe youshould, then I don't know. Well, and it's interesting. I mean, I think thatbuyers are so much smarter these days and they can do so much more of theirresearch without marketers kind of jumping in and trying to tackle them.And so if you put the content out there, you make it available and you, youtreat your audience as if they're intelligent, that's going to, that'sgoing to increase your sales cycle by the time they finally raise their handand say, Hey, I'm actually running by, um, that's gonna close your sales a lotfaster. It's going to give you a better retention, all those things. So again,if you actually did it, the statement, it's maybe not as controversial. Do youwant to, do you want to do marketing? So good that people are just like takemy money, You don't have to convince them of anything. They're just like,just please help me. Like I want you with me way more than I want this moneyright now. Exactly. That's exactly, that's still always good sales to, Ithink good sales people would say the same thing that they're, they'reservants helping them and if they happen to, you know, if it happens tobe a good fit, then they're just going to say like, well yeah, let's moveforward, right? So I think it's a good marketing sales principle. So whenyou're setting up thought leadership content, who do you usually like tobuild thought leadership around? Do you like to build it around a logo? Do youlike to build around a person if if a person who in the company do you liketo position as the thought leader? Yeah. So I think my kind of hot take onthis is that actually a lot of people focus on the C suite or execs arefounders. And in a lot of cases I would argue that those people are actuallypretty terrible thought leaders for a couple of reasons, they don't have timeto do actual work in terms of the innovation and codifying it and sharingit and making it repeatable and then they also don't have time to share thatwork. So I have kind of a thought leadership framework, it's got fourpillars, credibility, build a profile, be prolific and depth of ideas and Ceosand kind of execs and founders. The thing that they tend to have isbasically just a fancy title and so in some cases like, oh, incredible becauseyou have a fancy title, but if you look at the recent Edelman Trust barometer,you see that actually Ceos are some of the most untrusted people and likespokespeople in general, the assumption is like, well of course you would saythat you're literally the ceo of the company, like you're paid to say that.And so even if it's something that doesn't directly sell, there's stillthis perception that they're not trustworthy and maybe they're not ascredible, right? And then from a profile standpoint, you know, there offrunning the company, they don't really have time to go out and speak or writeor beyond social media from a depth of ideas standpoint, they're notparticularly close to the work. Um they're getting pitched ideas all dayevery day. They're doing budget allocations, they're having to godefend things to the board, they're not actually close to the work and kind ofwhat's changing on the forefront. And then in terms of obviously beingprolific and building a profile like those things go hand in hand, you can'tyou can't get followers, which would make you a leader if you're not beingprolific, you know, and giving those followers something to consume. So Iwould say I would probably focus more on kind of practitioners that are inthat like 10-15 years of experience. I do think there's kind of two paths tocreating this content. You can either build a person or you can build a story,and I think those both have pros and cons to them um that we can talk aboutobviously as we as we dig into this. I loved a lot of things you just said, Iwant to circle back around to your kind of four step process. But before I do Ijust want to concur that I've I've interviewed a lot of marketers for theshow, some of which are Ceos and I do find that ceos are kind of disconnectedfrom the work, even if they were marketers at one point, they're justnot in it anymore. Some are I've met that I'm like, wow. Like no, he's stillgot it, she still got it, but most of...

...them are disconnected from the work andhonestly promoting their own company more than like the actual topic. Um Soactually don't take requests from Ceos for this show anymore, if you stillhear a lot of Ceos and it's usually because we're reaching out to themversus them reaching out to us. Sorry if I offended any ceos, but of coursethis is a B two B marketing, so should we like to talk to B two B marketers?So I'm in agreement with you, I'm like, I could see that. Um and of course itmakes sense if you're in like, I think chris walker says this all the time,like he was in medical text, so it doesn't make sense to set up the ceoselling to doctors, he's not a doctor, so go find a doctor and make him theface of the company, right? Because that's what we're going to trust. Yeah,well, and again, if you think about that, it's funny you say like doctorswant to talk to doctors, that was literally one of the categories in thetrust barometer from Edelman was like, I most trust someone like myself, andit's like, yes, that's why a practitioner with 10 to 15 years ofexperience, like, you know, dan between us, we probably heard about the samestage of our career will probably have, you know, done similar types of work. Itrust you, you trust me because it's like, oh yes, I see that she's doingthis and she's like me, right? So, you know, we've got some differences, butif I had come in and it was like, oh, I just graduated yesterday, you'd be like,have you done this before? Probably not. It's like, you see, I've been doingthis for over a decade, right? I've interviewed some, like people fresh onthe scene to, and there's definitely a difference why we take a focus ondirectors and VP of marketing for a reason because they're just high enoughthat they've earned some stripes, but they're still close enough to the dirtto uh, know what it's like to build a facebook ad campaign from scratch,right? It's just a different. So I get that. So come back to your, your fourstep process. I like wrote it down, but you said it so fast, I didn't even getto it. Also repeat it for the, for me and for the audience. Like what wasyour, what was your four step process? Yeah. So one thing I want to clarify isit's not four steps in a linear fashion. It's a kind of four pillar. Like youhave to build all the pillars in tandem. So the first pillar is aroundcredibility and this is, do people believe what you say? Do people thinkyou know what you're talking about? Do they generally trust you? The secondpillar is around building a profile. So this is about how widely you're knownand the nature of those connections. So if you look at people who don't have abig profile, it tends to be that the people who know them know thempersonally, they've worked together, it's their friends, their family. Whenyou look at people with a big profile, it's more of like 90 of the people knowthem, but they don't know those people back. So that's kind of one, just gutcheck of like, do you have a big profile or small profile? The thirdpiece is around being prolific. So if you look at some of the, you know,throughout history, the people that we would consider to be thought leadersare pioneers in their field, they wrote, or they painted or they built or theycreated every single day. And so when you look at that from a businesscontext, you see that people are creating different types of contentthey're sharing in different types of places and they're doing that on aregular basis. It's not a media blitz around, you know, a big product launch,it's no they're out there sharing all the time. And then the fourth pillar isaround depth of ideas, so this is kind of a novelty factor, are you doing newthings? One thing that I have shared that I think also strikes people as alittle like, oh, that's interesting, is that the way these pillars work as youkind of work your way up, right? Like there's three levels, I would arguethat you can be an effective thought leader at the kind of, innovating onthe tactics level, innovating on the strategy level, and it's rare thatyou're gonna have somebody innovating or sharing novel things at thevisionary level. In a lot of cases, if you're that visionary, you've probablyalready got the other things happening too. But when you think about, I mean,again, the show is a perfect example where you want people who have thetactics and the strategies, not just this big vision of, oh, in 10 years,this fancy thing will happen. It's like, Okay, but what's going to happen in thenext 12 months? And how do I move my programs forward or move my businessforward based on innovative tactics or...

...innovative strategies? The visionarywants tough because that gets a lot of people in trouble. Right? And a lot ofpeople were thought leaders and then became not thought leaders because,well, they're visions were wrong, right? It happens a lot. You're funny, you'refour things. I'm like, oh, it's so similar. Actually built a similarframework, but I have three and there's overlap between them essentially saidlike, you're not an authentic thought leader unless you're an expert, likeyou kind of know everything there is, you're contributing unique and usefulideas and you're an authority on the topic, as in, like you said, you'recredible people believe you, but I have to kind of have two in mind, like whatyour credibility and prolific car. I'm just kind of capturing an authority,right? People believe you and they like you both those things. So you need allthose ingredients to have a thought to be a thought leader. I'm curious whenyou're looking for that and at last and or maybe in past jobs in the future,Like are you looking for people who are currently already have all those thingsor people who just have the potential for those things? I'm open to both. SoI've been in the very fortunate position in a couple of in the pastcompany where the person was already a thought leader. So when I worked atDuarte, I worked very closely with nancy Duarte and helping to launch her,was it fourth book? I think it was her fourth book illuminate, working veryclosely with her To continue to expand. She was one of the first prior tolinkedin, opening up basically their whole platform for people to be able topublish. She was one of the original 400 influencers on linkedin that wasallowed to publish long form content. So I helped her build that program andhelped her think through how do we connect the ideas that are in yourbooks to the service offerings, to what you're trying to share next and how dowe make those connections? So in that case she was already a thought leader,I was able to come in and it was basically tasked with like, cool, we'vedone all this great stuff, How do we turn that into business and how do wekeep it going from an Alaskan perspective? We have a number of peoplewho are already, you know, great spokespeople, they're super smart, theyhave big followings, they appear in a lot of places, right? They check allthe boxes, what we realize is that maybe we don't have the biggest benchor the deepest bench of people and as we start looking at going into newmarkets and telling new stories, do we have people lined up that can tellthose stories because we've already built these great people that havecredibility and kind of one area in terms of topics, but they don'tnecessarily have that credibility to go into another topic. So what do we needto build from the ground up? And I was fortunate to work one of my colleagues,he has an excellent reputation internally, He's freaking smart, likesuper smart, you get in a room with him and just like, do you know things likehow do you make these connections? And he had started to make thoseconnections outside of it last year, but when you look at his profile forexample, so what we do is we set a baseline and we score people based onhow they're doing and I've got a couple of numbers that make sense for us interms of how many followers do you have on different social platforms? How muchcontent are you creating or being featured in per month? What's thenature of the outlets that feature you? Right. And so when you look at it, hewas in that kind of smaller profile area of personally knowing people. Soum he would get brought in by a friend to share, his expertise at, say, a meetup And so what we were able to do with him is to start getting him sharing onsocial more regularly and then honing in on the specific stories and topicsthat he would cover, so that we could build that credibility with more, youknow, conferences, press, working with partners if they had, you know, guestblog or podcast or something like that that he could be featured on because hewas very high on the depth of ideas, but he wasn't sharing and because hewasn't sharing, he didn't have a following. So his profile was not verybig. He also has a practitioner with 20 years experience, has a solid title,managing a big team, so he's high on that credibility piece as well. Yeah,it's really interesting that current title and what they're doing is such abig factor. More than PhD more than...

...awards. That's that's the thing you'rekind of using as the benchmark and I guess that makes sense because you're,you're looking at like, well where you're at right now, it gives context,right? For where you're at and like you said, even before, I think before, Idon't know if you've said this on the show already, but like people want toget advice from peers often, but piers that are farther ahead than them. Butwe're maybe once where they were or like in a similar stage maybe, andmaybe just doing a lot better. Right? Rather than people were likeprofessional thought leaders who just essentially always on a never endingspeaking circuit. Right? Right. So one thing I'd like to hear about isif you were given $10,000 sorry, not $10,000. If you're giving 10 X thebudget as I'm sure your budgets a lot more than $10,000 you were given 10 Xthe budget. What would you do differently at Atlanta? And if youwanted to grow at last season's thought leadership? Yeah. So I if I had 10 Xthe budget, I would basically pair I would do a 1 to 1 pairing of amarketing generalist with a thought leader. Um and I would say that forboth kind of more niche topics that are kind of technical in nature as well asbrand level topics. So at last time what that means for us, we cover a lotof agile and devops topics. That's what I tend to be responsible for in mycurrent role. Like finding people with the chops that have that depth acrossall of those topics is really hard and a lot of cases, once you find them,they're not because it's not their expertise, they're not that great atsocial, they're not that great at writing. They struggle to put togethera presentation. A marketing generalist can come in and say you just, you tellme what expertise you have, let's codify those ideas and then I can goaway as the generalist and break that up into 100 social posts for you to getscheduled or five conference pitches and hey, I can reconfigure this deck orlet's turn those into modular stories that can be told to press conferences,you know, across social media, you know, in writing as a vlog series and then sowe can package it up as an ultimate guide. But so, and so, and then we canbreak it apart. Right? So I would do that as a 1 to 1 pairing, Same thingfor brand level topics, obviously things like remote work, future workcollaboration, teamwork, etcetera. Um same thing. The people who are buildingout all of those massive programs and practices, they do not have time totranslate their internal facing what is essentially thought leadership to beappropriate for an external audience. But a marketing generalists can come inand do all of that kind of packaging for that person. So does the subjectmatter expert need to be full time thought leader, doing nothing buttalking in front of a camera and mic. I would say that having the subjectmatter experts doing that as a portion of their time and depending on the sizeof the company and depending on what your goals are and depending on whatthat person is doing is their day job. I struggle a little bit to say how muchof their time they need to put into that, whether it's, you know, 20% 50%etcetera, I think it can also scale depending on the needs of the company,right? So if you are obviously we have a large conference called Team 2021 soa number of our leadership and you know, practitioners or spokespeople speak atthat conference, obviously around that time we tend to do a lot of press, wetend to do a lot of social, there's a lot of stuff, so the blitz in that case,they may have to spend 50 to 70% of their time honing the story, prepping,sharing, writing, etcetera for that event. But then it may scale down to be20% of their time or 10% of their time going forward. But I would say that youdefinitely don't want them just out there speaking all the time, becausethen to your point, they start to lose that connection again, that depth ofideas pillar, they start to lose that. And that's why I say all the pillarshave to work in tandem. Like you can get a lot of followers if you do somenot safe for work or not on brand things right? Like people will followyou to watch you be a train wreck, but that damages your credibility andobviously there's no depth, right? If...

...you're only just heads down and you'redoing the best work in your building your own bank account or your own valuefor the team or your own value for a company, but you're not sharing it andyou're not being prolific, you're not going to build a profile and you're notgoing to have that external credibility, so they have to work in tandem and itmakes a lot of sense because obviously just getting in front of a microphone,um even for an hour a day and talking whether by an interview, like theamount of work it takes the marketer to like record that, publish it andsplinter it up into all the different pieces is literally the rest of the day.So if you had them like six hours of the day, like producing content for themarket or to go to like package and market, Like you're gonna overwhelmeven one marketer at a 1-1 relationship. So that makes a lot of sense. Andactually it's a pretty good case considering like most people have onethought leadership content marketer and usually they're creating thoughtleadership for multiple people on the executive team, but it's probably notenough, it could probably just focus on one person, but if you only had enoughbudget for one thought leadership kind of content marketer, how would you dothat? Would you just focus on the one or would you have that person focusedon multiple subject matter experts? Yeah, I would, I would go ahead andhave them focus on multiple people for a couple of reasons. One is that, as Imentioned, just having us having all of that hinge on a single person. Like dothey ever get to take vacation? What if they get sick? What if they have achild and they need to take leave for, you know, to raise their kids for acouple of months, right? Like there's so many things that are not bad. Thebiggest risk is everyone's concerned. Like, oh what if that person leaves?And I'm like okay, but there's shorter term great things that are good for allof us that they should do, they should take vacation, they should raise theirkids, they should, you know, take sick time if they're sick. So that's oneissue is that you do need to have kind of a bench of people. The second pieceof that is the how many kind of topics you have the credibility to talk aboutand one person can only be an expert in so many things. And I've even had thisin my career, like prior to kind of my focus in over the last several years, Iwas doing everything. So I did events, I did demand jin I was in marquette orhubspot. I don't do that anymore. I'm the wrong person to ask if you'reworkflow logic is correct in marquette or hubspot. I understand wheretraditional demand in fits into an overall marketing strategy. Iunderstand the connections between kind of content marketing and demand in. ButI do not have the credibility anymore to speak about in depth dimension. Andso if again, let's say I worked at hubspot, I would be a great person tospeak about the content marketing side. The thought leadership side. I couldprobably hold my own on social media, but you don't want me to be, you needsomebody else to be that demand in person. And so if you try to have thatspokesperson be all in one again, you're going to lose that depth ofideas and you're going to struggle on the credibility side, even if they'revery prolific because they can kind of talk about a bunch of different things.So that's why I would also say building the same building people and makingsure that they are credible and in the topics that you as a company, No, youwant to address over the next Call it 12-36 months. It's interesting. So, doyou find a person that you think is a good candidate and help them find theirniche to become that public face? Or do you reverse engineer it? Like you findthe niche you want to cover and then you look around for the person who canbe that thought leader. I've done it both ways. So we and and we've donethis kind of both ways at last and where we've said, let's find the storyand then say, okay, we need a couple of different people to be able to tellthat story. So if we think about obviously at last and the last one is avery engineering heavy company, right? We do sas we do collaboration, we dosoftware. So the engineering from a recruiting standpoint, from a buyerstandpoint. from a user standpoint, all...

...of those things are very important tous. So having just one person be the face in quotes of at last anengineering is gonna be really hard. So in that case we decided, here's thestory we want to tell around engineering. Here's a couple ofdifferent people who have, you know, great expertise or maybe they'vealready already high and at least one pillar. So now we just need to figureout what to build across the other pillars to make them acceptable or goodthought leaders for us around engineering. So in that case we wefocused more on building the story and finding the people, we've had othercases where we found someone, you know, or or somebody already had a followingor they were already very good at this. And so then at that point we were justlike, all right, cool. We just need to kind of supply you with a few. We needto help you hone your story in a way that makes sense for our goals. But westill want you to be out there talking about different things in your ownvoice, applying your own lens to it, those kinds of things. That's kind ofan interesting point on you hit there where you're honing their story, right?A piece of advice. And I've mentioned this in this series already. A piece ofadvice that honestly drives me crazy on linked in all the time is, uh, that Iit's just wrong in my opinion, is just be you just be yourself and you're like,what am I supposed to do with that? What like, how do I craft that? It'slike, so hearing you say like, no, we honed their story is not just just beyou advice. It's like, no, like it's not like we made up a story, you'reprobably going in and looking for what part of their journey actually lines upwith what the story, the message we want to tell. Yeah, yeah, so there's acouple ways that we do that in. I have kind of another framework within theframework kind of thing. And this dovetails a lot with my kind of mygeneral mindset around content strategy and that's focusing on differentcontent depths. So looking at the conceptual, strategic and tacticallevels of an idea. And so when we get in, usually whenever I do these workingsessions with people, you know, we get in and I'm just like, tell me all thethings that you're interested in or that you're working on, like, let's getit all out, and then let's start to talk about okay, going forward over thenext 12 to 24 months, which of these things do you think you've got enoughto say to fill up? You know, one blog post per month, five linkedin posts permonth to presentation abstracts. And when you start to frame it up that way,people immediately can see like, oh, it's this thing over here, and I'm like,why is that? Well, this idea, and then they start talking and you recognize,okay, they've got the big idea at the conceptual level, They understand theprocess is the key knowledge components, the capabilities, the tools that youneed at a strategic level to make that idea reality. And then obviouslythey've got examples or case studies or workflows or tips at the tactical levelbased on how that fits into the strategy and all ladders up. So whenyou look at that, the likelihood that somebody has more than maybe three ofthose levels of ideas that they could really, it's got the legs and they can,they can go up down that hole, you know, conceptual and tactical and strategic,in fact to tactical and strategic right? Like it's rare that you're gonna findsomebody that's just so broader, prolific or whatever, they can gobeyond kind of more than three ideas. The second thing that I do is I do apersonal branding section and this tends to be for a lot of people whoaren't marketers, the most scary thing. I sit down with them and they're like,you just tell me one of the first things I'm like, what do you wear? Howdo you dress? And they're like, I'll wear whatever you, whatever you tell me.You know, I just, whatever you tell me to do, I'll just do that. And I'm like,no, no, no, no, I have no answers here. I do not have an agenda legitimately.Do you wear polos? Do you wear button ups? Do you wear t shirts? And like, 11of the people I was working with, um he started out with that, like, oh, youjust tell me I'll do whatever you say. And so we started going through, andhe's like, well, actually, I I don't really like the color red. I'm like,great, you don't wear red, got it. He's...

I mean, I can wear red. I'm like, no,you know, we're red, put it on the list, and he's like, also, I don't reallylook that great in hats, I'm just, I'm just not a big fan of hats. I was like,great, you don't wear hats, like, I mean, I can wear hats, like, again,once we get into it, you have preferences. So you tell me what thoseare and and same thing on the how open or how personal, like how truthful areyou? Do you share about failures or mistakes in the moment or do you waituntil it's cleaned up with a tiny bow? Both ways work. You can do it eitherway, but you need to decide like do you share about your kids? Do you, do youshare about your spouse? Do you share about your family? Do you show picturesof them on social media or in conferences? Again, there is not aright answer, but you need to choose because if you start doing all of thisstuff now and then what you know, hopefully the goal is that you have abig audience and all of a sudden you're like, actually I wish I hadn't sharedthat photo of my husband. Well, kind of should have found that six months agobefore you spoke to a crowd of 1000 people and flash that picture up ofyour kids, your husband, right? So that, you know, I I talk about this to evenin some of my stories where you know, my husband will hear me rehearsing forsomething and I'm like, I don't want you to listen because you lived thiswith me and I'm telling a story. And again, it's not a lie. It's just nobodywants to hear about the two year journey. They want to make it smart tobe. But for him, he knows it was two years and the fact that I'm able totell in five minutes, something's missing, right? So in my case, I have Ihave made the trade off on the spectrum of you know, every detail 100% truthfulexactly how it happened with. I'm going to tell the right story to the rightperson at the right time. I mean part of being authority and being prolificis being trust is being trusted and usually people trust you more. If JamesCarberry, the founder of Swedish Media, is the one who really taught me this,he's like, you have to put little hooks out there for people to identify withyou and it's not the thing, it's not your expertise. Yes, they're coming toyou to here to you. But he's like, there's a reason why I tell everybodythat like my ambition in life is to live as many days as possible withoutwearing shoes. He's like, I'm a flip flop guy. I live in florida, like he'slike, I hate Pepsi and I don't wear shoes. He's like, I zero fan and I likeSwedish fish. Trust me, there's a lot of people that I just defended andthere's a lot of people that are like, yes, amen coke zero. And he's like thePepsi people could probably get over it. But I trust me. Like all the coke zerofans were probably like, this is my man, you know, hundreds of little thingslike that just like, and they're all, yeah, let's just talk about that. Pepsiis the worst among team coke to um, it's sweet fish. We have debatesbecause not everybody's on team coke even though James and I are, I don'tknow how they got hired. Come on, come on. I know I probably should, but Jamesis too nice. He lets team Pepsi on I guess. I don't know. I guess everybodydeserves a chance. It's questionable though. So it's interesting. It's howdo you go about identifying which things are worth highlighting whichthings are? Because there's clearly like, you don't want to make up fakestuff just because it's trendy, like, oh, they're into this because that'skind of a trending topic. No, they're not into this and you don't addressthem and stuff, they're not comfortable because that would be an authentic andthey're probably not going to perform that well on stage or in front of a micif they're wearing something that's like they never wear that. But then howdo you go about finding the things that create kind of a unique image? What doyou look for? I think the biggest thing is digging into their actual experienceand then kind of almost playing that five. Why? Question or asking what next?What next? Right. So, for example, talking about people who, it's like,man, you know, I remember back in the day where we, one of the people I usedto uh was working with, they had a story about you, the wifi was so bad inthe office when it was like, oh, we...

...first opened this office and I was like,like that wifi was terrible, and I was like, tell me about that. And then like,you literally had to like turn the router upside down and like, put it onthe window sill. But then every night the cleaning crew would come in andlike move it off the window sill. And so every morning there was a wholeritual that somebody had to go in and turn the wifi router and you're justlike, that's ridiculous, right? So when you think about, let's talk aboutscaling a company and you say, yeah, you used to have to take your meetingsin the bathroom because there wasn't a conference room. Do you happen to havea picture of that? Like surely someone took a picture of that? Oh in fact, Ido have a picture of that. Perfect. That's your opener for talking aboutscaling a company and saying, I don't know how many of you have ever had totake a call on a freaking bathroom, but it sucks right. Like the acoustics, theecho of the whole thing. And so that's the jumping off point because somebodyin the audience has had to take a call from a bathroom. Half the people in theaudience have never done that and it bottles their mind right when you thenfast forward and it's fine to say fast forward five years and now we're inthis high rise office, it's fancy we have all of these things but we'restill dealing with our servers from that time period and the other half ofthe audience that's never taken a call in the bathroom but understands aboutoutdated infrastructure is like, man, I wish I do not have to deal with theseinfrastructure concerns, I feel you. And then that's that same pain. Right?So from my perspective, it's finding those moments that if there's picturesor if their stories and you can tell, I mean their demeanor changes. I hadsomebody say this to me the other day, they were asking me about like, wellwhat do you want to talk about on this podcast for this conference? And so Istarted listening to things I could talk about and they're like, whoa, goback that one you got really excited. Like you smiled and you lit up andyou're talking with your hands, That's the one. And so again, giving peoplethat permission to say, here's kind of the high level goals that I need totalk about. But when that's broad enough to say engineering orstorytelling, I'm really trying to find what is the thing that you genuinelylike? Not everything you've ever done. Not everything that the company isselling. No, Why did you come here? Like what problem did you actually comehere to solve and why are you excited about that problem? That prompt alsotends to get people like, well, let me tell you if you know what happened inthis situation. And I'm like, in fact, I don't please tell me what happened inthis situation that changed your mind. Even if you're dealing with like afounder for example, and you're like, no, they have to be the face, ask themwhat happened that made them so mad that they left whatever it was theywere doing at that moment and started the company. What was that? Becausethat's the interesting part. Not. And then we made this company with 10features, like nobody freaking cares about your features, that they careabout the features. They'll go to the website, do the checklist right? Towatch the Webinar, they'll do a demo. But what what made you so mad that youjust dropped whatever you were doing and you came to solve this problem? Andthen how did you go about validating that other people have this problem?How did you go about validating that nobody else was solving it the rightway? Right? That's the interesting part, ma'am. That is such a good frameworkfor answering and figuring out someone's backstory essentially. Likewhy, why why why just asking the question so many times that you finallyget to the root of why they did what they did? Uh Sometimes I run intopeople who started have started companies. This is kind of like morefounder centric, like why do you start the company? They're like, well becauseI was assessing the market and it just seemed like a really good market to getinto, but there's always a little bit more than you being opportunistic andfinding it, you know, you kind of have to want to get into that industry andthere's usually more more there. Um what do you do to find things thataren't like related to this story, memorable things? How do you makepeople memorable?...

So this is where the if I had 10x. Thebudget, I would pair one marketer to one thought later. Because the only wayI found to do it is for, and this is like my personal experience is togenuinely no the person and to also love the things that they love to fallin love with, the same things that they fell in love with. And you can only dothat by spending time together and that ability to walk and talk, that abilityto watch them, that ability to lurk on their calendar, like that closeness,that's how you get the interesting stuff, you know? And yes, you canmanufacture it, you can come up with the right questions, like I can say allday long, oh, here's my 10 questions. But if you watch me when I do what I doto pull stuff out of people, and it means the same thing you're doing onthis podcast, like you're talking to me, you're seeing how things go you'rehearing, and then you're riffing, You don't have your proper list of 10questions to have a good podcast interview. And so that's a hardquestion because I wish I could tell you that there is a formula for it. Andthe formula is you actually have to know them and you actually have to careabout them and you actually have to love what they love. And there's just Ito get the best kind of content are the best person out there. There is not asubstitute, there's not a handy pity framework, there's not soundbites,there's no there's no way to get that unless you genuinely know them. It'sinteresting. I wonder what the kind of a model that I'm currently using as ashortcut because I think what you're saying is right and true, Like findingthe things that you can only find if you spend a lot of time with them. Buta shortcut I'm taking with our even our employees, we have a link to anevangelist program. It's not quite a thought leadership program, but we'retrying to get them out there. Made content could be a good stepping stoneto being a thought leader is I'm having to come up with ideas about like whatare things that you're passionate about that? Like lots of people arepassionate about for James coke zero. I mean I didn't ask him that question. Hewas already talking about that on linkedin quite a bit, but for newemployees, I'm just like, give me three things that you love that. Like it'slike everybody loves this, Is it Disney, is it coke? Is it like what is it? Andthen give me some things that you love that are just kind of like weird, right?There's gonna be a few people that even understand what that is and it's goingto work and I like just finding a mix of them and then hopefully blendingthat into there little mini brand identities and somehow making littlementions of it in content every once in a while, so we all know Gary v, but hehas a number of different little ISMs that are just like, I have nothing todo with what he does, but everybody knows he's working towards buying theJets, right? So if he's wearing the Jets hat, every all the insiders knowhe loves the Jets, I'm not a Jets fan, but I'm sure if you are, you're like,yes, yeah, well in mine, you know, I always tell people to start with startwith the bio and like test out different bios, right? Like, right? Asif you're super humble or super arrogant, write it as if you only have100 characters, write it as if you're a PhD and it's a dissertation try onthose different bios and for me having that like, you know, marketer writer,speaker by day singer, actor, Fitness by night. Like that immediately startsto tell you things and yes, I do sometimes draw parallels I have, youknow, when I talk about the content depths, the first example that I useactually is around what does it mean to be healthy and fit and that you'regoing to answer that question differently if your runner's worldversus muscle and Fitness versus Yoga Journal. And then I talk a little bitabout, hey, I personally ascribed to kind of this style of workout. So let'slet's dig in. Um, and that's how you get that flavor of like, oh she madethe connection with fitness fiend. But the other thing you'll know about me ifyou deal with me very often is I really like a liberation. Like I love it.Right? I I had a blog called amusing...

...marketing. Then I brought it toconsciously corporate. And then at one point I was kind of like I noticed itwas it was before fashion became a thing. So I was doing like workwear,Wednesdays. And now obviously I was like, how can I get fitness fiend? Andlike what rides with fitness? Oh, teens they go together. You see those littlethings in there, even though I don't talk about it as like an explicit thing.But when we have conversations like this and then you look at everythingthat I write and you're like, oh my gosh, she does like she she likes aliberation. And if you work with me on a team, you know that like, hey, I'mhaving a copyrighting dilemma. Actually pull out your liberation, right? Likeit's a thing that you kind of know if you deal with me. And so there's almostthat element of asking people like, what's the quirk or what's somethingthat like, what do you do on the weekends? Or like what's the onequestion that everybody always seems to ask you? Are you that person on thestreet that everybody always asks you for directions? Why? Because you always have a map for youjust look confident or you like, walk really fast. So they figure out, seemto know where they're going. Um, so asking him like, what are some weirdexperiences that happened to you a lot? And then drilling into being like, whyis why does that seem to happen to you a lot? Why do you seem to get thatquestion a lot of like, what's a silly thing you do with your kids or withyour spouse or with your book club? Right? Like asking those kinds ofquestions gets that kind of a similar, how many questions like that do youhave? So I would have to look, I've got like a whole tactics worksheet in thepersonal brand section. I ask, how do you speak? Um, and then I give someprompts like, are you formal? Are you sarcastic? Are you approachable? Areyou friendly? Are you funny? Um, and so as people start to go through thosequestions, so I think it's honestly only like five big questions. Um, oneof them is kind of that bio exercise and then we see what happens with that.The other is how you speak, that, how you dress. I think also it's like, whydo you dress that way? Oh well, I don't know. I've been in tech my whole life,so we wear jeans and hoodies. Okay, that's fine. How did you get into techwhen you say your whole life? What do you mean by that? Right. So, um, it'shonestly only like five questions, but then kind of some prompts in there toget them thinking, um, I've also done it if people are stumped to show them amassive list of adjectives and be like circle the five things on here, likewhich of these words do you like? And I don't give them any prompting. It's notwhich one describes you. It's not what do you aim to be? It's just like circlesome words on here that speak to you, you know, man, that's so much fun. AndI want to see these questions you mentioned, it's in a section. Do youhave this published somewhere? So I've been so bad. So, uh, the stuff that I'mtalking about right now is basically published uh, pretty much internally.Um, I have, I think I've actually published, I spoke about this at BBforum in the fall, I think, yeah, last fall. So I did give I turned him intobasically worksheets for people and then I've published it kind of slowlybut surely on linkedin in different places. But yes, I need to publish like,along from article with the downloadable templates. But I can sendyou I can I can I mean, you have enough information to write your own playbookon this and maybe, I don't know if it's enough to be a full book and maybe Ibet you have a lot more. That probably could be a full book. But it soundslike you have a lot worked out. You kept mentioning like, oh, I have aframework, oh, I have a framework for my framework, Oh, that's in sectionPart three, I'm like, oh, she's got a lot of information. This this shouldhave been published somewhere a long time ago. People can say I keep gettingpeople being like, do you have this, can I get this where you say you havethis, where does your worksheets just so we can publish it with this episodefor the audience and I'll send you the work, you can publish it with, go forsure. And that way people can get it. I it's interesting because I havewrestled with this problem for the better part of the last decade and Ithink I've solved it pretty well with the framework for my current needs. Soit's interesting hearing from other...

...people, they're like, no, that'sactually this makes sense. Like I get it, I can use this because in the past,when I've tried to solve this problem, sometimes we go down these likesemantic rabbit holes of like its credibility the right way versusauthority or expert, you know what we're getting at, it's the ethos oftrust. Like do people believe you? You know, So that's part of what's kept mefrom publishing is that I feel I still feel like I need to stress test it thatlike basically on the credibility pillars that I don't have thecredibility like this is the way to do it. Like if you look at someone likeDorie Clark for example, she's done a ton of work in this space and she'swritten full books on it, right? Like she started somewhere and she was anauthority on the space at some point. I've actually read Dorries book, I'veread every single book and I'm telling you have some unique information. Yeah.And that's that's kind of the problem and that's I feel like I've done it andI've actually had to start putting together my own playbook because I wentand read every book looking for the answers and I haven't found them. Soyou have some of the unique ones and I would have read your book and I wouldhave been introducing you as author Ashley Foss already. You would havebeen picked up by other people and it would have built and you would havebeen more you would have built that credibility but it has to startsomewhere. So I'm just encouraging you as a host of this show that you shouldprobably compile those into a book. Yeah. Well thank you. Well then thatwould be better. Right? Like if I became a thought leader on thoughtleadership, it's like do the thought leadership I know and thoughtleadership is super cringe. E so it's hard to like want to position yourselfas that person because a lot of people hate thought leadership and think it'sa joke but fat or a buzzword, you and I both know you're like no it's kind of athing and it's not going away, you could call it someone else somethingelse. Deloitte's calling an eminence marketing, you're like what the heck?Just call what it is. Okay well and we don't even have time to get into likeinfluencers versus spokespeople versus whatever thought leaders or whateveryou wanna call it right? Like there's all these words and I think that we itis useful to differentiate in some cases like what is this person do? Likewhat do they have credibility to say and therefore you use them differently?Right? But this whole again imminence marketing like what does that even? Idon't know, they're just trying to reposition it because they don't wantto be associated with the term thought leadership because thought leadershipgotten baggage because people have been calling themselves thought leaders andthey're lacking one of your four major pillars, right? You don't have thecredibility and everybody knows it. And they're like that leader I spoke at theTed X, you're like great thanks. Right. Right. Well and I would say that, Imean maybe that's the other big thing that I do agree with everyone, whichyou can't call yourself a thought leader, Like where it's in yourlinkedin title where you're like Ashley flat leader, it's like that's weird.That's No, no, no, but you can still write a book to help people navigatetheir way to. It's it's worth, it's a worthwhile pursuit to become a thoughtleader, even though you can never call yourself one. And it's certainlyprofitable as a marketing strategy. It's not for everybody, but especiallya lot of tech companies who want to be seen as innovative. Like for me to betech companies, it's kind of the main avenue to go is thought leadershipmarketing and I know people are still hungry for it. I have customers askingme about it all the time as a podcast agency. So write that book. You have to still findyour position and angle for it of who it's targeting. But and that's a hardthing in itself. But you can do it. Cool to wrap up this episode though. Isthere anything is there a question I should have asked and haven't asked yetthat you want to tell our audience about? I don't think so. I think we wekind of covered the given chased a few rabbits even so Yeah, I don't think Idon't think so. I think we've covered it. Fantastic. And I did my job as ahost. Well actually, if people want to learn more about these things and wantto see when that book comes out, where...

...can they go to learn more from youonline? Yeah, So I am at Ashley Foster on linkedin and twitter. So you shouldbe able to follow me or DME or connect to me in those places. And I talk aboutthese topics and other kind of content, strategy and marketing strategy topicsin both of those places as well. Well, Fantastic. Thanks for joining me on GDPGrowth. Thanks for having me is your buyer at Bdb marketer. If soyou should think about sponsoring this Podcast. BTB growth gets downloadedover 130,000 times each month. And our listeners are marketing decision makers.If it sounds interesting, send Logan and email Logan at Sweet Fish media dotcom. Yeah.

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