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 dan Sanchez, my friends call me dan says, and I'm here with Ashley Fathers, who is 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 in the month of june if you're just jumping into this episode, maybe it's your 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 a topic that I got into probably just a year ago and I've been reading everything I can about it. I've almost read every book and and now I'm excited to talk to all the practitioners out there, the people who get to do this for a living, whether their authors or people like Ashley who are in the thick of it at the lassie and creating thought leadership content day in day out, orchestrating the programs. So I have some very exciting things that I was just talking to Ashley about kind of the pre call era area of this show in order to kick off today's episode. But before we do Ashley, I'd love to know a little bit more about how you got into thought leadership. Like how did your journey evolve in marketing to land in a place where you're coming up with thought leadership content all the time. Yeah, so I started and have have had a number of kind of marketing, generalist roles at a bunch of small companies. And so because of that, I've been tasked with creating a variety of different types of content. I've been kind of the voice of the day to day person behind a ceo's twitter account and a company twitter account and a variety of executive twitter accounts, for example. Thinking about how do we market books from these people? Okay, how do we translate that and make a connection between a product or service and the thought leadership? Well that's a lot easier to do if I'm also close to the thought leadership content and kind of the original ideas that fueled those seminal works. So I ended up in it more out of a necessity that hey, I'm doing a lot of these fragmented pieces. So how do I bring all those pieces together into a cohesive program and a cohesive strategy? And was there something about thought leadership content that drew you into making that kind of content? There's lots of different types of content that can be made, right? There's customer stories, there's asking prospective buyers questions and answering them right there is coming up with related categories that your customers like to hear about, you know, so how was Thought leadership? The thing that kicked 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 sounds counterintuitive for a marketer, right? Like I think is a market or my job is to 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 buying something. And so when you look at a lot of thought leadership content um and you think about this, you know how how that works, it's really about building relationships and building trust and so that dovetails really nicely with kind of my values of I don't want to sell anything to anybody now, yes, there are often product stories or service stories or company stories that get included in those things, but when you think about teaching people and empowering people to solve problems, the type of content that that tends to be generally is more thought leadership content versus, you know, sales enablement or a case study um from from a specific customer or something like that. It's interesting. I can almost go into a whole other topic around why you don't want to sell anything. I'm like, oh my gosh, did you just say that out loud on a marketing podcast? I don't know if you're allowed to say that, that's all another episode right there later, but I kind of get it like thought leadership content often doesn't sell and shouldn't sell. It's definitely on the branding side trying to create a perception of the company right usually to create, you know, demand to try to get people interested in who you are and your thoughts right, That lead to sales eventually, which is a big part of setting up the sale. So...

...we're still driving back to sales, even if you don't like to make it yourself, but I don't know, maybe maybe you should, then I don't know. Well, and it's interesting. I mean, I think that buyers are so much smarter these days and they can do so much more of their research 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, you treat your audience as if they're intelligent, that's going to, that's going to increase your sales cycle by the time they finally raise their hand and say, Hey, I'm actually running by, um, that's gonna close your sales a lot faster. 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 you want to, do you want to do marketing? So good that people are just like take my 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 money right now. Exactly. That's exactly, that's still always good sales to, I think good sales people would say the same thing that they're, they're servants helping them and if they happen to, you know, if it happens to be a good fit, then they're just going to say like, well yeah, let's move forward, right? So I think it's a good marketing sales principle. So when you're setting up thought leadership content, who do you usually like to build thought leadership around? Do you like to build it around a logo? Do you like to build around a person if if a person who in the company do you like to position as the thought leader? Yeah. So I think my kind of hot take on this is that actually a lot of people focus on the C suite or execs are founders. And in a lot of cases I would argue that those people are actually pretty terrible thought leaders for a couple of reasons, they don't have time to do actual work in terms of the innovation and codifying it and sharing it and making it repeatable and then they also don't have time to share that work. So I have kind of a thought leadership framework, it's got four pillars, credibility, build a profile, be prolific and depth of ideas and Ceos and kind of execs and founders. The thing that they tend to have is basically just a fancy title and so in some cases like, oh, incredible because you 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 like spokespeople in general, the assumption is like, well of course you would say that 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 still this perception that they're not trustworthy and maybe they're not as credible, right? And then from a profile standpoint, you know, there off running the company, they don't really have time to go out and speak or write or beyond social media from a depth of ideas standpoint, they're not particularly close to the work. Um they're getting pitched ideas all day every day. They're doing budget allocations, they're having to go defend things to the board, they're not actually close to the work and kind of what's changing on the forefront. And then in terms of obviously being prolific and building a profile like those things go hand in hand, you can't you can't get followers, which would make you a leader if you're not being prolific, you know, and giving those followers something to consume. So I would say I would probably focus more on kind of practitioners that are in that like 10-15 years of experience. I do think there's kind of two paths to creating 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 about obviously as we as we dig into this. I loved a lot of things you just said, I want to circle back around to your kind of four step process. But before I do I just want to concur that I've I've interviewed a lot of marketers for the show, some of which are Ceos and I do find that ceos are kind of disconnected from the work, even if they were marketers at one point, they're just not in it anymore. Some are I've met that I'm like, wow. Like no, he's still got it, she still got it, but most of...

...them are disconnected from the work and honestly promoting their own company more than like the actual topic. Um So actually don't take requests from Ceos for this show anymore, if you still hear a lot of Ceos and it's usually because we're reaching out to them versus them reaching out to us. Sorry if I offended any ceos, but of course this 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 it makes 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 ceo selling to doctors, he's not a doctor, so go find a doctor and make him the face 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 doctors want to talk to doctors, that was literally one of the categories in the trust barometer from Edelman was like, I most trust someone like myself, and it's like, yes, that's why a practitioner with 10 to 15 years of experience, like, you know, dan between us, we probably heard about the same stage of our career will probably have, you know, done similar types of work. I trust you, you trust me because it's like, oh yes, I see that she's doing this and she's like me, right? So, you know, we've got some differences, but if 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 doing this for over a decade, right? I've interviewed some, like people fresh on the scene to, and there's definitely a difference why we take a focus on directors and VP of marketing for a reason because they're just high enough that they've earned some stripes, but they're still close enough to the dirt to 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 four step process. I like wrote it down, but you said it so fast, I didn't even get to it. Also repeat it for the, for me and for the audience. Like what was your, what was your four step process? Yeah. So one thing I want to clarify is it's not four steps in a linear fashion. It's a kind of four pillar. Like you have to build all the pillars in tandem. So the first pillar is around credibility and this is, do people believe what you say? Do people think you know what you're talking about? Do they generally trust you? The second pillar is around building a profile. So this is about how widely you're known and the nature of those connections. So if you look at people who don't have a big profile, it tends to be that the people who know them know them personally, they've worked together, it's their friends, their family. When you look at people with a big profile, it's more of like 90 of the people know them, but they don't know those people back. So that's kind of one, just gut check of like, do you have a big profile or small profile? The third piece 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 leaders are pioneers in their field, they wrote, or they painted or they built or they created every single day. And so when you look at that from a business context, you see that people are creating different types of content they're sharing in different types of places and they're doing that on a regular 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 is around depth of ideas, so this is kind of a novelty factor, are you doing new things? One thing that I have shared that I think also strikes people as a little like, oh, that's interesting, is that the way these pillars work as you kind of work your way up, right? Like there's three levels, I would argue that you can be an effective thought leader at the kind of, innovating on the tactics level, innovating on the strategy level, and it's rare that you're gonna have somebody innovating or sharing novel things at the visionary level. In a lot of cases, if you're that visionary, you've probably already 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 the tactics 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 the next 12 months? And how do I move my programs forward or move my business forward based on innovative tactics or...

...innovative strategies? The visionary wants tough because that gets a lot of people in trouble. Right? And a lot of people 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're four things. I'm like, oh, it's so similar. Actually built a similar framework, but I have three and there's overlap between them essentially said like, you're not an authentic thought leader unless you're an expert, like you kind of know everything there is, you're contributing unique and useful ideas and you're an authority on the topic, as in, like you said, you're credible people believe you, but I have to kind of have two in mind, like what your 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 all those ingredients to have a thought to be a thought leader. I'm curious when you'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 things or people who just have the potential for those things? I'm open to both. So I've been in the very fortunate position in a couple of in the past company where the person was already a thought leader. So when I worked at Duarte, 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 very closely with her To continue to expand. She was one of the first prior to linkedin, opening up basically their whole platform for people to be able to publish. She was one of the original 400 influencers on linkedin that was allowed to publish long form content. So I helped her build that program and helped her think through how do we connect the ideas that are in your books to the service offerings, to what you're trying to share next and how do we 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've done all this great stuff, How do we turn that into business and how do we keep it going from an Alaskan perspective? We have a number of people who are already, you know, great spokespeople, they're super smart, they have big followings, they appear in a lot of places, right? They check all the boxes, what we realize is that maybe we don't have the biggest bench or the deepest bench of people and as we start looking at going into new markets and telling new stories, do we have people lined up that can tell those stories because we've already built these great people that have credibility and kind of one area in terms of topics, but they don't necessarily have that credibility to go into another topic. So what do we need to 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, like super smart, you get in a room with him and just like, do you know things like how do you make these connections? And he had started to make those connections outside of it last year, but when you look at his profile for example, so what we do is we set a baseline and we score people based on how they're doing and I've got a couple of numbers that make sense for us in terms of how many followers do you have on different social platforms? How much content are you creating or being featured in per month? What's the nature of the outlets that feature you? Right. And so when you look at it, he was in that kind of smaller profile area of personally knowing people. So um he would get brought in by a friend to share, his expertise at, say, a meet up And so what we were able to do with him is to start getting him sharing on social more regularly and then honing in on the specific stories and topics that he would cover, so that we could build that credibility with more, you know, conferences, press, working with partners if they had, you know, guest blog or podcast or something like that that he could be featured on because he was very high on the depth of ideas, but he wasn't sharing and because he wasn't sharing, he didn't have a following. So his profile was not very big. 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 a big factor. More than PhD more than...

...awards. That's that's the thing you're kind 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, I don't know if you've said this on the show already, but like people want to get advice from peers often, but piers that are farther ahead than them. But we're maybe once where they were or like in a similar stage maybe, and maybe just doing a lot better. Right? Rather than people were like professional thought leaders who just essentially always on a never ending speaking circuit. Right? Right. So one thing I'd like to hear about is if you were given $10,000 sorry, not $10,000. If you're giving 10 X the budget as I'm sure your budgets a lot more than $10,000 you were given 10 X the budget. What would you do differently at Atlanta? And if you wanted to grow at last season's thought leadership? Yeah. So I if I had 10 X the budget, I would basically pair I would do a 1 to 1 pairing of a marketing generalist with a thought leader. Um and I would say that for both kind of more niche topics that are kind of technical in nature as well as brand level topics. So at last time what that means for us, we cover a lot of agile and devops topics. That's what I tend to be responsible for in my current role. Like finding people with the chops that have that depth across all 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 at social, they're not that great at writing. They struggle to put together a presentation. A marketing generalist can come in and say you just, you tell me what expertise you have, let's codify those ideas and then I can go away as the generalist and break that up into 100 social posts for you to get scheduled or five conference pitches and hey, I can reconfigure this deck or let'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 so we can package it up as an ultimate guide. But so, and so, and then we can break it apart. Right? So I would do that as a 1 to 1 pairing, Same thing for brand level topics, obviously things like remote work, future work collaboration, teamwork, etcetera. Um same thing. The people who are building out all of those massive programs and practices, they do not have time to translate their internal facing what is essentially thought leadership to be appropriate for an external audience. But a marketing generalists can come in and do all of that kind of packaging for that person. So does the subject matter expert need to be full time thought leader, doing nothing but talking in front of a camera and mic. I would say that having the subject matter experts doing that as a portion of their time and depending on the size of the company and depending on what your goals are and depending on what that person is doing is their day job. I struggle a little bit to say how much of 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 so a number of our leadership and you know, practitioners or spokespeople speak at that conference, obviously around that time we tend to do a lot of press, we tend 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 be 20% of their time or 10% of their time going forward. But I would say that you definitely don't want them just out there speaking all the time, because then to your point, they start to lose that connection again, that depth of ideas pillar, they start to lose that. And that's why I say all the pillars have to work in tandem. Like you can get a lot of followers if you do some not safe for work or not on brand things right? Like people will follow you to watch you be a train wreck, but that damages your credibility and obviously there's no depth, right? If...

...you're only just heads down and you're doing the best work in your building your own bank account or your own value for the team or your own value for a company, but you're not sharing it and you're not being prolific, you're not going to build a profile and you're not going to have that external credibility, so they have to work in tandem and it makes 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 the amount of work it takes the marketer to like record that, publish it and splinter 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 the market or to go to like package and market, Like you're gonna overwhelm even one marketer at a 1-1 relationship. So that makes a lot of sense. And actually it's a pretty good case considering like most people have one thought leadership content marketer and usually they're creating thought leadership for multiple people on the executive team, but it's probably not enough, it could probably just focus on one person, but if you only had enough budget for one thought leadership kind of content marketer, how would you do that? Would you just focus on the one or would you have that person focused on multiple subject matter experts? Yeah, I would, I would go ahead and have them focus on multiple people for a couple of reasons. One is that, as I mentioned, just having us having all of that hinge on a single person. Like do they ever get to take vacation? What if they get sick? What if they have a child and they need to take leave for, you know, to raise their kids for a couple of months, right? Like there's so many things that are not bad. The biggest 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 all of us that they should do, they should take vacation, they should raise their kids, they should, you know, take sick time if they're sick. So that's one issue is that you do need to have kind of a bench of people. The second piece of that is the how many kind of topics you have the credibility to talk about and one person can only be an expert in so many things. And I've even had this in my career, like prior to kind of my focus in over the last several years, I was doing everything. So I did events, I did demand jin I was in marquette or hubspot. I don't do that anymore. I'm the wrong person to ask if you're workflow logic is correct in marquette or hubspot. I understand where traditional demand in fits into an overall marketing strategy. I understand the connections between kind of content marketing and demand in. But I do not have the credibility anymore to speak about in depth dimension. And so if again, let's say I worked at hubspot, I would be a great person to speak about the content marketing side. The thought leadership side. I could probably hold my own on social media, but you don't want me to be, you need somebody else to be that demand in person. And so if you try to have that spokesperson be all in one again, you're going to lose that depth of ideas and you're going to struggle on the credibility side, even if they're very 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 making sure that they are credible and in the topics that you as a company, No, you want to address over the next Call it 12-36 months. It's interesting. So, do you find a person that you think is a good candidate and help them find their niche to become that public face? Or do you reverse engineer it? Like you find the niche you want to cover and then you look around for the person who can be that thought leader. I've done it both ways. So we and and we've done this kind of both ways at last and where we've said, let's find the story and then say, okay, we need a couple of different people to be able to tell that story. So if we think about obviously at last and the last one is a very engineering heavy company, right? We do sas we do collaboration, we do software. So the engineering from a recruiting standpoint, from a buyer standpoint. from a user standpoint, all...

...of those things are very important to us. So having just one person be the face in quotes of at last an engineering is gonna be really hard. So in that case we decided, here's the story we want to tell around engineering. Here's a couple of different people who have, you know, great expertise or maybe they've already already high and at least one pillar. So now we just need to figure out what to build across the other pillars to make them acceptable or good thought leaders for us around engineering. So in that case we we focused more on building the story and finding the people, we've had other cases where we found someone, you know, or or somebody already had a following or they were already very good at this. And so then at that point we were just like, all right, cool. We just need to kind of supply you with a few. We need to help you hone your story in a way that makes sense for our goals. But we still want you to be out there talking about different things in your own voice, applying your own lens to it, those kinds of things. That's kind of an 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 of advice that honestly drives me crazy on linked in all the time is, uh, that I it'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's like, so hearing you say like, no, we honed their story is not just just be you advice. It's like, no, like it's not like we made up a story, you're probably going in and looking for what part of their journey actually lines up with what the story, the message we want to tell. Yeah, yeah, so there's a couple ways that we do that in. I have kind of another framework within the framework kind of thing. And this dovetails a lot with my kind of my general mindset around content strategy and that's focusing on different content depths. So looking at the conceptual, strategic and tactical levels of an idea. And so when we get in, usually whenever I do these working sessions with people, you know, we get in and I'm just like, tell me all the things that you're interested in or that you're working on, like, let's get it all out, and then let's start to talk about okay, going forward over the next 12 to 24 months, which of these things do you think you've got enough to say to fill up? You know, one blog post per month, five linkedin posts per month 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 the process is the key knowledge components, the capabilities, the tools that you need at a strategic level to make that idea reality. And then obviously they've got examples or case studies or workflows or tips at the tactical level based on how that fits into the strategy and all ladders up. So when you look at that, the likelihood that somebody has more than maybe three of those 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 find somebody that's just so broader, prolific or whatever, they can go beyond kind of more than three ideas. The second thing that I do is I do a personal branding section and this tends to be for a lot of people who aren'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? How do 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, 11 of the people I was working with, um he started out with that, like, oh, you just tell me I'll do whatever you say. And so we started going through, and he'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 really look 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 those are and and same thing on the how open or how personal, like how truthful are you? Do you share about failures or mistakes in the moment or do you wait until it's cleaned up with a tiny bow? Both ways work. You can do it either way, but you need to decide like do you share about your kids? Do you, do you share about your spouse? Do you share about your family? Do you show pictures of them on social media or in conferences? Again, there is not a right answer, but you need to choose because if you start doing all of this stuff now and then what you know, hopefully the goal is that you have a big audience and all of a sudden you're like, actually I wish I hadn't shared that photo of my husband. Well, kind of should have found that six months ago before you spoke to a crowd of 1000 people and flash that picture up of your kids, your husband, right? So that, you know, I I talk about this to even in some of my stories where you know, my husband will hear me rehearsing for something and I'm like, I don't want you to listen because you lived this with me and I'm telling a story. And again, it's not a lie. It's just nobody wants to hear about the two year journey. They want to make it smart to be. But for him, he knows it was two years and the fact that I'm able to tell in five minutes, something's missing, right? So in my case, I have I have made the trade off on the spectrum of you know, every detail 100% truthful exactly how it happened with. I'm going to tell the right story to the right person at the right time. I mean part of being authority and being prolific is being trust is being trusted and usually people trust you more. If James Carberry, 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 with you and it's not the thing, it's not your expertise. Yes, they're coming to you to here to you. But he's like, there's a reason why I tell everybody that like my ambition in life is to live as many days as possible without wearing shoes. He's like, I'm a flip flop guy. I live in florida, like he's like, I hate Pepsi and I don't wear shoes. He's like, I zero fan and I like Swedish fish. Trust me, there's a lot of people that I just defended and there's a lot of people that are like, yes, amen coke zero. And he's like the Pepsi people could probably get over it. But I trust me. Like all the coke zero fans were probably like, this is my man, you know, hundreds of little things like that just like, and they're all, yeah, let's just talk about that. Pepsi is the worst among team coke to um, it's sweet fish. We have debates because not everybody's on team coke even though James and I are, I don't know how they got hired. Come on, come on. I know I probably should, but James is too nice. He lets team Pepsi on I guess. I don't know. I guess everybody deserves a chance. It's questionable though. So it's interesting. It's how do you go about identifying which things are worth highlighting which things are? Because there's clearly like, you don't want to make up fake stuff just because it's trendy, like, oh, they're into this because that's kind of a trending topic. No, they're not into this and you don't address them and stuff, they're not comfortable because that would be an authentic and they're probably not going to perform that well on stage or in front of a mic if they're wearing something that's like they never wear that. But then how do you go about finding the things that create kind of a unique image? What do you look for? I think the biggest thing is digging into their actual experience and 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 used to uh was working with, they had a story about you, the wifi was so bad in the 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 on the window sill. But then every night the cleaning crew would come in and like move it off the window sill. And so every morning there was a whole ritual that somebody had to go in and turn the wifi router and you're just like, that's ridiculous, right? So when you think about, let's talk about scaling a company and you say, yeah, you used to have to take your meetings in the bathroom because there wasn't a conference room. Do you happen to have a picture of that? Like surely someone took a picture of that? Oh in fact, I do have a picture of that. Perfect. That's your opener for talking about scaling a company and saying, I don't know how many of you have ever had to take a call on a freaking bathroom, but it sucks right. Like the acoustics, the echo of the whole thing. And so that's the jumping off point because somebody in the audience has had to take a call from a bathroom. Half the people in the audience have never done that and it bottles their mind right when you then fast forward and it's fine to say fast forward five years and now we're in this high rise office, it's fancy we have all of these things but we're still dealing with our servers from that time period and the other half of the audience that's never taken a call in the bathroom but understands about outdated infrastructure is like, man, I wish I do not have to deal with these infrastructure 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 pictures or if their stories and you can tell, I mean their demeanor changes. I had somebody say this to me the other day, they were asking me about like, well what do you want to talk about on this podcast for this conference? And so I started listening to things I could talk about and they're like, whoa, go back that one you got really excited. Like you smiled and you lit up and you're talking with your hands, That's the one. And so again, giving people that permission to say, here's kind of the high level goals that I need to talk about. But when that's broad enough to say engineering or storytelling, I'm really trying to find what is the thing that you genuinely like? Not everything you've ever done. Not everything that the company is selling. No, Why did you come here? Like what problem did you actually come here to solve and why are you excited about that problem? That prompt also tends to get people like, well, let me tell you if you know what happened in this situation. And I'm like, in fact, I don't please tell me what happened in this situation that changed your mind. Even if you're dealing with like a founder for example, and you're like, no, they have to be the face, ask them what happened that made them so mad that they left whatever it was they were doing at that moment and started the company. What was that? Because that's the interesting part. Not. And then we made this company with 10 features, like nobody freaking cares about your features, that they care about the features. They'll go to the website, do the checklist right? To watch the Webinar, they'll do a demo. But what what made you so mad that you just dropped whatever you were doing and you came to solve this problem? And then 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 right way? Right? That's the interesting part, ma'am. That is such a good framework for answering and figuring out someone's backstory essentially. Like why, why why why just asking the question so many times that you finally get to the root of why they did what they did? Uh Sometimes I run into people who started have started companies. This is kind of like more founder centric, like why do you start the company? They're like, well because I was assessing the market and it just seemed like a really good market to get into, but there's always a little bit more than you being opportunistic and finding it, you know, you kind of have to want to get into that industry and there's usually more more there. Um what do you do to find things that aren't like related to this story, memorable things? How do you make people memorable?...

So this is where the if I had 10x. The budget, I would pair one marketer to one thought later. Because the only way I found to do it is for, and this is like my personal experience is to genuinely no the person and to also love the things that they love to fall in love with, the same things that they fell in love with. And you can only do that by spending time together and that ability to walk and talk, that ability to 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 can manufacture it, you can come up with the right questions, like I can say all day long, oh, here's my 10 questions. But if you watch me when I do what I do to pull stuff out of people, and it means the same thing you're doing on this podcast, like you're talking to me, you're seeing how things go you're hearing, and then you're riffing, You don't have your proper list of 10 questions to have a good podcast interview. And so that's a hard question because I wish I could tell you that there is a formula for it. And the formula is you actually have to know them and you actually have to care about them and you actually have to love what they love. And there's just I to get the best kind of content are the best person out there. There is not a substitute, 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's interesting. I wonder what the kind of a model that I'm currently using as a shortcut because I think what you're saying is right and true, Like finding the things that you can only find if you spend a lot of time with them. But a shortcut I'm taking with our even our employees, we have a link to an evangelist program. It's not quite a thought leadership program, but we're trying to get them out there. Made content could be a good stepping stone to being a thought leader is I'm having to come up with ideas about like what are things that you're passionate about that? Like lots of people are passionate about for James coke zero. I mean I didn't ask him that question. He was already talking about that on linkedin quite a bit, but for new employees, I'm just like, give me three things that you love that. Like it's like everybody loves this, Is it Disney, is it coke? Is it like what is it? And then 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 going to work and I like just finding a mix of them and then hopefully blending that into there little mini brand identities and somehow making little mentions of it in content every once in a while, so we all know Gary v, but he has a number of different little ISMs that are just like, I have nothing to do with what he does, but everybody knows he's working towards buying the Jets, right? So if he's wearing the Jets hat, every all the insiders know he 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 start with the bio and like test out different bios, right? Like, right? As if you're super humble or super arrogant, write it as if you only have 100 characters, write it as if you're a PhD and it's a dissertation try on those different bios and for me having that like, you know, marketer writer, speaker by day singer, actor, Fitness by night. Like that immediately starts to tell you things and yes, I do sometimes draw parallels I have, you know, when I talk about the content depths, the first example that I use actually is around what does it mean to be healthy and fit and that you're going to answer that question differently if your runner's world versus muscle and Fitness versus Yoga Journal. And then I talk a little bit about, hey, I personally ascribed to kind of this style of workout. So let's let's dig in. Um, and that's how you get that flavor of like, oh she made the connection with fitness fiend. But the other thing you'll know about me if you 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 to consciously corporate. And then at one point I was kind of like I noticed it was 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? And like what rides with fitness? Oh, teens they go together. You see those little things 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 everything that I write and you're like, oh my gosh, she does like she she likes a liberation. And if you work with me on a team, you know that like, hey, I'm having a copyrighting dilemma. Actually pull out your liberation, right? Like it's a thing that you kind of know if you deal with me. And so there's almost that element of asking people like, what's the quirk or what's something that like, what do you do on the weekends? Or like what's the one question that everybody always seems to ask you? Are you that person on the street that everybody always asks you for directions? Why? Because you always have a map for you just look confident or you like, walk really fast. So they figure out, seem to know where they're going. Um, so asking him like, what are some weird experiences that happened to you a lot? And then drilling into being like, why is why does that seem to happen to you a lot? Why do you seem to get that question a lot of like, what's a silly thing you do with your kids or with your spouse or with your book club? Right? Like asking those kinds of questions gets that kind of a similar, how many questions like that do you have? So I would have to look, I've got like a whole tactics worksheet in the personal brand section. I ask, how do you speak? Um, and then I give some prompts like, are you formal? Are you sarcastic? Are you approachable? Are you friendly? Are you funny? Um, and so as people start to go through those questions, so I think it's honestly only like five big questions. Um, one of 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, why do 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 tech when you say your whole life? What do you mean by that? Right. So, um, it's honestly only like five questions, but then kind of some prompts in there to get them thinking, um, I've also done it if people are stumped to show them a massive list of adjectives and be like circle the five things on here, like which of these words do you like? And I don't give them any prompting. It's not which one describes you. It's not what do you aim to be? It's just like circle some words on here that speak to you, you know, man, that's so much fun. And I want to see these questions you mentioned, it's in a section. Do you have this published somewhere? So I've been so bad. So, uh, the stuff that I'm talking about right now is basically published uh, pretty much internally. Um, I have, I think I've actually published, I spoke about this at BB forum in the fall, I think, yeah, last fall. So I did give I turned him into basically worksheets for people and then I've published it kind of slowly but surely on linkedin in different places. But yes, I need to publish like, along from article with the downloadable templates. But I can send you I can I can I mean, you have enough information to write your own playbook on this and maybe, I don't know if it's enough to be a full book and maybe I bet you have a lot more. That probably could be a full book. But it sounds like you have a lot worked out. You kept mentioning like, oh, I have a framework, oh, I have a framework for my framework, Oh, that's in section Part three, I'm like, oh, she's got a lot of information. This this should have been published somewhere a long time ago. People can say I keep getting people being like, do you have this, can I get this where you say you have this, where does your worksheets just so we can publish it with this episode for the audience and I'll send you the work, you can publish it with, go for sure. And that way people can get it. I it's interesting because I have wrestled with this problem for the better part of the last decade and I think I've solved it pretty well with the framework for my current needs. So it's interesting hearing from other...

...people, they're like, no, that's actually 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 like semantic rabbit holes of like its credibility the right way versus authority or expert, you know what we're getting at, it's the ethos of trust. Like do people believe you? You know, So that's part of what's kept me from publishing is that I feel I still feel like I need to stress test it that like basically on the credibility pillars that I don't have the credibility like this is the way to do it. Like if you look at someone like Dorie Clark for example, she's done a ton of work in this space and she's written full books on it, right? Like she started somewhere and she was an authority on the space at some point. I've actually read Dorries book, I've read 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 and I've actually had to start putting together my own playbook because I went and read every book looking for the answers and I haven't found them. So you have some of the unique ones and I would have read your book and I would have been introducing you as author Ashley Foss already. You would have been picked up by other people and it would have built and you would have been more you would have built that credibility but it has to start somewhere. So I'm just encouraging you as a host of this show that you should probably compile those into a book. Yeah. Well thank you. Well then that would be better. Right? Like if I became a thought leader on thought leadership, it's like do the thought leadership I know and thought leadership is super cringe. E so it's hard to like want to position yourself as that person because a lot of people hate thought leadership and think it's a joke but fat or a buzzword, you and I both know you're like no it's kind of a thing and it's not going away, you could call it someone else something else. 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 like influencers versus spokespeople versus whatever thought leaders or whatever you wanna call it right? Like there's all these words and I think that we it is useful to differentiate in some cases like what is this person do? Like what do they have credibility to say and therefore you use them differently? Right? But this whole again imminence marketing like what does that even? I don't know, they're just trying to reposition it because they don't want to be associated with the term thought leadership because thought leadership gotten baggage because people have been calling themselves thought leaders and they're lacking one of your four major pillars, right? You don't have the credibility and everybody knows it. And they're like that leader I spoke at the Ted X, you're like great thanks. Right. Right. Well and I would say that, I mean maybe that's the other big thing that I do agree with everyone, which you can't call yourself a thought leader, Like where it's in your linkedin 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 navigate their way to. It's it's worth, it's a worthwhile pursuit to become a thought leader, even though you can never call yourself one. And it's certainly profitable as a marketing strategy. It's not for everybody, but especially a lot of tech companies who want to be seen as innovative. Like for me to be tech companies, it's kind of the main avenue to go is thought leadership marketing and I know people are still hungry for it. I have customers asking me about it all the time as a podcast agency. So write that book. You have to still find your position and angle for it of who it's targeting. But and that's a hard thing in itself. But you can do it. Cool to wrap up this episode though. Is there anything is there a question I should have asked and haven't asked yet that you want to tell our audience about? I don't think so. I think we we kind of covered the given chased a few rabbits even so Yeah, I don't think I don't think so. I think we've covered it. Fantastic. And I did my job as a host. Well actually, if people want to learn more about these things and want to see when that book comes out, where...

...can they go to learn more from you online? Yeah, So I am at Ashley Foster on linkedin and twitter. So you should be able to follow me or DME or connect to me in those places. And I talk about these topics and other kind of content, strategy and marketing strategy topics in both of those places as well. Well, Fantastic. Thanks for joining me on GDP Growth. Thanks for having me is your buyer at Bdb marketer. If so you should think about sponsoring this Podcast. BTB growth gets downloaded over 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 dot com. Yeah.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (1737)