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

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

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

Today on B two B growth, we are sharing a featured conversation from our archive, with over two thousand episodes released. We want to resurface episodes worth another listen. Before we jump in, I just want to say I would love to connect and hear from you on Linkedin. You can search Benji, walk over there and that's a great place to also interact with sweet fish and B two B growth. All right, let's jump into today's featured conversation, conversations from the front lines of marketing. This is B two B growth. Welcome back to BTB growth. I'm Dan Sanchez, my friends call me Dan Chaz, and I'm here with Ashley Faz who is the content strategy lead at at last seen. 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 now I'm excited to talk to all the practitioners out there, that people who get to do this for a living, whether they're authors or people like Ashley who are in the thick of it at Lastie and creating thought leadership content day in, day out orchestrating the programs. So I have some very exciting things that I've was just talking to Ashley about and kind of the pre call era area of this show in order to kick off today's episode. But before we do actually, 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 Jo real list 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, Um 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 I 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 prospectives, buyers questions and answering them right. There's 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 as a marketer 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 fault 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 products 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 as more thought leadership content versus, you know, sales enablement or a case study from a specific a customer or something like that. It's interesting. I can almost go...

...into a whole another topic around why you don't want to sell anything. I'm like, oh my gosh, did she just say that out loud on a marketing podcast? I don't know if you're allowed to say it. That's all another episode, 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 that. I don't know. Well, and it's 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 audience as if they're intelligent, that's gonna that's gonna increase your sales cycle by the time they finally raise their hand and say hey, I'm actually reading you by Um, that's going to close your sales a lot faster, it's going to give you a better retention, all those things. So again, if you actually did the statement, it's maybe not as controversial. Do you want to do mark you want to do marketing so good that people are just like take my money right, you don't have to convince some 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 IT, exactly. It's still always get sales too. I think good sales people would say the same thing, that they're there are servants helping them and if they happen to you know, if it happens to be a good fit, then they're just gonna 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 exacts or 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 exacts and founders. The thing that they tend to have is basically just a fancy title, and so in some cases like Oh, you're credible because you have a fancy title, but if you look at the recent edlement trust barometer you see that actually CEOS are some of the most untrusted people and, like spokespeople in general, be ation' 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 they're 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, you know, 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 ten to fifteen years of experience. Um, I do think there's kind of two paths to creating this to 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 and I want to circle back around to your 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 this 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's 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 request from CEOS for this show anymore. If they're 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 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 who's 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 parometer from Edelman was like I most trust someone like myself, and it's like yes, that's why a practitioner with ten, fifteen years of experience like you know, Dan, I've between us we probably heard about the same stage of our career. We're probably have you done similar types of work? I trust you. You Trust me, because it's like I 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 yeah, you see, I've been doing this forever, a decade right. Interviewed some like people fresh on the scene too, and there's definitely a difference. That's why we take a it's on directors and VPS 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, the different step. So I get that. So come back to your your fourth 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 fourth 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 of the pillars in Tanda. 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, it's their family. When you look at people with a big profile, it's more of like of the people know them, but they don't know those people back Um. 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 or 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 pillars 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, Um, is that the way these pillyers work is 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 it, and again this show is a perfect example, where you want people who have the tactics and the strategies, not just this big vision of Oh, in ten years, this fancy thing will happen. It's like, okay, well, like, what's going to happen in the next twelve months and how do I my programs forward or move my business forward based on innovative tactics or innovative strategies? Yeah, the visionary one is tough because it gets a lot of people in trouble, right, and a lot of people have were thought leaders and then became not thought leaders because, well, their visions were wrong, right. It happens a lot. It's 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. I essentially said, like, you're not an authentic thought leader unless you're an expert, like you kind of know everything there is, as 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 kind of have to in mind like what your credibility and prolific are. 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 in at last in 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 a very fortunate position and a couple of in a past company where the person was already a thought leader. So when I worked at Dwarte, 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, you know, 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 four hundred 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 Um so in that case she was already a thought leader. I was able to come in and, you know, 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 UTLASTIAN 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 show 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 you're just like, dude, you know things like how do you make these connections? And he he had started to make those connections outside of it, last Sean. 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 makes sense for us in terms of how many followers do you have on different social platforms? How much content are you creating um 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, Um, working with partners if they had, you know, guest blogs or podcasts 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 was a practitioner with, you know, twenty 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 we yet, like you said, even before, I think before, I don't know if you've said this on the show, read a bit like people want to get advice from peers, often, but peers that are farther ahead than them. But we're maybe once where they were 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 ten thousand dollars, sorry, not ten thousand dollars, if you're giving ten x the budgets. I'm sure your budgets a lot more than ten thousand dollars. If they were given ten x the budget, what would you do differently at at lants and if you wanted to grow at Last Sans Thought Leadership? Yeah, so I if I had ten x the budget, I would basically pair. I would do a one to one 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 game, what that means for us we cover a lot of agile and devots topics. That's what I tend to be responsible for in my current role. Like finding people with the chops that have that across all of those topics is really hard and in 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. There 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 a hundred 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. Two conferences, you know across social media, you know in writing, as a blog series and then, oh, we can package it up. There's an ultimate guide, but so and so, and then we can break it apart. Right. So I would do that as a one to one pairing. Same thing for brand bubble topics. Obviously, things like remote work, future work, collaboration, teamwork at center 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 generalist can come in and do all of that kind of packaging for that person. So there's a subject matter expert need to be full time thought leader doing nothing but talking in front of a camera to Mike. 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 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 and 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 their time time honing the...

...story, prepping, sharing, writing, et Cetera, for that event, but then it may scale down to be of their time or ten percent 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 trade wreck. But that damage is your credibility and obviously there's no depth, right, if you're only just heads down and you're like doing the best work and you're 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 inn of view, 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, right. So if they you had them like six hours of the day like producing content for the marketer to go to market, like package and market like, you're gonna overwhelm even one marketer and a wonder one 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 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 kid 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 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 H I was in Marcto or hubspot. I don't do that anymore. I'm the wrong person to ask if your workflow logic is correct in Marcato or hub spot. I understand where to additional demandsin fits into an overall marketing strategy. I understand the connections between kind of content marketing and demand it, but I do not have the credibility anymore to speak about in depth demanding. 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 on one again, you're gonna 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 you know, building people and making sure that they are credible in the topics that you, as a company. No, you want to address over the next, call it, twelve to thirty six 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, like you find the niche you want to cover and then you look around for the person who can be the thought leader? I've done it both ways. So we and and we've done this kind of both ways and at Lassian, 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 stories. So if we think about obviously at last and the Elastian is a very engineering heavy company, right. We do SAS, we do collaboration, we do software. So the engineering from our 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 Lassian engineering is going to 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 they're 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 are 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 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 linkedin all the time is that it's just wrong. In my opinion, is just be you. Right just be yourself and you're like what am I supposed to do with that? Right? 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 it's not like we made up a story. You. 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, is that what you're doing? Yeah. So, so there's a couple of ways that we do that. In I have kind of another framework within the framework kind of thing. Um, and this stuff tails 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 twelve to twenty four 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 linked in post per month to presentation abstracts. And when you start to frame it up that way, people immediately can you 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 processes, the key knowledge components, the capabilities, the tools that you needed 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 whole you know, conceptual and tactical and strategic and back to tactical and strategic right like it's 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 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 market.

Is 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 one of one 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 don't really like the color red. I'm like great, you don't wear Red Gun. He's like, I mean, I can't wear red. I'm like no, you know, we're red. Put It on the list and he's like also, Um, 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. He's like, I mean, I can't 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 face of yours, your mistakes in the moment, or do you wait until it's cleaned up with a tidy 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, let's 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 a thousand people and Flash that picture up of your kids or your husband. Right. So that and you know I I talk about this too, 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 like make it smarty. 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, dent, 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, and James Carberry, the founder of sweet fish 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 that it's not your expertise. Yes, they're coming to you to hear 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'm a zero fan and I like sweetest fish. There's a lot of people that I just defended and there's a lot of people that are like yes, amen, 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, little things. That's just like, and they're all 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, it probably should be, but James is too nice. He let's team Pepsi on. I guess. I don't know. I guess everybody deserves a chance. It's a questionable so it's interesting. It's how do you go about identifying which things are worth highlighting which things aren't, 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 and because that would be inauthentic and they're they're probably not going to perform that well, um on stage or in front of them 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 y 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 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 they're like, oh, that wife I was terrible, and I was like tell me about that, and they're 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 in 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 that 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 ish I did 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, Oh, what do you want to talk about on this podcast or 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 to 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 ten features, like, nobody freaking cares about your features. If they care about the features, they'll go to the website, do the checklist right, they'll 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, man. 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 find they 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 more founder Centrics, 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 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 the story, memorable things? How do you make people memorable? So this is where the if I had ten next the budget, I would pay one marketer to one thought leader, because the only way I found to do it is for and this is like my personal experience, is to genuinely know 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 ten 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 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 ten questions to have a good podcast interview. And so that's a hard question because I wish I could tell you that there's 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 there's just to get the best kind of content or the best person out there. There's not a substitute, there's not a handy, pithy framework, there's not sound bites, 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 Linkedin evangelist program. It's not quite a thought leadership program, but we're trying to get them out there make 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's 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 gonna work and I like just finding a mix of them and then hopefully blaming that into their little mini brand identities and somehow making little mentions of it and content every once in a while, like we all know Gary v but he has a number of different little is ms 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. No, he loves the jets. I'm not a jets fan, but I'm sure if you are you're like yes, yeah, well, and mine. You know, I I always tell people to start with, start with the bio and like test out different BIOS. Right, like, right, it as if you're super humble or super arrogant. Write it as if you only have a hundred characters. Right, it as if you're a PhD and IT'S A dissertation. Um, try on those different BIOS. And for me having that, like you know, marketer, writer, speaker by day, Singer, actor of fitness by night, like that immediate at least...

...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 you're runners 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 Alliteration, like I love it. Right, I had a blog. I called it a musing marketing then I broadened it to consciously corporate and then at one point I was kind of like I noticed there was it was before fashion became a thing. So I was doing like work where Wednesdays, and now, obviously I was like how can I get fitness fiend and like what rhymes with fitness? Oh, fiend, 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 alliteration, and if you work in me on a team, you know that, like, Hey, I'm having a copyrighting. Delima Astley pull out your alliteration, 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, like are you that person on the street that everybody always asks you for directions? Why? Because you always have them back, for you just look confident or you like walk really fast, so they figure out I seem to know where they're going. Um. So asking them like what are some weird experiences that happened to you a lot, and then drilling into being like what? Why is it? Why does that seem to happen to you a lot? Why do you seem to get that question a lot? or 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 any 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 Your friendly? Are you funny? Um, and so, as people start to go through those questions, 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 Chech 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 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 a circle of 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 strucle. So words on here that speak to you. You know, man, that's so much fun and I want to see these questions. And you mentioned it's in a section. Do you have this published somewhere? So I've been so bad. So 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, Um at B two B forum in the fall, I think, yeah, last fall. So I did give I turned them 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 a long form article with the downloadable templates. But I can send you. I can, I can, I mean I can. 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 you, I bet you have a lot more that probably could be a full book. But it sounds like you have a lot worked out, because you kept mentioning like, Oh, I have a framework, oh I have a framework for my framework. Oh, that 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. I know people keep saying. I keep getting people being like do you have this? Can I get this? where? You say you have this? Where does it? You need to sell worksheets just so we can publish it with this episode for the audience. You know, I'll save you the workshets. You can publish it with this episode 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 is credibility the right way versus authority or experts? You know what we're getting at. It's evos 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 credit ability pillars, that I don't have the credibility and be like this is the way to do it. Like if you look at someone like Dory Clark, for example, she's done a ton of work in this space and she's written full books on it. Right. Yeah, like she started somewhere and she wasn't authority on the space at some point. I've actually read Dories Book. I've read every single book, and I'm telling you, you have some unique information. Yeah, and that's kind of a 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 fund them. Yeah, 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 Fosse already. All right, I 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 Beta right, like if I became a thought leader on thought leadership. It's not about to 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 of fat or a Buzzword. You and I both now. 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 it imminence marketing. You're like the heck, the heck, it's just it's called what it is. Okay, well, we don't even have time to get into like influencers versus spokespeople, versus whatever, thought leaders or whatever you want to 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 is 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 has gotten baggage, because people of coint and called in themselves thought leaders and they're lacking your four major pillars. Right, you don't have the credibility and everybody knows it and they're like thought leader. I spoke out of TCH X. you're like great, thanks, right, right, well, and I would say that's I mean, maybe that's the other big thing that I do agree with everyone, which you can't call yourself a thought beater, like where it's in your linkedin title where you're like Actley leader. It's like that's weird, that's no, no, no, but you can still write a book to help people navigate their word 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 for especially a lot of tech companies who want to be seen as innovative, like for B two B 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 could 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 GIMM and chased a few rabbits. Even so. Yeah, I don't think I don't think so. I think we've covered it. Fantastic that 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 Foss on Linkedin and twitter, so you should be able to follow me or d m me or connect to me in those places and I talked 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 BDB growth. Thanks for having me.

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