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

Episode 2114 · 9 months ago

Why & How Thought Leadership Should be a Community Effort

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode, Dan Sanchez talks with Becca Bycott who is the Director of Thought Leadership and Engagement at FiscalNote. They discuss why thought leadership should not be developed in isolation, how to include others in the conversation, and the results they have seen from brining a variety of people together to speak to todays challenges. 

Yeah, welcome back to BBB growth. I'm dan Sanchez with Sweet fish Media and I'm here with Becca Buycott, who is the director of thought Leadership and engagement at fiscal Note. Becca Welcome to the show. Thanks dan. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here. Absolutely. And I'm excited to have you on the show because today we're discussing the why and how thought leadership should be a community effort. Remember when we were first talking about this in our pre interview, I was excited because usually thought leadership, it's kind of a solo game most of the time, maybe a few individuals within the company, but the way you guys are approaching it at fiscal note is so much different. So, but first, before we dive into how you're doing it, what are the, some of the problems that you're seeing with thought leadership kind of being mostly a solo game? Well, I think it kind of reminds me of something that I think you and I have both seen a lot on social media and that is the overuse of the hashtag thought leadership. It can be like I just did 10 sit ups, that's my morning routine, hashtag thought leadership. And essentially when it's just one person sharing an idea over and over again, sometimes it can be incredibly powerful. There are certainly great articles or videos that we've all seen that are really resonated with us. But if it's done over and over again, it can feel disingenuous and even a little egotistical. But if you put it in the greater context of what thought leadership really does is it's tackling complicated issues with a good idea or some authenticity about how complicated things are or challenging things are. And in that sense, especially if you look at the past 17 months with the pandemic, the companies and organizations that were most resilient and did the most interesting work were those that worked across teams and brought in a lot of unique perspectives from different experts, whether it was inside their organization or externally.

Same goes for you know, statistics. When you look at innovation, they've proven again and again that if you have a diverse range of perspectives and voices at the table, You're more innovative and more resilient. So I think if you put that in the bigger context of thought leadership, it's the same thing. Also, if you want to talk about the pandemic, everybody is really tired and sad and over this idea of isolated problem solving, we did it like every day during the past 17 months so people really want to reconnect and have thoughtful, meaningful discussions about different issues. Makes so much sense. Everybody is tired of like hashtag thought leadership. Like you said in the beginning, it's like every time I see hashtag thought leadership, I just want to put like hashtag I roll because nobody wants to see people declaring themselves as a thought leader and that's something we've talked about on this show before. Like never call yourself a thought leader even if you are one, but I like that you're kind of clue ng in on like if it's real thought leadership, it's probably not been developed in isolation, it's probably developed by a group if it's truly bringing the best innovation, that's not going to benefit just the person who came up with the idea, but the general community, right, Which is really starting to lead. So tell us you've mentioned some of the strengths that come with building thought leadership in community. Is there anything else other than just kind of getting a diversity of opinions when it comes to doing creating thought leadership in community? Well, I think people are looking for visibility but in an authentic connection forming kind of way. So like when you get a group of, say senior executives, the way we do at the fiscal note executive institute all the time, you're getting a chance to illuminate what your company is accomplishing, but you're also getting to pressure test it with other people. So you're again not in like an isolation chamber of trying to figure out a complicated challenge your companies dealing with. I also think again, people just like really the...

...spontaneity of conversation. I often say that um well I love throwing dinner parties and I like to say that the best thought leadership should feel like a really good dinner party where you're meeting new people, you're getting excited about something you've never heard about before, You may be getting some affirmation and support for something you're trying and real thought leadership is the same thing. Um you, you have that connection with people, you get some support for something you're developing and it can be really transformative, one advantage that I've seen and I think I've done this to a small degree, not nearly to the extent that you guys are doing at fiscal note, but I usually will have an idea to a problem. I'll test it. You're like, oh, that worked for me and then I'll throw it out on linkedin. Like, hey, like we've all hit this before. I tried this. This was what I experienced. What do you guys think? And generally by inviting people to come and critique it or add to it or give their personal experience with an idea, It gets stronger. And one of the advantages of making it a conversation is that more people are going to accept the idea, right? So that's kind of the point is like if you're doing thought leadership marketing, but it doesn't actually connect like you said the thing and no one's actually everybody's like okay, that doesn't mean anything to us, then you've kind of failed as a marketer. But one of the advantages is like getting it out there in community probably increases the chances of it actually being accepted by the community used by the community and actually doing the work that it needs it to do. So I'm really curious like, so I've put like ideas out on linkedin and gotten conversations rolling and that's like a very small way to kind of get community involved. But how are you guys facilitating these community conversations? I know you guys are taking it much farther than just kicking it off on social. Absolutely. And to be honest, I learned more about building community online than I ever thought I would during working remotely and dealing with the isolation of the pandemic. But I'd say one thing that...

...we've really worked on that helps me with the fiscal note Executive Institute is we think about what do people want to know and start growing intellectually curious about before they join one of our discussions. So this sounds like a simple household thing, but we developed a lot of great organizations do this, but we call it pre reads. And it's basically like maybe one or two or three articles sometimes highlighting a speaker at the discussion, sometimes just a really pivotal report on the issue that the program will cover. And we send those ahead of time to everybody who's agreed that they want to join us for our program. And I'll even say this is an interactive discussion, please take a look at these and you know, feel free to ask questions. Um This is really good intelligence on what we want to talk about today. So they're already being invited to start thinking about it before it happens. And then during the actual program, the gathering of thought leadership. Like a lot of people, we've done things such as casual icebreakers, where you just have that moment of human connection rather than like robotically launching into a very structured discussion, We want people to feel free to unmute themselves and speak up, you know, in the in person version of this same thing. Like you create time for people to just wander, get coffee, catch up a little bit. You don't keep things to locked in again. If you put it back into the metaphor of a dinner party, like no one wants to go to a dinner party where it's only one person speaking the whole time. It's like when you're with I don't know like your uncle who like over does it at a christmas party and they're just constantly talking and no one else gets a word in and no one else gets to catch up. You want to approach the conversation in the same way. Um The other thing we do is we build continuity around different themes and topics. The Fiscal notes, Executive community. We Fiscal and Executive institute. We focus on a couple core topics D. I. Global affairs, government affairs E. S. G. Which stands for environmental, social governance,...

...sustainability and digital transformation. So um the other thing we do is when we build out our programs were like okay we've done a D. I. Discussion, for example, FBI that's the acronym for Institute. We did a really interesting conversation with senior women in leadership positions and what they were going through during the pandemic as working moms, as single women living by themselves and like having no work life boundaries and and leading teams. And so after that conversation, people loved it so much. So we keep building programs around something that really resonates to people resonates with people. So also that idea of continuity, I think is important as you build a community around thought leadership. So setting the stage for discussion, really encouraging and supporting people to chime in and not have it be like a rigid webinar type of experience or, you know, sit at a desk and not talk and then also just inviting people to keep the conversation going through relevant follow up programs. So if I'm hearing you curriculum essentially, you create a bunch of different categories. You listed about like five or six of them. You're coming up with like a pre fodder within those categories. You're taking things that have been published recently, debates that have been happening or just things that conversation starters, the kind of Threat people for the conversation, you're like, hey this has been a thing we know because people have been publishing about this and so you're sending it out to the community. I want to know how many people are you inviting into these conversations and how you facilitating? Are you taking like 10 people into a zoom meeting? And how long did the conversations last? So our conversations are never more than an hour. We try to keep our group's pretty small because again, if you want people to really talk to one another, if you have like 70 people on a zoom, they're not going to feel um interactive. So we do actually invite, you know, up to 70 people because statistically, you know, you know,...

...about half of those people won't be able to attend for whatever reason. But typically we have, I'd say like 20 to 30 people and in our real in real life programmes. Same thing. We have kind of like a small group. We keep these conversations closed door. That's another important thing I want to mention to you. Um if you're a high level executive, you're often grappling with huge challenges and you want like a safe space to really talk about what's going on at your company. Um, so that small number also speaks to the the intimacy of the discussion and just being really, really open with people you're talking to. And there are a lot of advanced virtual platforms that people with huge budgets often turn to. And you can actually make zoom somewhat interesting. It can be hard because everybody is burned out, but you can invite people to share their favorite ice cream flavor in the chat. You can ask them what was something they discovered about themselves during the pandemic that they now want to keep doing even after we get out of the pandemic whenever that is. So, having that introduction of human connection doesn't have to be related to the program or the discussion, it could just be like, hey, I want to get to know you a little bit better before we get started and those are fun because then you want people chime in and say, oh, you know my favorite ice cream flavors, mint chocolate chip to or they'll be like, I also bought a bike during the pandemic. Yes, I love riding my bike, I'm never going back to spin class ever again. And like these seem really silly, but they're human connection moments and it's like now more than ever, people really need them. I mean we didn't realize how much they needed them. We needed them until the pandemic kept us from really talking and being in the same room and now just discovering little things about people is so, so powerful and so important. I find that zoom meetings are often especially facilitating different kinds of conversations. Like I don't know. I I actually think it probably be better to use a zoom meeting because everybody...

...is familiar with it. Everybody knows what they're doing. Nobody has to be thinking about the tech that can stay actually focused on the conversation and the topic at hand. So I'd actually say that unless you have to, I'd probably just stick with the zoom meeting. That makes sense. I am interested like how you control for who to invite to these meetings. I'm sure diversity is probably an important aspect and it's you're probably just not picking people who are at random right there. Probably somebody who knows a little bit about specifically the category. Right? So how do you go about selecting your community for the audience if they wanted to build communities like this? Like how do you go find those people? That's a really good question. Well, our community members come from a couple different places. One is um fiscal note, our company. Um we have a lot of great enterprise clients, huge global corporations with C suite executives who are looking for some sort of community. So I will get to know them and personally invite them to our programs as part of just a unique value add of what fiscal note offers and creates for our clients. But that's aside from that. It's, I'll read a bunch of interesting articles on say, corporate activism. That was a really great discussion we had earlier this year and I'll see that Patagonia's head of communications was quoted in an amazing article on how Patagonia has tackled corporate activism, been really active in that space. And I'll find out who was leading those conversations and reach out to them to be honest. And like the best place to do this because email is everybody's inboxes insane. These high level executives, they have more email than anybody. And so what I'll often do is I will just honestly look at their linkedin profile. I'll get a sense of what they care about and then I don't do it and like a cheesy sales way, but I'll just reach out to them and say, hey, I noticed your company is interested in this topic. I'm actually trying to organize a discussion around this with my team and that, that's been a really good way to get people. Um, it's tricky because...

...like I'm sure you get this two day and there's so many, there are a lot of sales people on linkedin and this is without saying, oh you would be an amazing person at this discussion. You might, you'll get something out of this discussion. Here's how this discussion aligns with what your company or organization is thinking about. And then the other place I get them, I talked about continuity and like having subsequent events that relate to each other after someone is attended a fiscal Note executive Institute program, I stay in touch with them and I will be like, oh I read this article that made me think of you and then when there's another event I'll be like, oh by the way, you came to our discussion with kevin that focused on asian affairs, we're now having an excellent webinar on china. Do you want to come to that? So I just try to keep track of what they really care about and be resourceful and invite people who have been with us along the way as part of what we're creating. Just got really fascinating. Do you in the night, like not like sales pitch, but do you like try to get them to come into the community groups saying like, hey, contribute to this thought leadership, like your name will be published alongside this. This piece is one of the contributing things to this, This thought leadership peace. Is that how you position it to them? Or you just say get involved in the conversation? Like how do you get them to want to come come to these groups? So there are a couple of different categories. If it's just a program, like we're hosting a conversation, that's a simple invite, and I'll just be like, hey, I think you would really enjoy this conversation and be somebody could really contribute to it based on the experiences that you're having with X, y and Z. If it's a piece of content that's thought leadership, which are institute also produces, I will, you know, say this would be a great opportunity to highlight more of what your company has accomplished here. Um I think our network of executives could really learn from this. Um and truthfully, people like, again, having some visibility. So when I reach out to them on linkedin, I'll say I'd love to interview for this blog post for...

...writing on diversity equity inclusion and how to get C suite to actually be accountable for D. I. At their companies. But again, everything comes back to an authentic, real personalized outreach effort and that's what really works. 80% of what I do honestly is just nurturing relationships, managing those relationships and being real with people. A lot of my friends and co workers, they say I'm a very abusive like outgoing person. And so that's how I roll with every aspect of my life even professionally. I know fake doesn't work. It doesn't work with me, like if somebody reaches out to me that way and it definitely doesn't work for anyone. I don't want to say post pandemic because we're still in it. But during the pandemic taught us that we're really over a lot of um fake unnecessary noise in our lives. And also we need to have real um substance to everything we're doing because life is short and uncertain, you know, not to take it to a really crazy place, but that's, that's legit. I mean that has to do with marketing, that has to do with how businesses are expected to be accountable and transparent, that just comes into play in so many important places right now and has been important for a long time. Hey, everybody Logan with sweet fish here. If you've been listening to the show for a while, you know, we're big proponents of putting out original organic content on linkedin. But one thing that's always been a struggle for a team like ours is to easily track the reach of that linked in content. That's why I was really excited when I heard about Shield the other day from a connection on, you guessed it linked in since our team started using Shield. I've loved how it's led us easily track and analyze the performance of Arlington content without having to manually log it ourselves. It automatically creates reports and generate some dashboards that are incredibly useful to see things like what contents been performing the best and what days of the week are we getting the most engagement and our average views per post. I highly suggest you guys check...

...out this tool. If you're putting out content on linked in and if you're not, you should be. It's been a game changer for us. If you go to shield app dot Ai and check out the 10 day free trial, you can even use our promo code B two B growth to get a 25% discount. Again, that's shield app dot Ai. And that promo code is B the number to be growth. All one word. All right, let's get back to the show. So once you're in these groups and there's good dialogue happening ideas are flying around, good questions are being asked. How do you then collect and organize all of these into something that becomes helpful, especially if you're going to publish its content later. That's a great question. So because our discussions are typically off the record, we don't record anything like in a webinar anything. Um the only time we've done that is when we've known that the discussion wasn't going to be about. We did that once with this Summer Book Club thing we did called FBI reads with an author talking about a book. Like that's that's totally recordable and doable. But normally what we do is we know they're off the record. We don't record them in an on demand video later because that just again kind of distills and dumbs down what we're trying to create. We have a writer who listens in on these discussions and she writes up an executive summary, which is the very high level key takeaway points. It's not like word by word, play by play, everything ever someone said, it's kind of more like a very high level summary so that if I attended this and I want to revisit what I discovered and learned, I have a go to published piece of content that I can revisit and look at man. That's really interesting. So they're probably in the meeting themselves since there's no recording there taking notes and then the writer produces a summary piece. Yeah. And actually I think the executive summaries have been going really well. Um This was something that was started even before I joined fiscal note. They've always done like key...

...takeaways. Um and when I started I renamed it executive summary and we just did a survey with our whole thought leadership community and they said they loved the executive summaries, that was one of our top most interesting pieces of content that's built into how we create conversation. So we'll keep doing those and see what other places we want to explore with a re like a summary or recap of what we talked about, but again not not making it like a a glib drop in the bucket thing, but something really insightful that someone we want to know about. So do you distribute and publish these reports? Yes. Um The executive summaries are hosted on our website and then we share them on our linkedin page and we will send them to all the speakers who are like a part of our featured guest of um guest speakers. So they all get them as well because it's nice to have something that you've been a part of, that you can share with your own company or share with your own network. Like I spoke at this discussion, here's what it covered professional achievement that I'm really interested in. So what do you label these things? Like, is it do you call them executive summaries on your website? Like how do you position these essentially downloads? Yes. They are called executive summaries on our website. Another thing I should mention, we haven't done this all the time because sometimes it's just not possible to pull it off, but we've also like, I'll listen in and pay attention to who's asking a good question or who said something really insightful, not necessarily just the featured guests, but among the audience and participants. And I'll reach out to that person afterward, I'll say I really loved what you said about X, Y and z. Could we maybe record a short video clip where you're talking about that again? And so that's why I don't want to say that stage, but it's just like a way to get them to like continue to reflect on what they said and for us to capture something that's in video content which everybody listening to your podcast, I'm sure knows. You really have to take...

...a conversation and think about how to reinvent it and share it widely beyond where it initially lives. Do you know what I mean? Especially from a content strategy perspective, man, so I'm really starting to like this because you're facilitating these conversations, if you can get them to show up and actually participate in these, like they're going to be interested in the content that comes out of it. The likelihood that they'll want to share it within their own organizations is high. So you're probably getting more buy in from the organizations if any of them are customers or prospective buyers, there is that play. But it's also of course you're inviting a diversity opinions. So it's not just, well while you're one of yours, you could have a seat at the table. So it'll be interesting. But you could be getting lots of ideas and learning a lot yourself while also publishing substantial content. It's kind of interesting as we do. This would be to be growth, but we're usually doing it 1 to 1. We haven't like taken like a lot of panels are invited a lot of like minded people from diverse backgrounds into to talk about one particular subject but would be interesting to do something like that off the record. We we also have these like we call the marketing squads where a bunch of VPs or directors of marketing will come and just not be recorded and just talk about different marketing things. But those we don't use that for thought leadership at all. Even at sweet fish were doing pieces of this. But tying all those elements together, it seems like you get a lot out of it. So what has been the results that you've been seeing from doing this for a little bit now? Like what what have you seen as a result of it? Like all people who work in communications, I certainly track metrics like digital marketing metrics. So I'll see if we post an executive summary. How how much did it resonate with our community? Like what was the highest performing linkedin post featuring that executive summary Which one was the most successful? I'll also look at our website and say oh this executive summary we did on ai artificial intelligence. It's getting a...

...lot of traffic right now. And so I see that as a success. But more importantly, I love the feedback we get. Like one of my favorite things is in the zoom chat. It's so funny. Sometimes I've never met anyone on this, on this discussion in person. I've maybe sent them a personal invite and they'll reach out to me in like a D. M. On a zoom chat and they'll be like, I'm so glad I came to this. Thank you so much. So that makes me feel good. That makes me feel like we've done something, um, that's been beneficial to the senior executive community at large. Other things we do, like we we make these executive summaries available to other people in our company and they might use them like, say you're running a company or start up and you're talking to an investor who's really committed to diversity equity inclusion and wants to have more visibility on that topic. You could be like, oh yeah, you know our Thought Leadership Network that we have at our company, they've done a lot of programs on this. Here's an executive summary that, you know, covers a interesting recent event that we just did. So it has a lot of mileage. It has a lot of application. I like to think that even if it's a very topical conversation that it has, um, evergreen staying power that people can revisit it again and again as they solve new problems and see if we're even improving and these critical issue areas, do you like break it up and share it across a bunch of different channels? Um, so with the executive summaries, there are a couple of places where we share them. I mentioned, linkedin our website. The other thing I forgot to say is I send a personal email to everybody who registered for a program. Like even if they didn't get to sign on to the zoom and I share the executive summary with them, I'll share it if you came to the program and you want to reflect on what we covered or I'll be like, so sorry you missed our discussion. I wanted to make sure you had this executive summaries, You could revisit the key takeaways of it. So I think that's another good thing to think about if um if you're trying to...

...develop thought leadership as a community experience, like how do you make something accessible beyond the physical attendance of the program? How do you make it timeless and interesting and share it beyond even your basic network? I mean we also, this is another content strategy thing that I'm sure a lot of people have talked about on this podcast but we'll revisit an executive summary long after the program is over. I don't know, Davis is what if there's like a national artificial intelligence day? Like we'll be like, oh we did an executive summary. Um that covered a great program. We had regulation, ethics and challenges of ai here's the executive summary and just be topical and tie what we're doing to a bigger conversation. Thanks. Seems like you get a mileage out of their, out of each executive summary. I would think probably the biggest part if you're, especially if you're working with enterprise is just getting the buying with the participants that came to it and getting them to even distribute it within their own organizations. Right? Usually when you're working with the large companies, there's still so many more people you'd like to lead or even invited to like different parts of the massive organization that could be invited to future conversations, right? If you want to build relationships, there's so many more people that you'll probably build a relationship with and intrigue with these leadership report or these executive summary reports based on the referral of somebody who was in the community, right? Somebody whose name is on the report, sharing it with a co worker, sharing it with their leader, their boss, somebody else in a different organization has appeared that they talk to frequently. I was going to say the other thing we've created, it's not just executive summaries all the time. Like we have also done, I don't know why they call it this. It's a weird term white paper. Like we've done, we've done white papers, one thing really cool. So I meant we had a discussion with senior executive women about the challenges and the resilience leadership they showed during the pandemic. So out of that discussion came the inspiration to create a white paper where we...

...interviewed different executives, women in leadership positions and government affairs in corporate counsel. And it was called Powering Through the pandemic. And it was just these really interesting stories and takeaways from what people had accomplished during the pandemic while raising their families, leading their teams. So that was great because then there's this bigger, more robust summary of a very important conversation that's not just limited to an event but it's like an ongoing challenge, an area of growth for a lot of people and for their companies. So that's been great because definitely more than just the people we interviewed from different companies have checked that out. We've had that hosted on our website as well so that you know you can be searching for this topic and find it. You could be the head of calms if the company reviewing it to make sure the person that was interviewed did a good job and suddenly you're like, oh this is very interesting and you share it more widely internally with your company. So is there anything I missed that you feel like the audience should know about doing thought leadership with community? Yes. Um this is something I'm really excited that I'm I'm going to develop with our team that works on the institute with me but I have an incredible board of advisors. They are part of the fiscal not executive institute. They give me a lot of mentorship and feedback and they guide how I come up with some great program topics. Long story short, I was trying to think about what do you get out of a community as a thought leader? Like what do you need to experience? We've talked about the connection, the networking and the ability to be a part of a timely conversation. What I want to do with it is have these incredible minds, these wonderful human beings who are very powerful and important at different companies. I want them to talk amongst themselves and come up with some really interesting, unique thought leadership discussion that we in turn share more widely, like as part of their being a part of this community,...

...like coming up with some interesting project that they want to tackle as a group. So that's what I'm working on in the next couple of months. I think it's gonna be really fun and interesting and let people know the incredible leadership that informs what FBI is doing. That's amazing. So even the decisions about what to cover is being handled by community essentially. Oh yeah, I didn't even get into this, but I talked to my board of advisors for ideas. I read all the time. I'm always like reading different things and then I do a lot of one on ones. Like if someone has come to one of my programs, I talked about that continuity of inviting them to other discussions, I also will just set up a time to get to know them and say what's going on with your company, um what's particularly compelling to you that you feel like we could build an interesting discussion around. So it's very much a collective effort, that leadership is a collective effort full stop. I should also say to just really quickly, like internally at my company, there's an incredible team and we all work on FBI. Um I have a colleague who worked on it sort of similar to my role who now devotes part of her time to it. She's amazing. Uh My boss, our chief Marketing Officer is brilliant, she's a regular sounding board, she's incredible ideas. There's a chairman of the institute who actually founded it and then moved on to a different opportunity at a different company, but he's still deeply connected to what we're building. He moderates discussions. We have great advisers at the company who I meet with occasionally to just say what do you think about this idea? So I'm giving you a lot of layers, but I think it's so important because the best community is representative of a lot of different people. It brings in a lot of unique perspectives. That's how your comprehensive, that's how you're on topic and timely and that's how your relevant honestly makes so much sense. Becca this has been a fantastic conversation, I've learned a lot and it...

...makes so much sense to me. As you find there's if you're doing it in community, you're not going to have like a glaring missing piece, you're not going to have something that you forgot to take into consideration when putting out good ideas. So this has been insightful on how fiscal notes doing this. Where can people go to learn more about how fiscal notes doing this and what you're doing? Um where can they find you and what's the best place to look at and find some of these executive summaries. So they should definitely go to our website. We actually just updated it and it has some great new content on it. It's Executive Institute dot fiscal note dot com. Um If people want to learn more about our company in general, which is equally awesome and important and it's actually building community and a lot of different ways. In addition to the FBI effort, they can just go to fiscal note dot com, another great place to dive in and find out about great ways to find solutions to problems and networks and analysis. So fantastic. Again. Thank you for joining me on the show today. Thank you. It was fun. I appreciate it. One of the things we've learned about podcast audience growth is that word of mouth works. It works really, really well actually. So if you love this show, it would be awesome if you texted a friend to tell them about it. And if you send me a text with a screenshot of the text you sent to your friend meta. I know I'll send you a copy of my book, content based networking. How to instantly connect with anyone you want to know. My cell phone number is 40749033 to eight. Happy texting.

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