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Audience Advocacy and Thought Leadership | Cristina Loughrey

Understanding your audience and using storytelling to connect with them.

An interview with Cristina Loughrey about using data to tell the story your audience needs to hear.

Does your thought leadership content focus on hyping your organization or brand,
or are you weaving stories where your audience can picture themselves as the hero?

If the second option isn’t your answer – you may be doing it wrong!

Thought leadership can ensure you connect with the right audience in a meaningful way. Focusing on your audience and creating content that forges a genuine connection is one of thought leadership’s strengths – but to utilize it properly, you have to know how to tell the story.

Cristina Loughrey is a narrative architect and content strategist with 15+ years of experience in marketing, communications, and experiential marketing (events). She has multiple degrees in rhetoric, sociolinguistics, and analyzing societal narratives in popular American culture.

Cristina addresses audience advocacy, and why it’s important that the audience you want can see themselves in the story of your brand. Building that connection makes your relationship with the audience stronger. Christina provides us with a deep understanding about how we should think about our audience, and how to find ways to speak to their hearts and minds.

Cristina goes on to discuss why you need to provide room for your audience to relate and connect, and how to use storytelling to put the audience right in the middle of your content. By telling the story in a way that connects, the audience begins to see themselves as the hero of the story – and that engages them in a more dynamic way.

With social media data, we no longer need to “write into the void,” just hoping our message hits the audience in the right way. Cristina shares why she focuses on qualitative over quantitative data, allowing that information to inform the construction of stories that are deeply relevant to the audience.

If you’ve been dishing out content but don’t feel like your message is being heard, this episode can help you fine-tune your story and engage your audience.

Three Key Takeaways:
  • When seeking to grab the attention of your audience, the meaning of your message needs to be in the first few opening sentences.
  • Telling an interesting story isn’t enough. You need to present it from the viewpoint of the audience, ensuring it gives them value for their time.
  • Don’t look for an immediate payoff using thought leadership. It takes time and consistency to build trust.

If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.

Join the Organizational Thought Leadership Newsletter to learn more about expanding thought leadership within your organization! This monthly newsletter is full of practical information, advice, and ideas to help you reach your organization’s thought leadership goals.

And if you need help scaling organizational thought leadership, contact Thought Leadership Leverage or reach out to Bill Sherman on Linkedin!



Bill Sherman Thought leadership can’t just be a one-way conversation from your organization to an audience. So how do you make sure that the voice of your audience is heard within your organization? To explore that question, I’ve invited Cristina Lockridge to join me in today’s discussion. She’s a master storyteller and content strategist for Thought Leadership, and she’s worked for a variety of large organizations, most recently LinkedIn. In today’s conversation, we’ll explore audience advocacy. We’ll talk about narrative strategy itself, and we’ll explore the signals in organizations sends through the authenticity of its messenger and the relevancy of the message. I’m Bill Sherman and you’re listening to Leveraging Thought Leadership. Ready? Let’s begin. Welcome to the show, Cristina.

Cristina Loughrey Thank you, Bill. It is so nice to be here. I really appreciate the time.

Bill Sherman So I’m looking forward to having a conversation with you about making sure that the needs of the audience are heard within the organization. And I think it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the message you’re trying to push out. And so I want to ask you, what about audience advocacy? How do you make that work? And where does it sit in the organization, especially from a content strategy and thought leadership perspective?

Cristina Loughrey Yeah, I think it’s really important. I think especially now we need to think a lot about who the audience is. We have so many ways of even starting that question. You know, what is the audience, the target audience you want? Or are we getting wrapped up in just a bulk audience that you want for vanity metrics? So, starting right down from the agenda you have in what the audience is going to be a question. And what you determine is advocating for that audience and being realistic about those expectations. But one thing that’s important, you know, it was years ago, I was really excited to hear that we were introducing story to business messaging, to thought leadership, to the world of business we’re going to story. And that that speaks to my heart.

Bill Sherman Mm hmm.

Cristina Loughrey And it should. Because that’s the great thing about stories. It actually can bring to life a brand in a way that normal old school messaging can’t. It can. It can consider the audience. It can speak to the heart. Money can get us engaged in a more dynamic way with audiences. But the problem is that when we introduced story, a lot of businesses heard my story, my brand story, my company’s story, my product story. And that is really hard to get away from. Even with all the discussion about we’ve been doing, even using data to understand what audiences are telling us, we still forget that the brand story shouldn’t be a story about the brand as a hero. The brand story or any thought leaders, if it’s your personal story, should be something that the audience imagines themselves as the hero of that it’s their challenge that they’re overcoming and their heroism. Ultimately, if we use story concepts that gets them to the win, that’s where we find the best idea of what it is to advocate for the audience. It’s rooting for them to be the hero of the story and understanding who they are that they’ll feel not just think themselves relevant to what it is you’re trying to say.

Bill Sherman So you mentioned a couple of things there that I want to underline. I think that the broader your audience, the harder it is to know how to connect with them in a deep and meaningful way. Right. So, when you’re broadcasting and you’re saying, okay, we’re just going to go for as large of an audience as we can get. You lose that specificity, that ability to tell a story and make that audience member the hero. Right.

Cristina Loughrey I think that’s 100% true. And the problem is we get down to ROI and there’s always going to be someone that says, well, but how much is it going to cost per person? And what is my return on investment in this? And I think when we get mired down in those metrics, we forget that without that kind of intimacy, that specificity that you’re talking about, it doesn’t matter if we get those bodies to the table or not. We’re relying on kind of gimmicks. And I think those gimmicks have gotten really big in the last couple of years, especially around experiential, where we’re relying on the surprise and delight elements. We’re relying on people showing up because there’s a celebrity. We’re relying on things that aren’t really connecting the business messaging to the audience in a way that really puts them in the center of the journey you want to take them on. So there’s some hard decisions there.

Bill Sherman Oh, absolutely. And the other piece that I want to go back to in your first answer is the piece about that individuals don’t want to hear stories about the organization. They want to hear stories about themselves. And I related to if you’re trying to connect with someone and introducing yourself, saying to them early in the conversation, let me tell you a story about me, is unlikely to go too far or be successful, right? You need to ask questions. You need to engage them in a different way before you have permission to tell that story about yourself.

Cristina Loughrey I think that’s 100% true. And I think even when we do tell the stories of ourselves, we want to do it in a way where the context sets us up to be relatable, that someone goes, Oh my gosh, I had an experience just like that. And you feel that surge of feeling connected to someone and you trust them. And that is ultimately what a lot of our thought leadership work is doing, is building trust, not in some, you know, snake oil way, but in a genuine way that connects people for a longer-term relationship. If you think about it in terms of a dating analogy, we want our customers to want to marry us. We don’t want them to just go home with us for an evening. We want like the whole package and we want to respect who they are and their time and getting to know them enough to give them the content that’s meaningful, that allows them to get to know us and to trust us in ways that have instead of a kind of life cycle that is defined by a funnel, a life cycle that’s defined by trust and ongoing retention that we make them. Mark And I really think it is about those, those right stories in the right way where we’re inviting someone into our commonality.

Bill Sherman Well. And you imply here in telling those stories a storyteller. Right. Rather than an organizational voice, which is unsigned. And I think if we explore that, people are looking for either the signed piece or something, that they can connect to an individual speaking and sharing a story or sharing an insider or an idea rather than something that’s just going after the corporate logo. At least that’s my perception of how people are responding in some way. When you talk about building trust and relationship, it’s much harder through the logo.

Cristina Loughrey It’s an interesting question. I think it actually can go both ways. First, I think that a brand, a very successful brand, can have values. They live enough that they become an entity in the minds of the people that follow them around is hard to do, but with consistency, with really continuing to nurture that relationship, a brand can do it. One of the most effective ways, so I’ll say with the caveat of doing that, is having your recognizable faces and people that humanize the brand stories.

Bill Sherman Exactly.

Cristina Loughrey And those people are not necessarily your people with the biggest title because, you know, I mean, someone can tell me that they’re very successful. But if I look at them and I’m like, well, you had all of these privileges or you had these things that I don’t have access to. So of course, you’re sitting up on high and you’ve done these things, but how do I get there? I don’t relate to that. So we have to look off the center stage and off of this idea that if we throw the biggest title out there, the biggest celebrity, that’s the story. That’s not a story that someone can relate to. And sometimes that person may be a huge title. They may be an incredible celebrity. What is it about a story that the audience can relate to that expresses the brand or the business offering that you’re trying to promote in a way that is consistent, real and really relevant in a in a timely way to the audience. Because audiences I think one of the problems we have is we look at audiences as this thing to earn. And we are we kind of think of them, I think a little I think we dumbed down audiences and we take them as things we have to trick into being at a thought leadership event of any sort or any thought leadership content, whether it’s digital or written or wherever it is. We think about like, how do we get them there? And we think about incentivizing them with gifts and all these things which do work. I’m not going to say get rid of those things. They’re awesome. Who doesn’t like someone that shows up with flowers? But the problem is that audiences also are in a constant barrage of digital input of time requirements. We live in a world where we are always connected, and so we’re really no making machines, not because we hate people and things and identity and community. It’s that we need to cancel some of the noise and determine what is of the highest value for our time. So to do that, we need to remember as thought leaders and as brands that we need to give them something that acknowledges their time in a meaningful way, in something that is about them, that they have taken away a time and they might even give it to you because you’ve got a prize or an incentive. But is that image up on video is really huge during our pandemic year and it really gave false flags because people put those windows up to say they were doing something. Who were they watching? Were they engaging? Are they really there for life? They’re for the gimmick. Were they there for the for the meaning? What was what was the value offer that really was presented? And so I think value offers a big thing in terms of audience understanding is looking deeply enough and getting the feedback through data and from customer feedback. And so it says, this is what I need, and answering that in a really pithy way, not in, you know, in a worn out diluted way.

Bill Sherman Well, and we’ve moved to a world where people are evaluating value and relevance in thin slices in a matter of seconds. Right. Do I read this email? Do I look at this post? If not, I scroll past, right? And so what used to be that sort of short attention span of the top of the house for me to be if you’re trying to reach an internal executor, let alone an external customer’s executive team, you had to make things simple because you may have only had a few minutes of their time and attention. Now that’s everybody and that’s even true B2C. And so how do you lead with something that’s going to catch attention and create value in a short, pithy, punchy. Okay. That’s a tough challenge.

Cristina Loughrey It’s a tough challenge. And I think, you know, this is there are so many things I can say about this, first of all. But on the top of it is that that attention you’re trying to grab, that everyone is looking to say no. Is to say, why should I? And I think so. I always when I’m going through content or strategies about engagement, I think everything I look at, I should think from my a well-defined audience perspective, your target audience, that persona. And like you said, don’t try and get everyone forget that vanity metric. Think about the person that you really want to fall in love with you and say, you know, how is this about me? And why should I care? What is it that leaps out like? And it can be simple because we also need to look at the psycho behavioral cues, how people react in digital or in whatever medium. If it’s live, what are they doing where their experience immediately speaks to them. And what that isn’t is starting, for example, with a lot of name dropping of your company, name, your thought leaders, the oh, look at me. I said you should care about me because I’m so big and glorious. And I see this even in written copy, almost in a Freudian way, where there will be like, I’ll look at copy and I’m like, Wow, did you really say your brand name ten times in a short paragraph? And why, if I am an emotional creature out there trying to clear space in my life because I have an onslaught of digital information coming at me. Should I think that you care if all you’re talking about is yourself?

Bill Sherman So what goes in that lead? How do you signal that you care in short order?

Cristina Loughrey Well, I think for me, what I look for is, is that kind of relevancy moment. And when you lead, you don’t want to say, you know, Acme presents, you know, blah, blah, blah, and throw out a bunch of AP titles or whatever it is you want to do. You want to start with the problem you’re solving for what is the value offer. So if it starts there and you immediately go into the problem that you’re solving for the solution that you’ve provided the offer instead of going for the big name. Like even if you have a picture of that awesome speaker you just spent probably far too much money for the 10 minutes of time you’re going to get in the post-pandemic world where we pay a lot of money for people to show up for 10 minutes, when you when you’re in that space, you still want to see that picture and then go, but what is this about? And if that isn’t there in your first two or three lines, forget it. It also means don’t waste time in traditional formats that don’t work there for an older generation that was not as digitally native, that isn’t as savvy. So don’t start with, you know, presenting the VP of product. You know, start with this story. And we see this successful even before it was necessary that people pivot to digital. It’s great practice. We saw it in the short attention span theater of commercials where you get a hook and then it’s followed up by explaining why and that relevancy. We see it in things like, you know, Ted still does a great job of this. They give, you know, and those people are not intuitive thought leaders. They go up. There are people with stories that Ted works very hard.

Bill Sherman And so for a TED Talk, for example, those people are highly polished. They know their story, right?

Cristina Loughrey Yes, very. And they’re working with, again, the top-notch people to help them craft a story that is already interesting, but that now has to center around the audience. And that that’s talent in a way that is great. You know, it isn’t that we wake up one day and our stories are interesting. We have to know how to present them. We have to know how to rethink them from the point of view of someone else, not from the urge to tell our story, which is great. That’s what gets us there. But from the idea of what it would be like to hear and be compelled by that story from another perspective. So, a lot of empathy and a lot of data. Honestly, people think data is the least sexy part of doing content or doing thought leadership. And I actually think data is a gift. I had a lot of friends in a lot of different artistic endeavors over my life, and I used to be so jealous of people that could get on stage and perform the musical act and get immediate feedback. You know, if that audience loves you, you know if they hate you as a lifelong writer, I always had to write what I called into the void. I have no idea whether or not people like me relate to me are going to read me. And I would just obsessively look at that little tick of people reading and how long and looking at all of these metrics. But I still got no feedback. And now we live in a world where when we put data out or when we put messaging out, if any sort, we put a story out. We have a lot of ways, if we invest in it, to get feedback and to hear what it was that people liked, how they related to us. We don’t have to any longer just be like, Well, I believe in my story and it’s real and I’m going to be the best at my craft and hope that it works. Now we can still believe in our story, make sure it’s real, be the best in our craft, and see how we can tailor it to audiences. And audiences expect that now. They need that to make room for it in their life.

Bill Sherman If you are enjoying this episode of Leveraging Thought Leadership, please make sure to subscribe. If you’d like to help spread the word about the podcast, please leave a five-star review and share it with your friends. We are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all major platforms as well as at

Bill Sherman So a couple of questions. First, in data, what sort of metrics since you have a love for it and tie it to storytelling? What do you look at from a perspective when you’re putting out a story on behalf of the organization? Because I think the aggregate likes, for example, can be deceptive because you may or may not be reaching your audience. So what are you looking at?

Cristina Loughrey Yeah. So, it’s interesting. I don’t like the aggregate like thing and I hate I maybe the only person that hates the floating emoticons over speakers. I find it distracting. I am personally really put off when I’m trying to get a question into a speaker and I get. Hello. From Brazil. Hello. From Argentina. Hello, from Boise. Instead of a way to engage with a speaker that I’ve taken time out of my life to engage with. So, I also look at like qualitative things. So, I’ll start there. I think qualitative is underrated in a world, especially the bigger the company, the more we want to look at quantitative data. And that makes us feel good about our why we have 20,000 people that showed up and listened to whoever speak on widgets. That’s great, but. The thing to me is, you know, what was the conversation? Can we bring that up in a in a post report? Can we learn? Can we ask the hard questions? But where we feel the people were asking really engaging questions that were relevant to our business messaging. If the kernel that started our desire to do a thought leadership event or put out thought leadership content in any form, if that matches the questions that were showing that people were hungry, I am super excited. I like that a lot better than the last person that’s standing who decides to fill in a survey and say why they would recommend this to a friend. It’s one of my great metrics. You only get the people who love you. If I could get less of those fan people and more of the people who jumped off. So I like to look at things like attrition jump off points where people interacted. If you have the software, you know where their engagement was, what parts did they fall silent? Because that’s when they took their silent coffee break and went away. You know, I want to know what their behavior is. So data is at one point that engagement, the depth, the scroll, the interacting with the page and whether they came back not just once, but do they come back. That return, that shows interest over time. Those are the things that I want to build a picture out of, because data is its own form of story, and we need to understand it not just in a few vanity metrics, but actually looking at what is the story that’s being told of the customer journey or experience that happens around our thought leadership. It’s also why we need to make sure that while we might bookend it, we keep things that are evergreen out there if we can. We want to show that like people behave in their own way. They’re not going to show up on at 11:00 on a Monday if they have a conflict with their daughter’s pediatrician or a business meeting. And the high value people definitely don’t have time to show up when you want them to. So the digital content you put out there, how many times is it visited? Where did that traffic come from? Did it come from the original invitation? And it’s the no show that didn’t get there? Or does it come from your post, your postcards that you take a highlight and say, this is what missed and someone goes back to it? There’s so much that we can do with data and looking at how people engage. If we are willing to critically look at it, not just look for the applause, if we are willing to test, you know, go through those client groups, get a panel if you’re doing. It’s amazing to me how often we don’t really provide due diligence. We’re doing a sales thought leadership event, but we don’t get any salespeople to look at our content before we put it out. So I had a great example of where we sometimes take for granted what our audiences and we don’t use our resources to test. So kind of user test within our own domain with the resources we have in hand. So we had a, a thought leadership event for a sales organization and it was a big deal. And I got a narrative that was coming through that someone else had worked on to kind of check what give my thoughts on, on what we were doing here and how it was going to play out. And the main story relied on the assumption that because of the pandemic, everyone who had gone to digital selling wanted to be a better digital seller. And that just did not sit right with me. I know too many salespeople who really missed their client relationships, that wanted to go back to traveling, to seeing their clients, to touching base, to being assured of those connections in those ways. So, you know, to be political and kind of to check and not just, you know, flat my mouth off about my intuition, I asked if we could put together a sales quorum, get it, get a little bit of our best sales executives that would give their time to this content. This content is going out to their clients. They are invested. They will give us their time. What did they think about our thought leadership narrative and its points? And I asked a bunch of questions including Do salespeople want to be better digital sellers in 2022? The amount I mean, you would have thought I set off a Molotov cocktail in that room. It was it was amazing. The umbrage of even just the term digital selling caused such mixed emotions. And these are from people that know we’re on their side, we’re colleagues. So I’m thinking, well, immediately, if an audience sees this, they’ll know that we don’t know them. They will know that we’re not solving for them and we fail. That question of How is this about me? And Why should I care? We needed to pivot our language and change it. And, you know, even if you had to run that up the flagpole and step on a few toes, I mean, no one likes for you to have a solid piece that you’ve presented and then say, by the way, we were wrong. But if you were a true audience advocate, you need to do that because sure, you’ll still have people show up, but they’ll probably be typing an email while you’re speakers on stage, and they’ll probably be waiting for that moment where they get their free pair of socks or whatever it is that you incentivize them with. You’re not really showing that you relate to them. So I think data overall is important in identifying the audience, but we also need qualitative feedback. We need to use our resources and we need to interpret those stories because did we have real data that said salespeople have moved to digital selling? Absolutely. Of course, we did. Because they have they have to. Is it something we want to say where we’re helping them do better? No. Helping them make time? Yes. Helping them identify ways to connect with their customers even from a distance. Absolutely. Becoming better digital sellers. That was definitely not something we needed to say. So we have to be careful when we’re looking at data to run it by real people in real contexts and just test it before it goes out. Make sure it’s relevant.

Bill Sherman I love how this comes back to the concept of audience advocacy and it you’ve touched in woven a couple pieces into that empathy and that gets you the first few steps. But you have to engage with your audience and you have to listen and sometimes ask the tough questions before you put a piece out. Otherwise, like you said, you can throw a grenade into a room and set off a wild debate that you never expected. Also love the concept of data collection by looking at the qualitative questions that are being asked whether during a webinar or in a room, because you can look at who asks them, is that really your target audience? And how aligned with the messaging were you or are you three steps ahead of them and they were still trying to get the basics or were they pushing for the next piece? Were they ready to go forward? And were they seeing how connected those questions? As you said, the process of thought, leadership and analysis of thought leadership, you create its own story as you tell the story of how the piece came together and how you reach the audience.

Cristina Loughrey It’s true. You also need to adjust, I think, in keeping with that for who the audience is and what their context wants to be. We had an interesting conversation. A former boss of my and I at one point was we were working with very VIP people and they really wanted to penetrate sea levels better. And I’ve worked with a lot of very important people on the global stage, and I understand them at this point fairly well. And one of the things was, well, we have these wonderful, important people that we’re inviting and we’re coming. How do we democratize that? And I said, well, if you want them to stay, you don’t democratizes. Because the conversations that people have really depend on who they’re around, where they’re was, and how they feel comfortable. I mean, it’s on a spectrum. So the higher level conversations may not feel comfortable giving you real feedback or engaging in certain discussions in a public setting. You know, when we have to talk about real things, like will there be layoffs, is there a downturn coming? How do I adjust to a culture that, you know, is very much. More complicated socially than it’s ever been. What do I do to make myself more, you know, more aware? Like these conversations that are really high value and that really require thought leadership at a certain level. You need to make sure that the contexts that you’re setting up the room you’re inviting them into is specific to that audience. And that comes back to what you were saying about audience targeting and empathy, really looking at what are the consequences if someone who is a CEO says the wrong thing. And that can that can lose their family, their house. So we have to be very sensitive to what it is. And it’s not just on the high level. On the low level, there are a lot of vulnerable conversations that we want to make sure that we’re nurturing safe spaces for people to give feedback in that we are able to approach because we don’t want to put black boxes around conversations especially. I think we saw all of that a couple of years ago in the summer of 2021, when not having a conversation around Black Lives Matter and Inclusion and DTI was as telling as having the wrong one. So we need to be very careful about how do we empathetically reach audiences in ways that are safe and comfortable for them. And it may not always be celebrating things as loudly as we want and taking as much public credit and maybe earning trust in smaller, more localized ways.

Bill Sherman And it may even be in your example of working with VIP targeted audiences, a 1 to 1 delivery method rather than a one to many, and especially in collecting feedback or engaging in conversation. And so that personalization of thought leadership, if it’s done for the right audience that fits in whether you’re B to B or B to C can be goal that’s done right.

Cristina Loughrey Yeah. And I think looking for the immediate payoff is probably not the right way to look at it. When you’re looking at data, I think data should inform how we construct stories and there’s little faith and trust that has to happen within in order to know that it isn’t that I’m going to have a one too few. Event or conversation with some important people. And suddenly, you know, every enterprise client that was represented.

Bill Sherman Rainbows and unicorns. Yes.

Cristina Loughrey I mean, that’s great, but that’s not how it works. What we’re going to have to know is that what we created is a step in developing a relationship and that we now have an opportunity to follow up. So when you asked earlier about metrics that might be successful, well within the next six months, not tomorrow, the next six months, were we able to secure another event, another conversation, a relationship, an introduction? Did they not block our emails? That would be a good one. What is the overall point of what is the overall? And this is why I like to say things should be looked at kind of in a in a 365-day approach. The year-to-year end to year end, when we’re looking at things instead of by our quarters, are we seeing people reengage? Are we seeing people shift the way they think or look to us when there’s something that was relevant to what we say we’re leading in? I mean, people forget that thought. Leadership is about leadership.

Bill Sherman Yes.

Cristina Loughrey And you need to give people time to catch up. Otherwise, you’re trying to lead from the middle. And that’s just confusing that that doesn’t get you anywhere or, you know, you just kind of in a corral at that point, spinning in circles when what we really want is to be going into new ground. And we have to wait for that to prove itself out. And I think that patients can be very difficult.

Bill Sherman Because often we’re measuring things on a week to week, month to month basis, and a 90-day timeline can feel like an eternity. Right?

Cristina Loughrey Yeah. And I think this also comes down to being honest about where your businesses are. You know, for what I do, I, I have had a lot of interviews with companies that want to contract me to do what I identify pretty quickly as demand gen. And I think you have to be really careful not to confuse thought, leadership or content with demand gen content and thought leadership or long-term strategies that create incredible retention. I mean, it is a fact that people who have bought in the larger the purchase, the more true that says something like a car from a brand they trust. I buy a Toyota; it never breaks down. I’m going to buy a Toyota again. It will take work for a company to pull me off of that grant because I rely on it. I trust it. So, it’s a huge win when you can earn trust and you can earn retention and you can earn these moments, you have to keep it up. You can’t just abandon them out there.

Bill Sherman But you’re not building trust on a speed dating pace.

Cristina Loughrey Exactly. This isn’t this isn’t your speed dating kind of forum. And I think that when we look at being honest about what you want to do with your thought leadership, you need to be really clear about what your goals are and what your scope is financially and in terms of personnel and what you can invest in it. A small business may not be able to compete. I have heard numerous people when I’m like, Well, what are your goals? Like I want like a mini Dreamforce. I had a client tell me that once and I said, I’m not sure that you understand how much goes into Dreamforce like that is. You can’t deny it, first of all. And secondly, even if you could, you’d be blowing a lot of your discretionary spending. It might be better off expanding your sales team or working on your creative assets or figuring out the research you need on what your brand is being read like out there in the general public. When we talk about thought leadership, I think a lot of people think of it as a shortcut to getting attention. They want a byline; they want a news feed. They want people to love them. But even some of our biggest tech giants that seem like just iconic at this point were anonymous for a very long time. Yes. And it takes a long time to get to the point where you can invest properly in doing thought leadership for the right reasons in the right way.

Bill Sherman So I think that’s a good place for us to start wrapping up. And I want to ask you this question. What is it that you know now that you wish you knew earlier in your career?

Cristina Loughrey Oh, my gosh. Everything. What I wish I knew earlier in my career was to be. I think more patience with audiences and to listen a little better and advocate a little stronger for the details of what they’re saying. Those moments where you see something that’s like a psycho behavioral state and you’re like, that just doesn’t sit right with me. I feel that at this point in my career, I’ve gotten better at. Hearing my gut, you know, when something makes sense to me. You know, I look at the I had a very heavy sense of apprehension around 2021 or what was that like? May When everything started pivoting to digital and quiet. And, you know, here I have a UX partner who’s been working on digital events and digital content for seven years is amazing at what he does. I’ve been in events and content for at least 15 years. I don’t want to date myself too much and looking at all of this, I said, Well put, why? And that why is really important. Why is everyone suddenly willing to spend what had to be about 6 hours a day listening to other people speak on video? And why were the things that I was watching going, Oh, this is just painful to watch. It’s the driest presentation of ever seen. It’s a shambles of a presentation. And the reason that’s important is not because you need to have a very glossy image, but because the barrier between the audience and the speaker, when they’re not trying to focus on the face or because they can’t see it or because the sound is weird or any of these things, when you have a high broadcast quality, you get someone have a little more intimate experience. And I saw all this settling and all this hustle to just get anything out there and the why of me just kept bothering me. And I’m seeing it play out now where people are like, Oh my gosh, we, we’ve invested everything in digital and now all of a sudden there’s a huge rate of attrition. And I was like, Well, because people are going back to a state of security or at least a state of needing to move forward in their lives. The best part of the last few years is that our IQ needs to be balanced with our IQ, and we have to have conversations that really look deeply at what it is we’re solving for in audiences. From an emotional and empathetic perspective. Are we being kind to their time or are we being kind to what it is that they’re enduring in their lives? Are we afraid to say negative things when they’re thinking them themselves? What are we doing? And I think having. A little more. Self-confidence around vocalizing the why would have been really good for me when I was younger and feeling like you might ruffle feathers. But if you have the right team and you have people committed to the right quality, then it’s better to ruffle a few feathers than to poison the nest. Like that’s really the essential thing. And so now I guess I’m happy that I’m less compromising than I was around the quality of content when I was younger, where I would just kind of roll my eyes and be like, I don’t think that’s going to work, but who knows? Someone else says, we still have to be political, but right, right.

Bill Sherman I think you and I could carry on a long conversation on audience advocacy and never to the strategy. But I want to thank you. And this has been wonderful as a conversation. Thank you, Cristina.

Cristina Loughrey Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. So, any time.

Bill Sherman If you’re interested in organizational thought leadership, then I invite you to subscribe to the OrgTL newsletter. Each month we talk about the people who create, curate, and deploy thought leadership on behalf of their organizations. Go to the website and choose ‘join our newsletter’. I’ll leave a link to the website as well as my LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Thanks for listening and I look forward to hearing what you thought of the show.


Bill Sherman works with thought leaders to launch big ideas within well-known brands. He is the COO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Bill on Twitter

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