Storytelling with Thought Leadership | Adam Zuckerman, Mary J. Cronin, Michelle Mellon, and Christopher Brace
Connecting storytelling to thought leadership. A compilation of advice for using storytelling for…
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Art Kleiner is the Editor in Chief and Principal at Kleiner Powell International (KPI). In addition, he’s an author and editorial consultant for influential thought leadership. Art starts our New Year’s podcast off right by discussing difficulties one faces in building an audience. While technology has increased our reach, it also causes us to gather an audience that’s fragmented across various platforms. Art shares the keys to building a sustainable audience: showing up consistently, finding ways to connect, and meeting your audience on their turf.
Dan Pontefract is the Founder of the Pontefract Group, leadership strategist, author and keynote speaker. Dan discussed navigating being a public thought leader while working for an organization. This can often be a tricky position to be in and Dan explains how he managed to grow his brand as a thought leader while keeping the best interest of his organization in mind.
Last but certainly not least we have Stephen M. R. Covey. He is the co-founder of Covey Link and Franklin Covey, a bestselling author and a global authority on trust, leadership and culture. Stephen shares his experience growing from an analog to digital space and the forward thinking ideas needed to drive change and stay at the top of your game in a digital world.
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.
Peter Winick I want to move to the sort of different threading of different track that you and I were talking about. And I think this is really something that a lot of thought leaders, aspiring thought leaders, etc., struggle with and don’t understand, which is how hard it is to build an audience. Right. One would think intuitively, well, it should be easier because there’s always there’s link to this instrument, you know, whatever. There’s so many different places versus 25 years ago. Folks like you? Yes, it was controlled. Then why is it so much harder today to build an audience? And I would say the right audience. Right.
Art Kleiner So partly it has to do with what you have to say and partly it has to do with how large and fragmented the audiences and the leaders are. And a lot of times people don’t recognize that people compare themselves to, you know, the pundit. The visible pundit.
Peter Winick Yeah.
Art Kleiner And they don’t compare. They do better to compare themselves to who they were a year ago. So, for instance, one of the first people I worked with was Peter Sandy, and I still work with Keith. And when he did the fifth discipline, it felt like an overnight sensation. He had been working with those ideas in a adult education context with partners and collaborators for 12 years, honing them, refining them, kind of bringing them to life and making sense of them.
Peter Winick But that’s the practice of the violin before Yo-Yo Ma gets on stage. Right? That’s the place, the part nobody sees.
Art Kleiner And then there’s another part, which is then we went further and we did the field and we did, you know. Right. Anyone who is basically putting out a book is also putting out a campaign around it. A portfolio of pieces. Mm hmm. The, for instance, again, when we advise people on thought leadership strategy, and I’m sure we’re not alone in this, we advise people around the portfolio. There’s your co-write, right? And you want to make sure the logic of the core ideas is really good and based on, you know, sort of substance. And in you talk to but you also you have to show up. Maybe not every day, maybe every week. But you have to show up with something. And you also have to. Make the most of the audience you have and the audience that they’re going to help you develop. And you need to you know, there are people who will read. 500. There are people who will read, you know, a thousand words or 5000 words even. And there are a lot of people who will read 300 words. And so you have to find ways to connect.
Peter Winick Well, then there are people who don’t read any words and want to see what you have to say in video or this, podcasts like this or something. I want to expound on a piece that you said there is that. Your audience. I think part of the issue or the struggle that people have is there’s so passionate about what they do. Right. And they and to some degree, that could make them a bit myopic. And they see the power in their ideas. They know that when it’s unleashed, it changes lives or companies or teams or whatever for the better. So they want to be evangelical around the idea, except the reality is you have to be really narrow. Not really broad, right? Nobody’s got the budgets of Coca Cola. So you got to say, well, who am I serving? Who will this idea resonate with the most given the limited amount of time and energy and resources I have as a thought leader to get it out there and build my audience?
Art Kleiner Yeah, I love I love the way you put it. They’re sort of like the engineer who’s releasing a new, you know, a new type of monitor or something, and get remote with like 50 different buttons on it because each one of those has a value and they love the value of it.
Peter Winick Except no normal human could figure out how to use the damn thing.
Art Kleiner So you want an idea that’s simple without being simplistic. And then on the other side. So you said broad or narrow audience and. I want to put an asterisk there myself, I think. Sure. I think we aspire to the right audience and we aspire to an audience that connects. And a lot of it is figuring out who we connect to. So, for instance, you know, we work with IFC, which is part of the World Bank on studies of companies, you know, mostly health care companies, some education companies. You could say our audience is people in emerging economies. You can say, are these people who like case studies? You could say our audience is investors, because a lot of what the world of IFC does is Marshall Investment.
Peter Winick Yes.
Art Kleiner Having impact in the emerging world, in emerging economies. But the audience really is people who are looking for ways to solve the particular type of problem that these companies solve, which is how to be innovative. Either when you’re in a start up or when you’re in a start up economy. Situation in our job leaders is to connect with those people and find a way to define and reach them.
Peter Winick Well, I would almost debate the term audience. I think there’s two types. There’s users. There’s a lot of people that would read what you have to say and, you know, write it, write a lovely comment. They appreciated the thoughtfulness, etc., etc., etc. but they can’t really do much to sell their users. Right? Right. And then there are buyers who are the subset of the people that would read what you’re putting out into the universe and go, Wow, I want a higher KPI. That was such a great job that they did because quite frankly, that’s the journey of the thought leaders like you need to tantalize an audience, if you will, with your thinking and your thoughts and your writing, etc. But it’s only a very, very, very small subset of the readership, if you will. That’s your buyer, where you have to put your thumb on the scale and say, I need to spend more energy connecting with them because they pay the bills.
Art Kleiner Yeah, but it happens in a non-linear way. So yeah, John Wanamaker –
Peter Winick Say more about that.
Art Kleiner John Wanamaker famously said, you know, half my money on advertising is wasted, but I don’t know which have exactly. When it comes to content. Probably 50 or more percent, 70% of the effort I make is not going to bear fruit today. But it bear fruit.
Peter Winick And that’s fine. That’s okay. But I want to even push on that. Some of that. When you say it will not bear fruit today, I would push even further. Some of it may never be. And that’s okay. Some of it may bear fruit later. You’re planting the seeds in an emerging leadership class that might embrace your ideas down the road or students or whatever.
Art Kleiner It’ll bear a different kind of fruit, or it’ll be. I mean, there’s only so far we can take this metaphor.
Peter Winick Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. But it’s already happened.
Art Kleiner But it will. So. Okay. There is an intrinsic value to having the right idea out in the world at the right time.
Peter Winick Absolutely. Absolutely.
Art Kleiner There is a real value to having the ability to craft an idea recognized. And there is a huge value in being part of a larger community that is working with management ideas. And here’s where I think the thought leadership community has an opportunity to really improve. I mean, we have groups like Thinkers 50 and.
Peter Winick One hundred, one thousand, yeah.
Art Kleiner Where we’re building bridges among people. But we don’t. Yet, but we’re emerging towards a sort of common understanding and shared language. We’re going through a little bit what psychology went through. Yeah, I think that’s right. You know, James Tillman and Michael Ventura wrote this great book about a while ago called We’ve Had 100 Years of Psychotherapy and the World is getting worse. Yeah. You know, we’ve had 35 years of business thought leadership and things are getting more complex. But we have opportunities to make sense with each other. It’s much we’re competitors, but we’re also looking for the same thing, which is going back to that audience we talked about right at the beginning, that person who’s going to make decisions or make things happen and he doesn’t just need to make a decision. Right. They’re not looking for give me the wisdom to solve this problem. Sure. In our in our research. One of the other things that came up the most the strongest was I want something that will change the way I think. And what they’re really looking for is how can I be the kind of leader I need to be?
Peter Winick Exactly. Exactly.
Peter Winick Your path is an interesting one. Not totally uncommon, but a little bit different than normal in that you’re basically a high performing exec at a big telecom. And during your time there, among other things, you develop your thought leadership. You started speaking both as part of the job and as part of your passion. And now here we are several years later and you’re on your own. Maybe let’s start with sort of how that journey came, because you could have continued to be an incredibly successful exec, but then you sort of pulled off of that. Right. So let’s talk about sort of that transition.
Dan Pontefract I guess I needed to stay married. That’s the number one way to get out of didn’t get out of Denise’s hair. Right. So even that probably starts a little bit earlier. I thought I was an educator. I guess I am an educator. So I started out teaching high school for two years when I was 23 or 24. That led me to then realize I wasn’t probably that good at helping children, but maybe adults. So I switched to higher ed.
Peter Winick They’re kind of like large children.
Dan Pontefract They are. That’s true. Yeah. With all amygdala issues. All amygdala, no prefrontal cortex. So that wasn’t for me. Everything was a raft of decision making, although most executives are irrational, so that maybe you’re right. So then I got into higher ed and I was about six years and I said, Okay, well, maybe I need to be actually in the real world outside of higher education. And so I joined what eventually became ASCAP. And so 2001 through basically seven years, I was in high tech as a as a leader, helping organize the organization with its internal culture, its development of competence, and the external revenue generating consulting arm of education services. So that led me to 2008. And I was having some, I would just say probably issues with AP trying to like what the heck is culture? And they didn’t get it and that’s fine. And so yeah, a Canadian kind of telecom called Tell US literally phoned and said, Hey, we’ve got an issue over here, why don’t you come join us and help us with our culture change? I was like, This is great. Up until that point, Peter, I wasn’t doing really anything publicly. So I had talked a few times, you know, with my ASCAP hat on publicly in a conference or what have you. But I didn’t I didn’t have a book strategy. I didn’t have a writing strategy. But when I joined Tellus, I literally said to myself, All right, here’s an opportunity. Here’s an organization that’s, you know, 50,000 people. You’re coming in as chief learning officer. Maybe you should be public about your work. And so surreptitiously, I sort of would write, starting out with my own blog that I finally started about culture change, about leadership, about learning, about.
Peter Winick Going to say, say public. So I want to sort of understand that now. Did you mean public lowercase p like these 50,000 employees are my audience per se, or the more broadly speaking, public of whether they’re a tell us employee or part of the general population. I can be writing to do them.
Dan Pontefract I wrote to Earth.
Peter Winick To Earth, to Earth.
Dan Pontefract Dear Earth. This is what you did that.
Peter Winick No. Okay, so you go. And so were there any pushback or, you know, raised eyebrows from the powers that be at the firms and hey, Dan, this is your day job. What are you doing, all this other stuff, or were they cool with it or did it take some coaxing because there are so many sort of thought leaders that are not to say stuck that they don’t have the permission, they haven’t figured out how to navigate that public piece of it.
Dan Pontefract I have always believed in the adage, Peter, that they slap the wrist after the fact is far better than a hand cut off upfront.
Peter Winick So forgiveness, not permission.
Dan Pontefract I didn’t seek out permission in which to be sort of public now. I wasn’t spilling the beans on companies. Right. But I would I would use the experience of culture change, leadership learning, organizational dynamics right in my writing and then eventually my speaking. So again.
Peter Winick Because that’s in essence a laboratory view, because what’s interesting about this is that you’ve got odd people that are strictly consultants that that live in the more abstract, theoretical or embedded. So you’re coming across emails and meetings and stuff every day that probably that’s fodder for a good blog if I want to change some names to protect the innocent or whatever. But like, wow, here’s a real thing, right?
Dan Pontefract Like exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And it was and it still is because we can get to what I do these days, but it’s the same model is that when you’re a spy in the camp, if you will, so long as you don’t detrimentally use names and figures to the chagrin of their personality or personality disorder, you can use these experiences and examples as exemplar to what is working and what’s not when you’re going through culture change, you know, organizational building and so forth. So I never thought of it that way. As you just adroitly discovered or pointed out that there was a living lab.
Peter Winick Yeah, yeah.
Dan Pontefract You know, so it became lots of fodder.
Peter Winick Though, at what point? Because I sort of know where the story ends. But it is today. And we’ll get to that in a moment. At what point do the powers that be go, hey, this is good. We should encourage this this this Dan guy to do this. This is actually good for him. Good for us. Good for. There is really no downside. How did that come to be?
Dan Pontefract I mean, again, not asking for permission. I was just.
Peter Winick Writing.
Dan Pontefract Them and speaking. And then, you know, as my writing lifted from not just writing for me, but, you know, then Forbes somehow reached out and said, Hey, would you like to be a writer on our leadership channel? I was like, Oh, that’s a good idea. Yeah, that’d be pretty cool. And then, you know, I wasn’t taking any money from Forbes. I wasn’t taking any money from the speaking gigs because I was gainfully employed by Tellus. And that’s kind of a conflict of interest. But I just yeah, I started like getting more opportunities and more requests until one point, exactly like they tell us, realize that I was a contributor to Forbes, which is a news media outlet, and then it was their way to sort of chat with you about, you know, what you’re doing and that’s okay. I was again, I knew it was going to come at some point. So, you know, then it was, hey, you know, make sure you’re not outing a customer, you know, don’t talk.
Peter Winick Right?
Dan Pontefract Right. So, again, it was a pretty collegial relationship. And again, as I’m speaking now, I’m now I’m speaking about some of the actual tell us examples. So now tell us in the middle of some of my keynotes would be like a five or ten minute case study of Here’s where we were, here’s what we’re doing, here’s how it is going, here’s what you might want to.
Peter Winick Write, which is good for them.
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Peter Winick I want to be on a different path for a moment before we get to the content of given that you and I have a couple of gray hairs here. You’ve also seen the thought leadership world move from a largely analog: buy a book that lands with a thud, bring our consultants in to do workshops or keynotes or whatever. All analog things, deliverables. And they’re all great deliverables. They still exist today. And then the power of digital so that it gives you more ways to deliver the message and the content and to monetize it to more people. And it seems to be moving so quickly. And, you know, it wasn’t all that long ago that a TED talk was the short form content of 8 minutes, which is now war and peace in terms of content. But talk free, if you could, a little bit about sort of the balance or the transition, if you will, from analog to digital in many areas.
Steven M.R. Covey Yeah. Now, this this disaster is, you know, enormous that’s taking place. And here’s the good news. The good news is still the power of ideas of intellectual property that gets kind of codified is still the underlying engine.
Peter Winick Sure. Absolutely.
Steven M.R. Covey That are mediums and are ways of spreading. It is shifting and changing in extraordinary ways that can have a greater impact and also can even increase profitability as well, because of the fact that now suddenly there’s possibilities and opportunities that maybe we didn’t have before under the old analog model, you know, going out and doing it yourself and this and that. And even I will say this, even the old analog model, we were at the forefront at pushing the envelope on that, doing things like creating certification and.
Peter Winick Let train the trainers and the.
Steven M.R. Covey Train the trainer. That sounds commonplace today. At the time it wasn’t and it was seen as well. Why would you do that? Why would you do a certification of lions?
Peter Winick Right.
Steven M.R. Covey Yeah, well, take away your presenting days, but, you know, you can reach a lot more people and you can do a lot more work. And so even some of the analog, there’s some breakthrough thinking. And you have a similar thing happening today that enables you to move in a whole new arenas, including, for example, like subscription and this type of thing where you try to you can kind of codify you still. You just start with intellectual property with ideas that are codified and branded and the like. But then you have now new ways of scaling it and of disseminating that and of and of also creating new business models for it. Or suddenly, for example, this approach could be valuable and other approaches that you just didn’t have in the analog model.
Peter Winick When I think of in a digital the trick today because more choices give you more options to make good choices and bad choices. But getting really clear about who you’re serving and how you’re serving them helps you make decisions around the modalities, right? So even if you look at where I think the most confusion lies is in social media and I hear all the time, should I be on Tik Tok, should I be on Instagram, should I be on clubhouse? And I’m like, Where are your clients and potential client? Where are the people you want to reach? I guess has nothing to do with you, whether you like it or not. It’s not about you. Is that a place that A is aligned to your brand? Right. And what else do they what else are people talking about or doing there? Will it connect or is it just noise or is it the peer pressure, what everybody else is doing? Right. And until you can sort of make the case business wise, I would say you don’t need to be the first kid on your block on TikTok or against or whatever the market sort of will guide you where to go there.
Steven M.R. Covey Absolutely. The market sets par and.
Peter Winick You know.
Steven M.R. Covey And it guides you and it helps you. But I think that that that step of really understanding markets and customers, that the fundamental marketing.
Peter Winick And.
Steven M.R. Covey Really business step is the very first step in understanding markets and customers and starting with needs and then the markets and customers and then you figure out the channels and the modalities and the like. But too often if you just jump right through the channels and the modalities and get the understanding markets and customers, and we’ll find ourselves again fragmented, trying to do too much.
Peter Winick To learn more about Thought Leadership Leverage, please visit our website at ThoughtLeadershipLeverage.com. To reach me directly, feel free to email me at Peter at ThoughtLeadershipLeverage.com and please subscribe to Leveraging Thought Leadership on iTunes or your favorite podcast app to get your weekly episode automatically.