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Building Your Own Thought Leadership Brand | Scott Jeffery Miller
How times are changing for thought leadership and what you can do to keep up.
An interview with Scott Jeffery Miller about using his decades of knowledge, building brands and platforms to build himself as a thought leader.
When you’ve spent decades behind the curtain, building brands and platforms for other thought leaders – what does it take to step into the spotlight and create your own?
Our guest today is Scott Jeffrey Miller, Senior Advisor, Thought Leadership at FranklinCovey, as well as a best-selling author, and host of the hit podcast On Leadership with Scott Miller.
Scott discusses the ups and downs of his journey into thought leadership, and what it’s like to be on both sides of the fence. Scott has unique insight into what it takes to create a thought leadership platform – both for others, and for yourself! While you can hire talented people to help get your thought leadership off the ground, ultimately you are responsible for your own elevation, through social media, productization, research, and everything else – and that means you need a strong strategy to get your insights recognized.
To be successful, you must have a deep understanding of your audience; what they need, what their problems are, and how you can help them. Scott explains how to look beyond simple demographics, and get to the real pain points your content can solve, so that you can connect with them in a meaningful and trustworthy way.
We wrap up the conversation with Scott providing key advice for anyone seeking to become a thought leader. He shares where to start, what other successful thought leaders have in common, and what you’ll need to do in order to reach that level of success.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Strategy is constantly changing. In order to keep up you have to be constantly taking in new data and pivoting in real time.
- Have an abundance mindset! Put your ideas out into the world for free while building deeper content that can be paid for by those who need it.
- If you want to start building thought leadership, here’s your checklist: Read often; post often, and be prepared to play the long game.
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 And welcome, welcome, welcome. This is Peter Winick. I’m the founder and CEO at Thought Leadership Leverage and you’re joining me on the extension of the podcast Leveraging Thought Leadership, our LinkedIn live series today. My guest is Jeffrey Miller. So, I would go into his bio, but that would chew up a ton of our time. The short answer is to Scott bio. If you don’t know him, you can Google is he spent a long time at the organization starting as a front line sales guy and sort of moving up to the chief marketing officer there and now is, I think, special advisor to the universe or something. But what is and the host of an amazing, amazing, amazing podcast that I’ve been blessed to be on. But what’s been amazing about Scott over the last couple of years is, he kind of moved from behind the house to in front of the house. So, Scott spent 25 years making other thought leaders, rock stars and commercially successful product guys and what they what they are kind of what I do externally you’ve got internally and then you chose to operate on yourself recently. Right. So, we’ll talk about maybe some of the background and the transition that you’ve made from behind the scenes to in front of the camera, if you will, in front of the things.
Scott Jeffery Miller That’s right. First, Peter, thanks for the spotlight today. Thanks for having me on. You are an icon in the thought leadership industry. And anybody who’s thinking of writing a book or building their brand or prioritizing their IP should be working with you. So I appreciate the chance to come on the show with you today. That’s exactly right. I mean, less than three decades kind of as a director producer behind the curtain, behind the scenes and about four years ago decided after a 30-year career doing that, I made a lot of people rich and famous and wealthy and thought, you know what? Yeah, I can speak as well as they can. At least that’s my thought at the time. And so, it’s with this podcast that I host for Franklin Covey, now the world’s largest weekly leadership podcast called Ownership of Scott Miller, that I started writing and speaking keynoting more and moved out to the stage, so to speak. And I’m still doing producing and directing, but also kind of as the talent as well, but a big transition, but felt comfortable that I had some expertise to share after so many years, helping literally millions of people build their leadership cultures inside companies and helping to launch Franklin Covey’s books that have sold nearly 60 million copies and a great team that I’ve had the honor of Co-Leading for many years. So lots of lessons learned, lots of mistakes, have had lots of bestsellers and lots of flops. And so I know all of the things to do and the things not to do. Simply writing and launching books changes by the week in terms of some publishers that are now audio first and this whole short, you’re now a video book, kind of big growing genre of just having video books, so happy to share my lessons learned.
Peter Winick So let me ask you this, because you and I know each other for a long time and have commiserated in the past of, oh, if the clients only listened, right. Like, it’s really clear to us what needs to be done and how it needs to be done or whatever. Now that you are both sort of the strategy businessperson as well as the talent? Yeah. Who do you blame when something doesn’t go right? Are you are you are you taking your own advice?
Scott Jeffery Miller Well, I think it all lands on the author. At the end of the day, the thought leader is responsible for not just their own property, their thought for their strategy, they’re responsible for their social media, their email database, their work. So, you can partner with smart people like you that help to create strategies. At the end of the day, the thought leader owns it all. They can’t blame their strategist or their partner or their publisher. You’ve got to now also be your own marketer, your own strategist as well. So, I launched about two and a half books a year of my own in several courses. I also like you, I’m an agent, so I own a talent literary and speaking agency and the puck is moving constantly. You know, what worked for me a book ago will not work for my next book in terms of who the readership is and is a bit exhausting.
Peter Winick Stay there for a minute then, because. Because there’s so much in what you’re saying. It used to be not that long ago there was a cadence, right? Oh, get a new book out every 18 months. Right. Like that was the rhythm, right? Whether you needed to or not. So sometimes books came out, they were okay. But that was sort of the rule of publishers, I would say. Now we’re living in the there’s a little bit of the Wild West where these sort of old rules that worked for a long time. But you said it doesn’t work book to book and you’re publishing more than two a year. So it’s all about being agile, it’s all about being resilient. Does it need you know, does it need to be in a book? So how do you start thinking about this? Because you’ve mapped out lots of content, lots of books that you’d like to do for various reasons, but how are you constantly taking in the information, the data, and then pivoting in real time?
Scott Jeffery Miller I that probably is the question. You know, some like Jim Collins, writer Liz Wiseman can do, you know, issue level three, ten years. And those are very little books that require extensive research. That’s you know, that’s a strategy. And it works for about two people a year. And then there’s sort of all kinds of trying I mean, I have collaborations going on with Squibb Blinkist, Spotify, I have collaborations going on with three different publishers and podcasts. And so I well, it’s different.
Peter Winick Stay there for a minute because we brush through this quickly where you said earlier, you know, you’ve got to be in charge of everything. My experience has been and I think it’s the reason our business has thrived is when our clients come to us, they’ve got the thought leadership piece down a plus or minus some. Yeah. So some minor adjustments that can be made a little bit better, but they don’t come to us with a blank page and say, Don’t fault leadership. For me, 80% of the energy is focused on sales, marketing, distribution, monetization and many thought leaders, and rightfully so, It’s just a foreign language to them. You know, they were the CEO of a company. They didn’t, you know, literally whatever they do, they tend to be best in class. But marketing, thought, leadership and content or books or courses or programs or speeches, why would anyone expect them to know how to do that?
Scott Jeffery Miller They typically don’t. You’re right. Which is why people like you and I have such value to them. What they should know, what is they should know who is their target market, Right. And who is their customer. And they should be building their social media. Most my time during the day is advising people and thank you for telling me you hate LinkedIn or you don’t say that. They usually say they hate some other platforms, usually not LinkedIn. Yes, it’s usually so lovely.
Peter Winick And they like.
Scott Jeffery Miller I say, I think most people have graduated to LinkedIn as the one viable, the main viable source. Right. What they usually say is they have a problem, the different platform, but you kind of need to be across lots of platforms, including LinkedIn. It probably is the most credible in terms of how to build your voice. Interviewed the chief product officer of LinkedIn a few weeks ago. He actually was complimenting me because most of my social on LinkedIn, it’s about my life, not just a hard business post. I talk about my parents or about my marriage. I try to I try to build a persona of really who I am entirely on LinkedIn, and it’s worked out well for me. But I think you’re right. I think thought leaders, by the way, you can’t call yourself that. Someone else has.
Peter Winick Never, ever, ever, ever, ever call yourself, right?
Scott Jeffery Miller Yes. But you can be in the thought leadership space. I think the Wild West is a good thing right now because there’s so many opportunities, so many potential operations, short form, long form. LinkedIn learning is, of course is exploding in terms of organizational opportunities. So many great places you could be, and you could be too many places where your voice is so diluted and you’re trying to do too many things.
Peter Winick And that and that’s so stay there for a minute because a lot of folks struggle with that where at some point there’s got to be a line between church and state, paid and free. Right? So, I’m a big proponent of giving away a ton of stuff and lots and lots of modalities. But you also have to have things that are sort of behind the paywall or guarded or whatever language you want to use to say, and this is what you’re going to pay me and my organization for. And the trick is to get those things to work together. And there used to be a mindset of what if I gave it away? Why would they pay for it? And it’s like, Well, if you give it away, there’s a massive population that would never be your client, but let them be aware from it. Let them benefit from it. Maybe something would happen. The subset of people that will pay real dollars for real interventions on the consulting side of products, offerings and solution is really a subset of the group that’s that you’re making aware.
Scott Jeffery Miller I mean, here’s a perfect example. Dr. Stephen Covey, who passed a decade ago, arguably one of the world’s biggest seminal books, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. If you add it up, all the royalties that Dr. Covey would have made, I don’t know. It might have been $30 million in the book.
Peter Winick Sure.
Scott Jeffery Miller But that course has sold, you know, a billion and a half dollars around the world. And so no understanding what you want to sit out and give out it from an abundance mindset, from a contribution mindset. I’d say the most successful people have an abundance mindset where they’re actually writing content complementary, not an A, you know, tread on me kind of way, right? But you’ve got to be smart about it. But figuring out then how do you, to your point, find those who do want to take a deeper dive and build a product or service around that, that they’re absolutely willing to pay big dollars for to have corporate or individual interventions.
Peter Winick Is a huge. Yeah, that huge market. You know, you mentioned earlier, I want you to jump on this as well, is that you’ve got to know who your target market is. I’m shocked at how many people don’t or they do ish. Meaning? Oh, leaders. That’s too big managers. Yeah, that’s too like I’d rather hear someone get really specific with me. Like, this is really designed for, you know, someone in a first-time people management role. College educated under 30 in professional services. I dig that right, because that gives me a real level of specificity. And once I know who that is, I can put them at the center of the universe and say, Where are they getting their information from? Are they on LinkedIn? Are they in Instagram? Are they? It doesn’t matter what my personal preference is, right? Because we all, I believe, have a preference, like I’m old school and do like to read books. I’m in the minority, right? So. Right. You like to read books as well. But if we if we were to sit here and say, oh, the to the rest of the world must be like us, so let’s just make sure everything we put out is in a book, We don’t need to deal with short form video and we don’t need to deal with 500 word blog posts. We’d probably both be bankrupt quickly.
Scott Jeffery Miller It’s very true that I think the best person I’ve ever met about this I may have mentioned this to you before is Rachel Hollis writes with the books Girl Watch the East of Apologizing. This woman sold more books in 2019 than any author in America, second only to Michelle Obama. If you met with Rachel, she would tell you exactly who her client was, what her what she was having for dinner, what struggles were in her marriage, how many kids she had, what her disposable income was, what she bought at Target yesterday. I mean, she knew exactly who she was. And I do, too. I’ll tell you my. My customer has increasingly congealed into it’s heavily female, probably a female. It’s probably in the in that in the age of 32 to about 50. They usually have a level management role. They’re probably making about $120,000 a year. They’re not in the C-suite. They’re not individual contributors. They may have a side hustle. But they see me as a credible, trusted leadership thought leader that is relatable and accessible. Finds parenting tough. Trying to keep their marriage together. Likes to have fun but wants a better life for themselves. And naturally whom I market is. And I write, I write to them.
Peter Winick So that’s interesting because, you know, I did a piece a couple of weeks ago on, you know, lazy marketers stick to demographics because it’s easy, right? Age, income, education level. Some of the characteristics that you mentioned that I think are as important, if not more of the psychographics are trying to keep their marriage together. What’s their tolerance for risk? Their struggle, their time start, right? You don’t typically find a list of 38-year-olds making $140,000 a year that are time starved and stressed. Right? You get the first piece. So I love the psychographic piece that I think because you know that so well, it’s easy for you to go. You know what? They’re probably really comfortable with me exposing myself a little bit and talk to you. Put up some great stuff with the antics of you and your kids or going out somewhere cool with your wife or whatever. And some might say if that was a different demographic, if it was, you know, C-suite males over 63 million, maybe that would make them unrelatable or make you less relatable to that population.
Scott Jeffery Miller And it’s true. And it evolves. And not everybody in that group is going to fall in love with you. And, you know, my biggest challenges for myself is I have, you know, some leadership knowledge. I have some marketing knowledge. I kind of know now as a podcaster, and I’m writing a book about mentorship, but I’m an agent and I do think maybe I’ve diluted my market a little bit by kind of being all things to too many people. And I got to be books and B2C books, I got courses. And so I have to also be thoughtful that I’m going to write a parenting book and I’ll probably do really well for those who don’t like parenting. I love my children, I don’t like parenting, and I’m probably going to piss a lot of parents off who find that their mission, their calling is parenting. They’re not my people. The people like me that found out, you know, I probably shouldn’t have been a parent, but I am and I love my kids, but I’m just going to write a real raw book around how hard parenting is. I think it will do really well and it’s going to.
Peter Winick But I think there’s some I think great thought leaders have courage, right? And if you’re trying to be all things to all people, you water it down to the point, oh, well, that’s there’s nothing to agree or disagree with. And we’re trying to use the most starved resource today or the most scarce resource today is attention. So if you want to put out a parenting book like I love the way you prepare people, you shouldn’t be parents or don’t like me or whatever, but love their kids. That’s interesting because there’s probably a massive percentage of people that may never have said that out loud and will say, Thank God, Scott, you said the things that I’ve been thinking about. Whatever you’re signaling to me.
Scott Jeffery Miller You’re dead wrong. You said the best thought leaders have courage. The only thought leaders have courage, meaning they point is, if you want to be a thought leader, you have to have courage. Actually, you’re not dead wrong. You’re right on. You’ve got to have courage to be a thought leader. I did a podcast interview two weeks ago with Peter Zion, the famous geopolitical.
Peter Winick Point.
Scott Jeffery Miller Hundred thousand views in a day on YouTube. If you saw the comments in there about me, you’d like go take your life. I mean, it was just vitriolic, the evil things people said about me as a host, worse host ever. This guy has cured me from listening to audio ever again in my life. And so I read them all.
Peter Winick You know what? I’m sorry. I’m sorry about that. Sorry. I meant to apologize about that.
Scott Jeffery Miller I forgive you. I took I took all of your comments from YouTube, and I put it in my social media and say, this is how you learn, this is how you live, and you’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there. These aren’t my people. These other 100,000 people are my people. I’m a.
Peter Winick Man. And I would say, you know, one of the things I advise my clients is that if you’re not and again, it’s unintentional, alienating, pissing off, you know, distancing from some significant percentage of the marketplace, then there’s nothing there. Right. At 15, 28 doesn’t mean they need to stand up and burn your house down. That’s not what I’m advocating. But it’s 15, 20, 25% of people say, well, I don’t agree with him. I don’t agree with the way he thinks. You know, I don’t like kale. Great. Go eat your broccoli. That’s fine. But once, you know, once it’s self-selected, then you know who to invest in, in terms of building that rapport that your relationship with.
Scott Jeffery Miller And you kind of got to walk through that fire to know who they are. I had someone recently emailed me and said, literally, Scott, I’ve listened to you for 17 episodes and I just don’t like you. I tried it just like, My God, I thought it took you 17 episodes to realize you didn’t like me. Most people know that in 17 seconds. I kind of use that as a as a as an adage now to say, you’re going to have to walk through that fire to really understand who you are, who your niche is, who your people are. And if you’re not, if you’re not annoying some people, you’re probably not sharing opinions and sharing experiences. It’s kind of a badge of honor. Now, there are some people who do that intentionally. I’m not advocating that right.
Peter Winick Yeah. And I think I think you have to people are smarter than that. There are people that shake it up to the point of shaking it up and, you know, like they don’t believe that. They don’t say that. I think the market is smarter than I agree, though. You know, in some markets maybe that’s appropriate. I mean, we’re still dealing with business people, right? Those still working with people that have business challenges. I love that the dimensions of their universe are broader. Their parents, their marry, their, you know, all these other things. Right. Really, really interesting.
Peter Winick If you’re enjoying this episode of Thought Leadership Leverage, please make sure to subscribe. If you’d like to help spread the word about our podcast, please leave a five star review at ratethispodcast.com/ltl
Peter Winick And share it with your friends. We’re available on Apple Podcasts and on all major listening apps as well as at Thought Leadership Leverage dot com forward slash podcast. So given that, let’s assume for the sake of argument we’re post-COVID ish, whatever we are, what are the, what are the top things that you’re seeing that are so different today than just three years ago in terms of the market for thought leadership specifically?
Scott Jeffery Miller Well, I think the individual desire to develop and build skills is stronger than ever. The number of people that are willing to swipe their own credit card without corporate reimbursement is off the charts. People are taking professional development enormously seriously, and they’re not waiting for their company to offer them a course they may or may not be reimbursed. But the opportunity to sell your courses, to create your content and sell it to individuals is bigger than ever. I think the courage people have in their careers is unrecognizable. The willingness people have worked with their jobs for a bad boss. They care about having a happiness and mindfulness and peace and calm in their life is like nothing. I was ever courage courageous enough. So that’s an emerging trend. I do think that organizations are starting to swing back a little bit to say, no, you got to come to work. And the person that I want to know, I need you back in the building. So what do we do to make it a win for both of us? I need you back in the business to build a culture for interpersonal communication, to build trust. How to mentor.
Peter Winick A.
Scott Jeffery Miller Culture that encourages you to come back because you need to come back. It’s not. You have to or you’re fired. I mean, it may be, but I need you to come back. How do we make this a win for us both? I think that conversation is happening a lot. But come.
Peter Winick Back. Doesn’t need to be binary. Come back. Doesn’t mean I don’t know that we’re ever going back to 9 to 5, Monday to Friday.
Scott Jeffery Miller It could be Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But I need you back because we need to build culture and people will stay here if they’ve built friendships and it’s hard to build friendships. Sure, there’s that that swinging back. I’ll tell you also, I think there’s great there’s people have a big tolerance for risk in terms of trying stuff. I mean, side hustles are exploding. The number of books that are coming out. I mean, during the pandemic, everyone like me did three things. They built their social media. They learned to pivot from live to virtual keynotes because they’re afraid overnight and they all were to book. And so they’re all yeah, I.
Peter Winick Was calling it sort of the COVID renaissance, and I think that’s sort of over where, you know, all of these brilliant people now had more time on their hands or what they do. They all wrote a book, so we got flooded with that way. You know, now it normalized a little bit.
Scott Jeffery Miller Yes. But I think there’s an opportunity to do that. I mean, there’s so many ways to you know, I don’t think you have to sit down now and write a 40,000 word book. And there’s so many short term opportunities for you, LinkedIn learning and grid.
Peter Winick But much of what you said on the keynote side. So one of the thing that’s interesting is I believe that the default switch with regards to events and speaking is no longer in person because we had this two year experiment that showed this is good for some things, this is good for delivering content. It’s kind of lousy for connection and community, right? It’s just not as good as being in person. That being said, businesses, large organizations had an opportunity to do the math and say, Hey, Scott, you’re an SVP at big CapEx and used to go to a dozen events a year every time you left the office, $5,000 in hard cash, airplane, tubers, food, whatever, and your productivity went down 50%. Why don’t you pick two or three, right? And then on the other side, going to events used to be a bit of a grind. It’s the same old, same old. So I’d rather go to less events per year, but have the bar be higher. So therefore, if you think about what is acceptable as a keynote or in an event space, it’s that experiential, it’s the woo woo, it’s the energy. I think keynotes have to get smarter and it’s more about capabilities, development, it’s more about learning. I mean, were you talking about that individual learning, taking programs? Most keynotes are entertainment and I would argue they should be entertaining but have a strong educational takeaway to them, which is not easy.
Scott Jeffery Miller I don’t disagree with anything you said I would add to that. Live events are very much alive and well. People want to have community, they want to network, they want to see friends. So I think you’re right. I think people are much more savvy, I’m going to do to do these two live things this year. I’m going to do these six virtual things this year. Yes. Because I could make a good there wasn’t that option before necessarily. I mean, our keynote, our in-person keynote business is bigger. But the agency I own, Gray Miller, our keynote business, putting people live in front of stages is larger than virtual. But I think it’s going to flush out to probably be pretty even in the coming years. The good thing to prepare for whatever comes next, which we don’t know about the next pandemic or the next whatever’s going on in the Middle East or Eastern Europe, that’s at least now probably the most dangerous it’s been in our lifetime. I mean, if the Federation you’re not watching the news today. So every company is wise to be really thoughtful with who they’re putting on planes where, but also to take control of your own professional development figure. What can you do more efficiently virtually now?
Peter Winick Fantastic. So in our final couple of minutes here, speak to someone out there now that’s listening, that is thinking of going down this road in their early in their career as a thought leader. Yeah. What advice would you give them? No pressure, but it’s going to be the most important advice they ever got. No pressure.
Scott Jeffery Miller Well, if the person who’s starting out who thinks they want to become a thought leader read voraciously. You mean you should be reading, you know, at least a book a week? You should be.
Peter Winick Using.
Scott Jeffery Miller You should be, you know, building your body of knowledge. And at some point you want to hone in on a point of view about something. You know, if you think about the most influential. Leaders. They’re known for something. Seth Godin, Susan Kane and Daniel Ammann. Stephen Covey.
Peter Winick Yup.
Scott Jeffery Miller Scott They own a space. They own high courage conversations. They own introverts.
Peter Winick That’s the whole platform. That’s their that’s their platform.
Scott Jeffery Miller And I think that’s an important continuation. You’re going to own a platform in that goal mindfulness. So you might own, you know, love in their.
Peter Winick Resilience.
Scott Jeffery Miller You are exactly you want to think about what space do you want to own. And then I would be reading voraciously and start posting articles on LinkedIn, you know, see if you can start posting long form for certain, short for a build your social media. You’ve got to you know, I just I’m a huge evangelist still the power of social media, whether it be TikTok or YouTube or Instagram or LinkedIn, you should be an all of them. You also should have an email database because, you know, a lot of people will say, you know, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket because you never know what’s going to happen on what these other platforms that’s owned by someone in your life or is going to be in jail or is going to whatever. So you’ll be thoughtful about it. Again, I think LinkedIn is probably the most trustworthy, stable space out there, but you should also be building it in that an inbound opt in email list as well. Start growing it because there’s no such thing as overnight fame. Well, there is, but it’s usually ill gotten or fleeting.
Peter Winick Yeah, right. Usually you’re in a felony. You look at what all these people have in common.
Scott Jeffery Miller Dan Pink, Seth Godin. Liz Wise Yes. Susan Kane They all.
Peter Winick They played the long game. They played a lot of the long game.
Scott Jeffery Miller They haven’t. They haven’t. They’re just building and building and building and building. All of a sudden you think their book is number one New York Times bestseller? Yeah. Took him 12 years. 12 years of their blog. 12 years of their column.
Peter Winick Yes.
Scott Jeffery Miller 12 years of a weekly newsletter. 12 years of their podcast. All of that. My podcast. I host about 6 million every Tuesday. I mean, that is 250 weeks of taping interviews, week in, week out. We have 50 in the can I take almost ten or 20 of them all through COVID, drove to the studio in-person, did it mass on all of that weekend, don’t miss it. And it didn’t become what it is because we bought the names right? We just built it organically. Took us five years and it still is, you know, it still is. Got a lot of room for growth.
Peter Winick Yeah. No, I appreciate your time. I appreciate your insight and I appreciate your work. Thank you for joining us. Thanks for the spotlight. Good to see you.
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.