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Making Impact on Your Business with a Book | Tamsen Webster

Making Impact on Your Business with a Book | Tamsen Webster | 406

Creating new lines of business by writing a thought leadership book.

An interview with Tamsen Webster about writing a thought leadership book, and taking her ideas to scale.

You’ve got big ideas that you know could help people. But it’s hard to articulate that insight as an actionable plan for business partners, clients, and investors.

So, how do you move forward?

Today, we’re sitting down with Tamsen Webster, a TedX speaker and author of the new book Find Your Red Thread: Make Your Big Ideas Irresistible. In her insightful text, Tamsen codifies her method, and helps others find the through line that connects an idea to the hearts and minds of the audience.

Many new authors suffer from the “curse of the expert,” unable to put their methodology and processes on the page in a way that’s accessible to beginners. For Tamsen, that was the easy part. In fact, she struggled with letting go of the book, unsure that the process she had been successfully using for the previous five years was enough to warrant publishing.

As with any good business book, Tamsen has found that hers has drawn multiple new clients — without the usual 2 degrees of separation. Now, people are finding the book and reaching out to her on their own, and that’s growing her business exponentially. She’s also dipped a toe into licensing her IP, and creating an accreditation program to help other businesses share her Red Thread method with their clients.

Lastly, we discuss the hard part of creating and licensing a properly… protecting it. In order to maintain your trademark, you have to defend it. This can mean awkward conversations about how and where your method can be used. Unfortunately, many people who are interested in thought leadership content are unaware that they are violating copyrights, but there are ways to handle such issues amicably, and to the advantage of both parties.

This interview is a great example of a thought leadership book propelling your ideas to scale!

Three Key Takeaways:
  • When writing a thought leadership book, remember to clearly convey what you do best.
  • Construct your chapter outline by ensuring that instructions before theoretical examples. This way the most useful part comes first.
  • When writing a thought leadership book, consider creating an accreditation program to give organizations a legitimate way to institute your trademarked ideas.

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 of Thought Leadership Leverage. And you’re joining us today on the podcast, which is Leveraging Thought Leadership. And today my guest is Tamsen Webster. She has spent nearly 20 years helping experts drive action from their ideas. She’s part message strategist, part storyteller, part English to English translator. Her work focuses on how to find and build the stories partners, investors, clients and customers will tell themselves and others. She’s also the author of a book that came out fairly recently called Find Your Red Thread. And she’s honed our expertise working with major companies Johnson Johnson, Harvard Medical School. She’s done a TED talk and a TED talks, and she was a reluctant marathoner twice and of course, is a champion ballroom dancer in her mind. And she learned everything she needs to know about managing people by being a weightwatchers leader. Lots of stuff in there, multitalented and multi.

Tamsen Webster That’s — I don’t know about talented.

Peter Winick Okay.

Tamsen Webster Easily distractable, perhaps? Yeah.

Peter Winick Yeah, right. It’s easy, right. That’s. That’s French for ADD, right?

Tamsen Webster That’s right.

Peter Winick Yeah.

Tamsen Webster Multi-talented.

Peter Winick Oui. Oui. So welcome aboard. So your first this was your first book, right? The one that was.

Tamsen Webster Yes. Red Thread. Yes. So, yes, first like. Oh, there’s more coming. Maybe there are.

Peter Winick Well, no, not necessarily. But I’d love to get just sort of a high level recap of what the experience was. Now that you’re on the other side of this meeting, hey, I went into this expecting X, Y, and here’s where it met those expectations. And here’s where things that were totally different than what I had thought would happen.

Tamsen Webster You know, I think I had the big shift in how I thought about it when I at the moment where I realized that I didn’t have to be like Malcolm Gladwell or being or, you know, Seth Godin or whatever. Like, I didn’t I think when I because it was my first book, I think it’s very tempting to think that, you know, particularly in business and business oriented book, I think it’s tempting to think that you have to have like the biggest, newest, brightest idea that ever was. And then it has to be this like big book that talks about it with all the stories. And then I have a, you know, a good friend of mine and amazing mentor and Handley. She’s the chief content officer at Marketing Press. And I told her how I struggling to figure out like I just had major blocks against writing this book. And she said to me, it has to write the book that’s easiest to write. And I was like, well, that oh, well, that’s, that’s easy. That’s, that’s just that’s just how I do what I do. And you know what I know from.

Peter Winick That because yeah.

Tamsen Webster Of course.

Peter Winick There for a minute because I think I think that’s an amazing insight or observation in that I call it the curse of the expert. Right. So there are things that you do that you do better than almost anyone, right? Yet with a book, writing a book, does, it forces you to actually decode how you do it? Right. And I always say, like, the way you prove that is if I were if I were over there and I’d say, let’s go in the kitchen, make a peanut butter sandwich, but we’d have to document all of 131 steps and say, you know what? You’re out of your mind. I’ve done it a thousand times too many steps, and we have to, because you don’t think about it. This is vast brain clearing. So I think part of what’s interesting from an intrinsic perspective of the benefit of writing a book, it forces you to really sort of do an x ray of your brain and say, Oh, this is how I do the thing that I do that everybody values. I don’t even know how I did that and the steps that I take.

Tamsen Webster Well, you know, what’s funny is actually that the opposite, because that was the thing that was clear to me from the get go. Like, yeah, because I, you know, my process was one that I had developed and tested and had been, you know, for, for the five years prior to capturing it in a book. And the funny thing was, is that as I was saying, that that didn’t feel big to me, right? Like in the moment it didn’t feel big to me to be to say it well, because I was just like, well, this is just my process. Like, I know what it is and oh, the steps are, I know how to I know how to argue for it. I know how to walk people through it. I know what what’s been most effective for my clients. But it was realizing that. That was enough like that that that actually in and of itself that there is a there is a.

Peter Winick Place that you felt you had to put more in there because that was so.

Tamsen Webster I did at the beginning, and that was what was just kind of overwhelming to me. I was just like, but I really, you know, a lot of it came as I think writing books can from just getting really clear about who is for and what I wanted them to be able to do with it. And I was like, This is for people who are at that point of struggle, of articulation, of their ideas. No matter what it might be like, they have the big idea. They or an idea doesn’t even have to necessarily be big from the world standpoint.

Peter Winick I think just less is more because I think the books that become a burden to read, which means nobody wants to read them or finish them, or somebody had good intent. They wanted to try to get their whole, you know, 30 years of experience into all this. I have so much to say and everybody can benefit from it. Whatever it it’s like, oh, like I have to digest this, right? Like it’s, it’s like let me take a couple of bites and if I can take a couple of ideas from a book, I mean, I did a piece this morning with someone where we’re talking about, well, what’s the exchange rate for a book? And I’m like, Yeah, it’s 25 bucks. Who cares? I don’t really care about 25 bucks. I’ve wasted that much more on other things. It’s six hour investment of my life, and if I’m putting five or 6 hours into something, I better get a return of the return isn’t. It’s going to change my life. But if I can add one tool or one thought or one model that I use on occasion, that’s a fair exchange I’m happy with. Yeah. I love that idea. Was that. Yeah. Yeah.

Tamsen Webster And that’s what I wanted. I wanted a book that was useful. And I said, as it turns out, that is, that has ended up being fairly big, mostly because it’s to the point that you were bringing up and rightly so. A lot of people have the idea, but they don’t have the how do you operationalize the idea? And so for me, I was like, well, I know that’s the piece that I that I do over and over again, whether it’s my own self or anybody, is like, that’s what I know how to do. And it’s and people have responded really well to, Oh, this is a book I can actually use, right? Like this is a book that actually tells me how to do this. It doesn’t just say why this is important or that this tells a whole bunch of stories about it. I mean, I could and that was what I just got to do. Just went and did it.

Peter Winick You’ve got to give the least amount. Of the theoretical that is necessary to build your case to get into reply. Because people. Yeah. Not that they don’t care about the theoretical. But I can’t spend 100 pages on the theoretical before I got into. You still haven’t held my hand and showed me why. What’s in it for me, if you will?

Tamsen Webster Yeah, exactly. That even affected how I structured the book, because all the theoretical stuff is in the first chapter, and then the rest of the book is the How do we do this? But even that even informed how I structured the chapters because I wanted the chapters to be almost journalistic style, right? Where it would start with. If you just want, like, what to do. Here it is. And then I put all the theoretical stuff for the individual steps after it. So it’s like, Oh, here’s what it is. Here’s what how you do it. Okay. If you want to understand more about why this is the way that it is, or if your struggle is.

Peter Winick Kind of a.

Tamsen Webster Double click is enough.

Peter Winick Yeah, exactly. That’s kind of it. Yeah. Interesting. So let’s go in a little bit of a different track. So that was sort of the process of writing the book. Now it’s, you know, some period of time, a good period of time after your plus later since the book’s been out. Yeah. What’s been the impact on the business, the brand, you know, are you finding that new clients, are you being invited to sort of engagements that you wouldn’t have professionally? Like what’s what, if anything?

Tamsen Webster I mean, I think so. The most immediate effect is that I that it’s extended the rings of people who know about me and my work. So I guess prior to this, I would say that my business is almost 100% word of mouth or my going in presenting some place about something and then, you know, so, so people have had either a direct connection to me or, you know, I think up until the book, I would I would call it third run like someone I’d worked with, talks to somebody else, and then that person gets referred in. And I would say after the book, there’s a lot more people that have had no connection to either that second or third rung of people. And they’re just they you know, somebody somehow has they’ve gotten a hold of the book, and then they come to me and they’re like, okay, just.

Peter Winick Stay there for a minute. Yeah. Because I think I think that’s an important piece you’re touching on there in that your business always used to be referral, once removed, twice removed, whatever, and probably fairly predictable in terms of at the end of the year, this year, a little a little bit better than last year, you might not know the X number of gigs you’re working with Y number of people, but that’s sort of the dividends that you get from being really good at what you do over a period of time. But now you’re getting, quote, stranger, right? People that aren’t sort of, you know, six degrees of Kevin Bacon, which that’s a good validation, right. That it’s been through. There’s.

Tamsen Webster Yeah, exactly.

Peter Winick All you got were the same people coming to you saying, hey, I was going to hire you anyway, but hey, thanks for writing that damn book. Like, you know what I mean.

Tamsen Webster By saying it? And I get people reaching out on social and I’ll be like, Hey, I just picked up your book and I’m like, I don’t know who these people are. And I’m like, That’s delightful for me. That’s exactly you know, I, I did write it for people who had had some form of contact for me. But I am delighted that that people who don’t know me are finding it as a as a useful introduction to.

Peter Winick So any surprises along those lines? Who not by name but the type or use case or whatever? Like sometimes you’ll find out like, oh, there was a school superintendent in Cleveland that are like, Whoa, I never would have figured that out. Like, when you unleash the.

Tamsen Webster Power, I.

Peter Winick Mean, universe.

Tamsen Webster I would say no wild surprises in that the folks that are most likely to pick up a book like that are folks that are generally thinking about their own stuff, right? So a lot of the kind of six plus degrees of separation or whatever it might be, are folks that are working on their own individual ideas. And rather than they’re thinking about it as and in the form of their organization or their companies ideas. You know those folks, you know, the ones I would say, you know, the one that was most surprising was a was a faith based university in the upper Midwest who were like, oh, this is interesting. Could this help us? They I mean, that was more of a direct contact because they saw me present at a higher education marketing conference. But, you know, I love the variety of people who find this approach helpful. I mean, that’s I’ve always known that that it can be applied in a whole bunch of different ways from, you know, from investor pitches to TED talks to all this other stuff. But it’s been fun seeing people go. I know you wrote it for this, but can I use it for that? Because it sure seems like I can. And I’m like, Oh, absolutely, yeah, you could publish your makes you say it’s for this, right? So I’m delighted that people see the idea and then have been able to map it over to their own use cases.

Peter Winick And I think that’s the cool stuff that happens is that people, you know, oh, I didn’t realize you could use a hammer to open a bottle of wine. I never thought of that. Like, I guess like, okay, okay. Not really what it was designed for. And you just sort of see what.

Tamsen Webster Off label use. Yeah.

Peter Winick Off label. Right, right, right, right. Consult your, the physician. And you know.

Tamsen Webster What? All right.

Peter Winick If you’re enjoying this episode of Leveraging Thought Leadership, please make sure to subscribe. If you’d like to help spread the word about our podcast, please leave us a review 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 podcasts. Any new lines of business that it’s taken into in terms of, you know, I used to only do X and Y and now I’m doing some other different, different business models coming.

Tamsen Webster I mean, it’s solidifying. It’s just solidifying some lines of business that I had wanted to build. So, which is part of the intent of writing the book in the first place. So it’s solidifying lines of business around startup accelerators and those kinds of things, which is that’s I wanted I wanted that to happen because a lot of those kinds of accelerators, they on behalf of the companies that are in those accelerators and incubators, they understand the value that go to market messaging will have, which is one of the applications of the red thread approach. And a lot of those a lot of those acceleration incubators don’t have a good curriculum for that. And so what this is, this gap.

Peter Winick Facto.

Tamsen Webster Becomes the de facto curriculum. And it’s just, you know, it’s, you know, I work with one my main client in that area is an accelerator called Elemental out of the Bay Area and Oahu. I’m looking forward to going to visit them in person again soon.

Peter Winick Many times you know it. We should help.

Tamsen Webster But I think that’s been that’s been interesting. I think getting into, you know, one of the things that I’m launching this year is an accreditation program that’s designed very much for agencies. So that and other folks who want to use the approach with their own clients. Right. It’s a lot of folks that are in the same kind of position that I am of working with people on their messages and not just on their own. So I think that’s going to be something that that opens up a lot more to, because I have consistently over the years had inquiries from agencies asking whether or not I licensed the approach. And I’m delighted that this year I can finally say yes, actually. Yeah.

Peter Winick And I haven’t seen such a phenomenal business model. And with it, like any other business, there’s some pluses and minuses and cautions you’ve got to take, etc. But yeah, it is a great way to scale to get more. You know, you get your ideas out there, you know, obviously the concerned are they delivering in a high quality way, are they honoring the integrity, intellectual property, etc.? But it’s a, you know, and from the buy side, it’s really cost effective. Bringing you in is fairly expensive, getting folks to deliver it to their peers in such a far better. So that’s been new for you. So that’s a that’s a new learning curve. But I love yeah, I love those sort of things. I love watching what people do with the same IP, right? So it’s like we went into the kitchen and we’ve got the same ingredients like, oh, you want of licensing that we make the recipe the way you want it, and we price it that way and we sell it that way and distribute it that way. So it’s interesting, the agency side that would make sense that they want to use them and then some of the questions would become, well, are you licensing it to them for internal use? Are they able to use it as a tool on the client side? Like that’s those are all levers that impact.

Tamsen Webster Yeah, I the intent is to enable people like that. This is the way to be able to use it with client, you know, external clients that, that are outside of that. Right. If you’re using it without accreditation, then you, you would be violating both my copyright and my trademark. So it’s giving people a legal means to do that because the approach is written for you to use on your own stuff. And obviously I want companies to be able to use it on.

Peter Winick Yeah, of course.

Tamsen Webster But you know, if anybody is using it to make money for themselves, then yeah, that’s these are all the things that I’ve learned that’s a violation of copyright. And so that’s and I had a very good friend, I even think three or four years ago, her name is Sylvia Giusto, and she was the one who had said, you know, if you’re going to write a book, also plan to have an accreditation or a certification or a licensing program come really close on its heels because you’ll see people and I have seen some of this people say, oh, yeah, I use it with my clients all the time. And I’ve you know, there’s been a couple of times where I’m like, okay, we need to we actually need to talk about that because if you’re using it.

Peter Winick Well, but.

Tamsen Webster The good news, bad news, use it in a way that they could have hired me. Yeah. Oh, go ahead, Peter.

Peter Winick So I’ve seen that a lot, actually, and I think there’s a couple of. There’s a good news, bad news there. Right. So the good news is, okay, they found value in it. And if you assume good intent will put a question mark around that and in certain instances, they want to bring it out to others. Now, I also would say the burden is on the thought leader to provide the market with the various tools, not that it gives people rights to steal things from other people. If you want to use them, get out of the way. But if you make it easy and say, Hey, you could. Here’s the other way. Great. Now, if people then choose to violate it, that’s different. That’s right. That’s just not nice and illegal and all those other.

Tamsen Webster Yeah, I guess. And it’s one of those interesting things that you start to learn about, learn about because know I applied for and received the trademark on the red thread, you know, three, four years ago. And so, you know, part of, part of maintaining that trademark, which you have to do every five years, is show defense of it. And so it’s actually one of those things where even if sometimes it’s kind of uncomfortable to reach out to someone and say, yeah, you mentioned you’re using it with clients. Can we talk about that? Like in this case, this happened with somebody who I’m friendly with and it’s and we have a respectful relationship and the intent was good. But as I listen, I have to I have to send you something that says we need to talk about how you can do this legally. Otherwise, like I start to degrade my own ownership of the trade.

Peter Winick But I would say that most people, once they understand that, they’ve crossed the line because most people listen, most people don’t.

Tamsen Webster Even know they don’t even know that they’re not supposed to do that. Yeah, exactly. They’re just like, well, here, I can use it, right?

Peter Winick Exactly. Most people, when you let them know, particularly when they’re in, you know, they’re using it for commercial gain or inside of an organization like, oh, you know, a they’re apologetic and then they want to do the right thing. Okay. Sure. Yeah. So I think that’s really interesting. The question becomes, what is the cost of enforcement and is that how you want to spend your time tracking people? I mean, there’s a whole other answer. But, you know, by and large, licensing is a really, really viable model. It’s not that.

Tamsen Webster Gives people a safe onramp right or off ramp for whatever they’re doing because they say either you got a choice like you can do it this way or not and or just use it for your own stuff. But if you’re going to use other clients, then this is the way that you can do that. Exactly. Ethically.

Peter Winick Yeah, right. Any other insights, words of wisdom that you would share with somebody else? That’s maybe where you are two or three years ago in thinking about a book, but not on the other side. You’re so busy giving a pregnant woman parenting advice.

Tamsen Webster I mean, I would go back to something I said earlier, which is that what made it once I understood, once I took it and advice and was like, Well, what’s the easiest book to write? The reason why it was easy to write a how to book was because I had done the work of testing this out for and by the time I wrote the book, I’ve been using this approach for four and a half, five years. That made it easy. And I think then, you know, and I see this because of the nature of the clients that I work with, a lot of times people come to work with me when they’re thinking about writing a book and they’re trying to figure out what the idea is that one of the things that can make writing a book really hard is if you haven’t done that deep thinking about exactly what is this idea? It’s kind of back to your saying with it sounds easy to make a peanut butter sandwich until you actually have to explain. All right exact or you know you think you know how a bike works or a toilet flushes until you’re actually like, no, wait, actually, I don’t know, like exact like a beyond like I had all or beyond that I turn the plunger when we actually said but yeah but actually how does it work. That’s a much more complicated. And I find ideas are the same way where you have this great wall and you’re like, this is the right idea. And then if you haven’t done that, thinking of, okay, but how does it actually work? Why does it actually work? Why is it actually the right idea, the right answer to a particular question or the right solution to a particular problem outside of features and benefits, which is where our brains will go?

Peter Winick No, no, no, no. Right now you’re talking.

Tamsen Webster About getting how do.

Peter Winick We put in the right how do you make the right?

Tamsen Webster Understanding that before you write will make it so much easier because just the process of really understanding, really the path that your own brain took to come up with the idea means it’s much, much easier to lay down stones on that same path so that your readers can follow along behind you. But if you’re trying to figure it out at the same time that your readers are.

Peter Winick You both that’s good stuff.

Tamsen Webster And I don’t. And I think that doesn’t lead to great books. I mean, it’s just, you know, I have read plenty of books that felt like the book itself was the exploration of the idea that they wrote the book to figure it out rather than the book was the product of a figured out idea. And I think that that’s your try to frame more about the investment of time. If someone’s going to invest three, four or five, six, 12 hours in your book and in reading your book. I think they should come up with more. Come out of it with more than just. Well, thanks for bringing me along for the ride. Right. I mean.

Peter Winick They should come out with a nugget or two that they’re excited to experiment with and try and integrate into what they do.

Tamsen Webster And some meaning to come out changed. Like, that’s my like I want them, you know, I talk about this. This is the bar that I try to set when I’m working with my clients on messages is like, we want to create something that people can’t unhear. Not just like, Oh, isn’t that interesting? But I really, you know, I try to set as a bar. How do we fundamentally shift how people are looking at this whole thing?

Peter Winick And they would never look at a similar problem the same way they used.

Tamsen Webster To be the same way when it comes up again, they’re like, oh, right, okay, this is this is this thing happening again? Or when some competitor tries to come in and they’re like, Yeah, but what about this? And then the competitor doesn’t have an answer to that. Like that’s, you know, that’s where you really want to get to, particularly if you’re working with or thinking about messages in terms of your own organization.

Peter Winick Right. Perfect. Perfect. Well, this has been fantastic. I wish you the best. Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Tamsen. Appreciate it.

Tamsen Webster My pleasure. Thanks for having me, Peter.

Peter Winick To learn more about Thought Leadership Leverage, please visit our website at Thought Leadership Leverage dot com to reach me directly. Feel free to email me at Peter at and please subscribe to Leveraging Thought Leadership on iTunes or your favorite podcast app to get your weekly episode automatically.

Peter Winick has deep expertise in helping those with deep expertise. He is the CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Peter on Twitter!

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