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Putting Integrity into Your Thought Leadership Content | Jared Kleinert

Putting Integrity into Your Thought Leadership Content | Jared Kleinert

Thought Leadership Content, Integrity, and Developing Your Best Material

An interview with Jared Kleinert about thought leadership content, presentations, and how to create thought leadership authorship that has real audience interest.

We interviewed Jared Kleinert,  Entrepreneur, TED Speaker, and USA Today’s “Most Connected Millennial.” He’s the Founder of Meeting of the Minds, and today he’s here to talk to us about integrity, access, and great thought leadership content.

Three Key Takeaways from the Interview:

  • Why integrity is the most important part of your thought leadership content.
  • Why you need to build a world class network to determine what sort of thought leadership you’re able to research and access.
  • What you should think about before starting on your journey toward great thought leadership content.

Listen to the Podcast!


Peter Welcome, welcome, welcome. This is Peter Winick, I’m the founder and CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage, and you’re joining us on the podcast today, which is Leveraging Thought Leadership. Today, my guest is Jared Kleinert. Jared is an interesting fellow. He’s a serial entrepreneur. He’s a TEDx speaker and award-winning author. He’s been named as USA Today’s most connected millennial and a champion for humanity by the U.N. and a delegate to President Obama’s 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. So I would, I could go on and on with his other accomplishments, because they’re pretty long. But I want to sort of dive into it. So here we are. Welcome aboard, Jared. Thanks for coming.

Jared Kleinert Yeah. Thank you for having me on your show. And you know, above all else, I’m just a casual, fun loving guy who enjoys fun conversations.

Peter Cool. Well, we’ll see if we could do that. I think we can. So here you are sort of at a place where you’ve accomplished a lot from a content to authorship, speaker, thought leadership side. Tell us a little bit about how that happened, how much of it was sort of accidental or luck and how much of it was deliberate in terms of the planning and all those sort of things.

Jared Kleinert Yeah, I think how you describe leveraging thought leadership in your own work and through your company is probably how I stumbled on all of this. And so, you say you leveraging and then thought leadership, which means you have to build some sort of thought leadership before that. And, you know, you turn ideas into businesses. You know, you it’s not the other way around. And so, my journey starts when I’m fifteen and I try to start my first business when I was fifteen. Like anyone that starts a business at fifteen, it almost always goes poorly. And I made every mistake you could think of from not having enough capital to not really knowing my competition at the time. The biggest mistake I made was poor mentor selection. And so, I was trying to learn from people that weren’t thought leaders in the space that I was trying to plan, which was education and technology and the startup role. And so, I spent six months hanging out at this guy trying to learn business from him. It turns out that he had spent time in prison for securities fraud on Wall Street way before I knew him and hadn’t necessarily disclosed that information to me until about six months into our relationship. And yet that there was something to be said about people sort of doing their time after doing a crime and having a second chance. I certainly making plenty of mistakes on a daily basis.

Peter Sure.

Jared Kleinert And try to make up for it. But after that was disclosed, I saw that there was a lot of holy integrity or low integrity moments in how we interacted. And I ran away from that and really focused on this work.

Peter So let me we’ll give you a pass on that because you’re fifteen, so we’ll let you write that. Weren’t making a poor decision at 15. We could talk for hours and have a probably a separate podcast on the dumb decisions we’ve all done at fifteen. Might actually be fun.

Jared Kleinert No, I’m not going to – that.

Peter Before the social media. Some of us did that before social media. So, we’re more free to talk about it. But let me ask you now, when you know, I would imagine one of the things you learned from that is, you know, you need to learn from other people. You need to partner with other people. Be that on the publishing side, be that on that speaking, be that whatever it is. I would imagine one of the things that you’ve done nowadays is instilled some sort of processes or methodologies to say, well, let me vet that person just a little bit because I like surprises when it’s my birthday, but not so much when it comes to the folks that didn’t tell me they were in prison.

Jared Kleinert Yeah. So that that really turned me on to screening people for integrity first and foremost. And that is integrity as an individual, as a person, you know, are they a good person which want to throw your family next time, etc. but also integrity of their thought leadership or of their knowledge in a space. And so, you know, if you’re relying on other people’s feedback and input to make business decisions like I was, I want to learn from people who are world class and what they do. And if I don’t want to settle for anything less.

Peter So how does one do that? Because I think it’s a great point. And I’ve seen this over and over again. We’re really smart people start to go down a path and they might say, I think I’d like to write a book. I think I’d like to write be a speaker. I think I’d like whatever. And then they do what everybody else does and they do some research. And all of a sudden, you know, if you were to Google thinking about writing a book, there’s 8000 people that are willing to sort of air quote, ‘help you’.

Jared Kleinert Right.

Peter And how do you how do you sort of and there’s some like anything else, right? There’s good. There’s bad and there’s ugly. But it’s a bit overwhelming, particularly if it’s your first time down this path. Right. That, you know, there’s certain things that we know, hey, if we’re gonna go buy a car, here’s how we would check out which cars better. We’re gonna go buy a television. Let’s go get some reviews. But it’s gets a little bit murky here. So how do you how do you navigate that?

Jared Kleinert Yeah, I would agree with you, and that’s why things like being a Ted and Ted X speaker, being an award-winning author, getting a sort of press that I’ve gotten. You know, if you’re listening to this at home, this is part of why I thought leadership is so important and not just having thought leadership but being recognized for your thought leadership in multiple ways. And so first, is having social proof or having media outlets that are saying you’re good at what you do. Having other organizations basically vouch for you through their brands. And so even in this short intro that you gave me, I’m leveraging the brands of USA Today, TED Europe, the United Nations, President Obama. And, you know, that gives me some sort of trust ability or likeability or there’s some understanding with your audience that I’m not completely full of shit. All right. Yeah. Then there’s also another element of it, too, which is that, you know, you at home are being introduced to me and these concepts through Peter. And so, there is a mutual trust that’s being established here. I am being introduced to you and I’m able to leverage the trust and intimacy that you have with Peter and that I have it, Peter. And so, we’re starting our relationship from a much higher standpoint than if you just Googled me online. And so that’s great.

Peter There’s a de facto I just want to add a sort of a thread to that yard. There is a de facto endorsement, if you will. Right. Because I try my best to have folks on the show that have something to add to the conversation, that are smart, that are willing to share, etc. And I hope that by having a fairly rigid screening process that there’s a little bit of a trust between not just you and I, which is important, but between myself and the audience saying, hey, listen, if you’re going to give me 20 minutes of your time, I’m going to bring you really interesting people. Right. And they’re not used car salesmen. No offense to use car salesmen. But you know that. So, I think that’s part of it. I love what you said in terms of the USA Today, TED. I mean, those are not you. Obama, right. Those are not, quote, brands that lend their shine lightly to others. Right. So, I know what I’m seeing a TED talk. That doesn’t mean I love every TED talk I’ve ever seen. But there’s a certain caliber of thoughtfulness, a certain caliber of wow, that’s interesting that there’s a certain set of expectations I’m going to have that it’s not going to be, you know, a bad standup comic or something. So, you have to make a criteria. So, yeah, I think that’s a great point.

Jared Kleinert And I have a really great news for you. And I have, you know, really bad news for, you know, the really good news is that this becomes exponentially easier as you build your network and as you amass some of this thought leadership and recognition of your thought leadership. The really bad news is it’s also sort of like a house of cards situation where while it might take you five, 10, 20 years to build up your reputation, become a recognized thought leader, and then, you know, five or 10 minutes go by and you say something really dumb or you do something really wrong and you don’t get a second chance and you can’t make up for it. And so that’s why I’m increasingly obsessed with trying to do things the right way and then being mindful of how to course correct when I do make mistakes, because, you know, these relationships with other thought leaders, with publishers, with media, with all the different people in your network that will allow you to become a thought leader and become someone known as a subject matter expert. Those relationships are really important and playing the long game is really valuable. And I’m twenty-three. So, I haven’t had, you know, the all the time in the world to play the long game.

Peter Sure.

Jared Kleinert But I think it’s important whether you’re twenty three or thirty two or sixty five, you know, to think about the long game, especially if you have ambitions of publishing, traditional book deals or if you have, you know, any anything that you would be covering on that show.

Peter Yeah. So, let’s talk about that the long game a little bit, because I think that is really wise. Right. So oftentimes people are, you know, sort of transactional. Oh, man. If I get a TED X talk or a TED talk or get this article published on Forbes or whatever it is, the next day it’ll be, you know, rainbows and unicorns. And, you know, I’ll have paparazzi following me. I think that you’re right that it’s incredibly hard to break into those. There’s a reason the bar is very high because you’ve got to have something to say and you have to have good stuff to say. And there’s plenty of other smart people out there. And I think by the time you’re able to break through a handful of those, there’s a bit of a flywheel effects like the ability begin. Your seventh placement is exponentially easier than your first one. The second one’s a little bit easier than the first. The third one a little bit easier than the second. But you start getting into double. And not that I think easy is the wrong word, but much easier. So, I love the concept of playing the long game because thought leadership as a business is a long game. Very, very, very, very few people can get into the space as a quote, ‘get rich quick’ piece. You have to think about this. And I always tell my clients three to five-year cycles, three to five-year cycles, it’s not going to happen overnight. So. Right. Give me a little bit of thought because it given and I love, you know that you’re twenty-three and talking about the long game because that’s awesome. So you’ve hit it on the TED side and you’ve had a bestselling book. Talk a little bit about the book and what that journey was like from sort of the light bulb going off in your head. And then bunch of stuff happens and then it comes out. A bunch of stuff happens is what I’m interested in. Don’t tell me about.

Jared Kleinert Yeah, so if we’re talking about the long game and you take nothing else from this conversation that Peter and I are having. The thing I would prescribe to you at home or at work is to build a world class network because you know who you know is going to determine what you know and what sort of thought leadership you’re able to both share and research and access. Yep. And it’s also going to allow you to get these opportunities over time. It’s other people that are going to write about you or other people that are going to sign those checks for those deals and or pick you to speak, etc. And so, you know, you asked about how I got a book deal, how I got TED talks all about it. It was really, you know, all through my network. And so, I coming off of the negative mentor experience, I looked to Forbes actually, and then various other media outlets that were talking about other thought leaders. And, you know, this was when I was sixteen.

Peter Time, time out. So, when you’re 16. So, like, I just want it because this is really interesting to me. Most sixteen-year olds, their networks are a bunch of 16-year olds. Clearly, you didn’t get to TED or get a book published because your 16-year-old friends said, let’s go, let me go walk into Random House. So, there’s a piece there where you had to, I’m assuming, and I want to hear about this. Make a deliberate effort, strategy, etc. to develop a network that could be supportive of your objectives and goals. So, tell me about that a little bit.

Jared Kleinert Yeah, and that’s exactly what I was going to launch into and it starts with your being 16 and not just having a network of 16 year olds, but having a negative network because the only person in the business world I knew was a former white collar convict and had spent time in prison like Wolf of Wall Street past activities. And so, I’m reading an article in Forbes and I’m trying to self-educate on that. And you could access other thought leaders through this. You know, you could have virtual mentors that never meet and learn from what they’ve put out. So that’s really important to think about as a thought leader and as someone trying to access it. But I read an article about this, this gentleman specifically who is called the most connected man you don’t know in Silicon Valley. And long story short, you know, everyone in Silicon Valley who was a co-founder of companies like PayPal who people or people like Tim Ferris, they all knew who this guy was and he offered them overwhelming value and. Right. Hosted these really fine dinner parties. And so, I just reached out to my sense of a cold email and ended up offering to work unpaid in exchange for his mentorship. And it was that connection.

Peter Time out there. Hold on.

Jared Kleinert A lot of time outs.

Peter No. No.  Well, the time outs. You’re throwing out gems and just sort of going over them quickly. So, you reached out to this person who’s an incredibly whoever that person was connected, valuable person. Now, most people would reach out and say, oh, my God, could you do this for me? Could you do that for me? Oh, can I have a call? Could take, take, take. Not in a selfish way, but you know. Oh, my God. I want something from you, sir. But what you said was brilliant was I offered to intern for free. I offered to you know, you were generous. And you and you basically realized, listen, this equation is an equal. He has you know, I have more to gain than he from this relationship. So, what can I do to be thoughtful, to do something? And it’s not quid pro quo, but do something that would be beneficial to him, because I’m sure you’re not the only one emailing this connected person in the valley.

Jared Kleinert Sure. And you know, for another overwhelming gem – you know, if I said that you’re sort of building a world class network is the number one way to build thought leadership. In essence, the best way to build a network is a three-step process. And so, it’s to be a good person, which means to have integrity in who you are and also what you do from a kind better expertise standpoint, your craft, it’s to provide value upfront. And so, it’s to actively think about how to offer value to other people. And then the third is to focus those efforts on the right people. Or in my case, there were super connectors. These well-connected individuals, in your case, it may be your ideal clients. And so, the right people are more subjective, but you want to be mindful of how you’re spending your time and who you’re trying to offer value to with your limited time. And so, I focused it on this gentleman who, yes, he could offer me a lot of value compared to what I could offer him. But, you know, I led with the value I could give him, which was my time and my willingness to take my entrepreneurial energy and put it behind. His company ended up spending two years working for him, going from unpaid intern to being an early team member at a startup, and then helping on marketing and sales and doing everything except for coding, really. And it was that one connection that led to like 90 percent of my network today. And so, you know, I could literally map out how he brought me to a conference with someone like Evan Pagan, who’s a legend in the online info products space. And, you know, when I went to bat with Evan, I met, you know, 150 people, many of whom were like your that’s like authors and so on and so forth. And then there’s a lot to cover in that 17-year span. I’ve been emailing this guy and now but that has provided me all the opportunities I will ever need. And then so and so then it’s a matter of continuing to refine your craft. It’s a matter of building as many of those influential relationships as possible with the long game and guy. And so, you are trying to offer value, not maybe asking for too much. If you ask for something, you don’t get it. That’s okay. You just keep offering value and come back to that relationship later on.

Peter There’s an empathy piece here, right? Because you get maybe enamored, whatever the word might be to say, well, if only I could meet so-and-so man with that person could do for me, man, the connections they can make. Like there’s a little bit of my, you know, gaga over that. Right. But I think what you did was flitter it and say, okay, if I was that person and I’m really connected and I’ve got a ton of money and I’ve got, you know, whatever these great businesses or whatever, what could so and so meaning you possibly do for them. Right. And I think that’s really the part where you have to put the energy and effort in because. Yes, you know, maybe out of the kindness of their hearts. Whatever, they’ll speak to you for 20 minutes or make a connection here and there, but to really form a deep, meaningful and going back to sort of your long game piece. It’s got to be a little bit better. It’s gotta be a lot better than that. You’ve got to really differentiate amongst the, you know, a hundred other in-bound. Please do for me sort of query someone like that. So, I love the thoughtfulness that you’ve put into this process.

Jared Kleinert Yeah and the leverage side. As you’re building your own thought leadership. You think about this. So, when you’re pitching someone at Forbes, for example, you know, an editor there, think about how you can offer value to their audience, how you can make their life easy, etc., etc. And so maybe you give them three to five headline ideas. Maybe you write two or three articles to show them what you’re capable of and you offer to do something, by the way, of promoting the pieces when it goes out so that they understand the value to provide as a contributor. You have to make it easier for people to say yes to what you’re asking, and that is true when you’re building thought leadership and getting a column. If you’re reaching out to literary agents, you know, show them how you’re going to work to make a successful book deal for them and ultimately make them money. Same at the editor or publishing house. You show them how your book is going to be successful. Give them a marketing plan that you’ve really thought out in advance and then you put the onus on them to say yes or no or to take that next step. But you have been empathetic in the process.

Peter This sounds like a lot more hard work and thoughtfulness than luck.

Jared Kleinert Yeah, hmm.

Peter Well, let’s talk about that, right? Because a lot of people see folks that are out there in the space. Authors and thought we and say, geez, you know my stuff so much better. They just got lucky. Or you know, that they had that one break or whatever. But I think what you’re talking about here is A. you’ve got to be great at your craft. Period. Full stop. There’s no shortcuts there. And you’ve got to work your tail off to make those around you that can accelerate your success, successful. And you’ve got to do it every day and be thoughtful about it and not be afraid to put in the hard work. You know, luck is great, but, you know, serendipity is not a strategy.

Jared Kleinert I’m curious how you do this for a living. And so when people are coming to you and saying that they want to become a thought leader, you say that it’s a three to five year outlook and then you know, what parts of that equation do you share with them to showcase how much work it is? I’d be curious to learn more.

Peter Well, it’s not so much that they’re coming to us saying, hey, I’d like to be a thought leader. It’s usually they are author’s thought leaders and speakers at different stages of their career. Some of them are early on. Some of them are world renowned and already killing it but looking to take it to a different level on the enterprise scale. So, to me, I think it’s the way I would answer your question is everything’s connected and start to think in systems. And the reason that I started the business that I started, which is focused on thought leaders and authors and speakers and such, is that the way the market has been serving them, in my humble opinion, is not efficient for the thought leader. Right. So, if you’re going to do a book deal, there’s sort of the book industrial content complex and they’re all good people. Right. Whether they’re, you know, agents and publishers and the nontraditional publishers and all that sort of stuff. But at the end of the day, all those people care about sort of different slices of the pie. So, a book agent wants to get you a book deal. Then they have to go on to the next thing. They can’t move in with you and stay with you for two years. Right. A publisher wants you to sell books, period. Right. But you as an author or a thought leader. And I think words matter. I think you need to say, listen, I’m going into the content business. And there’s one stream that might be authorship. There’s one stream that might be my speaker side. There’s another stream that might be where I have developed a bucket of content that is applicable to this market. And I want to get it out into the corporate world. What’s the underlying business models there? I’ve got content that I use for marketing purposes for maybe, maybe I’m a contributor on Forbes or TED X, but you have to sort of see how all those things play together and not treat them in a siloed and isolated way. Because when you think in terms of systems, then the connection between speaking and speaking in front of the right audience is to sell your solutions to the enterprises and then getting books out to those people that read the books that buy those things. It all becomes connected and becomes actually early on it’s harder, but then it becomes really easier to make smart decisions because it’s easier to say, wait, you know, this serves my goals or it doesn’t or this serves my objectives or it doesn’t versus sort of being reactive and responding to requests or going down various rabbit holes.

Jared Kleinert Yeah. And I respect that because with my last two books and then looking at the business I currently run, they are related. But it certainly requires giving my customers, my readers a bridge so they don’t have the leap from activity to the other, whereas I probably could have thought more strategically about the total roadmap that someone could go on with me and how they can get from point A to point B. So, don’t get me wrong. I really love the books that I wrote. I think they are fantastic pieces of work. It was part of my tool for building a world class network because both books actually feature 75 top performing millennials, ranging from founders of WordPress to Duolingo to Elite Daily to major social media influencers. And that’s so that’s 150 people across both books and then all the different individuals who recommended the contributors and to help promote the book. So, I met hundreds of incredible folks through that journey. But these days, I run a mastermind group for established top leaders and for seven figure business owners that have bootstrapped their companies who are visionary in some regard. And so, some of my readers fit that mold and some of my book contributors are certainly qualified for that group. But I have to, you know, then go to my readers and be like, hey, I have this thing that you may be interested in as opposed to saying here the book leads directly to the course, leads directly to the mastermind group. And so, it works still, but it definitely requires little maneuvering.

Peter Right. But I was going to say that the content is the same DNA across all these different things that you’re doing. So, whether I read it in a book for twenty-five bucks or whatever or ultimately become part of a mastery group at some extreme multiple of the twenty-five dollar number. No it’s got a different value prop, a different format, a different modality, a different set of expectations where you’d say well why would someone pay you know, whatever X thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to meet a master group when I could buy the book for twenty-five. Well it’s a totally different game, even though the way I might have been exposed to you, the place I may fallen in love with you as a book or an article. And I think that’s the whole point, is keeping that connected and then really listening loudly to your followers and your audience and figuring out to serve them in multiple ways. So, this has been great, Jared. Unfortunately, we going to start to wrap it up here as we are to close. You gave us lots of things to do in terms of being generous and being thoughtful, being strategic and willing to give more. Give us one or two, you know, don’t dos.

Jared Kleinertt Oh, that’s a good question. I would say don’t take things personally. And so if you are reaching out to influential people and they don’t answer your email or they don’t have time to connect with you right away, or even if you are sort of in a sales situation, you’re selling a book, you’re selling any product or service, and someone says, no, don’t take it personally. You know, maybe they are really busy or it’s not the right time or maybe they just need to better build relations with you. And so, you can use that invitation to continue building and leveraging your thought leadership, establishing more social proof, continuing to build your network and then circle back with them or continue providing them value. And maybe they’ll come back when they’re ready and you won’t have to reach out to them. They’ll come to you. And so that’s actually something I need to be telling myself today that, you know, partnership is hard and that I’ve had quite a few rejection emails this morning in my inbox. So smart for you at home and definitely for me, too. But that’s one. And what’s the second? Don’t not listen to these podcasts and not reach out to the guests. And so if you haven’t at this point reached out to Peter and you’ve heard like three of these episodes, then you should send Peter an email, tell him that you appreciate this content and maybe ask him a question or offer some sort of value. Feel free to reach out to me by my emails. Jared Kleinertt at gmail dot com. So just J a r e d k l e i n e rt @ gmail dot com. And I would love to hear from you. And so, you’d be surprised at how many shows like this. I go on. I never hear from the person on the other side. Right. And you know, I don’t want to hear from people if they’re just going to ask, ask, ask and have zero interest rate. An intriguing relationship. But if there is some genuine interest in having a continued conversation, then I welcome it and I would love it. And so that’s the reason I do these sort of interviews and want to get out there.

Peter Great.

Jared Kleinert And yeah. This is part of why you do it as well as I’m sure you want a drag on your fans and, you know, people that keep getting value just so that you keep doing it.

Peter Exactly. Exactly. This has been great. I appreciate all that you’ve shared. There’s a lot here, a lot of unique perspective. And, you know, from playing the long game to being generous, to being thoughtful. Lots and lots of really, really wise information. So I appreciate your time. And I. Have a feeling, given that you’re playing the long game, you’re gonna be in this game for a long time and I hope to ya. So best of luck with everything.

Jared Kleinert Yeah. Thank you. And I appreciate you having me on your show.

In the journey to become a Thought Leader, many people make flawed assumptions. But you don’t have to make those same mistakes. Peter has five things you should not assume.


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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