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Recognizing Thought Leadership | Michael Gallagher

Recognizing Thought Leadership | Michael Gallagher

Awarding excellence and educating an audience about a new product.

An interview with Michael Gallagher about the The Stevie® Awards and ImageShield.

Our guest today is Michael Gallagher, the Founder, and CEO of The Stevie® Awards – the world’s premier business awards and co-founder of ImageShield, a web based program that helps protect images from unauthorized use.

We start our discussion with Michael telling us about why he founded The Stevie® Awards and how it has grown from The American Business Awards® to include eight award categories each with their own focus, list of categories, and schedule across the globe.

Next we turn our attention to Michaels newest endeavor ImageShield. Millions of people share their images online every day without much thought to who else could be using those images and negative ramifications that could come from it. Recognizing this growing problem Michael is developing ImageShield which will give users updates on how and where their images are being used so they can take action when needed.

Launching a new product like ImageShield requires educating the target audience on why this product is a necessity. Michael shares how he turned to Leveraging Thought Leadership for help in creating avatars, images, strategies for reaching their core audience and helping them understand the need for the product.

Three Key Takeaways:
  • People have a need to be recognized for their dedication and hard work.
  • Good thought leadership can draw attention to common problems that are not top of mind to the average person.
  • When investing in thought leadership, find the people in your organization that can vocalize the way your organization is operating and how they are thinking about problem solving.

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 us on the podcast, which is Leveraging Thought Leadership today. My guest is Michael Gallagher. Michael is the founder and CEO and executive chairman of the Stevie Awards, which has been around a global awards organization that’s been around for 20 some odd years, and also the co-founder of a newer entity called Image Shield. And we’re going to we’re going to talk about his story. And we’re thought leadership plays into sort of both of those. Welcome, Michael. Thank you for coming on today.

Michael Gallagher Thanks for having me this morning.

Peter Winick Yeah. So why don’t we start sort of chronologically? So the Stevie Awards, right. That’s been around a – 20 years.

Michael Gallagher Is we’re doing the 20th American Business Awards in three weeks in New York.

Peter Winick Yes, I will be there.

Michael Gallagher I’m looking then you’ll be there. Yes.

Peter Winick Yeah. So just give us the quick I mean, so the Stevie Awards, the short story is is a global organization that recognized various accomplishments of business folks around the world. But you do a better job than I have given a quick overview.

Michael Gallagher Well, you know, the really short version is I work for a really small company in New York out of college and early eighties that did media related awards programs, television awards, advertising, know all sorts of stuff. And I did that for six years. I really liked it in the late eighties that other staff worked in the competition trade show business then dot com and was in a position to do something on my own in in 2001 and go about buying a business. I thought what have I done that I really like? I really like doing awards because it’s fun, makes people happy. But the world didn’t need any more film festivals or television awards or advertising boards. I thought, Why is there an Oscars for business? Why don’t salespeople, chemists and engineers have the same sort of Oscar moment that actors and actresses do? You may recall in the early part of the new millennium, there were all these business scandals, and people I talked to said you couldn’t pick a worst time to top an award. 100 business people were in disrepute. Right.

Peter Winick So the ethical award going to Enron and Arthur Andersen.

Michael Gallagher It was like, well, if everyone thinks this is a terrible idea, there must be something to it. So I started to have awards in 2002, and we staged the first American Business Awards in 2003 in New York, and then we rolled out seven other TV awards programs over the year. The International Business Awards started in 2004, as well as the TV awards Women in Business that year. We have eight of them now. I just as I mentioned before we started the record, I just came back from our Emirates on Monday. We staged the third annual Middle East and North Africa TV Awards and lost all comment in that country last Saturday night.

Peter Winick So it’s interesting, several pieces that are interesting in that, you know, the concept of awards, right? It’s universal. People love to be recognized for the work they do and to recognize others that they have worked with and admire. People love it. You know, they will travel the world to do all sorts of things for a piece of plastic or gold.

Michael Gallagher Which tells the story about the Stevie Award trophy. When we were conceiving and designing the Stevie Trophy, I hired the company that at that time made the Oscars. And to make the trophy, they said, How heavy do you want it to be? And I said, How heavy is the Oscar? This is £8, 8000. And you have a Stevie Award as a as a triangle. Yes. And we modeled that on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, because toward the top of that pyramid is the esteem of one’s peers and what your basic needs are met clothing, food, housing, you know, some other stuff. Got a nice car. You know, right above that is, you know, you want to be recognized for what you do. And it’s a basic human right.

Peter Winick And the business side of it is interesting because when I look at this CVS and I’ve been aware of your organization for I think almost since the beginning, the various categories are almost an indication of where the world’s evolving. There probably wasn’t an e-commerce category in 2002 or a digital.

Michael Gallagher You know, that was. But there weren’t that many of them. Yes. So, yeah, we tried to part of what we do every year. We prepare for the opening of the next edition. The worst program is we look at, you know, where’s the world going, what people are interested in, what industries are just coming into being or growing quickly. And we’ll try to add categories to recognize, you know, in some cases those industries, in some cases, it’s functions.

Peter Winick Right. So, you know, on that note, you and I had a conversation a year and change ago and I said to you, hey, I’m seeing thought leadership as an organizational function that sort of coming into its own. Lots of you know, traditionally our work at my organization has been working with individual authors, thought leaders, speakers, etc. and then we started to see more and more large organizations making strategic investments in thought leadership to elevate the brand, accelerate the sales process, avoid commoditization. So you and I had that come out of that conversation about a year or so ago. And now there are categories in the Steves that are that are popping a little bit. You want to talk about that?

Michael Gallagher Sure. Well, you know, we thought leadership was always top of mind for us. I mean, we never you never had that definition for it. But, you know, one of the things I’ve noted over the years is most companies, even world famous companies, are pretty lousy at describing for the world what it is they are what they do. They’re just not very good at it. You know, there are certain companies, right, when you prepare a nomination for the Stevie Award, you’re basically encapsulating ready in case study of what your achievements are in a given area within your resources of customer service, product development over, you know, within a chronological window. And most companies are not very good at that. They’re not very good at sort of assimilating achievers from across the organization and summarizing that in a compelling way where disinterested third party could understand and appreciate it. And that’s essentially what thought leadership is, right? You’re basically being able to tell the world what it is you’re doing or working on or thinking at a given time.

Peter Winick Yeah. And you have to do that in a way that’s not content marketing that, that is so self-serving. And you know, our products are the best, our services are the best of the best, whatever you really sort of at a highest-level talk about the problems that you solve and how you solve them.

Michael Gallagher That’s one of the things we offered to entrants, a very few entrants actually take us up on. This is if you would like us to read and comment on your nominations before you submit, that will submit them. We’ll do that. And you know, one of the things we advise people is, you know, if your nomination is basically just a brag about how wonderful you are, judges are not going to appreciate it, but they want to know, was the problem identified? What did you do to solve it? What the results of that. And so it’s almost always about what you’ve done for someone else, whether it’s an internal customer or an external.

Peter Winick Right or a unique perspective that you’ve had bringing new thoughts to an old problem, right? Customer acquisition, customer experience, digital transformation, whatever. It’s not it’s not a best practices per se, but something unique. So yeah, so that’s, that’s where the stories are. That would a sort of segway to a newer venture that you’re involved in called Image Shield. So just give us a brief overview that and then we’re talk about the underlying leadership.

Michael Gallagher Yeah, the genesis of that I was talking to the studio was webmaster almost two years ago about, about the issue of the manipulation. At that time we focus on video, but you know it also extends a still image of. And how we can help people prevent the images and the video they share online from being manipulated, either being changed faked or being used commercially without the permission and authorization. And we’ve come up with a technical solution for doing that. It’s a service that I think people are going to want to do to actually do something similar to what I call Image Shield. We’re launching a what’s called an MVP or minimally viable product. So the initial version will not be an app. It will be web based at initial dot com and will help people to protect a photograph they share on social media or elsewhere online from being used commercially without approval or being alter. You know, and so those.

Peter Winick Are two different. So let me just stop you. There’s two different problems you’re solving. Right. So if I’m just an average person putting a picture up of my vacation to the Caribbean, I’m not that delusional that someone’s going to commercialize that. But if I’m a creator, if I’m an artist.

Michael Gallagher Well, I know actually that that is an issue, because if you post a really nice beach sunset photo, will that wind up in an ad in Croatia? Right. And even if it is, is that going to ruin your life? No. But you should be paid for that. Yes, you should be.

Peter Winick And but is it the one that keeps the book? But the one that I think would keep non. So there’s a community of creators that this is how they make their living this local property this is.

Michael Gallagher Right. But if you’re if you’re if you’re a young mom and you want to share photos of your young kids, you want to know that nothing nefarious is going to happen to those shorts. Once you release them into the wild on social media, you can share them by email or text message with revelation. You know, you can absolutely control what that person is going to do with it and they’re going to release it into the wild. Then who knows what’s going to happen to it? So. So means you have technical protections, but it also will monitor the use of the images you share. So you share a photograph on Instagram or Facebook and you share it through a windshield, or you begin to search the online world continuously for the use of that image or report you where it appears. And you can decide whether that’s innocuous or whether it’s something you need to follow up on. Right.

Peter Winick Right. So because right now in the world that we’re living in, I mean, one up on the Internet, intentional or not or caused by you or not could ruin a reputation.

Michael Gallagher Exactly. Exactly.

Peter Winick You know, embarrassment and all those sort of things. So I want to double click on the Image Shield. There’s a lot of thought leadership under that. So there’s clearly a problem you’re trying to solve. Two problems How do you have creators protect intellectual property and how do you have other folks protect, let’s call it, you know, their reputation or that sort of thing. So that’s a real.

Michael Gallagher Problem for your company. We’ve been working with Thought Leadership Leverage for several months now on developing thought leaders of assets for the launch of Image Field. And we recognize I mentioned we’re developing the initial version of The Shield as a is an MVP. So we’re going to include imagery, which means we’re focused initially on reaching out to constituencies. Young women between the ages of 1630 most likely to have their images shared online abuse and older adults, 55 and older who are the least sophisticated online, they’re most probably have their images that they share somehow used against them in an identity theft scam or some others. Sure, sure. So in working with Thought Leadership Leverage, you work with developing messaging and imagery associated with reaching out those consistencies. Now this is the image of uses is as a problem that affects everyone worldwide. It’s not really top of mind, right? So it’s right. You and I came up with the carbon monoxide analogy, right? Guys, I could tell you the silent killer, it’s odorless, it’s tasteless. And in some respects, imagery is like that. You know, when you share an image online, you don’t really give much thought into, you know, what nefarious places you could wind up in, but that can happen and can come back to bite you significantly. So we’re providing this tool for most people in this show will be free. There’s a there’s a paid upgrade for that. But for most people, least, they can get started for free add image if you go there now it’s a coming soon page. But by the time your podcast airs, perhaps it will be open and assuming it’s more than.

Peter Winick Two “Michael-weeks” right.

Michael Gallagher No – yeah – it’s that kind of time.

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Peter Winick When I think about that that the risk piece, all of the social media platforms are designed to engage or and designed to get you to do things not necessarily thoughtlessly, but in the absence of thought. I mean, we’re not designed every time we put something on Instagram where we like that, we say, Oh. Is this a good idea for me? What? What are the risk profiles to my reputation? We’re not going through that. We’re sort of just aimlessly going, here’s a.

Michael Gallagher Picture this. They’re designed to encourage you to share as much as possible and right to their credit matter with Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. The major social media platforms are pretty proactive if you report something. Sure. We all have these older friends and relations relationship. About once a week we use Facebook. Send us a message saying Don’t accept any friend requests for me. I’ve been hacked. Sometimes I’ve been hacked, but in most cases I have been hacked. Someone is literally just taking the photographs from their social media profile and creating a mirror profile and is masquerading as them online. That’s pretty easy to protect against. If you report that to Facebook, they’re pretty good about taking down those mirror accounts pretty quickly. But the thing about digital images is once it’s released into the wild, it’s it never disappears. It’s always on somebody’s hard drive somewhere.

Peter Winick And there’s no there’s no undo button.

Michael Gallagher There’s no there’s really no undo. So you’ve got to protect yourself over the long run. If you want to be able to share images of any kind online, an image show is going to help you.

Peter Winick Yep. So as it relates to Image Shield, as you’re launching a big piece of sort of the thinking under Image Shield is there’s an educational curve, right? You have to show people and make the case.

Michael Gallagher Right. We have to we have to show people why this is something that they should be concerned about. Right. And they should almost think of the use of image shield as an insurance policy against the ramifications of what could happen with Google.

Peter Winick Right. So that awareness and the stating the problem is one place where the thought leadership lives and then engaging folks to take an action is another place where the things that your ship lives because you’re not in a Coke Pepsi situation saying I’m you know new improved better than whatever. This is kind of a unique thing, which is amazing yet burdensome right for an entity.

Michael Gallagher So this this is sort of a blue ocean opportunity for us. There are solutions that have done this for quite some time for professional content, curators especially offers able to track the use of their images because their livelihood is literally if you use my image on the page. But there’s nothing there has been nothing to protect the average person who wants to share the images and later will develop a version that protects video as well. So with some peace of mind that that if something bad happens to the images, they’ll know about it. And then there are some technical impediments right at the beginning to prevent images from being abused in the first place.

Peter Winick And you mentioned, you know, two groups. You’ve got this over 55 group, right. Which I’m soon to be a member of. Michael tells me it’s good. Right. And then you’ve got younger females, right? So one thing is, from a thought leadership perspective, it’s really not effective to broadcast the same message in the same language, in the same modality for both of these groups. Right. You have to narrow cast.

Michael Gallagher Exactly.

Peter Winick Which is where thought leadership comes in really, really nicely. So you want to talk about that for a little bit?

Michael Gallagher Well, yes. Well, you know what? What we spend quite a bit of time with Thought Leadership Leverage just talking about the problems as they might be recognized by those two groups. And, you know, and there’s some there are some offshoots of those groups. For example, we we’ve said that when you and I were young, you know, if somebody asked us what we want to be, we said cowboys or astronauts. Now, if you ask young people what they want to be when they grow up, they will say social media influences, if not for the income, at least for the free swag. Right. So, you know, there’s a lot of there are a lot of younger women who aspire to be social media influencers and create a career around sharing imagery about their activities of their lives. And so, they have a second reason for wanting to protect the images. Besides, you know, there was one instance in late 2020 where more than 100,000 young women around the world had images of themselves taken from their social media profiles and submitted to a Russian nudie bought the fundamental news and all.

Peter Winick Without human intervention. Right. That’s just all technology and.

Michael Gallagher Right. Well, you know, some somebody took their image off their social media profile. Right. Submitted to the community board, got back into the image of those women. So the worry about was, you know, as soon as this was publicized, it was taken down. But that’s there are 100,000 women just in that one instance that had artificial nude images created themselves that are out there somewhere. Right. But they never really disappear of their digital on their heads again and again, and then eventually could ruin their reputations or relationships. So, you know, a lot of those women may want to make a living out of their out of their online image. So. Yeah. So, yeah. So, you know, there’s a sort of professional crossover for those, those young women. And the same thing with older adults, you know, older adults are many of them are in the business of promoting products or services online. Right. So, you know, there’s a lot of commercial crossover between the two audiences, but, you know, you got to put some stakes in the sand with it. With a service like image yields, a lot of services are really only for certain constituencies. Yeah, something like Image Shield, which is for everybody. Yeah, well, you can’t market to the whole world. You know, we say, well, we don’t have $1,000,000,000 market.

Peter Winick And that’s exactly it. So as we start to wrap up here, Michael, give some advice to an organization that is thinking about investing in thought leadership to meet their business objectives, whether that’s brand awareness, the sales process, etc.. What are some do’s and don’ts maybe?

Michael Gallagher Well, you know, I applaud your company. It’s been useful to outsource to or a team that focuses on this to help us rationalize what it is we should be focused on and to iterate the messages. And I would also say, find the people in your organization who are really good, communicate, certainly verbal, who can. Right now, it’s we’re an age where, you know, a lot of people are friends, are decent writers, a lot of younger people. That is not that they’re educational focused. They’re not really focused on that. But.

Peter Winick Right, punctuation happening is punctuation that all important?

Michael Gallagher The written word still drives every other form of communication. You start to be able to write a script for a podcast. Yeah, yeah. So find those people in the organization who are good at that and enlist them in working towards creating these messages that can about the way that your organization is operating and thinking about issues related to whatever it is.

Peter Winick Good stuff. Well, thank you so much. And we’re looking forward to two weeks from now. And I’m wondering, so the date when now is for the launch of ImageShield. So thank you for sharing your stories with us tonight.

Michael Gallagher Thank you. I appreciate it.

Peter Winick To learn more about Thought Leadership Leverage, please visit our website at 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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