Competing on a higher level with thought leadership. An interview with Heather Dondis about using…
Learning that each action is a marketing action, and building a trustworthy reputation.
An interview with Geoffrey Colon about learning from content creators, marketing with thought leadership, and the importance reputation plays in the marketplace.
Advertising and innovation are perhaps the two most important components of a company, and both are changing faster than ever before. So, how can advertisers better understand and harness the influence of social media content creators?
Our guest on this episode is Geoffrey Colon, Head of Brand Studio at Microsoft Advertising and the author of Marketing: What Growth Hackers, Data Punks, and Other Hybrid Thinkers Can Teach Us About Navigating the New Normal. Geoffrey is well qualified to discuss how individual creators and organizations are being challenged to think about accountability, and how their message and actions affect their reputation.
We start off the conversation by discussing how every action taken by your company and its employees is a marketing action, even if you don’t intend it to be. Geoffrey explains why companies need to consider how they are seen – from interactions with customer service, to social media, to advertising campaigns and thought leadership. Are you presenting a clear and consistent message?
Content creators on TikTok and Instagram are capable of massive reach and influence. With that in mind, what can be learned from their methods? Geoffrey talks to us about the changing world of public relations, and how companies can team up with like-minded influencers to create unique campaigns that are mutually beneficial.
We round out the conversation by discussing how thought leadership can help build a brand’s reputation. Geoffrey goes on to explain how this can only be done when an organization’s thought leadership matches the actions being taken by the company. Trust is immediately lost when the audience sees a company speak about something they clearly don’t understand, or worse, when the organization’s actions are contrary to their thought leadership message.
If you want a better picture of how to bet on the future of your company’s public relations and reputation you’ll want to listen to this episode!
Three Key Takeaways:
- Thought Leadership should stay true to the actions of the company. Don’t tell others about customer service practices if your company is known for having bad customer service.
- Brands can reach new audiences by teaming up with content creators to spread the thought leadership message of their company.
- It is important for thought leaders to understand not only the financial standing of the company they are working for but the ethical standing as well.
Join the Organizational Thought Leadership Newsletter to learn more about expanding thought leadership within your organization! This monthly newsletter is full of practical information, advice, and ideas to help you reach your organization’s thought leadership goals.
And if you need help scaling organizational thought leadership, contact Thought Leadership Leverage!
Bill Sherman What can thought leadership professionals learn from the creator movement? It’s easy to scoff at Tik Tok dances, Twitch streams, and the metaverse. But over the past few years, we’ve seen individual creators build deep connections with passionate audiences. Creators in gaming, and music, and in the arts, are finding better ways to connect with their audiences and share ideas. They’re building communities, and that’s something that organizations need to take a look at.
Bill Sherman Today, I’m speaking with Geoffrey Colon. He’s the head of Brand Studio at Microsoft Advertising, and in today’s conversation, we talk about how ideas are the currency of the 21st century and how individual creators, as well as organizations, are being challenged to not just talk about a future world, but to make it inhabitable by others. We explore how curating thought leadership allows you to take new risks and try new things. Today’s conversation also explores the creative passion and joy of thought leadership. I’m Bill Sherman, and you’re listening to Leveraging Thought Leadership ready. Let’s begin.
Bill Sherman Welcome to the show, Geoffrey.
Geoffrey Colon Thanks, Bill, for having me. Great to be here.
Bill Sherman So I’m eager to dive into how thought leadership in the creator economy is really disrupting how organizations have to think about thought leadership. So the first question that I want to pose to you, and it’s something that I know you’ve been talking about a lot, is that these days every action is a marketing action. What do you mean by that? And how does that relate to all leadership?
Geoffrey Colon Yeah, I mean, if you think about the famous quote that existed and forgive me, I can’t remember who said it, but it was, you know, the most important two things at a company are marketing. And innovation, that’s the whole reason why an enterprise exists. So we think about the fact that those two elements are really important. Every action that is taken at a company should ladder back to that meaning. What actions are your employees taking, what is your customer service like? How are you discovered by others? There’s a tendency, I think, bill for a lot of us to say, let’s simplify which is important, but you know, let’s simplify everything where marketing does marketing and thought leadership is thought leadership and then everything else doesn’t matter to what that mission is. I would say we have to look at the entire experience of how customers perceive companies and make sure that’s taken into consideration on everything that we do.
Bill Sherman So from an experience perspective, the ideas that get shared across the organization, not only within but beyond, what is your CEO saying? What are your frontline salespeople saying? What are people who are calling into customer service hearing? What do they see on social media that’s tied to the brand? All of these things start becoming a web, and you can either put out a sort of consistent point of view with variation for individual invoice, or you can show that there is no consistency. And that’s a signal of is there really innovation there? Right?
Geoffrey Colon That’s correct. And also, there’s a lot of signals that, you know, as you alluded to. Everyone should know about before you come up with anything in terms of external communications which thought leadership falls under. So if your thought leadership is going to be on the customer experience of the future, you should really have signals on, hey, as our customer experience going to be, is it good or is it bad? Because if you’re just if you’re going to go with that type of thinking and then people are going to say, Hey, you know, it’s one for you to talk about this. I tried to get in touch with you the other week because I couldn’t get into my account and it took me 70 people to basically solve for a problem. You got to think about all of those signals that are out there that should determine, you know, what you can and cannot talk about. I always think companies are best when they aren’t just preaching where they think the world should go, but they’re also taking those steps toward making that world, you know, have, you know, inhabitable by all of us? And a lot of that falls into all these different signals that we have. You know, we have access to now.
Bill Sherman Well, and I think to a strong degree, it’s the difference between putting out thought leadership as an intellectual exercise or an academic exercise where you say, Hey, this is the way the world could be versus many organizations are looking and saying, OK, you’re saying it’s going that way. What are you doing to make that real and show us a model that it’s it’s achievable today? Right? Because if you’re not living your ideas and if you’re either stuck in the past or fighting the fights of the present, it is very hard for your organization to be seen as exercising thought leadership in that domain.
Geoffrey Colon Yeah, I mean, you got to think about this way, ideas are the currency of the 21st century. Now I know if I said that on LinkedIn bill, I’d have everyone say, Oh, you know, but execution as well. Well, of course, but you have to have an idea first. And I think that’s what’s missing with a number of companies. When we do look to them in terms of, Hey, what is your leadership? Are you acting it out? Are you behaving that way? Or are you just pumping out a bunch of published information where you want basically us to perceive you in a certain way? The world’s much more open than it ever has been. We can find out quickly what companies records are based on their behavior, and so I think we put more stake in companies who are saying, Hey, here’s our vision for the world. But they also have a good track record in terms of trying to enable what that vision is. I think we all know that the world is made up of people and there’s flaws. But I think we like companies that are trying to actually walk the walk rather than talk the talk.
Bill Sherman It is better to show by signals that you’re attempting to make an idea real, and maybe you fail occasionally along the way rather than. Yeah, no, we haven’t tried that yet.
Geoffrey Colon Correct. You know, I think that’s one thing that we’re looking for more people, more companies in every industry to not say what you just noted, which is, you know, hey, we haven’t done that or we’re not even trying to do that. I think we I think we give a passing grade to companies that at least are trying, you know, interesting things. Again goes back to that famous quote on, you know, why do organizations exist? Marketing and innovation. Two huge functions of why companies exist.
Bill Sherman So you sit in an interesting space with Microsoft Brand Studio, right, and you focus on issues such as design and communication. What I’ve heard you banging the drum now for a while of organizations need to learn from creators, and the creator economy. I’d like you to sort of elaborate on that and let’s dove into a conversation there because I think there’s a lot that both leadership practitioners need to learn from TikTok and Instagram.
Geoffrey Colon Yeah, I mean, I think also, you know, if I even rewind before I got to Microsoft, you know, I worked at Ogilvy, which was an advertising agency in New York, and then I was at 360, which was also sort of a digital agency. And there were a lot of PR practitioners at both of those agencies, really smart people, really cutting edge, really looking at where the world was and where it was going. And I think, you know, one of the things I’ve taken from a lot of that education, you know, Bill is in the company world. We’re still operating as if Edward Bernays, who sort of came up with the term public relations, is still the person to go to when it comes to like best practices. The issue is Bernays lived at a time when there was only a finite amount of resources to go to. There was no search engines, there was no there was no world wide web. There was no internet. And so what we’re what we have to study is the power of anybody to create online. As we know from the evolution of Web 1.0, which was read only to Web 2.0, which is read creates, which is which we’re moving into this sort of web three world, which is read, write, create and own that is opening up a number of opportunities where I think a lot of professionals in in in communications maybe are missing. They’re still going with this brand first ideology. I think brands are really important. You won’t ever hear me say brands aren’t important. What is how you get that message across? There’s too many brands still saying, you know, we’re going to go brand first. The smarter companies are saying, we’re going to go create or first we’re going to find creators that we that align with our mission, align with our company, align with our goals. We’re going to brief them and we’re going to have them create things for us. And that is sticking out there a lot more than the old, tired way of, well, the brand is going to come up with this content. The brand is going to come up with this thought leadership. Everything needs to be much more collaborative now. There are people out there that probably know more about your brand than the people working at it. And we have to take advantage of those situations in those scenarios with the fact that anybody can be a creator now, anybody can create anything, anybody can deploy that. Anybody can amplify that. It’s a very different world from how it had operated social media. You know, I still think the basics are important, but the you know, Marshall McLuhan said it best. The medium is the message, and that is the biggest learning that I still think a lot of companies are either ignoring or they’re just they’re not really paying attention. They’re thinking like, Oh, this is a flash in the pan. I don’t need to learn any of this because it’ll all revert back to the way it always has been. That attitude is usually what ends up in companies basically losing tons of market share and not being around a few years from now.
Bill Sherman Well, and I think one of the things about and this is difficult on brand strategy is if you put the brand on the pedestal, right, and you make it an object to sort of that’s to be revered, protected, etc. And everything has to align. You run the risk of making it fragile and really putting it on a pedestal of clay rather than something that’s solid. And brands are much more messy than they were a decade ago, and I think that’s a good thing rather than a bad thing.
Geoffrey Colon Yeah, I actually think it’s a great thing. There was a there was a trend forecast I did about a decade ago. I used a term for that, what you’re describing. It’s called “flaw-some.” I’m not awesome. But flaw-some, because you’re flawed, but you’re also using those flaws to show how awesome you are to others. It’s just you’re showing your reality. We make mistakes. That’s not a bug. That’s a feature we’re trying always best to sort of learn from that. I respect a lot of companies. I actually respect our CEO, Satya Nadella, for sort of enabling the, Hey, you know, you don’t know it all. That’s sort of the old way of thinking at Microsoft, you know, like, Hey, we know it all. We’re powerful and we don’t need to listen to anybody else. I think it’s much better to take more of a practitioner route. I don’t know everything. I’m still trying to learn every single day, Oh, you have a better way of doing things. Let’s try it that way. It’s a much more open to the world in how the world changes in front of you and how you react to that then. I don’t need to really change my mind. I just am going to be rigid when it comes to everything in front of us. I mean, Adam Grant’s newest book is about the fact that people and organizations that do actually learn and change their mind, that’s actually stronger than those who are like, Nope, just going to stay the stay, the course. We’re going to do it this way or we’re not going to do it at all. And that’s the that that adaptation is what’s causing a lot of turbulence. I think at companies now is, hey, we’re having to constantly switch and change and rapid deployment and rapid change, and that’s causing a lot of shock on the system. How do we handle a lot of that? This is not an easy thing, bill. I mean, I’m not saying it’s easy by any means, but if we take more of that blossom indicator, we if we adapt more of that, I think it’s going to be a more interesting business world that’s in front of us this next decade than what’s existed the last 20 years.
Bill Sherman And I think one of the, flaw-some, points to another term that I want to explore with you, which is joy, I think you can tell in the world of thought leadership when those who are creating it and deploying it. Have a true passion for the topic, and they have joy being in conversations about it, in putting the ideas out in the world and sharing and learning from others, right, as opposed to the lifeless webinar or the soulless white paper.
Geoffrey Colon You said it, I didn’t know what the soulless web, I mean, wow. I sometimes think, you know you’re, you know, we’re one and the same here. I mean, webinars are good. They just need to be revamped in terms of. The joy you can get from them and the same thing with white papers, I think white papers are ebooks. They can be really interesting, but I have not seen any one. Tinker with the format to make it interesting, like I would love to see a company actually issue thought leadership as an e-book that’s much more interactive where I’m like, Wow, that was the most exciting thing I’ve ever read. But usually, Bill, that is not the case. It is. I downloaded the PDF. It had a lot of stock photography. It had a lot of buzz words. It was overfilled with stats to the point where I couldn’t even tell 76 percent toward the 20 percent toward 50. It’s over inundated with information. There’s no curation there. The art of curation is missing in the world of thought leadership. Less is actually more. But for some reason, we have a tendency of thinking we got to overload our audience with as much information as possible, which the resistance of that from the reader or those who are consuming it is whoa, there’s so much here. There’s a paradox of choice and the ends up. They take no action in the long run, so our thought leadership actually backfires in those situations.
Bill Sherman Well, and because it takes a while for an idea to reach someone, actually get them to pause and think about it for a moment because the first time that it flies past their attention, it may never even really stick. You’ve got to get someone to say, Oh, that’s interesting. Do I agree with? Right? And if you only are putting an idea out there once, maybe it’s in that one white paper, you run the risk that people never encounter it. And so there’s a sort of tension between do you take one idea and repeated over and over for a period of time? Or are you constantly, you know, trying to build this one massive idea launch it is your tent pole. And that’s it. Right?
Geoffrey Colon Yeah, I mean, it’s I think companies that actually have like one big thing that they sort of are believing in for that year and are repeating that, but using different ways to continue to repeat that, I find really interesting because that theme eventually does stick with me, and I feel like they own that subject matter. I mean, if you think about thought leadership, that’s what you’re really trying to do is you’re really trying to own a topic because you want people who are ultimately searching for that topic to come upon you because you’ve basically owned that. Good example is, a couple of years ago, before the pandemic, the term digital transformation was pretty much everywhere. I’d say this as of 2014 2015, you started to see a lot of, as you’ve noted, white papers and e-books out there. Yep. But the interesting thing is, when you conducted a search on that bill, nobody owned that topic because it was like, Oh, here’s like 15 companies, and they’re all talking about different things. I would say a few years ago when you looked at, you know, maybe two years ago, right as the pandemic was starting, if you if you Google that term, you would actually find there were just a few companies owning that topic because they doubled down and they just kept repeating what was going on in new ways. And now we look to certain companies to help us with that digital transformation. And so that topic isn’t going to get old. That’s going to stay out there for a while. Enterprise still needs to, I think, make inroads on some of those areas. And we’re always going to look for transformation in these sort of living breathing entities we known as business. But the good learning from all of that is, you know, we should figure out how we own a topic from, you know, repeating what that mean goal is. Yes, a lot of that comes down to buzz words or phrases. But I would say, you know, if we look at where the world is now in terms of the metaverse are, web three are digital evolution are sort of the, you know, physical digital divide. There’s not really a lot of companies that own those terminologies. And so that’s what I think you have to think about. When where are the future of work is another good one. Like, what is it that companies are doing that they can sort of own those phrases, that natural language that people are putting in search engines.
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Bill Sherman And this leads to something about the standard business lexicon and how thought leadership influences the lexicon. So you may get a individual or an organization that launches it and people pick it up. It goes up the Gartner hype cycle, right? All of a sudden you’re hearing that term everywhere, you know, and it gives you whiter teeth and, you know, improves your ROIC and does all sorts of amazing stuff. If you only implement it and then people look and they go, OK, and they back off a little bit, that trough of disillusionment. I think what you’re talking about to some degree, are the organizations that look at the term and say, Yeah, we’re going to invest this for the in the long haul. And we know that there will be a retrenchment for a while. But on the other side, when the market is really ready to use this as a tool, we want to be there and we want to be established. That’s good. That’s Web three or whatever or digital transformation. You’ve got to make those bets early. While the buzz is still building, you can’t wait until buyers are putting out series contracts.
Geoffrey Colon Correct, and also there may not be a huge market just yet, but you might have like a few solutions there, but the bet is that, hey, this is going to expand. And as we know, if you wait and you wait for that bubble to expand and you say, now we’re going to enter, you’re in a crowded fray, you have to spend a lot more money, you have to spend a lot more energy on creating or fostering what we call mental availability, which is very more which is much more difficult said than done. I think it’s very interesting that companies will say, you know, we’re not going to go into that area and then they’re like, OK, now we’re going to go into that area. And it’s very difficult. I mean, I remember, you know, maybe five or six years ago it was like, Hey, we’re going to now move into like the fact that mobile is very important. And I would, you know, I remember saying like to my thinking to myself, like mobile is important. My goodness, mobile has been important for like a decade. Like, it’s going to be a harder push to get into some of these areas. You know, Bill, this could be one reason why, like, I think, you know, Facebook is doubling down on calling itself Meta and the Metaverse. It’s not betting on that. The Metaverse is going to be big. You know, when we wake up next week, they’re betting that’s a 10 year bet. That’s a big, bold bet. So no matter what we may think about it, we sort of have to give them, I guess, you know, accolades for. Well, that’s a big bet. Hopefully, that works out because we don’t know if that big bet is going to work out, but that’s part of thought. Leadership is there’s many more big bets in those in in these spaces. I think it’s interesting when people are like, Hey, we want to mitigate as much risk as possible. My attitude toward that is that don’t do any thought leadership because thought leadership, you’re going to be wrong 90 percent of the time. So if you’re like, well, we want to mitigate risk, but we also want to do thought leadership. It’s like now, just don’t bother, just state what you have out there now and market for, you know, the customers you have because it is about being bold in in this area. You and I both know that and I think that that’s what attracts many people to doing thought leadership too is those bold, you know, visionary bets.
Bill Sherman So talk to me a little bit about how thought leadership informs your work at the Microsoft Brand Studio. So what is it, did you? Bring to the world through thought leadership there.
Geoffrey Colon I mean, if we think about it, you know, the big area for us, we’re selling advertising solutions, digital advertising solutions. We’re in the digital advertising space. I mean, that’s constantly an area that is undergoing change, not necessarily frenetic change. It’s not like things change overnight. It’s more that things are going to are changing actually over a five-to-10-year period, which is where thought leadership, I think, lends itself best. So one of the areas that we always look at is how did advertising work 50 years ago and how has it evolved to basically work within the digital era that we’re in? But also, how has it changed over the last 30 years? I mean, we know that search advertising has changed. Display advertising has changed. Social media has sort of allowed native advertising to sneak into our news feeds. We’re seeing that change a little bit more. We know that basically there’s been a lot of retargeting or remarketing in the space, but the post cookies landscape is going to change a lot of that. And then we also have to look at like the fact that you have a subscription sort of economy, you know, within this creator economy that’s burgeoning. Hey, I want to subscribe to this creator that I like. I want to tip them, you know, $3 a month for the content that they make. Oh, some of the content they make is actually some branded content because a brand is paying them. I don’t really mind that that much because I really like their content. That’s changing the dynamics of the landscape. There’s, you know, every industry has change in it, so every industry actually should have thought leadership in it. You know, even companies, even industries that are regulated, undergo change. So I think, you know, the way the lens that we look at it is, you know, where is where was advertising, where is it now? Where will it be knowing a number of factors like automation data and the fact that there’s much more regulation in terms of what existed in digital advertising? That’s sort of, you know, in the near future than what has existed in the past. These are all things that require advertisers understand, well, what will the world look like if all these changes sort of, you know, create a conjoint effect? And that makes for really interesting thought leadership because it is a combination of factors that could happen in the real world, along with imagination on what things could look like as a result of these changes. And that’s that is what informs people. That is what fosters mental availability. That’s what keeps people thinking of a company like Microsoft as an innovative leader in this in this space.
Bill Sherman So I have a question that I want to ask you related to reputation, so many brands in the advertising space are now thinking about brand reputation and placement in terms of where their ads appear, especially in creator economy, that they’re being associated in ways they want to be associated. I think thought leadership and ideas operate similar in terms of, you know, an idea by the company it keeps. I’d be curious on your thoughts on reputation and in ideas and thought leadership.
Geoffrey Colon I mean, reputation is a huge area, there’s a great book from about a decade ago titled Reputation Economics, it really is. I think that book and narrative economics are like the two interesting books that we sort of overlook are the two trends we overlook on why we do most of this. You know, Bill, we thought leadership exists. I would say it’s a huge area in terms of building reputation because if we think about what we’re issuing out there, what we’re creating and what’s on our websites and other content that we, you know, distribute that helps build up a trust factor in terms of, OK, people are reading this, they’re getting an idea of what the company represents. They’re getting an idea of what the company sort of stands for moving into the future. And that is a way to build a future prospects as we know, especially in the B2B marketplace. Nobody is making a decision overnight on who they’re going with. They’re probably a, you know, they’re probably a one to three year decision making process. And so that’s where thought leadership, I think, has been adopted heavily in the B2B or the client services industry because it is fostering trust, it is fostering points of view, it is fostering a vision that you want to be aligned with. And these are all things that have come out and like the Edelman Trust Barometer, like more people are looking for companies that they can trust because they can’t really trust much of anything out there because they don’t know what they don’t know if it’s all fakery or so or whatever it might be. And so, you know, good thought leadership that ties back to, Hey, I want to have a meeting with this company and then that meeting actually is really good and lives up to the, you know what, what the company is about that leads to, obviously, you know, progress in terms of creating a good reputation. Where companies run into issues is they have a bad reputation and they want to use thought leadership to cover up that bad reputation that can be sniffed out miles away because ultimately people are like, Hey, I read this thing that you issued, but we just know that you’re not really a good company and you know, we’ve had bad dealings with you or you ripped us off or whatever it might be, Bill. I mean, there’s always things that happen and in the business world, but that I think people can sniff a mile away. They can say like, Oh, they’re just issuing that because they don’t really have anything else to live up to. They don’t have really a good product or a good service. You’ve got to back all these things with good product, good services, good people on your team. You can’t just say the thought leadership is going to help us. You know, you can’t treat like a Band-Aid if you have a bad organization.
Bill Sherman And I want to expand on that because I think also, Jeff, you can’t use thought leadership to cover lapses in ethics or authenticity, right? Correct. You can’t use it as a veneer over rotten wood.
Geoffrey Colon I love these quotes that you’re doling out here. Yeah, that’s I mean, that’s it right there. You can’t, you cannot, you can’t use it to cover things up. Ultimately, people can find out more than they’ve ever been able to find out. You know, in the in sort of history and they’ll just find out they’ll discover you like, yes, you can lead them in through that thought leadership. But if they find out, wow, this is a really just awful experience, a bad company, I don’t really, you know what, what’s going on here? They will not only just be turned away from you, they’ll call you out on the fact that you continue issuing a lot of this thought leadership. You know, it does happen out there. There are companies, you know, called out all the time. You’ll see them post things on social media, then you’ll look at the comments and you’ll learn quickly. Wow, there’s they, you know. Doesn’t look like this company has a lot of trust. As you said, there’s not there’s an ethical meltdown or something going on there or in the case of some companies. Let’s say that they’re there. They’re senior executives do something. They say there’s an insider trading deal going on and then they issue some thought leadership about how they care about their employees. And you find out that they just fired a bunch of people on Zoom the week earlier. That’s not going to cover any of that up, as you said. That’s just, you know, it just, you know, it does. It doesn’t. It doesn’t align, so to speak in in those cases, I sometimes think it’s better for companies not to issue anything and just sort of figure out what is our place in the world before they come up with new stories. They think many times if they keep generating these stories, they’ll allow all these sort of bad things, you know, to go away. We just know that that’s not how the world works.
Bill Sherman Well, and you make me think going back some 20 years to Enron. Right? And the story they had on energy futures trading and how it was going to be revolutionary and transform how the energy markets worked. No amount of thought leadership substituted for the fact that there was a pretty rotten core in the accounting side of that business. Right.
Geoffrey Colon That’s right. I mean, it was I mean, there’s been tons of books and documentaries about it. I mean, it’s it was a corrupt organization through and through, and it ultimately led to its demise. Took a lot of innocent people down with it. And yeah, you know, I think that’s where it’s almost really important for if you are working on thought leadership to know how is our not just our financial standing in the world, but how is, as you said, our ethical standing in the world? Is there any secrets that could come back to hurt us if we do a piece about, I don’t know, sustainable energy and people find out later that we’re doing bad things like all of this has to be taken into consideration when I think companies are figuring out the stories that they want to state and want to, you know, basically issue out there. And again, all companies have their skeletons in a closet, but it goes back to the fact that people will forgive you if it’s not. Wow, that’s a huge issue. And you’re issuing this stuff. Wow. It sounds like smoke and mirrors. You know, people can sort of sense that. So that’s where you want to make sure that you’re all, you know, tied together in terms of like, you know, where you’re going and where you’ve been as well.
Bill Sherman And to build on that, if there’s an issue from the past, there’s a time for crisis management, obviously, and crisis management communications. That’s not necessarily the time to put out thought leadership in the moment while the fire is burning and you’re responding to it. You can, after a period of time, say as an organization, OK, we use this as a wake up call. We look deeply within and we’ve decided to make a change on these things. These are things we believe. These are things that we’ve applied, and this is now our thought leadership in this area. But you can’t use thought leadership to put out a PR disaster, right? In crisis comes, it’s difficult.
Geoffrey Colon It’s difficult. I don’t I haven’t seen much of it used that way, bill. No, no. It’s longer tail. So it’s like this mode. It’s like, Hey, we have a fire, we have to sort of put out. It doesn’t really help in those, you know, in those exact words, it’s yeah, yeah, I would agree with 100 percent.
Bill Sherman So I want to as we begin to wrap up, I want to turn and ask you a question. You’ve been in the space of practicing top leadership for a number of years. As we mentioned, you’ve got your own book that you’ve written. You come from the agency background. If you were to look back to yourself at the start of your career when you started practicing thought leadership. What advice would you give yourself as a younger version of you?
Geoffrey Colon It’s a good question, that’s a great question, actually. I think one is to not take yourself so serious in this area. What I mean by that is a lot of thought leadership is based on predictions based on insights that we have here and now we see a lot of this in every space. Well, this this area, the trajectory of growth is, you know, 70 percent year over year. But then that may not happen because of other elements. There’s always there’s always things that happen out there, bill that we don’t have control over. And so when I say, don’t take yourself so seriously, what I mean by that is, you know, always know that the predictions you make, the forecasts that you sort of calculate they can all go haywire and not necessarily add up to where you know the future is. I would say a majority of thought leadership is more incorrect than it is correct. However, you’re taking a chance on predicting where you’d like the future to go. So besides, you know, telling people or my younger self, don’t be so serious, I think my other thing I would say is, Oh, and also don’t take people so seriously who think, Oh, that’s just a bunch of imaginary fluff. This is how the world works because he can’t find the future. If you’re just living all the time in the present, as if you can’t make any change moving forward, it’s important to note that thought leadership is the change that we seek in most of these environments. We should listen to more people who have that imagination, rather than those who are sort of, you know, rigidly tied to maybe the present systems we live under.
Bill Sherman I love that focus on agency because I think that is really one of the elements of thought leadership, which is essential. You have to believe that the world is malleable, that the world is changing and that you can influence some of that change either directly or by sparking a conversation.
Geoffrey Colon Yeah, I mean, I meet people all the time in the persuasion and influence industry who think that thought leadership is bunk because they think it has no control of actually influencing others. And I sort of scratch my head and say, Why are you even involved in this if you think it has no influence on others? I think part of thought leadership is influencing a majority of it is influencing others to see the possibility rather than, Oh, this is what exists here and now, and this is always what will exist here now. It’s easy to get cynical, but you have to sometimes sort of open yourself up to the opportunities and the possibilities that do exist out there, even with naysayers who say, Yeah, that’s never going to happen. I think that just gives more fuel to our fire of like, let’s see if we can actually make that happen.
Bill Sherman Absolutely. So Jeff, I want to thank you for joining us today. If someone wants to reach out to you or track your work, how do they find you?
Geoffrey Colon You can find me on LinkedIn, I’m really active there, and I’m also active on Twitter, my handle’s @DJGeoffe.
Bill Sherman Fantastic. Thank you, Jeff. Thank you.
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