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The Audience Experience of Thought Leadership | Ginger Conlon

The Audience Experience of Thought Leadership | Ginger Conlon

Thinking about how organizations tell an aligned story across divisions.

An interview with Ginger Conlon about creating organizational thought leadership in tandem with content marketing.

Thought Leadership sits at different positions in different companies. It can be bucketed with research, content marketing, or even brand building.

Given those options, how can you ensure all divisions are aligned in the story an organization’s thought leadership is telling and the brand it is building?

To examine how to achieve a harmonious alignment, I’ve invited Ginger Conlon to join me for a conversation. Ginger is the Thought Leadership Director at Genesys, a software company that specializes in customer experience and call center technology.

At Genesys, thought leadership is research-driven and sits at the top of the funnel. The thought leadership team works with content marketing to learn about their priorities and focus on the most important issues – then, the former creates research reports which form the foundation of content for the months ahead. Through a shared editorial calendar, all parts of the organization tell the same story, and align around key points of the research.

Too often, great content sits on a shelf, untouched. To ensure that doesn’t happen, Ginger forms relationships with the owners of internal content management hubs and team-specific newsletters. That way, she keeps them informed of new, relevant content, and uses their channels to push content through the organization. In addition, by seeking input from others throughout the organization, Ginger and Claire Beatty, senior director of thought leadership, create creates a sense of ownership in the content as leaders see their input influence their content.

Ginger shares great advice for anyone working on or alongside a thought leadership role on how to create a great end user experience for content.

Three Key Takeaways:
  • Thought Leadership is about engaging your audience and sharing insights with them on a broader level.
  • A shared editorial calendar is the key to ensuring thought leadership and content marketing work hand in hand.
  • In order to get your message across an organization you not only have to build relationships but you have to understand how information is disseminated across it.

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.

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 or reach out to Bill Sherman on Linkedin!



Bill Sherman How do people experience your organization’s thought leadership? I’m not talking about modalities like white papers and podcasts. Instead, if we view our org’s thought leadership as an offering or a service, we probably would talk about creating a great customer experience. We’d even talk about tracking six metrics. Today I’m talking to Ginger Conlon, thought leadership director and customer experience advocate at Genesys. As a company, Genesys orchestrates over 70 billion customer experiences per year through cloud, digital and AI. So, I’m eager to talk with Ginger about the experience of thought leadership, flying information with other departments, creating thought leadership in collaboration with others, and taking ideas to scale within and beyond the organization.

Bill Sherman I’m Bill Sherman and you’re listening to Leveraging Thought Leadership. Ready? Let’s begin. Welcome to the show, Ginger.

Ginger Conlon Thanks so much for having me, Bill. I’m so excited to be here and talk about leadership today.

Bill Sherman So you’re at Genesys. What does thought leadership mean to Genesys?

Ginger Conlon Thought leadership at Genesys looks a little bit different than it might in some other places. Some companies, when they talk about thought leadership, they’re really talking that broader content marketing where it’s just any kind of content that helps the executives or the company look like thought leaders. And that’s part of what we do, of course. But thought leadership specifically at Genesys is about. The research driven top of funnel, huge reports, state of customer experience, rethinking six metrics, these kinds of things.

Bill Sherman So you say top of funnel. Are you more closely aligned, then, to brand and brand building?

Ginger Conlon Absolutely.

Bill Sherman Rather than lead generation, okay.

Ginger Conlon Yeah. Now, hey, if people want to download our stuff and give their information and we get a lead with you, that’s awesome. But really, it’s about engaging our audience and sharing insight on that broader level.

Bill Sherman So are you sitting in a marketing function or a research function?

Ginger Conlon Marketing function. We are part of the content marketing team.

Bill Sherman Got it. So, you’re adjacent to content marketing, even though they’re focused on lead generation deeper in the funnel and you’re, as you said, top of funnel.

Ginger Conlon Right. And we collaborate extensively to make sure that what we’re doing is aligned with what they are doing.

Bill Sherman So talk a little bit about that collaboration. How does it work? Do you have an example of where that handoff for the connection really creates some good sparks or energy?

Ginger Conlon Absolutely. So, one of the things that we do is whenever we’re. Well, it starts with the editorial calendar and we’re planning our editorial calendar. We go out and talk to people in content marketing. We talk to leaders of different parts of the business. What’s important right now? What’s on their mind, what’s on the customer’s mind? And then we create the content calendar from there, and then we go back and get feedback on that. And then when we get a little bit deeper for each report. We say, okay, the content marketing team, what are you working on? How does this align? And we really get in the weeds a little bit on the specific angle of the topic that we’re looking to cover to make sure that it’s stands out in the market but also fits in with what they’re working on.

Bill Sherman And so you’re doing it sounds like several tentpole pieces of research on a regular basis over the course of a year, and then making sure that those pieces of research have a life beyond the week or two where you’re promoting it intensively at launch, right?

Ginger Conlon Exactly. Exactly. So, one of the ways that fits in right now, for example, is. We are working on. A piece with an MIT Technology Review on the future of the workforce. And at the same time, our colleagues in content marketing, broader content marketing are working on their employee engagement chapter. So that means several months of a series of content about employee engagement that tells a story arc. So, our content fits in with that story arc and helps to kick it off. And so, we share we’ve shared the. The draft outline with them so they know what’s coming and how it’s going to fit into the story that they’re trying to tell. And then the timing is all aligned and then we’ll plan blogs that kind of resurface key points from our bigger report, but also make sure that it fits in with their chapter. What part of the story they’re telling us the as the months unfold.

Bill Sherman Well and that ability to weave with the organization and be aligned with the rest of the organization rather than put the report out and say, well, we did our part, now you guys take it and distribute it. On to prospects and customers that a close collaboration, I think, becomes essential for leadership.

Ginger Conlon Absolutely. And it’s a part of the Genesys culture. One of our values is called fly in formation. And I kind of jokingly say sometimes he will reflect the information. But on the serious side, it’s really important that we do collaborate and we do that in service to our audience to make sure that we’re telling them a story that they can follow. And just I have to say, like, I work with a bunch of clever people and it’s so great and so great to be aligned and tell this cohesive story.

Bill Sherman I want to dig into this concept of flying formation as it relates to a thought leadership function, because many organizations are now adding a formal function to thought leadership. And so this sort of process of, well, we didn’t have thought leadership for now as a function. Now we do. How do we reshift our formation? Right. Have you had any experience in that with. This sort of reshaping the flying in formation, that Genesys.

Ginger Conlon Absolutely. We had thought leadership, these top of funnel reports kind of happening ad hoc around the organization. And there were some great reports. But like you were saying earlier, sometimes they didn’t get. Widely communicated within the organization so that someone in a different region would know that this report would be available to them. Some of that was happening. Some of it wasn’t. But because it was a little bit ad hoc, it might have focused on one region more than globally or what have you anyway. So seeing that some of that was happening and that it left, it presented an opportunity for more cohesion. The company decided to launch this thought leadership function, which is basically right now me and my boss, Claire Beatty, who is the senior director of thought leadership. And so, our remit is to be the central hub for these very large reports, which is why it’s so important for us to go and get the feedback from the different divisions, from the regions, from the leaders of those areas, to make sure that we are representing what’s important to them, but also a different take on that topic for the market.

Bill Sherman And I think one of the things I hear, and I’d love to hear your response is if we build on the metaphor of fly in formation, you had people flying on their own in different parts of the organization, either in different functions or in different regions or countries. Right. And saying, hey, here’s good work. And the thought leadership function isn’t trying to take over those insights, but more is air traffic control in some ways. Right. Is that metaphor resonate in terms of making sure that the ideas are, you know, information?

Ginger Conlon Absolutely. We’re definitely trying to be part of the voice of the company. But also, you’ll still see that certain areas are doing things that they need to do that maybe doesn’t fall under thought leadership. So for example, our retail organization recently did some research with one of the analyst firms, and so that paper needed to get done. It was kind of a quick turnaround based on something that they were trying to find out that was very specific versus that higher level, broader global research study. So they did what they needed to do. They asked us for input. So there’s some of that information. They still, hey, you two are the thought leadership team. What do you think of these questions? What do you think of this this angle that we’re going after and then we help to promote it internally so that customer, other customer facing folks in the organization could see that that was available to them.

Bill Sherman So let’s look at that internal communications process, because I think one of the challenges in a large organization, whether it’s a research study or any piece of thought, leadership or insight, is step one, is making sure the right people within the organization know the idea or the insight exists. How do you make that work?

Ginger Conlon Oh, well, I am everywhere. That’s the short answer.

Bill Sherman Say more, please.

Ginger Conlon The detail is my boss and I, Claire and I have done a really good job. If I do say so myself of not only building relationships but understanding how. Information is disseminated within the organization. So we have a content marketing, a CMS hub for content for the salespeople, and we have another content hub for the marketing people. And then we have an Internet and then we have newsletters that go to various teams. So the sales team has a newsletter that’s specific to them and the consultant team has a newsletter specific to them. So, we have built relations either we own like I have ownership of our thought leadership page in the. Content marketing tool for the salespeople, for example. And I know who to contact for all these various newsletters. Who owns the content for those? And I make sure that any time we do something new, they know about it. So, if they want to include it. They have the information they need, they have the links they need, etc., etc.. And so, and the other thing that we’ve done, I don’t want to go on too long with my answer, but we hosted a webinar talking about internal thought, leadership, everything that we had done up until that point.

Bill Sherman So one of the things you emphasized is you said, okay, I’m everywhere, but you’re busy maintaining relationships and making things easy for people to find and letting them know what’s there. How much of your time is spent maintaining relationships and sharing information?

Ginger Conlon Is a great question. So. Probably somewhere in the 10 to 20% range, depending on when it is. If it’s right around lunch time, I’m going to be spending a lot more time being out there, making sure that I’m connecting with people, making sure that I’ve uploaded our report everywhere, that it needs to be uploaded, and that I’m making sure the alerts go out and things like that. And in between times, it’s just. Keeping in touch with folks to see what they’re up to, that will any of our data help them so if a conference is coming up. And I know who’s speaking. Hey, I hear you’re speaking on workforce engagement at this upcoming conference. We have this great report that has some data that you might be able to use. Here it is. Let me know if I can help in any way, that kind of a thing.

Bill Sherman You mentioned doing the introduction to thought leadership. Was that introducing sort of you and your colleague to the organization? Was it introducing the function or here’s what thought leadership is? Tell me a little bit more about that.

Ginger Conlon So we were trying to add to what we what we had been doing that I was telling you about. And we said, what’s a way that we can just help? Some of the customer facing teams who might not be as familiar with what we’re doing it tell them about what thought leadership is for Genesys and what the reports are that we had done up to that point so that they could say, Oh, you know, I have a meeting with so-and-so. This piece of data or this type of report would be really helpful. So, we basically did a quick here’s who we are. Here’s our goal, our mission. And here is an overview. And like three or four key points of data from each of the five or six reports that we had done up until that point. And. I can’t tell you. It was so well attended that we did it a second time for the people who we did it originally, so they didn’t even want it recorded. We had we even though we had recorded it and it was available, a whole bunch of people wanted to be able to interact and ask questions and such. So, we did it twice and we had several hundred attendees both times. So, and we saw. Of course, a spike in the use of the reports in these content management systems that I was telling you about.

Bill Sherman That’s fantastic. And I think one of the things that sessions like that where you say, here’s what we do, here’s how we can help you in sort of a mindset of helping the teams that you support really changes perceptions because sometimes people see your thought leadership. It’s like, Oh, that’s the team for, you know, the eggheads or they think they’re the smartest, right? As like, no, no, no, no. We’re making sure that good ideas get into the right hands so that you can use them.

Ginger Conlon We have a piece of data. From one of our first reports that says 70% of consumers think that a company is only as good as its customer service. I can’t tell you how many people in our company have used that piece of data. Our CEO used it to open up our customer conference. He’s used it in other presentations. And I’ve had I’ve seen a lot of our content because I also blog. So, when our when we have people speaking, I often either attend the conference. Live or virtually depending on what it is. And so I keep kind of bumping into this piece of content and other data points that sometimes we’ve shared. And I know that it’s been shared with those folks, and sometimes they’ve found it themselves. And, you know, I have a happy accident of, oh, look, it’s being used. This is awesome.

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Bill Sherman In some ways I think those ideas and insights sort of like children. You raise them as you want them to go out into the world and then you see they’re off doing amazing things and you’re like, Wow, they’ve got their own life at this point, right? Because if you try to lock down the idea, it doesn’t get out into the world. But when a number of people pick it up and starts sharing and spreading it, then you bump into your own idea. It’s like, Oh, wow, yeah, that’s what you’re doing now.

Ginger Conlon And I have a tracking sheet. Where? As much as I can, I keep track of internally and externally where and how our data and reports are being used. Mm hmm. But there’s no way to track everything even.

Bill Sherman Right?

Ginger Conlon Yeah. The other day I was I was on LinkedIn and I just happened to come across a social media post where the social team was talking about a Genesys and Microsoft Partnership, and they used a piece of our data to introduce it in, in the verbiage, in the, in the social post. And I was like, Well, this is a great find. I’m glad it’s useful.

Bill Sherman And I think that’s one of the signs that you’ve got momentum with an idea or a piece of thought leadership. If you’re constantly having to, as you said, a team of to be the ones pushing it. There’s only so much pushing you can do. Right. But many hands can take that idea much, much further. And I think also. When you start having those wins, you start raising the bar and creating a culture of thought leadership, and it impacts how people are working. You have a story, for example, maybe around that.

Ginger Conlon Absolutely. I have. Well, I have a quick thought for that. Something you said just reminded me. You know, one of the things when you go back to that flying information and how we spend time. Getting input from the team leaders. Then what happens is when the report comes out, they feel connected to it. And so they also then share it with their team and make sure that their team knows about it. And I have found that to be helpful too, in terms of kind of spreading the word and making sure that folks in the organization. See the value because their team leader sees the value. And part of the reason is because they were involved from the get go so well.

Bill Sherman And I would say that many ideas struggle with a last mile problem. You can get it close to where you wanted to be, but that last mile is always hard. But if you can show the value and have people say, Oh yeah, I feel a connection to this, people jump in and help you solve that last mile problem. Right. And so, like you said, the sales leaders who were involved in the beginning share it with their front line sales team. And because it came from their leader, they’re going to pay more attention. And so you create the momentum. I think that’s a great example. Yes. So let’s go back to that question about how thought leadership within the organization raises the bar across the organization. Do you have any examples of that?

Ginger Conlon I have a great example. So our LatAm team just loved one of our reports, and they were looking to take a little bit different approach to their marketing. They wanted to try something new. They wanted to take a piece of content and build a campaign around it. Not just. Sending an email to their customers and prospects saying, hey, we have this great piece of content. But even more than that. So there was so much great information from this particular report that they. Yes, they did that. The email campaign, the social media campaign, all these things. But they created an event as well. And what they did was they went out to the leaders of several sex associations in around LatAm and did an online panel discussion. And so this was so successful. They had more than a thousand registrants and then more than 50% actually attend live, which is how it. How rare is it to get more than 50% attendees to an online event?

Bill Sherman It’s maybe only in the first few days of COVID where everybody was at home. Yeah, 50% is fantastic.

Ginger Conlon Absolutely. And so some of those turned into lead. Some of those turned into opportunities they had. More downloads of the report than any other region, including global as a region. So if you just look at if you look at the total picture, they did so well with their with their version of the they translated the report into Spanish and Portuguese. So their reports had higher than the global English and. I was talking about the results on an internal meeting with some folks from some of the other regions and one of the folks from the Ipac region said, okay, well clearly Lytham has thrown down the gantlet and we need to do something creative and big to.

Bill Sherman And that feeds on itself, right? If you can show impact through thought leadership, then people go, okay, this is worth investing time, energy and effort. Let’s show that we can do this, too. And I think that friendly competition that you talk about is absolutely fantastic. How do we get these ideas out into the world and what can we do that will be clever and innovative?

Ginger Conlon The great thing about it, too, is it creates this virtuous cycle where. Now. Like I said, we involve people early and often, but now people from the regions even more want to hear early because they’re planning their campaigns way in advance. So they want to know what’s coming that we’re working on to make sure that if they want to do something big, that they’re planning their budgets around those kinds of things. And if they have something that’s already in the works. Do we have anything that can support that? So. It’s created a really nice. Setting of teamwork in all different regards.

Bill Sherman That’s fantastic. So I’ve got a personal question for you, Ginger. How did you get into the world of leadership?

Ginger Conlon I felt I always wanted to be a writer. I fell into magazine writing. I spent about 30 years. Writing about sales, marketing and customer service and as a magazine editor. But as part of that, I also I love ghostwriting. One of the things that one of my favorite things to do is to interview somebody and turn it into. A piece by them in their voice. And at the same time, I also love research driven content because you just find these nuggets of information that are so compelling. And so that just basically led me on this path. And here I am.

Bill Sherman So as we begin to wrap up, I want to ask you to think back to an earlier point in your journey. What advice would you give yourself as a younger version of yourself to help you prepare for where you are now and solution?

Ginger Conlon That’s a great question. I think something that’s not necessarily about the writing itself, but the relationships. There’s I think I would have liked to have done better at not just building initial relationships, but keeping some of the relationships I’ve made over the years kind of going because I have met so many smart, amazing people and some of those folks. I would love to go right now and say, Hey, you know, what do you think of this trend? What’s are you tracking it? And like not all of those people I’ve kept in touch with, I’m not going to go out of the blue and say, hey, what do you think about this trend? So I think just when someone stands out to you as really being an amazing thinker, I just make sure you keep that relationship with those people. And how can you kind of serve them with information and insights so that, you know, later on you can say, hey, I really want to know your thoughts on this.

Bill Sherman And I think that’s a great piece of advice. Building and sustaining the relationships compound year after year. And I think the older we get, the more we go back and say, if we were only thinking wisely about this in our twenties and thirties, where would we be now and what would we have built? Right. So fantastic advice. Ginger, I want to thank you for taking time today to talk about leadership at Genesys. It’s been a delight.

Ginger Conlon Thanks again for having me, Bill. That has been terrific.

Bill Sherman If you’re interested in organizational thought leadership, then I invite you to subscribe to the RTL newsletter. Each month we talk about the people who create, curate and deploy thought leadership on behalf of their organizations. Go to the website. and choose join our newsletter. I’ll leave a link to the website as well as my LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Thanks for listening and I look forward to hearing what you thought of the show.

Bill Sherman works with thought leaders to launch big ideas within well-known brands. He is the COO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Bill on Twitter

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