Episode #20: Why Leaders Need To Be Engaged In Content Creation
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Today we’re going to talk to you about an engaged leader. In running our own marketing agency, we are lucky to get to work with a lot of different organizations. But while each of those organizations has a leader, no two leaders are the same; they have different styles of leadership. It’s interesting, because we have a unique window into how they function, specifically when it comes to their role in their company’s branding and content.
This is especially important, when it comes to establishing a brand’s public authoritative voice out in the marketplace. This day and age, it’s a given that a company is going to be creating content, trying to establish their digital footprint in the market. And if they’re not, that’s a different story - if they haven’t made that investment, there are larger challenges at play.
What Kathleen finds the most interesting is that many of these leaders understand and recognize the importance of a robust online presence, but only in certain instances does that translate into C-level participation in content creation. It’s quite curious.
This is especially true when you start thinking about how connections are made in this day and age - online. You’re making digital connections today. Probably the most common relationship platform is LinkedIn, for making business connections. To the point where people are now creating content exclusively for use and publication on LinkedIn.
When Kathleen looks at the range of clients that we work with, one of the things she finds fascinating is the outcomes of inbound and content marketing for those who have that C-level participation and buy-in versus those who don’t.
EXAMPLE 1: GIBSON
We’ve been working with Gibson, an Indiana-based insurance company, for a few years now. They’re a great, independent agency. And their CEO, Tim Leman, is constantly on everyone’s list of top leaders in his area. Even before we started working with Gibson, Tim was blogging, because he already understood the importance of establishing his own personal brand. In fact, has also published a book, and is now working on a second.
He’s probably the best example of a leader who has gone all-in with inbound marketing and putting his time into it. When we first started working with Gibson, their director of marketing wanted to know if they could find a way to allow people to only subscribe to Tim’s blogs, since their blog also includes posts from other writers. Why? They consistently got feedback from readers that they wanted to just read his writing.
What struck Kathleen is this - what percentage of their audience would they not have reached if Tim was not involved?
EXAMPLE 2: PORTAL SOLUTIONS
Another client of ours is Portal Solutions, a Microsoft partner in the Washington, D.C.-area. Their CEO, Daniel Cohen-Dumani is very involved and really enjoys contributing to their new podcast, Digital Workplace Today. Podcasting is a really great example of an opportunity to share your expertise and get your point across, but since it’s recorded, you can do so in a way that showcases your personality - like we do!
WHY LEADERSHIP CONTRIBUTION WILL MATTER
Keeping the examples of Gibson and Portal Solutions in mind, Kathleen has one prediction for 2016. If you are a leader, and you’re not participating in your content creation in some form or another, it will become a “Why bother?” kind of situation. Leaders will have to become invested, because the inbound marketing field has become crowded. And it’s too easy to just throw up a bunch of article-style blogs and check the box.
If you want to stand out, you have to have a vision, you have to share that vision and you have to be authentic. That’s how you’re going to make connections with your audience.
I agree with Kathleen. If you’re in a position of leadership, and you’re not sharing your vision or your voice, you’re not only missing an opportunity, you’re hurting your organization. Let’s face it, throughout the organization, the things that you do as the leader are going to trickle all the way down through the ranks. Demonstrating that thought leadership and creating content is part of your organization will have an impact.
Marcus Sheridan - known as the Sales Lion - is a huge believer in creating a culture of content.
WHO NEEDS TO BE INVOLVED IN CONTENT CREATION?
So to that CEO who isn’t producing content, you’re sending a message to your employees that content creation isn’t important. That’s a very dangerous message that can ultimately hurt your organization. We talk about this all the time - the need to have people at different levels within your organization involved in the content creation process. And there are certain important conversations and perspectives that can only be captured from the top.
"IF YOU'RE A CEO WHO ISN’T PRODUCING CONTENT, YOU’RE SENDING A DANGEROUS MESSAGE - CONTENT CREATION ISN’T IMPORTANT."
We believe in this for Quintain, as well. Every single person in our organization has to blog twice a month, and Kathleen has committed to blogging twice a week. In addition to the podcast, as well as my own blogging, we’re blogging more than our own employees. It’s so important, because it needs to be part of the culture.
Recently we were looking through the book The Engaged Leader by Charlene Li, and she talks about how it’s not that you have to blog. Maybe your thing isn’t blogging or tweeting. But the point is that you need to find a format that feels comfortable and authentic, and then you need to invest in doing that consistently. To check out entirely, however, is lame. You’re not being a leader.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING CANDID
Sir Richard Branson does this really well. In addition to being awesome, he creates wonderful content. And sometimes his content touches upon sensitive topics. Kathleen will never forget he wrote a blog a year or two ago, in response to difficult labor negotiations with pilots. It was very honest, and there were aspects of it where he acknowledged that readers may not agree with him, and that some of the decision were very difficult. But he addressed everything in a way that was compassionate and, again, authentic.
Everybody respects and trusts a leader who speak to tough issues candidly. And one of the most important parts of that is having a leader produce content. In doing so, you allow your audience to understand the driving force behind your brand.
The one example that comes to my mind is Gary Vaynerchuk, who is a prolific content producer. Thanks to his efforts, if you’re considering the services that Vayner Media provides, there’s no doubt you’ll have a clear picture of the personality of the brand. This is either a wonderful fit, or it isn’t - but at least you know going in. (For those of you who haven’t seen his videos, Gary is very direct, straightforward and with tons of high energy - and he curses like a sailor! Not for everyone, but very raw and very authentic.)
Even though we’re making digital connections, this kind of thing is still personal. And if leadership is absent from the content creation conversation, they’re missing a huge opportunity.
But it doesn’t work if you create content that presents you as something you’re not. Charlene Li mentioned in an interview recently the post Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook published on Facebook, regarding the death of her husband earlier this year. It’s very long, but unbelievably raw and very personal. It’s very hard to read it and not be moved. Especially if you’re Kathleen - she admits she cries at everything.
BUSINESS IS PERSONAL
Some say you shouldn’t talk about personal stuff in business, but Kathleen says that’s kind of like the rule of not wearing white after Labor Day. It’s a really old school way of thinking that isn’t totally true anymore.
To create such a firewall between being personal on public record and doing so in person is short-sighted. But I would also say you share personal stories and your personality when it supports the value that you’re delivering with your message. What you talk about from a personal standpoint, Kathleen says, shouldn’t always be a means to a business end. It should be about sharing who you are as a person and contributing to that rapport.
She admits, however, she’s more of an open book, but for others who are more private in nature, this may be more of a challenge. It’s a hard leap of faith to take - to expose vulnerabilities and share mistakes. But it’s also incredibly empowering. And you can also talk about your successes, too.
So if you’re a C-level executive, Kathleen has a challenge for you. If you’re not involved in content creation, get involved in 2016. Find your medium, whether that be a podcast or traditional blogging. And if you’re not in a position of leadership, challenge those executives to get involved.
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