Be Philadelphia’s Expert in Your Niche
For two years, from 2016 – 2018, I worked to make a client the world’s expert in corporate innovation. Have you ever tried to be the expert in a field? It’s hard. It’s crowded. I failed.
It turns out, everybody – all executives, all consultants – want to be the voice. In corporate innovation, the voice is Steve Blank. Steve is a professor at Stanford, an investor in ‘hyper-growth’ startups, a successful author (he laid the foundations for Eric Ries’ Lean Startup methods), and – maybe most importantly – creator of more buzzwords (‘innovation theatre’, etc.) than any other thought leader.
Steve became the expert in his field by a) winning for his clients over and over again and b) publishing and speaking for decades on the topic of corporate innovation and startup-corporate collaboration. He’s on podcasts, in videos, at conferences, on stages, on bookshelves, and in inboxes. That’s how Steve got to be the expert of the global innovation market, something I couldn’t do for my client, but I did help them become the go-to innovation experts in the Midwest U.S..
When restricted to a region, becoming the expert is a bit more attainable. So how can you become Philadelphia’s expert in your field? If you wanted to be the go-to person around here, how would you do it (assuming you don’t have the luxury of decades)?
Let me tell you how 95% of companies / aspiring thought leaders try:
- Start a blog, and maybe hire a content manager to be sure the blog is regularly populated with topics your audience finds interesting. The blog might be written by a professional writer, but more likely it will be delegated to an intern or somebody eager to learn. Most of the articles will be fluff and garner little traffic. You’ll make next to no effort to track the effectiveness of these posts. Your salespeople or customer service teams will never have a say in what’s written (which is strange, considering they’re often in contact with customers / clients more than anyone) – topics will either be chosen by the intern or the marketing manager. If you’re using an advertising agency, they’ll optimize the posts so that Google has an easier time finding them.
- You’ll create a ‘resource’. A resource can be a tool, or a whitepaper, or a short book, or a step-by-step guide – something more than just a blog post. Often, you’ll take 5 related blog posts, mash them together, have a designer make it pretty and post it to your website as a downloadable. If you create a tool (in innovation this is standard), you’ll create webinars and best-practices around it, and it might become your firm’s brand (‘we’re special because we use this proprietary process or model‘).
- You’ll distribute all of this content by a) posting it to the blog and website, b) posting it to your company and personal LinkedIn networks, c) attaching it to the footer of your e-mails, d) sharing it in related forums e) sending it to your e-mail subscribers and f) telling colleagues about it in person. Your analytics will show that the most effective outlet was the newsletter, followed by LinkedIn, and the forums attracted almost nobody.
- You’ll join professional clubs and networks, attend conferences and do whatever else is appropriate to build your network further.
What you’re likely to get, if you go this route, is an inconsistent flow of low-quality content that a negligible amount of people read, and none of your employees look forward to. It could be argued that it was all a waste of time, but it’s unlikely the effectiveness is tracked or reviewed, so nobody will argue that and you’ll go on like this for years.
There’s a better way.
How to Really Be the Thought Leader
Most companies will try to outsource – ‘we need x articles on x topic, can you write it for us?’ The author will go out and do some research, write 400-700 words and publish it to the blog. The problem here is that the person best-equipped to address the topic – your staff, your executives, etc. – never actually inform the article. And, even if the author did an incredible job, authors aren’t distributors – most aren’t in the business of promotion, so that article never reaches as wide of an audience as it should.
That’s where I come in. I get the best insights from your company’s braintrust to the widest possible audience.
How? I collaborate with your entire staff and conduct brief, in-person interviews with the person best equipped to address any topic. I write the articles and promote them as if they were ads – reaching all the right people for a reasonable monthly fee.
At 10,000 feet, my role is to:
- Identify what your company should be talking about
- Extract the best insights from your staff
- Publish and distribute
What is my process?
More details in person, but the gist:
- First, interview the company leaders to understand goals
- Conduct a series of interviews with staff (customer service, executives, etc.)
- Develop a content plan for the organization
- Conduct individual, in-person, 30-minute interviews with appropriate staff prior to writing articles
- Minimum 1 meeting per month to discuss / plan / review
How do I distribute?
More details in person, but the gist:
- Update website
- Make it as simple as possible for staff to share on their personal pages
- Very small paid budget for an ad campaign to promote the piece on mediums of my choice (could be Google, LinkedIn, sponsored newsletters, others).
If you want to become the thought leader in Philadelphia, let’s talk. I enjoy this work because I get to interview experts and learn, so I look forward to speaking.