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Identifying Your Thought Leaders


Lauren Siler: Welcome to Consider This. I’m Lauren Siler.

Holly Fong: And I’m Holly Fong.

Lauren Siler: Hey Holly.

Holly Fong: Hey Lauren. How is it going?

Lauren Siler: How is it going?

Holly Fong: That was embarrassing.

Lauren Siler: Like we practiced that, but we didn’t.

Holly Fong: No.

Lauren Siler: How are you doing? I feel like I haven’t seen you in a while.

Holly Fong: Well you were the one who was gone on a kickoff. Why don’t you tell me about that?

Lauren Siler: I know, I know. I haven’t been in the office a little bit. It was fun. So for those of you who don’t know, Mark and I, we travel around. We go visit agencies that we are, and different firms that we’re about to embark on a year-long digital marketing journey with. The first step on that journey is to go to their office and do a half-day kickoff where we are really getting into the details of their vision for their marketing and talking about what their impediments to marketing have been. It’s always a lot of fun to … I don’t know, there’s something very illuminating and kind of intimate about sitting down with these business owners for a half day and really getting to the truth of their reality with their marketing and what has been for years past. So we were off on one of those adventures and it was a lot of fun.

Holly Fong: It’s kind of ironic that the first step in the digital marketing process is to take it offline but…

Lauren Siler: Right. Yeah. Yeah, face to face interaction. It really helps though.

Holly Fong: I’m sure, yeah.

Lauren Siler: Yeah, you know, building that human connection for what’s going to be a very involved process over the next year is always really helpful, and it’s good for us. It’s also good market research for us. We’re constantly involving our digital marketing programs and our offering to make sure that it’s best targeting the needs of our clients. So being able to sit down with them and speak with them ad nauseum about what’s been difficult for them, what the impediments to marketing their business has been, is always really helpful when we come back here and can talking about, “Okay. How can Newfangled best assist these people.?”

Holly Fong: Definitely.

Lauren Siler: And actually, one thing that comes up when we talk a lot during these kickoffs and we talk about the challenges to marketing, is actually related to the topic that we’re going to talk about today. It has to do with how does one, one, know if they’ve got a perspective to share, and then two, how do you best express that expertise through your digital marketing channels. Does that make sense? It’s interesting because we actually had a listener write in not that long ago. When was it? Last week.

Holly Fong: Last week?

Lauren Siler: Yeah.

Holly Fong: Yeah.

Lauren Siler: Yeah, we had a listener write in about this very topic. I was thinking, like, “We should just record this week’s episode about the idea of thought leadership.” Because this listener was asking, big picture, the same questions that we hear from inside of the firms that we go kick off these program with every single time. It’s this idea of, what’s the role of thought leadership in marketing? How do I know if I’m a thought leader or if my team is a thought leader? Who’s going to make up the marketing team? How does that expertise need to be expressed across digital marketing channels? That’s really the plan for today, is to tackle that big question…

Holly Fong: Yeah. It was a great email. It had outlined a bunch of points. It also recommend that I be on a string on my microphone, so that is happening as we speak. Lauren-

Lauren Siler: No one listening has any idea what that mean.

Holly Fong: Do you want to explain it?

Lauren Siler: Apparently Holly moves away from the, just Holly though, moves away from the microphone.

Holly Fong: It think it’s because I don’t have as loud a voice as you, so-

Lauren Siler: I’m very quiet.

Holly Fong: … Lauren has the loudest voice in the office.

Lauren Siler: Not true.

Holly Fong: If you are in a conference room next to her while she’s on the phone with a client, it is very difficult to hear your own thoughts.

Lauren Siler: Holly’s just sneaking up, putting her ear outside, trying to eavesdrop every ounce of brilliance that I’m dropping.

Holly Fong: She is a thought leader. Well let’s start then I guess, let’s begin.

Lauren Siler: We’re trying that with audio to make a little bit more consistent. We do have a new seating setup in our studio today, so for those of you who’ve been listening to this podcast and to Expert Marketing Matters, you know that the audio journey has been an evolution for us as well. So hopefully the quality will be pretty stable in this episode.

Holly Fong: Yes, and it’s mainly my voice. I’m totally the one who drifts in and out when I heard it. That’s because I’m very soft-spoken.

Lauren Siler: Very meek and mild, Holly Fong.

Holly Fong: Mild mannered, but now I am hooked up to the microphone physically so that won’t happen anymore. Lauren’s off, visiting clients, and I’m tied to a microphone, so …

Lauren Siler: Yeah, all is right in the world. Okay. So, where should we begin here? I’m curious from your perspective, when you think of how to recognize thought leaders inside of an organization and build a marketing team around that, what kinds of considerations come to mind for you?

Holly Fong: There’s a few. One which would be, do they have a holistic understanding of how that piece, their department, something like that, fits into the bigger picture? The other would be, do they have a unique perspective? And then the last and maybe most important thing would be, do they have a forward thinking perspective on things? So, are they taking that one step further I should say and not just thinking about, “Okay. This is what it is right now.” But maybe, “Well, this is where we are right now, but here’s what I see for the future based on X, Y and Z.”

Lauren Siler: Yeah. It seems to me like by that description it’s almost always going to be one of the principles of the organization is going to be involved in the marketing as as the, quote-unquote, thought leader.

Holly Fong: Definitely, yeah.

Lauren Siler: Right, because they have-

Holly Fong: They have the biggest picture of how all those departments are working together, what their firm does as a whole, the landscape that they’re selling to maybe, all of that.

Lauren Siler: Yeah. They are ultimately on the hook for the future everyone of the firm.

Holly Fong: Definitely.

Lauren Siler: So whether or not you consider yourself a thought leader, you are if you’re in that driver seat and it’s ultimately your call. The positioning of your firm, the service offerings of your firm, the pricing model, keeping your firm relevant over the next five to 10 years, if that’s on your plate then you are a thought leader whether you want to call yourself one or not, and absolutely need to be a part of the marketing.

That becomes a challenge for a lot of firms I meet because then it’s like, “Okay. Well, if I’m in charge of all of those things, I am now the busiest person in the organization. So how do I make time to be a thought leader?”

Holly Fong: Yeah. We can definitely talk about those different ways, which I know we have talked about ad nauseum probably, the different ways in which those thought leaders that don’t have that time can make the time or the different things they can do. But I’m curious, do we have any successful examples of the principal not being a part of thought leadership teams and them having a successful content plan in place?

Lauren Siler: Is it possible to have-

Holly Fong: Not even is it possible, do we have any scenarios where that’s the case?

Lauren Siler: Yeah, I’m trying to … I’m running through the roster in my mind, where the principal is not involved in the marketing?

Holly Fong: Yeah. She has so many clients so it takes a really long time.

Lauren Siler: I’m thinking quietly, as I do. No, I don’t have … I can think of some firms where, some larger … They tend to be larger organizations, where the principal is a little bit removed from the day-to-day, so they might not be involved in the monthly editorial team meetings, or they might not be the ones signing off on all of the content assignments and things like that. But they do still plug back in, at least on a quarterly basis, to understand from a data perspective how the messaging is resonating in the market, and also to weigh in on the conversations we have about strategically reframing the messaging strategy for the future because they’re the ones on the front lines from the sales perspective talking to the prospects.

So they start to understand kind of like what’s in the zeitgeist and what’s evolving and changing over time, and how should that be influencing the messaging strategy. So yeah, I mean, having … I can’t think of a single firm that I’ve worked with on their content plan where the principal is entirely removed from the messaging strategy. I really wouldn’t advise it, for those reasons. Because they are in one of the best seats possible to have the clearest visibility into what the market needs, and they’re also probably making the decisions around the positioning of the firm and the messaging strategy is so important to elevating the firm’s position in a really smart way to the market, that if the principal were removed from that conversation I’m just not sure he would pick up that baton.

Holly Fong: Yeah. It’s interesting, one thing that came to mind as you were talking about all of that is, for ourselves when we think about the things that Mark is posting to the website, it’s generally bigger thought leadership pieces. I’m wondering if there are certain recommendations we have about the content type that the principal or maybe the top thought leader should be producing to the site, or if that matters.

Lauren Siler: Yeah, that’s an interesting way to pose that question. I think one pattern that I have observed is that the principal will often gravitate toward content that is more visionary and more inspirational. So if they get to write about something that’s inspiring the market, then they feel more comfortable wearing that hat because that’s what they do anyway. Because a lot of principals, that’s their job. Their job is to inspire both internally and externally. They’re inspiring inside of their firm by leading the charge culturally. They’re in charge of the culture of their organization and making sure their employees are happy and healthy. But externally their job is to inspire the prospect that they’re talking to, to want to come work for them, to imagine a better future, and then, “Hey by the way-”

Holly Fong: See the vision of what they can help with.

Lauren Siler: Yeah. “Dear prospect, we could help you achieve that vision.”

Holly Fong: “Dear prospect … ”

Lauren Siler: Yes. So I think if you map that back to the messaging strategy, then yeah, it’s some sort of bigger … You’re using Mark as an example, and he is definitely going to be more inclined to write or produce content that’s more bigger picture inspirational visionary focused, because that’s how he thinks and it also aligns with the kind of conversations he has. They’re less tactical than other people inside of Newfangled who might be more inclined to write something very specific about how to execute something using a piece of marketing technology for instance.

Holly Fong: Yeah, exactly. Those types of more technical or smaller pieces that might tackle a smaller item tend to be best structured for maybe a blog post, or in some cases a podcast, or something like that. But to your point, some of these bigger more visionary pieces might make more sense in the format of a white paper, or podcast too I think can work in that way, or a webinar, or something like that.

Lauren Siler: Yeah, maybe a more marquee piece of content that’s going to set the stage for the rest of the marketing for that quarter. That does tend to be gated content, like a white paper or webinar. I also think,I mean, we talked a lot in our own marketing about different engagement styles and how that aligns with different types of content, and I do think that comes into play here. But another pattern that we’ve observed is that these, the principal role tends to also be an individual who is more comfortable doing more of a presentative style communication, or an improvisational style of communication, which lends itself to content platforms like podcasts and webinars.

But that also lends itself to talking, like you’re saying, to these bigger picture concepts, because it’s more inspirational, it’s more performance based in a lot of ways than, “Let me show you how to setup this campaign inside of Salesforce.” Which I don’t think is a smaller … It’s not like it’s less important. Somebody looking for how to setup that campaign inside of Salesforce really needs that information and that’s going to be perfect for them. But it’s going to lend itself to a different kind of role inside the organization.

Holly Fong: Definitely. So aside from the principal, who else are you guys generally recommending being a part of the thought leadership team?

Lauren Siler: Yeah. Where I like to start it, because when I meet a lot of firm initially and they’re kind of nervous about getting into content marketing, they look at it first from a bandwidth perspective. So they start to look, “Okay. Who has the most time?” They just want to throw hours at it, and so sometimes that will lead you down a path to assign your marketing to the exact wrong person. Because oftentimes the person with the most time is not the person with the most expertise.

Holly Fong: Expertise, yeah.

Lauren Siler: Yeah. So where I always begin is to think about who are the individuals inside of your organization that have the real expertise? Of course we’ve outlined the principal of the firm for all the reasons that we’ve just stated, but there are usually other people inside of the firm who have a perspective, they just don’t know how to allow it to manifest itself inside of the content plan. So you may have a chief design officer, or a creative director, or something, who they’re a brilliant thinker and you get them inside of an ideation session to throw … and they come up with these amazingly creative solutions to really complicated problems.

But if you ask them to sit down and write a blog about it, they’re just going to spin their wheels and it’s going to take them weeks to even turn around a draft, and then let’s be real, you get the draft and it’s not very good. It’s deflating. But that doesn’t mean that the person didn’t have a perspective to share. I think in that case it’s just more about figuring out how to get the expertise out of their head, and that’s a lot of the consulting we do. Thinking about the individuals who are leading the charge with the problems that you’re solving inside of your firm, the services that you’re offering, I think that if you could just wave a magic wand and say, “If I could get the thinking out of that person’s head inside of my marketing I would do it.” Then that person needs to be involved in the marketing team. That is one of your thought leaders. And then it’s just a matter of logistics and planning to figure out how you include them into the content team.

Holly Fong: Do you ever think though about the different perspectives that different people are bringing? You could have multiple thought leaders who might be experts on similar topics to some extent. Would you recommend that both those people be a part of the thought leadership team? Or would you say, is there someone that might be a better fit because they have a little bit of a different perspective because they maybe are in charge of something slightly different? Do you get what I’m saying?

Lauren Siler: I think if there are similar roles inside of the firm and they both have perspective to share, then I think I tend to lean than more diversity of the marketing team is better. Just because, look, you want your market to not just see your firm as one smart person or two smart people. You want your prospect to see this isn’t just that one individual, it’s actually a full team of really smart people, that if I hire that organization I’m going to get to be working with. It’s building that trust and security. It’s like a safety net. So if you’ve got, even if there are people inside of the organization that share similar roles or similar perspectives, yeah, I say include them and figure out how to get as many of the right kind of people from your firm involved in the marketing plan as possible.

Holly Fong: Okay, so there’s not a cap. You’re not saying that, “Hey, we think that the team should be this size.” You’re saying that as many people could fit into that role as possible? Or do you give a range?

Lauren Siler: Well, I do tend to give a … I mean, it depends. On average, and of course this varies from marketing team to marketing team. On average you want I would say around three to five people who are regularly contributing to the marketing plan in some way. That tends to be a sweet spot for making sure that not a single individual is overburdened by the workload. What I would … At the other side, no, I’m not saying include everybody inside the organization inside of the marketing plan. I’m saying, identify the people who have the smartest things to say, and then … Is that too blunt? Holly’s laughing.

Holly Fong: Who are the smart people?

Lauren Siler: Yeah. I would say, “What are the resources inside of your organization? And who has the strongest perspective, who has the most experience? Who’s driving the success of your firm?” If you look inside of your organization it’s probably pretty simple to point to the people with the true expertise, and those people … I would say first and foremost if you can easily identify those individuals, then figuring out how to regularly work them into the marketing plan is just a matter of logistics.

The problem that I see more often than not is the opposite. People look around and they look for the people with the most bandwidth, and so that tends to be putting people with the least amount of expertise, the least amount of experience or perspective, in some of the more high profile marketing roles. And then that can either dilute the potency of the marketing, or it ends up being a ton of time for the thought leaders anyway because they’re not comfortable publishing what that person wrote, and so they spend a lot of time rehabbing it or editing it. You know what I mean? I mean, I don’t know, what’s your perspective on this?

Holly Fong: As far as the amount of people who should be involved?

Lauren Siler: Sure. Sure, like who should be involved in the marketing team?

Holly Fong: Yeah, I think the number you gave is accurate. Much more than that and I think … I mean you can definitely go more than that and it probably depends on how often you’re producing content and how many people are part of your organizations, and those things are factors. I think that the more opinions on you have on your site the better, but I also would say that the larger that team the harder it might be to have one solidified message in some ways. So the bigger you expand or the more you expand your team, you’re likely to get some pieces, and it might be fine for your content strategy, that are outside of the realm of maybe what your content is focused on for that specific quarter. You know what I mean?

Lauren Siler: That can happen. Although when properly managed, that problem is easily avoidable. Because when you are being intentional with the selection of the topics that are assigned, and when I say being intentional I mean designing a messaging strategy that maps back to a global messaging strategy for that year, for that quarter, whatever-have-you. When you are being that intentional for every single topic that assigned inside of that time period, then you’re usually going to avoid the messaging strategy getting off course. I think it’s also, it can be helpful to have a variety of voices inside of the marketing plan.

Holly Fong: Agreed.

Lauren Siler: Right?

Holly Fong: Yeah, I agree with that. I think it’s a matter of just making sure that, like you were saying, kind of logistics of that is handled. So if there’s multiple people, there’s more variables which are more individuals to manage, different writing styles to try to edit, those types of things.

Lauren Siler: Totally, the logistics get more complicated. I could see from your … It’s funny. It’s funny the two of us, because … So, Holly and I represent different divisions inside of Newfangled, and our perspectives on this are a little bit different because if I were sitting in your seat I think my answer to this question would be different from an outbound marketing perspective.

Holly Fong: Definitely.

Lauren Siler: For me, so I run our content marketing department and Holly runs our automation strategy department, which is focused on the outbound marketing side of this, outbound side of digital marketing. So for me, when I think about the content plan, I’m like, “Yeah, identify all the thought leaders and get as much diversity on the team as possible, as long as they’re all experts. Let’s make sure that we’re building up a really broad database and library from as many smart people inside the firm as possible.” But I don’t think I would want all those people in the outbound side. That sounds like a huge headache.

Holly Fong: Yeah, and that’s probably where I’m coming from. You know, when I think about who needs to managing the outbound efforts, you might have multiple individuals who are writing those specific emails, but as far as who’s actually sending those, who’s setting up programs, I think you’re fine with just one individual at your firm.

Lauren Siler: Well, and let me ask you this, going back to the thought leader question, would you recommend that a firm be pretty selective with the number of individuals that they allow the emails to actually come from? Like name that they come from. You know what I mean?

Holly Fong: I would, mainly because … I mean it can be a good idea to diversify, but if certain names are getting in individuals’ inboxes, so let’s say we send a message from Mark and a bunch of people have read that message before, then when he sends a message again it’s going to be more likely to end up in their inbox again.

Now, if a name comes from, or sorry an email comes from a different email address, you could lose some people to soft bounces because their email client isn’t going to recognize that email address. Now it’s likely to recognize the domain and the IP, which is good and would help, but I don’t think you want every individual at your firm sending emails necessarily.

Lauren Siler: Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense, I think, and we see that pattern across all of our clients. I would say that we … Like I said, on average our clients, yeah for the most part I’d say their marketing teams are made up of three to five individuals who are writing, who are contributing to the thought leadership. But what would you say on the outbound side? Maybe one or two people whose names are actually attached to the emails deploying that thought leadership?

Holly Fong: I would say, yeah, maybe two to four is probably fair. Four seems like it’s stretching it. That might be if you have people who handle different sales sides of things. You could always have individuals who are involved in the prospecting that our emails are coming from, or you could have a generic email alias, which we don’t necessarily recommend using, as one of those four. But anywhere between two to four is probably a good place.

Lauren Siler: Yeah. Okay. Yeah, I mean that makes sense. So by and large, probably got more people with the byline on the site than you would deploying the emails, even though there’s some diversity on the outbound side.

Holly Fong: Correct.

Lauren Siler: Okay. Well, we should take a break and then we’ll come back, and we’ve got a lot of really great specific questions with regard to this topic and how to identify thought leadership, thought leaders inside of your firm, and then also how to begin expressing that expertise on a regular basis and what kinds of platforms to use for that. So a lot of great questions coming up.

You’re listening to Consider This, a podcast designed to unpack common misconceptions of content marketing today. If you like what you’re hearing, be sure to find us on iTunes and give us a positive rating and leave a review. If you’ve got a content marketing question you can send it to us via Twitter @ConsiderThisPod, email us at, or submit your question through Facebook. And now back to the show.

Lauren Siler: Okay. Let’s get into some questions that were sent our way about this topic that were pretty interesting, and again echo a lot of the questions that we hear when we’re getting inside of these firms with these kicks off and trying to understand what their main confusion around thought leadership has been and what their impediments to content marketing have been.

The first question that we got is, and I’m going to pose this to you Holly to kick us off, “Is the website the number one place to be publishing thought leadership?”

Holly Fong: Yes, without a doubt. One, if you’re posting it to a bunch of different channels or platforms, so if you say, “We only are posting our blog posts to LinkedIn, and then we have white papers on these individual landing pages,” and things like that, you’re not going to be building any SEO equity for your site over time. All of those other channels are a little more fleeting in my opinion. So I would definitely say that you should post all of your content to the website. You can promote it via a variety of different platforms, but everything should exist on the site, especially if it’s all towards promoting your services and towards helping prospects and targets. Unless it was unrelated to them it should be on your site. What your thoughts?

Lauren Siler: Yeah. The website is the marketing temple, the only … It’s my perspective that your content plan’s purpose is twofold. It is to attract unaware prospects to your website, and then to engage them at various stages of their buying cycle. Attract and engage. The reason for that is that your site should be designed in such a way that it naturally nudges people along their purchasing journeys.

So people who are attracted to the site through organic non-branded search are learning from you initially. This is a long game. They’re going to be attracted multiple times to the site because you’re answering questions that are related to challenges that they have. Every time you successfully answer one of those questions and you do so generously, without selling to them in any other way, you’re building up a little bit more credibility in their minds as the expert in this field.

Ultimately, you’re going to hit them at some point where they are ready to talk to you about engaging in some sort of work. The dynamic of that sales conversation has shifted by that point because you’ve already established yourself as being an expert in their eyes, and you want them to be on the site when that flip happens because that’s where they’re going to find all of the information around your services. That’s where they’re going to find your case studies. That’s where the contact-us form is. It’s all just like that whole experience is so neatly bundled up inside of this vehicle that is the website. So yeah, I agree. I like your point about the promotion though.

Holly Fong: Yeah. I think you can promote it on a variety of different channels. One thing that you brought up that I wanted to ask you about which I think is interesting is the way you described promoting … Or not promoting, I’m sorry, but having all the thought leadership on the site, anyone who is interested in thought leadership should theoretically be interested in your services, right? And so one of the questions we did get, another question was, “Is it worth promoting thought leadership if you don’t have a marketing strategy in place?” I’m curious where you stand on that.

Lauren Siler: Yeah, is it worth promoting thought leadership if you don’t have a content plan in place? Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting. I see those things as one and the same. Your thought leadership is … The content plan is sort of the structure by which you promote the thought leadership, and so yeah, I think if you are investing time in expressing your expertise inside of the form of a blog post or a white paper, whatever.

Even if you’re still trying to nail down the logistics of it and even if it’s spotty at first and you’re trying to figure out the editorial plan, and you’re trying to figure out the volume of content and the formats. Maybe you only publish one white paper a year and that’s all you can crank out right now, but you’ve got blog post going one a month or something. You know, you’re trying to iron all that out, I still think it’s worth doing and investing time in. If you wait until you feel like you have the entire structure nailed down you may never get it off the ground because often times the structure is an evolution. It’s a process. It’s trial and error. It’s figuring out what’s going to work for your firm and not.

Holly Fong: I agree with you, and I disagree. I agree with you in that if it’s a matter of figuring out the frequency and the types of content you’re creating, you should be promoting and creating content regardless. Where I disagree is if it’s a matter of, “What should we write about?” and the content that you’re posting isn’t relevant to your services, that you shouldn’t necessarily be posting that content.

Lauren Siler: Did I say that?

Holly Fong: No. You didn’t at all. I’m just saying that there’s two parts-

Lauren Siler: You disagree with the thing I didn’t say.

Holly Fong: There’s two parts of marketing strategy, right?

Lauren Siler: Yeah.

Holly Fong: So there’s two parts of your content marketing strategy. One is, are we creating-

Lauren Siler: Right, is it structural or is it messaging strategy [crosstalk 00:29:24]

Holly Fong: Exactly. So if the messaging strategy is off, then it doesn’t necessarily make sense to be posting a bunch of content that isn’t necessarily going to be relevant to people who are going to be target prospects that you want to come to your site.

Lauren Siler: Sure. That makes sense. Yeah, you’re right. And there are two parts of a good content plan. There’s the logistics and then there’s the, like, are you being intentional with the messaging strategy, as we described earlier? Right. Yeah, I agree with that. I think you have to start there. You have no business writing anything about your expertise if you haven’t thoughtful about what market you’re going to after, and what that market cares about, and how that’s relevant to your services, and then design the messaging strategy with those three pillars in mind.

I think that’s really important, but I also think that the whole … I also think that content marketing enables, empowers you to be better at the expertise that you’re trying to write about. It’s going to solidify your understanding of your perspective about a certain problem. Forcing yourself to work through it by writing about it, forcing yourself to work through it by presenting a webinar about it or whatever, preparing that material is going to make you better at your job. Even if we just take that benefit alone it’s worth pursuing, I think, even if you don’t have the logistics worked out.

Holly Fong: Definitely.

Lauren Siler: One question we got specific to the promotional side of this was with regard to LinkedIn specifically. The question was, “Can I just publish my thought leadership on LinkedIn?” This is related to the, “Is the website the only place that this needs to go?” Or, “Is it the number one place to go?” What are your thoughts of people choosing to publish their thought leadership on a platform like LinkedIn, and just LinkedIn?

Holly Fong: I don’t love it. Like I said, if it’s not related to the overall mission and services of the company, yeah, sure. It should just be on that person’s personal page. But if it’s to the target audience that you’re trying to attract to your site, then it should be on your site to bring people in. Because yeah, they can get in touch with you from the LinkedIn page, but the site is really setup, as you were saying, to engage those prospects. On your LinkedIn page you’re not going to have case studies, you’re not going to have the services that that firm offers, so ultimately if the content that you’re writing, which it should be, is targeted to the right person, then the person who’s reading that article or that white paper should be on your site.

Lauren Siler: It’s a question of priority, right? If you had to choose where you were going to publish your thought leadership, pick your website first because the website is best equipped to shepherd the journey of the prospect, such that they become a purchaser. Versus, if you prioritize LinkedIn, there are some interesting opportunities that LinkedIn provides. There’s like-

Holly Fong: One-on-one contact things like that, yeah.

Lauren Siler: Yeah, but I wouldn’t start there.

Holly Fong: Well, I wouldn’t only do that too, and I think that was the question, “Can only be on the thought leadership’s LinkedIn page?” And I would say, no, unless it’s not relevant to what the company is offering.

Lauren Siler: Right, exactly. Don’t prioritize LinkedIn over the website, yeah. Okay.

Holly Fong: But it is a nice addition too.

Lauren Siler: Well yeah, and I mean all social channels really. I agree LinkedIn, and our last episode broke down the different popular social channels that we would recommend that you use for thought leadership promotion, and LinkedIn was our number one recommendation because there are some interesting opportunities there. But that’s true for Facebook, that’s true for Twitter, that’s true for a number of social channels. Ultimately these are great megaphones through which you can shout about your expertise, but we ultimately want to be driving people back to, again the temple of the website that’s going to be able to control or best influence the journey that the prospect’s taking, and increase the likelihood that they’re ultimately going to become somebody that you end up doing business with. That’s the point of it.

Holly Fong: Agreed. The next question here is, “What does a thought leader need to understand about the commitment required to be effective at building the brand in this way?” This would be a wonderful question for you.

Lauren Siler: This would be a wonderful episode. Tune in next time. Content marketing is hard because it takes a lot of time to do. It just does. It can look different for different firms but the ones who are least successful at this are the ones who try and take the shortcuts and try and get out of spending the time developing their expertise either through writing or through producing some form of content, podcasts or webinars or whatever. Those things take time. It’s like any other muscle, you get better at it the more you work it out, but especially at the beginning it’s time, and it’s a labor of love and it’s time intensive.

I often get asked this question in the sales process, and so I’ve been forced to come up with, analyze the many firms that we’ve worked with and look at, on average how much time they’re spending. I can throw out a general benchmark, a general guideline. Which is, I would say if you’ve got three to five experts contributing to the marketing plan, I would say most of those individuals could expect to be spending around eight to 10 hours per month contributing to the content plan in some way. So you can budget it like a business day plus an hour or two a month contributing to the thought leadership plan. Now that’s going to look different for different individuals, given what their roles and responsibilities are.

If we use Newfangled as an example, we have certain individuals on our marketing team who really only … I mean, their primary platform is the podcast. That’s what they do, and so they are probably spending 30 minutes to 45 minutes planning out two to three episodes, and then they’re spending an hour recording, and that’s it. So way below the eight to 10 hour threshold. And then there are other members of our marketing team who are primarily writers, and they’re more meticulous and they take more time, and they want to take that time. The medium itself requires to take that time and they’re probably spending closer to eight hours a month producing their assignments for the written side of the marketing strategy. I think that’s pretty typical for a lot of the firms that we work with.

Holly Fong: Yeah. It seems like there’s a lot of meat on that bone. We’ll have to get into later.

Lauren Siler: Yeah, there is. There is, it’s a nuanced topic and it’s obvious, it’s often top of mind. It makes sense that it is. But one piece of advice I’d throw out there is that I just … Don’t try and shortcut your content marketing strategy. If you’re going to get into content marketing you need to be prepared to spend some time on it and you have to think proactively about where that time’s going to come from. Otherwise you’re going to be investing it during nights and weekends, which is not sustainable and you’re going to end up resenting the whole strategy to being with.

Holly Fong: Definitely.

Lauren Siler: Okay. Let’s do one more question here. Let’s see, let’s do, “What works or doesn’t work about certain formats for thought leadership pieces? Is there a recommend length? Is there a recommended frequency? Is there a recommended form?” Again, I would say that’s a really big question.

Holly Fong: It is. We could almost have definitely-

Lauren Siler: A part two.

Holly Fong: … a part two separately for each of these last two questions. I’ll answer this first, and I’m interested to hear your perspective. I would say that for different audiences and different readers, different types of content and different lengths, different forms, the amount of content you’re producing and the frequency of it is going to depend. Generally I think that if you’re diversifying your content portfolio so that you have a podcast available and you have blog posts and you have white papers and other forms, e-books, things like that, of ways that people can consume that content, you’re going to be better off because some readers and some visitors and some listeners are going to be attracted to different things on your site. That would be my opinion, but what’s yours?

Lauren Siler: Yeah, I agree with you about the diversity and content types. I think that aligns well not only with different prospects who tend to learn in different ways. Some people are auditory learners, some people would prefer to read information, et cetera. It also aligns well with the natural communication styles of your marketing team. As we’ve discussed, some people are more natural writers, some people are more natural orators, et cetera.

We do have some benchmarks on this and we’ve got a lot of content on the site about it. So if you’re interested in big picture the volume of content you should be looking at, typically we recommend a minimum of 3,000 words in indexable expertise-based content published to the website each month, and that’s a minimum. So our higher performing agencies are actually publishing much more than that, but in terms of straight volume to the site in order to sustain a strong SEO strategy, you can start with thinking of a balance of 3,000 words. That’s usually going to be if you’re just looking at blog posts about four to six blog posts per month.

The other thing that I would consider is, to Holly’s point, the diversity of the content types is important. Not just because of the communication and learning styles of your audience and your writers, but also because of the lead engagement strategy on the site. If everything on the site is indexable, meaning nothing is behind a form, then the website doesn’t have that many conversion points to engage people at various stages of the buying cycle. Which kind of negates the whole point of your content marketing strategy. So in addition to having those 3,000 words of indexable content, we’re going to want some gated content pieces on the site.

Holly Fong: Definitely. And I think as far as what doesn’t work, the only thing that I can really think of that doesn’t work would be a content piece that is under 100 words and just it doesn’t have enough content for a search engine to even crawl it sort of thing.

Lauren Siler: Yeah, thoroughness matters.

Holly Fong: Exactly. But I can’t think of any other guidelines we could give as far as what not do when it comes to type of content piece.

Lauren Siler: Don’t focus too much your culture. That’s a big one.

Holly Fong: Well yeah, we could do a whole episode on this. So again, we’re going to have to have a whole nother episode for this.

Lauren Siler: There’s a lot to go through here.

Holly Fong: As far as what not to write about. But as far as the form, the frequency-

Lauren Siler: The format.

Holly Fong: Yeah. I don’t know that there’s any … I mean, I think that it would be a mistake to have a website with just infographics, for example. But-

Lauren Siler: Yeah, no one’s doing that.

Holly Fong: Yeah, I think in addition to things infographics can be fine. It’s just a matter of how are people going to get to those infographics, because if there’s not indexable content, you either have to have an email promoting it or be promoting it on different channels for anyone to get there.

Lauren Siler: Well, and you’ve point recently to our own marketing team, and I think on a recent episode of one of these podcasts that we do. You pointed out recently that you’ve been noticing a pretty significant difference in terms of the efficacy of a well-written article, and then a transcript of a conversation that’s published. We will be publishing the transcript of this podcast episode, but we don’t expect the transcript to bring in a ton of organic traffic. We’d be looking to our articles on the site to be better at that particular role, right?

Holly Fong: Definitely, yeah. So I think when we talk about what does and doesn’t work, again I think that this could be its own episode, but if you were to do just one of the formats, so just podcast for example, you’re probably going to struggle to get organic traffic to your site specifically because it’s not formatted in a way that search engines are maybe going to send people to those pages. I think diversity is key here, but I really think that would tee us up for a whole conversation about do’s-and-don’ts, which could be pretty cool.

Lauren Siler: Yeah, definitely. But I think that’s good. I think we can probably leave it there for now. This has been really interesting. I’m looking forward to diving into some of these other topics in even more detail in a later episode. For now, we will wrap things up.

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Holly Fong: Thanks.

Lauren Siler: Thanks for listening.