Thought Leaders Shmought Leaders

Admittedly, as a marketer, I often advise people to position themselves as a thought leader in their field.  What better way to attract new vacuum customers than giving off the appearance that you know EVERYTHING about cyclone technology and suction thingamajigs.  Obviously I’m going to buy my vacuum from the guy who knows the most about the biz, right?  He seems smart and trustworthy.james-dyson-with-vacuum

But what happens when all of a sudden everyone in the vacuum industry starts leading thoughts? Who’s the leader now? Who do I trust?

I recently read an article in Forbes, “6 Ways Thought Leadership Will Take Your Marketing to New Levels,” by John Hall.  Hall explains how PR and consistent content marketing will help put your offering in a more positive light and keep your company top of mind.  While reading the article, I totally agreed with Hall’s points.  What concerned me was when Hall said:

“As a Forbes contributor, I look for sources who are leading their industries. I don’t want to do a ton of homework to determine if you’re the real deal. If you release content consistently and it’s quality work, you will be rewarded by attracting your own PR relationships.”

Nobody wants to do homework and everyone defines “quality” differently. So who is really the expert? The company that has the most active Facebook page? The most white-papers? Hosts the most webinars?  How many garbage webinars are out there and yet we still see these contributors as thought leaders? How many useless white-papers have you read?

We are being conditioned to think more content = expert.

There is now an entire industry that churns out content that talks about creating content and gives you a bunch more content to educate you and prove to you that content marketing works (yeesh)!  The scariest part about content marketing?  It really works.

Marketers have already infiltrated traditional channels like newspapers, tv and radio. Now they are saturating digital channels like mobile ads and social media. Are our thoughts next?  Ahhhhh!!!

At some point, I fear that thought leadership will be less about trust and quality and more about quantity and speed.  For now, content marketing and the idea of thought leadership is still new and effective.  I guess we’ll see what comes next!

In the meantime, don’t be dull and stay human.

When Did Being Well-Rounded Turn Into Being Boring?

Marjorie+Kebbie,+Chair+of+Community+Council+from+Dull.+The+village+of+Dull,+that+is+to+be+twinned+with+the+US+town+of+BoringI’ve been thinking about starting a blog for quite some time now.  Like so many others, I put it off and put it off. Blogging is a big commitment and there’s not much I commit to for free.  Unless it’s something I really care about (like family, friends and Starbucks rewards).  However, I recently graduated with my master’s in marketing and one of the most important things I learned (after dropping another 30K on education I can’t afford) was to KEEP LEARNING.  And the best way for me to keep learning is to keep doing…hence deciding to write a blog.

My next challenge was deciding what to write about.  I read a million tips and tricks and they all said something like “write about what you’re interested in,” “provide value to your audience,” “solve a problem with your expertise,” and so on.  Well guess what…I’m interested in a lot of different things, so this was no easy task!

Months went by and I still couldn’t decide on any topics or focus for my blog.  Why would you want to listen to me?  How can I be interesting?  I’m not a thought leader.  I’m not an expert in anything.  Sure I have a lot of great skills, but expert?  Hardly.  The dictionary defines an expert as: “having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.”  The key word here is “special.”  Take a second and try to think about what it is that really makes you special…

Seeing my dilemma?

Marketers will say they have special social media skills or they are strategic planning experts.  Lawyers will say they are expert litigators.  Salespeople will say they are expert speakers and have special networking skills.  If all of these people are “experts” and have special skills, how come so many others can do the exact same thing?

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Most of us aren’t experts at all.  We just say we are.

It was this realization that finally got me blogging.  I was never going to find a topic to write about that provides you with expert advice because I’m not an expert!  What I can do is relate to all you other skillful self-doubters out there and attach positive meaning back to the term “well-rounded.”  Somewhere along the line, being well-rounded turned into being boring.  Having a lot of great skills isn’t nearly as valuable as being an expert in one particular thing these days (try job hunting), but I decided not to let this stop me.  Not being an expert doesn’t have to mean being dull and (hopefully) this blog will prove me right.

The purpose of this blog will be to share what I’ve learned from super interesting and boring experiences, to become a more interesting person and to provide value and insight to others by being myself: a well-rounded expert in nothing.