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Thought Leader Branding Tactics: How to Break Out Online

I’m gonna stop some people right at the door with a quick, hard truth:

There are ZERO overnight successes and You WILL NOT “break out” – even with hard work – in a month or a business quarter. This stuff takes time.

With that under our belts, I want to give you the formula I give to most people who are doing one of the following (If you fit the following list you’ll want to read this blog post).

1000 Formulae on a chalkboard.  Too daunting.  There has to be a better way.
Everyone says, “Create content” and some even give you 200+ page powerpoint decks that feel like a formula you can’t live up to. Maybe there’s a better way.
  1. You are an industry expert seeking to raise their credibility within their target market
  2. You are endeavoring to become a “Personal Brand” or “Thought Leader”
  3. You represent a business that has a niche target market who respects experts and pays well for expert work

If you are in what I deem the “Expert Game” then keep with this. If you are not, you may want to stick around and see how this applies to your situation but I can GUARANTEE this is valuable to anyone in the world of “Expert” talent.

Here’s the formula, a set of 5 Tactics counted from Important #5 to Earth Shatteringly Important #1.

Tactic #5 of 5: Listening

Many of you may have found this post because of a Facebook post I made about listening to your audience. We know to listen and respond to markets – it almost feels as if that’s a given, right? The truth is though, we don’t actually listen most of the time. Sometimes it’s because we know our craft so well that we’re blind to how to fill the gap between what we know and what “they” don’t know. Our jargon, our ways and means, are so foreign to our target audience that they need something different from us in order to understand what we can do for them. So, we don’t listen because we know they need us and we fail to see how to bring them across a gap.

Listen to your audience. Their voice matters and it's really a joyous thing to give people what they want and need.
Listening to your audience is critical to long-term success.

Sometimes we experts also fall prey to a fun Henry Ford quote: “If I’d listened to what people wanted I’d have made a better horse buggy” (I paraphrase). Well, he was a visionary and maybe you are as well. As we expert entrepreneurs and expert small-medium business brands raise this as our argument we fail to recognize that there is a real possibility we are not Henry Ford and our product is not the Model-T. Perhaps we have a valuable product that is not equally revolutionary and perhaps you do have to listen to what your audience says.

So, how do you listen to your audience? We must assume that you’re doing something online or in person that could receive comments, feedback and/or questions. In each instance of an interaction, do the following:

  1. Thank your commenter – gratitude goes a long way.
  2. Give your commenter an immediate and thorough answer. Reward them for helping you learn what your audience wants and needs by giving them the gift of knowledge. They will appreciate that and move further down a path of knowing, liking and trusting you.
  3. Now create content that gives this same knowledge to the world at large and openly thanks the original commenter for asking about it. (You may want to use full names and tag them or maybe just use a first name depending on your content.

Tactic #4 of 5: Scheduling Strategy

The two critical elements of your scheduling strategy include, in order of importance, CONSISTENCY and Your Best Guess.

Consistency: Your best shot at getting any attention online is to have regular content that can be expected at least a few times per week. Those who get “off schedule” and fail to post in a given week won’t go noticed if that’s one time in a year but those who make a habit of being inconsistent will be replaced in the minds of others with someone who is choosing to be more present.

Train Station consistency. There’s a plan for arrival and departure. Your content should have a similar truth – a predictable nature that your audience can expect.

For me, I prefer to see a scheduling habit of a certain day and day-part (i.e. “Monday Early-Morning” or “Wednesday Lunch”). The reason I like this is you can choose it, post it consistently and monitor success over time. Random posting of “3 a week” is consistent behavior as well but the more randomness you introduce into your world the less data you’ll have. This leads to my next point.

Your Best Guess: Consumer behavior among your target audience is likely something you’ll have no survey data to confirm. Rare is the day that I find a behavior survey that matches my client’s targets and I’ve never found one that fits my own company’s targets. I am very against small businesses paying tens of thousands of dollars for consumer behavior surveys because, after years of working with market researchers, I know that the generally big assumptions are rarely ill informed. Instead, what I’ve seen from consumer research yields important fine-tuning data that can be of great value when you have the finances to go for fine tuning.

In most cases it would be prudent to use Your Best Guess as to when the people you covet are 1 – online and 2 – using a platform where they can receive your message. Think of it this first about through the lens of offline phenomenon:

  • A high-end jeweler buys public bus signage inside of busses. (Not the right audience)
  • A breakfast food ad is placed on an unlit billboard saying, “Half price Caffeine, Eggs and Smiles just around the corner 5a – 7a” (No light, drivers can’t impulse buy and daytime drivers just say to themselves “I guess I missed it”)

Same thing online. You can post but when and where matters. Strategy for a B2B (Business to Business) marketing effort very likely includes LinkedIN – business conversations happen there. Maybe it includes Twitter because your audience shows a behavior around a hashtag that you’d fit well with. It’s also possible that those same users have a Facebook account but would not want to be bothered by business chatter while thinking about their Sister’s new baby. Strategy for a Mom focused subscription box is like NOT a LinkedIN focus but rather a more personal platform like Facebook and/or Instagram. Think about when Mom’s may be most active online. If they have little kids it’s probably just after a breakfast routine, nap times, and late night post-bedtime routine.

Thinking this strategy through is important. It is also important to be consistent for a few weeks if not months as you watch your assumptions play out. Change small things here and there and observe. Do more of what works, do less of what doesn’t.

Tactic #3 of 5: Batch Your Efforts

In 2017 I tried to do “A video a Day”. I was a business operator, husband and father and a gym rat. Adding a new habit like I did was a doomed effort. I had a few problems that I can help you avoid so let me pick on myself for a moment so that you can learn from my myopia.

Problem 1. Daily video meant a video session of likely 20m to 1h plus, in my case, an edit each day and a posting session each day. All in, I was out 90-120m a day. What did I have to change to make this happen? I shed the gym for a bit. I also found myself shedding rest. So I’m less fit and less rested. Not cool.

Batch your creation efforts like baking cookies.

Problem 2. Daily video creation meant that I had to have a “new idea” each day. The path to good creative is rarely an “Oh crap, I have to say something of value” pressure moment. In fact, I know it’s not since I’ve been a creative director, producer and writer for film since 2006. I knew this but didn’t see that I was breaking all of my best practices.

Problem 3. Since I had no significant audience myself (I’ve always been growing other’s voices for hire, not my own voice) that meant low response rates. That meant fatigue from wondering if my effort was wasted and would go unrewarded.

The antidote to these problems is largely to do the opposite. Instead now, we (me and my team) batch our work in the same ways that we’ve always batched client work. We do creative ideation in batch. We film in batch. We edit in batch. We schedule posts to release online in batch sessions (following strategy as we’ve pointed out in Key 4).

Consider the following batching plan:

  • 1st Monday of the month: 90m of ideas – write out your topics and bullet points under each about what you’ll cover. Also, write out phrases and quotes you may use that are relevant to the topic so you can mentally prepare for your shoot.
  • 2nd Monday of the month: Film your content (60m to 180m) and send files to an editor if you plan to edit. Have your editor screenshot multiple scenes and send them to you as well.
  • 3rd Monday of the month: Use a photo app such as Canva to take photos from your editor and overlay the quotes you came up with the 1st Monday. Then, use scheduling program to set up videos and photos for posting.
  • 4th Monday of the Month: Repeat process

Tactic 2 of 5: Use Your Phone

I’m gonna keep this SUPER SIMPLE. Use Your Phone.

Don’t go buy gear. Don’t use a DSLR or ProSumer or Pro level camera unless you have the resources to delegate tasks to paid, talented professionals. I have numerous, well funded clients who are still only able to muster up a cellphone video because they are busy, talented at their business but not in businesses they don’t know (like marketing), and they are busy. Oh, I said that twice, well, it was that true and important.

Filming by phone is the right, first step for content creators. Whole photo shoots can be done by phone, too.

The reality is that COMPLEXITY IS THE ENEMY OF ACTION. Don’t make this difficult on yourself. To help with this, consider the following tips:

  1. Use horizontally held camera for most applications (vertical video is only right for Instagram TV and Facebook Stories).
  2. Shoot video in 1080p30, not 4k. High res is a data flow trap and does nothing for most video creations online. 1080p is HD video and 30 is the number of frames that are captured per second. Use no less than 24 and no more than 60 frames per second – 30 is by far the most common.
  3. Film in areas where audio is not terribly intrusive.
  4. Film where light can be either 1. Very even or 2. More is on your face/front than behind you.
  5. Buy a cheap tripod and cellphone clamp so that you do not have to hold your phone during video sessions
  6. PRO TIP: Those of us with iPhones are using Apple Watches to trigger start/stop on our video apps. You can connect the two in a way that you have a remote!

Finally: 1 of 5 – GTHOY

Get. The. Heck. Over. Yourself!

Frustrated young man isn't starting content creation because he's lost and afraid to fail.
Not knowing where to start is stressful. Not believing that you can start is frustrating. Take the steps in this blog to unlock your content journey.

Your first video will be your worst video. Your early photo posts won’t “hit the mark” when compared to your 50th or 1000th. This is a long haul effort. Your ability to be known as an expert hinges on your not having some unreasonable expectation of perfection. Lean on the following truths.

  1. You are an expert because you know your stuff. Your ideas and expertise are the real, immediate value you can drive.
  2. You are NOT going to be able to be Tony Robbins or Gary V or Grant Cardone or the Shamwow Guy on Day 1. Conveniently, you also likely do not have a large audience expecting you to be. You get to grow with an audience which to me is an honor and privilege.
  3. Consumers of content are seeking information, value, and some form of entertainment value (which can be as simple as the passion you bring to your topic). The quality bar is as low as your barrier to entry which, at this stage of the internet is as simple as having a phone with a data plan.

You really have no excuse. If you feel like you should be creating content as part of your marketing efforts then the answer is to do it. Just beginning is not easy so, let’s set a plan together, right here right now.

This week commit to doing the following things to prepare for creating content.

  1. Write down who your target customer is and what you plan to “give to them” in the way of content.
  2. Now, write down where you believe they will consume your content. If you do not have accounts online that fit what your audience will want – create them this week and invite friends, family, and customers to Like/Follow.
  3. Then, write out what you expect of yourself and the schedule you plan to keep. This includes your frequency of posting, what you think your audience will want from posts, and how you plan to create and deliver them. Your first draft of the list will be a mess of ideas – hone in and rewrite it to have a better but never final list. This will grow and change as you learn so give yourself grace and space for change.
  4. Lastly, write down the days/times you will enact the “Monday Plan” I suggested above. It may not be Mondays. It may even not land same day/time though the weeks because of your Work/Personal-Life demands. Find times – book them – live up to the bookings.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in coaching our clients on this exact path it’s that NONE of this goes exactly to my plan. This is a guide toward success but not a guide to your personal success. Make this your own or, do as our client partners have done and work with us to elevate your game at the outset. We guide experts to be able to express their expert voice. Reach out on this site and request a consult and we can talk in depth about your ideas, dreams and goals. We can set a plan and execute together so that you can conquer the content game.

About the Author:

Josh Pies, Chief Attention Getter at C47 Films in his famous Opposuits collection coats from
Josh Pies, Chief Attention Getter at C47 Films

Josh Pies is a video advertising & branding expert. He’s spent most of his life work-shopping ways to get attention – be it sales for his first business which he started at age 4, customers for his property services company at age 23, or laughs and viewership on his first National TV Show at age 26 where he was producer and head writer. He believes in getting attention and loves the power of modern content creation for what it can do for businesses and personal brands.
Josh is the executive producer of C47 Film Associates. C47 Films has produced one feature film which is available on Amazon Prime, three TV Series, eight documentaries, and TV and web ads for brands as various as Kodak, The John Maxwell Team, and the US Department of Labor. Josh Speaks at events on the topics of video branding, how to stand out as a professional, and the power of purpose. Josh lives in Orlando Florida where he, his wife Shannon nd their three amazing kids play on the beach or in magical castles as often as possible.

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