Thought Leadership Today

In our attention stretched world, it's becoming harder to engage and influence audiences. You can no longer approach thought leadership like you would have done 5 or 10 years ago. Once defined by title, expertise and qualification, thought leadership is now much more dependent on factors such as SEO positioning for your niche keywords and empathy.

Listen to the Podcast

Podcast Guesting Pro founder Graham Brown joins podcast host Surbhi Dedhia on "The Making of a Thought Leader" podcast to discuss podcasting guesting and thought leadership. The following is a transcript of their conversation. For more tips on podcast guesting success, go to our podcast guesting resources.

If you want to talk to our team about podcast guesting and thought leadership, book a free consultation here.

Surbhi Dedhia 00:00                          

Hey, hey, hey! Welcome to The Making of a Thought Leader podcast. This podcast is designed to encourage entrepreneurs to build your thought leadership in a simplified and systematic way. I'm your host, Surbhi Dedhia, brand strategist, entrepreneur, Founder of and also the Founder of I'm passionate to help fellow entrepreneurs, executives, and individuals to think and thrive on their thought leadership. So, grab your headset, turn up the volume and join me here to get the boost of encouragement you need to build your thought leadership every episode.


Surbhi Dedhia 01:21                         

Hello, Hello and welcome to yet another fantastic episode on The Making of a Thought Leader podcast. Before we get into today's episode, I'd like to share a quote by Robin Sharma that I came across.

It reads - Thought Leadership is not a title. It is a behavior, you live it.

Wow. Let that sink in a little a bit. I enjoy powerful quotes like these to jumpstart my day and if you come across any of such wonderful quotes, please send them my way. Alright, now let's jump into today's episode, which is, take it from me, an epic episode. Joining me on the show today is Graham Brown. He's one of the veterans when it comes to the world of podcasts. With over 1500 podcast episodes across multiple shows, Graham is a well-known thought leader to follow for anything and everything podcast. Graham says he is a storyteller and through his company Pikkal & Co., he helps several business brands tell their brand story. Besides being an entrepreneur, Graham is also a published author. He's a public speaker, he's an investor and also an ironman triathlete. Our conversation today goes through a world of marketing, through a world of branding, importantly storytelling and through the funnel. Marketers are obsessed with funnel. Through this entire conversation, it has been so thoughtful and engaging that I gained a lot from this conversation and I hope you guys will too. So without further ado, let's get to meet and hear Graham Brown.

Surbhi Dedhia 03:23                         

Hey Graham! It is absolutely my pleasure to have you on The Making of a Thought Leader podcast. Welcome.


Graham Brown 03:32                         

Thank you very much for inviting me. I'm looking forward to this, Surbhi.


Surbhi Dedhia 03:37 

Yes, absolutely. So before we get in, let us talk about you and your backstory and what you do.


Graham Brown 03:45 

Thank you. So I'm a storyteller in the sense that I help companies and brands tell stories. A lot of that work is done through podcasts now, which is really how you often take quite a dry subject and turn it into an engaging content piece for an audience and that seems to be a lot of the work that we do. I also help people guests on other people's podcasts, which is really down to the individuals now. It’s like, I don't have an interesting story to tell. All these kinds of imposter syndrome fears that people have to get them through that, getting them onto podcasts and turning them into thought leaders. So that's what I do.


Surbhi Dedhia 04:22                          

Yes. And that's a phenomenal area because that's what we talk about on The Making of a Thought Leader podcast. The audience here is SME owners, business owners who have years of experience, and yet they hesitate to put their footprint on the digital landscape. And I think building thought leadership is much imperative today. One question that keeps repeating here is, do SME owners themselves have to build thought leadership, or can they promote an organizational culture to the thought leadership culture within the organization?


Graham Brown 05:00                         

Well, if you are an SME owner/leader/CXO, then probably you do everything in that business and can do everything. Maybe you elect not to do it all, now that you've grown a little bit. But generally, you are the chief rainmaker of the business. You are the face, the voice and no matter how you think about it, you are the chief salesperson. You may have business development people, but ultimately you, your story. If you are fundraising, investors are investing in you, not your product. It's always you first and then the product is second. In the same way clients buy from you, they buy from people first. It's always people > product > price. That’s sort of Sales 101, if you’re starting a sales job. As an SME leader or owner, very much you're at the heart of the thought leadership piece, creating it and really remembering as well that people follow people, not brands. So, you are the brand in all earnest to your partners, your clients, and your investors. Therefore, your story, your opinions, your thought leadership architecture is the most important. Of course, you've got a team around you and it's not just you doing this but you have to be wary of shying away from the stage that people may say, “I'm an introvert or I'm not good at storytelling”, but ultimately you have to be, you have to get out there because we all live and die by storytelling and your thought leadership as an individual will make or break your company.


Surbhi Dedhia 06:43                         

Yes, that's very true. The positive that many people talk about throughout the pandemic is the whole collaboration piece that has happened on digital. So, even if you're an introvert as an SME owner, I think there's enough to do on digital behind the scenes, not be out there talking at events or so. That actually brings me to the topic of B2B because events were like the lifeline for B2B. And in your experience, talking with the corporates, what are you seeing on this piece where it's completely disrupted and how are B2B companies building their thought leadership?


Graham Brown 07:27                         

Well, the genie is very much out of the bottle, Surbhi. You know, that you can't put it back in, that now people have looked at digital as a way of communication, and now consider it as not a second rate channel for building thought leadership or [inaudible], but maybe the most effective one. That's never gonna change. And then with the events as well, you think about, for example, how much of that was the mainstay of our business lives in B2B. It's not coming back anytime soon. Sure, events are coming back, but are people going to willingly go into an expo with a thousand people where everybody's talking, and you know what the attitude is like, people are not necessarily gonna go in the numbers. They're not going to sponsor. These events are planned years out as well. So, I don't see that coming back in the same shape or form that it did two years ago. People talk about hybrid events that seem to be the thing now, but like really the smart people are saying, well, there must be something else. And people are looking at digital communication now as a way of thought leadership. So, podcasts are definitely one, creating digital content, creating your digital thought leadership strategy. And the great part about that is it scales, unlike an event which is done and dusted in a day or two. Your digital content is… this podcast between us two will be out there for 10 years. If you went on stage in an event and presented, or you had a booth, it's gone in a couple of days. But this will be around for, could be forever.


Surbhi Dedhia 09:02                         

Yeah, true. True. And that, I think, changes the whole lens now because whatever you are putting out there stays out there and then it can be reused, repurposed, obviously seen by different audiences and there is no time limit. Do you think that that changes the funnel? How does this impact the funnel then?


Graham Brown 09:25                         

Very much so. Now we have to learn SEO, we have to learn content marketing. These are new concepts, which really have come from the marketing world. But if you're in comms now, for example, these are concepts you need to know. Especially in the B2B space where comms and marketing are very much twin bedfellows. They're not really separate departments and they work very closely together. Unlike B2C, where they may be very separate, but in B2B space, they're almost identical and therefore you have comms people who have to learn SEO now, and this is completely alien. And importantly, it's completely alien because you've got this concept of metrics that never existed in the world of comms before. If you were in PR, your metric was a by line or a column inch, that's all gone. If you look at the metrics on press releases, they're terrible, the actual metrics, it's all this sort of very nefarious and the intangible aspect of communications, which almost is like advertising 20, 30 years ago. When you know, it is all about brand building and brand equity and you couldn't really pin it down, but now the funnel has completely changed because it's all measurable now. If we were to do a content piece, you could create attribution, which somebody could track it back and say, “Well, because of this podcast series, we've had these many signups. These many people downloaded our lead magnet, our report, and our white paper” It's trackable. And that is putting a big question mark over traditional comms, and marketing strategies, which could never do this. So I think there is a definite positive shift in that way that the data that's coming out of digital is really reforming communications and marketing in the B2B space. And it's a good thing, they'll do to comms what Google did to advertising, you know, completely disrupt it.


Surbhi Dedhia 11:29                         

I started my career in PR and communications, and I remember that the KPIs, as they used to call in those days, used to be the number of mentions that we've got. Oh, and obviously, those were the days when Google was coming up and the keywords and none of this all existed. So the way things have evolved my take is that the thought leadership is more or less going to be like the standard, which is not going to evolve or not going to go away from here. What I have seen is the PR part of it comes and goes, SEO is the new thing or some other thing, like you talk on your podcast about a Clubhouse and TikTok and that 15 seconds of fame, these things come and go. It's becoming so dynamic, but I feel thought leadership is I foresee this to be like this common denominator, if you will, of everything that you do to build who you are as a brand. What's your take on that?


Graham Brown 12:37                         

Yeah. It's insightful. What is thought leadership really as a function and there's a lot written by Edelman, for example, on thought leadership and the benefits of thought leadership in the buying process. It's well established that thought leadership impacts buying, that it has an impact on the bottom line. And really, if you think about the funnel where it sits is that thought leadership is the new advertising without a doubt. It's the top of the funnel. In the sense that I see a Coke billboard. I don't then go and buy a Coke straight away, but it influences me the next time I feel thirsty. I think, what do I wanna drink? Pepsi or Coke. So I reach for a Coke because it's in my head and I've seen plenty of the billboards at sports events and on buses and that's an advertising and that's what thought leadership is doing now. It's replacing that because it's creating that in the B2B space. And really the function of marketing now is the performance, it's performance marketing in the sense that it's about clicks and conversions and signups. It's about getting people over the line. So you think about how these two fit together, the thought leadership and marketing, and we take thought leadership, which is really communications, performance communications and marketing is performance marketing. One is about making you aware of a brand or a person and trusting them and wanting to find out more and the other is about taking that and getting you over the line. So that's how the modern funnel sits together. You've got performance communication and performance marketing working together, and that's  how we think we need to think about it. It's replacing what advertising was for many, many years.


Surbhi Dedhia 14:21                          

Yes, I think the way you explain, it makes total sense to me in terms of what I see in even SMEs, because SMEs traditionally, they have a marketing department, maybe one or two men, women departments and most of it is outsourced. So in that case, there is the marketing department that typically doesn't have a seat at the table to push the thought leadership agenda. It's really up to the owners, the business owners to take the charge to look into this piece and it really requires somebody from outside to come knocking and saying, “Hey guys, you have such a brilliant product, you have so many years of experience. Why don't you talk about these areas instead of spending money on Adwords or on other areas?” So yes, thought leadership, I agree, is a top of the funnel activity, but I'm also thinking about what happens when the prospect is now in the funnel. Does thought leadership have any impact on the middle of the funnel and finally at the bottom of the funnel?


Graham Brown 15:28                         

All of it. Yeah. Thought leadership impacts all of it. In the same way trusting Coke will impact your experience of actually drinking the Coke. They've done those like, I think it’s Dan Ariely, who would do those experiments where they would get people to drink unbranded Cola. And they would say, I prefer what turned out to be Pepsi by a margin because it tasted slightly sweeter and so on and yet when showed people beforehand and they repeated the experiment, but they knew what they were drinking, people preferred the taste of Coke by a factor of four to one. So if you think about it, thought leadership or the expectation of that brand has shaped our experience of it, if not physiologically changed that experience at the level of the brain. And so, thought leadership does impact everything right down to the point, which I'm signing this off and actually engaging in a project with an SME as a client. You know, did I do the right thing? Was this the right brand? I have to go back to my boss and explain why I signed off a six figure deal with this SME when I could have done it with AWS, or I could have done it with Microsoft, or I could have done it with McKinsey and paid more. I'd never get fired for doing that. But yes, this SME is the world leader in data analytics. They publish thought leadership white papers on it. Everybody knows them for that and therefore, it's still impacting it all the way through the process and it starts up a funnel, but it goes right the way through and even beyond purchase. So, there is a difference in the funnel between acquisition and influence. A lot of SMEs are obviously very focused on acquisition as an activity. You have to get leads. That's why they're going to events all the time. But the influence part is equally important that you have to keep influencing people all the way through the funnel, because if I come to your digital consultancy survey, you're not just one conversation. Your clients are having many conversations with people and they're shopping around and they're constantly being bombarded with ideas and it’s not like a very clean funnel process like we had 20 years ago. There is so much competition. You've gotta be constantly influencing people all the way.


Surbhi Dedhia 17:53                         

Absolutely. I think that is the way to think about it. And I agree fully with you when you say that it takes us through the way. So the way people should think about thought leadership is not do the top of the funnel and be done with it, but actually design thought leadership in a way that the consumers of that thought leadership can see through the entire piece of that, actually means that you need to be authentic in what you do because you can't fake it. Let's talk about authenticity and since you work with so many corporates around the world, how do you bring that authentic self within them?


Graham Brown 18:32                         

Well, authenticity has very much been corrupted by the marketing and corporate world in the last few years. For that nobody really cared about it and now it's the thing. You know, like vulnerability and people talk about concepts. And to some degree, they hijack them and use them out of context. A good example is the word, ‘friend'. If you think about it, that used to mean something, but now it's like you click and they're a friend and even that icon, the heart, that's now synonymous with liking something. I click on Ikea and ‘like’ the Facebook fan page doesn't mean I love them, which is what that icon really means. In many ways we have to be careful when we talk about authenticity, that really there is authenticity and there is the corporatized version of it, if you like, which is somewhat sanitized. What authenticity really means and I mean, if you look at the word itself, you've gotta go back to ancient Greek, etymologically it stems from the same word root as audience and authority. It's that A-U, which has no direct translation, but it means to feel, to perceive. I feel and perceive that's why, when you listen to somebody, you hear them, you feel heard. You know, how important that route is to relationships and to vulnerable parts of ourselves, the emotional core that we are as humans. And so bring that into the world of the corporates - What is authenticity? How do we show up as human beings? I know that sounds like it could easily be quite a trite statement but it is the opposite of that is, what we've lived in the last 80 years of the industrial model, which is efficiency. Now, if you think about the factory model, Henry Ford, the production line, the least efficient part of that model is the human being. And so we've built this whole process in the last 80 years, all the way down to our communications about efficiency and it's about eliminating mistakes. You take McDonald's, it's the ultimate efficient machine. It can be run by teenagers. And the same with communications, the efficient part is the veneer, the polish, the not making any mistakes. It's that - ‘Oh, you can't ask Mr. Brown that question’ or ‘Send me the 20 questions beforehand.’ So there are no mistakes. There are no cracks in the armor or revelations that the person is actually a human being. You know, when they go home at night, they're just hanging on and they're one argument away from a meltdown and, you know, they've got their laundry in the back when you zoom call them and you can see them. That's the real-life, that person. We want to hide all of that and push it away. That's efficiency. So authenticity really is the opposite of that. We've reached peak efficiency. There are no more gains, if you think about it, it is becoming more efficient in a lot of our processes as humans, we can give that to the machine, the computer. What we need to do and what corporates need to do, all of us, is to be more authentic. And that starts with admitting it's okay that you've made mistakes. You know, it's no good saying to people, “I want all of you subordinates to make mistakes and fail like startups, which is very typical, but do not make mistakes yourself.” As a parent we know, three laws of parenting are example, example, example. It's the same with leadership, right? So we have to show that we make mistakes. We have to show that we're vulnerable first,and go out there and yeah, it's okay that you say you screwed up. Yeah it's okay to say you don't know if somebody asks you a question? I don't know the answer. Where do you ever hear that in an interview or sometimes I don't know. How wonderful. I've heard that. I saw somebody do it the other day. I thought that's so refreshing. I don't know. Great. We don't expect you to know. You don't have to have all the answers. That's authentic because okay, you're not a perfect human being and that's okay. And we forgive you. And I think there's some great examples of leaders out there who are very authentic and are playing that game very well. So, you know, all props to them.



Surbhi Dedhia 22:57                         

Wow, this was so powerful. The way you put it, because it brought memories really. I don't know if I should say dark now, but you know, it's really those memories where we used to prepare as a PR team. PR team used to prepare briefs for our analysts to go out there and speak in the media and then every interview was kind of reviewed, again and again, to say, “Oh, you cannot use these kind of words, you cannot use this.” And I'm thinking, yeah, what for, what for did we do all that? Because that was the cut and [inaudible] model that you just followed.


Graham Brown 23:32                         

And well, the mistakes, isn't it? Because we were very scared of making mistakes.


Surbhi Dedhia 23:37                         

And you know, that brought even those really smart people who had so much of insight into their subject matter to a very superficial level suddenly because they were really bothered about how they looked, how they talk, and how they would be evaluated after each interview, which was not productive at all at the end of the day.


Graham Brown 23:58                         

And well, it goes back to the factory model, doesn't it? You’re basically eliminating all the wiggle room of the widgets, if you like. You're just kind of narrowly compartmentalizing as much as possible that they can't say these things. “Oh my God. If they said hashtag something, hashtag China, we'd be in trouble.” If you, as a comms person, if you go to any comms event, and there haven't been many recently, but before the pandemic, I attended a comms event and it was all about crisis management. If your executive has mentioned hashtag dah, dah, dah, now what do you do? And so, it was all about control. If you think about that control, the factory model is all about control. Information is an asset. The control of information, like a pipeline. It's like an oil pipe. And if you think about an oil pipe, what you don't want is it leaking. So you've got all these valves and stops along the pipe and you protect it and you put an army around it to stop people doing stuff to it, but that's kind of how we've managed the flow of information in companies for years. So it trains us to think about, you know, just make sure it doesn't leak this thing, but now we live in a world where it's not a pipeline. It's a platform where, you know, it's not about how do I control this thing? Every comms person has gone from being a gatekeeper to an enabler. Now I have to say, “Right. You're the CEO, here are a few talking points, like go.” And that's what it's gotta be. It's like, here's a megaphone, go out there and tell your story and this is like, brings us back to this whole point about the vulnerability part and the fear, because now they're like, “Oh my God, I've gotta get out there and talk and do it in a human way. And I don't have all these handlers around me to protect me in the pipeline model.” So there's very much a mindset shift and it is a good thing, but it's gonna take time, Surbhi. I think it's gonna take people who realize that and who can let go a little bit of the storytelling piece.


Surbhi Dedhia 26:06                          

And it is hard. I think at a personal level as well. It is hard to show your true self because you are linked in being one of the examples, like where people showed up professionally and actually on LinkedIn, you see people showing their pets photos and when they do the line… =


Graham Brown 26:26                         

People say, “This is not Facebook.” That's the immediate response people say when they see that.


Surbhi Dedhia 26:30                         

Right, right, right. So, you are ending up looking at. there's this new word as well coined. It is between professional and personal - ‘per-fessional’ is what it is called. Like it's like a midway where you showcase your personal self, like personal stories as well and obviously, share your thought leadership on the professional front. And it is interesting to see how many of them are actually coming up and I see a lot of women actually taking up that piece. All this while we're talking about SMEs and the business owners to take up the charge on thought leadership. But in your work experience, you also need brilliant minds who are in the corporate world. So tell us a little bit more about how executives/professionals who have probably seven, or eight years’ worth of experience grow into a corporate ladder. How can they build their thought leadership?


Graham Brown 27:23                         

And yeah. So the challenge here is that it's traditionally done by the brand, the thought leadership piece, but now audiences connect with people and therefore, it's the realization that that actually the slowest moving part of all of this is that the company you work for and not having to wait for permission to do that, and really not having to wait for somebody to give you the tools, but to really drive that. And if you look for example, like at LinkedIn, you look at the LinkedIn page of Microsoft and they will have posts on their thought leadership pieces. You know, it would be about SMEs and it would be about an Azure for a small business, for example, and it will have two or three likes. I'm not joking two or three likes on a post, and I'm sure your listeners can go and verify that. This is a company that has, I think, 13 million followers on LinkedIn. So, you can think about the actual conversion rate that is extremely low. And yet you've got somebody like Satya Nadella, who is on LinkedIn. Obviously, these guys part own LinkedIn so they should be there and he's posting and his post will get thousands of likes. You know, it'll be about him and it'll be about digital transformation, for example. So I think we need to realize that we are the brand that people experience of our company and therefore we all have a role in doing this. So that's the first part is understanding that we are an agent in all of this, as opposed to just somebody supporting the brand doing it. We have to do this. The second part is really about what do I talk about, which is the big stumbling block for any executive, because they feel that they have to stick to the script, or they're not interesting enough, they're not Elon Musk and they’re not Mark Zuckerberg. What can they talk about? And this is something that really, I feel we have to approach it with the mindset of the era, which is agile. So I talk about agile storytelling, which is, taking out of context, no comedian was ever born funny. You know, comedians got on stage or even from their school days, they practiced and practiced and practiced and they got their content, and they just refined their material. And guess what, you know, 80% of the stuff that they practiced and tried out on audiences bombed, didn't work. But then they got a laugh and they thought, why did they laugh at that? And maybe if I change it, oh, it's even funnier next time. And then maybe I changed the story a little bit and oh, it's even funnier, or it bombs. And that's how comedians and stand-up work is that they go on stage. They face the moment of truth because you can't practice this in your bedroom. You know, let's try some funny lines out or you can't do this with your own people. You've gotta get on stage where you're gonna face rejection. So you've gotta get on stage, practice your material and get feedback and keep in an agile way iterating on that. So my advice to any executives or even small business owners is do this in an agile way. There is a lot of focus these days on finding your why. And I think it's nonsense that finding your why is probably the biggest reason why people never start. Because I don't have a why, you know, I'm not here to save the planet. I'm not here to cure cancer. I'm not here to create a billion dollar app. Nobody really knows this thing. You know, people kind of know what they want to do, and this is what I enjoy. This is what I don't like, but finding your why just stops a lot of people. So I say to the people I work with, find your start rather than your why. Just get started and I'll tell you, your why will come. Like Steve Jobs style, joining the dots later on, right? So get started. You don't have to have this published book to have a story worth telling. So for those people thinking about starting a podcast or getting on other people's podcast, it's like just get started. And it's amazing watching people, you know, I work with people guesting on other people's podcasts and these are senior business leaders and that evolution that happens. They start podcast one, they have a very lose group of key talking points. And then by about three or four, it's coming together. Now they're starting to really draw the net in and they're starting to say, actually, that's what I want to talk about. And then by five or six, they're really getting sharp on their messaging. And then they're at seven, eight, and then looking back and thinking, wow, I've really come a long way. So my advice to anybody saying, look at where you're gonna be there. You're gonna be looking back at number one and number one's gonna be cringe. You're gonna listen to yourself think, oh no. Ah and I said that, but you've just gotta get through that, right? Because unless you get through that, you'll never get to 8, 9, 10, and so on. And that I feel is like, there's too much emphasis on finding your why. It's like this perfect story. Nobody ever lives like that and even these people seem to have all these kinds of magical TED-like missions, you know, I'm sure it all came from hindsight.


Surbhi Dedhia 32:58                          

Yeah, that’s true. You saw the puzzle or you live your life in the hindsight and say, oh, that is why this happened. Or that is how, you know, I was meant to do this. And that is how you join the puzzle only in hindsight. So obviously that really makes sense. And I like what you said about, just find your start. I’m gonna use that as a quote.


Graham Brown 33:19                         

Yeah, Yeah. You get out there and you practice your material. And you try something. One thing I do is I write, I do a lot of podcasts and I try to create scenes, which is, each is like a brick, if you like and I suppose if you’re a musician, it’s like, you know how this chord progression would work. It’s the same. So if you ask me about Steve Jobs and the iPhone, I could tell you a story about that. If you ask me about the hero’s journey, I can tell you a story about that or the printing press, for example. And just collect these stories, practice them. Maybe I'll tell you the story about Steve Jobs and the iPhone and it’s like it bombs. Oh, that didn’t work then it’s okay. Either I kill it, refine it or decide what I’m gonna do with it, and then just keep practicing those. And so you build up these bricks, these building blocks of your storytelling, that’s thought leadership is that you can bring all this stuff together. If you want to talk about these subjects, you can go onto any podcast and talk about anything related to your core subject and make it interesting because you can bring this content in and it’s well practiced and well rehearsed in a very authentic way. It’s not like you’re just kind of plug and play. You know, you’re actually kind of responding to it and you’re not just sort of firing off like a jukebox style, these individual stories. So I think that’s getting practice with that and I work with execs on refining those scenes. If you like, you know, tell us about the time when you left Singapore and went to Dubai. That must have been interesting. Those kind of like scenes in people’s life, I think are fascinating.


Surbhi Dedhia 35:02                         

Yeah. And that keeps it real. I think these scenes, drawing from experiences and drawing from other stories to tell your story keeps it really real. And that I think is also something which appeals nowadays, because it’s not construed or massaged in a way to only talk about your product brand, but it also brings in that authentic storytelling ability.


Graham Brown 35:31                          

It’s hard to fake, isn’t it? If you told me a story or I told you a story, you would kind of, that doesn’t sound right, something wouldn’t work with that, if somebody was trying to fake it unless they were doing really, really good. But that is hard. And I think, yeah, it appeals now, but we’ve been doing this for thousands of years telling stories. It is part of our evolutionary makeup. We told stories because that helped us evolve faster. It was a way of transmitting information into the cloud, if you like. So it wasn't kind of tied to our physical form. So, you know, it’s a key part of us and how we communicate with each other.


Surbhi Dedhia 36:14                         

Yes, absolutely. Podcast as a medium, you have done, what close to 1500 or podcasts so far?


Graham Brown 36:23                         

It’s like my birthday. I’m losing count now. It’s about that. Once you get over 40, I’m nearly 50, you start to lose count of everything.


Surbhi Dedhia 36:34                         

Yeah. Healthy amount. Let’s say that you’ve done a good amount of podcasts that you have enough experience in sharing your stories, connecting with your audiences through this audio medium. Talk to us about the medium as such. Why podcast and how do you see podcast evolving going forward?


Graham Brown 36:56                         

Yeah. I mean, we’ve seen a really interesting growth in podcasts in the last couple of years. We’re like at, I think 3.7 million podcasts now. And obviously it’s now being picked up by business. There's two types of podcast: there's B2C and there’s a B2B podcast and they’re quite different. So this would be a B2B podcast, for example. But a B2C podcast would be like a serial or a Netflix style documentary, if you like, which is aimed at building a very large consumer base to advertise on. But in B2B podcasting, you are the advertiser effectively. You are the head of advertiser. So the goal now isn’t to build a large piece of real estate for an advertiser, it’s to build strong, meaningful connections with a certain group of people. And that certain group of people could be 200, 300 people and it’d still be really valuable. I was on a podcast the other day about storytelling and we were talking about a friend who’s the number one podcast in the world for solar panels. It’s extremely niche, but that’s the point is that he only needs 200, 300 people to listen to that podcast every episode for it to be valuable.



Graham Brown 38:17                          

Because that’s 200, 300 people that have given up 40 minutes of their time and are interested in solar panels. So maybe they’re people from the industry, maybe they’re buyers, maybe they’re regulators who knows. And you think about that model now is very different to the old model - broadcast. Now we’re in this narrowcast model, which is very much about clearly defined avatars of who your audience is. You’ve gotta, I mean, anybody doing a podcast really has to tightly define their audience avatar because the numbers just are unfavourable, which is that you’ve got, I think the average number of podcasts people have on their feed, on their device is six to seven, so 6.5. So people only listen to let’s say six podcasts regularly. So you think about that out of 3.5 million, this extreme competition. And you can’t win by being bigger than the next guy, but what you can do is being even more niche, you can be even more focused, even more communicative with your audience. 


Graham Brown 39:27                         

So now we’re starting to see this very, very micro nicheing of podcasts right down to the people that are building very small audiences, which is what it should be. You know, 200 people, if you went to a conference and spoke to 200 people. You think you were a rock star, but you know, people look at a podcast and say 200. Oh yeah. That’s nothing, you can get YouTube videos with millions, but this is not YouTube, right? This is a very authentic and intimate medium, and people will keep coming back. And, importantly, it’s an asset. Where else can you have a conversation that is stored forever. And that is key to building thought leadership because you have to have assets, you have to have something that’s discoverable out there. So I think it’s a really interesting time, very much at the beginning. Anybody who’s saying, anybody has a podcast now, look at the numbers. We are, I would say, to put it into context, we’re at 1998 in the internet terms, and they’re almost the numbers are the same. I think there were 3.5 million websites in 1998, 3.7 million podcasts today. Today there are 1.7 billion websites. That’s how it’s spanning. And I really feel, you know, it performs a similar purposes like websites are in a communication interface for a business. If I’m a customer, I can phone up the switchboard. I can go to the website and order. I don’t have to turn up at the store to see if it’s open, i can see. So that’s a communications interface and now podcasts are communication interfaces for the people inside those businesses. So what we haven’t experienced yet is that, you know, you’ve got one brand, but 10,000 people, that’s gonna be interesting because I feel over the next 20 years, 10 years at least, is that the number of podcasts we’re gonna see is increasing exponentially in the same way we saw websites do the same.


Surbhi Dedhia 41:32                        

Right? Just to clarify, did you mean that you have got one brand and 10,000 people within a brand like the employees who will take up podcasting medium as the communication piece?


Graham Brown 41:46                         

Yeah. You're gonna see it in stages. The old model is the pipeline, which is one brand, one story, one podcast. That’s how we started. Now, you’re saying we need, if you look at McKinsey, for example, they have like eight or nine podcasts. So they will have McKinsey, the digital team will have a podcast, you’ll have McKinsey global healthcare have a podcast etc, etc. That’s sort of the intermediary stage, which is now one brand, many teams, each team, one podcast. The future is like the real democratization of that model, which is the platform, which is, you’ve got one brand, many teams, many leaders inside those teams. So you could have a healthcare podcast inside a brand with five or six different podcasts. You know, it could be regional, it could be focusing on niches or particular applications. One could be a recruitment podcast, one could be an announcement podcast, whatever it may be. So I think that’s gonna be the next step is that I don’t think it’s unfathomable to think that a McKinsey or a large bank will have a hundred podcasts within 5 to 10 years.


Surbhi Dedhia 42:58                        

Yeah. But I think it’s an interesting insight to look at like how brands are evolving from zero to one and from one to many and depending on the size of the organisation, it could be as you just rightfully said, like it could be three podcasts within a team or even 10, depending on how large and what purpose the team solves for the brand. Is a podcast being used as an audience communication or connecting tool?


Graham Brown 43:27                         

Yeah we’ve gone from one to many, to a many to many model now which is the control part is shifting to curation if you like. You know, my role as a comms person is to curate content, not to control it. And therefore that requires a different mindset with all the guidelines, if you like. And I think they’re there for a reason, obviously you want to make sure people are on point but it’s a different model. It's like green lights and guardrails. That’s what I call them. It’s like, you know, you give your people the green light to go out and talk and give them the guardrails, the safe zone in which they can talk. They know that they can talk freely about these subjects and know that they’re not gonna be censored or they’re not gonna be, you know, in trouble for talking about something else. So just give them the guardrails in which they can talk. And this is what we want to talk about, and these are the parameters of that. So that’s one part. And regardless of how corporates are using, I really feel in the B2B space, this is all about brand authority. It’s all about thought leadership. It’s all about how do you do this 24*7. If I write a report, how do I keep that conversation going? You know, somebody reads that report and now they’re talking to my competitor the next day. You know that’s the reality. The half life of content is half of what it was a year ago and it’s just gonna get half and half and half. It’s just, you think about a LinkedIn post. You can post on LinkedIn, get thousands of likes and then two days later, you’re back to the beginning. That’s the reality. And you think that model Is deliberate. It’s the casino model of social media, which is designed such that you can’t build an asset.


Graham Brown 45:16                         

You can’t build an asset inside LinkedIn or any sort of social media really. It’s like, you don’t own it. So, that favors eyeballs and attention, and keeping you coming back and keeping you, trying to work your way back up to a thousand likes and so on. But the reality is, you know these companies know this now or are learning it and think we have to build assets. We’ve gotta build something that keeps the conversation going. Even when all our guys are asleep or in planes or in meetings. That’s the challenge that we have, that’s the many to many model that you’ve gotta keep, it’s gotta be asynchronous. It’s gotta be constantly on people’s radars.


Surbhi Dedhia 45:57                        

Yeah I’ve spoken about owned media and owned house versus rental house. And the same concept applies here with social media, as well as your own assets. So this is a really fantastic perspective. And I see what you’re seeing from the corporate side as well on how the corporates and business owners at large can actually take this up as asset building opportunity because  it is going to last a long time.


Graham Brown 46:25                         

Yeah I think of it as an asset and invest in it. Just a sort of a story to give you an idea is, you know, I used to live in Japan and I used to live in Tokyo and at one point I was down in Kyushu, which is the island of the south of Japan. And I was walking across, crossing in the street in Fukuoka, which is the biggest city there, and just walking across and somebody grabbed me by the arm whilst I was walking across the road. And it was just quite rare in Japan for somebody to do that. So something was wrong and somebody grabbed me and said, “You! You are the podcast guy.” And it was a very strange interaction. Firstly, it's podcast. They don’t really know what I look like unless they check me out. Secondly, I was thousands of kilometers away from where I lived and I didn’t, again it’s in English as well, so I didn’t expect many people to know it. And then he sort of pulled me over to the side and said, he’d been listening to my podcast and following it for 18 months.


Graham Brown 47:26                         

And this is what you get with podcasting is that one of the amazing things about it is, again, it’s like the billboard of Coke. It creates this awareness about you, that you may not be aware of yourself. When the event industry comes back, I guarantee if you’ve got a podcast, you’ll tie up to the event and people will say, yeah, I listen to it and you’ll be like, wow, I don’t even know you. And you think of the power of that. And so I would put it to all business owners and leaders out there. Think of the power of your ability to reach thousands, maybe more people and touch them in such a way that they know you before you know them. That’s the nearest we can get to cloning ethically, right? It’s putting you out there, creating conversations at scale. And I feel that everybody can do it. You know, you don’t need massive budgets and you don’t need a big idea and you don’t need thousands of people listening to your podcast, you’ll be surprised. I’m sure it probably is already happening to you or will do once we get back into the physical expo thing. But it’s happening all around us.


Surbhi Dedhia 48:31                        

Right. This is fantastic, Graham, so far. I want to know who are your role models? Who influences you? What inspires you? What keeps you going?


Graham Brown 48:42                         

So many. In the business space or just generally?


Surbhi Dedhia 48:47                        

Generally. You can talk about either, or and both.


Graham Brown 48:50                         

I got so many, I can’t give them enough credit in the time. I would say people that inspire me, I really like good storytellers, people who have used their position of fortune or privilege to good effect those people. I always respect, i’m a big fan of, in the business sphere, Steve Jobs, just because he was a master storyteller. And in art, I would say, I’m a huge fan of John Lennon for that reason. I feel that anybody that can kind of speak to bigger truths and face criticism, I think is admirable. I like those people, you know, there’s so many authors in the business space. I'm a huge fan of Seth Gordon, and those sort of pioneers, who aren’t scared of speaking to truth. You know, or speaking the truth or on a mission to find the truth. And, you know, that’s a dangerous mission because it can raise many uncomfortable questions in your own head, as well as the people around you. So anybody that does that, Martin Luther king, an amazing storyteller, again, paid the prize for speaking the truth. And I’m not really a political person, but very much, a big fan of Robert Kennedy, not John F. Kennedy but RFK, Bobby Kennedy, I think was an amazing man. Again, spoke the truth and sought truth despite who he was. And you’re not afraid to ask questions and tell stories. You know, I would advise anybody there’s an amazing video, It’s black and white and a bit old and grainy, but of Robert Kennedy’s speech on the Eve of Martin Luther King’s assassination. And so you are going back 50, 60 years now, and it’s just phenomenal. It is an impromptu speech and he gave it in a park in America and somebody just captured it on video at the time. And it could have been a speech of hate and division, which is how we live in this time, demagogues and hate speech, but it was probably one of the most powerful speeches stories ever told. And if somebody wants to see what good storytelling is and what it means to be a role model, go and have a listen to that. I think it’s on YouTube. So that would be my advice. And that gives you insights, the kind of people that inspire me.


Surbhi Dedhia 51:12                        

Super. Where can people find you?


Graham Brown 51:16                         

So just go to my website

Surbhi Dedhia 51:20                        

Okay, that’s fantastic. Thank you so much, Graham, for your time today. This conversation is really very meaningful, very insightful, and I’m sure it’s opened up a lot of our minds to look at things in a different way.


Graham Brown 51:36                         

Well, thank you. And thank you for doing what you’re doing and carrying the torch for a lot of people.


Surbhi Dedhia 51:44                        

Appreciate it. Thank you so much Graham.


Surbhi Dedhia 51:44                         

Thank you for staying until the end of this phenomenal episode. I hope you enjoyed listening to Graham and his perspective as much as I enjoyed and learned a thing or two. We also spoke about a lot of different topics across this episode. And there is something more that we spoke about, which is going to be released as a bonus episode. Thank you for listening to The Making of a Thought Leader podcast. Until the next episode, this is me Surbhi Dedhia signing off.                                                             


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About The Author Graham Brown

Graham Brown is the founder of Podcast Guesting Pro. Graham is a published author on the subject of Digital Communication and Personal Branding (Amazon titles include "Brand Love: How to Build a Brand Worth Talking About" and "Mobile Youth: Voices of the Connected Generation). He has produced, project managed and guested on over 2,000 podcast episodes.