Speak at conferences — Through applying or getting asked to speak at conferences, you will have the opportunity to be the same room as other professionals within your industry. I remember one conference, I was on a panel with two other major music industry leaders who I have looked up to for a long time. This gave me the perfect opportunity follow up with them individually to get to know them better.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Beth Perry.
Sarah Beth Perry is the Founder and CEO of With the Band, a fan engagement platform founded in 2017 that strives to develop a community for fans and artists to feel a part of something bigger than themselves.
In only 3 years, Perry has grown With the Band from an idea in her dorm room to captivating packed out arenas with her creative and collaborative fan projects and meet ups. Some of her most notable experiences include her fan engagement activations at the Jonas Brothers’ highly-anticipated HAPPINESS BEGINS TOUR and Kacey Musgraves’ OH WHAT A WORLD TOUR sold-out concert in Nashville, TN.
After winning her first pitch competition in 2017, Perry saw the opportunity she had to further pursue her dream of kickstarting With the Band.
In October of 2019, less than a year after graduating from Belmont University with a double major in Entrepreneurship and Music Business, Perry was named one of Belmont’s Top 100 Alumni Entrepreneurs.
Upon seeing her concept come to fruition, Perry was encouraged to continue exploring other fan engagement avenues. Being a fangirl herself, she realized there was an opportunity to create better relationships between an artist and their fans. With the vision to be the premiere fan engagement company, With the Band will launch a new modern day version of a fan called Fan Crews.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I actually grew up in Nashville, and always knew that I wanted to be in the music industry. I was a huge music fan, and my sister and I were the typical fangirls of the popular boy bands. During my freshman year at Belmont University, I learned about all these jobs I never knew existed within the music industry. That is when I realized fan engagement was a job. I began researching fan engagement companies and found none. I soon realized there was such a big gap in the market, and I really wanted to create a solution to help artists better engage with their fanbases. So… I created With the Band!
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
After growing up a super fan and working with artists, I realized that I wanted to improve fan engagement for both artists and the fans. I knew I would need to become a thought leader within the music industry in order to make a difference, because the industry is very slow to change internally. I think a lot of people believe that you have to be older to be a thought leader, but I have learned that if you are pounding the pavement, listening before speaking, and learning as much as you can, you can become a thought leader.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The fan activation we created at the Jonas Brothers concert at Bridgestone Arena last fall is definitely my favorite moment in my career. It was the first large campaign we created and it went way better than we ever imagined. We passed out 16,000 signs to fans that said “Thank you for coming back to us,” and each sign had instructions on the back to hold it up during the song “Comeback.” All three of the brothers on stage were crying along with half the fans in the arena. At that moment, I knew I was put on this earth to create this company.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The day after I ordered those 16,000 signs for the Jonas Brothers fan activation, I broke my foot while on a run! I stayed completely off my foot and iced it for the 4–5 days before the event, hoping that I would be able to execute well the day of the show. Even though I had a boot on my foot and was in major pain, I knew I couldn’t let it hinder me in helping create this monumental event. I learned that even when things don’t go as planned it doesn’t mean that it’s a total disaster. Challenge yourself to still put your best work out there.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
A thought leader is someone who pushes the boundaries to positively innovate while questioning old practices and processes.
A leader usually steers the ship by following past procedures, where a thought leader is having to explore potential new procedures. I believe the term “thought leader” has more significance than ever, since we are consuming all of our content through social media. A thought leader is just the business equivalent of an industry influencer. Thought leaders can help influence their industries in this huge time of disruption by helping improve diversity as well as outdated processes within their own organizations.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
At the end of the day, no matter if you are an employee or a founder, you will most likely not work at that same company for the rest of your life. Becoming a thought leader enables you as an individual to make a name for yourself and not just the company as a whole. It helps you gain leverage as not just a great company to work with, but a great person deserving of respect.
Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
By becoming a thought leader, other leaders in your industry look up to you and what new trends/technology your company is using to help solve problems. Thought leadership will help brand your business as “they know what they’re doing.” People want to work with people they trust, and if you as a thought leader have already been able to influence how individuals are thinking about current trends in the industry, then they will trust you in other areas as well.
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
- Speak at conferences — Through applying or getting asked to speak at conferences, you will have the opportunity to be the same room as other professionals within your industry. I remember one conference, I was on a panel with two other major music industry leaders who I have looked up to for a long time. This gave me the perfect opportunity follow up with them individually to get to know them better.
- Get connected with the top university students graduating from your industry’s major — Before you know it, there will be a whole new generation of people below you. Especially in today’s time where you can have success no matter your age, I recommend that you start getting in front of students who are studying to join your industry.
- Post your thoughts about new industry trends or startups on either Medium or LinkedIn, then share them — If you want to be a thought leader, you have to share your thoughts! Start by publishing blog posts where you can write about new trends, new startups, or announcements happening in your industry.
- Create content for yourself and not just for your company — At first I did not understand why I needed to create content for my company and my personal social media, then I made my first personal post about this new company launch and ended up getting three leads from friends who saw my posts. We have a tendency to underestimate our current network, and I was surprised to see how being intentional with my personal social media posts can so positively influence my business.
- Offer help — Some of the best thought leaders I know offer their expertise whenever needed. You need a quote on fan engagement? I got you. You need help figuring out what a new artist’s secret Instagram post means? I got you. Oh, you want to do a full feature post on my company? I got you. Try to always offer help before you ask for help.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.
I have an unexpected answer for this one…Rihanna. Rihanna has dramatically changed what it means to be an influential thought leader. Instead of trying to change industries (especially concerning diversity), Rhianna created new brands inside multiple industries beauty, fashion, and lingerie. Recently her lingerie line held the most diverse fashion show anyone has ever seen and included other celebrities like Lizzo, Demi Moore, Big Sean, and many more. The show was streamed through Amazon which enabled viewers to purchase the line directly on the same web page. Rhianna has continued to not only talk, but act on creating offerings for more diverse people (race, sexual orientation, size, etc.) through all of her brands.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
I do think “thought leader” has become one of the most used buzzwords, but I do feel like there is a big difference between a leader and a thought leader. With the internet and social media, leaders can now have even a bigger influence not just over their organization but over their entire industry.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Set more boundaries on when and where you work. I think most people have struggled with the adjustment of working from home, and I personally have found it way too easy to accidentally work a 12 hour day. I only allow myself to work from a desk or a table, with occasionally sitting on the couch or my back porch. I never, never, never work in my bedroom. Try to keep the work and stress out of places where you find peace.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Recently, I heard about this word sonder. According to the Dictionary of Obsecure Sorrows Sonder is “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own — populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness — an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.” I think individually we would be more kind, empathetic, and understanding if we feel deep sonder towards others.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
In Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed, she says, “We are here to fully introduce ourselves, to impose ourselves and ideas and thoughts and dreams onto the world, leaving it changed forever by who we are and what we bring forth from our depths.”Girls are taught from a young age to be helpful, sweet, and not get in the way. It wasn’t until I read this book that I realized I had been holding myself and my company back by not feeling like I had a right to impose myself, my ideas, and my thoughts onto the world.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
There are so many! I would love to talk with Sara Blakely. She humbly (and humorously) leads her company to make a difference in their customers’ lives. Sara is full of such confidence and she has been a huge inspiration to me as female CEO. Her sense of humor is also 10/10!
How can our readers follow you online?
@sarahbethperry on IG, linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahbethperry/
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.