Make new friends and have them make introductions for you-this widens your reach. I regularly receive referrals or get repeat business as you do your best work with friends.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andy Abramson.
Throughout his career, Andy Abramson has been involved in all facets of marketing communications and the digital world through his marketing services agency, Comunicano, which operates globally as an all virtual agency.
Since 2000, Andy and his company have propelled 53 company exits in the fintech, web, Internet, mobile, telecom, media, financial services, and IT infrastructure sectors, generating more than 5 billion dollars for the investors, founders, and employees via M&A or IPO. Some companies that have been acquired or went public include StubHub, GrandCentral, Telesphere, Boingo, CounterPath, GIPS, SimpleSignal, SightSpeed, Dynamicsoft, WebDialogs, HiDef Conferencing, Arcot Systems, BridgePort Networks, and Comgates. He has previously served as Senior Advisor to Counterpath, Dialpad, AT&T, Nokia, AOL, and many other companies on a global basis on matters related to the telecom industry, marketing, and communications.
More impressive than the numbers are who has done the acquiring. Google and Vonage each have acquired two, while IBM, Cisco, Nokia, Yahoo, Symantec, Logitech, Citrix, RIM and Computer Associates are some of the more recognizable names.
A pioneer in remote work and virtual team leadership, Andy Abramson also serves as the Chief Marketing Officer for Fonative, the Lowell, MA-based CPaaS company focused on compliant communications for regulated industries including healthcare, government, and financial institutions. He joined the company in May 2019. Andy guides the company in strategy and implementation of marketing, demand generation, special events, corporate communications, public relations, influencer development, social media, and reputation management. Additionally, he has held a similar role with SkySwitch, the leading white-label and channel only UCaaS provider in North America, redefining their marketing and brand initiatives and serving as Executive Producer of their annual conference, Vectors. In addition to his CMO role with Fonative, he duplicates that responsibility with Flyt Aviation. This Atlanta area startup is making it easier and less expensive to learn to fly and rent airplanes.
He rejoined the agency world after guiding sports marketing and public relations for The Upper Deck Company that followed serving within Account Management for Los Angeles based FCB/Impact. There he supervised sports marketing and sponsorship and client account management for leading brands, including Spalding and Dr. Scholls’. In addition to his work with clients, Andy has spent over 25 years in sports marketing and management in a series of executive and managerial positions with The Philadelphia Flyers, Philadelphia Wings, and Denver Nuggets and serving as General Manager of The Celebrity All-Star Hockey Team. He is credited with establishing the Flyers youth hockey and fan development program and over 25 other programs that established a future fan base for the National Hockey League team. He began his sports industry career at age 14 in the Public Relations Department of The Philadelphia Wings Pro Lacrosse Club.
An avid wine collector, accidental winemaker, and global traveler, Andy holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Temple University. He is a member of the board of directors of More Too Life, a leading anti-human trafficking organization, and is a Director Emeritus of The Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association, where he is also an honored first-ballot inductee in their Hall of Fame.
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 was selling an ad for my junior high school yearbook to the owner of a new pro sports team when I was 14. I went back to get the ad and the check and he asked if I could put up some posters in store windows in my neighborhood. I delegated that task to my mom who shopped everywhere. The I went back for more signs and the final ad copy and he asked if I could help out. One thing led to another and the PR director basically adopted me to be his assistant. I now joke that I went from stuffing tickets into envelopes to doing the same thing with news releases. Then I would hand deliver those to reporters and producers. It was the start of my career-at age 14.
As time went on I got hired two years later by the Philadelphia Flyers (at 16) and at 18 was running their future fan development program, Hockey Central, developing programs that now still exits more than 40 years after creation.
In my current life, I started to work with early stage companies at the dawn of the internet, and now we have 53 exits under our belt for over 5.5 billion dollars in real money returned to investors, founders and executives.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
Since 2003 I have used social media and the traditional media to share insight, perspective and opinion or what I call the IPO approach to storytelling. In VoIP/Telecom my writings, speaking, event moderation is based upon first knowing the business, the technology and the marketing inside and out on both b2b and b2c levels. That insider insight, allows me to communicate as a leader with a fountainhead approach to explaining to others why something matters.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One of my first jobs was working with the Philadelphia Wings Pro Lacrosse team. Our first home game ever was on the same night as the Philadelphia Flyers won their first Stanley Cup. Our players were lining up in the hallway to get into the locker room, but there was a problem. The Boston Bruins hadn’t all left yet. As the only “executive” there, I was asked to get them out of the locker room by our players. So at age 14 I did just that.
The more recent fun story, is my wine making life and how I became an accidental winemaker. It all happened one Sunday at my friends winery. A bunch of us go to play “winemaker for a day” and my wine came in first. That wine was supposed to be bottled but the winery used the “juice” by mistake for something else. So we made a different wine. That wine went into a competition in France and came out number one beating some the Rhone Valley’s best known producers. Now, 9 years later I’ve made 8 wines with one being the house red by the glass wine at a restaurant in Los Angeles.
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?
I once let my emotions cause me to replicate the behavior of one of our much older team executives. It got me kicked out of the arena for kicking a trash can. I learned never to behave like a child as an adult again.
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?
Influencers don’t need to have experience, they just need to comment on a subject. A real thought leader is a doer, and someone who has first hand expertise on the subject. A great example is doctors. Many diagnose, others form opinions, but surgeons do the work, and see first hand what’s going on. A true thought leader is both strategist and operator. Thought leaders also are not always people at the top. Often they are the ones who really are doing the work and have the experience to be able to share their insights, perspectives and opinions.
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?
Being a well positioned thought leader brings you business. It gets you recognition. It causes others to ask you questions and most of all it builds your career in positive ways.
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?
Speaking at conferences makes you the face the crowd is looking at, not a face in the crowd. Being quoted in news articles positions you as someone who has an important role in the industry. Being read, seen or heard regularly makes you a person who shapes the story, and in some cases becomes the story.
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.
- Be quoted by the media and get recognition-this leads to clients or their competition talking to you
- Speak at conferences and attract new peers-this foster your position in the market
- Make new friends and have them make introductions for you-this widens your reach. I regularly receive referrals or get repeat business as you do your best work with friends.
- Land new clients and tell their story-this makes you successful- My agency grew from one person to 30.
- Engage with your audience-this makes you needed.
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?
Well, obviously the best of all time was Steve Jobs. Today, Larry Ellison and Jeff Bezos come to mind as thought leaders as is Marc Benioff of Salesforce. When they say something the world takes notice.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
We shifted away from the term thought leader and prefer to use the phrase “Knowledge Leader” and put the does in that box as too many pundits have no hands on, operator experience and they profess to be “thought leaders.” The term is way overused, and exploited.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Always redefine who you are in 5–7 year cycles.
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. 🙂
See a resumption of an independent media. Too much is bought and paid for and that hurts society.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I coined the phrase “bet on myself” and tell others to do the same. Too often we put our future in the hands of others. By betting on yourself you control you own outcomes.
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. 🙂
Elon Musk. He’s really the only inventor of our era executing on a vision.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.