It’s very difficult to build a reputation in your area of expertise (and ultimately generate more business) if people don’t know who you are. The more people are aware of you, the more opportunities come your way. That could be through building a social media following, attracting a collaboration with another business or being asked to speak publicly about what you know. Even if a thought leadership opportunity such as writing an article or being featured on a podcast doesn’t directly generate income, they are opening doors to building relationships that could eventually grow into a client or customer.
I had the pleasure to interview Jessica L. Mazzeo and Emily Griesing. Jessica is co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Griesing Law, LLC, a full-service business law firm headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. Jessica focuses on overseeing and implementing all of the Firm’s business operations while establishing policies that promote and retain the Firm’s culture and strategic vision. In addition to her role at the Firm, Jessica is co-founder of Bossible and GriesingMazzeo Leadership, a company that focuses on diversity and inclusion, bullying and bias elimination training. Jessica writes a quarterly column for The Legal Intelligencer on issues surrounding law firm management. She is Vice-Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Association of Legal Administrators, a staff volunteer for the National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms and a volunteer for the Women’s Business Enterprise Council East. Jessica is also currently pursuing her law degree at Widener University Delaware School of Law.
Emily Griesing is the Chief Strategy Officer at Bossible, a marketing and business development consultancy that helps entrepreneurs, professionals and small businesses build and execute marketing plans that help them grow as thought leaders and gain exposure in their industries. Emily is also the Marketing Manager at Griesing Law, LLC where she promotes the capabilities of the Firm and the team of attorneys through various marketing and business development efforts including speaking and writing engagements, RFP submissions, event partnerships, award nomination, social media management, and newsletter production. Prior to that, Emily worked at three market research firms where she consulted Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations on how to solve their business challenges and expand their offerings. Emily writes and speaks on topics related to marketing strategy, corporate culture and entrepreneurship for business and legal outlets including The National Association of Women Business Owners (“NAWBO”), Women-Owned Law (“WOL”), Philadelphia Business Journal, The Legal Intelligencer, and Strategies, the journal of the Legal Marketing Association (“LMA”).
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?
Jessica: I started working at law firms before I even graduated high school and held a variety of positions. In 2007, I met Fran Griesing and in 2010, Fran and I opened the doors of Griesing Law, LLC, a full- service business law firm. I currently serve as the firm’s Chief Operating Officer. As the firm started to grow and gain recognition, we started noticing an increasing amount of professionals and business owners coming to us for all sorts of business advice related to how we achieved our success with Griesing Law. That’s where the idea for Bossible was born and in April 2016, we formed Bossible.
Emily: I met Jessica when she started working with Fran (my mom) when I was still in high school. I later watched the two of them launch and grow Griesing Law in those first five years of business while I spent my early post-college years working at agencies doing strategy and marketing research for Fortune 500 brands and large non-profit organizations. I reached a point in agency life where I sought more autonomy in my work and wanted to make a greater impact on what I did day today. I had been cheerleading what my mom and Jessica had built for years and realized that I caught the bug to create something myself as well. If I could be a strategic partner to the world’s biggest brands, then I could certainly do it for entrepreneurs and small businesses, right? So in mid-2016, I quit my job at an agency in New York and joined Bossible to serve entrepreneurs, professionals and small businesses who were looking to build their brands and reputations — much like Griesing Law has (and continues) to do.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
Jessica: I try to live by example. I devote a considerable amount of my time and energy to writing and speaking on topics that I have a deep knowledge of and that are of importance to me. I also try to share my thoughts with others every day in less formal ways such as over coffee or lunch.
Emily: To mirror Jess, we lead by example. The individual areas of expertise that we have — law firm management and business development for Jess, and marketing and strategy for me — we believe should be shared. At Bossible, we help our clients build and execute marketing plans that amplify them as thought leaders in their industries (whatever they happen to be), while also practicing those same principals ourselves through the speaking and writing that we do as well as sharing advice and tips from our own experience when people ask.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Jessica: The most important moment in my professional career was in late 2006 when I had been looking to transition out of the legal field. In January 2007, I was approached by a recruiter with a client who wanted to hire me for a position at an international law firm. I turned them down because I was intent on leaving the legal industry. In March 2007, when I still had no luck finding a new position, that same firm came back to my recruiter and again requested that I come to interview for another position they were looking to fill. I decided to go to the interview. That is the day that I met Fran Griesing, who is now my business partner and close friend/mentor. That first meeting changed both of our lives and in fact, we can both still remember exactly what the other was wearing that day!
Emily: The most interesting moment in my career thus far is when I realized that I had transitioned from being someone junior who observed others and followed their lead to someone who others seek advice from and listen to. I started on Bossible when I was only 26, which can seem very young when your goal is to work with seasoned entrepreneurs and professionals. However, I had come out of an agency where I specifically studied the traits of Millennials and Gen Zs who everyone was talking about at the time, specifically how they were shifting the marketing landscape and way we do business (spoiler alert: we have!). So when my early clients (many of which happened to be much older than me) started saying to things like, “I trust you” and “Do what you think is best”, that’s how I knew I had transitioned over into my sweet spot career-wise.
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?
Jessica: I can’t think of a funny story but I have somewhat the opposite — a nerve-racking story! First, I’ll start with the lesson learned — always be prepared. In 2012, I was presenting at one of my first conferences on the topic of legal marketing. At that time, I was handling all the marketing for our firm and I could have a conversation on the topic without thinking and routinely gave substance advice to others. But I didn’t prepare for that presentation as much as I should have. The result? I got stumped on some easy questions from the audience! While I was able to answer the question, it wasn’t without some long uncomfortable pauses!
Emily: A common problem for people starting out and especially young women are saying yes to everything. When I first started pitching prospective clients for Bossible, I was so eager to work with people and help them with their marketing that I was willing to take on any project, regardless of whether the scope was right for me. For example, I took on a website design project (when I have no design experience) and enlisted a contractor to help me implement it while I created the copy and content structure. When the relationship with the contractor went sour, I was stuck trying to design a website, which I did not have the skillset to do (at least at the level that I would have wanted). Moral of the story, don’t overpromise and under deliver — and sometimes all that takes is saying no from the outset.
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?
Jessica: While someone can be an influencer in many areas, to me, a thought leader is someone who exhibits passion and a deep knowledge of a particular area, and who expresses that passion and understanding through various public channels such as social media, speaking or writing so much so that others think of them when those topics arise.
Emily: Another element I want to add that makes you a thought leader is having an impact component. The sharing of knowledge and information for some greater good is truly what makes someone a thought leader in my eyes. They are individuals who are admired for their expertise but also for bringing their expertise to a wide audience who can benefit from it.
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?
Jessica: Becoming a thought leader isn’t for everyone. First, you can be passionate and knowledgeable about certain topics but decide not to share that. I wanted to take my passion and knowledge and share that with others. Like any good plan or idea, you need to invest your resources — whether mentally or financially — into it in order to become known.
Emily: We need more prominent voices in the conversation as many of the same audiences keep being amplified over and over again. Now, with social media and so many other digital avenues at our disposal, new perspectives and stories can be shared more than ever before. If you have an area of focus that can help and educate others, it is personally fulfilling and also culturally beneficial to share that message.
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?
Jessica: People want to hire and work with other people who they know are knowledgeable about what they do. Becoming known for you a specific area can help you not only get hired by more potential clients or customers but it can also help attract higher quality employees to you as well.
Emily: It’s very difficult to build a reputation in your area of expertise (and ultimately generate more business) if people don’t know who you are. The more people are aware of you, the more opportunities come your way. That could be through building a social media following, attracting a collaboration with another business or being asked to speak publically about what you know. Even if a thought leadership opportunity such as writing an article or being featured on a podcast doesn’t directly generate income, they are opening doors to building relationships that could eventually grow into a client or customer.
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.
- Identify your areas of expertise. Your knowledge may expand beyond your specific industry so it’s important to think outside the box. You can also ask people in your network who you respect what they think of when they think of you and your work which can be illuminating. For us, we know that marketing and strategy are part of Bossible’s identity and what we are known for, however, we are also a women-owned business and have become a resource for other women entrepreneurs who turn to us for advice in that area. This was not necessarily intentional, but now is an area of expertise that we identify with and try to contribute to.
- Establish your voice and share it. As the saying goes, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it even make a sound?” You may have a unique bed of information, but it must be shared in order to educate others and make a broader impact. Be proactive about conveying your message through writing articles, doing speaking engagements and joining organizations that are respected within your industry. If you’re just starting off, putting together a blog which you contribute to consistently is an effective way to disperse your message and begin to build a following.
- Don’t be afraid to self promote. Learning how to speak confidently about your accomplishments can take some getting used to. However, utilizing the people you know and meet to talk up what you do and share your message is invaluable in building your brand and reputation. Social media is ubiquitous for any thought leader as you are able to stay connected with those you meet, blast your message out to a wider audience and interact with new contacts and organizations that are relevant to your field. If you aren’t comfortable using these platforms, bring in support to help you navigate the digital space to build momentum.
- Pay it forward. Give thanks to your teachers and mentors, and acknowledge those coming up behind you. A key to thought leadership is setting an example for others and a large part of that is giving credit where credit is due. Use your influence to shine light on others who have taught or shaped you along the way, and promote information and resources from other sources that could be beneficial to your audience. The more information is exchanged, the more we all benefit.
- Act with integrity and humility. Be truthful about your experience and expertise but also acknowledge your trials and tribulations as well as the areas that you don’t know well. There is nothing wrong with celebrating your efforts and successes; however, it is just as valuable to disclose your mistakes and areas for improvement. Being authentic about who you are and where you’ve come from is what will resonate most and offer the greatest lessons to others.
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.
Emily: Adam Grant epitomizes thought leadership. He is an expert in organizational psychology (with the credentials to back it up), he shares his knowledge and learnings through a variety of outlets from books to blogs to speaking so he can engage as many people as possible, and his expertise is intended to help others by offering research and advice on how to build engaging and meaningful workplaces.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
Jessica: Terminology changes every day and I find it of little importance on what we are “calling” something today. It’s about what is behind the words/phrases that matter.
Emily: Just because a term has become commonplace doesn’t make it “trite”. If the term “thought leadership” helps others understand who we are and what we are trying to do that is a good thing. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways to describe building and sharing expertise for the common good. Our terminology is constantly evolving and there is nothing wrong with that. One thing builds upon another.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Jessica: Me Time! You need to take care of yourself and whether that be on a beach, at a spa or at home with your family, you need to take time for yourself. Also, your definition of Me Time might not be the same as someone else’s. I love to travel the world, and while my laptop comes with me everywhere I go, I find enough time to unplug from my professional obligations and be present in the moment. We work so hard every day and if we don’t take a moment for ourselves — even a 40 second behind the door eyes closed deep breathing exercise — we will burnout.
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. 🙂
Jessica: Random acts of kindness! Do things for people not because of press or notoriety, but because it makes you feel good about yourself knowing that you have lent a helping hand to someone, no matter how big or small.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A rising tide lifts all boats. — John F. Kennedy
Emily: We are all on this earth together, and when we collaborate and support one another, then we all benefit. When we are only out for ourselves, the greater community suffers.
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. 🙂
Jessica: There are so many to choose from, especially so many inspiring and talented women, but if it comes down to one, it would have to be Michelle Obama.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Twitter: @itsbossible & @jess_maze_ Facebook: @itsbossible