Kristin Carpenter: “Gain meaningful attention”

…80-percent of the time, give selflessly and without strings: Serve others and generate inspiration and growth with ‘free’ giving. Our podcast is a 100-percent free, very strong resource made specifically for specialty business and brand leaders. Our COVID resources? 100-percent free. All of our resource-based content is free and hand-built for our audiences/fans/followers. This gives […]

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…80-percent of the time, give selflessly and without strings: Serve others and generate inspiration and growth with ‘free’ giving. Our podcast is a 100-percent free, very strong resource made specifically for specialty business and brand leaders. Our COVID resources? 100-percent free. All of our resource-based content is free and hand-built for our audiences/fans/followers. This gives you the best currency of all — trust! When our audience needs more help, they feel good paying for that because of reciprocity. It’s sacred — you have to truly give a lot to continue to further the reciprocity with your audience, but know that it lends so much to your brand, and that is trust.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristin Carpenter. She founded Verde Brand Communications after a decade-long journalism career, working on staff for major consumer lifestyle magazines, business and trade titles. Kristin also founded Verde’s podcast, Channel Mastery, which was voted best Outdoor Podcast by SNEWS in 2019.

The Channel Mastery podcast launched in 2017. Every week, specialty business and brand leaders tune in to Channel Mastery to understand, serve and nurture today’s evolving consumer. The show covers consumer trends and what channels they like to use to connect, engage with and buy from their favorite brands.

In May 2020, Kristin and the Verde team launched the agency’s first digital product, the Multi-Channel Marketing Academy, an eight-week course that teaches marketing professionals in the specialty markets how to serve and sell to their target consumers across multiple channels. Enrollment for the course will open again in August 2020.

In her free time, you can find Kristin chasing her kids around the mountains and desert at her home in Durango, Colorado.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Kristin! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I like to say I majored in raft guiding at U.C. Davis, because that’s where I discovered my people — the community of the outdoors. I knew upon getting ingrained in this community that my purpose in my vocation would be to further the great outdoor recreation economy and enable more people to experience it.

I founded Verde Brand Communications from a decade-long stint as a journalist working in the active outdoor lifestyle markets. I worked for broad and endemic titles. I decided to go ‘to the dark side’ as they said back then, because I was pregnant with our first child and knew it would be impossible for me to continue to fly all over the world to cover outdoor news, gear and business. I also felt strongly that more of an experiential approach to public relations was needed in the communities and markets I had grown up in, so that is exactly what I launched in Verde.

Experiential storytelling is our DNA and we are tasked to help our clients create the best experiences through story possible for their exact target audiences. While the bridges on how we offer that experience keep evolving, the power of the story remains both a discovery and demand driver, especially when it’s humanized and spun through brand narrative. The brands have an incredible reach and impact, we like to work with them to use that for positive change.

The consumer also continues to rapidly evolve, especially during COVID-19 and all that is unfolding in 2020. We are closer to our clients and media friends than we ever have been through offering the resources and content we have to help all of us evolve our businesses to meet and exceed the demands of today’s consumer.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

For the past three decades, I’ve helped publishing entities educate audiences and through Verde specifically, we’ve empowered brands to do the same. In the past three years, through the launch of our podcast, Channel Mastery, we’ve become a publishing entity in and of ourselves. The former journalist in me just won’t die, I think. … When the ‘retail apocalypse’ headlines started to really take hold at that time, we did not have resources or insights to offer to our incredible clients to support them. They needed to evolve their businesses and we wanted to create a blueprint for them to do just that, which is why we invest in our podcast.

During COVID, so many incredible brands in the outdoor rec markets pivoted their manufacturing to produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). At Verde, we couldn’t do that obviously, so we pivoted to produce content, resources and a proven framework for all specialty brands to communicate in the most effective way possible to their internal and external audiences. This was very well received and to be honest, knowing we were making a positive impact really helped the team at Verde continue to double down and work harder than we ever have to help our clients navigate the continual large shifts in their businesses caused by the incredible changes in the consumer. Those changes are going to be lasting in many cases — and we’ve now committed to a new path forward through our offerings to continue to guide the amazing communities that we serve.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

There are SO many, I think that is due to the nature of what we do at Verde (the types of clients we serve). Meaning, our founding client is an independently-owned climbing hard goods innovator, Metolius Climbing. Our internal and external stakeholders can be found at every possible moment enjoying the outdoors — whether that’s on a trail, on a rock or on the water.

Hands down the most memorable and interesting moment happened just last year in Leadville, Colorado. In 2018, my Dad died of Lymphoma, and my families (of origin and at Verde) were incredibly supportive of a fundraising (and healing) effort that I undertook with my brother John. I committed to riding the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, and had never done anything like that before, nor had my brother (who is basically a Ph.D. in football tailgating, and lives in Houston). We raised almost 9,000 dollars for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in 2018’s event, but I did not finish. At that event, a handful of my employees joined my family to crew for me — some traveled from many states away to be there. It was unforgettable!

In 2019 my brother and I knew I had to try again and finish, and that’s exactly what we did. I had multiple employees at the finish line cheering for me, along with 11 people from my family. My 13-year-old daughter ran out of the crowd and crossed the finish line with me. It was incredible. Just writing about that makes me super emotional, it was one of the best experiences of my life. I used a lot of our clients’ products both preparing for and doing the event, and we ended up signing Life Time, the incredible parent company of the Leadville 100 and other iconic events, as a client.

I know that Leadville further solidified the culture of our company at Verde — we are all about getting outdoors and getting after it and our love for being out there, pushing ourselves, supporting each other doing just that — it’s created a special place to work together and I believe our communities that we serve tap into that authenticity as well.

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 love this question. … There are countless as I believe in failing forward and have always strived to have that be a North Star at Verde (otherwise you can’t innovate).

Going back to the experiential nature of what we do at Verde, our first year, we held our trade show line presentations outside of the trade show. For the female media, we held a fancy pedicure party at a five-star hotel. Our media relaxed in lounge chairs poolside as our team presented product. For the male media? We booked a back room at Hooters in Salt Lake City. … I kid you not. We invited and had RSVP’s from 12 media. We ended up getting over 30 media and every single client on our roster at the time brought multiple people to the event. I can’t say this was a mistake because it was obviously a great traction builder. What I can say is that I would NEVER in a million years segment presentations like that, or choose to offer a line presentation at Hooters today. Just the connotation alone would feel uncomfortable to me, let alone everyone else in our sphere! But we did it, and it was something people talked about for a long time. That was a good and a bad thing…

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 a person who is pulling from a well of unique experience to help others create the lasting change and expansion they want to see in their own lives and businesses. I’m not sure what you mean by a ‘typical’ leader, but I’m assuming that you mean someone who is leading an organization in house, in which case, that leader would be working to further a mission and vision through a specific approach to their company. A thought leader invests in helping a wider community and uses a platform that’s being continually built for that purpose, to do so.

That’s what I consider our resource-based content to be at Verde, and I am the main person delivering it, so I’m the thought leader, I suppose, representing how we serve and what we do at Verde. I believe a thought leader is closer to the role of an influencer in that the audience following a thought leader can be influenced by approaches, tactics or services/products that are recommended. We do not take ad dollars for our content, so we are similar to non-monetized influencers.

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?

I personally get out of bed every morning to serve our communities through Verde, that’s always how I’ve been — very service-minded. The benefits of being a thought leader for me are intrinsic. For example, during COVID I know many of us felt hopeless and sometimes helpless. The very second we committed to giving back through our thought leadership, was the very second we locked back into our reason for being: to use our reach, the reach of our clients and the reach of our media for positive change. I literally feel that when I start my work every single day at Verde, that I am here to help very dear people evolve through a scary time, by helping them connect with and serve their people and grow their businesses to serve more people. There is nothing more important to invest in than a North Star for your organization and serving others and inviting more people into the outdoor community is our reason for being. Thought leadership is a key way to actively commit to that. We also know that once a person falls in love with the outdoors, they’re committed to protecting it.

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?

In the past three years, Verde’s Channel Mastery podcast has brought a lot of new business opportunities our way. It’s also brought exposure opportunities (speaking and panels pre- and in COVID), and business expansion opportunities. For example, we launched our first digital product, the Multi-Channel Marketing Academy, in May of this year, as a COVID pivot. We were readying for a launch later this year but moved that way up to help people going through COVID who were committed to modernizing their businesses through the incredible changes we are experiencing in our lives. Thought leadership helps a leader and an entire organization serve more — it’s a leveraged tool in that way. Building a platform is key for this, obviously, and for our thought leadership, we know that the more specialty brand and business leaders we can serve, the bigger the growth opportunities become for business expansion through consumer participation and discovery.

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.

1 — Creatively engage with your organization’s mission, or your personal mission, and spend time considering what channels and what type of content and resources would be best for your audience. Get specific — as in niche-ing until it hurts.

2 — Invest in building a one-of-a-kind platform through your experience and knowledge — by what only you can offer through your experience. This is how you can truly impact the right people. Trying to be remarkable to too many people dilutes and weakens your ability to help anyone.

3–80-percent of the time, give selflessly and without strings: Serve others and generate inspiration and growth with ‘free’ giving. Our podcast is a 100-percent free, very strong resource made specifically for specialty business and brand leaders. Our COVID resources? 100-percent free. All of our resource-based content is free and hand-built for our audiences/fans/followers. This gives you the best currency of all — trust! When our audience needs more help, they feel good paying for that because of reciprocity. It’s sacred — you have to truly give a lot to continue to further the reciprocity with your audience, but know that it lends so much to your brand, and that is trust.

4 — Gain meaningful attention. This is what we do at Verde, and it could be a book in and of itself. Depending on what you’re offering in your thought leadership and who you are serving, you should be striving for visibility to more of the like-minded audience you serve. This can be done through PR, social media and joint-venture content and services, etc. with non-competitive brands that serve a similar audience.

5 — Study what’s working and resonating with your audience and continue to offer more of that, and less of what’s not working. We call this “jockeying” — there is no such thing as ‘set and forget’ anymore.

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.

There are many, but to me, Maya Angelou is hands-down the best. The reason is very simple: she had an incredible amount of courage in speaking her truth. In doing so, she helped millions of people who absolutely NEEDED to hear her message and also, connect with her as a messenger. Many of these people did not feel their voices were worth being heard. …

I was one of those. She gave me a sense of permission to use my voice to support and help others through her life’s work. I know that she did that for millions of others. She did this before social media really hit, and now her work and message is socialized, which brought a 10-fold power to who she is helping and reaching. I am here to offer help and a message to a specific audience as well — if I play small, the people who need to hear it to create expansion in their own lives and for others will miss out. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to continue to serve!

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

The premise is ancient and as such, it will always be relevant. I believe that no matter what it’s called, when you deploy your message or take consistent action that’s intended to bring support, inspiration and to call others to step up and create their own expansion for others to see and emulate, you’re fulfilling a personal mission in this life. In that way, it doesn’t matter what it’s called, keep showing up and serving.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Establish a process for, and commit to, caretaking your audience. Every single person who you resonate with is a real person — not just an email or a social fan or follower. As such, they deserve to be shown gratitude and they deserve to be taken care of. One of the best ways to do that is to connect with them personally and listen.

Direct messaging via social media can be great in this way, as can personalized follow up via email. Feedback loops are incredible for keeping you on the sharp end — leading — through thought leadership. All it takes is learning how you’re helping others, and burnout dissolves. Inviting people to connect with you, surveying them or just going old-school and meeting them in person or on a call will go a LONG way for you to know what’s working and what isn’t, and also, to learn specifically how you’re helping others.

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. 🙂

I’m an entrepreneur and because of that, it can be tough for me to choose just one movement, to be honest… But if I had to choose one right now?I would choose to create a movement where ALL organizations, brands and enthusiasts in the outdoor recreation communities would come together and commit to using their impact and reach to invite more people into the community of outdoor, while concurrently, making it safe for ALL people to enjoy our incredible public lands and natural landscapes legacy in America together.

Inviting more people to experience the unique wellness and perspective of enjoying the outdoors will improve humanity, in my opinion. It will also inspire more people to protect these sacred, beautiful places for more to enjoy. We have a lot of work to do on this front, but if we all came together — for- and non-profit, government, media, and individuals of all ages, races and backgrounds, I believe the positive impact of spending time and connecting to the outdoors would change the very challenging paradigms we’re experiencing in our lives today.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade. When Life Gives You a Fine Malted Barley, Throw a Party. This was literally my senior quote in my yearbook, I kid you not! I think this is attributed to Dale Carnegie.

We must accept reality and make the best of it. When we fight reality, we lose (but only 100-percent of the time {Byron Katie}). When we embrace it, we can create incredible, far-reaching, positive impact.

I also have this tattooed on me (literally): Cerca la tua fortuna (which means “find your luck” in Italian).

Nothing ever just comes to you — you have to go find it, cultivate it, further it, share it — proactively!

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. Never have I seen an entrepreneur go bigger in life and work to create positive change through enterprise. I am incredibly inspired by Elon Musk and whenever I feel like I don’t have time to do something, or feel anything close to burn out, I think of all of the incredible energy and vision he has and the positive impact he continues to generate. He is otherworldly, really.

How can our readers follow you online?


Instagram: @kc.carpediem

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

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