Michael Mejer: “Actively tell that narrative”

Actively tell that narrative. If you aren’t actively participating in earned media opportunities, you run the risk of being at the mercy of others telling your brand’s narrative. This can lead to the market not fully understanding your brand, what you stand for, and what you do. Take accountability for your brand narrative and commit […]

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Actively tell that narrative. If you aren’t actively participating in earned media opportunities, you run the risk of being at the mercy of others telling your brand’s narrative. This can lead to the market not fully understanding your brand, what you stand for, and what you do. Take accountability for your brand narrative and commit to jumping on podcasts, writing blogs, doing interviews and Q&As for blogs and publications that tell your brand’s narrative, establish credibility, and amplify your reach.

As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Mejer.

The culmination of years in publicity, marketing, and sales has led Michael Mejer to connect leaders within the cannabis space to media and press opportunities. Mejer’s cannabis-focused PR firm, Green Lane Communication connects industry leaders to earned media opportunities that position them to establish credibility and successfully penetrate one of the fastest-growing verticals in today’s marketplace. Michael is also a contributor for Green Entrepreneur.

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 began my career in book publishing. I was working for a boutique public relations and marketing agency where we helped non-fiction business book authors earn media coverage in an effort to publicize their upcoming books. After discovering the healing properties of cannabis, researching how it interacts with individuals at physiological levels, and seeing cannabis give so many their quality of life back, I knew the cannabis industry was something I needed to be a part of. Fast forward to 2020, I’m the founder of Green Lane Communication, a cannabis-focused public relations firm that connects cannabis leaders and brands to media and press opportunities to amplify brand awareness, build trust, and establish credibility in one of the fastest-growing industries today.

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

I’m very fortunate to have been surrounded by dozens of thought leaders since I began my career in public relations back in 2011. Since then, I’ve worked with established C-suite leaders, founders, and high-level consultants who leverage thought leadership to grow their businesses in a plethora of ways. Some leverage thought leadership to accelerate business development, others use it to generate revenue (both directly and indirectly), and so the culmination of all those experiences gives me a unique vantage point when it comes to developing thought leadership and implementing it into any given business to make a greater impact.

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

It’s a blessing to be able to work with some of the finest thought leaders in the areas of cannabis, business, marketing, leadership, sales, innovation, and self-help. It wasn’t until about two years ago that I realized that because I get to work with professionals who charge tens of thousands, and sometimes even hundreds of thousands of dollars per engagement (consulting, coaching, public speaking, etc…), I’ve developed one of the best careers I could’ve ever dreamed of as someone who is always eager to learn from the best to ever do it.

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 attended a conference last year where I introduced myself to someone who I had just met for the first time. We sat down, had a conversation about what we do, who we serve, and we even exchanged a few industry-related stories. After about a half-hour into a great conversation, the individual realized I wasn’t who they thought I was. They thought I was someone they connected with over the phone a few weeks prior who had a similar name to mine and sounded just like me. Long-story-short, we both began cracking up and laughing hysterically. The takeaway I had from that was, you can’t take life too seriously, and even in business, we all make mistakes. As long as you have a good attitude and make a good first impression, a small mistake won’t hurt your chances of building bridges and doing business with new faces.

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 has an abundance of knowledge on a particular subject matter that stems from the first-hand experience. When you combine experience and knowledge, you’re usually in a uniquely qualified position to offer a valuable vantage point that most people can’t experience first-hand. With that said, when you’re able to thoughtfully add to a conversation surrounding a particular subject matter, leveraging what makes you uniquely qualified to address the matter, you’re going to be viewed as a thought leader.

The biggest difference between a thought leader and an influencer in today’s world is that generic influencers run the risk of becoming commoditized. Whereas thought leaders are continuously positioning themselves as uniquely qualified subject matter experts who have the experience, expertise, and wisdom to add to a particular conversation. When you aren’t able to pinpoint what makes you different from the self-proclaimed thought leaders out there, you run the risk of commoditization and just being dubbed an “influencer.”

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?

We can all go to Facebook, Instagram, Google, and other digital advertising platforms and outbid each other to rank higher. Eventually, that game just isn’t profitable. With thought leadership, you’re amplifying brand awareness, establishing trust, and building credibility to become the go-to expert in your niche.

Leveraging thought leadership means that you’ve identified your client avatars, made a list of their pain-points, and have nailed down what makes you uniquely qualified to help them solve those problems and add your two cents to that conversation. After this is all done, you can confidently hit the ground running to produce content that directly addresses your target audience and effectively communicates to them who you are, what you do, and why you do it.

The beautiful thing about thought leadership is that it gives entrepreneurs who can’t necessarily go up against a billion-dollar brand on Google AdWords or Facebook an opportunity to play at that same, higher level.

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?

Thought leadership comes in so many different forms. I’ve seen thought leadership take form in the following: Books, Podcasts, Earned Media, Owned Media, Courses, Events, and Public Speaking. When thought leadership is strategically executed, lucrative business opportunities such as paid speaking gigs, book deals, invitations to be on a board of directors, and many more like this present themselves. For me and my clients, thought leadership incorporated into their public relations efforts result in amplified brand awareness and stronger credibility which leads to net new clients, more revenue, new funding dollars from third parties, better company culture, and so much more. I always say creativity follows commitment. Once you commit to thought leadership, you’ll see new opportunities to leverage your work every single day.

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.

Develop a real-life experience. The number of self-proclaimed thought leaders and gurus out there that have no real-life experience related to what they talk about is astonishing. Make sure you put in the work and don’t rush the process. Thought leadership is not something that one develops overnight. Put in the work, and don’t cut corners. Your thought leadership leads to more business than you could’ve imagined, and people will have much more respect for you and your craft.

Build and maintain a robust Rolodex. It’s not only about who you know, but it’s also about who knows you. Don’t judge a book by its cover and be sure to introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Make friends, build bridges, create strategic alliances, and don’t hesitate to collaborate with others. Not only will you be able to get to where you’re trying to go more efficiently if you do it with a team, but it’s also way more fun than doing it alone.

Document your impact on people and companies. It’s easy to come out and claim to be an expert. With that said, people who are looking for someone to go to for information and thought leaders want to go to someone who can back-up their claims and perspective. Journal milestones, keep track of achievements and use data points to quantify the success of your efforts related to what you want to become a thought leader about. This will make the credibility building process go much smoother.

Create your brand narrative. Humans are storytelling creatures. We all love a good story. So, when you’re trying to communicate and illustrate a scenario to your target audience, use a story to communicate your message as effectively as possible. Before you start writing blogs, recording podcasts, and investing time, energy, and resources into promoting your thought leadership, you need to identify your brand’s narrative to maximize the ROI of your efforts.

Actively tell that narrative. If you aren’t actively participating in earned media opportunities, you run the risk of being at the mercy of others telling your brand’s narrative. This can lead to the market not fully understanding your brand, what you stand for, and what you do. Take accountability for your brand narrative and commit to jumping on podcasts, writing blogs, doing interviews and Q&As for blogs and publications that tell your brand’s narrative, establish credibility, and amplify your reach.

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.

Gary Vaynerchuk has done a fantastic job of leveraging thought leadership into a tool that’s helped him secure six-figure speaking deals, successfully sell books, and grow his social media marketing agency, Vayner Media, into one of the most successful agencies in today’s digitally dominated times.

What impresses me most about Gary and his thought leadership is that Gary has never claimed to be an expert, guru, or thought leader in order to achieve that status. That status is for the market to decide. Ever since social media marketing has picked up steam, the market has done nothing but defer to him for his vantage point on how and where to market in this social media — first world.

Some of the things we can all learn from Gary is that he:

  • Sticks to what he knows
  • Goes all-in on what he knows he’s an expert on
  • Is open about his journey to where he is now
  • Is well-connected in many verticals because he’s a master at relationship building

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

I agree. I don’t think the terms “thought leader” or “guru” should ever be used in one’s marketing material. This status level of expertise should be for the market, or for one’s audience to decide. — not for the individual creating the content. Your work should do all the talking for you if you’re truly the thought leader you portray to be.

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

Recognize when you need a moment to rest and recharge. If you need to take a weekend to rest and recharge in order to perform at your best on Monday through Friday, then take that time off. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s part of the process. Now that I personally take more time to rest and avoid burnout, I find myself being much more creative with my work and I think my team and clients appreciate that.

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. 🙂

If something is worth doing once, do it every day. This can be applied to health and wellness, business, and life in general. If working out and being active is worth doing three times a week, then it will most definitely benefit you to be active and exercise every day. You don’t have to hit the gym for three hours each day, but you should consider going for a morning walk every day at the very least.

Do you find writing in a journal on the weekends help stimulate your creative juices for blog post writing? Great! Make a commitment to write for at least 15 minutes each day. You don’t need to go above and beyond, but you’d be amazed at what happens when you commit to consistently taking actions that make you just 1% better each day.

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

“Learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Brian Basile, serial entrepreneur, once shared this with me while I was getting a haircut at his famous barber shop, Strong Island Styles. He told me that if I could continue to lean into new levels of discomfort, that I’d soon find comfort in the unknown, and that growth would be inevitable for me personally and professionally. Brian, if you’re reading this, thank you.

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. 🙂

I’m going to put the law of attraction to use here and put one of my wishes out into the universe right now. Berner, Founder of the Cookies cannabis brand, rapper, and marketing machine: I’d love to have a lunch of breakfast with him. Why him? Well, he’s accomplished a lot in his lifetime and if there’s anyone I’d like to soak up some wisdom from, it’d be him. He’s gone through tremendous ups and downs on his journey to success. It’s only power-players that have ups and downs that I want to learn from. Otherwise, if you don’t experience any downs, were you really trying hard enough?

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m super accessible on LinkedIn, so I encourage everyone to connect with me on here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelmejer/

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

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