Begin writing and whatever you do post or publish should also be promoted on social media with appropriate hashtags.
Content should not be overly promotional. It is not about you and your company; it is about the audience.
Make sure the publication for which you are writing has the appropriate audience for your message.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Rodrigues.
Nicole Rodrigues is not your typical CEO. She’s a powerhouse founder of two companies, NRPR Group and the Young Dreamers Foundation, as well as the host of the YouTube show, Beverly Hills Boss, and author of Beverly Hills Boss the book. And yes, Nicole does all of this all while being a great mom.
She’s an award-winning, well-rounded public relations and marketing pro. Her extensive knowledge in bridging the gap between technology and various consumer industries makes her extremely valuable to her team and clients. Nicole is committed to mentoring junior staff, bringing efficiency to agency programs, attracting new business prospects, and developing strategic campaigns for existing clients. She has more than 20 years of experience in PR, social media, and digital marketing. Clients that have benefited from her counsel and skill include Heal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Dialpad, Dolby, Yahoo!, MOBITV, Sony Playstation, Plantronics, Hulu, YouTube, M-GO, Toon Hero, Demand Media (now Leaf Group), and other dominant companies.
Nicole prides herself in leading multi-practice digital teams at Bender/Helper Impact, Miller PR, Demand Media, and Voce Communications, prior to starting her firm. Her career also includes managing an international PR team at MOBITV — one of the pioneer solutions for digital & mobile entertainment delivery in the US. She also had a 3+ year stint with the Oakland Raiders, managing player development campaigns and publicity projects for the team and cheering for the team as a Raiderette.
She’s the creator and personality behind “PRactical Guide to Publicity,” an award-winning video series aimed at helping CEOs, CMOs and others understand the true benefits of utilizing PR and digital marketing.
She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations from San Jose State University and is an Executive MBA student at UCLA Anderson School of Management, class of 2022.
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’m a California girl, born and raised. My hometown, Fremont, was where I grew up as the oldest of nine children. I was the first in the family to graduate college and worked hard in high school to earn scholarships and attended San Jose State University. I held three jobs during college to pay for my education. My first professional job was in public relations at an enterprise software company. After a few years, I decided to leave tech to take my dream job of working with the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders, starting as an intern and moving into a paid position as Player Development Coordinator, training the football players on how to speak with the media and writing for the game-day magazine and website. There, I learned consumer, sports, and entertainment PR strategy. I also cheered for the team as a Raiderette. After that, I held a few other positions including an in-house PR manager role at MOBITV, and senior PR manager at Voce Communications until recruited by Demand Media as a director of consumer marketing. I served as VP of digital entertainment at Bender/Helper. At each of these jobs, I focused on learning as much as I could from my managers who were experts in the field. In 2014 when I felt ready, I left Bender/Helper to start NRPR Group. One of NRPR Group’s clients is MOBITV, which is recognition of the relationship I built with them as they mentored me, and I grew to become a competent, trusted advisor in return.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
Thought leadership has always been a primary arrow in my quiver of PR tools. It is a win/win, which enables clients to provide expert content and gain publicity unrelated to a specific press release. I have been working in PR for 20 years and learned a long time ago that companies need to do more than talk about how great they and their products are. I have always used thought leadership as part of an integrated communications strategy that includes blog posts, industry commentary, and case studies along with press releases, media interviews and press releases. Throughout my PR tenure, I advised and counseled clients including Sony Pictures Entertainment, Dialpad, Dolby, Yahoo!, MOBITV, Paige, Heal, Sony PlayStation, Plantronics, Hulu, YouTube, and M-GO. I know how effective thought leadership can be in helping clients to differentiate themselves from others, gain visibility for executives, and rise above competitors. For example, NRPR made thought leadership a cardinal part of our PR strategy for our client Patch of Land. We secured more than 120 thought leadership pieces for Patch of Land’s executives, which helped the small startup transform into a massive player in the marketing, banking, finance, technology, and real estate industries all through this executive visibility.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
It is difficult to point to one story. Overall, the most interesting thing that has happened to me is that I have been able to meet and/or work with a variety of amazing leaders and celebrities such as Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine, Donald Trump, Gavin Newsom, Lionel Richie, Alex Rodriguez, Ray J and so many more. I did not expect that I would get to meet these people in my role as PR professional and not every PR person does receive this type of access. For it to happen to me is a nod to the fact that clients trust me, value my insight, and invite me to attend these meetings.
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?
That is a great question. Both “thought leader” and “influencer” are bandied frequently and likely equally misunderstood. Great thought leadership involves cracking into the brilliant minds of your company’s top executives, figuring out what it is they know and do best, and sharing that knowledge and experience to help other professionals learn the right ways. Thought leadership is a process through which a company and/or executive builds trust and credibility with the audience with engaging, high-quality content. A thought leader is a more specific term than a leader, who knows what the goals of the organization and project are and develops strategies and a timeline for accomplishing said goals. A good leader sees the big picture and places the needs of the organization, clients, and employees ahead of her own. A good leader also knows what employees are capable of and the aptitudes needed to complete a task and assign work, accordingly. While a thought leader can be a leader and vice versa, thought leadership focuses on the sharing of knowledge gleaned from being an organizational and industry leader. An influencer is distinct — though company executives can be influencers from your organization influencers — and has an impact or influence on the decisions of his or her social media followers for your brand. Thought leaders can work with influencers, who may include bloggers, journalists, and analysts in addition to celebrities. to disseminate their message and share news and other content through paid engagements. A successful influencer relationship is based on the influencer’s having an authentic voice, values that match the values you want your brand to convey and engaged followers.
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?
Investing in thought leadership is a great way to move beyond your own organization into the larger world of your industry. When you, as a leader or an executive, write thought leadership pieces about a news event or a trend within your industry, it demonstrates that you keep up with what’s going on in your space and that you have an opinion on it. It is not all about you and your company. Thought leadership is about providing value to customers by discussing topics that are of interest to them. If executives make the commitment to blogs, contributed articles, and share new content in a timely consistent manner, your key audiences will keep your company on their radar, which is beneficial and may lead to new opportunities.
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?
The benefits of thought leadership include generating new sales leads, shortening sales cycles, and building credibility and trust based on the quality of the information shared. If you have a company blog, you may want to swap blog posts with a business partner or customer. Both companies benefit from the visibility with another audience. You can also like, comment and share content from other organizations on social media with appropriate hashtags. This increased visibility has resulted in business inquiries and new clients for NRPR and for our clients, who point to an article as the reason they have reached out.
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.
The way to become a thought leader begins with taking the first step. I started with PR blogs on the NRPR website and on the sites of my friends and other “friendly” blogs. I also posted articles to my LinkedIn page when I was first starting as a blogger. Now, I am a regular contributor to Forbes as an expert on public relations… all because I put time into building her “thought leadership” resume.
The five strategies are:
1. Begin writing and whatever you do post or publish should also be promoted on social media with appropriate hashtags.
2. Create a content calendar and timeline for posting to keep everything organized especially for blogs.
3. Have a variety of topics in the categories of advice, trends, industry news and other areas of interest to you and on which you can provide commentary in another author’s articles.
4. Content should not be overly promotional. It is not about you and your company; it is about the audience.
5. Make sure the publication for which you are writing has the appropriate audience for your message.
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 would point to Gary Vaynerchuk. I do not always agree with what he says about the Public Relations profession because he does not understand the science behind strategic PR. I do however appreciate him as a thought leader and admire his ability to build an audience. He spreads the word about the truth and the path to success and a certain generation does listen to him. He is hardworking and he unapologetically owns his voice.
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 not believe that the term “thought leader” is overused but often misused. One is incorrect to believe that one bylined article or one speaking slot at a conference will make a person into a thought leader. Thought leadership is an ongoing process and not a goalpost. An organization needs an integrated communication strategy, which includes thought leadership content in addition to media relations, marketing collateral, news feature articles that together provide a cohesive message.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
We are all busy people and as CEOs, vice presidents and other CxOs, we need to focus on our core business. Thought leadership is a support function to help build visibility, with the ultimate goal of impacting revenue in a positive direction. With that in mind, focus more on your core business, but have a plan for thought leadership that includes a content calendar and the regular interval at which you would like to post or contribute. It can be once a week, once a month, or biweekly, whatever suits your schedule without becoming a burden. If it becomes a burden then the quality of output will suffer, making it harder to place articles or gain return engagements.
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 am already engaged in two endeavors that I would love to see turn into movements. I am the founder of the Young Dreamers foundation. Our mission is to inspire today’s youth to be fearless in the pursuit of their goals, and to teach them the tools they need to get where they want to be. Young Dreamers creates strong, more able-minded adults — our future leaders — by standing behind these kids, mentoring them, giving them guidance and inspiration, and helping them in their life journeys. Young Dreamers believes that every child can reach any goal they set for themselves, with the proper guidance, mentorship, and encouragement. These strategies include music, journaling, and more to build confidence. Young Dreamers teach children about the impact their mindset has on their future and inspires them to appreciate themselves and what they can accomplish.
I am also the author of Beverly Hills Boss, which has a similar message for adults. My intent in writing the book was to explain how you can become the boss of your life, journey, and destiny by sharing my story of how a young girl with a dream and the odds against her made her dreams happen, and how you can too. Rather than dwelling on the past, the “what ifs,” and “what could have been,” I stress the need to focus on right now and to-dos. Whether you are a student, a young professional, an entrepreneur who runs or wants to start a business, a PR boss or boss of your own destiny, Beverly Hills Boss provides tips and other resources to develop the necessary leadership and life skills. Everyone needs to know their strengths, weaknesses, and goals to become and remain the person they want to be.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have always been a fan of Sylvester Stallone and his Rocky Balboa character. I related to Rocky as the underdog who did not give up, which kept me going on days when I thought I wanted to quit. This Rocky Balboa line has always resonated with me and speaks to everything I do and am: “It ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” Life will always be filled with challenges and obstacles of all sizes and shapes. The key is to remain calm, evaluate your options and keep moving forward.
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 would like to have lunch with Barack Obama. I would like to hear his perspective on the state of things now. I would ask him what we, as a nation, could have done before al this and how can we now fix our divided nation. I would also want to talk with him about his leadership and his presentation skills. He is very confident and poised as a speaker and his thoughts are always put together well and I would like to hear any tips he may have.
How can our readers follow you online?