{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: Data-Driven Thought Leadership

In this episode of In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris discuss the power of data-driven thought leadership, and why so few marketers ever unlock the power of their own data for marketing purposes. They delve into what thought leadership is and isn’t, what data to look for within your organization, and three methods for turning boring data into interesting data that gets you the nod from publications.

Subscribe To This Show!

If you're not already subscribed to In-Ear Insights, get set up now!

Advertisement: Google Analytics 4 for Marketers

Attention marketers! Are you ready to unlock the full potential of Google Analytics 4? With only a few short months left until GA4 becomes the sole Google Analytics option, now is the time to get ahead of the game.'s Google Analytics 4 course is here to guide you through the measurement strategy and tactical implementation of GA4 in just 5.5 hours. With 17 comprehensive modules, you'll gain the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively set up and configure GA4 to work for your unique business needs.

But that's not all. Our newly updated course, released in January 2023, covers major configuration differences in Google Analytics 4 to ensure you're up-to-date and fully equipped for success. Plus, our course is fully accessible with captions, audio, and text downloads, so you can learn at your own pace and in your preferred method.

The clock is ticking, and with GA4 set to replace all previous versions of Google Analytics, you won't have year-over-year data until the day you turn it on and set GA4 up. Don't miss out on valuable insights that will help your business thrive. Register for's Google Analytics 4 course now and take control of your data.

Click/tap here to enroll in the course now »

Sponsor This Show!

Are you struggling to reach the right audiences? Trust Insights offers sponsorships in our newsletters, podcasts, and media properties to help your brand be seen and heard by the right people. Our media properties reach almost 100,000 people every week, from the In Ear Insights podcast to the Almost Timely and In the Headlights newsletters. Reach out to us today to learn more.

Listen to the audio here:

Download the MP3 audio here.

Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn
In this week’s in ear insights, we are coming down to the end of the year coming down to the end of the decade as we record this as the second weekend to cember and one of the things that companies love to do during this time of year is trot out 2019 year review stuff and 2020 prognostications. And we’ve actually done both of those, to some degree already. If you have not already been over to the Trust Insights blog, this week, through the 24th of December, obviously, the post is going to be there in perpetuity. We’re running the 12 days of data, looking at 12 different data sets from 2019 like Facebook brand engagement stats, influencers, Instagram, YouTube press releases, news stories, content marketing. And one of the things we thought would be interesting to talk about today on the show is companies have tons and tons of data, but they don’t market with it. They don’t use it to build thought leadership. We’ve heard from a number of clients and potential clients in the past couple weeks saying we need thought leadership. And we always ask them so what kind of data do you have, like a? So Katie, when it comes to business, Thought Leadership with data. Why is it companies have so much trouble taking the stuff that they already have, that they own that they in some cases have paid for, and turning it into stuff that really builds that that authority.

Katie Robbert
Because data collection and data analysis are two different things. And so you have, you can, you know, purchase software off the shelf, such as Google Analytics, or Agorapulse, or sprinkler or whatever the software packages, and it will start collecting data, it may not be customized to your organization, but it will be collecting something. So a lot of marketers will then check the box to say, All right, I’m doing the data collection. Got it. But then, when they go to try to pull data out of it, they can’t make sense of it, because that skill set is different from collecting the data. And I was actually having this conversation on a different podcast last week about you know why that is and so you know, the term big Data still exists. But for a while, maybe about a decade ago, it started to crop up of it was the new shiny object, big data, big data, big data, which when you really boil it down to its most basic level, it’s collecting data on everything you can get your hands on. So it’s a big pile of data. It’s literally big data, big piles. And so, you know, just like, you know, having a big pile of laundry on your chair feels overwhelming, because you don’t know where to start with it. Like if you just take it one piece at a time, you eventually get to the bottom, but it’s time consuming and not instantly gratifying. It’s the same thing with a big pile of data. It can be really overwhelming and daunting, and you don’t know what to do this, you tend to just ignore it and keep doing what you’ve been doing. And so, you know, I might wear the same sweatshirt every single day because it’s at the top of my clean laundry pile, because I didn’t have to put everything else away to get to it. And it’s the same with these big piles of data that people aren’t getting to. That they are analyzing because It’s daunting, it’s overwhelming. They don’t know where to start. Okay.

Christopher Penn
I was actually surprised. Because normally when we talk about content marketing and thought leadership in particular, one of the things I think is kind of a gap and here we go, we’re going to, I guess channeled each other. If there isn’t a plan in place and and an outcome that you’re going after, then, of course, it’s really difficult. Because if you don’t know what thought leadership looks like, or you have an idea of what outcome you’re actually after, it’s very difficult to put together like, if you have a bunch of data, you’re right. It’s like that big pile of laundry. What’s the goal? Is the goal to have something to wear? Or is the goal to make your area look clean,

Katie Robbert
or to get your mom off your back? Well, I mean, and that’s a really good point that I I should have started there is what does thought leadership mean to you because it’s another one of those you know, air quote buzz terms. That, like, what does it mean to us? What does it mean to another company? Is it does it just mean on actionable? You know, navel gazing? Or does it mean like I actually have a really great idea? That’s revolutionary? And I’m literally leading the thought on this topic so that I can pull people with me, which is ideally what it should mean. But my sense is that it means more of the former than the latter.

Christopher Penn
Yeah, we used to joke back in our PR days that thought leadership means you’re thinking about leading and one of these days you might actually do it. But the the approved version of that was that you’re thinking should change how other people lead. You give somebody the leaders of a company something to think about or something could think towards, and it changes how they lead from, you know, what they were always doing to doing something new. So in that light, if a company has data, particularly data that is proprietary or internal or or very difficult to get or obtain. That’s sort of the cornerstone of good data driven thought leadership is you have the ability to say this is a piece of information that you didn’t have before. Now, I know one of the things that I struggle with personally is I can pull the data together, but very often, there’s no okay. So what do I do with this? It’s just like, here’s the data, joy.

Katie Robbert
I think a lot of people get stuck even before that step of now, I’m just looking at a sheet of raw numbers. What the heck do I even do with it because you have the skill set to analyze it, put it together, visualize it, and start to say, Okay, this looks like something this looks like a trend line. This looks like an anomaly. I think a lot of marketers get stuck at that stage. I remember when I was in grad school, and I was taking statistics again for like the millions of times, you know, believe it or not, like I failed statistics multiple times. You know, my professor was like, okay, and you have to graph in a So you have to graph, you know, these numbers. And I just, I emailed him back and I said, How do you do that he goes, you’re in grad school, it is not my job to teach you how to use Excel. And I was in my late 20s at that point, and I still didn’t really know how to graph things. And it took a lot of time and effort and tears to figure out this very simple like, you know, two column bar chart thing. And I do think that if it’s not something you’ve always been doing, getting started with, it can be really overwhelming of, I don’t know that I’m doing it right. And then there’s that fear of Who am I to present data to my higher ups to change the way that they’re thinking when I’m not even confident that what I’m doing is correct.

Christopher Penn
Hmm, that’s interesting. I should be somewhat reassuring, I guess, to at least to the I failed statistics in college. My score was 37 out of 100. And the only reason that it wasn’t job on my, my grades, because the teacher graded everything on a curve. So I ended up with a be my Any class that I got a 37 out of the final exam on. And that was largely because the teacher was a fantastic practitioner and an awful teacher could not teach anyway. So is that is that skills gap? The bigger obstacle or is it the the lack of a plan? Which do you think is is the greater obstacle for thought leadership for most companies?

Katie Robbert
Oh, it’s like choosing your least favorite child. I kid, but not really. I honestly, you know, it’s it’s both I don’t think you can say it’s one or the other. I think in some instances, you’re going to find it is one of the other. So you might have really good analysts who are just sort of pulling data together spinning their wheels, not really knowing what direction they’re going in. Or then you can have this really great plan and nobody to execute it. But I think what often happens is it’s a bit of both and so there’s a lack of a plan to say okay, you know, how many times have you heard the I want thought leadership demand come down from the ivory tower and Everyone sits around it goes. Cool, but what the heck does that mean? So you’re right, it starts with a plan, like, you know, okay, we want to make our CEO look like the thought leader in the space because our CEO is kind of adult can’t do it himself. So we have to close, right everything. You know, it happens. Don’t you know, don’t pretend it doesn’t, but it does. And so, you know, the people who are actually doing the number crunching and putting the plan together, like, but like, what does that mean? And then, you know, you have Okay, so then the plan is, I want to be the thought leader in my space on widgets. I want everybody to start thinking of a blue widgets as green widgets. Okay, how do you get from A to B, you put the plan together, and then you look around go. There’s nobody here who can do that. And so I think it is a bit of both. I think it is especially when you’d have the term thought leadership. There’s almost like a heaviness to it, because it is public facing in some ways. It’s whether it’s public facing across your company or publicly. saying to the actual public consumers, you don’t want to get it wrong, you don’t want to look silly. And so there’s this, you know, hesitation of I don’t want to give the wrong data, the wrong information, because I then opened myself up for criticism.

Christopher Penn
Interesting. So it actually has two different human problems. The right one is on the part of part of the person who is processing the data, in many cases very much what a lot of folks call imposter syndrome. I like that, you know, who am I to be putting together this thing. And then for the leadership side, at least in your example, you have Dunning Kruger effect where someone thinks they are much, much smarter than they actually are, when in fact, they’re adult and a that is a challenging a and potentially very dangerous combination. So how do you mitigate that? How do you if you’ve been given the commandments, from on high thought leadership is what we need, we should be data driven thought leadership, our 2020 plan is gonna be all about data driven thought leadership, for the average marketer who is sort of stuck in that very hot seat. Where do you start? Besides the plan?

Katie Robbert
Well, you have to start asking a lot of questions. And you may run into some roadblocks of stop asking me questions, just go do it, which is, you know, likely to happen at some point. But while you have the time and while the topic is fresh, start asking questions of like, what does success look like to you, when you think about thought leadership? Like, that’s a really great, great question to start with, especially to a CEO. Because they need to be thinking about like, I’m going to do this thing. How do I know if I’m successful? And it’s not, you know, what metrics Can I measure this plan on, position it in such a way that you’re thinking about the way they’re thinking about it, and asking them, what does success look like to you? What do you want to accomplish with a thought leadership plan? Who do you know who are your competitors in the space that you want to be a thought leader ring you know, so you need to Got to ask those questions. because really what you’re trying to get to is, what’s the goal of doing this and then you the marketer can start to winnow down and say, Okay, my, you know, C suite, my CEO, whoever it was, who gave you the direction said, the measure of success is, let’s just make it up more awareness. So then you’re like, oh, okay, I know how to measure awareness. I know that I can start to measure traffic to my website, I know that I can start to measure engagement on social media, or whatever the metric is that matters to you. And you can start to break it down that way. So there is an onus on you to start to put together that plan, because you very often will not get the complete plan just handed to you to do you have to fill in the blanks.

Christopher Penn
In terms of the type of content to put together for data driven thought leadership, obviously you need data. How do you think about particularly as a CEO? How do you think like, welcome kind of things should we be publishing? What kind of things should we not be publishing? Because there is an incredible amount of copycatting put out this this data set like, hey, social media engagement? Well, guess what, you know, a million and a half other companies all have social media engagement data and whether or not it’s correct, they’re at least putting out there and be recognized in some fashion for it. So what? What’s the angle that you think about to cut through the noise to say like, this is an angle that we haven’t seen before yet?

Katie Robbert
Well, it depends. And so it really depends on you know, going back to what is thought leadership mean to you, but, you know, it depends on how much homework you’ve done ahead of time to say what’s already out there and what, you know, hasn’t been written about or how hasn’t it covered because you’re absolutely right. If you just continue to post the same thing that everyone else puts out, you’re never going to differentiate yourself. So you know, one of the things that we would do at trust insights is, you know, let’s say our topic was social media engagement, we might find, you know, the top 500 articles on social media engagement. And then we would start to do what we call text mining to start to figure out, you know, what is that elusive white space? So what have people been saying about it? How have they been writing about it? What is the tone and sentiment about this particular topic? And then we might be able to see, pairing that with some keyword research or trend research, you know, what’s missing? And so, you know, again, let’s just say for example, we want to have a new spin on social media engagement. And for some reason, nobody is writing about engagement on YouTube. Okay, great. There is an opportunity for us to talk about social media engagement that’s relevant to the conversation but either way that hasn’t been done before.

Christopher Penn
The other two angles because I really love the white space angle, it requires a lot of subject matter expertise to be able to look at and go Okay, here’s what’s not being said. Because you need to know the entirety of the space and subject matter experts is a whole other show. The other two angles that I think we I know we do a lot. Are Can you make it different? And? Or can you make it bigger? So the different is what you alluded to when it comes to text mining? Can you bring in instead of one data source like social media? Can you blend together two or three and a combination that, again, that requires a little bit more skill requires a lot more effort and tools, but allows you to create data that and insights that you cannot derive from a single data set only? So can you bring in data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics? Can you bring in data from the OECD to inform one data set and the second, of course, is make the data bigger? When I go and look for data about influencers? I very often see I was looking over this past weekend. You know, here’s here’s, you know, our position on Facebook influencers using the top 25 influencer accounts? Well, that’s good if you’re one of the top 25 influencers, but it isn’t necessarily representative of the audience as a whole. What if you turn that into 250? A 2500, or 25,000, we start adding zeros, hey, you get a more representative sample would be you also start being able to claim some additional authority by saying, look, this is a much bigger sample than has been done before. So that example over there that uses 25 influencers? Yeah, you know, yes, you can do that in Excel, but they may not be representative of your brand. If you take a big sample with companies at Every Size and every or influences of every size and every vertical. Now you have something that is a bit more authoritative. So think about what’s not being there. What is it you can blend together and what you can make bigger so three different analytics approaches in order to take that in that data of any kind and and drop out leadership from it. Now, the last part of this is, how do you go about taking that data and turning it into that leadership? Because because like you said, there’s poor the data on somebody’s desk. And then there’s Okay, actually do something with this. To change how people think about leading, how do you get from pile of data to? Aha?

Katie Robbert
Well, so that’s a huge loaded question, because now you’re talking about change management. But in a very simplistic way, and I do want to go Actually, I want to have before we get into that, I want to go back to your example of like, the three different ways, you know, people can start to differentiate my sort of very baseline level is if you don’t have access, you know, to those skill sets where you can blend third party data. A really simplistic way to start to think about it is start to do some seo keyword research and look at search volume and you can start to do a competitive SEO research of, hey, here are the keywords that my competitors You know, have some grip on. And here’s the places where there aren’t. And you can even start to think about it that way of like, okay, I can start to create thought leadership content in this space using these keywords that either I want to take away from my competitors, or I want to start to just own myself. And so if you if you don’t have the skill set, because blending different data sets together is a more advanced skill set. Because Yeah, I could take, you know, the grocery store of like, here’s everything that you know, whole food sells. And then I can take all of my web traffic from Google Analytics. Those are two different data sets that have nothing to do with each other. I could blend them together, but they’re not going to mean anything. So there is a little bit more of that advanced methodology. So there are simplistic ways to start to think about it if you don’t have those advanced data and analysis skills. Now to your question about how Get from here’s a big pile of data to hear stuff about leadership, it goes back to your plan is what is the question that you’re trying to answer by putting out this thought leadership plan? So if your question is, you know, how do we think about social media engagement differently? Okay, so you’ve collected all of your data, you’ve put together some analysis, and as you start to look at it and probably look at it through the lens, or with the person who’s actually going to be the mouthpiece of the thought leadership plan. Africa, like So what have we learned anything new? Is there anything interesting here? That hasn’t already been said a million times? And maybe the answer is no. And maybe that in and of itself is an angle? Like, you know, what people have been talking about thought leadership, sorry, social media engagement for the past two years now. And nothing has changed. That is a perspective. And so start looking at the data like what do you have there? Who cares? And so that’s where you you’ll start to put together your Your perspectives from a thought leadership standpoint. And then, you know, writing one article doesn’t instantly change everything. It’s a well, I guess, I know, I guess that’s sort of the other side of it is like it’s not a one and done. It’s something that you have to consistently add on to so that it’s a cumulative thought leadership plan, not just a one time I declare this thing from the top of my mountain and then everything changes, I would like to believe it work that way. It’d be a lot easier, but that is definitely not how it works, especially not on the internet.

Christopher Penn
Alright, so to wrap up, you need to have the people and the people skills to do thought leadership with data properly. But more importantly, you need to have the process the plan the goals, the known state outcome, it and you need to be able to do it on a regular frequent basis so that you can create that perception of leadership over time. That is much harder for a competitor to road if you’re constantly putting out new new data that competitors don’t have access to, you will in time be seen as a thought leader as long as that data is valuable. So, if you have comments or questions about this episode, or any episode, head on over to Trust and while you’re there, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and a newsletter and we’ll talk to you soon take care. Thanks for listening to In-Ear Insights, leave a comment on the accompanying blog post if you have follow up questions or email us at marketing at Trust If you enjoyed this episode, please leave review on your favorite podcast service like iTunes, Google podcasts stitcher or Spotify. And as always, if you need help with your data and analytics, visit dot AI for more

Need help with your marketing data and analytics?

You might also enjoy:

Get unique data, analysis, and perspectives on analytics, insights, machine learning, marketing, and AI in the weekly Trust Insights newsletter, INBOX INSIGHTS. Subscribe now for free; new issues every Wednesday!

Click here to subscribe now »

Want to learn more about data, analytics, and insights? Subscribe to In-Ear Insights, the Trust Insights podcast, with new 10-minute or less episodes every week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This