I interviewed Kato just over a year ago about personal branding. At the time, I was working at a thought leadership agency and wanted to draw parallels between the creative world and the business world. I specifically wanted people in the business world to see what I see in artists:
They make the best thought leaders.
Don’t believe me? Take a glance at Kato’s Instagram page. It’s literally an online library of the best ways to market yourself, how to hone your craft, where to place content, how to protect your work, how to build an audience — most things thought leaders in a business setting are looking to do.
The only difference is that Kato’s content is targeted toward rappers, producers, sound engineers, and other creatives, as opposed to B2B decision-makers, investors, CFOs, and the like.
But that doesn’t mean the marketing lessons, techniques, and principles aren’t universal.
Which is exactly why I went to SoundAdvice.
I’m not a producer, I don’t rap or make music, but I’m always looking for ways to continue building my brand as a writer. Knowing Kato from connecting in the past, I knew I’d leave with some key takeaways.
The event went like this…
After introducing himself, giving advice on the business side of music, and fielding questions, Kato invited each artist and producer to the front of the studio to play their music for five minutes. Kato would give feedback, and turn to the audience for additional input.
One-by-one, each attendee went to the front, played music they created and eagerly awaited feedback. It was really cool to see. Everyone who took the stage had their own style, sound — essentially their own brand.
But about an hour-and-a-half in, I started to notice a trend.
All of the artists were following the same pattern. They’d play one or two of their personal favorites self-made tracks, then one or two songs they thought to be sure crowd-pleasers. Then, if they still had time left, they’d say something like:
“45 seconds left? OK — I’ve got one more track for you guys. It’s kind of weird — definitely out of pocket for me — but here goes…”
And a song they considered to be atypical of their style would start to play.
Whoever was on stage playing their music would nervously glance around the room — from their shoes to Kato, to the audience, and back down to their shoes again. Then, the music would stop, and the artist would wait for everyone’s reaction.
Almost every time, that “out of pocket” track was the best of the four or five songs they played — the one resonated most with the audience, and with Kato.
Kato would ask, “Why do you think that last track was so well-received?” to the artist and to the audience, and the consensus was clear:
It was unique — unlike anything else that had been played yet.
The artists who showed vulnerability and got over the fear of playing a song they were hesitant to share at first left SoundAdvice that day with an entirely new perspective on how to connect with their audience. They left with the potential to attract new followers they didn’t know their music appealed to. And they left having piqued the curiosity of other artists in the room who then wanted to work together.
All because they took a small step outside of their comfort zones.
And it got me thinking about how many thought leaders suffer from that very problem:
Most are afraid to be vulnerable because that’s outside of what’s comfortable.
When it comes to their thought leadership strategy, they’d rather get hyper-technical about their product or company rather than share a personal story because that’s what they’re comfortable with. The issue is, without sharing a story — without stepping outside of their comfort zone a bit — they’re going to have a hard time resonating.
Working with founders, executives, venture capitalists, and the like on their thought leadership strategy taught me that vulnerability wins on the internet. Actually, it’s essential to effective thought leadership marketing.
If you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone, what you find might surprise you.
Talking about a time you completely let your company down, or about an embarrassing story as a young startup founder gives people something to relate to, while at the same time highlights something unique only you bring to the table. No two people experience life the exact same way. There are things you’ve been through that other people haven’t. And even if others have experienced something similar, they haven’t experienced it from your perspective.
That needs to be the backbone of your content.
Thinking back to SoundAdvice, if the artists who shared their “out-of-pocket” tracks decided not to, they wouldn’t have been considered standouts. Being candid, the artists who showed vulnerability are the only ones I even remember from the event altogether. Some of them I follow and stay in touch with.
Because at the end of the day, that very same principle is true in thought leadership.
If you want to stand out — to be remembered — you need to have content unlike anyone else.
And the only way to ensure that, is to be comfortable with talking about real-life experiences.
Thanks for reading!