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So You Want to Be a Thought Leader?

In the age of content marketing, the term "thought leadership" gets thrown around as much as "going viral." Everyone wants it but hardly anyone knows how to get it.

Just this week I had to double take someone’s twitter bio claiming, “entrepreneur. marketing guru. thought leader.”

The thing is, defining yourself as a thought leader is like shaking someone’s hand with, “Nice to meet you. I'm Beyonce, you know, the cultural icon.” Even if it’s true the self proclamation is a total turnoff. Thought leadership is a magnificent thing to strive for but it’s ultimately decided by the people.

In my definition, true thought leadership hinges on three key factors: expertise, vision, and voice. Know what you’re talking about. Have a global perspective of where it is and where it’s going. Share your information through a lens that is entirely your own.

The good news? If you’re running a company or a department, you already have thought leadership. You are respected, looked up to and sought after for advice. You are a teacher, an educator, a trainer, a leader.

Amplify that thought leadership from your daily professional sphere to your larger digital audience.

This expansion is the result of three key factors:


It starts by defining your expertise, identifying knowledge voids in the marketplace, and adding your own experience-infused twist. Let's get into it. 

I. Defining Your Expertise

Now it’s time to put all humility aside and fess up to your one-of-a-kind expertise. You likely work in a tight-knit group of professionals that share equal education levels and years of experience. Under the microscope you may feel self-conscious that you are no enigma in the grand scheme of your industry.

But I’m telling you: you have something important to contribute. You’re already contributing it every day to your clients and your team - it comes so naturally that you don’t even see it.

So let’s get down to business. Within your broader expertise, say interior decorating or event marketing, dig deeper to find your niche.

    •    What are the nuances of your clientele?
    •    What are the unique challenges, restrictions and opportunities of your geographic region?
    •    In all your years of experience, what best practices have you developed?
    •    What are you really curious and excited about these days?

Keep digging. Your irreplaceable, unreplicable expertise is waiting for you like a diamond in the rough. And it’s ready to shine.

II. Identifying the Knowledge Void

Now that you know what you have to offer let’s examine the needs of your marketplace. Disclaimer: this part can strike fear into the most seasoned business owner's heart. Surveys, research and analysis can feel heavy on your impatient entrepreneur spirit. While you can go that far if you want to (and have the moolah), there’s actually more market research at your fingertips than you realize.

You know more about your industry's knowledge void than you think. Start here:

    •    What question do you hear most frequently from current and potential clients?
    •    What problem does your service or product solve?
    •    What are the most common misconceptions of your clients and colleagues?
    •    On the most basic level, what information will help clients save time and money?

Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, ask your sales team and managers too. They have a different level of interaction with your clients and can add valuable insight to the day-to-day problems repeatedly solved by your company.

III. Committing to Your Voice

This is without a doubt, unequivocally and unavoidably the most crucial factor of becoming a thought leader. Everyone is a thought thinker. The people that get noticed are thought speakers. And the people that rise to the top are thought leaders.

What makes a leader?

Commitment to your stance makes a leader.

Have opinions. Explore your belief system. Develop your philosophy. Carve a new path. Explore a new system. Lead the charge into unmapped territory. Create a new way.

That’s how you will build your own school of thought and attract your own audience. Taking an authentic stance makes you a magnet for people that relate to you and value what you bring to the table.

Ask yourself:

    •    How does my approach differ from that of my competitors?
    •    What do I believe truly and deeply?
    •    What is the driving philosophy behind my business?
    •    What is my vision for improving, progressing and innovating my industry?

You have a voice. Trust that it can translate on paper, too, with some practice and the right support.  

Food for Thought Leaders

Investing in your voice will bring a greater ROI than anything money can buy. Thought leadership is the reason you write blog posts, connect on social media and speak at conferences. It’s the reason you go after press and interviews. It's the reason you're in the game, I hope.

So you want to be a thought leader?

Start by taking it off your bio. Invest in your voice, develop a discipline and build your authority - one morsel of expertise at a time. You know you've made it when your industry starts introducing you as a thought leader.

It's time to own what you know. Now get writing, speaking, leading!


Brand Voice: A Case for Message Monogamy


Brand Voice: A Case for Message Monogamy

Brands that Commit to One Message Live Healthier, Fuller Lives

Message monogamy is truly one of the most difficult issues - and most critical - for small to midsized business owners. If you’re the Don Draper of messages (or John Wayne, depending on your generation) it’s time to ditch the girlfriend and mistress and commit to the love of your life: your core brand message.

There are three compelling reasons to commit to one unified brand message: simplicity, consistency, and repeatability. They work together like this:


Now let’s break down the benefits of each.


One of the greatest misconceptions of marketing is that complexity is a sign of market smarts, strategic thinking, and importance. WRONG. Complexity leads to confusion. Complexity leads to uncertainty. Complexity leads to loss of interest and moving on to the next viable competitor.

We’re going for easy.

Your target audience is busy. They deal with enough problem solving and critical thinking all day long - the last thing they want is to pour over your message to uncover hidden meanings. CLARITY. Give them the information they need, and make it effortless for them. We’re talking communication here, and everyone prefers communication that is clear and direct over layered and ambiguous.

Make it easy for your client to engage with you, follow you, buy from you, refer you. Simplicity is easy. Done.


Consistency is your engine for building trust with your audience.

Trust, credibility, and authority are all born out of consistency. Distrust, uncertainty, and avoidance are born out of inconsistent promises.

Let’s think about our friend Don Draper again. He is one wildly inconsistent fellow. First he wants to be married with children. Then he wants to be married with children with mistresses. Then he wants to be single, then married with no kids, then married with no kids and with mistresses. For a guy who works in advertising, he sure does have trouble sticking to one message.

Think about the people and businesses you trust. They are reliable. Relatively unchanging. Steadfast, predictable, consistent. Your message should be too.


When things are simple and consistent, they are easy to repeat and recommend to others.

Think coffee shops. Your favorite morning spot delivers the same cup of joe, gourmet or not, every single day. You know exactly how long it will take you to get in, order your coffee and pastry, and get out. You probably even look forward to a familiar face or two behind the counter.

Repeatability is the key to repeat business, client referrals, and visibility.

If your audience understands what you have to offer and likes it, they will return. If your clients can easily understand your brand message, it’s easy for them to tell others. If press can clearly identify who you are and what you do, they can accurately represent you to their readers.

Simple, consistent messages are easier to repeat. It’s that easy.

The Proposal

Have you been flirting with multiple messages throughout your business development? Have you tried a different angle on every newsletter, blog post, brochure, and sales meeting? It’s time to settle down.

Quit fooling around. Dedicate your business to message monogamy.

Make your core message simple, consistent, and repeatable - and your audience will thank you with their dollars.


We Have a Winner!

We are proud to announce the winner of Show the Love: the free r+r giveaway as a Valentine's Day gift from Erin Brennan & I! It was so hard to choose one winner - every business owner that entered our contest was empassioned, determined, and clear about their vision. Each contestant also recognized that inconsistent branding was holding them back from making that vision a reality. I wish we could work with each of you - and maybe one day we can - but for now we have selected one standout business that is ready for a big change, and we're gonna give it to you.

Matthew Baily from Live Limitless: Congratulations! The excitement for your business, readiness for change, and unwavering investment to growing your brand stood out to us. Erin and I are excited to help take your business to the next level with a free r+r including:

  • Comprehensive Branding Guide
  • Marketing Action Plan
  • 3 Pages of New Website Copy
  • 1 hour Follow Up Strategy Session

Find out what the full branding and marketing service package includes. 


There were two runners-up that grabbed our attention with successful companies that need a little branding boost to reach their goals:

Bradley Burch of Urban Merchantile

Nova Golderg of NovaGolderg.com

We decided to award each of you a free 1-hour strategy session to help put your businesses on the right path to achieving big dreams.


With so many amazing entries, we can't help but publish some honorable mentions. 

Brandon Moore of Surreel Studios

Meghan Incorvaia of Weddings by Willy & Meghan

Linda Imlay of In Our Lifetime

Stephanie Flynn of One Love International

Thank you again to everyone that participated and helped us spread the word. We hope that all businesses that entered will stay in touch and follow this blog for free tips & tricks to grow your brand.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Brennan Brand & Kirsten Inc! 

Show the Love: Give Your Website a Real Valentine's Day Treat

 win a free rr


Do you experience Website Shame?  
Do you dread giving your url to potential clients?  
Do you struggle to explain what you do and why people should care?

We’ve got one sweet valentine surprise for you!

How do we show the love? In honor of the official launch of our new package Refine + Revive, Erin Brennan and I are are giving away a weeklong brand and website overhaul to one deserving reader. That’s a box of chocolates worth $2,800, my dear.

Now it’s your turn. Show us the love by enterering to win a free r+r.

r+r giveaway
Feb 4 – Feb 14, 2013

To enter, fill out the form below to tell us why you and your business should be chosen for a brand & messaging overhaul.

Include a link to your current website and tell us why you should win.  Think outside the box.  Get creative.  Show us your passion for your business. 

Submissions close Monday, February 11th 12am PST.

The winner will be announced on Thursday, February 14th right here on my blog.   

Questions? Thoughts? Jumping for joy and need someone to tell about it? Drop us a line.

Best of luck from your sweetest valentines, Kirsten & Erin


Submissions are closed.


Announcing the New Branding & Marketing Service: Refine | Revive!

I am excited to announce the launch of the new one-day branding and marketing overhaul: Refine | Revive! This is the first joint service offering between myself and brand strategist Erin Brennan to help small to midsized businesses get on track with their branding and marketing- fast.


rr logo

Refine | Revive is a one-day branding, marketing + value-defining immersion designed to provide businesses with ready-to-use strategic messaging. The service includes evaluation, strategy, and implementation that starts with a 5-hour intensive session and is completed within 5 business days. Find out how it works here.

The final product includes:

  • Branding Guide
  • 3 Pieces of On-Brand Writing Material
  • Action Plan
    • 3 High Priority Marketing Initiatives
    • 3 Compelling Storylines
    • 3 Next Steps to Grow Your Business
  • 1 Hour Follow-Up Strategy Session

We developed this package in response to the countless businesses that have approached us for marketing services, when we quickly realized their brand was in dire need of help. A full blown branding project can take months and costs tens of thousands of dollars. But we needed a solution for small business owners that required a lot of help, right now, and for a price they could afford. Refine | Revive is the perfect marriage of intensive care, instant gratification, and economic sense. We believe this service package will give small-midsized businesses a new and exciting opportunity to access high quality professional brand and marketing support to grow their businesses, today.

Not sure what this is all about? See the Refine | Revive service page and dive in to our first case study with Fan Page Direct.

To celebrate this launch, we are running a Valentine’s Day contest to give away a free r+r. Enter to win here!

If you are interested in learning more about Refine | Revive, contact us here. Please share with friends and colleagues that might be interested, and thanks for your support!


Get my free 3-part workbook to find out if your creative calling or business dream is worth investing in: