Becoming a Thought Leader: 4 Tips for Marketing CMOs from Travis Wright

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Travis Wright courtesy of LinkedIn
Travis Wright courtesy of LinkedIn

Last month Sylvia Ng, VP of Growth and Analytics at Rock Content, sat down with Travis Wright at the 2015 Digital Media Summit in Toronto.

Travis Wright is a “marketing provocateur and digital disrupter.” This “data and analytics geek” is not your traditional marketer and has optimized and strategized marketing for a number of B2B and B2C websites. Wright is currently the Chief Marketing Technologist at CCP Global and a regular contributor to Inc. Magazine. At the Summit, Wright spoke about data-driven marketing technologies and their role in modern marketing.

Sylvia caught up with Wright to discuss building a marketing ecosystem, networking, and how turning your computer into an 80s terminal can improve your writing. We’ve compiled some of the highlights from their conversation into actionable tips for your marketing strategy.

1. Create An ‘Ecosystem’

What advice would you give organizations looking to become thought leaders? Who is responsible for thought leadership within an organization?

“Well I think we are all responsible,” explains Wright. “I am a big proponent of building a personal brand, right, and so I think that’s a part of it. For me, I want to build thought leadership because I’m building my personal brand around certain key topics.” Wright also mentions that it’s not just a marketing initiative, it also involves social, content, and PR.

When there are too many silos, explains Wright, the teams don’t communicate. He elaborates on this concept, adding that in the ideal system is “the convergence of content, social, PR, and SEO. Content and SEO are working hand-in-hand, social and PR are working hand-in-hand. So really it’s like a four pronged ecosystem.”

2. Isolate and Rewrite

How do you balance quality and quantity? How much time do you spend on an article?

Wright saves time during the writing process by ensuring he’s in a “distraction free zone. “I use Write Room,” explains Wright, because “it makes my whole screen black like I’m sitting on an 80s terminal.” With this program “I’m able to get my thoughts out” explains Wright.

For big publications, like Inc. Magazine, Wright will invest extra time on articles. “My first draft always sucks, I mean it’s ok but I’m kind of like meticulous…I notice some of my Inc. articles [say] ‘You’ve edited this 87 times,’ you know? And it’s like, ‘I’m still not done!’” This attention to detail helps build trust, the first stepping stone to thought leadership.

3. Hire a Researcher

How do you find the right people for your team? What do you look for in a candidate?

“I think you really have to find somebody who likes to learn,” explains Wright, “especially when you’re coming into a new space, you’re bringing somebody new on, they’re writing about stuff they don’t even know about yet, right? So how can they ramp up quickly? Do they like to learn? Do they like to research?” Wright says “I’m always reading books, I’m always listening to audio programs and learning and figuring stuff out because I’m like, there’s so many amazing thought leaders and people out there who’ve already written and put together so much great stuff that I want to pull those nuggets out. And so if I have writers on my team I want them to be able to research stuff.” Ideally, Wright wants members of his team to be able to find out who’s written about a given topic, learn about it, condense and distill the information, and create some “pretty solid content.”

“I like people who are good researchers” adds Wright. Over time, a good researcher can become a thought leader. “You can learn by standing on the shoulders of other giants,” explains Wright, “but then you have to be able to learn how to distill that information and share your own point of view.”

4. Get On Twitter

How do you grow your personal brand?

Wright touches on the importance of networking, which can both help you grow your brand and find the right people for your team. He recounts the story of his first startup called Method Laboratories, a website developed to create an online community for musicians, designers, filmmakers, artists, and creators. The startup anticipated many of the sites we take for granted today; everyone in the community had their own profiles (before Friendster), they built their own posting software (before WordPress), they created iRadio Lab to share music online (before iTunes), they pressed shirts for the artists and sold them online (before Threadless), and gave every member of the community 50MB of space for free (before Dropbox).

Though Wright had five separate billion dollar ideas in one company he wasn’t able to secure funding in Kansas. The experience helped Wright realize that he had no investors because there was no networking happening in Kansas City at the time. “I have nobody who’s got funds – if I did I would’ve gotten massive amounts of funding…that’s why when Twitter came out I was like ‘BOOM!’ Now I can network with all of these brilliant people.”

He also gives advice for improving your LinkedIn brand. Wright took full advantage of each component on the LinkedIn page and has one of the most compelling profiles on the site. “Some people just put a huge wall of text up there,” explains Wright, but “how do you break it up?” Wright spent some time thinking about how he could differentiate his profile from the rest, and used it to market his personal brand. “I think there’s a lot of opportunity for LinkedIn as it moves forward, as it has all this data, and as more people start to understand how to market on it more effectively,” concludes Wright.


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