How Thought Leadership Builds Brands with Ian Greenleigh

June 8, 2015

ian greenleigh

“Your brand is the tiny moments. Not the the things case studies are written about.” Ian Greenleigh has spent his career understanding how tiny moments and shifts in access and influence can do big things. He’s used these shifts to his advantage and help brands like Bazaarvoice and The Economist Group. This week he sat down and shared his thoughts on digital branding, thought leadership, and big data on the On Brand podcast.

Enjoy This Episode Now

Ian Greenleigh

Ian Greenleigh is author of The Social Media Side Door (McGraw-Hill), Digital Strategist at The Economist Group, marketing consultant and speaker. Previously, he was the Director of Marketing at Olapic, and before that, Senior Manager of Content and Social Strategy at Bazaarvoice. His words and ideas have been featured in Harvard Business Review, AdAge, Digiday, U.S. News & World Report, Adweek, Mashable,, Econsultancy, the Smithsonian Institution Archives, and in many other places, including the famous NASDAQ marquee in Times Square.

Episode Highlights

Ian’s path to marketing was “labyrinthine.” He also wins the Internet for being the first guest to use that term! After studying government at the University of Texas he realized he hated it. He tried sales and found it challenging as he isn’t an extrovert. However, soon he started using social media to connect and get in front of people. In short he found …

The Social Media Side Door. The title of Ian’s book comes from the opportunity brands of all shapes and sizes have. With social media and content we can exploit the changing nature of access and influence in the world of marketing and sales.

How can brands find the side door? “It’s really both a threat and an opportunity. It means that they have to staff up and be purposefully accessible. This is a struggle for many brands as they can’t expect access parity.” Meaning we have to be even more accessible and responsive than our customers.

The problem with big data. Big data itself is incredibly powerful for brand building, however, many organizations struggle with this due to internal data literacy issues. “The left-brained (data analytics team) isn’t always good at talking to the right-brained marketers.” Greenleigh says that we need data literacy that’s not just financial data literacy. We need to better understand more humanistic, marketing data.

“Thought leadership — like branding — is in the eye of the beholder.” Greenleigh stresses that we can’t just present our brand as a ‘thought leader’ due solely to the fact that we’ve created thought leadership content. “We need to be paying attention to how it’s received.” How do we do this? Big data, which brings us back to the need for better data literacy.

What brand has made Ian smile lately? “MTA — the trains in New York.” This may be a surprising brand but Ian has one of the most thoughtful explanations on how their consistent brand experience makes him smile.

To learn more about Ian, follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn, and check out his site

As We Wrap …

Recently, Stacey Miller and her team at Cision created a list of the Top 50 PR, Marketing, and Social Media podcasts. We were delighted that she included the On Brand podcast as well as several of our favorites. Thanks Cision!

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.