Episode 2: Thought Leadership Content

Episode Table of Contents

Watch the Full Video Episode

Have a Listen to the Podcast Episode

Meet the Guest: Purna Virji

Purna Virji is a globally recognized content strategist and Goody award winning author of High-Impact Content Marketing. Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she is currently the Principal Consultant, Content Solutions at LinkedIn. She previously led global learning and thought leadership programs for Microsoft and is also an award-winning former journalist. A regular top-rated international keynote speaker, she has been featured in publications including The Drum, TechCrunch+, TNW, Marketing Land and Adweek.

She has been recognized as an Adweek Young Influential, the Search Personality of the Year by the US Search Awards and the most influential PPC Expert in the world by PPC Hero. Virji is also an Honored Listee on the Marquis Who’s Who 2023 list.

Follow Purna on LinkedIn.

Podcast Episode Notes


Here are some of the biggest takeaways from this episode.

  • Strategic Content Creation:
    • Focus on reaching the right audience with the right content on platforms like LinkedIn.
    • Use a mix of personal insights and professional experiences to craft relatable and authoritative content.
  • Empower Team Contributions:
    • Encourage team members to share their professional insights and personal stories.
    • Use various perspectives within the team to enhance content depth and appeal.
  • Optimize Content Reach and Impact:
    • Distribute thought leadership through multiple team members to leverage different viewpoints and maximize engagement.
    • Combine personal anecdotes with professional achievements to build a compelling online presence.
  • Align Personal and Professional Voices:
    • Integrate personal values with professional insights for authentic content.
    • Regularly share experiences that resonate on both personal and professional levels to strengthen your thought leadership.

Tools and Resources:

These are tools and resources that were mentioned throughout the episode.

  • Masala Chai: Purna starts her day with a traditional masala chai using her grandmother’s recipe, which helps ground her daily routine, especially useful during travel.
  • LinkedIn: Highlighted as a crucial platform for building and showcasing thought leadership, especially effective for reaching targeted professional audiences.
  • SEMrush (now part of Semrush): Used as a case study where multiple team members including Olga Andrienko and Nicole Ponce utilize personal LinkedIn profiles to amplify company announcements and leverage personal angles to enhance engagement.
  • SparkToro: Cited as an example of a company that effectively uses thought leadership to differentiate in the market, specifically through the efforts of Rand Fishkin and his team.
  • Edelman and LinkedIn’s Thought Leadership Study: A comprehensive study that provides insights into the effectiveness and impact of thought leadership in shaping business opportunities.
  • Rand Fishkin: Mentioned as a key influencer who has effectively used thought leadership to build and enhance his companies, SEOmoz (now Moz) and SparkToro.
  • Bethany Joy: Recommended for her unique and authentic tone of voice in branding and thought leadership content, which effectively uses personal characteristics to stand out.

Episode Transcript

Ashley Segura: Well, let’s start things off with. Arguably the most important question is what is your go to dish to cook in the 

Purna Virji: kitchen? So this is not quite a dish, but it’s something that I cook every single day when I’m home. And that is my morning ritual of my masala chai. So I use my grandmum’s recipe. And so it helps me start the day right.

I’ll take the fresh ginger and I’ll pound it. I’ll take the spices like the cinnamon, the cardamom, the cloves, and then boil it together and make myself My masala chai every morning and then it’s good for my soul and it helps me for another day. So I don’t know if that’s a dish per se, but it’s something that is my ritual.

Ashley Segura: I think that fully counts. And my goodness, with the amount of travel that you do, I feel like that’s gotta be so good for you. Do you keep it up while you travel? 

Purna Virji: So when I was in India over the December holiday break, I found this time that they had instant chai, instant masala chai packets, so I bought some in anticipation of using it on any travel, but I haven’t traveled since.

So hopefully I’ve got, I’ve got a couple of things coming up and so I will be able to keep up with my masala chai. So otherwise I do miss it. 

Ashley Segura: Yes. Yeah. Mine’s tea. I’m an urban mate tea drinker. If I go a day without it, I can definitely tell the difference. Yes. All right. Well, let’s kick things off with the basics and let’s really define what thought leadership looks like.

I feel like. Thought leadership is definitely a buzzword right now, especially with all the content creation and AI and figuring out what’s real, what’s not real. So could you kind of describe from your perspective what thought leadership even 

Purna Virji: looks like? So thought leadership essentially just refers to the type of content that can come from either the brand or an organization or from an individual to help them showcase.

Their expertise, their authority on a certain subject, or even just who they are as a person. And I find that there’s a very simple framework to it. What thought leadership content does, especially from a person, is it allows you to A, get to know. The person, then you’ll start to like the person and then you, once you get value from that, you start to trust and there’s a million reports that we’ve seen that once you get to that point of building trust and authority, then that’s such a, it makes it so much easier for people to want to work with you.

Mm hmm. 

Ashley Segura: And at that point is kind of when you can see the follower reach really increase and your engagement increases. And once you’ve established that trust, 

Purna Virji: yes, for sure. And like, there are some platforms like LinkedIn, for example, where it’s deliberately saying, like, it doesn’t, you don’t have to reach.

800, 000 people to be considered a very successful leader. It’s like, are you reaching the right people in your audience? Like if I am in content marketing, for example, then I would love to chat with people, you know, fellow content marketers like you or people, you know, other CMOs at companies or directors of marketing.

Those are my target audience. For me, if I was trying to reach, you know, somebody who was in depth in analytics, unless they wanted to build their thought leadership program, there is not that much of a reach. So yeah, you’ll definitely start to see it in terms of, are you Seen as a respected authority. Are you invited on podcasts?

Are you invited to speak? Are you invited to contribute to articles? Uh, so that’s that external point. But then there’s an internal point like, are you, are people seeking you world, like so many businesses or, or organizations, their offerings are not that different from that competitors, right? Let’s be honest, like, let’s take a Uber or Lyft.

It’s relatively similar if you think about different. Search marketing tools. For example, there’s so many companies that offer keyword research reports. What makes one company stand out and usually It’ll come down to the person, right? I always think of somebody like a Ran Fishkin who built out and differentiated SEO Moz, and then now SparkToro in the last three years, the amazing stuff he’s been doing there, him and Amanda Natividad and Casey Hendry.

It’s awesome how they’ve built it as a three person team and paid back their founders because they spread the word. They built that trust with the audience and differentiated themselves. 

Ashley Segura: That’s true because you can almost trust, you know, whatever RAND is going to create next is going to come with this RAND package.

And if you’ve been following him through his thought leadership content, you understand the depth of that. And so you’re able to trust that right away. It’s almost like when consumers choose Uber versus Lyft because they trust Uber more. You know, maybe 

Purna Virji: more like, yeah, have 

Ashley Segura: you seen any, especially over at LinkedIn?

I’m sure you’re analyzing a lot of different thought leadership content and seeing it very regularly. Have you seen any trends within thought leadership that is unique and new that’s happening right now? I 

Purna Virji: think the biggest new thing that’s happening is the. Increasing rate that companies, especially B2B are looking to adopt thought leadership and the fact is in the last couple of years, you’ve seen what’s happening with the economy with so much uncertainty with hiring freezes, people just don’t have budget sales cycles in B2B anyway were so long and.

But the things that used to work, like, oh, you know, I’m having all these free demos and they’re not working. Like, why? Well, if nobody has the budget to actually purchase what you’re demoing, then why would they want to take the demo? And so it’s a big struggle for marketers. They’re all sort of scrambling.

And what do we do to nurture our audiences to? Build awareness to sort of stand out and build that mental availability with different audiences. And so they’re realizing increasingly how powerful thought leadership is, whether it comes from the C suite, but it doesn’t always have to come from the C suite, right?

Can it come from subject matter experts across the company to help them reach their desired audience? I’ll give you an example. Let’s say there are some, you know, startups that follow or actually are trying to reach a more of a developer niche or audience. So how do you do that? Right? Who’s going to talk to them?

Can you find peers to talk to peers? Because people follow people before they follow brands. And then people will follow the people who they feel understand them and their needs and their lived experiences. And so in that case, it’s. identifying the right people within the company, identifying multiple people, trying to build it into a strategy.

That’s a really big trend that I’m seeing. Yeah, I 

Ashley Segura: have noticed a lot of content being published from brands about brands. Empowering their own team with content that their team can share and even giving incentives of, you know, if you share this on your personal profile, you’ll get X, Y, and Z or whatever that looks like for, for the company and for those employees, which has been a really interesting shift because before.

Employees are usually just, you know, we’re, we’re buried with a million things to do. And so creating our own content on top of creating our brand’s content is like, where in the world are we finding time for that? But I have noticed the shift of, of brands being like, all right, let’s make time for that because when you are a thought leader, it benefits us versus the other way around it used to always be, Oh, the company can be the only one that looks good.

And then everyone will flock to us. Not really the environment that I’m noticing. And it sounds like you’re not noticing that either. 

Purna Virji: No, cause it’s awesome. I think people are realizing that there, that there’s such a multiplicative effect. Like, so let’s just talk about it from the marketing standpoint.

Your people are a, what’s absolutely unique. To you as a company. And so they are your strength. Nobody else has your people, right? And then if you empower them to go out and share, they’re also, you’re like in house PR amplification team. Let’s look at an example. I, one of my favorite examples, and I talk about this everywhere is from SEMrush, but it’s so good.

So SEMrush. A few months ago, announced the launch of some new AI powered product or feature that they had. And they did a great post about it on LinkedIn. It had a very humorous image. It grabbed attention. They talked about the new feature. It was AI powered, super cool. At the same time, Olga Andrienko, who’s their VP of brand, came at it from her as a senior executive point of view, where she was like in my, you know, nine years at SEMrush, have never been so excited about a product launch.

And Here’s why. Here’s what went into it. Here’s the politics. She shared it from that point of view, she got tons of engagement and so many comments. She got 83 comments in the first week itself compared to about 20 something from some Russia’s brand post. And why I highlight the comments is, is. Actually, if I comment on your post, then your post shows up to my networks, right?

Just drastically amplifies the reach. And then Nicole Ponce, who leads their influencer marketing team at SEMrush, and she tends to work with the SEOs, the more practitioner. Folks, she posted about it a week later saying that, Oh, you know, in my work, when I work with SEOs all the time, like these are the common complaints that I hear.

And here’s how this awesome new feature is going to help. She got tons. I think she got like 500 plus reactions in the first like two hours after publishing. Like it’s awesome. So cumulatively look at the reach that SEMrush got organically. It wasn’t even paid just by their people. So the marketing is a big.

Plus, but then, but then, but wait, there’s more. Then to forget that there’s this other employee, like the talent brand side of things, like, how do you attract the best people? Every company wants to attract the top talent. So if you can showcase how you highlight your talent, showcase what it’s like to work with you, like how you give them a platform.

It gives other people a little bit of a view inside the company and makes you more attractive. Like, oh, they highlight their people. They give people a platform. They’re showcasing, you know, I would maybe want to work for a company that does that. So there’s that additional benefit that comes in. Yeah. 

Ashley Segura: I think it’s also having the platform and having the resources in time to do so.

Clearly. I mean, Olga and Nicole both have on their own great reach on LinkedIn, but when you throw in the SEMrush brand with that, and they’re talking about SEMrush, it gives this more personal human feeling. Yes. We know we work for that company or they work for that company, but. Them being able to talk about it in such a positive light and in their unique angles, like coming from influencer, coming from VP and still talking about the same thing, but in two totally different content types is really powerful.

And it goes back to like the idea of being able to reuse a piece of content will reuse it through your own employees and let you. Literally steer that ship and that’s when you’re going to find, at least from my experience, that’s when you’re going to find content that really brings traffic back to the site and converts in a 

Purna Virji: proper way.

Oh, a hundred percent. And like, you’re so good at that. Like you’ve consistently done that. And so you’re right. That’s exactly what, what you’re doing is that give that content idea more life by sending it through others. How, 

Ashley Segura: how much life does a piece of content really have when it comes to that leadership?

This is something that I feel like I personally struggle with a lot is okay. I’ve talked about this one topic. I don’t want to over talk about it and over saturate my audience, you know, especially if it’s not like a pillar piece of, of content that there’s a lot of layers to it. So what is the right balance of, okay, this is a new topic that I’m going to talk about from a thought leadership angle.

How consistent do I need to be about talking about this topic before it just like taints my whole brand and becomes my brand? 

Purna Virji: If that makes sense. And that’s a really good question. It’s a common one that comes up. It’s like, ideally, like, what do you want to be known and associated for? Because ultimately, no matter what you talk about, you don’t want to talk about like a million different things either, because then people don’t know what to expect.

But if you can take three to four, anyway, like two to four, like high level buckets of content, like these are the areas that I would love to be known for, and then you can diversify them even more. So let’s say content marketing for me is one of my big buckets. And then underneath it is, there’s so many different angles about content marketing that I can talk about.

Whether it’s. Custom audience research or so on. I tried to break it down into really four pillars because there’s like four different ways. There’s more, but let’s think about the four ways that you can approach one would be, Hey, let’s talk about it from an industry standpoint. Like you could take one concept and be like, Hey, here are trends I’m seeing in the industry.

Then you can look at it from a brand point of view where you can be like, here’s how we approach it. And here’s why we. Are doing it this way, or then you can approach it from maybe like a people standpoint. Or here’s when we talk to our customers, this is what we hear from them or, you know, ideas. Or then you can just hear about it from, um, just your people, right?

Your employees give them the voice and like, how, what do they like about it or stuff? So one idea can be come at from. Four different angles very easily to come into whether I’m talking about thought leadership and be like, Oh, here’s the general industry. Like LinkedIn, for example, just came out with the LinkedIn Edelman thought leaderships, 2024 study, like literally hot off the press.

I have the check the link with you. So that’s just sharing this big, they’ve interviewed over. 3, 500 different leaders and people to hear like what’s top of mind for them. And so it’s a very in depth study. Then you will have maybe somebody like me talking about the more tactical elements on like, here’s really what you need to do, or here are like myths that you can bust.

Or then you may have some of my other colleagues talk about, here’s how you can rock your profile on LinkedIn. So you see how it’s the same thought leadership is just giving rise to different, different angles or tilts to the content to borrow a word that Joe Pulizzi likes to use. 

Ashley Segura: Yeah, that makes sense.

Anything from that study that was like a really big takeaway that you found from interviewing that many people? Was it specifically on thought leadership or just publishing content on LinkedIn in general 

Purna Virji: or? I didn’t, I wasn’t on the team that ran the study, so I’ll caveat with that. It was Tussar Barik and like his whole marketing team worked with Edelman and they worked with 3, 500 people.

It was specifically on thought leadership and what they’re seeing. And so I got my hands on it today because it actually released. Today, and I’ve been digging into it and just be like, my job, my job, like amazing stats. And I think one of the things that stood out to me, and I’m going to look at my other monitor, so I don’t miss quote it because it’s so new.

But I think one of the stats that just sort of punched me in the face, so to speak, was the fact that thought leadership helps reveal these. Untap business opportunities or identify that. So 60 percent of people said that a piece of thought leadership had made them realize their organization was missing out on a significant business opportunity.

So that’s people sometimes think that, Oh, thought leadership, I’m just going out there and building my personal brand. You’re actually not like you’re educating, empowering, building that association and trust. And it goes, not just filling the pipeline and moving people down the pipeline, but it is also.

Nurturing your existing customers to help, you know, reduce churn or help increase like referrals as well. Like I love, uh, ran so much. And I use SparkToro. It’s a great tool, but I also like I’m a big, like, you know, I love Rand. He’s such an awesome human. I will go out and happily like tell everyone, like, Hey, if you’re not using SparkToro, it’s really good.

Same thing with you, Ashley. Like I’ve known you for years. Like I have this, I know how, yeah. Awesome. You are like, I trust your walk or anything you do. So, you know, with your launch, I’m like, Oh my gosh, if you’re looking for anyone, like work with Ashley, because that’s the things that come out. Cause I’ve seen you speak at a million different events.

I’ve seen the art, you know, the content you put out, the work that you do, like it’s built up over time. Like that’s why you’re. You know, such a top leader in the industry, 

Ashley Segura: you’re making me blush. Thank you. 

Purna Virji: I mean, my love for you. 

Ashley Segura: Yes. Yes. And, and love right back at you. 100%. I mean, I think time is the biggest thing when it comes to building up that leadership.

When I started posting on my personal profiles, it was a shot in the dark and it’s, it’s hard. It’s intimidating. First. You’re like, is anyone going to read this second? Or is anyone going to like it? And that can stop so many people from starting to build out thought leadership content, but it just took.

Years of really trying to find my voice and what that looked like. And I feel like that’s a big key or in a food reference, a big ingredient to the recipe. Do you have any tips on how you can identify your voice and thought leadership? We talked a little bit about like topics and what you want to be known for, but.

What is finding your voice and thought leadership look like? 

Purna Virji: And I’m going to, I’m going to reference some advice I got when I was writing my book. I was talking to some folks and I’m like, Oh my gosh, yes. I’ve, you know, done like presentations, et cetera, but like a book. And someone had told me this, that you’ll write three chapters minimum, and then you’re going to find your voice and then you’re going to go back and then you can edit always.

And so. And that was exactly what happened. I think after the first two or three chapters, by the time I was writing like the fifth or sixth chapter, I’m like, what did I write there? Let me go back. And I look at my run on sentences and then I edited back. And so really it’s the same thing that applies to your posting is one you learn by doing.

This is just not one of those things that you can be like, I’m going to wait until I have the perfect post and overanalyze every word. Cause heck, actually, you and I have seen this a million times. Like we will pour our heart and soul into something and spend ages. It’ll go up and then you’ll hear crickets.

And then like something that you just like threw away that you didn’t give a second thought to will be what everyone loves and you’re like, but, but, but I put all this work into this. I put no work into this. So it’s almost a case of, this is what I was telling myself as well. Like for me, I was almost, I had a trigger, like when I had my book to.

Book launch and I had to promote it. Like I was, I had contractual obligations to go out and post more regularly to help spread awareness. And so in the beginning, I’m like, so I was glad in a way that I had that forcing mechanism because it takes the first month or two is so hard and most people will give up before day 90.

But the key is that if you can just. The success and failure is if you just don’t give up as quickly as everyone else, you’ll stand out. Like LinkedIn, for example, has over like a billion members, but you don’t see a billion different people posting content all the time. Like there’s fewer voices. And so there’s such a rich opportunity to stand out.

And it’s, as you said, it’s slow cooking. It’s not one of those things. It’s not microwave popcorn. It is literally your. Slow, like, uh, who, who Matt Siltala is always posting on Facebook, our common friend, who’s a top SEO. He’s always posting about his like, briskets or like his bee, his meat that he like smoke and cook for like two, three days.

So it’s literally, that’s what it takes. It’s consistent efforts over time. I wish there was a shortcut. I wish there was a button, but go out there and. Just tell yourself to have fun, like forget, um, in the day to day of what we do. It’s really sometimes overwhelming and exhausting. And you can just forget that, hey, creativity is fun.

Marketing is meant to be fun. Like we just lose ourselves in the grind. And so approach this, at least I would say in the first 60 days without pressure, without expectations, without goals, like 60 days, you’re just going out there to have fun, play around and revel in the joy of creating and sharing. And.

Go out there, post a little bit, find your voice, see what’s ticking, and it’s okay if it’s crickets. It’s okay if it’s not, because when you’re starting out, everybody is the same way. Like no one just went there on day one and got like 50, 000 posts. Even there was a study about viral content. It doesn’t go viral like how sickness spreads where like one, one, one person likes it.

Like usually one big influencer or one big account with big reach shared it or like the A few accounts with really big reach shared it, and then that helped it. So anyway, very long and rambling answer, Ashley. No, it’s 

Ashley Segura: fantastic. No, you’re, I mean, you’re, you’re nailing it on the head though. I mean, I still think that.

Even now I’ve been in this for 14 years. I’m still constantly polishing up my voice and what that looks like and what I’m talking about. I mean, last year I spent most of last year posting content about leadership and growing teams and business ops and. Before I had spent 13 years just really talking about content and content marketing.

And so it’s this constant experiment as well as this evolution as you change and the work that you do changes your content should change. Like you don’t have to be molded into this one thing. And I think that’s where a lot of, a lot of individuals and companies kind of miss the mark and think that Thought leadership is, you know, it’s only B2B or it’s only for SAS, or it’s only if you’ve got a case study to talk about, have you seen any success stories with like B2C thought leadership and not just that B2B environment?

Purna Virji: Oh, yeah. So there are so many, like, let me think I’m struggling with the name of P& G. They’re, they have people who post out a lot and like they are trying to, you know, the old spy, so they will talk about sustainability. They have, they had a chief sustainability officer who’s, uh, I used to follow quite a lot.

Um, There are, um, I’m trying to think of examples. I’ll come back and if I, if something comes in, nothing’s like popping in my head just yet, but there’s like Dell, for example. Okay. Yes. I mean, they are B2B and B2C, Jeff Cologne used to be a director. Uh, he was a director at, uh, Dell. So he, his posts were always great.

There’s, anyone can do it, whether, whatever you’re doing. And it doesn’t always have to be. About your company or your brand or your industry, like sometimes as you said you’re posting about leadership and that’s a great thing because you’ll get this audience and they’ll trust you and relate to you as a leader and look up to you and that’s just going to build.

We find different tribes and you don’t, we’re not always. Going with one tribe, right? That’s the whole key is that we have different communities that we can belong to. And we’ve in and out of like, I haven’t been an active SEO in years, but I’m still very much enmeshed with my SEO people like, you know, that’s a big community.

I’m like, I’m never letting you all go. Like, I may not be an active SEO, but you’re stuck with me, right? Or my PBC friends as well. I haven’t done PBC since I left Microsoft, but it is the same thing. Let’s take it. Some people know each other, some people don’t, but it’s lovely to have these different areas and you understand and discover different facets of yourself as you realized and see what brings you joy to create.

Ashley Segura: A hundred percent. I mean, you just went into the author community now with a book published. And so you have that thought leadership of not just a content marketer, but you’re a content producer. You, you created an entire book. How did you balance creating that leadership to Still wear the author hat, still wear the content marketing hat, but not be salesy.

Cause that’s something that I’m seeing a lot of thought leadership content, especially thought leadership content that’s being created using AI kind of just screams this, buy me or hire me. What’s, what’s the proper balance to where like, okay, this is helpful and this is sales. 

Purna Virji: Well, firstly, you’ve got to throw in a sale or two.

You’ve got to promote yourself and advocate for yourself because otherwise people won’t know. But the main thing. I’ll tell you how I personally look at it. And for me, I believe like I’m there off. It’s going to sound really cheesy. Okay. I’ll warn you. But this is like my purpose is my purpose is to be of service to others.

And I can do that through the form of education. I found like, that’s my passion. Um, So how can I help elevate empower like I love learning and I love aha moments that I found that I naturally I love sharing them. And so that’s very true to who I am. And so sometimes if I hear something like I’m that annoying person that will find a meme so funny.

Let me send it to like everyone I know. And so I like to share and let me just lean into that. I’ve discovered something cool. I like to learn something good and I’ll share that. And that brings me joy and satisfaction. And then. My goal is to build up trust. Like I don’t want to, um, you know, yes, I’ve posted posts, right?

Cause I’ve also done a post over before the holidays in December. There was my publisher said, Hey, your books on like some 30 percent sale or something like that. So I’m like, Hey, I’m going to put out a post that says, you know, what’s a great gift to give your, the market in your life is like buy my book and that’s fine.

But I do that because I’ve built up enough trust and I’m not doing only that. I think if I was just hitting people on the head all the time, like buy my book. I’m just sharing a tidbit of who I am, have the type of things I talk about. And my hope is that if you like that, if anything that I’m saying resonates, and if you feel like you could find value in reading more of my stuff, I know people will go out there and read it.

I don’t need to chase them around with my boat being like, now, now, now, and that’s where people are just, it’s. It’s not a short term play. At least that’s how I approach it, is it’s not short term. I can put myself out there and have fun with it. And, and hopefully they’ll buy my, and they have been buying my book, actually.

My book just won an award, and my publisher was like, we just sold, and not to toot my own horn, but I’m just saying like, the impact, like without being overly salesy was, I asked my publisher the other day, In December, like how’s the book doing? She’s like, listen, in like five months, you’ve sold more than what we’ve considered successful to sell in a year.

So like, you’re like, this is awesome. And it’s literally just all I did was talk leadership. I went out, I shared some of my content and it also brought me a lot of joy. Like we haven’t been traveling as much. And my day job is very much, um, very like I build programs and I run global programs, which I love, but it’s.

I try personally when I have a balance of the strategic and the creative work. And so my day job, what happens if I don’t, if I’m not asked to do a lot of the creative for long stretches of time, I have, I have an action bias. I’m not going to sit there and be miserable and feel like, oh, this is missing.

I’m like, I’m going to figure out a way. And so for me. posting on LinkedIn, connecting with people brings me that joy and helps me balance stuff. So I feel like well rounded and that I’m not, um, you know, leaning too much on one area versus the other. 

Ashley Segura: Yeah. I didn’t, and you’re still able to kind of tap into that creativity regardless of what the nine to five tasks look like.

It really sounds like. The right recipe if you have is to 1st, if you’re just starting out for that leadership 1st, focus on creating educational content. Like, what do you have to say? That is helpful. What do you have to say that could make a difference? Or like you mentioned in the beginning, um, can you inspire new ideas for a business or for consumers to spark?

Oh, I want to go and purchase this because like, what does that look like for you from an educational standpoint and then build up your following your engagement, take time to build trust and really going back into like that. Authority building, make sure that you are an authority on a specific topic, a specific subject, then you can introduce sales content.

And it’s okay to, at that point, essentially a recap. 

Purna Virji: Well, yeah, you don’t just have to be educational. Like there’s other types that you can even share like personal recaps. And there’s, you know, I have a, uh, one of my teammates, she’ll spread a lot about like, here’s what I learned about the hard knocks I’ve had in my life.

And so, and that’s how she builds it. So it’s like, whatever she. Does I would say the number 1, I would start with who’s your audience, like, who are you trying to reach and what’s your goal? And then what do they struggle with? And what do they want? And so, in research that we’ve done, we found that, um. What so like a decision maker or like see more senior audience they want to be they engage best with content that helps them think about something in a new way that they hadn’t considered it helps them identify like potential opportunities or threats that they may not have.

And then the 3rd 1 is it shows them how to act on some of those new perspectives or the to reduce risk or so on. So if you go with those and they don’t just want the same old stuff, they want the fresh thinking that also. Make something in a new way and show them how to, like, implement it. So that’s your audience.

That’s where I would start. So, like, what do people want or what are they struggling with? What are the common pain points we hear all the time? And then I’ll come up with content or I’ll share a stat. I’m like, hey, this is a relevant stat. If you are trying to make the case, like, what, how can I make their life easier or their job easier or make them more effective? 

And it could be in the form of. Uh, education content. I could be sharing a trend or making sure that there’s news highlighted and then just being consistent and you can sell anytime you can sell as much as you want. Just know that if you’re just overly salesy or people feel people can always tell the difference, but we, you know, here’s this good stuff and it’s a money grab versus being genuinely out there who want to share and add value.

Ashley Segura: And like your book, it does add value. People follow you because they want to learn more content marketing strategies. They want to learn more in depth marketing strategies. Then you created an entire book on how to do just that. And so your sales is literally still helping them while promoting your proper thought leadership angle.

So it really makes sense with the consistency angle though. I mean, I personally think it’s fairly obvious. I think. A lot of users are starting to see it more. I would love to hear what your take on AI is in distinguishing between original thought leadership content versus AI content. Like what, what does this new balance look like?

Purna Virji: Isn’t it? I would first say that the advice that I have for people to be consistent is even before they think about AI and the method is find what comes easy to you. Like, what are the types of things that you always think about, right? I’ll joke that my husband was asking me a marketing question in the middle of the night and wake me up and I’ll be like, yeah, I want to answer that.

Or he’ll be like, you want to go speak on a public speaking stage? And I’m like, yeah, yeah, yeah. What stage? Let’s do that. For the morning, I’ll go do it. And so I realized like, these are my two strengths. Like I can talk about marketing endlessly, like the very nerdy dork that I am about marketing. And then I realized that I like to speak more than I like to write.

Like I can write, of course, but I’ll find myself, like I’ll second guess a word or I’ll edit, it’ll take me longer. to write than to talk about a subject. And so I said, Okay, for me, what comes easily what I can maintain over time is videos. And that doesn’t mean that everybody needs to do videos. What do what comes naturally to you?

Some of my friends are more visual, and so then they’ll be posting like images all the time or infographics. And that’s great. Think about something like has a list also, and she’s always posting her awesome. Comics and that are so relevant and time. Like, I love those. So find what comes naturally to you and do that.

And then you’ll find it’s already so much easier where people get stuck and they start looking for shortcuts. It’s like, well, I need an infographic. So if you’re asking me, like, we’re not creating an infographic. I’m like, Oh, my God, I can’t draw a circle to save my life. Right? How will I even go in and try to figure out what’s the right tool?

And like, Uh, over my head, I would hire somebody, but then I have to like, go into find a freelancer and go over and explain the specs and so on. And I’m like, this is too much work. I’m not gonna do it. So those friction areas. So find what flows, then you won’t worry about shortcuts as much. And then if you are doing AI, Use AI to empower you.

I’ll give you an analogy. Like if you’re putting makeup Mm-Hmm. , then you know, just making yourself, you know, if you feel makeup makes it looks more attractive, then you’re gonna put makeup. ’cause you wanna make yourself look more attractive. Mm-Hmm. . But if you’re putting on a mask, then people can’t see who you are.

That’s completely different. So. Mm-Hmm. , are you using AI to maybe. You know, help edit a run on sentence to make it more concise. Are you using AI to maybe help you just ideate or maybe just spark something in you that does it? And there’s no shame in that because that’s awesome, right? If we could, I love having a brainstorming buddy.

It helps me think better. For example, if you can use that if you can use an AI, I’ve done some presentations where my illustrator was on holiday. And so I’m like, well, shoot, I don’t have anything on this slide. And I went into being image creator and I can do this like black and white style creating. And it did.

I’m like, this is awesome. So I had a whole presentation that was half real human illustrations and half being and people couldn’t tell the difference. I’m like, this is wow. So maybe I made sure that there was all credit, but anyway, that you can do where I’m going to use it to empower my creativity. But am I going to have an entire post on LinkedIn written solely by AI, which I haven’t edited to add myself from that’s a no, because I find that I’m not, what’s the point then, right?

The whole point is, I want my audience, you know, it’s get to know you, get to like you, get to trust you. If I’m just failing at step one, knowing me. Um, that’s my personal take on it and everyone, you know, it’s just, it’s a spectrum. People can have their point of view, but how would, how would you think about it, Ashley?

I’m so curious. Uh, I think, 

Ashley Segura: well, I’ll start with, I love that. You mentioned shame with ai because I feel like there’s a lot of shame that is being associated, that if you use AI, regardless of how you use it, no one’s asking, how are you using it? It’s, oh, you’re using ai? Oh, you’re failing at what you’re doing.

Yeah. You have actual thoughts or, uh, it’s just gonna be copy past to everything. And it’s like, no, I, I like to use AI as a coworker. That’s what I refer to it as, as it’s an idea buddy for me. And it helps. Check myself every once in a while of, Oh, I’m actually missing this element. Or here’s a strategy that I’m trying to put together.

Would you add anything to it? And it comes up with like the most traditional things that we forget because we’re so focused on trying all of these new things. And so I like to use AI and my thought leadership to be like, this is the road that I’d like to go on. Do you have any tips? Are there any stops along the way that I should make that would improve this?

Not, okay, here’s five post ideas, write out the post for me. Like you said, then, then you’re fully losing voice. Um, I know a lot of people who are going back to like chat GPT and being like, well, add this tone, add this style. And they’re editing it over and over and over. I tried that and literally like three, four hours went by and I was rabbit holing and I still couldn’t get it to talk like me.

I know. 

Purna Virji: So it’s, it’s, 

Ashley Segura: it’s a great assistant and it can really help streamline so many things, but with thought leadership, it is not the end all be all like we’re, we’re following you for a specific reason. Like you mentioned at the very beginning of this episode, like who are you, what do you have to say?

What do you have to bring to the table? And I really hope we don’t get to a point to where. We get so used to using AI that we do forget, Oh, this was my voice. And this is what I have to bring to the table. So I think finding whatever this new balance looks like, whatever this new normal looks like is going to be unique.

To each person, but it shouldn’t be shamed because we’re all figuring out AI 

Purna Virji: right now. I agree. I agree so much. And what you said was so poignant about who we are. And I think that’s such an important thing to remember is that. You know, we are the only people in the world who think like us, who talk like us, who look like us, whether our experiences as us.

And that’s not a bad thing. It’s a superpower. And, you know, when I came on, there was not many people who look like me on stage. There was not many people with my accent on stage. There was not many people, right. Or I am much more. You know, I’m not as serious and buttoned up as a lot of other, like, execs.

And I’m like, oh my gosh, am I less than because I don’t talk like them? But I’m like, no, you know, this is just who I am. And I tried to, it’s too, who wants to wear the mask, right? You want to be who you are. And in a way, then that can become your advantage. Then people started remembering me like, oh yeah, because of that.

And so we forget because we think like everybody looks and talks and acts a certain way or sound, you know, their tone of voice is a certain way. Um, I should be like that. I’m like, no, you should be exactly who you are. And that is your super advantage. There’s a woman called Bethany Joy, who I love following on LinkedIn.

She is an actual branding, like, tone of voice expert. And she has the She has like some of the best content and like her tone of voice is so like irreverent like swear words some you know it’s so but it’s so good and it’s so her and she’s so consistent and she’s brilliant. I’ve downloaded some of her advice on like the nine uh I feel something like nine laws of like brand voice or something like it’s so good like I find that she’s a good person to learn from.


Ashley Segura: And into, I think it’s sometimes helpful when you see others take that risk and like, yeah, it’s using different language or just really authentically being themselves that it kind of gives you that encouragement that, okay, it worked for them. Let’s try what this looks like for me. And if this evolves over time.

That’s completely normal. You don’t have to come running out of the gate. Like here’s everything that I am and my content and all that I have to offer, because very rarely one will that ever happen, that one will have the ability to do that in two it’s, it’s refined over time, which is definitely something that, that you’ve been echoing throughout this episode.

But as we wrap up, I’m really curious to hear what your. Absolute secret sauces, you know, what’s, what’s your latest strategy? What’s your latest tool that you’re using? What is it that is working really well for you right 

Purna Virji: now? Oh my gosh. There’s no one thing. I think the biggest thing that I would say has worked consistently for me is to investing time doing listening tours.

So I’ll sit down with. The sales and marketing alignment side. I think that’s what I feel has helped me a lot in my career is sitting down with sellers and asking them, like, what are you hearing from customers? Like, what’s going to move the needle for you? What are you pitching? You know, how, what are the common objections or concerns you hear?

How do you overcome it? Like, what’s, what do you always say that helps close the sale? And if I can understand that from sellers, then all the content that I produce is. 10 X more effective than if I just went out alone using guesswork. Cause you know, you really want to tie it back and then identifying the desired objective and outcomes from every piece of content.

So, yeah. 

Ashley Segura: Yeah. And I mean, when you go to the sales and marketing teams, you’re going to identify those pain points and that’s going to create a lot of content ideas for your thought leadership. Like, yes, for your brand, a hundred and 10, 000%, but also for your thought leadership, like, Oh, this is a hole that needs to be filled.

  1. Can confidently talk about this and share something that’s helpful. That has to do with this topic. I’m going to create it on my personal and then create it for the company as well. 

Purna Virji: Exactly. 

Ashley Segura: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for everything that you shared. Thanks for being on the show. It was amazing.

Purna Virji: Thank you for having me. I’m like, the time flew by. I’m like, going for another hour. I know easily, 

Ashley Segura: easily. We could also, well, I am going to wrap this up.

Get Alerted For Each New Episode

Subscribe To Our Newsletter Newsletter  Icon

Unlock exclusive deals, the latest product updates, and insider content marketing strategies straight to your inbox by signing up for the ContentYum newsletter. Plus, get updates on each new podcast episode, featuring interviews with the top content marketing experts and bloggers in the industry.