Awesome People - Ep 34

Thought leadership, ghost writing, 100s of FTs, an ask

Hi founders and fellow VC Friends!

Each week we deliver one awesome person to your inbox. These are the people you need to know—the marketers, sales gurus, engineers, ops wizzes— who give your startup superpowers 🚀. The best part is, everyone is hireable on a part-time basis.

Please meet Russ, Your Ghostwriter and Editor Extraordinaire  ✏️

I met Russ when I wrote a post for the AngelList blog: Are We Investing in Things That Really Matter? He edits for AngelList. I was impressed by his skills and asked for an intro — must collect all of the awesome people! Most recently, he helped Helen Min (marketer at Facebook, Dropbox, Quora, and Plaid) launch her blog on marketing for startups. He also ghostwrites and edits for AngelList, Naval Ravikant, Morado Venture Partners, and founders. One little known fact about Russ: In his journalism days he crashed a party at a military base to interview the president of Georgia (the country).

You can hire him to: 

  • Research, write, and edit thought leadership pieces 

  • Develop your company’s communications strategy 

  • Land articles in publications your customers read 

If you need a writer or editor, let me know and I’ll connect you with Russ!

Let’s dive into this week’s tips! So, you want to be a thought leader 📣?

You have to earn it

Start earlier than you think you need to. Like dating, you have to get yourself out there to be noticed. Get in your reps and establish a track record of sharing valued opinions. Your first opinion piece is more likely to appear in the North Bay Business Journal than The Wall Street Journal. Naval Ravikant pecked out more than 20.6k tweets since 2007. At 10 words per tweet, that’s roughly the length of Moby Dick. This takes time and consistency.

To start: 

  1. Define your business objectives 

  2. Pick topics of most interest to your core audience today 

  3. Do your research to find out what will resonate (don’t skip this!) 

  4. Vet your thinking with others 

  5. Commit to a timeline 

  6. Self-publish (at least monthly, ideally weekly) to establish a consistent presence

For context, one of my clients, InsightEngines’s CEO, Grant Wernick, began publishing monthly perspectives about the future of cybersecurity in late 2018 on Linkedin. The added visibility drives new leads and deals. Now, he’s a go-to contributor for leading cybersecurity publications. 

Know your audience

This is PR 101, yet many founders still get it wrong! Define your audience and write about things they care about. If your company’s culture is irrelevant to your customer’s buying decision, reconsider posting about your virtual luau 😂. If you’re writing for investors, offer data to back up your claims. If you’re writing for the masses, drop the product feature mumbo-jumbo and talk about things IRL.

Define your audience in as specific terms as possible. How do they talk? Who do they listen to? What keeps them up at night?

Create a style guide that defines your audience, key messages, and tone of voice. This keeps content creators on the same page. For example, at AngelList we developed writing standards for the blog that reflect their audience of savvy founders, operators, and investors. No matter who’s writing — the CEO, Head of Research, or a salesperson — the company’s views shine through.

Find where your story fits in the zeitgeist

In “normal” times, people are thinking about their business, family vacations, flying RVs, puppies, and dozens of things unrelated to your company. During a pandemic, that list narrows significantly. Your job is to connect what they care about to what you want them to care about. 

Read what your target audience reads. Follow the key opinion leaders (KOLs) in your industry. Find gaps in what’s being presented. Are there popular views that don’t hold up to data? Patterns that are costing your customers money? Make sure what you’re saying is 1) new 2) backed by research and 3) concise enough to capture in a headline. 

Recently, one of my clients, Emily Dong announced a funding round, rebrand, and pivot. Her company sells software to veterinarians so she stuck with the narrative she knew would resonate: How her team is supporting veterinary practices during Covid. 

Everyone needs an editor

Journalists, VC bloggers, and Fortune 500 CEOs all have a secret weapon: an editor.  An editor is many things: a collaborator, accountability partner, sounding board, fact-checker, BS meter, and your last line of defense. As Paul Graham wrote, “You can't ensure that every idea you have is good, but you can ensure that every one you publish is, by simply not publishing the ones that aren't.”

*Confession: My mom still edits all my stuff. Including these. She used to be a reporter for NPR and is extremely talented. Double confession: I was short on time today and skipped her final sign off 😅. Thankfully, Russ is very talented.

Want to work with Russ? Email me and I’ll connect you!

FT Gems 🤩

Dream team, here’s the jackpot! Twice a week, our friends at send an email with FT gems from top startups. You can sign up here and see their past features here. Cha-ching!

Asks 🙏

Who are your favorite freelancing females and diverse freelancers? Please send them our way! We want to feature and help them get paid! Double cha-ching!! 

That’s all for now. Email me if you want to talk to Russ.

Dream team, stay safe out there. And obvi, stay awesome,  

Julia Lipton

Founder of Awesome People and Awesome People Ventures

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