Now that I’ve got your attention (particularly my husband’s), let me explain. A few weeks back, I was researching a company who tapped us for an RFP on thought leadership and influencer marketing. After a quick listening scan and review of their websites and social activity, I knew a whole lot about what they do, but virtually nothing about who they are, what they know or what they stand for.

Internet datingThat initial online meeting is like a first date. It could fall flat. Or it could be the start of a beautiful friendship. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, more than 80% of consumers go online to research products before they buy. So if you want a consumer to commit time and attention to you, then make that time well spent by giving them the kind of information they want and need at these early stages of the buyer’s journey.

In the Awareness and Consideration phases of the decision journey, the consumers’ focus is on being smart about their options and then having informed conversations. Much of that initial view is driven by the brand and a well-developed thought leadership program that integrates both the brand’s perspective and the influencers’ voices.

So what can you do improve the odds for making a great “first impression”?

  • Be True to Who You Really Are. What are those select topics with which you want to be aligned? The types of conversations that you absolutely don’t want to miss? Which areas give you a great platform to tell the “story of you” — why you’re different, smarter, better than the alternatives. There’s a risk in spreading yourself too thin as you start a thought leadership program. So hone in on your short list, craft a clear POV (informed by listening) and you’ll start to form a picture of what your brand stands for on the issues that matter most to you.


  • Be Disarmingly Honest. Tell your story in a way that’s natural to you and the social environment in which you’re telling it. According to psychologist and author Sheenah Hankin, “We trust and feel closer to people who are open.” If your voice is genuine and your message consistent, then you won’t create unintended disconnects, whether the consumer “meets you” on your website, in a forum, at a conference, on Twitter, in a Linked In group or via an influencer’s blog.


  • Flaunt Your Personality. Be creative in how you package your story. There are myriad options — from e-books and white papers, to articles, blogs, and social posts, infographics to Pinterest boards. Take full advantage of the emerging tools that help you curate and present your content in innovative ways. Showcase the people behind the brand to personalize the experience. For those competing in highly commoditized markets, it can prove to be what distinguishes you in the prospect’s mind. Don’t be afraid to show your passion and have some fun!


  • Get Out There. Use listening to determine where key conversations are taking place and help guide where to focus your efforts. Identify and nurture a relationship with the influencers who can best amplify your content. Leverage traditional and social media to build your industry profile and present your insights. And most importantly, commit to sustaining that effort; thought leadership and influencer marketing are not ‘once in a row’ activities.


Like any good relationship, it grows over time but it all starts with a first look.

Cheryl Treleaven

Cheryl Treleaven


Engaging your customers is at the heart of successful marketing programs. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has been building and executing content and thought leadership strategies designed to do just that. She is excited to be applying that well-honed skill to a help companies like Microsoft, Cisco, 3M, Intel, Capital One and Barclaycard tap into their stakeholder communities and build sophisticated content strategies.

Her experience base spans a range of industries – from technology and financial services to retail, travel, consumer products and healthcare. Cheryl has served as an integral member of her clients’ marketing teams, providing counsel on marketing and brand strategy, thought leadership, media relations, product introductions, and event management.

Prior to joining ComBlu, Cheryl spent 10 years leading corporate marketing for large, complex organizations.