Creating Visibility How Mission-Driven Leaders Build Trust

Hosted By Matt Watson

Full Scale

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Rusty Shelton

Today's Guest: Rusty Shelton

Founder & Chairman - Zilker Media

Austin, TX

Ep. #1159 - How Mission-Driven Leaders Build Trust

In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, join Matt Watson and Rusty Shelton, Founder and Chairman of Zilker Media. Together they talk about how mission-driven leaders build trust by creating visibility. Rusty and Matt explain why founders and leaders should be the face of their brands instead of generic logos. Additionally, they share the secrets of getting over impostor syndrome, organizing your content, the best place to do influencer marketing for founders, and more!

Covered In This Episode

Leading a team can be challenging, requiring trust so you can get through the tough times. Zilker Media helps startup founders build that trust by creating visibility.

Listen to Matt and Rusty discuss the significant challenges for startup founders, particularly about getting over their egos. The conversation moves from building your personal brand to dealing with negativity by creating visibility. People love stories, so podcasts might be an excellent way to build relationships. They also discuss trust as a big part of the buying process, the power of social selling, imposter syndrome, and more.

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Matt and Rusty cover much ground, so jump in on the conversation in this Startup Hustle episode.

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  • Zilker Media (0:56)
  • Your face is the brand for your company (2:13)
  • Two big challenges for startup founders (2:32)
  • Trust is a big part of the buying process (3:46)
  • The Authority Advantage: Building Thought Leadership Focused on Impact Not Ego (4:34)
  • The power of social selling (5:52)
  • How to get over the impostor syndrome (7:28)
  • People love stories (10:15)
  • Building your personal brand is a long-term investment (11:46)
  • Have a name that you can own (12:22)
  • Create an image that builds trust for your organization (17:40)
  • The best place to do influencer marketing for founders (22:31)
  • Dealing with negativity (29:51)
  • Podcasts are a great way to build relationships with potential customers (34:03)
  • Organizing your content strategy and curation (37:17)
  • Your target audience wants to learn from you (41:17)
  • Visibility allows you to earn those impressions rather than having to pay for them (42:36)

Key Quotes

Gallup put out a study last summer that said trust in institutions in businesses is at an all-time low, right? Your audience has never been more skeptical of your corporate brand. And so when you lead with that, it takes more money and more time. And it’s a really difficult way to build trust. The second challenge that startup founders have, Matt, is most of us are competing against corporate brands that have been around for decades and decades longer, much bigger.

– Rusty Shelton

More often than not, when you buy something, trust is a huge part of the buying process, right?

– Matt Watson

If you think about that, just some of the industries, you’re serving through your company. So plumbers, home builders, industries, where everybody else is doing the same old stuff. If you’re the one person that has that podcast in your city and is using it as a way to build peer-to-peer relationships, with potential referral basis with leaders in the community, there’s such a different image that’s getting created there. And the worst thing that happens, if nobody ever downloads a podcast, the worst thing that happens is you build 10 relationships this year. Yeah. 25 relationships this year. And so don’t underestimate for listeners of this that are probably thinking, Oh, my gosh, there are so many podcasts out there right now, how am I ever going to build an audience? Well, actually, the first way to think about this is not so much being stressed about how many downloads you’re getting. It is how many peer-to-peer conversations are you facilitating that can then meaningfully move your business forward.

– Rusty Shelton

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Rough Transcript

Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!

Matt Watson  00:03

And we’re back for another episode of the Startup Hustle. This is your host today, Matt Watson very excited to be joined today by Founder and Chairman of Zilker Media with Mr. Rusty Shelton. We’re gonna be talking today about influencer marketing and creating visibility. Something that I do a little bit of every day I post on LinkedIn in every day as a influencer. If you don’t follow me, you can follow me on LinkedIn. But I think Rusty is gonna teach us a few things today about that. So I’m excited to learn more. Today’s episode of Startup Hustle is powered by Hiring software developers is difficult, Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably and has the platform to help you manage that team. Visit full To learn more, Rusty, welcome to the show, man.


Rusty Shelton  00:45

What’s up, man? Thanks for having me.


Matt Watson  00:47

Yeah, so, so tell me I guess first a little bit about Zilker Media. You’re founder and chairman of Zilker Media. Tell me a little bit about that.


Rusty Shelton  00:56

Sure. So this is actually our second agency. And first agency, just to give a little bit more background, was called Shelton Interact. And that was my first ever startup. And it was really focused in the book space. So it was a full service agency, we were focused on helping authors and publishers launch best selling books that reached as many people as possible. And so that business super niche went really well. We had, you know, 35 New York Times, Wall Street Journal bestsellers. We were fortunate enough to, to get a strategic buyer that came in and acquired us in 2016, Forbes books, who I’m fortunate enough to still work with today. We jumped out about a year later and started Zilker Media. And the idea behind it, and that was let’s take everything we learned from helping authors launch successful books. And let’s actually apply it to a group that that we felt like needed thought leadership more, which were startup founders, CEOs, leaders who were running businesses could be a bank could be a law firm could be a SaaS business, and kind of the idea around it was, if you are a leader that is positioned, not as an operator with something to sell, but as a thought leader was something to teach, you’re gonna go further quicker and build trust in a different way.


Matt Watson  02:13

Well, and these days, especially with the likes of TikTok and other short video, it’s like, more than ever, the executives of a company the founders are, are the brands. Like, your face is the brand, right? And I think I’ve seen Gary Vee say that before in his videos, but it’s like your face is the brand for a lot of companies, a lot of small companies?


Rusty Shelton  02:32

Well, it should be. It always concerns me that when I see, you know, you’ve got a startup founder with a handful of employees. And the brand is entirely you know, it’s a generic corporate logo, where it’s a it’s a company name that nobody’s heard of before. And we got two big challenges today with doing what most entrepreneurs are kind of conditioned to do, which is to lead with the logo. To lead with the corporate brand.


Matt Watson  02:57

Make the logo bigger.


Rusty Shelton  02:59

Yeah, exactly. I mean, the Gallup put out a study last summer that said, trust in institutions in businesses is at an all time low, right? Your audience has never been more skeptical of your corporate brand. And so when you lead with that, it takes more money and more time. And it’s a really difficult way to build trust. The second challenge that startup founders have, Matt, is most of us are competing against corporate brands that have been around for decades and decades longer, much bigger. And if you’re going logo vers logo, that’s not a fight you’re going to win very often. And so kind of this idea of leading again, as a mission driven thought leader was something to teach is entrepreneurs who do that can punch above their weight class, in terms of both visibility and trust.


Matt Watson  03:46

Well, more often than not, when you buy something, trust is a huge part of the buying process, right? Do I trust this person to do this job. And it comes back to what people always say is, you know, you don’t get fired for buying IBM or Cisco and all these things, right? Because there might be a smaller little product or company that comes by but nobody wants to get fired, because they took the risk on hiring this little vendor to say 5% or whatever, right? So, you know, trust is really important. And, you know, especially when you’re a small startup, you know, doing a lot of blogging, publishing on LinkedIn, short videos, all these things, help you build trust with people and get getting your face out there. And I love that and so is that the topic of your of your book?


Rusty Shelton  04:34

it is so the new books called The Authority Advantage: Building Thought Leadership Focused on Impact Not Ego. And so I think that subtitle for me, that became a really important part of the discussion. So for a lot of leaders when I think of high performing servant leaders, for most of them, the thing that prevents them from building thought leadership or building a brand is that three letter word, which is the enemy for most of us with which is the You go right for most of us, when we hear the phrase, personal brand or thought leadership, you know, we throw up a little bit in our mouth, it our minds immediately are going typically to people that are building, ego driven, hey, look at me kind of brands. And there’s certainly plenty of people that are doing that. And so it’d be clearer for your audience, when I’m encouraging them to get a bit more visible to teach to get value, the idea is not for you to be the message, it’s for you to be the messenger. So in other words, if you’ve got a message to get out, it’s gonna go further, quicker, cheaper, if you are the messenger versus your corporate brands. And so I think for a lot of leaders, part of the reason for us around the new book is, many of them have a mistaken impression that if they get visible, people are gonna think it’s an ego stroke, when really, it’s all about making an impact in a bit more scale.


Matt Watson  05:52

Well, and I have some friends on Facebook, that post content, I don’t want to say every day, but definitely every week, about their businesses. And honestly, I’m not a potential customer of them. But you know, what, if I ever run across somebody who could use their services, they’re top of mind, I think of them all the time I see them post about their businesses on Facebook and other social media and social media is super powerful. And it’s it’s creating that brand, amongst people that I think, you know, social selling is huge these days.


Rusty Shelton  06:26

It definitely is. And again, I think for a lot of founders, for a lot of leaders, they sort of generally know there’s value in building thought leadership that kind of appreciate that. But for a lot of them, you know, practically they don’t know how to go about doing it and sort of the step by step approach with that. And so we can talk about that, if that’s helpful today, Matt, but I think for a lot of founders, it’s number one, kind of shifting the mindset from, hey, if I get out and get a bit more visible and teach this is really about impact more than ego. But for a lot of those founders, part of the way I want them to think about it is their business is the interstate, right? We want as many of the right talent, the right clients, the right partners as we can get on that interstate. And invisible founders, visible leaders are on ramps, they’re the best on ramp back to that interstate. And so that’s really for a lot of your listeners part of the way I want them to think about it’s not in, it’s not you instead of your business, it’s you as an on ramp to the business.


Matt Watson  07:28

Well, I think a lot of us have some form of impostor syndrome there too, right? Where we don’t feel comfortable being on video. We don’t, we’re nervous about how is it going to come across. Well, you know, I see all these TikTok videos. And the first thing I think it was, like, well, I’m not gonna go dance on on video. So, that’s I, how would I do this? Like, you know, I think we easily talk ourselves out of different kinds of influencer marketing, right? So I would love to have the, you know, hear your tips about about that for people.


Rusty Shelton  07:58

Yeah, I think you’re exactly right, I hear this from some of the best leaders is impostor syndrome, as is almost more present there. And I think what I found for a lot of leaders, that thing that can get them over that hump is focusing entirely in on giving value on teaching. So the impact side of this again, if you go into the mindset of, hey, I’m promoting my business, number one, people are going to be less interested in that message. But number two, it’s going to be really difficult for you to get excited about that. If instead, you’re going in, and in your given value you’re teaching, you’re you’re focused in on something that, hey, what do you ever take another step with me and my business or not, I’m gonna leave you better off as a result of having listened to this interview or read this blog. What I found is that gives leaders oftentimes the permission to, to step out there and you know, back to Gary Vee for a second. He’s also one of my favorites. One of the things that I love about kind of his message around this is for people to really worry less, especially early on about the number of likes the number of views, and really worry a bit more about, okay, am I giving value here if a potential team member or potential customer who goes my name, and this is the one thing that comes up alongside my LinkedIn profile? Well, if you’re approaching it the right way, you’re going to create an image again, of a thought leader with something to teach rather than an operator with something to sell. And so Matt, you know, in my experience, it’s just been if you can focus a little more on impact and less than promotion, you’re gonna go further quicker and kind of get over that imposter syndrome.


Matt Watson  09:35

And I 100% agree. And you know, every industry is completely different, right? But so I work in home services, and I think of like a plumber or something, right. And if I just seen content or videos about a plumber, that just is every time like, Hey, if you have a plumbing problem, call me like, it’s not interesting, like, why would I engage with this? But if they were cool videos or stories about wild plumbing problems that they solved, it would be interesting and I would read it, like I would want it I want to see the story. I want to read the story, right? It’s fascinating. And so it’s all about how you tell those stories, I think and, and I think, you know, a lot of people that do this kind of stuff always refer back to stories. People love stories, right?


Rusty Shelton  10:15

They absolutely love stories and to stick with a plumber example, which I think is a really good one. If you’re in most cities in the United States, and you look at plumbing companies in the way that they’re marketing, almost everybody is leading entirely with the logo, it’s a corporate brand, it’s a generic stock photo, it’s, you know, it’s kind of the most commoditized thing you could expect to see from a plumbing company is everybody looks the same, I’m shopping them on price, I’m shopping them on location, if one of those plumbers that I’m looking for I Google their name, and I get to the website and see oh, my gosh, they they wrote the book on this there, they won Best Places to Work, they’ve been featured regularly in the media, well, there’s a different image that’s created in my mind there. And it goes more to somebody that I’m looking at less as an operator trying to sell me again, where my guard is up. And I’m leaning in just hoping to be able to get an appointment with these guys based on the credibility that they’ve built. So I think part of what I want to encourage your listeners to think about is potential customers, potential team members, potential partners are sizing you up from afar, whether you like it or not, right, whether you like the phrase personal branding, or thought leadership or not, there’s an image being created for you, before you have a chance to deal with somebody directly. And so number one, don’t you want to own it? And I’d love to talk a little more about that. But number two, don’t you want to be really intentional about creating that image, again, not not of the company with something to sell, but have the thought leader was something to teach?


Matt Watson  11:46

Well, I think that’s, that’s the other thing is if you’re building your personal brand, that personal brand is a long term investment to right. And, you know, you always see these things. It’s like, what would what would my future sell five years from now, wish I was doing today, and like building your personal brand would probably be on that list, because it will help you do who knows whatever you want to do in the future, right. And that’s one of the ways or one of the reasons I do it is like, I never know what I’m gonna do in the future. You know, whether it’s recruiting people, potential business partners, potential customers, whatever it is, right, but you build that personal brand, hoping that in the future, it will be valuable to you.


Rusty Shelton  12:22

I think that’s such a good point. You mentioned, you’ve started for different companies, who knows where you’ll be in the future, but that brand goes with you, wherever you go. And I think for a lot of your listeners, part of what I want them to think about sort of before we get to the fun stuff of, Hey, what should my content strategy be? Or how do I go out and get good visibility? The starting point for me around this mat is do you have a name? Do you have a brand name that you can own search for? Okay, so online brand audit here to think about David Meerman. Scott, who’s one of my favorite PR marketing authors was kind enough to write the foreword for our new book. And he’s one of my favorite examples of this. So his name’s David Scott, right. And what he recognized really early in his career was, his name’s kind of like a piece of digital real estate. And if your name is David Scott, or John Smith, or something really general, or if you have a really unique name, and you’re unlucky enough to share it with an Olympian or an Michael Bolton, the 70s. Yeah, exactly. You know, you’re, you’re not going to own search around down name. That’s a crowded piece of real estate. And so what David did is he added his middle name, right, David Meerman. Scott. And when he did that, he walked across the street to a piece of real estate that was completely empty, and immediately he owned search. So people listening to this part of what I want them to think about for your audience. Number one, do you have a name that you can own search for? And if the answer to that is no part of what I want you to think about as does it make sense for you to change your name? Does it make sense to add that middle initial or add that middle name, and in once you decide what that brand name should be microcosmic? Go ahead and go grab that right go to go to and grab first name last While you’re there, by the way, get your kids names, get your grandkids names, that real estate’s valuable today, it’s only going to get more valuable in the future. But man, if you think about it, if you’ve got a general name, and you’re going out and doing the fun stuff, right, doing interviews, given speeches being visible in the media, well, you’ve got a name people are searching for, and they gotta pack a lunch and go 14 pages deep on Google to find you, you’re making it much more difficult to convert a referral, you’re making it much more difficult for people to find you. And so I was going to ask you, is that something that you thought a little bit about? You’ve got a pretty common name as


Matt Watson  14:47

I’m sitting here Googling and as you say it as a reminder of this, like, yeah, there’s a YouTuber named Matt Watson, and I think there’s been a professional baseball player that has the same name as well. So So I searched, I searched Matthew Watson, I, you know, steal all sorts of the same stuff for them comes up. So it’s funny, you mentioned that because it’s like owning your own name as its own branding problem.


Rusty Shelton  15:11

You think about right, Michael B. Jordan, one of the most famous actors in the world right now who’s been in so many different movies, well, he came out of the womb with the same name of the most famous basketball player in the history of the world, right. And so if he didn’t have that middle initial, he’s, he’s never going to have quote, unquote, real estate and discoverability around his name. And so part of what I would encourage you to think about as well is, as you keep going forward, it’s not that you can’t be successful with the name you got, you’re just going to make it easier on people, obviously, to be able to find you if we add whatever that middle initial might be for you. And by the way, for people that do make that decision, hey, I’m going to go ahead and go with that middle initial, make sure that you are really consistent about the way your brand name is used. So in other words, if we go with that middle initial, that’s on LinkedIn, that’s on your business card, that’s how you’re introduced on stage, that’s your email signature. In other words, rather than scattering bricks on a bunch of different pieces of real estate with a bunch of different versions of your name, once we go with that brand name, look, put all those bricks on one piece of real estate.


Matt Watson  16:20

Yeah, and lucky for me, I’m, I have the same name as some YouTuber who, like, I don’t know, went to prison or did some dumb shit. So yeah.


Rusty Shelton  16:30

It’s, it’s amazing to me that how many people I’ll talk to you that have a really unique name. And again, they you know, they share it with somebody that did something really bad happen to be really so as, as in the weeds as this may sound to a lot of members of your audience, this is foundationally important to having a brand that your customers and partners can refer people to, so that those referrals actually find you. And take that next step.


Matt Watson  17:04

Well, I do want to remind everybody that finding expert software developers doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you visit full, where you can build a software team quickly and affordably. Use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs and see what developers are available to join your team. Visit full to learn more. So what other what other kinds of suggestions do you have for entrepreneurs out there that are thinking about? Man, I just I don’t have time to write blog posts. I don’t have time to be on LinkedIn, I don’t have time to write books. I don’t want to be a keynote speaker. I don’t want to make dance videos for tick tock like, what other suggestions do you have for him?


Rusty Shelton  17:40

Yeah, well, I think it comes back, you know, for me that too, are you creating an image that builds trust for your organization. So I would say for founders, if you don’t want to do the content work, if you don’t want to get crazy with you know, visibility, or interviews, etc. Your Brand still matters tremendously to your organization in terms of attracting talent, attracting customers, etc. And so step one is have a brand name that people can find, right? So have something that you’re discoverable around step two, that is okay, cool, right? I got a name that actually found you around it, found your LinkedIn profile and found your page on the website. The second question I want people to ask themselves is, what kind of image are you creating before you get in the room? Okay, so for most founders, if I were to Google their name, maybe I find a LinkedIn profile, I’ve got a, you know, the header area with their corporate logo, I’ve got, you know, probably a headshot on their website, and nothing negative about that image, man, it’s just exactly the image that I would expect to find. In other words, it’s an image of somebody trying to sell me something, versus part of what I want founders to think about leaders that are listening to this is when I google your name, am I perceiving you as an operator with something to sell? Or am I perceiving you as a mission driven thought leader with something to teach? So what we often talk about just to get really specific around this, Matt, so the definition of branding for us is creating an image in the minds of your audience. Okay. And if you think about that, today, creating an image in the minds of your audience, there are two really distinct phases to creating that image. So phase one is what we think of as pre engagement. Right? So phase one is before I hire your companies before I meet you in person before I take that job at your company, and so the image you create in my mind at phase one, is not created as a result of your direct impact. It’s created page one of Google right from there for lucky it’s then created on your website, LinkedIn profile, etc. And that initial image is either an image that’s congruent with what I’m gonna get once I raise my hand to do business with you or once I buy that product or service or it’s an image that is either not nonexistant because I can’t find you, even though I know your name, or if I can find you, you know, maybe it doesn’t really give me anything to kind of differentiate you from the other options when it comes back to phase one. Phase two is post engagement. Phase two is once I become a customer, once I join your team, once we work together, in the image you create, in my mind, in phase two is connected back to the answer to one really simple question is did you over deliver on whatever my expectations were as a customer as a team member? Or did you under deliver, I’m gonna assume most of your audience is over delivering in phase two, like a lot of leaders that I see their heads down, focused entirely on over delivering for their team for their customers, etc. And by the way, obviously, those are table stakes, you’ve got to do that really well. What I want to encourage for your team or for all of the listeners out there is to put themselves in the shoes of somebody that’s been referred to their company, when they go to that LinkedIn profile, when they go to that page on the website. In phase one, you’ve got to keep in mind, there’s no image in their mind yet for you, right, it’s the very first time they’re coming across you or your company. And so if you lead with a corporate logo, they don’t know yet. Or if you lead with just a normal headshot, again, it’s not it’s not negative, it just doesn’t do anything to create an image of trust. So we talk a lot about in the book is this idea of creating authority by association, which in phase one is the single most important principle that exists in terms of building trust with somebody that doesn’t yet know You. So Matt, for example, if I get to a website, and you know, again, I don’t know the company, but I can see if the while they’ve been featured in Forbes, they’ve gotten this Best Places to Work award, I see a picture of the founder, and he’s up on stage. And I’ve got a TEDx logo behind her. Well, what happens there is alright, I don’t know this company, I do have an image in my mind for Forbes for TEDx, or the local newspaper, best places to work. And so what happens is that company’s image is now along for the ride with the image in my mind for those brands, right? It’s a trust accelerator. And so, just pragmatically, and I’d love to see what questions you have about this. But for people that are listening to this, go to your LinkedIn profile, go to your corporate website and see, are you associating your brand with logos and brands that your target audience already knows, trusts and respects? And if you aren’t, you’re missing a great opportunity to build trust before you get in the room?


Matt Watson  22:31

Well, and so, so I love the idea of having those those brands or photos of you doing things like speaking on stage and all that stuff, right? That kind of puts you in the light of of having some form of authority. But I’m as I think my next question, though, is, when you when you talk about doing influencer marketing and stuff, do you see LinkedIn as being one of the best places to do that? Or where do you see that people should be investing a lot of their time to do this kind of authority, influencer marketing?


Rusty Shelton  23:04

Well, I think for most of your audience, LinkedIn is going to be the best place obviously depends on the audience that you’re trying to reach for your company. But LinkedIn for most founders, for most leaders, is the very first place for you to be able to own search around your name if you don’t have a personal brand website yet. And so it is going to be that first impression. And as you know, you know, LinkedIn done a lot over the last few years to really make that profile more like your home bases of national I mean, in in large part, it looks like a website. Now, and a lot of people don’t use it that way. And so I think as you think about LinkedIn is sort of two pieces to it in my mind. Number one is that static profiles, so are you creating through that header image, the number of founders that I see in that header image that either have their corporate logo, or they’re given me a sunset, picture off the coast of California, again, cool pictures, doing nothing to create trust with somebody that doesn’t yet know You. So give me that stage shot, give me give me a picture of you in a setting that connotes authority within the bio there. So again, LinkedIn allows you to do that full narrative bios of founders think about really mixing, not just hey, here’s my skill set, which is amazing how much I still see that mix the mission behind what you’re doing your why, what you’re really passionate about with that authority by association, give that audience a mix of okay, wow, this is a person I can trust in this industry. And now I’m getting a really authentic mission driven message. And then LinkedIn, as you’ve seen, with you know, the audience that you have built is really a great place now to build followers. It’s not just connections now that just people you know, directly you can build a massive audience on LinkedIn through their newsletter feature and other features. What have you seen from your side be the kind of the most successful approach to your LinkedIn? wrote,


Matt Watson  25:00

yeah, so I’ve used LinkedIn on and off for years. And about six months ago, I decided that I was really going to focus on it again. And so over the last six months, I have posted almost every single day, and sometimes a couple times a day. And, you know, I think I’ve grown my following from about 15,000 followers to now about 24,000 followers over the last six months or so. And I, you know, I was doing it to help promote Full Scale, which is a, you know, a company I own. And I would say, I don’t post every day about Full Scale, I post maybe once a week or something like that. But then every other day, I post about, you know, other random things. And but I would say I get leads from LinkedIn, probably every week, every time I post something, most of the time, not every time, but most of the time, I will get a lead from somebody that has been following me for a while or whatever. And I think so for us. For Full Scale, the way we sell our services is largely based on trust, like there are 1000 other companies that do software development services, like we do. And but but nobody buys any of them, because they don’t know any of them. They don’t trust any of that, right. And so trust is critical. We know trust is critical for us to sell new accounts. And that’s why we do the podcast. That’s why we we do LinkedIn and content marketing and things like that, because it helps us build trust and authority with people. So that when they’re ready to buy, they think of us and they have a little more trust in us. Right. And I think the big point I want to bring out to LinkedIn is you are trying to constantly market to people that are passively buying, right, like they’re, they’re not nice, maybe they don’t have a need today, but you want to build a relationship with them. And over time, you know, they like your content, I like what you have to say. And so passively, they’re there. So when the timing is right, that they will be a buyer, and it may not be today, it could be months from now, but you’re planning a lot of seeds is the way I was looking at it.


Rusty Shelton  27:00

Completely agree with you. And it’s really in large part, you’re extending your interaction with somebody from that initial meeting, or from that initial connection point to the point, two months, two years down the road where either they know somebody that needs what you do, or maybe they are referrals to. Yeah, exactly. And so I think the other piece of this to get to referral marketing for a second. So the pragmatic reality for most businesses is most of us grow by referrals, if we’re doing things the right way. And that’s not going to change. By the way, as you get more and more visible. What I find is one of the biggest areas surprise for a lot of leaders that go down this road of building an authority advantage is the quickest impact that they see is it inspires the people that already know and love them to refer them more often. Because the brand is set up in a way that makes that person look good for having the connection. In other words, it validates the referral. So if you sort of think about it, if you’ve got a financial advisor that you know, is just a fantastic financial advisor, they do a great job. But you know, when you give your buddy that referral, and they go Google that financial advisors name, if they’re getting to kind of this mail in sort of LinkedIn profile, or, you know, a bio page on an Edward Jones website, there’s nothing negative about that. It’s just the most commoditized image that could exist instead, if Patty Brennan is example that we use in the book, who is one of the largest female owned financial advisory firms in the country, and often will encourage people to think about our if you’ve sold your business and you got referred the five different financial advisors, you’re gonna go kick the tires on each of those referrals for the five people that you Google their name, you’re gonna get the suit and tie picture with all of the educational background. Again, nothing negative, but you’re in a position of leverage there, you’re interviewing that person, go Google Patti Brennan’s name, the first picture that comes up on her website is not the retired couple stock photo, walking down the beach, it Patti up on stage at the Forbes Women’s Summit, and you’ve got that Forbes logo right behind her. You can see okay, she’s won awards from various, you know, large financial publications. Well, those, you know, for the five, I’m in a position of power with Patti, uh, you know, wait three months. I’m just feeling lucky to get in the room with her. And so that’s part of what I want people to think about, as they think about their personal brand is when you have a brand that builds trust and shows kind of you’re that person was something to teach, you’re going to find people much more excited to refer to you because it makes them look good for having that connection.


Matt Watson  29:51

Well, and I think the other thing that’s hard about this when you put yourself out there and you try and be influenced or having authority is you have to accept that not everyone is going to like you, right. And but but the point is, you’re trying to find the people that are raving fans of you, even though there may be some people that aren’t. And that’s okay. Because not everyone is going to like you. And I’m curious what what experience you’ve had with with that part of it?


Rusty Shelton  30:16

Yeah, without question. And there’s certainly some industries are strong, some topic areas where it’s going to be a lot more of that than than others. But I think that that gets back to some of the impostor syndrome and some of the head trash that a lot of people have around getting visible here. And that’s really where, from, from my experience, that thing that gives people permission to get over that initial reaction is focusing in on impact focusing in on just giving value, no matter what, no matter if you ever get business from it, if you’re just giving value through that video, or through that newsletter. That’s the thing that, in my experience, allows people to power through some negativity that may come through, because you’re going to hear from a lot more people that are saying, You know what, I did things completely differently, or that that newsletter really helped me think differently about how I’m going to approach you know, fatherhood or whatever it might be. And so that kind of stuff, I think, is really important for people.


Matt Watson  31:15

Well, I think it’s, you know, to follow up to that, I think it’s important that you have a thick skin too. And I so I posted on TikTok like every day for like three or four months or something and TikTok had so many people that just leave stupid comments, like, it’s pretty insane. And you have to have a really thick skin and like not take the bait on debating with some of these people. We’re on LinkedIn, you don’t see that as much, but on certain different kinds of social media, especially like Reddit and things like you’re gonna get trolls. And that’s just what they are, and you can’t take the bait, you have to have a thick skin, you have to have a thick skin.


Rusty Shelton  31:49

And I think that’s a really good point. And what I find that for a lot of people as they work their way up to be able to handle that. So it’s rare that I’m going to tell a leader to jump straight to Reddit or jump straight to Tik Tok, even, it’s sort of warming your way up and getting getting a feel for it. The other thing I want to mention it for a lot of the founders and leaders that are listening to this is, oftentimes the best way to think about content marketing is not just a way for you to share your stuff. It’s a way to really build bridges to relationships that either you want to nurture or that you want to build. So one of my favorite examples of this, we talked about relationship driven content in the book. In other words, how can you use your content as an excuse to reach out to somebody that you want to build a relationship with one of the fastest growing regional banks here in Austin, you walk in the door at their new bank branch downtown, it’s all the stuff you’d expect to see from a modern bank branch, you turn to the right, there’s a podcast studio, visible in the bank branch, and the bank president is using that podcast studio as a way to facilitate relationship building, bringing in top customers, he’s using it as an excuse to reach out to people. And the interview, Matt, as you know, is not like, hey, look, tell me why our bank is the it’s not a endorsement, it’s focusing in on the other person’s story. But what happens with that podcast is, every other banks doing stuff exactly the same way, let’s go play golf, let me take you out for drinks. I can’t delete that email quickly enough. In terms of a cold outreach, what they’re doing is they’re going out saying, Hey, I’d love to have you as a guest on our banking, on community podcast. And so that kind of mindset for founders and leaders that are thinking about this, which is always the magic question that All right, if I’m gonna do this, what’s the ROI of my time? Why is it a good use of my time, and if you can connect it back to two things that I would argue are best in highest use for a CEO and founder number one is building an accelerating trust in your organization. Number two, is relationship building with existing clients and partners and potential clients and partners. If you do this the right way. Those two things are happening.


Matt Watson  34:03

Yeah, and podcasts are amazing for that. Right. You know, that’s, that’s how we use it. We use it to reach out to people that could be potential customers and have them on the show, and they’re much more likely to respond. Especially if they’re like, Hey, come talk about yourself for 45 minutes, right? Most people are like, Okay, sure. Versus a cold, you know, a cold outreach, you know, trying to sell them something they’re not going to respond to. So, podcasts are a fantastic way to build relationships with people and outreach to people that you otherwise would never, never, never build relationships with. And I had somebody on the podcast, I’m not sure when it will air in relation to this one. But he was like a, I would call them I wouldn’t call him a famous YouTuber, but he’s like, you know, a B level famous youtuber. He’s got a million followers. And it was super cool for me to reach out to him and he agreed to be on the podcast and do that otherwise, like, why would he talk to me? But it was super fascinating to him. them on the show. So podcasts are a great way to build relationships. And I definitely agree.


Rusty Shelton  35:05

What especially if you think about that just some of the industries, you’re you’re serving through your company. So plumbers, home builders, industries, where everybody else is doing the same old stuff. If you’re the one person that has that podcast in your city, and is using it as a way to build peer to peer relationships, with potential referral basis with leaders in the community, there’s such a different image that’s getting created there. And the worst thing that happens, if nobody ever downloads a podcast, the worst thing that happens is you build 10 relationships this year. Yeah. 25 relationships this year. And so don’t underestimate for listeners of this that are probably thinking, Oh, my gosh, there’s so many podcasts out there right now, how am I ever going to build an audience? Well, actually, the first way to think about this is not so much being stressed about how many downloads you’re getting it is, how many peer to peer conversations, are you facilitating that can then meaningfully move your business forward?


Matt Watson  36:05

Well, and that’s the thing you can easily get hung up on, how many likes did you get? How many views did you get and all that stuff, which are sort of vanity metrics. And you have to remember that it only takes one person or two people or whatever, that are customers that really matter. And so that’s the heart, the hard part about it is like you want to post something on LinkedIn, you don’t want it to go viral or whatever. But most people will get a few 100 views on their LinkedIn post. Or if they’re lucky, a few 1000. I had one that got 1.2 million recently, which was mind blowing to me, that that was absolute absurdity. And I’ve had blog posts go viral on Reddit and Hacker News and stuff like that. But you can’t reproduce that every week, either. It’s sort of magic when it happens. But you have to just accept, like, as you said earlier, it’s like you’re creating content that’s valuable for other people, and you just create it and you don’t stress so much about how many likes you get and all that, like you’re trying to create better content, like you take that as feedback, okay, that people like this, or they don’t like that. And maybe I go deeper into this topic or whatever. But you have to keep doing it. You can’t get disheartened by it. And and that’s hard because we all do we get disheartened by it. We look at the metrics, and they are vanity metrics. But you got to push through it.


Rusty Shelton  37:18

For sure. Let’s let’s talk about that for a second. Because this is one of the most common questions I get from from leaders is all right. I’m convinced I’m ready to dive in. What do I talk about? How do I organize my content strategy? And so the analogy I like to use for this, Matt, I want to encourage people to kind of think about their content strategy, almost like it’s their personal newsfeed. Alright, so whether we’re talking LinkedIn or podcast or Reddit, all of it levels up, it’s your personal newspaper. And the mistake I see a lot of people make typically the tendency is to kind of fill that newspaper with op eds or opinion pieces, meaning it’s the rusty show again, and again, and again, right, we got two problems with that, number one, you’re gonna get bored on board pretty quick if all you’re serving up is your own stuff. Number two, if you’re starting off with a small audience, we may not have enough people yet that know to pay attention to just your stuff. So it’s a slow grind in terms of growth. So what I was encouraged leaders to think about three categories of content evenly split category one is what we call you-driven content. Y-O-U, so this is content that connects back to your intellectual property, your your advice for people your guidance on whatever your topic area is, This category also includes your personal journey, as a leader lessons learned along the way, the more vulnerable, the more self-deprecating that you’re willing to be, as you know, the better that category is going to perform. In my experience, Matt, most people are doing that first category at like 95% of what they’re putting out. So only encourage people to limit that to 1/3. Category Two is news-driven content. So news-driven content is either calendar-driven, meaning based on the time of year for many of you, you kind of know what’s front of mind, for your audience for it’s what David Meerman, Scott calls newsjacking. So taking what’s in the broader news cycle, you know, your audience is stressed about it, anxious about it, excited about it, I don’t need you reporting the news, right? There’s lots of people doing that. But I do want you to provide analysis for your audience on that news. Third category is what we talked about earlier, which is relationship-driven content and tactically around that people listening to this, my encouragement is to sit down and think about, okay, over the course of the next five years, who are the 50 most important relationships for the growth of my business, all right, and those might be potential customers, potential partners. For most people, when you create that list, roughly half of it are going to be people that already know and love you, their existing relationships. They’re in your network already, and the other half might be wishlist target relationships. This is where you work backwards from that list. If you want to start a podcast that’s a great way to do it. A LinkedIn newsletter, Spotlight Series is a great way to do that find ways to involve other people in your content in a way that starts with a win for them because you’re really empowering them with a way to refer you in a way that they’re winning as they do it. So that’s what I’ve seen that just in terms of the right content mix that allows people to both get some immediate gratification around the relationship-driven side, but also start to teach as well.


Matt Watson  40:24

You know, I, I want to add to the news content thing because part of the problem we have in this world is there’s an unlimited amount of information out there, right? And so what part of the value that you can provide as an influencer is curating that. You know, it’s, you’re an expert in the space, you follow a lot of the stuff. And you know, some people will be interested just to hear your take on it, like, what is your take on AI, or whatever it is, and how it will impact our industry and whatever. But the other thing that you can help do is just curate all of that information, like, I don’t have time to go consume all of that, but I follow you because if there’s something important to know, I know that you’re going to tell us all about it. And that provides a lot of value to me. Like I think that curation is also super valuable.


Rusty Shelton  41:05

I absolutely agree with you, if you’re writing it, and then providing maybe just a little bit of quick analysis around how you recommend that people react to that. Totally agree.


Matt Watson  41:14

Because otherwise I can’t, I can’t keep up with it.


Rusty Shelton  41:17

Right, there’s so so much out there. But I think the other piece of this, Matt, is we as the media consuming public, increasingly are shifting attention away from large, generic media, right? And we were more interested in interacting with individuals that are that are more entertaining, but more trustworthy, right? And so that’s the other piece of empowerment that I want leaders to sort of think about here is your target audience increasingly wants to push the media out of the way and learn directly from you. And in doing this, number one, you are promised you’re going to have fun, even if you don’t feel like you’re going to right now I promise as you get into it, you will have fun. But number two, you are going to accelerate trust for your business in a way that meaningfully moves results forward.


Matt Watson  42:06

Awesome. Like a good example of this is for like the war and Russia and all that stuff. I hardly ever read about any of it on major media. But there’s like four people I follow on YouTube, that I get that curate all of it to me. And you know that that’s the value of these kinds of influencers. And one of them was one of the ones that was on the the podcast. But it’s like they curate that that for us. And we’re not getting it from mainstream media, which which is a totally different change from 10 or 20 years ago.


Rusty Shelton  42:36

And it’s it’s it’s a remarkable change. And I think, again, for entrepreneurs and founders, this is the way you can punch above your weight class, in terms of visibility allows you to earn those impressions rather than having to pay for them.


Matt Watson  42:52

Absolutely. Well, if you need to hire software engineers, testers or leaders Full Scale can help. We have the people and the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit All you need to do is answer a few questions and let our platform match you up with a fully vetted, highly experienced team of experts. At Full Scale, we specialize in building a long term team that only works for you learn more when you visit full Well, Rusty, thanks so much for being on the show today. This is definitely a topic that that I love. I mean, I guess I’m a LinkedIn tech entrepreneur influencer myself. I enjoy writing on LinkedIn, and I have a blog and stuff I really enjoy doing it myself.


Rusty Shelton  43:30

Yeah, you could tell I mean, you’ve got a lot of great stuff there. And I think you can tell if people enjoy it, versus they’re going through the motions on it, or somebody else is writing it for them, right? So if you can, if you can lean into it to the point that you enjoy, you’re gonna get a lot further a lot quicker.


Matt Watson  43:44

It’s my hobby, like, I love to write and I, I think of weird stuff all day long. And you know, I jot down little notes or like, here’s a post it note if something today or whatever, and then I go and write about it later and schedule it, I scheduled this stuff to like I use tools and schedule it in advance. And the key is you just have to do it, you know, people are scared to do it. And one of my, you know, one of the best piece of advice I ever saw along those lines was like from Mr. Beast, it’s like, go make 100 YouTube videos, every one of them is going to suck, just get a little better every time and then you know, then look back after the 100th video, but most people don’t make it that far. They just don’t make it.


Rusty Shelton  44:23

Right. And most people don’t even give themselves permission to even start. But if you do, they get so self conscious that they don’t keep going. And so just power through and that’s again, the impact side of this. The teaching side of it is is what I hope will be some fuel for for leaders to do that.


Matt Watson  44:39

So as we wrap up the show here, remind us again about your book and maybe how you could help people.


Rusty Shelton  44:45

Yeah, for sure. So listeners who are interested in getting we’re actually given away free audio or digital copy of the book if they go to They can put in a little bit of information and get a free audio or digital copy of the book. Look, is a great place for people to go if they want to learn a little bit more about writing and publishing a book and then is a great place to go if you’re looking for an agency to help you actually do this.


Matt Watson  45:16

Awesome. All right. Well, thank you so much, Rusty, for being on the show. And your website address?


Rusty Shelton  45:22

Website address is either or Exactly.


Matt Watson  45:30

Awesome. All right. Thank you so much, Rusty.


Rusty Shelton  45:32

Matt. Thank you.