Financial Poise
Share this...
thought leadership opportunities

Thought Leadership Opportunities: Don’t Pay to Give Yourself Away

I Am Special. Are you? I know this to be true…

Because a stranger who wants my money told me so

Thought Leadership Opportunities aren’t Opportunities

I am special because people frequently seek me out to offer me thought leadership opportunities, thus increasing the likelihood that new clients will hire me as their attorney.

Look, for example, at the breakdown of an email stream below that I received recently. Jake, from an organization called “Corporate LiveWire,” wanted me to speak so badly that he contacted me not once, not twice, not three times, but four times to get me to participate in a thought leadership project!

Sept. 11 Email: The Very Great Honor

Jake first contacted me back on Sept. 11 to offer this very prestigious honor. Jake didn’t tell me how he got my name and email, but he obviously did his research! Indeed, he wrote: “Given your expertise in this area we feel you would be a great candidate to be featured as one of our selected experts.”

Nice. Jake obviously did his homework. Not like those mass email solicitations that we attorneys and other professional service providers commonly get dangling thought leadership opportunities before us (actually, this email is just like those, but I shall stay in character a bit more).

And Jake made the offer sound quite tempting, writing:

“This opportunity will provide an excellent platform for you to showcase your expertise, champion the success of your firm in this field, and provide our readers with important information from a knowledgeable source.”

Pow!

He asked that I respond in two days…Silly me. I usually plan important things in advance. I’m just too uptight.

Jake explained the event was scheduled for October and that, “Positions are extremely limited and are reserved on a first-come, first-serve basis,” and so he asked that I respond within two days.

Hmm… Less than a month away. I like that! “An organization that is not bogged down with petty things like planning things very far in advance!” (the stupid version of me thought, in some parallel universe.) Silly me. I usually plan important things in advance. I’m just too uptight.

And the cost to be involved in this thought leadership event? Only about $660. (The price was stated in British pounds, probably because Jake and Corporate LiveWire are very fancy! Oh, and maybe because 500 pounds looks less than $660 to anyone who isn’t that observant.)

Oh boy. Oh joy.

Mind you, I have never paid to speak on a panel (I have spoken on at least a hundred) or to author an article (I have authored well over 100). In fact, on occasion, when I have participated in other thought leadership opportunities, I was the one who was paid.

[I AM THE ONE WHO KNOCKS!] (Am I macho or what?) But I digress …

This Jake reached out to me personally. Hell, his email even began, “Dear Jonathan Friedland”.  

Such a personal touch. Like the TSA agent at the airport.

Sept. 14 Email: Is This a New Bromance?

I failed to respond (since the email went to my spam folder, as well it should have, though I wouldn’t have responded anyway because, well, my mother didn’t raise a schmuck) and so, Jake emailed me again Sept. 14, at 6 a.m.

6 a.m. Wow. I guess Jake was really expecting my response by the deadline he asked me to adhere to three days prior.

Jake wrote, “Did you get my email? I was hoping to establish whether you were interested in being on the panel for the Bankruptcy & Restructuring Round Table?”

Was I rude not to respond within the time Jake specified (I did not ask myself)? I can understand Jake’s anxiousness. After all, he was very excited at the possibility of having a man of my stature on board! Indeed, Jake wrote, “It would be great to have you involved given your expertise and reputation in this area.” I could not help but wonder who referred him to me. After all, he was obviously very well acquainted with me.

I could not help but wonder who referred him to me…

Jake never did tell me how he came to learn of me, but boy, was the guy flattering. I thought of repaying the compliment, but didn’t have a clue of what to say, since I knew Jake about as well as Jake knew me. So Jake had a serious man-crush on me, I figured. I couldn’t help my curiosity. I reviewed his company’s About Us page and his LinkedIn profile. Wow. I didn’t realize I was dealing with the Editor in Chief!

Odd, though, that he is the only person I could find with a profile on his company website. I like it! He must run a lean ship! And, wow, what a multi-talented fellow: Right out of school, he worked sales at Bloomberg for two years, followed by a stint in business development at an outfit called World News Media (which looks to me to be pretty similar to his current company) for five years.

In my experience, the individual who is both great at sales and at editing is a rare creature. Kudos to you, Jake.

Sept. 21 Email: Name Drops, Prices Drop

Seven days later (almost like clockwork, almost as if Jake were following some sort of standard protocol and script about how to reach out to potential marks — I mean, participants), Jake emailed again to say that he was “expecting the last few positions for the Round Table to be reserved this week.” Jake told me that all the confirmed participants were already, “writing up their responses to the questions and we are excited about the strong lineup of experts taking part in this edition.”

Oh no! If I didn’t move fast, I would lose the opportunity! What to do? I immediately canceled all my client calls that day to focus only on this (said no one who has a business and knows what she or he is doing, ever).

It shouldn’t cross my mind that perhaps I want to know whose names will be associated with mine on a panel. That would be silly of me.

Jake didn’t tell me who those confirmed participants were, but then again, so what? Right? I mean, I studied my ass off in college to get into the best law school I could. I worked even harder in law school. I then spent more than 20 years working hard to advance my clients’ interests, and all of that had resulted in a reputation that I value and am proud of. It shouldn’t cross my mind that perhaps I want to know whose names will be associated with mine on a panel. That would be silly of me.

And, after all, Jake did write, “We have already confirmed INSOL International so it would be great to have you featured alongside.” I know what INSOL is: It is an industry organization consisting of hundreds, if not thousands, of members. Was Jake implying that all of INSOL’s members would be panelists? That would be a pretty crowded panel. I assume that what Jake was getting at was that INSOL possibly signed on as a “sponsor” of the panel, which in my experience, does not mean that much.

But I also see on LiveWire’s  “Media Partnerships” page, the company’s media partners include:

  • The American Bar Association
  • AIG
  • Clifford Chance
  • Cravath Swaine & Moore
  • Ernst & Young
  • Freshfields
  • Jones Day
  • Mayer Brown
  • National Association of Corporate Directors
  • Norton Rose
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • White & Case

I can’t help but wonder if these entities are aware that they are being held out as “media partners” in sundry thought leadership opportunities like that of LiveWire’s. If they do, I wonder what the designation actually means. But I digress…

By the way, when I first read the emails, I thought I was being asked to buy my way into speaking on a webinar. Only upon closer examination did I realize that it would all be in writing.

I can’t help but wonder if the ambiguity was on purpose.

Anyway… with the publication planned for some time in October (Jake still didn’t tell me what day it was planned for), though he did offer to reduce the price by 10% (which is exactly the move most businesses make when they are almost sold out, right?), time was running late.

Sept. 29 Email: The First-Time Car-Buying Experience

Jake emailed me again on Sept. 29. Man, he really wants me to be involved!  He even wrote, “I spoke with my boss this morning and he has confirmed that we can let this go for just £350.”

Woohoo! See? As I said at the beginning of this article, I am special. But why did this remind me of my first car-buying experience? And wait…  his boss??? I thought he was the Editor in Chief. Odd.

But Jake was patient. I picture him to be a patient lover as well. He advised, “[I]f you wish to take part then I can provide the questions today and we would need responses by Wednesday 18th October 2017.”

I’ve posted the entire email streamin its entirety at the end of this article, but first, I have some closing thoughts.

Closing Thoughts

  1. The internet makes it very easy for anyone to disseminate information. And it makes it easy to send out tens of thousands of emails to find just a small number of suckers stupid enough to pay for contributing or receiving content through an outfit that may lack credibility.
  2. I don’t mean to pick just on Corporate LiveWire. I get very similar emails presenting thought leadership opportunities from an outfit called The Knowledge Group all the time. There are a lot of these players in the market.
  3. I’m not saying that the thought leadership opportunities they present or publish are bad. I’m just saying that if you are gullible or desperate enough to pay them to publish it, then I wouldn’t trust your business judgment, no matter how much of a technical expert you may be in some narrow niche.
  4. Pay-to-play promotion is not the same thing as legitimate thought leadership opportunities. If you are a professional, do not sully your personal brand (and waste your money, to boot) on pay-to-play schemes. Most smart clients can see right through them.
  5. If you are a client looking for a trusted advisor or other professional service provider, do not be fooled by “accolades” that mean nothing other than that the recipient was able to afford to write a check. In fact, if you’re thinking of hiring someone who is willing to pay-to-play like this, then consider it a negative factor in your decision-making.
  6. If you are a highly skilled, respected or well-known professional, you may be offered participation in these schemes at no charge. Why? It is the same reason I used when I was a kid in college and I founded a business fraternity. I asked my more physically attractive male and female friends to show up at the fraternity’s first “rush” meeting. People want to be around people they are attracted to — whether it is physical attraction or some other sort of attraction. It’s sort of like “guilt by association.” If you are a giant in your field and you are being offered to participate in an ostensible thought leadership event/publication that others will have to pay for, but is offered to you for free, just say no. Do you really want to enable a bunch of other people whom you do not really know to walk around bragging about how they recently worked with you on a project? An outfit called Financier Worldwide used to employ this strategy (though I am not sure if it still does). Anyway, like the expression goes, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”
  7. One might argue that my view on these thought leadership opportunities is too rigid. After all, to rise as a leader of an industry organization, one likely must invest substantial time and money into traveling to events. And many professionals use PR firms, and they also cost money. Those are qualitatively different animals, however. If you cannot see that, it’s fine by me, as it is that much  more likely that your clients will end up being my clients one day. Full disclosure: I am the majority owner of Financial Poise, which maintains a fee-free, meritocratic venue for professionals to demonstrate thought leadership and which does offer traditional PR services. So, might I be biased? I might. But do you think I’m wrong? No, I don’t think you do.

Regardless, I must bring these thoughts to an end now as I must attend to this very important email I just received from Mehkus H. Gozack:

I’m Mehkus H. Gozack, Personal lawyer to Late Amos Friedland, who died as a result of auto accident. all occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost their lives. He had an account that valued at about 9.7 million dollars deposited in Bank here. Please send your mobile number to my email address to provide you more details…

Appendix: My Pen Pal and Me

thought leadership opportunities

From: Jake Powers
Sent: Friday, September 29, 2017 5:53 AM
To: Jonathan Friedland
Subject: Virtual Round Table – Bankruptcy & Restructuring 2017
Hi Jonathan Friedland, We now have just one position remaining for the Bankruptcy & Restructuring Roundtable. I spoke with my boss this morning and he has confirmed that we can let this go for just £350.
If you wish to take part then I can provide the questions today and we would need responses by Wednesday 18th October 2017.
As mentioned, this is one of the most impressive line-ups of contributors we have had on the Roundtables with organizations such as INSOL International already confirmed.
I hope this is something we can work together on and I will look forward to hearing from you.

Jake

From: Jake Powers
Sent: Thursday, September 21, 2017 8:50 AM
To: Jonathan Friedland
Subject: Virtual Round Table – Bankruptcy & Restructuring 2017

Dear Jonathan Friedland,
I just wanted to let you know we are expecting the last few positions for the Round Table to be reserved this week. I wanted to establish if you had time to review the email and make a decision on whether you wish to take part?
All confirmed contributors are now writing up their responses to the questions and we are excited about the strong line-up of experts taking part in this edition.  We have already confirmed INSOL International so it would be great to have you featured alongside.
As we are hoping to finalise the contributors over the coming days, we can offer a 10% discount on the participation fee- so it would be just £450 to take part. I do hope this is helpful.
I will look forward to hearing from you.
Jake
From: Jake Powers
Sent: Thursday, September 14, 2017 6:06 AM
To: Jonathan Friedland
Subject: Virtual Round Table – Bankruptcy & Restructuring 2017
Hi Jonathan Friedland,
I hope you are well. Did you get my email? I was hoping to establish whether you were interested in being on the panel for the Bankruptcy & Restructuring Round Table? It would be great to have you involved given your expertise and reputation in this area. If you wish to participate please let me know by tomorrow morning and I will explain what we need moving forward.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Jake
From: Jake Powers
Sent: 11 September 2017 12:23
To: Jonathan Friedland
Subject: Virtual Round Table – Bankruptcy & Restructuring 2017
Dear Jonathan Friedland,
We are currently confirming the panel for the Bankruptcy & Restructuring Virtual Round Table which will go live in November.
In our Round Table discussions we pose a series of questions to a selection of industry experts from around the world. These questions cover a range of topics including: regulatory changes, legislative precedent, challenges and opportunities as well as key trends and the latest developments. In this Round Table, we are looking for contributors to comment on subjects such as:
-Acquisition Financing
-Cross Border Solutions
-Complex Restructuring Challenges
-Cross Border Restructurings & Insolvencies
-Importance of Contingency Planning
-Distressed Acquisitions / Sales
-Credit Bidding
-Out of Court Refinancing
-Bankruptcy Litigation
Please let us know if there are any subjects which specifically interest you that are covered here or you would like to suggest others. Please take a look at a Round Table to get an idea on how the discussions are presented.
Given your expertise in this area we feel you would be a great candidate to be featured as one of our selected experts. This opportunity will provide an excellent platform for you to showcase your expertise, champion the success of your firm in this field, and provide our readers with important information from a knowledgeable source.
The Roundtable discussions reach over 70,000 senior business professionals from around the globe. To get more details on the distribution and reach the project, please view the media pack. If you choose to take part you do not need to attend a meeting in person, everything is processed via telephone and email. This enables our contributors to plan their responses accordingly. Also, you can answer as many or few questions as you desire – enabling you the option to focus attention on the areas you feel to be most important..
The Round Table discussions are interactive and your biography and contact details will be featured for readers who require further assistance. Each contributor will also receive a customised PDF with their firm’s logo to distribute as they wish. The cost to be involved is £500.
Positions are extremely limited and are reserved on a first come, first serve basis. If you could reply back by Wednesday confirming whether or not you wish to be involved that would be greatly appreciated. If you have any questions just let me know and I will look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,

Jake Powers, Publisher

About Jonathan Friedland

Jonathan Friedland is a partner with Sugar Felsenthal Grais & Hammer, a law firm with offices in Chicago and New York City. Born and raised in a New York suburb, Friedland graduated SUNY-Albany magna cum laude in three years and then earned his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Friedland clerked for…

Continue Reading Bio »   •   View all articles by Jonathan Friedland »

follow me on:

Leave a Comment:

Share
Hide