John Hall is the co-founder and CEO of Influence & Co., which has become one of the largest providers of premium content to online publications. John is a weekly columnist at Forbes.com and has contributed to more than 50 other publications. He is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council and has a passion for helping other entrepreneurs and leaders.
Influence & Co. specializes in helping experts demonstrate their expertise and credibility through thought leadership and content marketing. Influence & Co.’s account service team saves the experts time, while the publication and content teams work tirelessly to help experts produce content that will showcase their expertise and provide real value to publications and their readers.
MO: Tell us more about your personal background and why you saw a need for Influence & Co.
John: I became an entrepreneur at the age of 19, when I bought my first rental property, which I subsequently turned into a student housing business. While growing my own businesses, I worked at a prominent real estate development and financing company. I participated in deals with Berkshire Hathaway, GE Capital, and JP Morgan in a variety of capacities including construction, development, equity investments, marketing, and management.
As I dealt with some of these big-name investors, I met many talented and brilliant people. However; nobody really knew about these experts outside of their small circles. It got me thinking, “What makes someone a credible expert in his industry?” I talked to many different thought leaders and friends working for online publications, and I started to test the service for myself, my co-founder, Kelsey Meyer, and our initial investor.
These initial tests of getting articles published with our bylines proved very time-consuming, so we hired an account service person and editor to help us perfect the process. We soon began reaping the benefits of increased trust and credibility, and we knew that this was a service worth expanding and offering to those outside our small circle of entrepreneurs. Influence & Co. was launched to provide the services needed to help experts demonstrate their thought leadership, while saving them time and providing real value to online publications.
MO: Can you explain how the Influence & Co. process works?
MO: Tell us about how your clients have benefited from Influence & Co.’s services.
John: I want to clarify that when you are becoming a thought leader in your industry, you aren’t just benefiting yourself; you are creating a pull strategy toward yourself and your company. This is why anybody can benefit from our service. It doesn’t matter whether you are a business owner, author, corporate leader, consultant, or employee — you can benefit from becoming an authority in your area of expertise. I challenge anybody reading this interview to contact me; I am positive I will be able to convince you of the value of our service for you specifically.
The idea that, with a couple of articles, you could reach thousands of readers can be extremely motivating. In addition to people visiting the site, your article could be sent out to publications’ mass email lists. That’s not even including the social media outlets that are used to create a spread effect for your article. We provide our clients with an analytic report to show the results of their published pieces and how they are benefiting their personal/company brands.
Some of the short-term benefits have been increased sales, site traffic, potential client contact, partnership opportunities, speaking opportunities, and the list goes on. One of our clients was recently asked to be a spokesperson for an app after the founders read his article. That was an exciting email to get!
The long-term benefits carry even more impact. When you contribute to different publications, those publications are giving you their blessing that you are an expert. The trust, credibility, and respect created are long-lasting. You can add publication logos to “featured in” sections on your own sites, or it could come up at a networking event that you are a contributing expert to these sites. It is a great way to show people that you’re the “real deal.” Added bonuses, but not our main focus, are the SEO and reputation management benefits. Most publications include a link to your website in the author byline at the end of your article. When people search your name, these articles will appear, showing you as a contributor. The long tail effect of the benefits goes on and on.
MO: How do publications respond to you as you represent your clients?
John: They love us. We are able to provide them quality content that has been polished from people who are real-world experts. It takes some time to explain that we are not providing promotional content. It is educational, entertaining content that our experts are sharing from their own experiences and stores of knowledge.
Publications know what their readers want to hear. They also know that they can come to us for access to a professional in a certain area, and we can deliver quality content from a vetted expert. I think that editors respect us because we are not a PR or SEO firm trying to squeeze promotional posts past them. We have a team of people who read these publications every day and identify which types of articles get the most engagement, and we see how our clients can add something of value to the conversation going on.
MO: What is the most challenging aspect of getting published? How does Influence & Co. help with this?
John: The biggest challenge I have seen is simply the time it takes to get publishing opportunities that help you reach your goals. First, you have to spend time sourcing publications. You then have to attempt to contact them and convince them that you are a valued contributor. If they decide to accept you, you have to develop content without even knowing what their readers want to hear.
Once written, you still don’t know if they are going to accept your piece. Influence & Co. has already established hundreds of relationships with online publications. We have a team that spends its day sourcing new publications to help you reach your goals. The team researches the sites (visitors, demographics, etc.) so we know you’re benefiting from the opportunities.
We have also customized the process around your schedule so you are able to write ideas and thoughts in a stream-of-consciousness style, which makes it fun for our clients. They don’t have to worry about sentence structure or grammar! Our writing team and content development team will help develop content that is high-quality and well-written. The client doesn’t need to worry about editing or any back-and-forth with the publication. All we need are a client’s thoughts, ideas, and expertise.
MO: What are your future goals with Influence & Co.?
John: The future looks bright for Influence & Co. It’s amazing for us to be at a point in our business where we get to choose whom we will and will not work with. We only work with true experts. As we continue to grow, I expect to work with more impressive experts and continue to have top-tier publications looking to us for high-quality content. As publications continue to embrace experts’ contributed content and Google searches continue to reward high-quality content, I think Influence & Co. is perfectly poised to assist more experts and publications.
MO: What is one personal branding tip you can offer our readers?
John: Don’t be scared or hesitant to make an effort to work on your personal/company brand. If it’s not with Influence & Co., work on other areas. Check out experts on personal branding, like Dan Schawbel. Look at different personal branding services from companies like BrandYourself. Make an effort to get your social media accounts and company websites in line so you have a landing pad once you create this pull strategy. I assure you that you will see benefits and opportunities come from all directions.
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