Cascading Leadership - The Show

If You're a Fan of Marketing Prevailing Wisdom, This Episode Isn't For You. If You Want to Innovate, Listen to This - Susan Diaz

December 06, 2022 Jim Season 2 Episode 43
Cascading Leadership - The Show
If You're a Fan of Marketing Prevailing Wisdom, This Episode Isn't For You. If You Want to Innovate, Listen to This - Susan Diaz
Show Notes Transcript


The conversation discuss the importance of customer feedback and how it can help drive innovation. Susan describes how she started to hear from customers when they built their podcast, and how they leaned into the fun to attract people's attention.

In this conversation, Susan  discusses the importance of adding entertainment value to content in order to make it more engaging. Susan shares the story of how she came to write her book UnBoring, and the process of choosing the title. She also discusses the idea of prevailing wisdom, and how it is often outdated or inaccurate.

Susan also discusses the importance of being interesting and engaging, rather than boring, in order to build relationships with others. 



The Death of The Hero's Journey - Flashback 


The Importance of Preventing Unconscious Bias in Innovation


The Power of Being UnBoring


The Dangers of Being Boring in Business Relationships


The Flywheel Effect: How Anchor Content Can Help You Stay on Track


The Initial Way to Organize Your Brand


The Importance of Discipline in Creating Consistent Content


The Benefits of Pivoting and Being Disciplined in Your Content Strategy


The Power of a Pattern Interrupt


How to Advance Your Career with Podcasting with Susan 

Music Credit: Maarten Schellekens - Riviera 

Follow us at:

 Susan Diaz - UNbOriNg - Conclusion 

Susan Diaz - UNbOriNg - Conclusion 

[00:00:00] Ethan: Previously on Cascading Leadership...

[00:00:02] Susan Diaz: I'll start with the Hero's Journey and then we'll come back to the Flywheel thing and continue that chat.

[00:00:06] Susan Diaz: I think the hero's journey is specifically to do with. Going in the opposite direction of what everybody's doing. And with the heroes journey, I think when, interviews were new, whether it was in TV or radio format, and advanced interviewers were asking beautifully constructed questions to paint a ta a picture of someone's life versus the average business podcaster who in 20 minutes hasn't quite gotten to the point of the episode.

[00:00:36] Susan Diaz: That's where my rant lives, is that is not the only format, everybody's doing it. A lot of people are executing, it, not fantastically, like not in a way the reader or the, sorry, the listener has to. Sift through the material in to get into the meat of it. So that was why the take on the death to the hero's journey 

[00:00:56] Ethan: And now the conclusion of our interview with Susan Diaz. 

[00:00:59] Dr. Jim: I want to call [00:01:00] out one particular thing that you just mentioned, and this is something that just drives me insane. And I'm a sales guy, so I'm not even in the marketing world. So if it annoys me, I can't imagine how much it annoy. Like the really good marketers that are in my network, and it's the whole, this whole idea about enterprises developing customer personas without ever actually talking to a customer drives me nuts.

[00:01:24] Dr. Jim: Like, why would you do that? And again, goes back to one of the earlier points that you mentioned, our opinion of what thi what we think is important to our customer. Is not important. It's actually the customer opinion of what's important to the customer. 

[00:01:40] Susan Diaz: That's great. 

[00:01:40] Dr. Jim: Is what's important. So why in the world would you create a persona without ever talking to a customer?

[00:01:44] Dr. Jim: Sorry, rant over. 

[00:01:45] Susan Diaz: No that's, important. I wanna drill down on that for a second. It's these assumptions that you are making. And like ego, let's be honest, let's call it what it is you've got, there's a level of ego which is no, but my, this is [00:02:00] the way in which it's always been done.

[00:02:02] Susan Diaz: Or this is the way in which, you know we are most likely to, I don't know, attract X, Y, Z person. Maybe your customer's a completely different person. How about you go talk to them and find out. So I don't think I have any patience for people who don't get that done. . 

[00:02:17] Lawrence Brown: I think a lot of that comes from though and so this is my plug for, cuz somehow I'm always gonna work dei into this into conversations.

[00:02:24] Lawrence Brown: But I think this is a great example of what that really is. Is unconscious bias. We are going based off of our own assumptions of what we think people want. And so this is why Jim and I oftentimes talk about D E I B, such a broader conversation that if you're solving for this area over here, which is, that's where unconscious bias is, that is most likely attached to is dei.

[00:02:49] Lawrence Brown: But Susan, what you just described is unconscious bias, where we sit back and what Jim said I know what the customer needs, but that's based off what you think . Yeah. What does the customer think? Have we asked? [00:03:00] And I think it's also lazy. We, fall back on what we've always done, which is I think the death of any sort of innovation.

[00:03:08] Lawrence Brown: And you're looking for. Really reaching out to individuals to that point as you, when you built the podcast initially, how did you start to hear from your, how did you start to hear from your customer and how did you drive that conversation? 

[00:03:23] Susan Diaz: We, practiced like that consistency that I would say is the first step.

[00:03:28] Susan Diaz: Now the next part of it and why I started to mention the fun is that we really leaned into the fun. So oddly enough, it was the photos that came out of our podcast that seemed to attract people's attention. So it was called Four Report. And so we had photos of Will and I doing these weird things that you would imagine people would do when they're up at night.

[00:03:51] Susan Diaz: So like, I, there was a photo of me in my like robe eating lays dill, pickled chips in front of my computer [00:04:00] at night. And honestly I I have like degrees in marketing, I have awards. I've done great work, but I'm best known for my picture with Dill Pickle chips, . 

[00:04:09] Lawrence Brown: That's funny. 

[00:04:09] Dr. Jim: So when this video comes out from the podcast, 

[00:04:13] Dr. Jim: That face that I just made when I heard about your affinity for deal pickle chips is gonna be a complete meme.

[00:04:20] Dr. Jim: Oh my God. That's horrible. Oh, I don't think we, I, this show's over . 

[00:04:24] Susan Diaz: No, we're leaving. This is a deal breaker. 

[00:04:27] Lawrence Brown: That's hilarious. So Susan you, talked a little bit about the fun that you have and it gave rise to your book. Un Boring. What's that? 

[00:04:37] Susan Diaz: So un boring is about adding entertainment to your content.

[00:04:43] Susan Diaz: I think we've learned as, a a set of communicators how to do really well informing, like we do a brilliant job of educating in our content of like putting forward great material, which gives you learnings what might lack in [00:05:00] some degree, especially noticeable after the pandemic because people just need a little levity and a little lightness and a little kindness.

[00:05:07] Susan Diaz: I think people want you to make them smile. Like whether it's the prevalence of gifts and memes or whether it's the fact that people have gotten more comfortable getting like, humorous in their writing or look at us here or laughing through this podcast cuz we're having fun.

[00:05:22] Susan Diaz: And it's okay to show that to people. So that's the premise of the book is like how do you step away from those rules? So there's 10, 10 lessons through the book about how to get less boring. How to perfect your timing. Most people, the resistance I would get to this is, oh, that's possible with all these big brands like burger King and whatever, and it's not possible in the B2B space.

[00:05:44] Susan Diaz: I'd beg to defer and we have, the book has loads of examples on that. The way I got to that, if I may is because of the podcast, we started asking people like, what keeps you up at night? And after we'd asked about a hundred guest. What keeps you up at night? [00:06:00] There were humorous answers in it.

[00:06:01] Susan Diaz: There was wic, there was self-deprecation, there was fun. And we were like, initially we said maybe the name of the book is the State of Sleeplessness. That's of where we started. And then we realized there was a bit more of a ve diagram sort of situation. And then in the middle there was this, so I wrote the book under the name of the other eq, .

[00:06:22] Susan Diaz: But that sounded too cerebral. Again, going back to our theme folks, I asked the people who would read the book, would you rather call it onboarding or would you rather call it the other eq? And 85% said, I would rather call it UN onboarding. So I did . 

[00:06:38] Dr. Jim: I, want to interject because I remember this happening on LinkedIn as you're going through the processor, I don't know what stage you were at, but it was not only that pick between this title or that title.

[00:06:49] Dr. Jim: This'll give you a little bit of insight into how some Indians are, and by some Indians. I'm like this too. So Susan's question was, okay, now we've decided that [00:07:00] the title of the book is gonna be un boring. So what's your vote on whether the you and the N should be capitalized, or should the boring be capitalized or some version of that?

[00:07:11] Susan Diaz: Oh yeah, that's right. 

[00:07:12] Dr. Jim: He actually set up a poll on LinkedIn to have people decide whether the UN or the Boring or the you and, the n. Like it was . It was crazy, 

[00:07:25] Susan Diaz: I told you I see pattern folks. That's my superpower. And also I do practice what I preach every, ask the customer for, God's sake.

[00:07:35] Susan Diaz: So yeah, that's, thank you for reminding me of that, Jim. I feel quite proud of myself now that 

[00:07:40] Dr. Jim: This all ties into is the whole concept of how do you build a brand? How do you have a point of view? All of these things are related, but I want to go back to something that you just said a few minutes ago because you've, introduced this in a couple of areas in the conversation where you're talking about, hey, the prevailing wisdom.

[00:07:58] Dr. Jim: And for those that are listening to these [00:08:00] episode, I use prevailing wisdom and use their quotes. A lot of that prevailing wisdom is the whole idea that B2B has to be boring to boring is, dumb. Awesome. Yeah. And it, one, what do we have to do to advance any sort of relationship with any other person that we have to get to a point where they know you, right?

[00:08:22] Susan Diaz: Correct.

[00:08:22] Dr. Jim: So if you're this complete stiff going through this, going through life in any interaction, people aren't gonna know you. They're probably not gonna like you, and they certainly won't trust you. Let's, be real. Bring your personality into it and plot twist. I'm probably one of the stiffest people out in the world that is telling you to bring personality into your, relationships.

[00:08:44] Dr. Jim: So get with it people. Don't be boring. 

[00:08:47] Lawrence Brown: I think Susan hit on some other brilliant elements to this. Is that, So when you think about COVID, what Covid caused was this whole virtual interconnectedness. [00:09:00] And it allowed for us to start to see one another behind the veil.

[00:09:04] Lawrence Brown: And what I heard as you were talking was you saw the pattern in the trends that were on social. For example, there was a, there were there were a litany of at least articles or posts that I saw about people saying they were pulling down their professional images, and showing, I think there was one actually.

[00:09:26] Lawrence Brown: And I can't remember the number it when, I say viral, it was viral because I wanna say it was like 500,000 interactions that this person had. But it was a woman who actually took down her professional picture and put up her, like just getting outta the shower, having letting her hair dry or whatever.

[00:09:41] Lawrence Brown: And so many people, like literally half a million people responded. It was something really incredible. I think it's brilliant though, that you saw the trend and saw that pattern, which is why No, Kudos to ourselves because we can see patterns, but it's just brilliant and, I appreciate that.

[00:09:58] Lawrence Brown: It, actually, the [00:10:00] culmination was the book un boring. 

[00:10:01] Susan Diaz: Thank you. And that's why when I talk about like the flywheel, it feels a little I, didn't invent this. Like Jim Collins talked about something that was on a steam engine like 200 years ago, and then there was Rand Fishkin who came up with the idea of how you apply that into marketing.

[00:10:17] Susan Diaz: I'm just one of the believers in the fact that if you're gonna do something, you, it has to be about momentum. Like I cannot stay in one place whether it's my choice of where I live, how I do things, just static is not my thing. And so with a flywheel, I just I look back now 170 something episodes into our podcast and I was like, how did we manage before this?

[00:10:39] Susan Diaz: Like we had a decent market. Plan like we did stuff. But it just like, when I think about it, it's trying to think back to a life without a cell phone is how I would feel about living a life without one of these engines. If I didn't know that the following actions have to happen and out of this comes a blog and then out of this comes that email and then [00:11:00] out of this comes five social posts, which I will snip it out and make notes about.

[00:11:04] Susan Diaz: And that's what fuels my entire LinkedIn presence. Like without that, like I wouldn't have been able to do it. And that's why so many people are not able to stick with it cuz you're approaching it ad hoc. It's oh, come in one day, see how I feel about it. And then, okay, today I'm not feeling like it like, if I didn't have the podcast it'd be many days I wouldn't have felt like it and it wouldn't have happened. 

[00:11:24] Dr. Jim: What, you're describing is, the fundamental constraints. Every organization and every individual deals with you have limited time and resources, and you have limited energy to execute a given amount of tasks, and you're dealing with multiple priorities.

[00:11:40] Dr. Jim: So when you talk about the anchor content concept you, tied it to a couple of other things that you just mentioned. So let's, break that down in, in detail. So you have anchor content and then you talked about sniping it out. You talked about a number of different steps. So in the interest of helping people be more [00:12:00] efficient, helping people maximize the value that they have give us sort of a roadmap of how you create that flywheel using the anchor content.

[00:12:10] Susan Diaz: I like to say that there are four main formats of. Marketing contact. There's written, there's audio, there's video, and then there's visual. And when I say visual your infographics and your like checklists and playbooks and that sort of thing. So when, your anchoring, you anchor in one of these four formats.

[00:12:37] Susan Diaz: Pick a format. Are you a writer? Stick with writing. Are you a podcaster, like you like the audio medium, head in that direction. So that's the anchor. Now once you've done that, you have to flip. Snippet it out into all of the other formats. So that's the thinking behind it. So you've got this one large podcast or this one 30 minute webinar in video form.

[00:12:59] Susan Diaz: Like how do [00:13:00] you take it and maximize it from a distribution perspective? Is that five videos? Is that. Two or three audiograms, is that ten second, like stories, like what is it? So that process of breaking it out into various formats, that's the, short form of it. Now that's just scratching the surface.

[00:13:21] Susan Diaz: Like beyond that, like you, get much more detailed if you want. One thing we've done with our podcast in the beginning, we, we couldn't obviously afford to put as much effort into our own podcast as we were doing with others. So we didn't necessarily write a big, long blog post for every single episode that we were recording.

[00:13:40] Susan Diaz: We would put some show notes together, release this, and instead we'd snip it into shorter shall we say, Quotes that we would pull out, et cetera. Then we started putting the transcript up because we were like, at least it's going to count from an SEO perspective that and an accessibility perspective that if someone wants to read, they can read through it.

[00:13:59] Susan Diaz: So [00:14:00] we started putting a little note there saying this is artificially generated, but for accessibility, it's available. Then came the third step, which was we got writers on the team and then we started writing our own blog post. And now it's gotten to a point where, from the same episode, different people will write different blog posts.

[00:14:19] Susan Diaz: Like I, I write my own, which is specifically that part about the, here's how to stay on track with podcasting. There's another one that's written about the writing series. There's somebody else who writes about something else. So you see how from that one piece, we've now extended out of it. We have a book, we have a video series, we have an award show.

[00:14:39] Susan Diaz: Did this happen in one year? No, it took three years. But we're never really off course. Like we're just, it's just the next step, the next circle of that wheel and it keeps moving. 

[00:14:50] Lawrence Brown: You talked about this a little bit, but for the for the novice what, would you say would be like the initial way to, to organize? I love what you [00:15:00] said, and I think that we are patting on the back.

[00:15:02] Lawrence Brown: So if you can't see us, I think we're, following a lot of what you're, a lot of what you're saying. I feel good about that. But if you're brand spanking new and someone's thinking about it, because Jim has said this a couple of times, right? That it's, not only about b2b, but an individual right.

[00:15:18] Lawrence Brown: That's interested in cultivating their brand could do this as well, 

[00:15:22] Susan Diaz: a hundred percent. So the first step is audit. Whoever you are, you've probably got some material of some sort. You've probably either offered something, maybe you've done something through the role that you were in previously.

[00:15:36] Susan Diaz: Maybe you were on other people's podcasts, you know where you've talked about something. Maybe there's a bunch of content that you've commented on LinkedIn and made some excellent points. So I think the first step is to just go look at all of that and again, try to see if there's a pattern. So you start with that.

[00:15:52] Susan Diaz: Then I think you need to, and this is not an absolute answer, but I think you need to get clear about what your key messaging is. Like at least narrow it [00:16:00] down to two to three pillars and you get, bring that further and further down after. But I don't think you can be talking about too many things.

[00:16:07] Susan Diaz: Like I'm very tempted on some occasions to be like, I wanna talk about this and I also wanna talk about this. And I've got a whole lot of material on UX writing, but I don't pull it out all the time and publish because I'm like, focus. Just get really narrow about those two to three pillars.

[00:16:24] Susan Diaz: So I think that would be the next step. And then really getting familiar with what is that format. You don't have to do something where there's friction if you hate video, like that's not the only way to get, like regularly communicating find a different way if you don't like the sound of your own voice and you don't have someone like my partner Will Levant to hold your hand and take you through that.

[00:16:45] Susan Diaz: Don't do podcasts. Find something else that you like better. If you're a great teacher and everyone's telling you webinars are dead, maybe they're not dead for you. Find the format, I think Medium that is like your favorite. [00:17:00] And then after that, it's all in the execution. I think discipline, it doesn't sound sexy to a lot of people, but you gotta have the discipline.

[00:17:07] Susan Diaz: It's every Tuesday we send out an email. Like every Wednesday we publish on the blog. Every Thursday the blog post comes out. If we didn't have that kind of hardcore regimen discipline, it wouldn't happen. 

[00:17:18] Lawrence Brown: I, wanted to call out though that when you talk about that discipline, how important it is, the upside too is, that the UX content that you have a passion for also allows for a pivot.

[00:17:29] Lawrence Brown: So it's the ability to, can continue doing what you're doing, but just in a, in another vertical, not very far away. And I have conversations. With folks about the idea. Like they have all these ideas and I'm always trying to help them to bring them back so that when they have to pivot, let's say you've mastered one area, like you don't go from learning how to ride a bike to driving in nascar, right?

[00:17:53] Lawrence Brown: So I, love the idea of not shying away from having content, but just being disciplined enough [00:18:00] not to just speckle everything out there

[00:18:02] Dr. Jim: There's two things that caught my attention when you were talking, Susan one is in line with what LB just pointed out about the discipline concept, but I think one of the areas where a lot of people confuse the discipline element of it is that, oh, if I do it once a month or whatever some, sort of long.

[00:18:20] Dr. Jim: Span between instances. I think when we're looking at getting to the zone of genius, you have to have pigheaded discipline to execute the task on a daily basis, in my opinion, because that's the only way that you'll iterate to the point where you're, at the level where it's, autopilot. But the other thing that that's interesting about your pivoting com comment, or at least your, ideas on pivoting is that when you look at all the skills that a person has and, sort a mainstream of content that they put out those sub areas that aren't quote unquote on brand, but you're interested in, [00:19:00] offer an opportunity for pattern interruption in the minds of the people that are actually consuming your content, so that way they don't get dulled to, oh, here's Susan with the same thing again.

[00:19:11] Susan Diaz: Yes. 

[00:19:11] Dr. Jim: And you see this pop of. Oh, Susan knows about UX because your, consumers change all the time. So you have to, like deliberately, in addition to being disciplined, you have to deliberately insert pattern interruption into your cadence so that you're keeping things fresh in the minds of your consumer.

[00:19:33] Dr. Jim: You can be deliberate about that effort and identify areas, Hey, I want to get better at this thing, so let me just start doing it. And using that as a pattern interruption in my cadence to drive content out in the world. 

[00:19:47] Susan Diaz: I think essentially again, it's about, it's a little bit about focus. You do have to figure out within that pattern interrupt as well what it is you wanna be, creating as a message, right?

[00:19:58] Susan Diaz: Like in my case, why do we [00:20:00] have those pieces around ux? And we also have pieces around certain kinds of specific writing is because they are associated factors to our line of business, to the core craft that many of us on the team have. And like things like that. So as far as I'm concerned, I think it's a thoughtful process.

[00:20:18] Susan Diaz: If you look at, if you look at like LinkedIn and its creator tools like. Tell you to say what are the four or five things that you stand for? And within that, sure, you can say marketing, content marketing, blah, blah. That's not a, this is not a keyword exercise. This is an area of expertise. So in my case an lb you'll, appreciate this from the mention of, I take everything back to a DEI context, is like my other podcast, which I run with my very awesome, long-term friend and colleague is a podcast called ABC dei.

[00:20:50] Susan Diaz: And that podcast is a top 5% global podcast. And right now it's I love working on that. And people ask me, what's the connection? Are [00:21:00] you a DEI practitioner? Are you a consultant? I've even asked, been asked by like bankers and such what is your body of work with dei? My body of work is my lived experience and the fact that I could be talking about any number of things.

[00:21:15] Susan Diaz: I could be talking about my love of beautiful backgrounds. I could be talking about my love of equipment, but instead my pattern interrupt is I choose to talk about inclusive communication on the regular. Like I choose to show up every Friday and do this as a labor of love. That's how I think about it. Jim, the way I think about it is it has to be a thoughtful process of your pattern interrupt is also core to your key messaging and your overall foundation. 

[00:21:44] Dr. Jim: We talk often on the show about the the concept and practice of intentionality.

[00:21:49] Dr. Jim: So that is really where it ties in. 

[00:21:53] Lawrence Brown: Susan you have shared and dropped tons of information for us and for our audience to [00:22:00] to actually take in and move our careers further faster 

[00:22:05] Lawrence Brown: What are the key takeaways? And I don't think it's going to be 15, it's just two or three key takeaways, . 

[00:22:12] Susan Diaz: I'd say the key takeaways that I'd like you to believe with is really thinking about your natural sort of areas.

[00:22:19] Susan Diaz: It sounds a little woo, there's a lot of practice that you can attach to it, but get really clear about what you're good at. Or even if you start from the negative, what you're not so good at and start from there. Secondly, you definitely want to remember that in 2022 there's very few people without a body of work.

[00:22:38] Susan Diaz: So look at the pattern in front of you, like what have you had success executing before? Or talk to your customers, get proper intel before you make a plan. And then the third thing is I think you should definitely stay on track. Like no ad hoc and out, ad hoc and out. Give it some cadence, some consistency and discipline and that usually [00:23:00] tends to take you to that execution that you need in order to have some impact.

[00:23:04] Lawrence Brown: Thank you. And where can folks find you? I know that I've actually seen you frequently on TikTok, but what are the other places that people can 

[00:23:12] Lawrence Brown: get in contact with you? 

[00:23:13] Susan Diaz: I

[00:23:13] Susan Diaz: spend an unhealthy amount of time on LinkedIn and TikTok. But yes, that would be a great place to, to find me. Our website is and we have loads of podcasting resources there that you're welcome to check out.

[00:23:28] Lawrence Brown: Susan, thank you for joining us on Cascading Leadership, the show as you are also on TikTok. We are two. We're also on Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. So those are the places that folks will want to check us out to find out when other episodes will drop. But I'm really looking forward to folks listening to this episode and giving us feedback and telling us stories about how they will advance their own opportunities to start their own podcast.

[00:23:56] Lawrence Brown: We're all here for it. And so thank you again so much for joining uh, cascading Leadership, [00:24:00] this show. 

[00:24:00] Susan Diaz: Thank you for having me. This is a pleasure. 

[00:24:02] Dr. Jim: Thanks, Susan. Great show. 

[00:24:03] ​