Thoughts From The Branding Tree…

“Time is what we want the most and use the worst.” -William Penn

Often we are asked what we do for money or what we just “do.” The newsletter, this website, our Podcast, LinkedIn, Twitter etc…does someone pay you for everything?


Much of what I do that is public facing has little to do with money, or should I say, direct payments. It has to do with building a strategy and expanding a reach to learn, be curious and connect dots, be they people or ideas. It is as much, even moreso, about helping me organize, think, champion stories and best practices, and keep being engaged and excited about the business and the world around me than anything else.

It keeps me growing.

I was reminded of this “tree” of personal extensions this week when I had a catchup lunch with my longtime friend Lance Laifer. Lance operates in the big picture behind the curtain world of social media engagement and cause marketing and always has such amazing insights into the path of engagement and the path to simple success. (You can read about some of Lance’s other insights and how we originally connected here). Lance has a way of simplifying things and using visuals, as well as social, to easily explain a complex, and sometimes dauting opportunity.

This week it was using what he called the social branding tree.

Each of the branches on my tree come from one base…a strong one that has been growing in and around media, storytelling, relationship building and frankly lots of people and places since I was in high school. Like most seeds it was kind of random and his matured in fits and starts, but that core is really solid now.

Off of that core came the branches…some fall away over time, but the best ones keep growing and new ones have come along, and each of them helps expand the tree and the reach of the tree. They are everything mentioned above…podcast, newsletter, teaching, speaking, listening, mentoring, cause relationships, friendships, and while they look like individual offshoots, they all come from the base, which is expansive and integrated storytelling.

So back to the “get paid” idea. While I admit I have been at this for over 14 years now…not by choice, as we have said before sometimes the path chooses you…and there are many key storytellers who view the paywall as a key part of their income stream, I believe that the diminishing world above a paywall brings me so much more opportunity than what can be monetized in micropayments.

In short, my tree bears fruit because it is not behind a fence.

In August I caught up with Will Leitch for a few drinks while I was returning my daughter to school in Athens, Georgia and we talked a lot about the paywall, and the benefits and issues with a platform like Substack. Being such a prolific creator of content for places like and New York, Leitch looked at the Substack paywall in much the same way…it is a marketing and branding tool for him, where he can showcase his POV without worry of who I can click through or not. He then ties his other content into the newsletter he does and off he goes…some of these pieces are paywalled on other platforms, some or not.

Now value add content is something I have considered as a one off. I have had scores of people come to me over the years and say you should do a master class, or why give the great ideas away? My answer, at least for what I do, remains the same. If you want to go and build and maintain a platform and then have me do content, great. For me its not worth the time…and time is a huge part of it…do worry about small dollars when in reality I get much more, personally and professionally, by sharing best practices to a wide audience who may not be interested in a few more dollars here. All my branches are marketing and storytelling tools, nito for me but for so many others doing good work, and with those branches being healthy and viewable to the world, my tree thrives.

Now will that change over time? Maybe. But I see so many people with great ideas and opportunity struggle to monetize everything they miss a larger audience who may take them to new and interesting places, if it wasn’t for the credit card ask.

So that’s my parable on a Sunday morning. Lance Leifer and my branding tree. The fruit is available for all, and the branches keep growing.


Thoughts From The Branding Tree…