Carla Williams Johnson Of Carli Communications: 5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry
Be yourself. I goes without saying that authenticity rules and you truly have to be passionate about your cause. People will see right through you if you’re doing things for all the wrong reasons.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carla Williams Johnson.
Carla, also known as The CEO’s Publicist, helps CEOs get into the places and spaces that increase their visibility to help them hit those income goals that they set for themselves and their business which had been previously out of reach. Her award-winning company Carli Communications seeks to enhance the lives of brand owners by giving them the support they need to build global businesses that gets them seen, heard and ultimately paid.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
When I first started on my journey, I was outright told my numerous people that I should:
- Forget my ‘stupid business venture’ because no one would take me seriously anyway.
- Not even bother, the industry is dominated by a certain type (aka white males).
- Get someone ‘lighter skinned’ to be the face of my company if I’m ever going to succeed.
Basically, the colour of my skin, my gender and even my heritage was directly related to my success or failure rather?
I was determined to prove that the very thing people said would cause me to fail would be the very thing that will make me succeed! Fast forward now I’ve been awarded Publicist of the Year, have been featured in an international best seller and I have my own a successful company where I help entrepreneurs and business owners increase their visibility by showing them it’s ok to embrace the things that made them unique. I’ve spoken in places such as China, New Zealand and Australia and have been featured in many international media including Forbes, Entrepreneur, Huff Post and more.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
I’ve worked in the field of Communications my entire life, particularly in the field of media. Having been on both sides as in working with an agency in the media department and working with the media as a journalist, I have a unique understanding of what the press is looking for which is why getting persons featured comes so naturally for me. I also am blessed with a creative mind as well as a background in strategic marketing, so I not only tell persons how to get featured but show to incorporate publicity into their overall marketing campaign.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I have quite a few but during March 2020 when the pandemic hit, it was a very difficult time for most. A time of uncertainty and no one really knew what the future held. While most persons decided to ‘wait things out’ I showed up EVERYWHERE!!
I utilized the media to help inspire, motivate and educate the masses. Anywhere that would have me, I showed up.
I spoke to mompreneurs who were struggling with working from home with kids at home.
I spoke to business owners giving advice on how to pivot during uncertain times.
I spoke to entrepreneurs showing them how to use publicity to increase their visibility and credibility using traditional media.
I spoke to large corporations giving them strategies on how to navigate the crisis.
I did all of this using the power of publicity and the media.
Magazines, Newspapers, Radio, Television, Podcasts, Online forums……you name it, I was there; because one thing I understood is that we were not in in control of a lot of things but we were in control of who saw and heard us and I whole heartedly believed that it was the people who got seen and heard is who would have been remembered when things got back to some type of normalcy.
So said; So done
My visibility skyrocketed. I started teaching persons how to use pr and publicity in their business; clients wanted to work with me.
It was great.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Hmm, well I think the most recent thing that I think is funny is the fact that I took this long to actually call myself a publicist. I have been helping persons get featured in the press for as long as I could remember but never had I ever considered calling myself a Publicist. It was a weird but freeing revelation to finally accept that I was fantastic at what I do and to finally put on a title that fit. The best part, I stood out, more people started seeing me and wanting to work with me. It was the best decision ever.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is? How is a thought leader different from a typical leader? How is a thought leader different from an influencer?
I think it’s not enough to have ample knowledge and experience in a chosen field but it is more about how you demonstrate this experience even if it means shaking things up in the process or promoting an idea that may seem against conventional thinking. Thought leadership requires the person to challenge, disrupt and in some cases, dismantle the norms and communicate their message in a way that inspires others to move with them.
To me a Thought Leader is really someone who is committed to change at any cost. Luvvie Ajayi Jones calls them ‘Professional Troublemakers’. It’s not about creating chaos but creating a new way of thinking that encourages new systems and procedures to be in place to effectively tackle said issues.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader? Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
Well from a societal perspective: Change.
Thought leaders bring issues to the forefront and offer new perspectives thereby encouraging others to change their thinking and by extension their actions towards a particular cause or idea. This then encourages new laws and legislations, new infrastructures to be created or programs to be developed.
Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
There’s definitely a certain degree of fame that comes with being a thought leader as well, as consistently speaking out on matters that are close to the heart of the people you serve builds trust and credibility. The messages land in such a way that they become the voice for their people and the ‘go to’ person for all matters on that subject. With this fame comes increased brand recognition and recall as well as increased sales, speaking engagements, etc, however there is also great responsibility that comes with thought leadership.
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry?
1: Write and speak out consistently about the values you hold dear, about the issues that violate those values and what you believe is the best way to combat those issues. Don’t be afraid to ruffle a few feathers in the process. Be open, authentic, and passionate, also, don’t be afraid to cover topics your competitors have already written or spoken about — just make sure you have your own unique view.
2: While you can use your online forums to communicate, adding media to speak to a wider audience is always a great idea. Plus being featured gives credence to your message. Consider including speaking engagements or showing up on platforms to help amplify your voice. Podcasts or events where you can speak out will help you create a community of loyal fans and followers.
3: Avoid being salesy. We’re not trying to sell here, we’re focused on showing up. It’s fine to introduce your company — after all, thought leadership aims to build awareness — but if sounds like a pitch then all your hard work will go out the window.
4: Leverage timely events and be sure to fact check and substantiate all your claims with sources. It may be a great idea to include backlinks to other articles and sources. Remember you are trying to build trust.
5: Be yourself. I goes without saying that authenticity rules and you truly have to be passionate about your cause. People will see right through you if you’re doing things for all the wrong reasons.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach?
There are a few but the one that sticks out to me is Luvvie Ajayi Jones. I love how she just speaks out and encourages others to do the same. Her book ‘Professional Troublemaker’ is a must read for anyone who feels afraid of speaking up and being themselves.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
I think it is to be honest. I think many people throw around the phrase and it sounds good but they have no idea what thought leadership is. There is a difference between just being famous or an ‘influencer’ and being a thought leader and, in my opinion, the title of thought leadership must be bestowed on you. If you’re the only one who calls yourself a thought leader, you’re probably not.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Schedule self-care like your life depends on it because it does. Self-care doesn’t always have to look like spa days and pedicures……sometimes getting enough sleep and having that quiet time so that you can reset your mind and spirit helps tremendously.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I honestly feel that men are ‘groomed’ (for lack of a better word) a particular way and therefore they are ‘expected’ to act and react in situations that can be unhealthy for them and the people around them. Society still expects them to be a certain way which is counterproductive to how the world is progressing. If I could I would create a movement to address this because while women are becoming empowered, men are still being held to the same outdated stereotypes with their worth measured by an old-fashioned value system. I think helping these men unlearn some of the traits they were exposed to can truly help the world become a better, less violent place.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favourite quote is “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” -Maya Angelou.
I live by these words every day because it’s a reminder to never stop growing and improving.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have lunch or breakfast? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
I’ve been really loving Mattie James recently. Just bought her book Everyday Magic and I absolutely love. She’s just a simple down to earth woman who, like all of us, is doing her best and I just love her realness.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Everyone is invited to ‘Keep up with Carli’ via my
Or via social media as follows:
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.