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An Interview with Jason Falls

by | Jan 31, 2022 | Interviews,

Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Digital Strategist at Cornett

Key Topics:PR, Advertising, Digital marketing
Location:Kentucky, USA

Jason is a thought leader and an expert on PR and Digital Strategy. He works as a digital strategist for Cornett in Lexington, Ky. (2021 Ad Age Small Agency Gold Winner in the Southeast Region). His experiences have given him the opportunity to speak at conferences, write three books, and be featured in Forbes, Business Week, Entrepreneur, and others.

How did you get to become an expert in your key topics?

My “first career” was as a PR director for college athletics and sports in the U.S. When I coupled that with my fascination with the Internet and finding unique ways to promote my student-athletes, coaches, and teams, I spent a lot of time on forums and message boards, blogs, and the like in the early days of what became social media. When I switched careers and moved to Marketing and PR at an advertising agency in 2005, brands were asking questions about blogs and social networks. So, I started using my hands-on experience in those channels to come up with ideas for my clients. They liked my thinking and I suddenly had a new role as a social media strategist.

As I began blogging about my ideas, the community of communications professionals and business owners looking for that type of advice and expertise found me. My early adoption and use of Twitter led to a larger than average following and notoriety in the social media space. That led to opportunities to speak at conferences and grow my audience and thought leadership footprint.

One of my early fascinations was social technology, specifically social media monitoring and listening tools. So, I carved out a bit of standing as an “expert” in the social technology space. Expert is such a subjective description, though. I’m flattered when people call me that but think of myself as just someone who is curious, creative, and enjoys exploring what’s possible in the digital space. I’ve always been thoughtful about good recommendations for clients, but also feel like giving some level of free advice and opinion openly on my blog, podcasts and talks is just good business.

What sub-topics are you most passionate about?

I’ve got a couple. Obviously, my latest book is about influence marketing and helping businesses understand that it is more than Instagram and TikTok. That’s the subject of my main podcast and a lot of my day-to-day work is practicing influence marketing for Cornett’s clients.

But I still love talking about overall content marketing and social media strategy, too. The two overlap quite a bit and are becoming more and more synonymous, which is nice. And, of course, podcasting is my favorite channel right now. Not just producing mine (or the Marketing Podcast Network) but also listening to a dozen or more actively. I just love the audio format. I guess those days working in radio in high school and college stuck in some way.

Who influences you within these topics?

When it comes to influencer marketing, it’s a short list. Scott Guthrie, Gordon Glenister, and not to suck up to Onalytica, but Tim Williams comes to mind for broad influence on my thinking. I also pay attention to what the other SaaS company and agency executives have to say but know they sometimes need to be taken with a grain of salt since they often are motivated by stakeholders beyond end consumers or even brands. But the innovative practitioners I stumble across in watching what people do are also very impactful.

For podcasting, Tom Webster at Edison Research is my intellectual mentor. He just knows so much about the audio space, from consumer behavior to the radio biz and beyond. If I need an opinion on something in that world, I ask him. Or Christopher Penn, a pioneer in the marketing podcast world.

Social media and content marketing … wow. I could make a huge list here. I take bits and pieces from a lot of folks. Jay Baer, John Jantsch, Ann Handley, David Meerman-Scott … but also brand practitioners doing cool things.

What do you think the future holds in this space?

Because social media has made everyone a publisher, flooding the media space with content, traditional media outlets have resorted to attention-getting techniques to keep hold of their readers and viewers. That, and the childishly polarizing political environment we have in many countries today has led to fake news and mistrust in the media from consumers.

What emerges as trusted channels of information and entertainment are individuals with influence. I firmly believe that the beacons of attention on large, popular social networks, and even those in smaller, niche communities, are going to be the only channels that segments of consumers genuinely trust for many years to come.

As such, brands that want to persuade an audience to take action need to find the conduits to that audience … ones that it trusts. And that is influence marketing’s purpose.

What brands are leading the way in this space?

Lots of brands do interesting things, but I hesitate to call out leaders. There are simply too many different factors that go into each brand’s execution. I like what Absolut did with its Planet Earth’s favorite vodka campaign. Retailers like Bonobos and Bigelow Tea do interesting work. GoPro was one of the first to take influencer marketing to the people and turn users into influencers creating videos. And then an execution like Q-Mixers did with Patrick Janelle (@aguynamedpatrick) and Elliott Clark (@apartmentbartender) during the pandemic lockdown weeks was brilliant.

But I also love what Mitie did in the UK with sourcing B2B influencers for quotes for a report the influencers then naturally shared that helped turn the company’s reputation around. It’s just wrong to pick out one. No one has cornered the market on leading the way yet.

If a brand wanted to work with you, which activities would you be most interested in collaborating on?

I really enjoy speaking and hosting live streams, podcasts, webinars, and other “behind the mic” opportunities. My strength, I think, is distilling complex topics down so that business owners who maybe aren’t marketers by nature can understand them. So writing, product innovation and feedback, and the like are good avenues as well.

What are your passions outside of work?

I love football, or soccer as we Americans say. My children and I are season ticket holders for Louisville City FC and Racing Louisville, the USL Championship division men’s and NWSL women’s professional teams in Louisville. I’m also known for knowing a little bit about bourbon, one of Kentucky’s greatest exports. And I’m a student and fan of standup comedy.

What would be the best way for a brand to contact you?

Email is the easiest.

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