Is Richard Branson the greatest business influencer of our time?
He’s certainly great on LinkedIn where he’s one of the key participants in that social network’s INfluencer programme, top of the pops with around 7.5 million followers, versus three or four million for the likes of Jack Welch, Bill Gates and Arianna Huffington. But I don’t just mean that.
He’s one of the most recognisable and hippest business leaders in the world, across a lot of sectors and countries, given the nature of his work over the past 40 years or so. And let’s be honest, he’s a little different to most suited business types. But I’d counter his influence isn’t just about his money, his cross-sector success nor even his Britishness (there aren’t that many British billionaires, even if plenty live here) or rock star persona. He tells great stories.
Yesterday I was looking at a current LinkedIn content theme, all about ways to leave a job. Branson’s piece really struck a chord with me. It was useful – for both employers and employees – and entertaining. It didn’t harm that I agree and had written something with a similar theme at the start of last year. (When your best employees leave – be happy)
How does he do that? How does he do it over and over?
According to past comments from LinkedIn, they don’t help him with these posts. I’ve seen comments making a point that they don’t touch up his little mistakes, keeping them in “for authenticity” purposes, or words to that effect.
Does anyone else help him? It’s fair to say many people writing on LinkedIn get some professional help. There’s no shame in that, unless someone is completely detached from the words that eventually appear under their byline. Tut tut.
But I don’t think what we’re talking about is ghost-writing. I say that as someone who helps companies and busy individuals with such things.
Branson is famously not a ‘sitting down at a computer’ kind of executive. His charm and emotional intelligence are about human contact, which I go as far to say includes phone calls. But face-to-face trumps all.
So how do you get from there, to the LinkedIn INfluencer posts? Recently we saw some clues.
He hung out on his Caribbean island with a few paying guests and his staff. He had two PAs, mostly glued to their MacBooks, coordinating between him and what I can only imagine are his teams and deputies around the world. (Maybe some customers or job hunters too – one of the workers on the island explained how he’d heard of his now-boss and just emailed him asking for a job.)
My hunch is that Branson is great at communicating to those around him and can basically dictate most of his writing. Is that cheating, whatever that means? No. The hardest part is having something to say.
I say that a lot to people. Bring to the table something no one else can tell the world. Editors and other content specialists can do the rest.
As long as Branson continues to connect with interesting, authentic stories, no one will care how they get to appear on the page.
Some of us will wonder. But then that’s only because we’re in the storytelling business.