J.C. McKissen is a Writer & Editor for LinkedIn, where he has over 102,000 followers and has twice been named a “Top Voice on Management & Corporate Culture.” He is also a contributor to a wide variety of national media platforms and previously owned a successful communications consultancy. Combined, his writing has received over 40 million views. He graduated with a degree in public policy from Prescott College and a graduate degree in public management from Northern Arizona University, along with a post-graduate certificate in Executive Leadership from Cornell University.
Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Outlook Magazine, J.C shared his professional journey, the inspiration behind his career choice, personal leadership style, the secret mantra behind his success, and a lot more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.
How are you seeing content marketing trends evolve in today’s B2C and B2B marketplace around the globe?
Obviously much of the dialogue in content marketing right now is being consumed by the discussion around AI. That subject is its own huge debate, but it is funny to me that that dialogue focuses on content, and not results. Content in and of itself is just noise. It must achieve results of some type to be meaningful, and I am highly skeptical that machines can move people toward action in any meaningful way.
It might sound old fashioned, but I believe the content marketers that manage to get people to actually listen will be the ones that embrace and amplify human voices, experiences, and perspectives.
J.C, please tell us a bit about yourself, background, and areas of interest.
I live in Salt Lake City, Utah, with my wife and three kids. I grew up in Utah, attended college and graduate school in Arizona, then moved around the country before coming back here. Professionally, I use to be the director of nonprofit trade associations before having a blog post go viral on LinkedIn in 2014. I continued to write, and about a year later transitioned to being a full-time writer and communications consultant.
Fast forward to today, and I have over 105,000 followers and several million views of my articles. I love writing about business, entrepreneurship, the economy – really anything.
Why did you choose the field of content writing? How did you get introduced to this field? What inspires you the most about your career choice?
It happened accidentally. I had success with my blogs on LinkedIn, which eventually led to more opportunities to write for other national media platforms. That exposure led to more and more consulting opportunities, where I advised companies on content and communication strategies.
For me, working in this field is amazing, simply because it allows me to have an opportunity to be creative.
Can you tell us about your role as the lead writer and editor of the LinkedIn Sales Solutions? What is your most favorite and least favorite part of your role?
I love working with LinkedIn. I have had a long relationship with them, beginning with being named a “Top Voice” on multiple occasions, and now working for them to write and edit the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog. It isn’t a solo effort, at all. I work with other writers and a great editor.
My favorite part is seeing the impact good writing and thought leadership can have, even with all the noise out there. And, honestly, I don’t have a least favorite part. LinkedIn and the people there have always been incredibly good to me.
With more than 100,000 followers on LinkedIn, do you feel a sense of responsibility towards your followers?
Absolutely. I put everything I have into my writing, and I hope I am always sharing a new idea – or an old idea shared a different way. I take a lot of pride in not sounding like anyone but me, and my favorite thing to hear from a reader is that something I wrote had a positive, tangible impact on their life. Whenever I hear that I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing in life.
Are there any hobbies or interests that helped you develop your writing skills?
I love actively listening to music, and by that, I mean focusing on the lyrics. The worst written song is a million times better than the best written piece of “content” out there. Blogs and articles have specific word and other structural requirements that must be met. The same is true for songs. It reminds me of an awesome lyric from Bruce Springsteen: “We learned more from a three-minute record, baby / Than we ever learned in school.”
I learn to be a better writer by reading and listening to the writers that inspire me. And that Bruce Springsteen lyric is a great example of why AI will never replace human voices. That lyric didn’t inspire me because of the way the words are strung together. It inspired me because the man who wrote it lived that experience, and if it worked for him, it could work for me.
Our readers would love to know how do you tailor your content to your audience? And how do you make a boring subject interesting?
I don’t really tailor my content to my audience, even if I’m addressing a specific audience. I think if you are striving to deliver real value, your content can be applicable to almost any audience. For example, I am currently working on a piece focused on helping salespeople cope with layoffs. However, the more that article speaks to essential truths – like managing the psychological impact of being let go – the more valuable it is to my specific audience, and to a general audience.
Regarding a boring subject, I used to write a lot about supply chain management for a blog I ran for a company. Supply chain management can be all about the extremely mundane details, like shipping weights and trucking rates — or you can think of it as the way our world comes alive. It’s all about having an imagination. If you look near your feet, and all you see is dirt, then you’re a normal person. If you look at the dirt and see a vast, tiny kingdom you wished you knew more about, then you’re a real writer. Lots of normal people “write” about the dirt. Real writers tell you about the kingdom only they can see. And that is never boring.
How do you motivate and inspire your team to achieve their goals? Tell us about your leadership style.
I think there is only one way to lead: Embody the values you say you have, follow-through, and always put yourself in the other person’s shoes. That’s an ideal leader, to me.
I hope to keep working on myself so that one day I am that leader, all the time. I hit the mark sometimes. Other times I wildly miss, but I will keep trying to get there.
You are a two-time “LinkedIn Top Voice”, published novelist, and an award-winning short story writer. What is the secret sauce behind your success?
Mix a super-traumatic childhood, thousands of hours of driving around by myself and crying while I listen to Bruce Springsteen, an amazing wife and three incredible children, and the willingness to job-hop like a maniac until you find your true calling, and what you will eventually get is someone so strange they could only find work as a writer.
It’s a tale as old as time – or at least as old as writers.
What is the one thing you have accomplished in your career that you’re extremely proud of and do you have any specific goals for 2023?
I should never have been here, at all. In high school I was a poor student, and I come from a family that experienced significant tragedy, much of it self-inflicted. No one would have labeled me “Likely to succeed,” yet here I am. So, I am proud of all of it, even the failures.
And my goal for 2023 is to be a lot better person than I was in 2022. Next year we will adjust those up a year.
As content marketing trends evolve, what are some of the top tips you’d leave marketers and business owners with?
AI isn’t a shortcut to establishing a voice, a brand identity, or a meaningful way to communicate with your customers. Real voices still matter, and I believe they will grow to matter even more. Keep honing that authentic voice, and as the digital babble grows, you’ll find yourself ahead of everyone else.