Chris Winfield, AKA the Super Connector, gives entrepreneurs an unfair advantage when it comes to getting more publicity, making intimate connections and taking their marketing efforts to the next level. He’s worked with people from many of the world’s best known companies including Disney, Virgin, Macy’s, Viacom, Conde Nast, Intuit, and NBC. He’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, NBC’s Today Show, USA Today, Fast Company, Forbes, and hundreds of other media outlets.
In This Episode
Relationships that start from the keyboard aren’t the same as those that start in person. Chris Winfield knows that and has built an entire empire off those types of human connections. In this episode of MODERN ONTRAPRENEUR, Landon Ray sits down with Chris to talk about the invisible ROI of in-person meetings, how he connects people to the media, and how helping just one person can cause a positive ripple effect.
1:54 Keyboard Relationships
Relationships started from a keyboard aren’t the same as in-person interactions.
3:21 The Invisible ROI
In-person events that harbor goodwill can be hard to measure.
6:10 Connecting the Dots
Saving people months of time by connecting them with the right people.
Getting those small, intimate connections at scale.
11:12 Increasing the Average
Helping others can cause a ripple effect that cascades to those around them.
12:09 Real, Authentic People Win
You can’t fake it anymore.
– Chris Winfield
LR: Welcome to MODERN ONTRAPRENEUR, I’m Landon Ray. Today we have Chris Winfield. To put it simply, Chris Winfield, AKA the Super Connector, gives entrepreneurs an unfair advantage when it comes to getting more publicity, making connections and taking their marketing efforts to the next level. He’s worked with people from many of the world’s best known companies including Disney, Virgin, Macy’s, Viacom, Conde Nast, Intuit, and NBC. He’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, NBC’s Today Show, USA Today, Fast Company, Forbes, and hundreds of other media outlets. Thanks so much for being here Chris.
CW: Thank you.
LR: Awesome, so you’ve had some success in publicity over the years. How long have you been doing it?
CW: Fifteen, sixteen years, so not just publicity, so I’ve always used publicity to grow. So I had like a digital marketing agency, other businesses, and publicity was always the thing, one of the things. Publicity and connecting, networking, referrals from people, were always like the two main drivers of all my companies.
LR: Right, interesting, the digital marketing companies would grow via not digital marketing, right?
LR: We did the same thing actually with one of the most powerful marketing platforms on the planet and for the first seven years of our company growth, it was 100% referrals.
CW: All referrals?
LR: Yeah, we didn’t even know how to do marketing for ourselves.
CW: Which is a good thing.
LR: Well it’s good to also…..
CW: Exactly. There are a lot of people who say that. I don’t even know how to do marketing and they’re telling you from like the unemployment line. This is a much different circumstance. I’m happy that it worked out.
LR: Awesome. So you’ve had a lot of success, 15 years doing a bunch of stuff in marketing, PR. If you could go back and give your early self a bit of advice on what would make it easier or faster or you know, less painful, what would it be?
CW: I would’ve bought a lot of domain names.
CW: Just kidding. Hind sight’s 20/20. So I think one of the biggest things, and I’m gonna talk about this a bit today during my presentation, but there was a big period of time ‒ a few years ‒ where I thought that simply just connecting with people online and simply being behind a keyboard or whatever, was the same … I fooled myself into thinking that’s the same as developing real relationships in real life. So I would, in terms of the networking connecting side, that’s one of the biggest things that I would say. It’s so important. That’s why I think events like this are so crucial and I think they’re just so important for people ’cause you get to actually meet somebody. So we’re gonna have a 10 minutes conversation and we’ll be closer hopefully at the end of this than going back and forth for two years on email or social media or whatever. And I think that’s one of the biggest things. I think it’s becoming more and more important now. So I’d say for those like few years where I really just was focused on just being, I don’t even know what it was, growth or whatever, but it did not, it’s like the things that don’t scale are sometimes the most important.
LR: That’s interesting. I think that’s actually hitting the nail on the head. So many of us, we’re focused on scale, and that’s the right thing, but we also kind of got sold for a minute on this idea of the digital marketplace and that like the humanity all’s gonna be taken out of it, and that anything that actually takes a minute of my time is no longer scalable, and so we’ve got to focus on something else, and it seems like we’re coming around a little better, right?
CW: Yeah, I like that, I like that you said that, like you feel the guilt almost of doing something that isn’t perfectly optimized or perfectly productive or you know, especially this landscape where everything has to be hacked and growth hacked and…
LR: Or measure it even.
CW: Measured, exactly, and there’s so many of these things that you just can’t measure. You know, that’s why I like that you guys do this, that you bring all these people together, that you make such an investment because these are the things that you’re building up the goodwill and you don’t know where, if that’s gonna be direct ROI from … You have the direct ROI directly from here but there can be stuff that comes two years, five years.
LR: But you’re right, I mean, we don’t stop doing it because we know that it creates something that can’t be measured, right?
CW: Exactly, the invisible ROI.
LR: It’s the same reason we do … we launched the magazine, right? Like, people think that it’s crazy for a company to invest the resources and the money, you know. It’s expensive to print mail and a magazine and it’s not ,of course, the same thing as being in person, but it’s definitely different then pixels, right? It feels like there’s something that’s missing in terms of like the reality that there’s a person on the other side.
CW: That’s the big thing exactly and that was another one of my big realizations was for a long period of time, where I was really just focused on what could I get from something. So if I was sitting down with you, I’d want to figure out what I could do to get something from you for me. One of my biggest realizations and this, unfortunately or fortunately, this realization had to come through a lot of pain and losing a lot of things. But I just had this epiphany where I was just like, you know what, I’m not going to look for me anymore. I’m gonna look for what can I do to help other people. So whoever I’m sitting down with and that was one of the things. I started meeting with somebody every single day. This is about four and a half years ago. Just sat down, met with somebody every single day and just trying to answer one question. What can I help them with? Like over and over and over and that’s all I really do now is just trying to figure out the answer to that question for people. I think that’s another thing that, you know, become, for me, like what I consider an unfair advantage, is helping somebody else, because most people are thinking the other side. Everyone’s so concerned with themselves.
LR: Interesting. So what do you think your kind of unique skill set is?
CW: My unique skill set I would say is just being able to quickly connect with people and then connect dots for people. So my favorite quote is the Steve Jobs quote where he says he “can’t connect the dots looking forward, he can only connect them looking backwards.” So I like to find out about people and if I can connect to them and I can figure out these little tiny tweaks that they need to make that can make a huge difference for their business and hopefully for themselves. Then the main thing that I’m looking to always do is like who can I connect them with? Who are the people that I can connect them with to really just have exponential growth? So something that can maybe takes me 30 seconds and can save them six months of time.
LR: So right now your current, primary business is a PR agency?
CW: Focused around PR, yeah, exactly.
LR: In order to grow that business, you’re primarily meeting people?
CW: Each month we do these dinners, our influencer media dinners, where we bring together top people in the media. So my thing is connecting entrepreneurs to the media, making it really simple. I think a lot of people have big blocks around getting publicity or getting media coverage, and the thing that I’ve learned even more so now is that the media especially, they need sources, they need good stories, they need good people more than ever now. They want to hear from people less than ever, because they’re so deluged with stuff over and over all day long. So again, having real relationships, having people where they know where I’m coming from and anyone that I’m gonna connect them with is going to be a good person, is gonna be somebody interesting. It’s gonna most likely be somebody with a good heart. You know, it makes everything so much easier, and I think that’s like one of the things. Again, just simplifying things, bringing it back to this level of you know, life is about relationships. For the most part, that’s really what we’re talking back.
LR: So you think that for the people who are watching this who are not obviously PR companies, which is most of them, that having a monthly dinner is like a model that can work or how do you …I hate to go back and say, now how do you scale this, but how do you?
CW: So it doesn’t even have to be dinner. It can be getting people together for breakfast or lunch, whatever. That’s one thing. But I’d say even before any of that, I think for most of the times, we usually have whatever we need right in front of us but we overlook it. So whether that’s like our greatest strength, whatever that is, we’re usually like, ah, who cares about that, you know, because it comes easy to us. But I also believe the same thing with like connections or networking or media coverage and, what I always recommend for people to do whatever it is ‒ whether they want to raise money, whether they want to get media coverage, whether they want to find people to manufacture a product ‒ is to sit down and create this list of like your top 20 people so the top 20 people in your network. So let’s say it’s about media. So who are those people that can potentially connect you to somebody or maybe are in the media and they don’t have to have anything to do with your business. So it doesn’t … You don’t have to … You could be sitting in Iowa and maybe with somebody that you went to school with or somebody that is like at your kid’s school that has like a distant whatever. But like you figure out all these things. You give ’em two scores, how influential they are and then how likely are they to help you. At the end of the day, you look at that and then you add those up. So for example, I know the guy who owns The New York Times. He has probably nine in terms of influence, probably a seven in terms of wanting to help me if I’d asked him for something. I know Will Smith, probably 10 in terms of influence. I know him hardly, you know for like a week.
LR: Will Smith, more than the guy who owns The New York Times?
CW: Well here’s the thing. Will Smith would probably be a one in terms of like actually helping me so I’d go the guy who owns The New York Times, Arthur, way before I’d go to Will Smith or anything like that. So the point being, there’s a lot of these things that are just right within that we have and, you know, just by making it really, really simple and just taking one action, reaching out to that person, figuring out what you can do for them before you’re asking them for anything. Again, doesn’t really scale, but the effects and the results are so much greater than trying the latest tactic or, you know, some great subject line to get somebody to answer something.
LR: Yeah, I totally hear you. So what’s kind of next for you, what are you struggling with or wrestling with or trying to figure out right now in your business?
CW: I very rarely work with people one on one. Like what I try to do is figure out how I can teach groups of people. So, I do these workshops, these events where I teach people how to do the stuff that I do and then introduce them directly to media people so that they get the relationships and then here’s how to now leverage all that. So, my greatest thing is figuring out how to do that on a larger, keep doing that on a larger scale without losing the intimacy or the actual connection.
LR: Are you figuring it out?
CW: I don’t feel like I ever have anything figured out.
LR: It is, it’s….
CW: It’s like that constant transition. I was just talking to … I was at a dinner last night with one of the other speakers here and I said to him, “Do you feel like you’re always in transition?” She’s like, “Yeah,” because she was saying, “I’m in the middle of a whole bunch of things,” so I think it’s all about enjoying the journey.
LR: Yeah, it’s gotta be. So you’re a young guy, you’ve got a long career ahead of you still, but when you think ahead, 20, 30 years, whatever it might be, and if you were to look back, what would you like your legacy to be?
CW: You know the saying, ‘You’re the average of five people you spend the most time with.’ So what I’m looking to do is help to increase other people’s averages. So if I can make somebody’s day a little bit better, I know that they’re gonna be a little bit better to the people closest to them, and it’s just an exponential effect.
LR: So when you say you’re like trying to be a little bit better every day, is that like a conscious thing. Like, I was not so good at X yesterday, I’m gonna be better at that or what is that?
CW: One of my big realizations is the healthier I am, the better I am, the better my mind is. I always say I work really hard to make my life easy. So doing the stuff like waking up at 5 a.m. and meditating and reading and journaling and these types of things, just to constantly keep trying to improve a little tiny bit. So the hard stuff that makes everything else easy.
LR: Yeah, awesome. So we call this thing MODERN ONTRAPRENEUR. We’re trying to get at, like, what is unique about this moment, right? Everything has changed so much in the last couple of decades. So when you think about, like, you know, 2017, almost 2018 now, what do you feel like is the kind of unique opportunities or even unique responsibilities of being an entrepreneur today?
CW: So people’s attention spans are becoming less and less as we all know, hopefully. People are also deluged with a lot of negativity. So what I’m seeing is the people that authentically, and I hate using words like authentically, but it’s true, that care and you can’t fake it. They’re the ones that are winning.
LR: People’s bullshit detectors are just getting super sensitive huh?
CW: Exactly and it’s almost like if some of the things that just used to work just stopped, like literally overnight.
LR: Awesome, well, thank you so much for being here. It’s been a pleasure.
CW: Thank you, definitely.
LR: Will you sign our wall?
CW: Of course, I’d love to.
Want more MODERN ONTRAPRENEUR Podcast?
Check out the previous episode featuring Marsha Bailey of Women’s Economic Ventures.