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The People Teaching People Podcast Episode 23: Stepping Into Thought Leadership with Susanne Fox

023: Stepping Into Thought Leadership with Susanne Fox

In this episode, Susanne Fox joins me to talk about embracing discomfort, thought leadership, owning your message and building your unique audience. 

Susanne is someone who you immediately feel comfortable with. She puts you at ease, keeps it real, and openly shares her stories and experiences. After listening to this episode you will have some concrete tips and strategies in your pocket to step into your thought leadership, get up in front of your audience, and be authentically you. 

Susanne is the founder of Susanne Fox Communications, a consulting and coaching business. She has 20+ years of award-winning journalism, PR and marketing experience. She’s the former co-host of CityTV’s Breakfast Television and The Morning News on Global Calgary, followed by her role as Director of Marketing and Communications at Canada’s largest craft brewery, Big Rock Brewery. 

These days she helps clients find their UNIQUE voice and hone their thought leadership – from the boardroom to media scrums, to branding and marketing campaigns. Her superpower is her constant curiosity and candidness. She lives in Calgary with her husband Andrew, two kids (Bode, 11 and Katherine, 15) and golden retriever Olive. 

She volunteers her spare time with UNICEF Canada, acting as co-chair for The UNICEF Water for Life Gala and also raising awareness for Canadian Blood Services (blood, plasma and stem cell donations). 


Listen in as we talk about:

  • Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. Susanne emphasizes the value of embracing discomfort, remaining open to learning and personal growth, and the rewarding outcomes it has led to throughout her career.
  • Empowering individuals to embrace their uniqueness. Susanne passionately mentors and guides individuals, especially women, to confidently embrace their distinctive qualities and stand out in their careers and lives.
  • Thought leadership and unleashing your unique perspective. Susanne emphasizes the importance of thought leadership in marketing, urging individuals, especially women, to share their unique perspectives and challenge conformity for increased visibility and impact.
  • Earned vs. paid media. Susanne differentiates between earned and paid media, highlighting earned media’s trust-building potential and advocating for a balanced approach.
  • Building our own audience vs. borrowing audiences. We explore the strategic choice between building one’s own audience and borrowing existing ones, citing real-world examples and emphasizing the importance of this decision in marketing initiatives.


Connect with Susanne:


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Susanne Fox of Susanne Fox Communications

Susanne emphasizes the value of being open to learning and personal growth, highlighting that this mindset can lead to unexpected and rewarding opportunities. She acknowledges that this journey can involve discomfort and uncertainty but stresses the importance of taking one step at a time. 

Susanne shares her pride in embracing discomfort throughout her career, noting that it has consistently led to positive outcomes and new, unforeseen experiences. She also mentions how our minds tend to exaggerate challenges, but once overcome, these challenges often appear less daunting in hindsight. Susanne’s approach is characterized by a willingness to charge forward without regrets and adjust course as needed.


“Always challenge yourself to know who you're speaking to, and find the stories that they can relate to.” ~Susanne Fox

“Always challenge yourself to know who you’re speaking to, and find the stories that they can relate to.”

Susanne is passionate about helping individuals discover and embrace their unique voices, and build confidence, credibility, and visibility in their careers and lives. Drawing from her own experiences of being pressured to conform in her broadcast career, she encourages people, especially women, to embrace their uniqueness and quirkiness. 

She believes that standing out and being memorable is essential, and she offers guidance in areas like public speaking and personal appearance while emphasizing the importance of seeking outside perspectives to identify one’s special qualities that set them apart from the crowd.


Susanne Fox of Susanne Fox Communications

Susanne delves into the concept of thought leadership, emphasizing its significance in marketing and public relations. She highlights that thought leaders often challenge the status quo, bring unique perspectives, and have the potential to gain visibility, authority, trust, and opportunities. Susanne encourages individuals, especially women, to unlearn the tendency to conform, define their expertise, and gradually step into thought leadership by sharing their opinions and expertise through various channels. 

She stresses that everyone has a unique perspective to offer and should consider becoming intentional thought leaders in their respective fields, promoting diversity of voices in important conversations.


Susanne Fox Communications logo

Susanne provides valuable insights into the distinction between earned media and advertising. Earned media, she explains, involves free media exposure, typically through news articles or interviews, but it requires a timely connection to current events or a not-for-profit cause. This form of media doesn’t grant full control over the message but excels in building trust, establishing authority, and connecting with audiences. On the other hand, Susanne underscores the effectiveness of paid media, including advertisements and collaborations with influencers, in reaching target audiences and achieving business goals.

Furthermore, Susanne emphasizes the importance of finding connections between one’s message and the broader context, a task she supports individuals with, given its potential difficulty. She suggests staying updated with news content and community discussions to identify relevant hooks for earned media pitches. In summary, she advocates for a balanced approach that integrates both earned and paid media strategies, recognizing the unique strengths and roles each plays in a comprehensive marketing strategy.


Susanne delves into the crucial question of whether to focus efforts on building one’s own audience or borrowing existing ones, a decision that plays a pivotal role in marketing strategies. She emphasizes that this choice should be the starting point for any marketing initiative and is especially critical for entrepreneurs and grassroots initiatives.

Susanne provides a real-world example of a national initiative that needed quick visibility and engagement, leading them to opt for borrowing audiences by connecting with established communities and podcasts. She acknowledges the substantial effort required for audience building but highlights the value it brings, while also recognizing the practicality of borrowing audiences when time and energy are limited.


Susanne Fox on The Morning News on Global Calgary

  • What is something that you would love to learn about or something that you would love to learn how to do? Forest ecology

  • What is a place that is at the top of your travel bucket list? Europe 

  • What is a book, podcast, or TV show that you have enjoyed recently? Podcast: Wiser Than Me with Julia Louis Dreyfus

  • If you could sit down and have a conversation with someone that you would love to learn from, who would it be? Michelle Obama & Judy Blume


1:00 Meet Susanne

3:00 Susanne’s story

8:50 Susanne shares her approach to helping people find their unique voice along with helping them build confidence, credibility, and visibility in both their careers and lives. She also discusses why “fitting in” and perfection are NEVER the goal.

12:40 Susanne describes what thought leadership looks like and how one can start exploring and stepping into thought leadership.

18:30 Susanne explores the difference between earned media and paid media and shares her recommended strategies.

23:30 Susanne talks about when we should focus time and energy on building our audience and when we should focus time and energy on borrowing audiences.

27:20 Susanne shares some of her most frequently asked questions as well as her responses to these. 

43:00 Susanne talks about her son’s battle with Aplastic Anemia and how it has changed her perspective on success.

47:20 Susanne reflects on her favourite teachers

49:25 What Susanne is most proud of looking back on her journey so far

51:20 Susanne answers some rapid-fire questions

54:10 Susanne shares her words of wisdom



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