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The Future of Content episode 30: Raising Significance

32 Min. ReadDigital strategy

The Future of Content Episode 30: Raising Significance with Michelle Taylor Willis

Key ideas

  • Do you know what you’re doing and why? If you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing, why are you doing it?
  • Success doesn’t come easy—complacency in the face of success does

As an author, media mogul, and founder of Gagnant Media, Michelle Taylor Willis believes that the best businesses are not built around processes, but people—their purposes and their passions—and that we are all here to do great things. When you know what your purpose and passion are, and can find a way to get others to engage in them with you and monetize them, you’ll never work a day in your life because you’re doing what you’re meant to do.

What is your legacy supposed to be? What do you want it to be? What do you want people to say at your funeral? I mean, what do you want them to say about you now? What are you playing for? Why are you here? What’s the purpose? And when you know what that is and you have a very strong vision for what that is, and you can work backwards from there and not be afraid to kind of dive into that, then you know, the world is your oyster.

Having passion isn’t enough, though—it should motivate us to do something with it. Michelle wants us to understand that our passions should drive us to fulfillment. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much money we make from pursuing our passions, or whether others understand it or engage with it or participate in it; we still need to find a way to make it happen.

Michelle believes that an often overlooked aspect of passion is helping others find theirs, and that one of the reasons the world is in the mess that it’s in is because there are a lot of successful people that are just fine being successful and not kicking the door open for others to help them find their own success.

Significance is when you take your success and build platforms for other people to be successful. It’s a realm where you use your empowerment and influence to make other people influential and empowered. We’re meant to impact other people—that’s why we’re here.

It’s that view of significance that inspired Michelle to write Raising Significance. The book is about eight things we can do to help instill independence and leadership characteristics in our children to prepare them for a life of significance instead of success. In the book, she outlines tools and strategies to inspire people when we see things in them that they don’t see. She admits that it’s not always fun or easy but the end result—moving people from complacency to success to significance—is worth all of the frustration and hard work. 

Michelle is passionate about what she does and seeing others succeed by embracing their passion and finding significance. Be sure to listen to her episode and check her out on social media!

Michelle Taylor Willis

Michelle Taylor Willis is an author, media mogul and Founder of Gagnant Media.

Stream episode 30 now, or subscribe on your favorite podcast platform below.

Episode transcript

Note: This transcript may contain some minor wording and formatting errors. Apologies in advance!

Todd Nienkerk: Welcome to The Future of Content. I’m your host, Todd Niekerk. Every episode we explore content—its creation, management and distribution—by talking with people who make content possible. Our goal is to learn from diverse perspectives and industries to become better creators. 

The Future of Content is brought to you by Four Kitchens. We build digital content experiences for ambitious organizations. Today, I’m joined by Michelle Taylor Willis, founder of Gagnant Media. Welcome to The Future of Content, Michelle.

Michelle Taylor Willis: Thank you for having me, Todd. I like your nice voice in the beginning, it’s very calm and charming.

Todd Nienkerk: Oh, I appreciate that very much. Thank you. I, once upon a time, was an aspiring public radio personality, and this is my outlet. So thank you for indulging me and my side-hustle career. 

Well, thank you so much for joining us because you have an interesting professional history and there’s a lot that you do around content. And so that’s why I didn’t try to summarize it as a simple topic at the top of the show. Could you do me a favor and just explain what it is that you do?

Michelle Taylor Willis: Yeah. So, Gagnant Media is a media company. And what we do is we make advertising affordable for small businesses. And we do this through the creation of content, and we distribute that content through mediums that we either wholly or partially own. That’s pretty much it.

Todd Nienkerk: Thank you. And so this includes, just for some background, we’re talking television magazines, billboard, social media, everything. Radio, yeah, radio. So what’s in your content creation portfolio right now?

Michelle Taylor Willis: At this very minute? This podcast.

Todd Nienkerk: Oh, perfect. Oh, that’s a lot of pressure on me, thanks.

Michelle Taylor Willis: Everything is content, right Todd? So from the TV perspective, we’re actually on hiatus, or I guess we’re actually in pre-production now we’re going up. We should be in production in about two weeks for season four of the According to Michelle Show, which is our weekly talk show where we interview national leaders, national influencers across tons of industries. I mean, entertainment, singers, athletes, politicians, business owners, you know, anybody who has a national footprint that’s done something major is doing something major. We want to interview them on the According to Michelle TV show. And so that’s what we’re about to be doing. We’re going into production for season four. Like I said, we should be. We should start within the next two weeks. I’m hoping fingers crossed we’re doing a new we’ve got a new set coming and all that stuff. So we’ve got to get through that.

Todd Nienkerk: Oh, like as in, you’re literally building a new set. Yeah, wow.

Michelle Taylor Willis: Yeah, the set is going to look completely different than it did for season three and season three was great. I love what we did with season three. Every, you know, every every season, you take it up a notch, right? Or do something a little bit differently. And so season four is going to be interesting. We still don’t know what that set is going to look like between you and me, but I’m hoping there’ll be a huge Michelle Taylor Willis in there as well.

Todd Nienkerk: I assume you work with people like set designers and engineers, but like is, it’s a whole physical production, right?

Michelle Taylor Willis: It’s a whole thing. Yeah, it’s a toss-up. Like, so what’s crazy is I’ll tell you a little bit like I didn’t, I didn’t. If you had to ask me like a year-and-a-half ago, if this is what I’d be doing, I would have been like, no. I didn’t— I’m not in the production business. I just happened to be in the production business, right? Oh, wow. Because it kind of made sense for what we were doing and I guess for what personally, I wanted to do eventually. But, you know, I’m not like I’m an executive producer and a content creator, and like I did not. 

This isn’t what I went to school for, and this isn’t what really I thought I’d be doing. So I kind of fell into it and the process is intricate and complicated and should be deliberate. And I had no idea. I’m like, all of this goes into— Because, you know, the content that I create traditionally looks like ads for magazines, right? Commercials, you know, radio commercials and spots, you know, billboard— static content, right? To go on billboards. Content for me, like the video content that I use on my LinkedIn right or on Instagram of me doing things or meeting with customers or hosting events or speaking, you know, delivering commencement addresses—that’s the content that I usually create, right? And so this TV production content is totally different than anything I’ve ever done because, you know, I’m just like, shouldn’t I just sit there and start interviewing people? You know, that sounds like that sounds like a good idea.

But you know, when we first started this, there were two people. It was my son, who worked cameras, and there was me. And a year-and-a-half later, we have a whole production crew. I’ve got a co-EP, co-executive producer, I’ve got a producer, we have a whole staff right of grips and cameramen and camera operators—one, two and three. I’m like, Oh, that’s actually the thing, OK? Like, I’m looking at my own credits going, Oh, we have oh, cameraman one—that’s Nelson. You know, it’s just crazy how it all manifests. So the process— I know you’re I’m way off your answer.

Todd Nienkerk: No, this is— You were right on target.

Michelle Taylor Willis: But the process is just— It’s crazy because I don’t even, I didn’t even think about these things. I was just putting out content, right? A network called me. We love your radio show. We want to make it into a TV show. Let’s do it. And I’m like, Great, you know? And they taught me basically how to create the content to sell the ads on it, which I was like, it’s perfect. This is what we do. Then all of a sudden, I’m like a TV host and you know, I’m talent. So it’s weird because for me, I’m running the company as CEO, right? And managing employees and departments. But I’m also the talent for it, which is interesting. So my friends call me either “Little Oprah” or “Oprah Jr.”

Todd Nienkerk: I love like—

Michelle Taylor Willis: My friends and I answer the phone. They’ll be like, “What’s up, Little Oprah?” I’m like—

Todd Nienkerk: Well, but here’s the thing here’s how you know when you really are, I guess, like Oprah Junior Oprah is when you’re just Michelle.

Michelle Taylor Willis: Right. That’s right, no Taylor Willis.

Todd Nienkerk: That’s right. Yep, and no modifier, nothing, just. Everybody knows who that is. Yep.

Michelle Taylor Willis: Wow. You know, into existence. This is— Gimme three to five years on that, Todd. OK, give me three or five years and you’ll be like, “I spoke that; I manifested it.”

Todd Nienkerk: You’ll owe me a high five. That’s all.

Michelle Taylor Willis: And that’s about all I’m going to give. OK, good.

Todd Nienkerk: It’s what I deserve. So you, you started as somebody who created you did add creative and you, you sold ads. And I want to make sure I understand the timeline correctly. And you started getting into content. Production with ads is a type of content, but also content that I guess is more traditionally considered content like having a radio show and things like that. 

And from there, you wound up creating all of these different mediums through which you could then sell the ads and sell your creative work. So it’s the sort of feedback cycle of you’re not only building ad advertising content, but you’re also providing the outlets and the avenues and the targeted resources to then sell into certain audiences. Am I understanding the model correctly?

Michelle Taylor Willis: Kinda sorta. Not really, but it’s an easy fix. What happened is kind of like me falling into TV production. I fell into ad production because I bought a magazine. So what happened is I owned a different company and I was approached about an opportunity to purchase a publication, which was a totally separate thing. I was in medical consulting. And so I got the opportunity to buy this magazine. And when I bought the magazine, the medium part of what we had to do was create ad content and generate ad content, right? And we have a whole, you know, whole department that does that. But I was responsible for making sure that all of the pieces, all the collateral, you know, gets there so that we can design the ads and then we’ve got to approve them and all that stuff. That was my initial foray, so to speak,into this ad content creation. So was the magazine. And then I was interviewed to your point about moving into the kind of traditional content creation as I was building the magazine. We eventually ended up building video content because we were promoting the magazine, right? I was speaking on behalf of the magazine, so we were creating before reels and TikTok and all that. This was six years ago, right? So we’re creating video content for our advertisers, going to our advertisers, interviewing them, putting it on YouTube, putting it out on Instagram and Facebook so people could see what our advertisers were doing. So we were just creating this content again. I fell into it, right? Then I moved into radio. I was interviewed on a radio show and the owner was like, “You should have your own radio show, and you’re going to create content and a two hour show and you’re going to sell ads on it.” That’s how I got into radio production. Two weeks later, I had my own show. And so I’m telling you, I can’t make this up. It’s crazy.

Todd Nienkerk: That’s incredible.

Michelle Taylor Willis: It’s crazy. And so I had my own radio show and then I started— You know, God works in crazy ways in my life. I don’t even know how or what, but I ended up meeting a guy who you’ve heard his voice before. His name’s Donovan Corness. I think it’s how you pronounce name, but he’s the voice of BET. He does lots of movie trailers—like, if any, pick a movie trailer. If you hear it’s probably him. Sargento Cheese, I think he’s on Klondike, the voice of Good Morning America. I met him at this event, and I was like, “Hey, I got to do like these voiceovers because we’re creating ads now for them, for my radio show. I guess, like—”

Todd Nienkerk: Last week I was running a magazine. Now I’ve got to do all these ads we’ve got.

Michelle Taylor Willis: Exactly. And so he ended up becoming like our number one voiceover artist, and he does all of our ads now. And so he helps me create this content for. So I’m like one of the most, you know, famous voices out there doing like he just fell in my lap. Right? Wow, it’s crazy. So now we have all of this content. 

You know, if you go on my Instagram @MichelleTaylorWillis—I know we’ll do that later—but I just got it, you know? And so the radio show is an internet show, and I get about 230,000 people who listen to my show every Wednesday at 2:00. But I live it on Instagram, just for fun, and on Facebook, just for fun. And so we have, I mean, probably tens of thousands of hours of content. I mean, there’s just so much from me hosting the show. But then, you know, for people like you Todd, if you came on my show, which you’re more than welcome to do, I’d love to have you on. I tell everybody who comes on the show, I’m like, “Look, you just got two hours of basically free content—like download the video and use these soundbites in 30 to 45 seconds.” Like, that’s content creation. People don’t think about that, right? That’s content that you can use for free. Like, people would pay $15,000 to have a, you know, a video production company. Follow them around for three days just to get video content. I like I just gave you two hours. Yeah, take this, you know? So that’s kind of the radio thing worked. And then, you know, some months later, a friend of mine was like, “You should start selling billboards in your media empire,” he called it. I’ll never forget. Yeah, you know, as you’re building this media empire, Little Oprah, you should bring in billboards. That’s what he said. He actually said to me, “What are you trying to do? Be like Oprah?” And I was like, “Yes, yeah, why not? That’s right.”

Todd Nienkerk: Exactly. Yeah, I want to come back to billboards in just a moment, but you mentioned the live streaming of video while you were working on your radio show. Yeah. I’m just curious, compared to the streaming, uh, audience that you were seeing on or for the radio show, what kind of audience were you attracting through things like Instagram and Facebook and all of these like live video channels? How does that compare?

Michelle Taylor Willis: Oh, there’s no comparison. I mean, there’s 230,000 people that listen, you know, on the internet. And, you know, while we’re watching, it depends on the guest too. I mean, we’ll get probably, you know, from 30 to 50 people that kind of chime in on Instagram or Facebook right now. We do like no promotion of that. And by that, I mean, like we send out newsletters, you know, let people know who’s going to be on the show or— But there’s no real, intentional effort to say, “Check out the soundbite. This is who’s going to be like, guys, you should be, you know, you should tune in live today on Facebook.” Like I don’t do. I don’t do any content creation for that at all, which I should. It’s just not a focus, right?  

Todd Nienkerk: Yeah. Something—

Michelle Taylor Willis: What are you thinking over there, Todd?

Todd Nienkerk: Oh, I’m thinking, you can tell— I’m thinking. It sounds like there’s a lot of interesting repurposing or multi-purposing of content in what you do.

Michelle Taylor Willis: Absolutely. Oh gosh, yeah, it’s crazy. I mean, like we have, I actually talked to my team about this about three weeks ago, and I was like, Guys, I said and I literally just said, I said, I think we just need to start getting really intentional about repurposing this radio content because there’s so much. And so we actually just kind of brought on an outside firm that’s going to be their focus to kind of move in and just take— Because we have I mean, I have hundreds of radio shows at this point and we’ve got video and we’ve got audio. Well, we’re cutting it down, turning it into a podcast. We’re going to start slicing and dicing it. It’ll start getting out there. But I just haven’t been very intentional about it at all because I haven’t had to be, right? I mean, our revenue drivers, our TV and print, right? And so that’s where the focus goes.

Todd Nienkerk: Is that because you’re just not seeing as much demand in radio or why is it that radio doesn’t really land in that majority of revenue generation that you’re seeing from television and print?

Michelle Taylor Willis: Yeah. Well, because it’s just not a numbers game, the numbers are smaller. Write the numbers. And so there’s a couple of things that you think about when you think about revenue generation in terms of net profit, right? And it’s and it’s in a couple of those things are like, what’s driving the profit, right? And then how much it costs, right, to to to do it. And then what does the quantity play look like, right? So I can have a huge profit margin, but if it, you know, if it’s only $200 a pop, it’s a quantity play. And do I want to put that much effort into that quantity, where I could take another medium that has the exact same or larger profit margin? And it’s $1,500 a pop, and I could put that effort there to get as good or better profits, but larger revenue dollars. Got it. Does that make sense? 

Todd Nienkerk: Totally, yep. Yeah. 

Michelle Taylor Willis: And so that’s kind of how that’s kind of how I look at it. Does that answer your question?

Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, no, that’s perfect. Thank you. Well, let’s yeah, let’s go back to billboards because billboards are just fascinating to me for so many reasons. So. You were introduced to billboards because somebody in your network said, Hey, you know, Oprah Junior, you’re building this media empire, you should get into billboards. Why did they feel so strongly about billboards?

Michelle Taylor Willis: They just felt like it was something else that I could put in my bag. That would be a nice complement to what we were already doing. That could generate a decent, a good amount of revenue with not very much effort.

Todd Nienkerk: Got it. And so that makes sense. Yeah, I mean, this is passive income, right? Theoretically, yeah.

Michelle Taylor Willis: I mean, once you, yeah, I mean, yeah.

Todd Nienkerk: So, I assume you have to buy the billboard, right? I mean, does— Is that kind of the first step?

Michelle Taylor Willis: Yes, we buy. We actually buy slots on billboards.

Todd Nienkerk: Got it. OK, so you’re probably working with some other—

Michelle Taylor Willis: Digital billboards. 

Todd Nienkerk: Oh, OK. Got it. I got it. OK, so somebody builds, owns, sells, whatever— The physical billboards they could be, you know, analog or digital or whatever. 

And you are then purchasing slots or time or impressions or something on this digital billboard and you find you build the content that appears in those billboards and that content could be self-promotional that content could be a paid advertisement from one of your clients. Got it! OK.

Michelle Taylor Willis: That’s exactly right. You got it.

Todd Nienkerk: What do you think makes a good billboard?

Michelle Taylor Willis: What makes a good billboard? Simplicity. Hmm. I think what happens is that a lot of people try to slam a lot of stuff on a billboard and it’s like, Dude, you ‘re driving, they’re going to be gone in like a second-and-a-half. Yeah, right. So keeping a billboard simple is the biggest thing, right? And that’s why sometimes you see billboards that just have like one word and then a website because you’re like, “Oh my gosh, like, what’s that?” You just, you know, you go to the website and say, like, right? And the thing about billboards is that and this is any type of advertising you’ve got to think about what’s the end? Right? You begin with the end in mind. So it’s about thinking about, OK, what do I want to accomplish? Do I want to create awareness? Do I want to drive— Do I want the phones to ring? Do I want to just push people back to the website? You know, what do I want to do? And billboards are very interesting because people automatically assume that you put a billboard up and people are going to call you or reach out to you, right? And that’s not really from our experience what billboards do. Billboards create awareness. There are great ancillary pieces of a multifaceted and multi-platform campaign, and they let people know you mean business. If you see somebody— Like if you’re driving on the highway and if you saw your best friend’s face on a billboard, you’d be like, “Dang, he’s doing it right. Like this a big deal because they’re not cheap.” You know, a billboard isn’t cheap, especially if you get it on a major thoroughfare, in a major city, in a major area. You know, you’re going to spend some money for that. So, billboards let people know like, Yeah, I’m here and I need to do business. So, if you think about it from that perspective and you think about different areas where you drive through a city and you’ll see multiple billboards of the same person or the same all the time, you got to think, “This guy is, he means business.” Mm hmm. Right? It’s business.

Todd Nienkerk: Yeah. Is a successful campaign— I’m probably misusing that term but, is a successful campaign when you have these different mediums—you have television and radio, social media billboards. How can you effectively make these work together for a single, focused outcome? You mentioned that billboards are sort of like the, “Oh, they mean business, you know, like they’re for real.” They bought a billboard for awareness, but you’re not necessarily— It’s not a call to action. You’re not actually trying to get maybe something that’s measurable. It’s really more about visibility. And all of that is, is the game that you—

Michelle Taylor Willis: Not that there can’t be a call to action. You know, I don’t want to give that there can be a call to action. But I mean, really, when you’re putting billboards up, you just want to let people know, “I’m here.” Got it right. You know, we can put a call to action up there doesn’t mean no one’s going to call. I’m just not surprised when people tell me, you know, nobody’s calling you from the billboard. Like, they’re probably not one. Your phone number is not up there. So there’s that. But I mean, yeah, well, I mean, I’m joking, but yeah. But you know, easy fix.

Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, so is the game then to sort of saturate these different mediums? Or are there very specific things that you can do with each to sort of enhance the other or like, what’s your approach to that?

Michelle Taylor Willis: All right. So that’s a great question. And there’s a big, long answer to this because people think when they think about advertising, they think about it very myopically. And to have a successful advertising campaign or marketing campaign, again, you have to begin with the end in mind, right? And the best campaigns are the ones where you can actually advertise in several different places all at once. Because it’s about impressions, right? The more impressions you have, the more people will see you and the more often they see you. 

So, if you advertise once a month in a monthly publication, that’s one, you know, that’s one time a month. But if you’re advertising in that publication and then you have a billboard on a major thoroughfare, right? And then you have a TV ad. And then you have, you know— I mean, that’s like four or five times somebody might see you in a day or in a week. Hmm. Right. And so if somebody if you can increase the odds of somebody seeing your brand and a short amount of time, then absolutely you would want to do that.

Todd Nienkerk: It’s the psychology of reinforcement.

Michelle Taylor Willis: It’s just the psychology of reinforcement. That’s it, right? You want people to see you as many times so that when they’re ready to make a decision, it takes seven. It takes seven to nine impressions. So seven to nine times for people to see your company or you, depending on what, you know, periodically you’re looking at, right? But for them to say, “OK, I want to use that company.” Yeah, right. So you drive down the road and you see ABC plumber and then you’re sitting watching your favorite show and then you see ABC plumber and then you pick up the magazine because people do still read magazines because we’re tactile in nature and you see ABC plumber and then, you know, you open social media and ABC plumber is on your feed. When your toilet goes bad, who are you calling?

Todd Nienkerk: Mm-hmm. Yep. ABC plumber, ABC plumber.

Michelle Taylor Willis: I mean, that’s just the way it works, so—

Todd Nienkerk: You don’t have time to research it. It’s the first thing that comes to mind.

Michelle Taylor Willis: It’s the first thing that comes up and you’re like, These guys are everywhere. I’m calling every plumber. And so and that’s how it works. And so the more often you can do that, the challenge. And that’s and that’s a brilliant campaign when people come and they say, “Listen, I have this amount of money and I want to just be on the best mediums for my, you know, for my company.” Then I’m like, “All right, let’s do a multi-platform approach because that works great.” Right. And you think about what the big guys do. McDonald’s is in print. They’re on socials, they’re on TV now. Mind you, they have a billion-dollar advertising budget, but the fundamentals are there, right? The problem with small businesses is that nobody has $100,000, $200,000, $50,000, $10,000 to spend on a campaign where they can be everywhere.

Todd Nienkerk: Yep, yep. Right. So then you get scrappy.

Michelle Taylor Willis: So, then you get scrappy and then you have to say, “All right, what’s the budget? What’s your business? Who’s your target? Where do they live?” Then we have to ask all those questions because people would say, Michelle, what’s the best? You know, should I advertise in the magazine, or should I advertise on TV? And I’m like, Well, I can’t answer. I don’t know, because I gotta find out who your customer is, where they live, what do they like. You know, we got to find out all these things because based on who your customer is and who you’re trying to get to. That’s how we’ll decide which one of those mediums makes the most sense to put your money behind.

Todd Nienkerk: Got it. At the risk of maybe running out of time, I have a question that, uh, it seems like everybody should know the difference here, it seems like it should be obvious, but I feel like every time we start to talk about one or the other thing, it starts to get muddy. In your opinion, what is the what is the difference between advertising and—

Michelle Taylor Willis: Marketing and advertising—

Todd Nienkerk: — advertising? Bingo. Yeah.

Michelle Taylor Willis: Yeah, I get it all the time. Marketing, to keep it simple, I would say marketing is what you do. Advertising is how you do it.

Todd Nienkerk: Hmm. OK, so advertising is a way to fulfill a marketing goal.

Michelle Taylor Willis: That’s exactly right.

Todd Nienkerk: OK. OK. Makes sense.

Michelle Taylor Willis: That’s an easy way to put it. So marketing is like all of these things—like when you do a marketing campaign or you have a marketing strategy—this is what you know, what you want to get out, right. What the goal is, what the, you know, all of these different things. Advertising is the mediums that you’re going to use to do it, to keep it simple, very basic.

Todd Nienkerk: You know that that totally makes sense

Michelle Taylor Willis: And they feed into each other. That’s why they usually hear marketing and advertising, advertising and marketing.

Todd Nienkerk: And then you add PR, which is the—

Michelle Taylor Willis: PR is its own kind of—

Todd Nienkerk: The way that it was described to me—and let me know if this makes sense—is that marketing is basically like— Marketing and advertising, I guess, together, are you talking about yourself, whereas PR is other people talking about you. And it has a little bit to do with where the kind of idea springs from and then what different, you know, venues and mediums and titles and brands you get mentioned in. That’s how it was explained to me. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on that.

Michelle Taylor Willis: Yeah, I mean— Yeah, I could see that. Marketing is really like just the broad base of what you’re promoting, you know what I mean? Marketing is like the promotion of the business, right? The promotion of the strategy, you know what I mean? It’s the big umbrella for doing all of these things, and advertising really is the execution of that promotion.

Todd Nienkerk: Got it. 

Michelle Taylor Willis: Yeah, PR or public relations is basically the act of getting whatever it is you want. Reputation—  PR is really more reputational and development.

Todd Nienkerk: So PR is maybe— It’s an intersection of a type of marketing, but also how you sort of control the lens through which other people see you, how they perceive you. Like if something goes wrong, right? You want a PR person to come in and try and diffuse the situation, and they’re good. Talking to reporters and coaching you on what to do and what not to do and things like that.

Michelle Taylor Willis: Yeah, yeah. PR is really it’s reputational. I don’t like— I mean, I might have made that word up. I don’t even know it could be a Michelle-ism. I make words up all the time, but—

Todd Nienkerk: That’s what language is for.

Michelle Taylor Willis: That’s what— Yeah, it’s made for you to change it up, right? Yeah. But yeah, PR is really about it’s like it’s your reputation, it’s your image. And it’s and it’s the execution of what you want that image to be. Mm hmm. Right. So, whatever you put out there in terms of a public relations effort like that’s how that’s what you want people to see, that’s how you want them to perceive you. And there are, you understand. And so there are PR firms that make sure they get out those favorable and positive images of what you do and how you do it.

Todd Nienkerk: Got it. Oh, that makes sense.

Michelle Taylor Willis: Does that make sense?

Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, totally. Thank you.

Michelle Taylor Willis: Well, it could be. It could be like personally, like you like. People have PR firms, but companies, as you know, have PR firms or PR departments, you know, a lot of companies are big enough for them. They own their own PR department, right? And but that’s it’s really about maintaining whatever you want that forward-facing image to be. That’s PR. My definitions are so much better than the one that you got. I’m totally kidding.

Todd Nienkerk: I’m going to have words for somebody else.

Michelle Taylor Willis: Yeah. I’m totally kidding.

Todd Nienkerk: Let’s take a short break, and when we return, we will talk with Michelle about her new book, Raising Significance


Todd Nienkerk: Hey, everyone, I wanted to quickly tell you a little bit about Four Kitchens. You probably know that Four Kitchens makes websites, but we do so much more than that. Our team of Web Chefs can help you make better use of your content, scale your web team and create world-class digital experiences. For example, we’re in the middle of helping a university build a digital publishing platform that will power more than a thousand websites. To find out more about how Four Kitchens can help, visit us at Now back to the episode.

Todd Nienkerk: Welcome back to The Future of Content. Our guest today is Michelle Taylor Willis, media mogul and author of Raising Significance. So you recently published a book, Raising Significance. What’s it about and what inspired you to take another leap into content production and find a new medium through books?

Michelle Taylor Willis: So the book is about just eight things that you can do to help instill independent and leadership characteristics in your children to prepare them for significance as opposed to success. And my kids really inspired me. They’re just better human beings than I could ever be and are truly amazing. And you know, when we were kind of going through that COVID spell last year, I was just seeing a lot of challenges that people were having with their kids, especially like being at home. And, you know, I’m sure you saw all the meetings and I was like, “What are you talking about? Like, we’re OK in here. We’re not have any challenges.” And I started the book not too long a while back, I guess, before that. But then that really was kind of the impetus for me finishing it because it’s like, let me see if I can help some of these people. Not that my kids are perfect, by any means like, you know. But at the time, my son was 21 and I felt like I’d gotten one done. So, I was like, “OK, I can probably write about this now.” And yeah, because, you know, like when you have kids and then the kids are like 2 and 3 and you’re like, “Here’s how to be a great parent.” “You got a long way to go, friend.”

Todd Nienkerk: That’s right. Hadn’t quite graduated yet.

Michelle Taylor Willis: Yeah. You know, so once he got, you know, through, I was like, OK, I think we can. We can write something now. I’m speaking in jest. But anyway, so that’s how it happened.

Todd Nienkerk: So what are some of the things you think that really contribute to a significant life or significant impact? And what are some of the things that you feel hold people back from that?

Michelle Taylor Willis: That’s a great question, actually. You mean just in general?

Todd Nienkerk: Just in general or if you want to cite specific things that you include in your book or whatever comes to mind for you.

Michelle Taylor Willis: So, significance. Let me give you my definition of significance and success. Success is when you’ve done well and you can affect your family and your immediate circle and life is good. You got your two-and-a-half kids, your car, nice house and you’ve arrived at a level of success. Great job. You know, maybe you’ve built an entrepreneurial enterprise, whatever. Life’s good, right? Excuse me. Significance is when you take your success and build platforms for other people to be successful. Right. Significance is a realm of you not just being empowered for yourself, but using your empowerment, your influence to make other people influential and empowered and powerful. And I believe the world is kind of in shambles right now because there are a lot of successful people that are OK being successful and don’t necessarily have the guts to kind of kick the doors open on significance because they probably could be, right? We were meant to impact other people. That’s why we’re here.

Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, that’s pretty profound. Why? Why do you think that is? Why do you think some people feel complacent at the level of success and kind of stop there?

Michelle Taylor Willis: Oh, because it’s easy. I’m not saying it’s easy to be successful, but I mean, like, it’s not, you know what I mean? Like, it’s good to have arrived and to get to that place, especially if you’ve worked really hard for it. I mean, like, why wouldn’t you want to chill there?

Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, that’s true.

Michelle Taylor Willis: You know what I mean, being significant and empowering people and pushing people when sometimes they don’t want to be pushed because you see things in them that they don’t see, or giving of yourself so that other people can be better—that’s hard work. And it’s not always fun, to be honest with you, Todd. But again, it all goes back to vision. And I believe, to your original question, that people don’t necessarily do that one because I’m sure they’re scared. And it’s very scary because it takes, you know, you got to take a risk, you’re going to jump out and be different and do different. And that’s scary. So, I get that. But I think another reason is because people don’t know always what they’re playing for. Hmm. And I spoke earlier about beginning with the end in mind. That’s a life lesson. That’s not just business. It’s not just in advertising or marketing or building content. That’s in life. What is your legacy supposed to be? What do you want it to be? What do you want people to say at your funeral? I mean, what do you want them to say about you now? Right. What are you playing for? Why are you here? What’s the purpose? And when you know what that is and you have a very strong vision for what that is, and you can work backwards from there and not be afraid to kind of dive into that, then, you know, the world is your oyster. That’s how I close my radio show every day, right? But you got to know what that is. And if you don’t know, then what are you like? What are you playing for if you don’t know what you’re playing for, why are you playing?

Todd Nienkerk: You know, that’s really at the core of pretty much every— I don’t mean this in any dismissive way for anybody who’s benefited from something like self-help, but— And I don’t mean to sort of group everything into this one term. But when somebody is looking to be more productive or to switch careers or to find more meaning in something or whatever, a lot of avenues that people pursue, whether it’s listening to, you know, motivational speakers or reading books or watching TED talks or whatever. Fundamentally, what I think a lot of it comes down to is exactly what you just said, which is you just need to figure out what that thing is. You have to visualize that end state, that end goal. And for many people, it’s this sort of metaphor of, well, what will people say at your funeral, right? What do people say about you? And you can’t say anything back anymore, right? How will you be remembered? That’s something that I think we— Just speaking from my own kind of experience, we don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about it. Maybe it makes us uncomfortable. Maybe it’s scary. Maybe we don’t like the answer. I don’t know, but it seems so simple. And that seems to be the common theme. But yet it’s something that very few of us really try to tackle.

Michelle Taylor Willis: Mm hmm. That’s right. And it is very scary. It really is. And you’ve got to think about it like this, right? I believe. And mind you, everything I say is what I believe, right? I mean, people are happy to have their own opinions or disagree, and this is just me for my experience, whether it’s about business or marketing, advertising, whatever. But I believe that a lot of the best businesses are built around people’s purposes and their passions, right? I think that we really were meant— We were put on this Earth to do great things. We were put on the Earth to make it better, not to take from it, right? Not exclusively, anyway. 

And so I think what happens is when you know what your purpose is, what your passion is, what that end looks like, and you can find a way to monetize that purpose and monetize that passion, it’s like the old adage, “you’ll never work a day in your life.” It sounds hokey, but it’s true because you’re doing what you’re doing, you’re doing what you love to do. Like, I mean, I love what I do and I get paid for it. I can’t even believe it. Sometimes, people pay me for this shit. You know, I mean, but I’m doing what I was supposed to. I’m doing all of the things I do. I was put on Earth to do. I’m no doubt about that. And so when people can figure out that and they can find a way to monetize it, surround themselves with people who can help them execute on that vision and what that looks like. It opens up a lot of doors, but it’s scary. Who wants to leave a great job making $200,000 a year with kids in private school and to, you know, to fulfill that burning passion like, I should be doing something different, but do you know how many people I talk to Todd? I mean, I train entrepreneurs. Not as much anymore. And it’s like, these people are like, they’re like, this is burning me inside. Like, I have to do something with it. I know I’m supposed to be doing something different, but my wife is counting on me to make all this money, right? My kids are counting—that’s scary. I’m not minimizing the fact that like it, you know, you got to be in position to make that stuff happen. You know what I mean? But once you do, and if you know that’s what you’re supposed to be doing, it’s glorious. On the other side, and it’s really about that significance level, let me be clear, is about how you help other people do it right. Success is about you. Right, right. Significance is about everybody else. Hmm. It’s kind of like marketing is the promotion advertising is how you do it, yeah. Right, success is about you. Significance is about everybody else.

Todd Nienkerk: I love it. Thank you, Michelle, for some hard-won and very interesting perspective. It’s very valuable and inspiring. Thank you. How can our listeners learn more about you? How can they find your book? How can they find your services and get to know more about you?

Michelle Taylor Willis: Yeah. So, I’m @MichelleTaylorWillis on literally just about everything. And you can find my book on You can learn more about me on my website, You can learn more about Gagnant Media at That’s G-A-G-N-A-N-T. It looks like “gag-NANT” media, and yeah, I think that’s it. Oh, you can follow your media on YouTube, too, if you want to see the TV show.

Todd Nienkerk: Cool. Great. Well, thank you so much. And I’d love to hear from you. Yes, you, dear listener. What do you want to learn about the future of content? Feel free to send show ideas, suggestions or examples of the content you create. You can email me at We’re also on Twitter @focpodcast.

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Until next time, keep creating content!