How an inspirational content series became a PR powerhouse

Not every great idea ends up having a life of its own. Here’s how one PR pro turned her dream of connecting inspiring business figures into a digital content machine.

I’ve had a lot of dreams in my lifetime. Some I’ve kept to myself. Many I’ve shared with the universe.

I’ve learned that when I dream big and make my dreams bigger than my fears, the world aligns to make these dreams happen.

One of those dreams-come-true is my leadership platform Let Go & Lead. It explores modern-day leadership challenges, including what it means to lead in today’s ever-changing world, where leaders feel less and less in control.

The idea began as a book, but a colleague and I just couldn’t get it off the ground, even though we’d hired a professional ghostwriter. We were swirling for over a year. During that time, I helped a prominent designer work through some leadership challenges at his firm. In exchange, he agreed to design our book. However, when he dove into the concept, he suggested we create a digital platform instead.

That’s when I realized I had to let go! I asked myself: “What could happen if I share my idea with the world and bring in all the best thinking out there?”

By letting go, my dreams became even bigger. I approached the opportunity in a scrappy way. I brought my team together, and we set out to see what we could create! I wanted to get away from breathing my own air and stewing in my own soup and bring together people from all different walks of life who inspired me and could contribute to what it means to lead by letting go.

My colleagues stepped in to keep things moving when I was frozen, distracted or just too busy. This wouldn’t have happened without them. In 2010, we launched a website, a blog, facilitation guides and a series of video interviews with business leaders, academics and creative thinkers.

What happened in those interviews exceeded my wildest dreams. I interviewed Howard Schultz (Starbucks), Bernard Tyson (Kaiser Permanente) and best-selling authors Daniel Pink (“Drive”) and Mitch Albom (“Tuesdays with Morrie”). I even spoke with a leader of a conductor-less orchestra! There’ve been so many inspiring, courageous leaders who have shared their insights and contributed to this journey.

What’s crazy is that my dream has continued. Thanks to professors Ron Culp and Judith Muhlberg, we expanded the program to include university partnerships with DePaul and Georgetown. Students from these programs have interviewed leaders and shared their stories on our platform.

And, most recently, we built a recording studio in our offices and launched the Let Go & Lead podcast! In preparing for our second season, I’m blown away by the fact that the idea of Let Go & Lead is as relevant today as it was 10 years ago. From the 70+ leaders I have interviewed to the series by our student partners, there is one commonality: We all have a lot to let go of!

What I experienced firsthand on this journey is clear: A leader’s success comes through others. Whether it be fear, ego, having all the answers, being right and more, when we let go, we can achieve so much more.

Maril MacDonald is a nationally recognized leader in communication, strategy execution and transformation. She’s pioneered a discipline that collaborates with corporate leaders to optimize business performance by engaging and mobilizing their workforce behind a company’s strategic goals, its culture and its brand. Her clients have included some of the world’s most recognized brands, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Coca-Cola, DuPont, GE, Johnson & Johnson, and United Airlines. 

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