Lessons Learnt From 291 Weeks At A Table
It’s birthday time – You Are The Media is 6 years old!
A time to celebrate for sure, but also a time to reflect.
This article looks at both the personal and professional impact you can create through sticking with something over time.
Then and Now
Starting in October 2013, my weekly email was originally somewhere to share my thoughts, a sort of marketing scrapbook with the intention of gathering an audience around me.
Six years later, it has become much more than that. I’m still sharing my ideas but also bringing other people in and turning the spotlight on those who are part of the You Are The Media community. The weekly email now includes a video segment, subscriber offers and keeps everyone in touch with YATM activity both on- and off-line.
From a grand total of 312 weeks over those last six years, I’ve missed 21 weeks (so 291 weekly emails). The reasons behind those missed weeks are Christmas breaks 2013 – 2018, and an extended break after the YATM conferences in 2018 and this year.
Breaking Down What You’re About To Read
I’ve split this article into two sections: The first part shares how writing an email over the past six years has changed me. The second part looks at how being persistent can help you when there’s no finish line or end point ahead.
The process to all this is simple – you make, you share, you make, you share. It’s like baking a cake every week for friends. Every week you get a bit better with what you put into it and what people can get out of it.
A cake will fill you with calories while You Are The Media is intended to fill you with the confidence to go out and build your own media space, all the better to grow your own audience, and connect with, sell to and collaborate with them.
A Better Person From When I Started
Sticking with this over six years has become a process that I’m tuned into. The idea of turning up every week is similar to committing to physical training.
The toughest time was keeping it going in the early weeks. Over time, I got to know and interact with the people who were reading the email. This familiarity bred trust and helped me write the content that they wanted and needed to read. The more I became familiar with people (subscribers), the more they trusted me, i.e. they knew I wasn’t sending them an email that was just selling something.
Here are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt from finding a medium (in my case it’s been a blog and the email newsletter) returning to it, and nurturing it, every week, for six years:
It helped me create a meaningful identity.
Spending money on branding exercises in isolation is a waste of time. A logo doesn’t mean anything, an advert doesn’t mean anything, spending hours on an about us page doesn’t mean anything if it never goes beyond you. Developing content brings out and helps you define your individuality. You’re creating something of substance that has meaning for others.
I found my voice.
Writing every week has helped me find my voice. I have become better at articulating what I need to say. A few years ago, I thought that to be seen as a safe pair of (marketing) hands I had to appear more knowledgeable than everyone else in the marketplace. I now recognise that it’s more about strength coming from standing for something you believe in, something that finds resonance with others.
It built my self-confidence.
If I didn’t have a blog and newsletter I’d always be looking around for the next gig instead of having people in the marketplace come to me with some prior knowledge and awareness of my work. This space has become a place people follow, join in and become a part of. This has helped make me more personally confident, particularly as 2019 became the year to talk to international audiences about how YATM works.
Concentrating on nurturing my own shopfront made a difference.
If all my work of the past six years had merely been published on LinkedIn, life would be very different. Things would look disjointed and it wouldn’t be easy to refer to a particular post amongst a mix of likes, comments and time progressing. I decided to make a home for myself and come back to it every week. My blog was the shop and I become a delivery boy – dropping the YATM email into people’s inboxes every Thursday at 6.30am. When you come to opening my email, I want you to feel you can metaphorically kick your shoes off and feel at home. That “you’re welcome” feeling was something I sought to extend when taking the work offline with the YATM Lunch Clubs and Conference.
Listening to my audience, I moved into developing new formats.
You can create value by repurposing one piece of material into different formats that suit your audience.Where the original focus was purely on the writing, the weekly email now includes video (and soon-to-be audio) of the weekly articles. I sum up the email in a one-minute video from my beach hut and this has become the most clicked part of the email. If you have dedicated time to creating one main message, you can still do it justice in another format.
The videos also work well when I record a version for LinkedIn.
It all comes from creating a blog, building an audience and then directing the audience to the email each week. In turn, this has driven new clients and stronger connections with other people.
Allowing others to join in created something far bigger.
Over time, whilst the newsletter’s main article still comes from me, I started sharing the work of others who were part of the YATM community. This made everything go so much further. As I’ve already mentioned, you can’t create an identity in isolation – welcoming in and creating space for others makes your initiative far more powerful.
I created a legacy.
You can easily get lost if you only ever appear via established platforms or within someone else’s media. The beauty of building your own space is outlining your own journey for posterity. I like that idea that there are places where people can still discover you and your message long after you are gone.
What You Benefit From If You Too Can Find Your Own Momentum
If you’re thinking about shaping a message and sharing it month after month as you build an audience, let me paint a picture for you of how the future could look.
Whilst it may be daunting to start with – there’s the fear of embarrassing yourself, or thinking that no one is paying attention (don’t worry I had this for at least 12 months) – let me put you at ease.
The more you create, the better you get.
This whole thing around learning on the job is true. It doesn’t matter how many books you read, if you don’t start putting yourself out there, you will never find out if this is for you. I started off writing with the hangover of coming from an agency world and overcomplicating everything, now I understand the value in creating familiarity and simplicity. This has only happened by practising every week and discovering what others enjoy. The end result has been building a community.
Opportunity, enthusiasm and distribution are free.
Creating for others and doing it organically is one of the most empowering things any business owner or marketer can do today. My offering is centred around trying to make it worthwhile for people to spend time “with” me every week. My biggest investment is time. Email is an enabler, an owned means of distributing to your subscribers.
You can build something distinct from and in addition to social media.
Whilst social media is, in its own way, a powerful means of distribution and can become a place of mass conversation (this is what I’m seeing from the YATM Facebook Group), it is also a weak reference point for gauging the strength of your connections. Your owned space is where, without platform rules and algorithms, things can get really interesting, and you don’t need to be a big company with deep pockets to do this.
You can make your mark.
Whether it’s in your local area, in your sector or marketplace, creating and then adding content in your own space means that over time, people will start to notice. Whilst it may be no more than a dripping tap, the more you keep going, the fuller that cup becomes.
You can enrich the lives of others.
You build trust by creating a message that allows others to stand alongside you. As time goes on and your audience grows it becomes easier for everyone to make introductions and bond within this expanding group. This means that connections are no longer just transactional and people support, encourage, share and stand by each other.
If I hadn’t started creating, sending and building YATM, I really don’t know where I would be now. I may still have been searching for a means of differentiating myself.
And I probably wouldn’t know you, and you probably wouldn’t know me.
Starting, and then keeping going in the early days when things were unfamiliar was by far the hardest part. Staying focused on what I was about and what I believed in, and giving it time to take hold, was vital.
If you can do this over the long term it becomes a means of building trust and so can support everything you do.
As You Are The Media enters its seventh year, nothing feels a chore.
It’s a great place with great people who are all there for the journey. Thank you for being a part of it, it means a lot.