Why You Have To Stop Creating Work That Feels Like Work
When there is a sense of realness to your content, there still has to be that element of fun.
If you are controlling the distribution of your message, you have to make it accessible and enjoyable for others.
Creating content that feels like creating content, means you forever sit in the middle. People like things they don’t get somewhere else.
However, creating work that feels like work is what people do. It is what we have been doing for generations so that we fit in. We have done it because we think it makes our business (or what we do) look more attractive than someone else.
It’s the blog pages and social post themes you see every day:
It’s the clients won
It’s the new team member
It’s the articles that you can read everywhere else ie. the importance of branding, what time to tweet, the future is AI
It’s the work or side project that starts with gusto and then just fizzles out
It’s the work that provides no angle or viewpoint
It’s the wise words and dressing it up on Instagram. Looks like Simon Sinek is the king of this (thanks Ian Rhodes for pointing this out)
What these represent is the indulgence of someone else and not the person standing in front of them.
It Doesn’t Work Like It Did
People are overly optimistic that just because they can create a piece of content, people will want to work with them. It just doesn’t work like that.
What used to be seen as paying for a 1/2 page ad and doing it over a period of a few months in the blind hope of some form of return (or ROI), just doesn’t work anymore.
So, what is the answer?
It has to be about benefiting people that you create something they can’t get elsewhere.
It is about going to the edges to reach the audience you seek to reach and make it worthwhile. When the audience you reach also acknowledges that you enjoyed the process of creating, this makes it easier to repeat.
As Margaret Magnarelli, VP of marketing at monster.com recently said, “You still need to have fun, interesting content that speaks to your brand’s values. After all, just as with B2C you’re ultimately talking to another human. And since you’re talking to them about work, you’ll get a lot more traction if you can make it feel like it’s not added work to consume.”
Winning It Back
The interactions with others is key.
There is no place for the person who sits on their throne telling others how to behave, the distance only becomes out of reach. A recent survey (July 2018) conducted by Harris Interactive, on behalf of ModSquad, highlighted that from a population of 1,050 respondents, over 60% are unsure of or less sure than they were five years ago of their trust in brands today.
This presents an opportunity, by winning trust back by expressing yourself better than others.
This about creating content that feels warmer, different and feels enjoyable to produce. The marketplace you operate within has more voices talking to more people. This is the centre of the problem.
Work doesn’t feel like work (the writing, the video, the audio) when there is an independent voice created that people want to read/watch/listen. You are now the distributor and the ideas you create are the ideas that can be spread by others, that is a fantastic place for us to be in.
The responsibility you have is not to play the same game as everyone else, but to bring your own quirks and angle of attack. Let everyone else have their moment in the sun when it comes to their client wins and calling it ‘news’. It only means something to them, so let them indulge in it in their own sandpit.
The Fork In The Road
Making something that is fun that people can’t get elsewhere is difficult though.
The You Are The Media Podcast is a way that brings all this together in an audio format. It follows a strand in two directions. The first is to talk to people who have built/created/made their stamp on something via the audience they have built. The second is to ask people how things work. I decided to scrap the format. The format is an interview based podcast. I front it, someone else joins me each week.
However, there are way too many podcasts around today that are based on the ‘ask and answer’ interview process. I recognised that all I was contributing to was becoming more of the same ie. someone the majority of people don’t know (me) talking to someone that probably no-one else knows. However, I enjoyed doing it this way, but it was becoming formulaic. It was becoming too easy.
So, how can I do something that people can’t get elsewhere? The answer is to bring everyone else in on it. Whether they record their own segment or there are mini-interviews with those who are building/creating or sharing practices that have worked for them, the You Are The Media Podcast is going to become a communal effort, where everyone stands together.
The monthly show is going to be fronted by Chris Huskins (and to a lesser degree with myself) and if you listen to the You Are The Media Summer Special the quality and production level is on a far better place based on the fact it was a number of voices who contributed and Chris fronted the show.
There will be people who are regularly sharing their expertise such as John Espirian and he’ll have his LinkedIn Sofa on the show, even to music impresario Timo Peach who will be introducing the show each episode. The new shows will be from the end of August.
In my eyes, a magazine based podcast based on a theme of building a loyal audience is something people won’t find elsewhere. This is how people gravitate and stay loyal when they get something that is just for them.
What Can You Do?
As Matt Desmier says, “If you’ve become too comfortable with something, so has your audience and now you’re not pushing yourself or them. And you might not know you’re in that comfort zone, but if everyone else is copying you – you’re comfortable.”
Creating work that doesn’t feel a chore and the whole experience becomes enjoyable for you and your audience (because they don’t get this feeling elsewhere), doesn’t come with a straight answer. Here are some lessons I have taken on board over the years that have helped me build a relatable audience.
What feels uncomfortable, share it (read this article, if it’s not worth writing, it’s not worth sharing).
It is ok to be self-depreciating (people seem to enjoy this angle on my Instagram, rather than a sunset over a beach, as everyone else does that).
If the world is full of the same format ie. a news page on a website that talks about client wins, it becomes the mainstream and more difficult to stand above everyone else.
Show your work and what went into something so that another person can take something useful away, that they may not have been aware of.
Talk and share the experiences that have a wider learning (and align with what you do). I always say it, but talking about my business when it was on its knees in 2010/2011 when a client went bust has attracted more attention than anything else. This was more about being open than a ‘why you need to fail fast’ parable.
Don’t treat everything as a last minute exercise ie. if you say you will produce one article per month, don’t start it on the last day of the month, it becomes a rushed mess.
Find ways to make something so it doesn’t feel a chore. For instance, what you are reading now, took shape on a Sunday night, the ideas were posted on LinkedIn (have a look here and Matt Desmier’s quote above was used), that became more focused in a coffee shop on Monday morning, that became more in-depth on a Monday evening at home (or in the case this week, at the beach hut).
Recognise what is the simplest message to create. It shouldn’t be about making yourself look important but the easiest hook for someone else to say ‘I get it.’ That way it becomes easier to interpret.
You stand by what you distribute, it becomes easier for people to associate.
Let’s Round Up
Most people and businesses are happy to reside in the middle. This is the place where we have all behaved the same way for many years. The chest beating and the self-centred mantra of appreciation have become far easier when there are places to distribute from.
As our lives get more complex, people are looking to simplify it, which is why we cling to brands such as Amazon, Dropbox, Airbnb and Mailchimp. By making things simple and done in a way where the effort felt good, becomes an ecosystem that people gravitate to.
Your audience doesn’t want to engage with a whole host of companies, they want to connect to those where there is a shared sense of belonging and is done in an organic, not pressured way.
Everything you create and distribute it done to attract people who find something they can’t get elsewhere. It’s a great feeling when people want to stick around.