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Flexibility As A Content Ingredient Many Miss


You can’t have a preconceived route for where you want everything to go.

No matter what you create, curate and distribute nothing will ever go the way its planned.

When you have flexibility and provide others the impetus to shape a message and meaning you original set, takes a huge amount of weight from your shoulders.

I am writing this article from looking back at last weeks Once Upon A Time and noticing that the momentum from the event went beyond the end at 5pm on Tuesday 26th April. This was the first time this had happened in six events. Other people picked up the baton and were sharing their experiences from the afternoon. This is something that hasn’t happened before.

When this project started in 2014 (with Matt Desmier), I thought, “Maybe this could turn into a bit of lead generation for those asked to take part.” That hasn’t happened.

I am now realising that sometimes we have to reorder our priorities and be more focused on flexibility rather than think we can predetermine an outcome ie. you spend more on Adwords in the blind hope that this will mean more customers.

It is all about taking full responsibility but letting other people interpret meaning.


The Plans & Visions We All Have

We all have ideas in our head for how things will turn out.

Here’s my own way of looking at it.

When my wife became pregnant with our first child in 2012, all I could see in front of me was a lifetime with a boy.

It was already planned, the AFC Bournemouth shirt would have moved from a shirt with the name Masters on the back by their third birthday, to full kit by the time they were five. We’d go to games and share our own perspectives, we’d have our gripes but share every hug with every goal as each season passes.

My wife gave birth to Abby who will be three this weekend.


I swapped the world of Marc Pugh (one of our midfielders) for Princess Parties, Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol and everything and anything to do with pink.

I am still pretty rubbish at brushing hair and tying into a sturdy all day ponytail, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Our second child is also a girl (Alice), so I guess I have a 50/50 chance of at least one of my daughters showing a vague interest in football.

The point I am trying to highlight is that things rarely progress down a fixed route you have in your head (or on paper) with a predetermined outcome.

When you grow a solid relationship it is built on understanding, empathy and recognising that you need to adjust your perspective. There can come a point when you let something break free and takes on it’s own life where you look at with a degree of fondness.

Hey…there’s a link between life and business right there!


Back To Once Upon A Time & Breaking Free

The Once Upon A Time project is an afternoon on a stage chatting to four people sharing their back-story, their business, the role that they play and the audience that they are building. The theme for last week’s event was relevance.

As well as looking back at the #onceupon on Twitter at the end of the day, things started to build momentum in different places.


There was a sense of inclusion. Everybody felt part of something and a network had been created.

From including the people who had taken part in LinkedIn posts to sharing pics from the day on Instagram I recognise that if you have the ability to create something that people want, then a new direction start to take shape. This goes beyond any form of paid media.

Have a look at what Kherrin Wade, digital strategist, from the fantastic team at Adido, took from the event. It is such an in-depth look at Once Upon A Time and her own interpretation. Read it here. or click the image below.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 20.48.30

I wanted to find out why Kherrin wrote such a detailed piece, so I asked her.

Kherrin explained, “Whenever I attend an event I always feel compelled to share its contents with my team, but also the wider digital marketing community.”

 Adido_67“I feel it’s particularly important when the topics are novel, new or unique. What made this event slightly different on this occasion was the speed at which I had to put my thoughts to paper, basically the very same evening of the event”.

“I am an avid notetaker, absorbing as much advice from others as possible in the hope of doing their thoughts and opinions justice.”

“It just so happened that much of what was shared during Once Upon a Time 6 resonated with the goings on in my own place of work, so I felt a deeper connection to it and possibly had more to say.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 20.56.43

“I have never experienced the kind of reaction and interest I received following the posting of Once Upon a Time 6: The Review.

“This catapulted my article from the Adido sphere of influence to a much wider one.”

“I had never foreseen it to be so well-received and had never envisaged it would put my work in the limelight, if only for a short while.”

What Kherrin proved and the interest she received highlights the question, “why pay for attention when people can pay you attention?”

The event connected with Kherrin and in turn people connected with her.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 20.56.16


Flexibility To Let Others Take Away

There are so many ways that people associate with your message. Flexibility has to be a key trait for how we perform.

We can’t have rigid expectations, set our stall out and walk away as that’s the way that the world will pan-out. Things won’t just happen, just because you create a content strategy that you believed was the equivalent of discovering time travel, doesn’t mean that the world will behave as you think it will.

It was adman tyrannosaurus Leo Burnett who said, “Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.”


Your Responsibility

We build for reach, we build for action, and we build for association. We need to build for flexibility.

Whilst you have a vision in the distance, that end goal may start to look different over time. We need to have the ability to adjust, so it takes on a new form in the eyes of someone else.

What I am learning from the Once Upon A Time project and to share with you if you are looking at the event format is to:

  • put any visions of instant success and recognition in the bin, it just won’t happen from putting on one event.
  • it works best when other people participate and encouraged to join in. This doesn’t need the ‘social media company’ looking after the event tweets and having no affiliation with the project, apart from the invoice the day later
  • when people interpret and share within the social spaces where they reside, this breaks out from your immediate circle of trust
  • you have to listen to others, but more importantly the relationships are out there to nurture and build on (for instance, Kherrin will be one of the first people I will check are coming to Once Upon A Time 7 in July).


Lets Round Up

Whilst things may not go the way you originally intended, a simple test is to ask the question, ‘are you happy with the way things turned out?’

From my perspective as a dad and as someone with a small event here on the south coast of England, yes I am happy.

In the words of The Clean (a late 70s New Zealand alt rock band) in Anything Could Happen, “anything could happen and it could be right now, the choice is yours to make it worthwhile.”

This video from 1981 could pass as a video from 2016…

I recognise that we need to create and deliver things that other people want and this helps shape a direction. It is about catering and facilitating a need that is here now and having the flexibility to change direction.

Flexibility is about the ability to adapt and create content that people want, not relentlessly trying to convince people to want content.

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