Lessons On What I Should Have Done A Lot Sooner
Seven years into a project you become so aware of the many things you could have done that would have helped you have more impact, sooner.
You Are The Media has evolved and continues to grow and develop in this time of pandemic. The project is now seven years old. What I want to share with you here are the things I now know, that I may be wish I’d known sooner.
The pandemic has meant we have, in a way, fast-forwarded time, introducing initiatives that would have in the ordinary, ‘before’ times, taken us years to formulate and implement. For instance, the pandemic which forced remote working to be the norm, is the very reason the YATM community has grown in 2020.
Online events have yielded accessibility without geographical limitations at the very time that people wanted to feel a part of something.
This article is for you if you are building an ongoing content initiative around something you believe in, stand for and want to eventually make a profit from.
What I’m doing is reflecting on seven years’ work, the elements that went into it and some of the areas which I can now see I could have done differently for a faster and better return.
Take these lessons on board and act on them. There will be elements of my journey here that can save you time and also help create a stronger return for you as well as building greater commitment from others.
A Quick Recap Of YATM’s Seven Years
You can read a more detailed timeline here but You Are The Media started as an idea in October 2013 as a means of sharing how people can create, build and grow an audience they themselves are responsible for, and from this build themselves a stronger business.
More people coming on board (subscribed) gave me the confidence to introduce new initiatives so people could see each other and feel they were a part of something together.
You Are The Media Lunch Club started in May 2016, the YATM podcast in 2017, the YATM Conference came on board in 2018 and we launched in another city (Bristol) in 2020.
Then the storm hit all of us.
Since March so much has changed and I’d like to think YATM is stronger because of it. I now realise that the focus on the in-person side (90% of output was based on in-person events up to March 2020) was all about people with shared values coming together in a physical space and relationship building.
What we have now with YATM Online is a different way of sharing some of those elements. That sense of community has not only endured in this new space but developed in terms of reach and strength.
Seven years on, the principles behind YATM’s message remain the same: to create, to have a voice, to promote, to build and to be trusted.
Things I Figured Out But Wish I’d Done Sooner
2020’s fast-forwarded time called for some resourceful creativity. Looking back over the past seven years, there are things I now wish I had done sooner. This is advice from me to you if you are starting out with a ‘content-first’ approach. (It’s also advice I wish I could give to my 2013 self who was starting You Are The Media).
Think more about combining the power of online with the in-person (and balance the two).
Over the years I have delivered increasingly more live events. If I’d taken that as YATM’s sole blueprint I would have been on pause since March. YATM would have been reduced to just a weekly email and podcast. Zoom has made me feel invigorated and I see this hybrid of the telephone (talk direct to people) and television (broadcast to groups of people) as extremely powerful.
Find the right dedicated routine for producing content.
For many years my weekly writing happened in the evenings after the kids were in bed. Even though it was a quieter time, the evenings weren’t good for me. Finding your rhythm working until midnight after a day’s work is not easy and there are no prizes for working late!
The way I now work is to use Evernote to put down ideas, spend time over the weekend building on them and then dedicate time at the start of each week to write. Eva Seymour also helps me out hugely with the editing side. If anything I’ve come to enjoy the writing even more than I did in the early days.
Understand how you fit into a wider context.
If you take the approach that you know best, you’ll falter. From 2015 to 2017, I presumed that I had the answers to everything from content strategy to email marketing to podcasting (I delivered several workshops during this period).
When you’re bringing other people on board with you, you need to take the time to understand the roles you all play in a group both as individuals and as group members. Getting individuals who have more expertise in certain areas add value to the group helps everyone learn.
My role now is being more of a frontman rather than someone who plays every instrument. I don’t want to be a one-man-band playing loudly but alone.
Know the main problem to solve.
During the early days of YATM much of my work focused on generic topics around the area of marketing and content marketing – the sort of material you could also have picked up elsewhere. I know I was finding my feet, but I represented nothing to anybody, which was one of the reasons subscriber rates were low.
The problem I look to solve now for people is how they and their businesses can become leading voices in their own marketplaces and in doing so, win market share.
Free yourself from the tyranny of having to always appear polished and professional.
Showing up as the person whose professional mask never slips, the one who has all the answers always actually stands in the way of finding true connections.
During the early years of YATM, I was more focused on thinking that I had to have the solutions rather than acknowledging you don’t have to have all the answers (which is especially true in 2020 where we were all staring at a blank sheet of paper).
I feel happier being curious, asking others for help and documenting the way I see and experience the world. I believe in clarity rather than just delivering the answers (without showing the working out).
Recognise that loyalty comes from connections, not making ebooks and downloads.
No one is going to stay with you beyond their getting themselves something for free, just because you spent time putting together a PDF to download.
I spent time creating ebooks and downloads when YATM started (have a look here) but over the years I learnt that being continually present, speaking up and engaging, and making it easy for people to reach out and find out more, is far more powerful than pursuing isolated one-way, me-to-them projects.
When someone steps forward and looks around, they should feel that they’ve stepped into a good (online) space. YATM’s relative longevity also stands for something – it shows that we don’t let people down, are accountable and it’s a true community.
Discover the power of getting other people involved.
The most recent lesson for me has been seeing the positive things that can happen when you give other people a share in the responsibility and an opportunity of putting their own individual stamp on things.
In 2018 I hit a wall due to burnout. This was because I was making myself responsible for everything (writing, podcast, events and a conference), it affected me both physically and mentally.
If you want to do something that matters, accept that you can’t do it all yourself. For instance, during 2020, other people have stepped up to lead. Tracey Howes took the reigns for the Friday quizzes when the lockdown was well and truly with us. Fleur Cook has a section in YATM Online that is hers. Richard Burn directs the questions from everyone in our online sessions. Matt King hosts YATM Learning on Zoom.
2020 has been a year that saw me happy to guide from the side.
Social media follower counts are meaningless if you don’t do anything with them.
It feels good to let others know you have a large social media following, however numbers alone don’t mean they’ll show up when you choose to deliver an event. There has to be a way in which they can see what’s in it for them. The true meaning of serving an audience is your providing people with a place they can return to time and again, learn and share insights, and where they feel comfortable.
Personalise as much as possible.
Up until 2019, new subscribers received an email from me thanking them for joining. I tried to personalise this as much as I could by finding out where they were located or if we had mutual connections.
I did this as an icebreaker. Many people still thought it was an automated message. Today everyone who subscribes gets a personal video from me where I always call them by their first name, so they definitely know it’s ‘me to them.’ It feels good to acknowledge their coming on board in this way and I always ask them to reply so I can find out where they discovered YATM.
Find a way of working that you can repeat and return to.
YATM’s weekly process continued as usual as the country went into lockdown. Of course we did move into establishing a regular online space (making the monthly in-person community event a bi-monthly affair) but having that familiar pattern of weekly email, podcast and event already established helped us carry on through. Finding this repeatable element insulates you to some degree from the bad stuff that may be happening outside.
Progressing You Are The Media during the pandemic has facilitated and extended a sense of belonging when people needed it the most.
YATM may not have made the world a better place but it has brought you and me, and many others, closer together. And surely that’s what matters most.
If you want to step forward, create and build something within your industry that is yours – now, when so many people feel disconnected is as good a time as any, to start.
For my part, I’m looking forward to what year eight has in store and the lessons I’ll be taking on board. Thank you for being a part of You Are The Media.