If you can wrap up what you share in a digital space to one that brings people together, you have an opportunity to connect on a level you cannot do online.
Here is something to consider for next year. Can you expand what you share online, give it a new life and have people in front of you?
A key part of an owned media armoury is to have conviction that shares your viewpoint with others.
There is nowhere to hide for blandness and no place to cower for sameness.
Welcome to the Live Blog (by this I do not mean writing posts while an event is taking place, I mean an actual physical thing in front of an audience).
It is never finished; it grows with the life that is breathed into it from the participation of others. With my monthly You Are The Media Lunch Clubs I only put the parts together, the contribution from others helps to build and give it movement.
What Is Its Definition?
A place where you follow the format of your website (and belief structure) and do it in front of a small audience, on a consistent basis.
It is the experience of reading your blog, only live and you get to eat.
It is a place to bring others together and at the same time address some common problems. Lets have a look at 2016:
Blog comments are down. Whilst we have reached a peak for blog comments in 2015, we are now on a gradual decline. There is now 35% less global blog comments within WordPress since April 2105.
People are rolling their sleeves up to create more in 2017. According to Content Marketing Institute/Marketing Profs annual B2B survey, 70% of businesses are ready to create more next year. More businesses filling spaces with more noise, great.
We’re not engaging with each other. According to TrackMaven there is a decline in social media engagement from January to June 2016 (with an exception of Twitter).
What does this show? Simply publishing within a digital space may not be enough anymore.
The angle I am highlighting here is that one of our biggest challenges for businesses is to connect on a level that can keep momentum and grow it with an audience that you have a responsibility for.
Whilst businesses are prepared to produce more, they have to become targeted otherwise we’re going to be switching off?
This is where the Live Blog can become a tactic that encourages participation, brings together a group of people with a shared mindset, generates involvement and the ability for people to come out from behind their screens and further their own development around an area of interest.
It is not an event, a networking group, a workshop, or a seminar. It is a way to gather like-minded people on a regular basis where the topic relates to the overall approach of a business. It is way to interact with a group of people, in a small space on a consistent basis.
People are effectively seeing work in progress before their very eyes. It may not be polished, but at least there is a common theme that ties everything together and not an excuse for strangers to trade business cards like ninja stars.
I have introduced my You Are The Media Lunch Clubs since June 2016. This is how it works:
- I have a weekly email that binds everything together (sent every Thursday morning) to a database of approximately 2,000 people (a local audience has grown 50% in the past year, so easier to cater for)
- I choose the last Thursday of each month, that links the event with the email
- A different venue each month (I make a promise not to create a networking vibe and have it in a hotel, everyone has ‘been there done that’)
- My approach is focused on ‘ownership’ and I invite guests to share how they have built an audience (from B2C and B2B worlds) or play a role in helping others build their audience (such as the local newspaper)
- The format works whereby I share the topics that I have been writing during the month (the round-up), find the link that makes the guest relevant (the feature). We chat for 30 minutes and then others contribute and a discussion builds
- Each venue provides lunch (The Larder House is likely to become a spiritual home in 2017)
- This is a lunch that doesn’t meander too much into people’s afternoons. We start at 12.15pm, we finish at 1.45pm promptly
- The next event is shared to the You Are The Media email community first, before publicised on Twitter and LinkedIn (to create that feeling of membership)
- The cost is to cover the lunchtime and normally around a total of £15
This is the key. If there is an audience who are beside you with what you create, start small and build with this format. If you don’t have an audience, now is the time to start building one.
Sally Bennett, Executive Recruitment Director, Engage Executive Jobs explains why she comes each month, “I learn something new, it is networking on a informal level, we are there for the same reason to learn from other peoples experiences.”
“It does not matter what the business is or what we do we are all trying to increase our profile and provide expertise in our specialist field.”
“Lastly, but not by all means the least I really enjoy it and no matter how bad the day is going you can guarantee we will walk away re-energised.”
Let me share what works and where my problems are/have been:
- it has cemented closer bonds that pure online interaction wouldn’t necessarily achieve ie. people inviting other people within their network to come to future events, even as a lead generation tool
- it has begun to build a loyal audience of people who come to each event, so people are becoming familiar with each other
- it has started to build a rhythm where the time investment is not as intensive during the first three months ie. convincing people to come, finding out more about the guests
- allows me to test ideas and to receive feedback
- more conversations are created
- understand the issues that other people have that help feed the blog and also the Marketing Homebrew podcast ie. people are considering/applying a content marketing approach, but will always have the stumbling block from a senior management level that is defined with a 20th century belief to communicate via interruption and repetition
- the more events you do, the more people become aware. It isn’t a case of starting from zero every month
- make sure that people have something to eat and a buffet format this is more than just a plate full of sandwiches and Hula Hoops
This whole difference between networking/workshops and interaction with a Live Blog cannot be ignored. It has to feel different.
Gordon Fong, Director of e-mango and Datacenta Hosting, looked at it this way. “In a networking event, the focus tends to be who you can meet and who you can benefit from. The focus is a little me, me, me. This ends up being a mesh of criss-crossing lines.”
“At the Lunch Club there is a centre, there is gravity to something that we have decided to come and learn about. Any networking is an adjunct to it and those lines criss cross around the periphery but you came still make out the centre, and there is beauty in that.”
“For me, being out of my very introvert techie world and persona, and being at a Lunch Club event is not a natural comfortable thing. However, there is some emotional risk, but the desire to learn from those willing to give is something worth trying.”
“When reading a blog, if it is not your natural topic it can be difficult to know if you are just being hoodwinked by a keyboard warrior. Being there in person is a lot more telling. Sometimes you learn more by how something is said as opposed to the words.”
CHALLENGES/WHAT HASN’T WORKED?
- The time it takes to organise. As we’re moving into 2017, I already have guests confirmed up to next Spring, rather than a sporadic approach of finish one event and then find someone for the next session
- Booking venues. I want to create a feeling where we go to new venues each month, I don’t think I can keep this up in 2017 to phone new places, agree a package, visit and confirm. It is just too time intensive
- Subscribers from a local audience have doubled in the past year, hence the reason to cater for a local audience. I feel that if I wanted to do this in another location, the investment in preparation and promotion would not be viable at this moment in time
- Convincing people to do something different that doesn’t have its foundations in networking ie. you turn up, you talk, you eat chicken wrapped in Parma ham, you listen to someone selling a service/product, you drink coffee
- Getting the right people to be guests. I have received emails from people who would like to participate, but when looking deeper, becomes more of a PR exercise (see the point above)
- Creating a sit down format with two courses doesn’t work, people don’t interact when spending the whole lunch next to someone for the duration
Why Will The Live Blog Progress In 2017
I recognise the live blog is a continual work in progress.
Similar to a blog, it is never finished only growing with new angles, new perspectives and new participants.
Dan Wale, Operations Manager, from Jobshop UK, attends the Lunch Club and notices the difference and similarities between what is live and what you read.
Dan highlighted, “The traditional blog format provides information, knowledge and experience which is static in its presentation, and as such the relevance can sometimes be lost.”
“The ‘live blog’ experience promotes kinetic ideas to flow, and due to the free flowing conversation it becomes far easier to understand the topics covered, and more importantly, relate them to your own organisational needs.”
I’d like to think that this is actual social media, where the medium is an event and people find new connections outside of the group to build their own collaboration.
As highlighted in the uniting behind a cause article, post Zoe Hiljemark, from Sixth Sense PR stated, “I am not only learning and being inspired by the stories of others, but I’ve been able to connect with other like-minded people. I’ve also formed alliances and collaborated on projects with other ‘lunch clubbers’ as well as shared my expertise, generating leads for my business.”
Whatever industry you are in, everything is centred on collaborating with people from different backgrounds and then bringing it to life.
What an online blog will never do is encourage interaction between groups of people and seeing where the conversation goes.
As the Lunch Club now moves into 2017, I like this idea of creating something ephemeral. It isn’t filmed, it isn’t recorded and you can’t see it again. You are there or you miss out. You can pick up on a thread to digest in your own time or just be part of lunchtime with other like-minded people. The whole fleeting nature that comes back to an approach is part of its appeal.
What about you? Are there people who participate with you that are currently behind a veil? Perhaps it is time to bring everyone out from their hiding places and you to take the lead from an approach you truly believe works.