When you start to discover a routine, you have a better chance of building an audience who will stick by you.
Lets put the ‘create great content’ mantra to one side (whatever that means). If you can’t find a way to nurture your own rituals, then you have less chance of grabbing an opportunity to carve a space where you can grow from.
When you start introducing rituals into your week and month, you formulate practices you probably were not familiar with before. Imagine in your garden you have a huge block of stone, every week you chip away with the intention for it to be shaped into something that someone else can see what it is.
To build your audience, you need to have a straightforward strategy in place. This is to have the ability to come back to a place time and time again, that doesn’t waiver from the beliefs that align with what you do. If you can do this constantly even when you don’t feel like, or less inspired as you was the previous week, you have a ritual in place.
The Oxford dictionary defines ritual as ‘(of an action) arising from convention or habit.’ Basically, you programme yourself to do something, consistently.
Whilst virtually every company is putting out more content and recognising that there is more than a one-dimensional press release and corporate brochure, it highlights the opportunity that we all have. A shift to finding continuous action enables you to become a better writer, presenter, storyteller and at the same time enable your business to have a constant presence within a marketplace.
For myself and many other businesses, the ability to continuously create and publish, that comes back to a core belief (mine is ownership), has been the fulcrum for change. For every business that has participated in the You Are The Media Lunch Club project, change started to happen when a constant action is introduced.
How My Week Looks…Every Week
From my side, I recognise that sacrifices have to be made. Let me share my week with you.
I write better on an evening when I am not switched into someone else’s day. Every Monday evening (even Bank Holidays), happens to be my time to focus and write. The aim is one deeper thinking article per week that is usually between 1,300 and 1,600 words. I blanket the time out and if that means no TV for an evening, my only excuse is if AFC Bournemouth is playing. I tend to finish the article off the following day (Tuesday). As a rough guide, I probably spend four hours a week on writing. An additional hour per week is spent adding links on social and also syndicating the article within LinkedIn and Medium.
On a Wednesday evening is when Ian Rhodes and myself record the Marketing Homebrew podcast. Ian looks after the final edit to publish the audio, whilst I write the show notes each week. We have already discussed the topic before we record and a bit of wider reading around the topic. As a guide, we focus around two hours per week on the podcast.
I send my weekly You Are The Media email every Thursday morning. The main article is the weekly topic (that you are reading here). Rather cut and pasting, I write an edited version of the article (this is so I can double check for any mistakes and basically sub editing). I use Canva for the imagery and the email also contains two other articles. One is a link to another article from the web on a related theme and the third will be an event that is coming soon. The You Are The Media email takes around two hours each week.
Every week, I allocate a total of approximately eight hours away from customers and on my own content marketing commitments. Six years ago, I didn’t have these hours to commit to every week. I reckon if I hadn’t, I would have been a lonely soul finding his moments to jump into places in a pretty nomadic professional existence.
The thing is, I don’t find any of it a chore, it becomes what I do. It has enabled the monthly You Are The Media Lunch Club to build momentum, for a year and the introduction of the You Are The Media Strategy Day.
Finding Your New Rituals
So, how is this relevant to your business? When it comes to building your audience, finding new rituals are key.
This goes beyond using social media as a stream of consciousness; this is about creating something that is the main meal with extra onion rings on the side. In order to find your rituals, here are 16 points that I believe.
- You read, you write/record, you publish. You read, you write/record, you publish. Habits happen when you start repeating a process. It also allows flexibility to work anywhere, on demand. By reading, helps you tune into your industry and keeps you centred within your industry. It provides perspective and encourages creativity. No one got inspired watching Take Me Out.
- Keep ideas somewhere, but always at hand. I have never kept to an editorial calendar and a two-month list of topics. However, what I do is lean into what is happening in the big wide world and what I encounter each week and use Evernote to write ideas down. Contrasted to this, for clients we have a calendar of ideas and each month we reach in to make sure they are still relevant.
- You know the common theme for every piece you publish. When putting my writing, podcasting and emails into a big pot, it should all boil up to encouraging people to take ownership and also help them to be better marketers. The topics don’t deviate into areas that I have little knowledge about or areas that can’t potentially build fruition ie. VR (read this article on being able to align what you sell with what you communicate).
- Turn everything else off. One of the biggest ways to lose concentration is to be distracted from email or with the TV in the background. Even before we start recording the podcast, we turn everything off. When it comes to writing, you have to let your ideas control your fingers, rather than something knock you off kilter.
- You work within a framework that you stick to. Before your week starts, you need to know what is lined up ahead. It becomes an issue when the intention to write/record each week all becomes crammed at the very end of the week. By putting unnecessary pressure, means that creativity is stifled. Plus, if you have an audience who become part of your rhythm ie. they know what day you send an email, they become aware of your frequency and know when you will be part of their day.
- Accept that you don’t know the answers, but you remain relentlessly curious. If you approach everything as the oracle, then you have no freedom to explore and to accept that it is better finding out from the scribbles, mistakes and doing things, rather than portraying to everyone that you get everything right, first time.
- Bring others in with you. By simply asking others for their interaction, helps shape something where other people have a role to play. From the Talking Content Marketing series to bringing in examples of businesses in weekly articles and the people who read and participate each month, helps to widen your scope and encourage a pool of interaction (and they even act as editors). It also helps when someone else offers a viewpoint that you have not considered.
- You do not have to be perfect. The longer you hold onto something, the further you move from keeping the momentum going. Whilst I don’t believe that you should create anything and just press publish for the sake of it because it fills a quota, there has to be a minimal point of entry. By this, I mean: does the piece sit comfortably with everything else you produce? is there a mix of experience/fact/opinion?; does it provide a role to make someone else think/smile/question?
- Don’t get worried by what others think. People connect with something they see as real. If you start to get a bit anxious about whether you should publish, then you should publish. If this is work that you feel happy to be associated with, then you stand more of a chance of it resonating with someone else.
- Have a sense of urgency. If you work to a timeline that is defined at the beginning of the week, then you have action points that you need to achieve. For instance, I need to have my weekly article finished by the time I start putting together the weekly email on a Wednesday. If you start to slow down and take your foot off, you lose that element of pressure.
- Embrace on-demand, do it anywhere. You don’t just have to be in the zone and have one place to create. When you have the ability to write, anywhere, all you need is a device to write with. I have found that different environments help support creativity. From the coffee shop, to the beach and to the park, if you are ready to jump in, be prepared to jump in anywhere.
- Recognise the ability to create your own growing library. When you look longer term rather than the work that is directly in front of you, you have the ability to create your own library resource within your own platform (your website). As well as helping with SEO, you also provide a sense of longevity for new people who are visiting and picking up the thread for what you share. It also becomes a device to see your own progress. It allows you to explore further elements that you have touched upon or help you formulate your thinking from the seed of an idea that may have only been briefly introduced somewhere else.
- Put any thoughts of press release type work in the bin. You cannot write where a product becomes the central focus, it becomes one-dimensional and an easy tunnel to go down. This is what we have all been doing for decades. You have to switch from the thing that you sell, to the value that you provide. If you can find a rhythm doing this, it becomes bizarre when you see other people banging the same drum/business win/award/noble effort/motivational quote.
- Recognise no one has heard your opinion (even if it’s been well covered everywhere else). Whilst much has been said before, the moment to feel uneasy is when you recognise you have literally cut and pasted someone else’s work. When it contains no element of personal reflection, lesson learnt or way that you see the world, then it just becomes a wasteful and empty exercise. By having a defined voice allows you to become comfortable with the views you have and the people that you deliver it to.
- Find a formula, then repeat. If you find a way that structures your week/month and you can become disciplined with it, then stick to it. I have highlighted in another in 2017, that I was doing work that just did not align with others. I informed, but it did not connect to my business. Once you find a formula that works, if you try to shoe horn in more priorities, the efforts start to become diluted.
- Be tuned into the world around you. You have to be aware of what is going on around you and how this relates to your marketplace. By paying attention from reading, discussing, sharing and just being tuned in, helps you build topics for the future. All you need is a way to write down and not lose the ideas and thought process.
Lets Round Up
Finding rituals is all about starting something and then sharing with others, but you acknowledge that you will probably never finish. It is about accomplishing and then having the routine to pick back up again, without wanting to throw the towel in.
It comes down the ability to build an audience who recognise the effort and value that they take from being persistent. If you stop, someone else is ready to take the baton. If you keep going, you’ll always be ahead of someone else. Where would you rather be? Finding rituals and sticking to them, helps others to recognise that you are here for the long haul.