It took us a while to get started (thanks, Cynthia Sanchez for the boot in the rear) but some eight months later, after buying a bunch of equipment (thanks, Dino Dogan and Triberr for helping with that), setting it up and connecting eight billion wires (thanks, Chris Curran for making the magic happen), buying even more equipment and not getting on the treadmill nearly enough in the meantime (thanks, Alisa Meredith for being our nag buddy)… we made it to episode 100.
Along the way we learned a lot, and not just about knobs vs. sliders, but about planning, promotion, content creation and the audience we do it for. So as we cross the 100th milestone this week, we want to reflect on what we learned so that if you create any kind of content for your business you can take something away to help on your own journey.
1. There’s Always Room For Improvement
In the beginning we thought our sound was awesome. And our editing was stellar. We loved our graphics. Then a few weeks went by and we didn’t love our graphics so much. And we thought our sound was a little dull. So we made some changes, learned a few things and thought we did a great job.
A few weeks later our graphics started to look… not quite as we wanted. And why were we always breathing into the mic?
So we made some more changes. And thought we did great.
Until the next week…
Are you seeing a pattern?
It’s not that what we did wasn’t good. It’s just that as we learned, tested, tried and gained some perspective we discovered better ways to do things. Sometimes we learned to be more efficient. Sometimes we learned how to improve the quality of our content. Sometimes we just had a “What were we thinking?” moment and went back to the drawing board.
But one thing we never did was stop. We never thought well, we did it and we’re done. All the pieces are in place and it’s smooth sailing from here.
When you’re creating content you can always do a better job. Keep challenging yourself to do better, to be better and to find a way to push just a little bit farther.
If you approach your content as a journey – not as a blog post or a video or a podcast – then you’ll be able to learn, grow and evolve and that will always help you improve.
2. It’s All About The Audience
Why do you create content?
That’s not an existential question. It’s purely a practical one. And there’s only one answer: to provide value to your audience.
Every bit of content that you create as a business exists for the sole purpose of educating, entertaining or enlightening your audience or else you’re just taking up space on the internet.
It’s easy to get a bit lost in your own bubble. When we started podcasting we were hyper focused on our audience (we even gave them a name in the very first episode: Fred).
But sometimes, especially as we got more comfortable behind the mic, we had conversations with ourselves. Maybe we made an inside joke that we forgot to explain. Or drifted from topics our audience cares about into “marketing speak”.
When that happened you can bet that our audience let us know. And if you forget to focus on yours, they’ll let you know, too. It may be as direct as someone telling you that your content was boring. Or it may be quite subtle: dwindling email open rates, lower readership, less engagement.
You have to respond to the feedback and criticism the same way you respond to the silent signals. Never forget that your content means nothing without an audience to consume it.
3. No Matter How Much Work You Think It Is, It’s More
Here’s a little peek into the reality of podcasting: for every one-hour episode that we produce it takes four to five hours of work. One for recording, two for editing, another for listening back to catch glitches and mishaps and at least one more for handling all the technical stuff, writing show notes and producing graphics.
Given that we produce two full length podcasts a week, that’s like a whole second job! If you had asked me back in September if I thought it would be this much work I would’ve laughed. And if I had thought about it too much I would have cried.
I’ve found this to be true of just about any creative task. I think we as content creators are inclined to severely underestimate the amount of time it takes us to do stuff. In part, that’s because we get absorbed and the time doesn’t seem as long. In part, I think we just have no idea of what to expect until we’re thrown into the deep end of the pool.
The thing is, good marketing is work. It takes time. Whether you’re writing a blog post, recording a video or even composing something as simple as a social status update, a lot of thinking goes into that. Thinking takes time. Doing takes time. Revising takes time. And then you’ve got to do it all over again with the next piece of content.
So if you’re creating content make up your mind early that you’re going to need to commit. Commit to working, commit to spending time and commit to keep going.
4. But Work Can Be Fun
For us, one of the biggest reasons we keep going even though sometimes it keeps us up all night is because we enjoy it.
And that’s something I want you to take to heart because a lot of people cringe at the idea of spending all that time on content. But it doesn’t have to be drudgery. You don’t have to take it – or yourself – so seriously. I’m not suggesting you treat content creation lightly but you can produce something of value and still have fun doing it.
If you’re really focused on your audience then it’s a little bit like a dinner party. You can chat, you can joke and you can enjoy the interaction.
If you approach content creation by seeing yourself as the life of the party, you and your audience will have a much better time.
5. Sometimes It’s Not Fun. But You Still Have To Do It.
We recorded our 100th episode yesterday at 1:00AM. It was just that kind of day. And I gotta say, it was not fun.
I mean, recording the episode was fun. But the editing at 2AM? The show notes at 3? Graphics at 4? Not so much.
And yet it got done. Why? Because some things are non negotiable.
Treat your content creation as non negotiable or I promise that you’ll be negotiating with yourself every day. Should I write this? Should I just publish tomorrow? Should I do the video? Should I wait until next week?
And content creation will lose every time. Let’s face it: we’re all busy. We’ve got to pay bills and service clients and deal with the roof repair. If you let yourself slide on content it just won’t happen.
A few weeks ago we got busy and I said, “I’ll write my blog tomorrow.” Tomorrow came two weeks later.
Make content creation a priority even when it’s not fun, even when you don’t want to do it. Those times will pass. And you’ll be incredibly glad that you pushed through.
6. You’ll Fall Off The Wagon. But You’d Better Chase It Down And Get Back On.
Remember how I said tomorrow came two weeks later? Sometimes you won’t produce when or what you planned but that doesn’t mean you give up.
We went months without blogging a few years ago. Months! We could easily have left it on the back burner forever. But when you’re running and marketing a business, that’s not an option. So even though we had to make a massive sprint, we swung ourselves back up and kept going.
You’re going to go through dry patches, too. Your blog will languish. Your podcast will drop off the radar. Someone will visit your Facebook page and see that the last post was from November 2013.
You have to keep going. Get up and move.
7. The Promotion Wheel Has To Keep Spinning
Great content isn’t enough. All the great content in the world won’t do you any good if nobody is reading it.
And you know that loyal audience you worked so hard to build? They’re busy, too.
If you let up for even one second on promotion, your results will suffer.
There’s this misnomer in marketing that you can’t be too self-promotional. In content curation circles, there’s the 80/20 rule that insists that your content can only be 20% of your total shares.
I’m calling shenanigans. We promote the heck out of our podcast (and other content). And when we do, our listens and reads go up. And when we don’t our numbers plummet.
Even after five full years at the grindstone, even with our loyal audience of Fred. We still have to get the heck out there and promote.
So if you’re worried that people are going to get sick of your content and think you’re some sort of self centered jerk, get over it. If your content is good, people will snap it up. And there is always a way to self promote without being a self promotional jerk. Focus on your audience and the rest will follow.
8. Make Mistakes Loudly
We recorded our first episode four times. Either the sound was too wrong or the conversation was too weird or something just wasn’t right.
It would have been very easy to forget our focus – delivering quality content – and way too easy to get caught in a perfectionist loop.
But instead of dwelling on our missed cues and the overly loud breathing into the microphone and how Ralph kept forgetting to unmute me at the beginning of every episode, we decided to just go with our mistakes.
In fact, our mistakes became kind of a lesson in themselves. We talked about them, laughed about them and brought our audience in on the joke so they actually liked our mistakes as much as they liked our content.
Actually, the mistakes are the content. People love to hear about the goofs and mishaps because it makes you human. Everyone can relate to those embarrassing or irritating or horrifying moments. They empathize. They sympathize. And you become one of them.
And a magical thing starts to happen! As they get to know you, flaws and all, they get to like you. And then they get to trust you. And that is exactly when business happens.
9. The Minute You’re Ready To Record, Someone Will Turn On A Power Saw Outside Your Window
This is totally true.
Of course, sometimes it’s a thunderstorm. Or a dog barking. Or a baby crying. Or a truck backing up with that horrific beep beep beep sound. Or the next door neighbors doing a vent cleaning.
It’s part of the reason why we bought the expensive compressor – so we could block out more of those sounds.
But that won’t stop someone from using a louder power saw. The fact of the matter is, there will always be obstacles, irritations and frustrations. Whether they are literal, like the beeping truck, or ethereal, like the block in your brain telling you that you have nothing to say, all content creators have to overcome them.
And the thing about obstacles is that they don’t get in your way when you’re ready for them. In fact, they are most likely to fling themselves in your path at around 4AM after you’ve been up all night working on some non negotiable deadline.
For me, I’ve found that the best way to deal with obstacles is to just keep going. Plow over them, smash through them, crawl under them, whatever. Don’t even think about them. They’re like flies buzzing around your head and you’re too busy creating content to do more than swat them away.
Then when you’re past them, as inevitably you will be, you can look back on your accomplishments and smile and just say, “I win.”
10. We’re Not At The End
It kind of feels like the end. It feels like a big deal with a big ribbon-cutting ceremony, and after the champagne is drunk we should be able to go take a nap.
And eventually we will, but here we are at episode 101. And tomorrow will be 102. The confetti will be cleaned up and we’ll have to plan and record and promote and do it again!
Milestones are fun and should be celebrated but remember to keep on going. There is always another one just ahead a bit. If you play your cards right, there will be ice cream and cookies at each one.