2018 has definitely been interesting but not exactly the easiest year, in business as in life (they’re so intrinsically linked when you work for yourself, aren’t they?).
Yet there are so many things to be thankful for. We’ve had some amazing experiences, fabulous client projects, workshops and talks, and truly incredible support through it all.
Here’s an outpouring of festive gratitude to round off the Valuable Content year.
1. Brilliant business friends
We feel so lucky to have the support of an amazing network of like-minded business people around the world – old friends and new; thoughtful people we’ve connected with both in real life and online – via introduction, through our content, conferences, talks, social media, or pure serendipity. You have hired us, worked with us, recommended us, advised us and cheered us on and we’re so grateful to you all.
This city is something special – its vibe, attitude, and fierce independent streak. The colour, the harbour, the views, the people – we love this place and are proud to call it our home
3. Business books
Our library has expanded nicely this year. Sonja’s favourite book this year is The Business of Expertise by David C. Baker. For Sharon it’s Story Driven by Bernadette Jiwa. And there have been plenty of older books we’ve dived into again and again too. Shout out to the timeless Trusted Advisor by David Maister & Charles H. Green, and the The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott.
Our book is still selling and it’s fantastic to see clients publishing theirs. Dr Helen McCarthy aka The Appetite Doctor, and Jonathan Rees we’re already looking forward to your book launch parties next year. Thanks to our publishers Kogan Page and much respect to Sue Richardson and The Right Book Company team for fuelling people’s business publishing journeys. Ben Roberts and John Espirian – we look forward to your first books in 2019. (Andrea Howe and Bryony Thomas – we’d love to see your next books in print next year too!)
4. Clever people
It’s not just books: we’ve learned so much this year from blogs, from podcasts, video, and from talks in 2018.
We’ve taken inspiration from:
- Henneke Duistermaat on the art of writing without fear
- Newfangled on all things web
- Mark Schaefer on marketing strategy and social media
- Chris Marr on content marketing (Great to meet you, Mark, Jason and Jon in Bournemouth)
- Andrea Howe on getting real with your clients
- Charles H. Green on trust in business
- Jason Miller on B2B marketing
- Jeff Walker on launching online
- Bernadette Jiwa on marketing with love
- Simon Swan on digital transformation
- Margaret Magnarelli on digital marketing with humanity at scale (Looking forward to meeting you at the seaside in 2019 Margaret)
- Andy Crestodina’s blogging survey
- Markie Masters and the brilliant You Are The Media emails, podcasts and conference, on building an audience
- Gill Andrews on creating a lead generating website
- John Espirian on blogging and LinkedIn
- Fabienne Fredrickson on being a Boldheart
- Denise Duffield Thomas on entrepreneurship and money
- Chris Brogan on the art of earning trust and customers
Thanks for your valuable content this year.
It’s been great to finally work with cxpartners this year. They’ve been on our radar for ages, and we’re loving what we’re achieving together.
Delighted to call some inspiring women our clients this year, We’ve got huge respect for everything Caroline Hagen is doing at Reach Brands, and are so enjoying being part of her team. Dr Becky Sage is doing brilliant stuff at Interactive Scientific – we loved working with her and her team to develop the message and story. Ongoing work with Andrea Howe of the Get Real Project is a joy.
And we’re delighted to have had the opportunity to work for, learn from and make a difference to important social change organisations too this year. We’re proud to have worked with you Community Organisers, Playing Out, Penny Brohn, Rising Arts, Art Within the Cracks.
Also on 2018’s great client list are The Met Office, GW4 Alliance, VWV, Sustrans, The Eternal Business Consultancy, Urban and Wild, Broadley Creative, Mundy & Anson, The Appetite Doctor, Raise Architects, Twist Consultants, Willmore Iles, thank you all for working with us. We wouldn’t be here without you!
No business is an island so an expert, independent view on what you do is so darned valuable. Massive thanks to long-term coach Chris Thurling, to new guides Janusz Stabik and Susie MacFarland, to long-standing friend and supporter James Perrott, to Chris Grimes on public speaking, and to Mark Panay for his refreshing, left-field view on business and life. We’re so grateful for your guidance, wisdom, support, and patience!
Collaboration is good for business. The digital and business world is getting more and more specialist so the ability to bring in and work alongside others is increasingly important. We’ve loved hooking up with others who are brilliant at what they do to in order to make a bigger impact this year.
Shout out to 2018 collaborators Jay and Ali at Yoke Design for branding, Dave Stewart of Fresh Air Learning for transformational walking workshops, Jo Twiselton of Twist consultants for people change and engagement, Piers and David at Atomic Smash for websites, Christian Tait for brand and web design and Rebecca Wallace for training expertise.
Together we can really make a difference. Who’s up for more collaboration next year?
Especially needed this year don’t you think! Stewart Lee, Marcus Brigstocke, Bridget Christie, Mark Thomas, Mark Steel. And a massive thanks to keynote speaker Jon Burkhart – every business conference needs a Jon Burkhart! Funny people on stage helping us make sense of it all.
Just three this year but they’ve all been awesome. Sonja spoke (and swam) at the brilliant You Are The Media in Bournemouth and at WeContent in Bucharest – her first trip to Romania and she can’t wait to go back next year. Sharon really enjoyed thoughtful Murmurations in Chester.
The best conferences serve up new ideas, new people, new connections. They’re energising and inspiring, and leave you buzzing. These three did all these things. We’re looking forward to more great conferences in 2019.
Sometimes the best advice, or the greatest ideas, or the loudest ‘aha’ moments arise unexpectedly through conversations. Thanks to the following for some potentially game-changing chats in 2018. Thanks for listening and for sparking new ideas. Kevin Freedman and Nic Alpi, we’re especially thinking of you.
How flat would life be without beautiful design and illustration? Lizzie Everard – your brand and illustration work lives on and still delivers value year after year. Carys Tait – we love the new map and badges. Christian Tait – we’re using the assets you created for us every day. Gill and Adrian at Marles + Barclay – we hope to work with you two one day too.
Valuable Content is an ongoing experiment. We’ve tried many versions of our business model, seeking to uncover that elusive blend of what feels right, what gets results, and what delivers greatest value and impact – for our audience and for us both. Still going with this one. We’ll tell you when we’ve got it!
We’re so grateful for the support of our families, even if they still don’t really understand what we do. ‘All you do is write emails all day.’ (Rosa, aged 16).
Sharon’s favourite thing. Gardening is creative, active and relaxing. It teaches you patience and perseverance and makes you slow down and notice what’s happening around you. More gardening in 2019 please.
15. Group learning
Groups are powerful. There have been some amazing moments this year in our groups, and we do love teaching. Shout out to our Pub School community, and to our first virtual group. It’s been brilliant seeing your connection and continued progress.
16. Hitting 50 and surviving!
Now we’re both in the fifties club. Hooray for wisdom and caring a lot less about what other people think!
A joyful social network. Seriously fallen out of love with Facebook, and Twitter’s a bit hit and miss these days, but Instagram is still fun.
This one has been a surprise. LinkedIn is no longer the grey man of the social media sphere. We’ve had more great conversations on LinkedIn than on any other social network this year. The comments we’ve had on our LinkedIn updates are so valuable we’ve added them into blog posts.
The element of our work we love most. Holding a mirror up to companies to help them see them as their customers do, so they can serve them better.
Even after GDPR email hasn’t died. In fact, it fuels ongoing connection. We’ve increased the frequency of our emails this year, and it’s sparked more conversations with our community. One of the highlights of this year for Sonja was meeting Madalina Constantin of Content Works in Bucharest. Madalina’s name was very familiar because she’s been on our email list for years and opens all our newsletters, but we’d never met her. It was a joy to put a face to the name at the WeContent conference.
A joyful soundtrack to the year – kickarse Courtney Barnett, Leftfield, LTJ Bukem, Roni Size, Orbital. Dancing through it all.
A sign of a business with belief. We collect them, write them, and inspire them. Writing your own is a voyage of self-discovery and an exercise in business strategy, and we’d love to see more business manifestos in 2019.
Who doesn’t love a good map? They help you understand the terrain, locate where you are, and plot the next steps on your journey. Our visual maps are some of the best tools we’ve created. Fantastic ice-breakers, they get people talking, thinking and moving. They help to demystify content strategy and make it feel doable.
We can all take pics but great photography is a real skill. There are few who can put you at your ease and capture the spirit and energy of people and events. Thank you, Sarah Hall! We hope to work with you again in 2019.
26. Pub School Community
Although Pub School is no more, the connections we made are very much alive. And the essence of Pub School – helping people to find their ideas and share them – is still running through every project we touch.
27. Real business stories
True stories, not the glossy kind. We need more of these in business – real, gritty tales because life is never perfect. (See: Huge content lessons from my 3 worst ever speaking gigs).
Changing seasons, creative thinking, a feel good start to any working day. Much more of this next year. (Thanks to Susie Baker and Malcolm Balk for the Art of Running workshops).
(This one’s from Sharon.) Thanks for the advice Richard Caddick and the starter, Kimchi Queen, Caroline Gilmartin. The slow sourdough bread rhythm is a good drumbeat to have in your life. And the toast is amazing.
30. Spike Island
It’s been our home for 8 years and we love it. The Spike Design network is still going strong. And we’re very thankful to the Spike Island cafe team – we punctuate most mornings with a flat white and a single shot latte.
31. Swimming in cold water
Sonja’s favourite thing. Unforgettable memories from my first Coldwater Swim Championships in the freezing waters of Tallinn harbour in Estonia this March, at -0.9 degrees! Swimming in the cold makes me smile and feel alive. Thanks to the South West Seals and all the wonderful people who swim at Clevedon throughout the year. (Lovely post in the Observer on the benefits of swimming in ice water if you’re curious.)
32. The Lion, Cliftonwood
Home of Pub School, and a Bristol institution. We’re grateful for the support of Fiona and team. Pub School might be over, but the debates over jam first or cream first still rage on!
Not ashamed of this. Working on yourself works wonders. Enough said.
We’ve got so much out of the Fresh Air Walking Workshops we’ve hosted alongside Dave Stewart. We’ve taken groups up mountains, under waterfalls, across rivers, and through ancient woodlands for a fresh perspective on their businesses and ideas. Here’s to adventurous clients who play ‘crapstones’ (ask and we’ll explain), and go out whatever the weather.
Many of our projects centre on websites – the heart of your marketing universe. Getting the structure and words right so that your audience feels at home there is a big job. Those we’ve helped launch, relaunch, reframe this year include cxpartners, Community Organisers, Willmore Iles, Andy Foster’s Practical Architecture for Beginners, The Appetite Doctor, The Eternal Business Consultancy, Rising Arts Agency, Art Within The Cracks. Well done to all of you. And ‘keep on, you’re nearly there’ to Ben McKinney, and Jo Twisleton, Twist Consultants!
Writing helps us make sense of the world, to understand what we care about, what we think, to help others, to connect. This year’s writing includes 28 blogs, 29 newsletters, lots of Google Slides presentations, and many, many many social media updates. The posts we most enjoyed writing:
Writing is still the best way we know to develop ideas, share thinking, build relationships, help clients, and develop a business. It works for us, and for our Valuable Content Award winners too. Congratulations to 2018’s winners, John Espirian, ISL, Simpleweb Ascentor, UiPath. We hope you’re wearing your badges with pride!
Thanks so much for your interest, support and friendship this year. A happy festive break to you and your families and here’s to an equally fascinating and smoother 2019!
Sonja and Sharon