How do you find the time and focus to produce seriously valuable content every single week?
Good content writing intentions are one thing, but consistently turning out great stuff week after week is quite another. Running a business is tough, and it’s easy to let other things get in the way of content production.
Our latest Valuable Content Award winner demonstrates the power of consistency, and also the continued importance of email – a seriously undervalued keep-in-touch tool. We’re inspired by her commitment and attitude, and believe there’s a lot we can all take from her approach.
Andrea P. Howe is founder of the Get Real Project – a US-based learning organisation dedicated to helping people in client-facing roles to strengthen their businesses by getting relationships right. She writes about the soft skills of client relationships; about what it takes to build trust, to get real, to get results.
Yesterday she shared her 100th client-relationship building tip with her email newsletter list (see: Two simple intimacy-builders). Here are a few of our other favourites:
- Why it’s a problem that you know stuff
- How neuroscience proves that emotions trump data
- Authenticity – how much of you is too much?
One tip every week for the last 100 weeks. Andrea’s barely missed a beat. How has she found the time? (NB: She’s very, very busy! Her workload includes running programmes for companies like Accenture, writing a book, and building a new video-based training library. If she can fit content writing in, anyone can.)
In celebration of her 100th tip, we’re presenting her with a well-earned Valuable Content Award, and sharing some of her secrets with you.
Q: Why did you decide to share weekly tips by email?
I wanted to give our workshop participants a way to stay regularly connected to the lessons they say are so valuable from our training, and writing weekly tips—all content, no promotion—seemed like a great way to do that. (Mastery with the “soft skills” remains elusive for most people in part because the conversation dies.)
Another goal was to take a first step in creating a community of like-minded people, through the weekly tips subscriber list.
A nice by-product is that writing weekly tips helps me continue to solidify and advance my own point of view about my subject matter. Writing the tips keeps me thinking, and keeps me sharp!
“Writing the tips keeps me thinking, and keeps me sharp.”
Q: How did you motivate yourself to take action?
Andrea: “My first and biggest obstacle was getting started—I was afraid of the commitment to write 52 tips a year. At the time I wasn’t even writing one blog a month—how in the heck would I find the time to basically write four a month? How would I deal with my own ongoing resistance to structure and routine? Oh, and … what if no one actually subscribed—how would I deal with the rejection?
“I was afraid of the commitment to write 52 tips a year.”
Getting started was a matter of choosing to get started, spurred on by a few different things.
- I heard loudly and clearly the encouragement from you Sonja!*
- As a public speaker and workshop leader who makes a living from deep subject matter expertise, I also know and appreciate first-hand the value of good content. I believe that sharing generously is the best marketing strategy.
- There’s also a client I adore, and whose opinion I value very much, who had been encouraging me to write weekly tips. (Actually, now that I think about it, she unknowingly triggered my competitive streak by sharing about another training vendor who was staying in touch with their organization by doing that. Well, if he’s doing it … !)
“I believe that sharing generously is the best marketing strategy.”
Q: How do you find the time and commitment to keep writing?
Andrea: “Writing the tips isn’t always easy. They come out on Tuesday and there are still Monday mornings when I’m scrambling to pull one together.
I have followed your great advice about setting aside time for writing retreats in enjoyable locations, which I usually do with a buddy. That makes a big difference, and makes it possible for me to get four or five tips in the hopper at once, which makes life easier for me and also makes my production team very happy.
Positive subscriber feedback has also helped. I’ve built the list by handing out signup sheets during my workshops (and yes, sometimes I still feel a bit sheepish about doing that—who knows why—but I’m getting better about it). The majority of a class will sign up, which is affirming.
Sometimes I get personal replies to the tips I post and that’s really fun and rewarding. And once a year we send out a short reader survey to see what people like and would improve about the tips.
Hearing positive things from that makes a huge difference. I regularly see comments like, “Insightful, practical and entertaining!” Leaders write about sharing the tips with their teams, and using them as conversation-starters in regular meetings. Hooray! That’s exactly what I’m aiming for.
“It makes me really happy to know my team is getting [the tips] and it is reminding them of these concepts regularly. We often forward them and discuss them as a group” — Kristian Aloma, Director of Client Relationships, Brandtrust
I also recently noticed a bunch of new subscribers who are strangers to me. So the word is getting out. That’s kinda cool.”
Q: What other content works well for you?
Andrea: “One nice result of writing so much content is finding value-added ways to re-package it. Last year we produced a Top Ten Weekly Tips eBook, finding the most popular tips by looking at open rates and stuff like that.
And you’ve been encouraging me to write something more substantial to narrate the seventeen tenets on The Get Real Manifesto, which I’ve dragged my feet on for two years now. The other day I did a quick mapping to see if I could find already-published weekly tips that linked to the manifesto points. Lo and behold—I’ve got 16 of the 17. So that makes the idea of producing another eBook feel really doable rather than daunting.”
Q: What results do you see?
Andrea: “I’m not that concerned about results in the traditional sense. Publishing the weekly tips fulfils my goal of helping people keep it real. Adding value and building a community are results enough for me.
I trust good things will come of it, even if I don’t know exactly what they will be.
This proves itself time and time again.”
Q: What advice do you have for other businesses?
Andrea: “In terms of advice to others, trite (yet profound) sayings come to mind, like Slow and steady wins the race and Just do it!”
Congratulations Andrea and the Get Real Project team! A very real Valuable Content Award badge is on its way to you in the post. Keep those fabulous tips coming.
Ideas to steal from Andrea’s approach:
- Email still matters – prioritise this method of keeping in touch. Think it’s dead? Think again. Email is still a brilliant way to keep connected with an engaged tribe of people who love what you do.
- Actively invite your contacts to sign up. Don’t just wait for people to subscribe via your website. Get proactive. Andrea hands out sign up sheets during her workshops. We invite new contacts at the end of each month. How can you invite people to get closer to you?
- Make every email count. It’s going to your favourite list of people. Make them so good people look forward to them. That means sharing genuinely useful ideas – helping, not selling if you like.
- Consistency pays. We look forward to Andrea’s tips every Tuesday. If you’re not able to commit to weekly, how about monthly? Whatever rhythm you choose, stick to it. Reliability builds trust.
- Get out of the office to write. Recognise the value to your business and ring fence the time. Make writing a treat by getting out of the office as Andrea does. Gym, park, your favourite café, home – wherever works best for you. It’s easier to find the time for things you’re looking forward to. (See: How to find the time to write content)
- Make your advice actionable. There’s a deluge of tips on the internet but how many of them are truly actionable? What do you DO about them? Andrea’s email content stands apart for me as she leaves you with an exercise to help you put her ideas into practice.
- Repurpose your content. Find interesting ways to package up the content you’ve written and make the most of our efforts, like Andrea’s Top 10 Weekly Tips ebook.
>> Join the Get Real movement: Sign up for Andrea’s weekly client relationship-building tips here
[*Andrea is a much-loved client of ours. We helped her with her website, act as her marketing sounding board, and encouraged her to get her Get Real email tips concept going. We’ve been incredibly impressed by the way she’s developed and sustained the idea. Genius is in the idea, but impact comes from action.]