Maintaining An Audience On Content Overload

Lately I’ve been assaulted with email newsletters and auto-responders, bored by 80% percent of the automated pronouncements and retweets (including many I can tell the @Tweeter has not actually read), and left cold by a steady stream of sterile salesy appeals for my attention to attend yet another free web seminar that saturate my Linked In news feed.

Can I get an “Amen?”

Even some of my most favorite writers seem to have become so enslaved by the content monster that they are churning out content that has no soul. Some recast the same basic concepts again and again and again, and worse, some stray out of their area of expertise completely and use their posts as an exercise in “writing to learn.”

As you know, I am a huge champion of writing to learn. But I just want people to call it out as such rather than trying to pass off the thing they learned five minutes ago “on the Internet,” as true expertise.

The mark of true expertise is that it’s fairly narrow and very deep. True experts can talk about their category for days on end, with ease. Think: Fred Wilson (AVC.com). Also David C. Baker (ReCourses). And Heidi Grant Halvorson (author of Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals).

Lack of true expertise is one big reason it’s so hard for most people to publish consistently. Beneath the shiny surface, there is no there, there. That’s why people are forced to feed to content monster (and their audience) the same meal – week after week after week.

If you’re not a true expert yet, it’s not too late (it’s never too late). Most professional services practitioners naturally gravitate toward a specific area. Figure out what that is and go for it. It’ll probably take you 3-5 years to get to the summit (10,000 total hours). Know that and just do it. That’s the first step.

But that’s only half the equation. The other thing that often is missing is a clear mission.

It takes me five minutes on someone’s website to be able to ascertain whether or not their mission is clear. My observation is that the more corporate speak there is, the foggier the mission. (There usually is one, you just have to dig around for it and bring it to the front. You basically have to put the business on the couch and help it figure out who it really is.)

Caveat: Identifying a mission can be a dangerous business because you may discover you don’t want to publicize your company’s actual mission. For example, if your business is your entire life, your secret mission might be to work for clients only in sectors that interest and amuse you. There are other problems with this mission, but that’s another post.

Or maybe you have no mission except to make money. That’s okay. All business owners share that mission (or they should). Alas, the fact that making money is practically everyone’s mission means it is not a differentiator.

Nor is what you do or how you do what you do. Which means no one cares about your “proprietary process.” What they do care about: Why you do what you do. The why is your true mission. The why is what makes your company different from the 8,000 other people that do what you do, how you do it.

To understand what I mean, watch this 2009 TED talk by Simon Sinek on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”

When true expertise and a compelling mission are aligned, your voice –not just in your blog posts, but in new business meetings and at networking events, too – will be very distinct. When you talk, people will listen. The heads will nod. The deals will close. Life will be good.

Are you a true expert? If not, what do you need to get there? Are you clear on your mission? Is it working for you? If not, what needs to change?

If you need help working through these questions, or have other questions about this topic, please contact me. While you’re here, sign up for the CMxPR newsletter. You’ll receive the first issue at the end of May.

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