Quit Overthinking Your Own Content Plan

It would be a mistake to imagine that your own self-doubt is unique, thinking that the people who share things publicly are more self-confident or less fragile.

I've never measured it officially, but probably 15% of you are regularly sharing your insight publicly, and the other 85% would keep their thoughts private for one or more of the following reasons:

  • I'm too busy solving client challenges and don't have time to build my firm's brand. Besides, it's not necessary—we're pretty darn busy.
  • I'm happy to articulate some things, but I don't know what to write about. I don't feel like I have anything to add to the conversation.

I think that first excuse is kind of lame and you're not only doing the wrong things at your firm, but you haven't yet moved into a position where you control your lead gen. We talked about what your proper role should be recently in a webinar, if you want to explore that a bit.

It's the second excuse I want to unpack a little. "What do I write about?" And more importantly, "Am I confident enough that people even want to read it?"

There are times when I feel like writing for the public is like diving into an empty pool...and hoping to invent water on the way down. You just start, with no idea how it'll end. You might invent water early in the dive and just love how it all comes together. And sometimes water appears right before the splat. And unfortunately, water doesn't appear at all and you can't bring yourself to hit "send" on whatever it is you just tried to birth.

Just like this one. I sat down Sunday morning, yesterday, the day I've set aside for my favorite work-related contribution, and then I did the first thing that I always do: scan my "all ready to write" folder to see if any of the topics interest me enough to dive in. Here's what that folder looks like today.

Some of you are going to object to this image, but I think of it as gently pulling the tube out of a patient on a ventilator and seeing if they will breathe on their own. The longer you leave the tube in, the less likely the patient will live...but remove it too early and the bird is just going to hit the ground and not awkwardly flap away. (I need to quit mixing metaphors. Maybe next week.)

But nothing hit me, ironically enough, and so I decided to write about it. You software engineering types just bite your lip when you release your creation out into the world. The same is true for designers and writers, and videographers and speakers. At some point you just have to kick the scraggly bird out of the nest and see if it'll fly.

May I suggest a few things about this process of one human telling the world how your firm thinks? Many more of you should be giving Google something to work with, but that's not the only way to think of it:

  • Write because you must. Because it's an urge like a drug addiction, and you won't be (temporarily) whole again until you get something out there. Just make it a (healthy) addiction and you'll never stop.
  • You write for yourself, anyway, and not primarily for your audience. Yes, your business depends on attracting clients who want to work with your firm, but your primary commitment as a leader of this enterprise is to the enterprise, first. This notion that "our work is so good we haven't needed to look for work" is a gross misunderstanding of how the world works, and it's embarrassing. If you want to move upstream with your brain and not just your hands, you'll need to let them see inside that brain.
  • But it's not necessarily about writing at all. Maybe that's not your thing, which is totally fine. Maybe it's a workshop where you apply a process collaboratively, or a series of videos that capture how excited you are about your role in changing how people think, or maybe it's a thoughtful strategy to slowly build a following on LinkedIn. But you are a creator, and creators must create or they just devolve into normal boring people. One of our biggest challenges as an industry is that we expend our best creative efforts on clients who probably don't even recognize the value, while not creating for ourselves.
  • But back to writing. If you can't think of something to write, it could be that your positioning is so broad that everything you'd say has already been said a million times by some growth hustler who keeps wanting to do carousels on LinkedIn about the difference between branding and marketing (yawn). So fix your positioning, and there are many people that can help you with that. If you don't want to work with us, just let me know and I'll send you some other options.
  • Build a central depository of content ideas, and I can promise that you'll start noticing things that relate to them. Throw each article or tweet or song into that folder so that you'll have some raw materials to work with when the spirit moves.
  • Set up a regular cadence to build that discipline, but don't assign yourself a topic on a certain date. Whatever you write about needs to hit you in that moment, and content calendars are like forced participation at a really bad seminar.
  • Quit killing your best work with personas, SEO, targeted length, and pithy titles. You can weave all that stuff in later, but it's just clutter when you're getting started, and you'd be better off to focus on the quality of your insight rather than on all of the "best practices" clutter.

But most of all, write or record or talk or organize solely to help people and don't think about it as a new business activity. We're all pretty tired of being sold to, and the world doesn't need to experience yet one more sales plan. So just talk to them, from one human to another.

Besides, we are all terrible judges of how something we do will land. Sometimes we put a 2Bobs episode down on tape and then kind of grunt about how that could have been better, only to see that the downloads scream that it actually did connect. Other times we're proud as can be about how thoughtful and well-organized it was only to bore people to death.

Marketplace feedback is important, but just remind yourself that most of the people giving you that feedback aren't taking any risks themselves...and you are. Screw 'em. Nobody gets to criticize your contribution unless they are taking the same risks that you are.

What are 20 things you know about your field that very few other people know? Work on that list and the rest will fall into place. And don't be too precious about how perfect it needs to be.

Contribution requires discomfort, and the moment you are comfortable is the moment you've started mailing it in. It's call "Negative Capability" and it describes the extent to which you are comfortable in that dive, before you invent water on the way down.

  • Secret Tradecraft of Elite Advisors

    Secret Tradecraft of Elite Advisors

    Covert Techniques For A Remarkable Practice

    Buy Now