The Fall And Rise Of Contentrepreneur Dan Norris

Ben Ready is Managing Director of RG Communications. He has been a journalist and communications professional for nearly 20 years.

Ben Ready is Managing Director of RG Communications. He has been a journalist and communications professional for nearly 20 years.

If you read LinkedIN enough you learn the most important trait of any successful entrepreneur is the ability to talk in gruesome detail about what an abysmal failure you were until you found ‘the secret’. Dan Norris is no exception.

I first came across Dan at the recent Interactive Minds Digital Summit where he paced across the stage talking mostly to the floorboards. The quirky presentation style did little to distract from the powerful message behind his story. Go getter starts business, works hard, fails miserably, learns, tries again, succeeds spectacularly, writes book.

His main business WP Curve is a WordPress support community and has been an ‘overnight’ success in helping people solve their WordPress challenges (we thought it was a great idea until he told us to bugger off because he doesn’t white label for agencies).

The success of WP Curve is based on the simple premise of a great product marketed exclusively through great content.

Peeling back the glossy packaging of his ‘failure made good’ story reveals some powerful lessons about the value of content and the impact it can have on your business. Thankfully his expertise and advocacy for content is matched by a commitment to transparency and he has put all his learnings as writer, blogger and content marketing in a nice little book.

content machineContent Machine ($4.00 for Kindle) is a must read for anybody embarking a new business venture or who wants to supercharge their content marketing. Here are some of  most important takeaways.

Kill your avatar

For a long time brands have been creating ‘avatars’ that represent their ideal client and writing content targeted at this imaginary consumer. Norris argues the impact of content is far more complex and fluid because content doesn’t work the same way for everyone.

Your ideal customers will hear about you over a long period of time, through multiple sources, and that is how trust is built

He argues it more effective to write for a community. Some of the community will become your customers but many more will become advocates of your brand and your content. This advocacy creates a chain of influence that ultimately delivers sales months, or years, down the track.

Not all content is equal

As brands rush towards content (and content kings make out like bandits) the discussion about content has moved from a simple ‘we need to do it’ to a ‘we need to do it properly’. This means producing high quality content that has the capacity to change perceptions and promote real engagement. Norris’ definition of high quality content is:

Great content is something you provide to your audience that captures their attention and encourages them to engage and share.”

It’s pretty simple in theory, difficult in practice. The best tips from Norris are to make sure that, above all else, your content is highly specific and actionable. What problem are you solving? What change can it make to the readers’ life? Why would anybody care?

Norris’ seven lessons learned from a good and bad content are among the most important takeaways from the book and worth the cover price alone.

Differentiation can make all the difference

Content marketing is like any business, if you can find a niche and own it, you will do well most of the time. The world’s best content marketers rarely strike out into new areas that haven’t been covered before. As Norris explains; “They don’t simply create content. They create content for a certain community of people, and they do it better with a unique angle so they get noticed.”

A bit like writing a great media release you need a killer ‘hook’. The angle, the insight, the perception that brings clarity where the reader only saw complexity.

Norris suggests that rather than targeting a certain persona, you should adopt a persona. The Whisperer reveals the secrets of an industry, The Hustler bursts on the scene with content that is completely new, The Analyst is the undisputed king of data and the Artists takes graphics to a new level. Regardless of what persona you take, make sure you own the niche.

Content Machine includes countless other gems and comes complete with a range of ready-to-use resources to get you moving on the path to content marketing mastery. A great read for anybody starting their own business and wants to understand the true value of great content.

Four Ways That Journalists Trick You Into Talking

They say that any publicity is good publicity, but we all know that isn’t true.lie detector

There are many situations where you may not want to be quoted in the paper or to have factual information reported.

If you are negotiating a sensitive deal to buy or sell an asset, for instance, the last thing you want is for details of the transaction to be reported in the paper before the agreement is finalised.

If you have a difficult relationship with another person or organisation, it is rarely in your interest to make negative comments about them in public.

Unfortunately, either of these outcomes will earn a reporter a pat on the back from their editor for a great story.

Both of these hazards seem pretty simple to avoid – just don’t speak to the journalist or, if you do, don’t tell them anything.

After all, journalists have no coercive powers, unlike a legal authority they can’t make you give them information.

So why do I pick up the paper every day and see stories like these which the subject has no doubt been losing sleep over?

The answer is that good journalists are experts in making you feel like you have to speak.

It is a core skill.

For this reason, I have assembled the four top tricks that journalists use to con you into talking when it isn’t really in your interest.

In my former career as a journalist I used them all from time to time and now I hear them being used upon my own clients.

1. Pretending they know more than they do

This is the top way that journalists convince you to talk out of turn. Journalists will often claim to know far more about a situation than they really do. This encourages you to offer new information in the belief that they already know it, or to confirm their guesses which were not printable until you confirmed them.

2. Pretending they have been told a wrong fact

Journalists who have heard of a deal will sometimes pretend that they have been told other information, like a price, in order to flush you out. Typically this is a number that would cause you embarrassment.

“I heard you are buying it for [imprudently large sum] but I’m happy to use your figure instead. Otherwise, I will have to use this number.”

You then unnecessarily tell them the right number and suddenly they have a good story.

3. Falsely summarising someone else’s comments

If someone makes some moderate comments, a journalist will call you and paraphrase them so it sounds like they have criticised you or said something obnoxious. This may provoke you to criticise them and bingo! – the journalist has a story based on your comments. Always check the original transcript first before commenting yourself – don’t rely on a journalist’s summary.

4. I am definitely going to publish tomorrow so you need to talk now

Journalists who don’t have much of a story will sometimes use time pressure to make you speak in a panic. This often means claiming they are going to publish imminently when, in fact, they will only publish if you give weight to the story by speaking. If you stick to your guns and decline to comment, the story never appears.

 

Simple Tips For Better Business Writing

communicationsIn today’s business world almost everything is entirely information driven. Whether you work in a small business or for a giant corporation, chances are you do and receive most of your communication in writing.

This includes emails, memos, letters, proposals, contracts, presentations and a huge range of other documents.

While most of us have some varied experience in writing,the importance of strong written communication skills is rarely stressed in universities . We know it’s important but most of us fail to understand the future implications of weak writing skills.

By using simple, clear, precise language and following a few basic rules of writing, you can become a better communicator and drastically improve the prospects for your career.

There is no substitute for practise but here are a few tips to get started:

Avoid jargon

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in business writing is using unnecessary jargon. It may sound important using words such as ‘synergy’ and ‘solutioneering’  but to most people it just doesn’t make sense. While some technical jargon may be unavoidable it’s always best to use as simple language and word choice as possible.

Concise is best

Less is always more. There’s no need to pad sentences out with words such as “essentially’ and “basically”, just say what you mean and say it in as little words as you can. This also means that wherever possible use active rather than passive phrasing. Instead of writing “The meeting was led by Bob” use “Bob led the meeting.”

Check your grammar

Beware of common grammatical errors. Grammatical mistakes are the quickest way to undermine yourself in any form of written communication. Simple errors include confusing “that” and “which” and “affect” and “effect”.

Leave out useless words

Be ruthless when it comes to self-editing. If the word isn’t important then cut it out.

Be professional, not overly formal

There is sometimes a tendency to be overly formal in business communication. While appropriate in some circumstances this type of language can often obscure meaning. At the same time, it doesn’t mean you should ever be too casual. Personal comments or off-colour jokes should not be written at work and never address or sign off on emails with unprofessional phrases. Using “Best” or “Regards” is still the norm and absolutely avoid “xoxo” when it comes to business writing.

Check titles

It sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many get this wrong. Always check name spelling, title and correct use of a pronoun. Nothing is more uncomfortable than when you’ve been referring to a Mr. Turner as Ms. or Mrs. throughout a document. If in doubt, using gender neutral pronouns like “they” or “their” is perfectly acceptable.

Check once, then again

Just like grammar problems, typos can ruin an otherwise fine document. It’s important to always check then recheck for mistakes such as spelling and grammar. Being too close to something can sometimes trick you into missing mistakes, so the best tip is to come back after a few minutes or get a fresh set of eyes of check it over.

Happy writing.

The Rise of Facebook and Twitter For News

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More people are turning to Twitter and Facebook to get their daily news hit than ever before, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center in the US.

The study, which was conducted in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, revealed that 63 per cent of Twitter users and 63 per cent of Facebook users are using the social networking mediums as a news source.

The statistics are not surprising. Given the world’s growing addiction to social media, it’s easy to see why people are favouring social networks like Facebook to deliver their news, rather than relying on television, radio or print.

One, they’re simple and convenient to use. Two, news is updated constantly.

I mean, what’s easier than scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed to see what’s happening in the world? It only takes a few seconds to click on the Facebook app on your smartphone before you’re instantly connected to news around the world.

Take this week’s announcement of the Liberal Party spill. A colleague heard about the spill via a text message from a friend. After trying to unsuccessfully find news updates on various Australian online news sites, we finally found up-to-date, as-it-happened coverage and commentary on the spill on Twitter. The speed of reporting by social media is by far one of its greatest advantages.

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However, it’s wise to exercise caution if you depend on social networks for your daily news. Facebook, for example, suffers from a proliferation of hoax articles that are reposted hundreds of times and taken as gospel. Analyse articles carefully to ensure they come from a reliable, trusted source.

In this case, not all news is good news.

200 mary street

We’ve moved to a New York state of mind

200 mary street

RG Communications and Villain Designs have started a new chapter in their history, moving to a stunning new workspace in the heart of the Brisbane CBD.

The office space, dubbed The Loft, is part of a contemporary refurbishment of the third level of the Cromwell Property Group-owned building at 200 Mary Street.

RG Communications Managing Director Ben Ready said the company had experienced significant growth in the past year and needed a new office to accommodate further growth.

“We wanted something that was unique and out of the box but still close to the action in the CBD,” he said. “Cromwell and their team have done a great job to create a space that is both comfortable and inspiring.. it is a perfect fit for us.”

The fitout was designed by Sydney-based The Bold Collective and constructed by fitout and refurbishment specialists ISIS.

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The Bold Collective Design Director Monika Branagan said Cromwell had approached the firm looking for a ‘Brooklyn’ inspired fit out.

“The tenancy overlooks an alley and the back of some of Brisbane’s older buildings, giving it a real urban feel,” she said. “We wanted to bring that into the tenancy and create a really creative space that reflected the surrounds.”

“The brief was to create something that was unorthodox and edgy so we sourced a variety of materials and finishes to recreate a New York loft style feel that had an industrial edge, with warmth and personality.”

Design features include brick wallpapers, illuminated signage, timber look dark flooring, industrial lighting, tartan upholstery, vintage look flooring, recycled timbers red highlights and a Herringbone strut ceiling.

RGC has signed a three-year lease over the 130sqm space negotiated by David Prosser of Caden Office Leasing.

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theloft desks

herrigbone ceiling

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lights

 

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How Moon Boots and Buzz Launched General Electric on Snapchat

tumblr_inline_n8rs3h1zff1qzgziyEver an innovator, General Electric (GE), one of the world’s largest conglomerates, has made a splash on social media platform Snapchat by releasing a version of the famous moon boots worn by Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969.

The just completed campaign celebrated GE’s contributions to the NASA Moon Mission 45 years ago. GE supplied advanced materials used in moon boots and the helmet visors worn by astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins.

The company made only 100 pairs of the 2015 boots and priced them at $196.90 (in homage to the year 1969). They were made available through online retailer JackThreads.com and sold out quickly.

GE decided to unveil and heavily promote the boots on Snapchat as it made it debut on the platform. Sam Olstein global director-innovation at GE said that the nature of Snapchat, fitting into the world of erasable media – media that goes away after a period of time, lent itself to storytelling and driving engagement and action. The Snapchat campaign featured photos, videos and stories about The Missions moon boots as they were named.

They even had Buzz Aldrin take over the Snapchat account for a day and talk about his trip to the moon and back. GE also used other social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter to drive Snapchat activity.

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Buzz Aldrin wearing The Missions moon boots

Olstein’s goal is to introduce the venerable GE brand onto new platforms and to new audiences. The company has been shedding its image purely as a maker of industrial products, light bulbs and refrigerators as it embraces the Internet age.

“We need to change the way the younger generation identifies with us as a company,” Olstein said.

“We’re transforming the company to be more of a software brand.

“This is the future of GE: the digitisation of industry. We’re taking all of our incredible complex machinery and mashing it up with software and sensors and evolving into more of a high tech industrial company.”

Olstein’s mission also includes – as he describes – using commerce as content.

“We see the role of product in a completely different way – around really using commerce as story telling,” he said.

Sam Olstein, Director of Global Innovation at GE, spoke at Interactive Minds Digital Summit 2015 in Brisbane.

Images – GE and NASA