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You Gotta Find Ways to Tell Your Story

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Don’t dumb down. Don’t be boring.

One client is a thought leader in her particular industry. She writes and presents papers around the world. In doing so she thinks brand new thoughts, adds to her credibility and drums up potential clients for her firm. She is disciplined about two timetables:

  1. Timetable #1: Industry Papers. She includes time in her schedule to research and write, which allows her to build out topics of interest to her customers. Those topics also interest editors of professional journals, so she maximizes her research and writing time to open up new venues to be heard as an expert.
  2. Timetable #2: Everyone is a Publisher. My client also understands that she is not just speaking to the industry-folks who crave the details she has synthesized. She is also speaking to a broader group of people—those who have a nominal but urgent interest and may benefit from what she has to say. This second, broader group of people drop their questions into the oracle of Google. My client hopes her investment in social media (her firm’s blog, Twitter, and Instagram accounts) will reach these people. She routinely takes papers she has published and breaks them up into smaller chunks that more easily relate to the rest of life.
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We need your annotations.

But this second piece is less about research and more a journalistic/writerly function. This part is more about connecting the dots with the work and life and less about laying bare abstract research findings. She understands this second communication need has nothing to do with dumbing the topic down. In fact, just the opposite she employs her best writing to say things as simply as possible without relying on buzzwords and tribal knowledge.

Marketers of consumer products have long focused on Timetable #2. Academics and specialized industries have long focused on Timetable #1. How long before we all use Timetable #2 as the route to Timetable #1?

Remember: we are the gatekeepers now.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

November 17, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Building Content: Share Your Research—Even if Incomplete

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A few days ago I talked with a company about their research efforts into a growing subset of a particular business process. This firm’s business is all about helping other companies make personal connections with their customers. Over the years this company has built a strong reputation for their expertise even as they continue to grow and adapt. They already know the benefits of being perceived as experts. Now they seek to add to the already strong understanding of the tools, process and attitudes needed to help companies remain connected.

One of the new opportunities before all of us is to provide leadership around a topic and invite others to talk with us about that shared passion. Seth Godin talks about it in Tribes. This company I had been speaking with has already caught the bug for growing themselves and helping others along the way. But one of the things about research is a commitment to doing something new. By definition, research means you are answering questions and finding things out fresh. Naturally we want to apply our new understanding to the problems and opportunities before us. That means we might not get it just right all the time. We may make mistakes. And don’t mistakes force a slip in our perception as experts?

I’ve been arguing all through these articles that what we gain in authenticity more than makes up for momentary slips. Social media is about real time communication, so if we read our research at some future point and realize something happened that changed everything, we’ll understand that we knew what we knew when we knew it. “Now we see things differently,” we might say to ourselves at that future point. I’m arguing for grace. I’m also arguing we’ll understand the nature of social media in this way.

tawft book cover 10242009This topic has a personal application for me. I’m currently writing out a book-length project that develops a theology of communication. But I’m reluctant to chunk it out into a blog format because every part of the book changes as I move forward. What I thought was true in the first three chapters is actually changing as I write chapters four through six. I’m certain change will continue all the way to Chapter 12. Do I have the courage to make mistakes in public?

How do you approach sharing your research? I’d love to hear.

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