We’ve had some interesting feedback following the publication of the last newsletter.
It’s one thing to talk about reputation and personal branding and developing a niche, another thing to do it! And there’s the crux – knowledge, contrary to the saying, is not power. Rather, it is potential power. Wanting or planning to do something isn’t the same as doing it!
We had a very irate call from someone who was angry that we’d started a magazine for front line security staff, they had been planning to publish one and now we had ‘stolen’ their idea!
This illustrates the point, if planning/knowledge does not lead to action, instead you get frustration! The idea of a front-line security magazine is nothing new, various people and organisations have discussed the idea over the years.
For publishers the stumbling block is lack of advertising revenue – security officers wouldn’t benefit from advertising in a magazine. They don’t have products to sell, their services can be offered free of charge to employers via employment agencies or by searching job boards.
In any event, you can’t claim ownership of an idea like ‘start publishing magazine’ – it would be a weird old word if you could!
Why did it finally happen? Because 2 someone’s combined their knowledge and skills and just went ahead and did it. Neither of us were concerned about putting our heads over the parapet. This brings us nicely to why some very capable and knowledgeable people never take that step?
Its fear, pure and simple! Fear of embarrassing oneself in front of an audience, being judged not good enough, or the worst fate of all, being criticised!
OK, again, easy for me to say, I’ve been writing for longer than most people reading this have been alive. How did I overcome that initial fear of failing? I listened to people who knew better than me and learned from them. A very good friend of mine was an author of several books that had been published in numerous languages. She had edited a high-profile magazine servicing her niche! She had seen some of my work and encouraged me to write a few articles. She promised to look them over and give me the benefit of her extensive professional advice.
I wrote an article and took it around; this was in the dark ages before everyone had email. She read it, took her glasses off and said:
“Mike, this is absolute rubbish! What the hell is wrong with you? Why didn’t you just write the way you normally do?”
What happened? I’d been writing material for a project that my friend the writer’s husband was working on. The quality of that work was apparently well above average and they were impressed enough to encourage me to build on it. The second that I started writing something that would have my name on it, in a magazine no less, I fell into the classic trap of trying to write like a writer!
My writing was stilted, I used words and phrases that I’d never use in a conversation in a million years. I employed ‘clever’ (read dumb) linguistics that I thought would make me look really good! Like I said, dumb!
There is however one thing that has helped me enormously over the years, I respond very positively to criticism – for me it’s an opportunity to learn something from someone who might know something I don’t. I am talking about constructive criticism, the kind of criticism that a mature adult would offer. If someone just wants to have a pop, they will most likely be ignored. There’s no upside to engaging with professional malcontents.
Often the critic most damaging to plans to do something, is ourselves!
- I’m not good enough
- No one wants to hear anything I have to say
- People will laugh at me
- Add your own here!
Hers the thing – all skills are learned – no one is born a writer, welder, driver or anything else. We learn it. I was fortunate to have had a very good early education, but I didn’t learn to promote a magazine at school, nor did I learn how to publish anything. I learned all that after I’d left full time education.
Following the advice of my writer friend mentioned above I enrolled on several writing courses covering various genres from short story writing to journalism. I studied some excellent material but without any shadow of a doubt the very best training that I’ve found has been by Clare Lynch, a Cambridge University writing tutor & professional copywriter:
I’m not on commission, she is a brilliant writer and well worth investing the time and energy to learn from her. I was already a pretty good commercial writer before I did her courses, I am a much better one now having benefited from her work.
What skills do you need to get you to where you want to go? Grab a pen and paper, yes, what we used to use before electronic everything. Some shops still sell them!
Why a pen and paper? It will force you to concentrate on your list like typing it into a screen won’t. You’ll have something tangible and might be able to find it when you need to refer to it, and, you will be able to pin that list up somewhere you will see it daily. This will keep your reminder in front of you and helps keep you focused.
As well as skills, you’ll need tools! And never has there been so many tools available to you to help you succeed.
The rest of this newsletter is in response to some questions received, mostly what to consider when setting up websites, and how to deal with negative people.
As well as skills and tools to get where we want to be there is something else that we shouldn’t forget, other people! Ideas are 10 a penny, acting on those ideas, what counts, doesn’t always happen so much.
I first worked on a draft proposal for an earlier version of what’s become TPSO 8 years ago after I’d been made redundant from a demanding position. All that time on my hands and it stayed an idea. I hadn’t reconnected with Rollo yet, and as it turned out he was the missing link.
Without Rollo Davies TPSO would still be just an idea. Some projects you can fly solo(ish) but publishing successfully generally means working with other people.
This one is usually an eye opener if you were thinking that you would be doing everything on your own. For example, the short publication that you are reading now was worked on by 3 other people, but until I blabbed I was getting all the credit (or flack) for it. Everyone that I know who writes successfully works with other people, whether those other people share credit for their work or not.
On a previous project when I was writing commercially, I was publishing online training courses. The secret to the success was the person I worked with. They motivated, proof read, contributed lots of additional material, researched, criticised, formatted, made a major contribution on developing our business model and phoned me up to get me back on track when I started to go off on a tangent instead of working on what I was supposed to be doing.
That training business spanned over 20 years. Without the right person to help get it off the ground and the work that they put in it would have stayed an idea.
So, we have skills, tools and people! Things might already be starting to fall into place for you?
The rest of this newsletter is about strategies that I’ve used in the past and tools that are available now, that I would have loved to have had 20 years ago.