Last week we published the first part of our interview with Brian Reich, where we talked about politics, content consumption, pumpkin farming and Brian’s Rule of 4: Every piece of content should have text, audio, video and an image. Find Part 1 here.
In this interview, not only do we talk more about the Rule of 4, we also touch upon Bruce Springsteen, as well as how hard it is in organizations to get things done. Brian suggests tactics for creating workarounds to getting awesome content out of the door.
This awesome interview continues here:
AL: “And going back to your original point, people are different types of learners, so it makes even more sense to deliver your content. I love the rule of four, that’s great.”
BR: “And the beauty is, in today’s technological world, the devices make it possible for someone like the rule of four to be done efficiently. Because if you capture a good video you can strip the audio out. You can transcribe that audio to get the text and you could take a still image if you wanted and sort of annotate it in a certain way to create a graphic. So we’re not talking about four parallel streams of production where you go and create a mini motion picture, and then you have to go write “War And Peace” to accompany it and come up with the director’s audio cut or whatever. You can efficiently take a quality piece of content that resonates with whoever it is you are trying to target it to and with not that much effort thanks to the wonders of technology, have multiple different formats. You then of course want to push it across different platforms.
So YouTube is great for video, but it’s terrible for audio. There are lots of different places where you’re going to text up, but some places are better for long format text and others for short format text. So you want to play into the behavioral patterns that you know people exist. So maybe you put a little summary on Facebook to get somebody over to SlideShare, Scribd, or Medium, or whatever platform you want to choose for the longer pieces of text.
Things like Visual.ly are great for infographics or graphics, or Flickr, Instagram, all of these things are great for producing graphics. Maybe that is the place where you want people to go to. Maybe the graphics serves as the gateway drug to getting someone to watch one of the other things and commit more time.
So you have to look at all these different patterns and give yourself the flexibility to serve all the different user types or user behaviors so that what you’re ultimately focused on is not creating a big following in one platform or another, but creating that connection with that value proposition, that value relationship with whoever you’re trying to reach. When you establish that value relationship, I think monetization becomes much, much easier. Not only because you have a ton of different things you can conceivably monetize, lots of different pieces of content in lots of different formats and re-package them, etc., but because when people find things valuable they’re going to take the action themselves to go further. You don’t have to oversell them, you don’t have to try and trick them or convince them to do X, Y, or Z. They’re going to go looking for more and you’re just going to be waiting there to satisfy that need.
AL: “Right. I also think that over time as you build an audience, you discover more about what their preferences are so that you can spend your time on the things that you know that they’re going to want to do while still sort of experimenting with the other formats and distribution channels that you can use. So that you’re always trying to get the long tail, but you’re not driving yourself crazy, if you know that your audience doesn’t want to participate in those kinds of formats.”
BR: “They just got to tell you.”
AL: “They will, if you listen. Bruce Springsteen has a great line where he says, “It takes a really long time to cultivate an audience.” And I just loved that when I saw it, about how he said, it takes work and it takes effort and it takes listening to them. And I love that because people see a rock star like Bruce Springsteen and they think, “Does he even think about that? He’s an artist, and he sits there in his studio and he crafts great songs.” But actually no, one of the reasons he’s great is because he was in touch with the listeners.
But here’s something I want to ask you because you’re bringing up all of these really fabulous ideas and you make it sound so easy, and yet when I consult with clients they can barely get an infographic out the door. In most companies it’s not just one or two entrepreneurs working together, but you’re talking about large, heavy organizations that are bureaucratic and they’re designed not to turn around when they see an iceberg. And so my question to you is, let’s say there’s a VP Of Digital Strategy reading this or somebody who is a middle manager trying to figure out, “How do I get my teams to monetize our content and think about our content in that way? How do I make this more nimble? How do I get them to think that way?” Do you have like three practical suggestions for somebody like that? Because that’s a question that I get asked all the time: “How do we manage this mountain of potential information that we can turn into content and then this excruciatingly large, like the Himalayan Mountains of content once we’ve created it?”
BR: “Well, I think first is don’t think of it like a mountain. You need to totally redesign your way of thinking and then potentially your way of functioning and operating to embrace the fact that you have to be quicker and you have to be more nimble and you have to be a little smarter.The world has changed, things are moving more quickly and if you’re valuing size and the result of that is you being a little bit slower on the uptake and things like that, you’re at a disadvantage and you’re going to have a lot more trouble.
So first is to change your thinking and change the way that you function so that you recognize the times in which we live. Two is, nobody knows what they’re doing, there is no right answer, so there’s no reason to sit around and overthink this or try to plan it; just start doing it, and learn from everything. So go out there and experiment. If something doesn’t work, you’re going to know pretty quickly and you can change it. But you’re going to be a lot better off making a whole bunch of little mistakes none of which are catastrophic, all of which you learn from, then holding everything close to the vest, waiting for the perfect roll out, waiting for the perfect promotion, waiting for the perfect storm to come along, and feeling like if you did get something wrong you’re never going to recover from it.
And the third, and this is the one that I think is most important and that I love to tell people to do, and that people love to laugh at me about when they don’t do it, is stop doing the things that don’t work. Stop doing the things that you’ve always done just because you’ve always done them. Things change, the world changes, and as a result some of the things that you’ve been doing are no longer valuable, they’re no longer useful. So stop doing the things that aren’t useful, stop doing the things that don’t work, stop holding onto people that don’t have the skills you need anymore, stop holding onto products that don’t sell as well as they used to.”
AL: “Yes, I totally agree with what you talked about in terms of the third point absolutely. I believe in stop doing those things that aren’t working. But when you say the world has changed and you need to change with it, so practically how does somebody who’s in one of these roles go to his or her boss and say, “I need you to give me the ability to be more nimble. I need to be able to push stuff out quickly.” I was just with somebody and he told me a great consulting story. He was working with a big association and they had a rule that in order for a blog post to go out, get ready for it, Brian, you’re going to love it, 26 people needed to edit it before it went out. Twenty-six people. So you can imagine that they were not publishing blog posts that were worthy of anything because by the time they got out a month later after they’d been written. So what does somebody say, and I know you’re thinking, well who has bosses like that anymore, but you know what? They’re out there and they exist and they’re in charge! They’re in charge. Now what does somebody say?”
BR: “I would say two things: one is, you go there and you make the case and you make it clear that whatever you’re doing is not having a really meaningful measurable impact and we need to try some different things. And if that doesn’t work, I’m a big believer in asking forgiveness is better than asking permission to go out there and try some things and come back with the data, come back with the proof that this person’s imagination can’t seem to muster on its own to allow for that experimentation. The third thing I would say honestly if you feel passionately about the need to operate in that way and the power and the benefit of that, and you have a boss or you’re part of an organization that isn’t capable of kind of wrapping its head around that stuff, get out of there, because that’s a sinking ship. It may not be tomorrow, it may be next week, but you’re not going to learn anything working within that organization, so you’re not going to get smarter and more valuable and more capable of doing things that you can use later in life if you’re just going through the motions with someone who doesn’t get it. I don’t want to tell people you need to quit your job or whatever, but sometimes getting out and finding a place that’s more aligned with the way you think and better suited for the kind of work that you think is necessary to compete and succeed is better than going down with the ship and being “loyal” and watching things going down.