Last fall, Robert and I did an episode of the podcast where we laid out how content curation could be used to build an audience and even a business. It was one of the most popular episodes of 2014.
We did that episode based on a personal project I was already planning to do. I quietly launched that project last month, and it’s called Further. It’s a curated email newsletter dedicated to living your best life, with features and news items related to health, wealth, and wisdom.
Here are a few sample issues:
Given the initial high interest (and several requests), I’ve decided to do a “behind the scenes” case study on myself, revealing what I’m doing and why, plus what’s working and what’s not. This episode and the next two will be the first leg of that case study.
If you’re interested in the possibilities at the intersection of curation and email marketing, I think you’ll get a lot out of these episodes. Even if you’re not sure about that, there are a lot of fundamental content, copywriting, and entrepreneurial insights throughout. At minimum, you can watch a new project develop in real time, with commentary.
Enough said … let’s get started.
In this 36-minute episode Robert Bruce and I discuss:
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Robert Bruce: Brian, what’s going on?
Brian Clark: Busy, busy, man. This year is off with a bang.
Robert Bruce: Yeah, what’s the quick list of what we have going on right now? Some of which we can not talk about.
Brian Clark: Don’t make me do that. I’ll get stressed out and this whole episode will go down hill.
Robert Bruce: No, it will make you feel better to get it all out.
Brian Clark: Oh, really. Okay.
Robert Bruce: Yeah, isn’t that how psychology works?
Brian Clark: Thank you, Dr Freud.
Robert Bruce: Any time.
We’ve got Authority Rainmaker, our live event coming up in May, and we’ve got our super stealth secret project coming up shortly, that we can’t talk about but we will be talking about, and actually, we are talking about it, without talking about it. Does that make sense?
Brian Clark: Yeah, as far as I’m concerned, we gave it away last episode but let’s not say anything now. They’ll have to go listen.
Robert Bruce: Good point, good point. What else?
Brian Clark: We’ve got some virtual summits that we are working on, and we have got the Rainmaker Reseller Program that’s about to launch. It’s crazy.
Robert Bruce: And with all this going on, and all the normal stuff going on, you decide to start a new project on top of it. I don’t know why you do these things, but that’s what we are going to talk about today. Specifically how you are doing this project, which we have been talking about in the last few episodes, the curated email newsletter.
So we are going to start today with this series of episodes. We’ll see how many they become, about Further, your curated email newsletter. And this all begins around one of your favorite topics, which is positioning.
Brian Clark: Yeah. So as to your point, I do have a pretty full plate and I did add something else to it. I’ve got to tell you, I love doing this. I do it in my spare time. It doesn’t feel like work. Maybe just because it is new but really it’s because the subject matter is stuff that I am really into. I write the feature on Friday nights, I do the link sections on Saturday’s and I proofread it on Sunday and publish on Monday. It’s really not that bad.
Now the cool thing will be if you can do this kind of one time per week curation thing and have it actually drive your business model, then that’s a really cool thing. So that’s the idea. The premise that we are operating from.
So when you are thinking about, “Okay, how would I start a curation project?” a while back we talked about how to pick a topic, right? You have to pick something that is in demand, a lot of people want and then you have to come at it in a unique way. And that’s another way to say positioning. You know, from a sales perspective the old concept was a USP. We’ve evolved pretty far from that.
Seth Godin talks about the purple cow. The thing that just stands out in a sea of saneness. Well, that’s what we are trying to accomplish at the ground level. If we have chosen a topic and it’s got a lot of competition, how do we stand out and have it be unique to us?
Basically, that’s what we are going to be talking about today. The five things that you have to cover, that are kind of unique to a curation project and even some of the stuff applies to any kind of marketing.
Robert Bruce: Okay. So five elements to successfully position a content curation project like you have with Further. What is the first of the five elements?
Brian Clark: Well let me talk about the first two because they are closely related, but they are still distinct.
The first thing, as you might guess with any content, is value, usefulness. It’s got to be something that your intended audience values and wants to consume but otherwise may not be able to find on their own, or whatever.
That brings us to the second element which is closely related, specifically with curation, is convenience. So if you are following original content, you have to subscribe to 50, 100 sources to really understand what’s going on out there. That’s not going to happen. So most content discovery is really just kind of ad hoc. If it’s popular enough, it might bubble up to you, but you know, popular is not always the only criteria here. I think that’s why we really have this growing need for smart, human curators who by their own editorial taste and selection, bring attention to content that needs to be seen by people. Going back to that value thing.
So value and convenience are the two Cornerstone elements of any curation project. If you don’t have those two, you are not really going to succeed.
Robert Bruce: I get that, a convenience as well.
Robert Bruce: The next item on the list here is uniqueness.
Brian Clark: The best way that I can sum this up is the theme of the publication. It’s the editorial positioning if you were starting a magazine. It’s kind of what do you stand for? Who are you? It’s the human element. It’s the voice of the publication.
Let me give you an example. So let’s say you’ve got two real estate brokers and they are both going to start content marketing, whether original content or curation. One goes the straight up utility authority route. “Here’s what I know. Here, let me share it with you. I’m the trusted advisor and I am going to prove it to you with my content before you hire me.”
Then, a different positioning. Same goal. Same perspective audience theoretically, is the “Here’s what they won’t tell you” guy. So he positions himself as, “Here are all the dirty little secrets in the brokerage industry. I don’t do any of this stuff and I am going to pull the curtain back for you.” Right?
Two ostensively same topics, completely different positioning and each will attract a different type of customer. Not either worse than the other, just different. And that’s really what we are talking about when we talk about theme. What do you stand for and how do you express that with what you reveal to the audience.
Robert Bruce: This has a lot to do with your own personality.
Brian Clark: I think it does because a manufactured thematic approach to your editorial curation is not going to fly. You are not going to feel comfortable with it. It’s not going to become natural. Your writing is going to be stilted.
I think the project has to be a passion of yours, as it is in my case, and then you have to bring yourself to the table and the way that you view the world. Then you end up finding an audience or building a tribe that you are already a member of. How many times have we talked about the advantages of that? And I always say, of course it’s possible to fake it, but why would you want to though?
Robert Bruce: Yeah, I think this is where a lot of people get screwed up with the idea of how can I become unique, and they really struggle with it. When sometimes the answer really is as simple and as difficult as just begin yourself as much as possible. Injecting yourself, your personality into the topic.
Brian Clark: Oh, absolutely. Everyone is already unique. Sally Hogshead who will be keynoting on day 2 of Authority Rainmaker. That’s her whole thing. She has got the data to back it up. It’s really kind of amazing.
Robert Bruce: Okay, let’s talk about the next item which is design, and you have strong opinions on this when it comes to a project like this. What do you think about when you think about design in a content curation project?
Brian Clark: Simplicity. We did talk about it in the introductory curation episode and I made some statement, you know, no sidebar, no distractions, no clutter.
Brian Gardner, our partner here at Copyblogger Media, listened to that episode and has just started a project called No Sidebar. Both metaphorically and literally, which I think is pretty cool to see happen.
But it also relates to language. You want a very clean, single purpose. Your goal here is singular and we’ll talk about that when we talk about the fifth element, but you are trying to accomplish one thing. You are not trying to have a multitude of options and flashing widgets and all sorts of distractions. You need a very clean, simple site.
If you look at some of the other curation projects from around the web you will see they have a singular focus. They are simple, not trying to distract you too much, but also in your language. They have an elevator pitch. What it is, succinctly and directly, then a call to action.
Robert Bruce: I saw you link to Dave Pell’s new redesign yesterday over at NextDraft.com. Very simple.
Brian Clark: Very simple. It’s a little more than he had before but I think he added all the right things.
Robert Bruce: Yep.
Brian Clark: Look at all the media sources he has as testimonials. Now that’s the kind of stuff you add to your page once you have them.
Further is brand new. It’s nothing like that. We will talk about that in a second but yeah, it’s simplicity, because you have to nail how you communicate that value and convenience, and you do it in your own voice, which is the uniqueness. All these fundamentals are tied together.
So even though I am presenting them to you in five different parts, you have to be able to see them as a unified whole, which is kind of our theme. It’s all one thing. We always talk about that, even when it comes to things like SEO and content marketing, they are all part of one thing.
Robert Bruce: One of my favorite things about Dave’s new design at NextDraft.com is when you scroll to the bottom of the page. He has got a sub-head there. It’s the greatest thing I have seen in a while. In context to what he does, he says “I am the algorithm.”
So there he is speaking to uniqueness. I think he says directly, “I plucked the top ten most fascinating items of the day, which I deliver with fast pithy wit that will make your computer device vibrate with delight. No bots. No computer algorithms.” So he is fighting the man. He’s fighting the computer algorithm that we are used to, generating these interesting lists for ourselves. He says, “I am the algorithm.” I love it.
Brian Clark: Yeah, and we’ll take a closer look at language on Further in a bit, but I stole my favorite hipster phrase “handcrafted.” It means the same thing.
Robert Bruce: Nice. Yeah. What’s the fifth element?
Brian Clark: The fifth element is really simple. What’s our goal here? We are building a business asset, an audience, and it takes the form of an email list. Anyone who has struggled with, “I don’t understand how you can make money with curation, instead of original content” doesn’t understand that the goal in both cases is to build an email list, because whatever business model you end up in, that’s the medium by which people are going to transact with you. So the list is the thing.
Robert Bruce: And that ties in perfectly with the idea of simplicity because where is that simplicity leading us to in design?
Brian Clark: Yeah, absolutely. They are just basically one thing that we want people to do on this site and it’s as clear as day, and it’s even almost somewhat repetitive in some cases but not in a bad way. So singular focus.
Robert Bruce: This episode of Rainmaker.FM is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, and today, instead of me talking about it, I thought I would let our customers do the talking.
I’ve just got a few quotes here from Rainmaker customers that I want to read to you.
Mike Davenport said, “With Rainmaker I have stopped worrying about my website, now I spend time working on my business.”
Another one. “It’s literally plug and play. I just wish I could get all those wasted hours back trying to do this stuff myself.” Ahmad Munawar.
Tessa Shepperson says, “I love the idea that I won’t have to do anymore updating or hunting around for plugins and then worrying if they work or not.”
And finally we will end this little section with Jane Boyd. “Oh Rainmaker, I love you. That is all.”
Find out if you’ll love the Rainmaker Platform with a free 14-day test drive. Start it up right now at RainmakerPlatform.com.
Robert Bruce: All right Brian,...