By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.
This article tackles the second part of what I discussed on Park Howell’s “The Business of Story” podcast. After sharing the first three stages of the SPEAK|PR methodology in the first half, I then talked about amplification and knowing.
Amplifying Your Content
Amplification is not just about letting people know but also about getting them to share your content. Amplification 101 is about setting up enough tools that can send your content out (for example, Twitter and Facebook). The next level of amplification is when your content goes viral; when other people share your content.
The cascade theory discussed by Peter Sheridan Dodds and Duncan Watts talks about how people sharing your content is the most efficient and effective way to get amplification. In the theory, they talked about the need to get people to go from being uninterested in your content and receiving it to flipping a switch and getting them to be both interested and willing to share your content.
Most people get information and they’re interested to read it but not to share it. In order to change that position of inertia, you have to give them enough reason to want to share your content with their network. And that’s why content needs to be simple to understand because they don’t want to share something that they might have gotten wrong. It also needs to be new enough for them to want to share it because they want the people who receive the content to see them as someone who shares interesting and new things.
Examples to Take a Cue From
Over the period of eight weeks, he raised $40 million. Around the world, what he was doing got amplified because people took pictures of him and shared them with their networks. It was simple to understand that he’s a guy in his 90s who had undergone a hip replacement and wants to pay things forward by helping those healthcare workers who have been helping others during the COVID pandemic. People around the world helped him raise money for the NHS.
Another example was that of Morgan Cars’, a car brand that I helped launch in China.
We used an amplification technique to great effect because I didn’t have a big budget. I was selling a hand-built bespoke car but the secret part was to have the customer in the picture and not me. I got the customer to take pictures of themselves in the car and I put the car outside schools, restaurants, and shopping centres. I put them in a context that people would like to be seen with the car.
I also used a quick response code (QR code) on the car so that when people scan it, they would be sending a picture of the car and all the materials about it. Within a five-year period, we went from zero visibility to a quarter of a million unique visitors to our website — all through using this kind of amplification technique.
Apple is a great example. Actually, they do very little of their own marketing. Everyone who has an Apple device is an evangelist. Amplification really is when a brand becomes amplified by the users that you get to call evangelists.
Another great example is Tesla. Virgin is also amazing at what they do.
During the podcast, Park shared that he had the chance to go to Necker Island in March and meet Virgin’s founder Sir Richard Branson who did storytelling training. They were the first group to come to Necker since COVID and they spent about a week there and had the chance to interact with him. He did a fireside chat and talked about his companies and all the failures that he had that most people don’t know about.
Though you only get to look at the successes, he said that at the heart of every brand story is always about the failures. These are what people want to know — they want to know what you’ve been through so that they can relate to you; they want to know what you’ve gone through to make it to your next major success so that they can learn in case it ever happens to them.
Getting Your Customers to Become Your Evangelists
In the podcast, I talked about how I’ve built a brand that was unknown in China, which is one of the world’s largest car markets. If I can do it, then I can show that it’s not only the preserve of billionaires.
This is also the reason why I have personalisation around the avatar (the avatar being about the person that you want to work with rather than about yourself). If you start this journey of your communications program with your customer, partner, and employee — rather than yourself — in mind, you create different content. Otherwise, you’re only going to create something that’s all about you.
This is actually quite liberating. Because with it, you can get case studies and testimonials, you can send goods to people that they can try.
While amplification is certainly about technology, the key takeaway is that true amplification is when your consumers, staff, or partners become your evangelists. It’s when a brand takes on a life of its own — when people are selling for you. And this is really where we should all be getting to.
Your audience will only do that if they believe that they’re the centre of that story. If they’re not the centre of the story, then why should they bother with making your brand famous?
Knowing How to Measure Your PR Efforts
After “storify,” “personalise,” “engage,” and amplify,” the last part of the SPEAK|PR process is “know.” It’s something that sounds simple but it’s all about the need to quantify. Under this stage, there’s a metric about how much work you’re putting in called the Active Communications Index (ACI).
Anyone who goes to the gym knows that it’s actually how you often go to the gym and how much weight you lift that gives you the fitness. You need to measure how much you put in. It’s the same when you’re saving money. You don’t get there without saving dollars a day. The ACI helps business owners identify how much work they should do.
Recently, I had a conversation with an entrepreneur in Sweden. And he asked me, “How much should I do? I do a lot sometimes and not a lot in some other instances.” I told him that the key isn’t the volume. It’s the consistency.
What many people do is that when they have a product launch, they move their office, they hire somebody, or they raise money — they have this big flurry of an activity, then they tail off.
The ACI has three indicators: Content x Channels x Frequency. The idea is that if you consistently create content and send it through those channels, every week, you multiply one by the other and then by the other, then you get a number. If you keep that ACI the same every week, then you’re going to be building a brand over time.
Think of it like this: If you’re going to have a friendship with someone, you need to maintain and nurture it. If you throw a really big party for everybody once and no one sees you again, you’d be wasting your efforts.
The “know” part is about knowing how much you’re doing and building that into a number. Because with a number, you can set up some systems, and those systems can be automated and delegated.
Very few entrepreneurs either like the communications part of the business or have the time to worry about cash flow, product development, and supplies among others. While we got lots of things to think about, we need to have a consistent approach. It’s why knowing how often and where you’re sending your information is the fifth part of SPEAK|PR.
How Much Content Should You Make?
Park shared that he’s recently been re-reading a book called “The One Thing.” It’s about being super focused on what your one thing is — that one thing that you need to do today so it can make everything easier. It’s a way to really boil down your thinking. In the book, the author talks about going from a maniac working 12 to 14 hours a day (to the point that health and personal relationships are impacted) to simplifying.
He brought this up because he pointed out how many people are just cranking out content to stay very consistent. In his case, he has a podcast the goes out once a week and is promoted across all channels and his email. People also keep prodding him to write more blogs, more content.
The question now is: How do you find that balance, especially if you’re just starting and you don’t have the time and money to make more content?
It’s a frequent question that I encounter.
There are some ideas of common best practices. For instance, once a day on LinkedIn is enough. The half-life of a tweet is about 30 minutes. So people say that you can tweet as much as you like, but at least once an hour. For Instagram, the shelf life is only about two hours. If you do a YouTube video, it’s about two days.
One of the problems is that the shelf life of content is too short. If you’re not careful, you can get on a huge hamster wheel. What I recommend is to think about what’s comfortable for you. You should be driving this — not the social media platforms. You should also think about the key channel or channels that you want to be on.
If you’re comfortable creating content once a day, week, or month, that’s fine — as long as you’re consistently doing it. If you think of rock and roll bands or film directors like Steven Spielberg, for instance, they don’t create content all the time yet people buy their albums and watch their movies. It’s about being consistent and when you turn up, you should turn up with something that’s new and easy to understand.
But I think that the secret really is to not have a huge amount of content one day and then nothing. You also have to make sure that what you’re sending out is adding value.
For the ACI, I created a two-by-two matrix. It has four quadrants: At 12 o’clock, there’s “consistent” and at 6 o’clock, there is “inconsistent.” At 3 o’clock, there’s “innovative” and at 9 o’clock, “dull.”
If you’re sending out dull information inconsistently, you’re what I call unnoticed. If you’re sending out dull information consistently, you’re a follower. If you’re sending out innovative information inconsistently, you’re an opportunist; if you’re sending out consistently innovative information, you’re an influencer.
The key takeaway here is to create something that you think would be interesting and schedule its creation and distribution so that it can be relied upon. There’s no point in creating content for the sake of creating content. This is simply wasting your time and other people’s.
Championing the UnNoticed
In my “The UnNoticed Entrepreneur” book, I got 50 different thought leaders and influencers covering different areas under the five different stages of the SPEAK|PR process. I’ve been lucky enough to interview the likes of Park, John Lee Dumas, and Aaron Perlut who runs a company called Elasticity. I also interviewed Nitin Pandey who runs a parenting network in India with over 5 million parents around the world.
For the book, what I did was to take information from entrepreneurs, technologists, and practitioners to really illustrate each of the different points of my SPEAK|PR methodology. It’s like looking at my definition of storification but through their eyes.
Today, entrepreneurs can read lots of technical information on the internet that is only clickbait. What’s lacking is the strategy. What entrepreneurs need is an overall approach to public relations to help them make better decisions and spend less money on tactical consultants or content that isn’t getting them anywhere.
This works the same way that they need a financial framework to understand cash flow, rather than just look at a receipt and see if it’s a good purchase. They need to have a financial plan and, hopefully, SPEAK|PR gives them the PR counterpart of it.
In the book, there are also case studies where they can learn about other entrepreneurs like Howard Kauffman who runs a company called ORL in America. His portion shows how he’s building his brand by building one toothpaste tribe at a time.
My mission is to champion the unnoticed; to help entrepreneurs find a way to get noticed using the technology available to them so that they can do their PR for free and unlock the value in their business. This will allow them to compete with big companies without any real investment other than understanding an approach, putting people at the front of their business, and following a very simple methodology.
This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.