Not long after I began blogging here, there and everywhere, I started getting requests to do interviews. It’s a nice benefit that springs from building a distinct personal brand online. Today I get a ton of requests for written Q&A’s, videos, and especially, podcasts. I must admit, I enjoy doing interviews for programs such as these and try to accept as many invitations as I can.
Recently, I’ve participated in many interviews and the past week or two, a slew of them were “aired” in rapid succession. While in the past I haven’t always shared the programs with you here on my blog, I intend to present several in the weeks to come.
This is my favorite interview so far.
Pamela Muldoon is the host of Content Marketing 360, a series that showcases marketing minds from around the world. Pamela’s awesome. Using an interview format, she blends her 25+ years of marketing & broadcasting experience into a fresh, conversational approach with her guests.
This is my favorite interview for a number of reasons:
- Pamela’s a first-class radio pro.
- She really knows my work, did her homework, and asked great questions.
- She made me feel very comfortable and brought out the best in me.
- I chose to reveal the subject of the book I’m writing for the first time. I gave Pamela a preview of the book, “Kiss My Glass.”
Have a listen. You’ll hear me explain what I mean by “kissing glass,” why you need to develop a strong voice, develop storytelling skills, and why I believe writing is the top skill needed to become a successful content marketer.
The interview runs an hour. If you’d rather read the interview, a transcript is provided below. Also, Pamela’s done a great job of summarizing the program’s highlights here on her blogsite, NextStage Media Group.
Content Marketing 360 Radio Show
“Kiss My Glass” Barry Feldman
Published March 2014
Pamela: Today on Content Marketing 360 radio show is a gentleman that has been really lighting up the Internet airwaves, so to speak. He’s a fantastic writer, great copywriter and has a really strong viewpoint, which is exciting in this wonderful world of content marketing.
I actually met Barry Feldman, I think a couple years ago, at Content Marketing World, where I’ve met so many of my content friends, and have gotten to really love Barry’s message and his voice. And today, folks, we get to talk to Barry Feldman. He is the principal of Feldman Creative and we’re going to share some information–actually, an exciting announcement, I think Barry is going to be providing today and so, welcome to Content Marketing 360 radio show, Barry Feldman.
Barry: Hey, thanks for having me Pamela. I’m really flattered with the ‘lighting up the Internet’ thing.
Pamela: You like that?
Pamela: Well, you’re definitely giving yourself a specific voice online. Whether it’s a SlideShare presentation you’re putting out or a blog post or a guest post, you’ve really done a lot of work in the last couple of years, and I’m watching this voice of yours grow and it’s really a lot of fun. I can tell you’ve got a rock and roll edge to you, Barry.
Barry: Well, thank you for saying that. It is a lot about your voice and I guess the challenge to be polar and speak to those who you have the ability to turn on. But it’s also just a lot of hard work, so that idea that you’ve seen me means that you’re discovering my content every which way and the bags under my eyes help explain what made that happen.
Pamela: It is another one of those overnight successes that took 25 years, right?
Barry: Yeah, you got that right.
Pamela: You mention polar, which really is driving, you know, certain people attract to certain voices and I think one of the reasons I’m attracted to your voice, Barry, is that I’m also a rock and roll girl. I love my classic rock and my concerts and my guitars, so I think we have that in common whether we realized it or not.
Barry: Well, you should have been at NMX in Vegas in January, where I put on my presentation called “Rock and Roll Content” with a guitar over my shoulder.
Pamela: Excellent. Did you actually jam a little bit on stage for the NMX crowd?
Barry: I presented 11 legends of rock and roll, explained how they’ve created a unique voice and signature style and the reasons why they are indeed legends. And I kicked off into each little set with a really well-known riff by that band.
Pamela: That’s awesome. I’m sorry I missed that, because I would have definitely been probably in the front row with a little devil horn just for you. Let’s kind of back that up. You’re obviously running your own show, Feldman Creative, but you have a couple of decades under your belt with this marketing stuff. Share, if you will, for the audience – for those that are first getting a glimpse of Barry Feldman – what is it that you do at Feldman Creative and how do you help your clients?
Barry: All right, sure. I’d be glad to. I do go back, thanks for reminding me how old I am.
Pamela: You’re not alone, Barry. We’re in this together. 20 plus, 25 plus?
Barry: Right. So I came by way of public relations and advertising. It was I guess a relatively brief stop, especially PR, but I grew up in the agency business in the mid and late ’80s and went through the ranks as copywriter, creative director, and then departed in ’95 and put up that shingle that was Feldman Creative. So you could say that I was a freelance writer and consultant and I have been ever since. The Internet came to be and it wasn’t long before I was writing a lot of websites and working on e-mail programs, just advertising online.
But I was a generalist and I wrote print and broadcast and outdoor and direct response, and I’ve grown to be a specialist in online marketing. So Feldman Creative today is a copywriting service, largely the copywriting is done by me, but I do have an arsenal of writers that I call on for specific projects. I’m a creative director, so the conversation might be about more than copywriting and the output could include design and some of the other elements that contribute to the final product.
And above all today, I’m a consultant. I’m a content marketing consultant. If that term doesn’t mean that much to you, here on your podcast, it obviously does, it does to your audience. But if content marketing is new to you, or inbound marketing is new to you, or permission-based marketing, don’t get me started. There’s a lot of adjectives that precede marketing.
But I think one term that everybody can understand is online marketing. And so, on my home page on my web page it says, ‘Turn on the power of online marketing.’ That’s what I like to think I can do for you, whether I am leading the charge, helping you plan, which is a large part of the consultant role, or executing creative strategies and putting them in place, implementing the actual creative, which is largely writing. It’s not just writing, but it always includes writing.
Pamela: Well, we’re going to talk about that important writing piece, that factor that really plays into content, but I think what’s really great about your background, Barry, is coming from – and I have a similar situation; not print, but more radio and broadcast copywriting – having that traditional marketing background I think lends itself to an interesting mix with clients as you approach them today. Because you can see things from all sorts of angles, and also dealing with, I’m sure, multiple personalities at organizations that are working their way into the 21st Century, so to speak.
Barry: Yeah, the mix is mesmerizingly large, and it’s really one of the reasons that attracted me to the business in the first place, in that I’d have a profession where the days don’t resemble each other. I’m too much of a stimulation junkie to have a clock-punching role where I move paper every day. It would be a little hard to get out of bed. I actually studied broadcasting, and then in graduate school studied radio, television, and film once again with a concentration on TV. And when I discovered that I wasn’t really that good at any particular field in those areas, I stumbled my way into marketing and advertising and figured out that it too offered that great variety that kept my head in the game every day.
Pamela: That’s a great foundation. I can always tell – which is probably why, when I’ve gotten to connect with your voice more, Barry, it’s a very strong –your copywriting sense comes from that traditional model and again, perhaps we’re kindred spirits in that, but you mention the word “foundation,” and the last couple of years have been a strong foundation of your creative voice, your content voice, and you were looking to the future. The very near future. And you have another big project that you and I’ve talked about offline, and today we’re going to focus our conversation around that.
So, Barry, this is going to be the first time we’re going to tell the world – well, you’ve probably been telling a lot of your content friends, ‘I should, I should,’ but this is it, right here. Barry, you are going to launch a book. What is the title? It’s a very interesting title and concept. Tell us this idea of your book, and then we’re going to dive into some of the concepts and ideas around it.
Barry: [Dramatically] Dun dun dun.
Barry: In the edit, I’m expecting to hear a classical music crescendo right there.
Pamela: Right, I’ll see what I can do for you.
Barry: My book, thank you for bringing that up, is going to be titled, Kiss My Glass. And a subtitle will follow of the how-to variety, perhaps. That doesn’t exist yet today, but in my head I know what story I’m going to tell. Kiss My Glass is actually the second incarnation and I suppose the title could change. It already has once. It was previously called The Factor, but Kiss My Glass is the name of the book, do you want me to go on and try to explain what I’m going to capture?
Pamela: Yes. Well, your title is a captivating title. It’s going to get attention, and it’s got that little edge to it that’s like you, Barry, which I think is actually quite perfect. But, tell the audience what you mean by the idea of glass. What are we actually kissing, here?
Barry: We are reaching through emotionally, like a kiss, but not physically, unlike a kiss, to ignite a passion in somebody on the other side of the glass. The glass comes in different shapes and sizes, and had it been a year ago, I might have only harped on three. Of course, we have the computer; typically a 24-inch, or if it’s a mobile computer, a 17- or 13-inch diagonal piece of glass. And they’ve shrunk, and now we have tablets, and we have smart phones, but they keep shrinking and now we wear them, so a piece of glass can be your eyeglasses and they can be your wristwatch and who knows what they’ll come up with next. The rear view mirror in your car, I don’t know. But so far, they’re all glass.
My premise is that without actually being there; if you’re kissing somebody, you’re doing that in real time, and you’re in the same space, I think. And when you’re kissing glass as a brand to a prospect, customer, partner, what have you, you’re not in the time, you’re not necessarily doing that in real time and you’re definitely not doing it in the same place or space. And so, Kiss My Glass is the idea of igniting a passion through glass, basically through the power of online marketing.
Pamela: And of course, my choice of glass, right? I’m going to choose the glass, but I’m also going to choose the time of day or week and when and how I’m going to intake. It’s such an audience-driven concept and I know we’re going to dive deep into what this means. But, why now, Barry? Why is this book an important book now? What are you seeing on the Internet and with this flux of content that we’re experiencing? Why is it important to get this book out there, and was there anything that kind of happened, or have you been watching and said, “You know, I think this conversation needs to happen again?” Because we’ve had influencer, relationship-building conversations with our audience before, but this is a slightly different twist, so why is it so important to you now?
Barry: I guess the time has arrived. To begin with, the customer has seized control of the brand. That story’s not that new to people close to online marketing or content marketing. But I think, largely the vast majority of businesses really don’t get online marketing and we need to remind ourselves of that when we’re so close to it and it’s our day job, and we’re transfixed with what we tweeted and who re-tweeted it. The majority of people still aren’t there, and they’re getting there through Facebook and email and largely non-business purposes or non-business applications.
And so I think it’s time that everybody who wants to be relevant in the future understands that online marketing is the way you’re going to connect with customers and grow your business. And though we talk a lot about blogging and social insertion, the tricks of the trade, most small businesses really don’t get it. Most large businesses might have a handful of people that do get it, but they move slowly and they haven’t put the processes in place. They don’t train properly and they haven’t brought on the right people to make it happen. So I want to give a lesson.
If you look at my bookshelf, anybody who’s preparing to write a book is a voracious reader, and I am too. So therefore, I buy every book I can get my hands on that are in one of two realms – marketing today in new media, and writing. So, if you look at my bookshelf, those are really separate shelves on the bookshelf. There’s a lot of great books about online marketing and the trends taking place in marketing today, and then there’s a lot of great books about writing. Those are more or less timeless, and some of the better ones really are quite old, but I haven’t seen a lot of books that merge the two, and that’s what I plan to do in Kiss My Glass.
Pamela: Excellent. And I think that’s a really good point, because you mentioned earlier that your foundation is in writing and this is becoming such a very important part of the content marketing creation process and skill set, so let’s move into that. Let’s talk about some of the skills that are becoming mandatory, in some way, shape or form, to really connect with our audience. You’ve mentioned writing, so let’s start there.
Talk to us if you will, Barry, about why is writing so important? Why is the skill becoming –it used to be a certain set of people were writers and now it’s really evolved, and we’re finding that there are a lot of people inside your organization that are subject-matter experts. So how do we get that information out of their heads? And writing is a piece of that. Tell us your viewpoint on writing; the importance of it and the skill set and how to grow that skill set.
Barry: All right. Well, to go back to the why, it almost sounds cynical, but I think the reason it’s a dominant skill and really precedes all others is Google. You’re going to open up that piece of glass of yours, and before you is going to be a very sparse page with a field that says, “What’s on your mind?” And you’re going to put something there, and ultimately that’s a question and Google’s going to do what it does and scour gazillions of pieces of information.
Those pieces of information are words, even if they’re presented as videos. If they’re going to get found, they’re going to get found by the words used to describe them or the transcript underneath them. Same with pictures. I don’t really want to give a boring lesson on how to optimize your web pages right now, but the why is because people are in control. Like I said at the top of the show, it’s a customer-centric world and the customers decide what the brand experience actually is and they influence each other. So, we need to get better at writing and I won’t say great. If you’re good you need to get great, and if you’re nowhere you need to choose a platform to be on.
When you cut to the chase, everybody thinks. Thinking’s easy and writing’s the hard part of thinking. I stole that, but I don’t know from where, but I love that. Everybody talks about the labor of writing and the writer’s block and the getting started part, and there’s a lot of fear and paranoia and perfection analysis and sweat that goes into busting through the barrier and becoming a writer if you’re not. Or even if you are a writer and getting started on your next project. I think every writer has experienced that fear that they’ve written their last good piece or they’ve had their last great idea.
So, why? Why do you have to do that? Not just mechanically, to be discovered and to be found. You need to earn the trust and affection and passion – if we’re going back to my “kiss my glass” metaphor – of a customer and a prospect. Ultimately, the best expression of your mind is going to be the things that you write.
Pamela: It’s interesting, because a lot of folks in the content space have something to say. It’s just a matter of getting it into a framework in which the audience – your customer, for example – is willing to take it in. We’ve talked offline about some of the passion pieces that, for myself, podcasting is the big passion. My former radio background. It’s sometimes easier for me to verbalize than it is to get it all on paper. But I transcribe – you mentioned transcription – I transcribe everything because I also know that Google is somewhat in charge of the search process, right? There is definitely a give and take.
You mentioned writing and books on writing. How have you continued to hone your writing skill? What are some of you best practices or day in, day out things? Because there is no silver bullet with a lot of the stuff that makes us good. So, what has made you better at writing over the past years; decades, and of course, the last couple of years as you’ve really developed this skill for yourself online?
Barry: First and foremost, however lame of an answer it might sound, what’s made me improve my writing skills is writing. With any skill, if you ask Michael Jordan how he got so good at basketball, I think he’d probably say, “By practicing basketball.”
Pamela: Sometimes the obvious answers are the best, Barry.
Barry: Yeah, so you’ve got to put in the hours, whether it’s basketball or writing. In Michael’s case, he was probably the first to practice every day and the last to leave, and you hear that of most of the greatest athletes of all time. So then, how can you gather the intellectual input and stimuli that makes it so you’re better at writing when you’re not writing? Next would be reading. You need to gather a lot of ideas. You need to be inspired by other great writers. You need to find your voice, and you’re going to do that by learning what appeals to you when you read.
I think today it’s very important to supplement the reading and practicing with other forms of learning. That could be workshops, it could be aligning yourself with a mentor. I guess I’m sort of seguing here from how I’ve done it to how our listeners would, but I’m asked questions about getting better at writing all the time, and so these are things that I have done. I’ve had lots of mentors over the years, and I still have a handful of people that I trust to give me their opinion and have that be an honest opinion when I have an idea. Particularly if I think it’s sort of risky or out there or unusual. And so I think aligning yourself with somebody can help.
And get into programs where you’re forced to practice. Just like on an athletic like I mentioned before. So if you’re going to become a writer, and you’re only talking to yourself about that, you’re going to put off those dreadful, painful practice sessions, and you’re going to benefit by taking a course. I like to endorse some of these online marketers who offer educational programs, and the two that come to mind first are Marketing Profs and Online Marketing Institute. I guess those both come to mind first because I’m an instructor at both places.
Pamela: You bring up a really great point. I’m actually having this conversation in another world that I live in. I’m pushing myself to get into the voice-over industry even harder – just an FYI, Barry. But, it’s putting in the work, right? It seems so basic and foundational sometimes when you answer a question like this, like, “Well, you just do it.” But a lot of folks use the excuse of time, they use the excuse of, “I’ve got a full time job, I don’t know how I can get myself into an online class,”
But really it is about restructuring the importance and priorities so that you’re doing the work but also continuing to elevate your skill set through the mentors and the educators that are out there. I think it’s a really good reminder, Barry. It’s something that more of us need to be doing and considering.
Barry: Yeah. You know, we’re human. We’re going to put off what’s most painful.
Pamela: Right. Yes. What is it that Tony Robbins has said, that you’re either running towards pleasure or running away from pain, and in this instance we’re running away from pain I think.
Barry: Yeah. That’s a good one.
Pamela: Another element to this – the world we live in. And you mentioned the different forms of glass that come through, and this is the designed concept of how we get things out there. I’ve seen your visual representation of film and creative really over the past couple of years expand. Evolve is a good word. Why is design also such an integral part to this “kiss my glass” concept? The connection with your audience.
Barry: You’ve seen my design evolve? Boy, you are paying close attention.
Pamela: Yes, I am. I’m a lurker, Barry.
Barry: Well, good for you, I guess. I’ve been accused of being a good, sometimes even great, graphic designer. And I always say, “No. Wrong guy.” I told you that I come from the agency business. I’ve been looking at page layouts for a long time and I know what I like and I know I don’t like. I guess I’ve avoided, or deflected compliments like that in the past because 1) I don’t really want to do design, and 2) I’m not really that comfortable with the tools of the trade.
Typically, at least in the decades that preceded now, designers were kind of Adobe-centric and so you had a mess of these unbelievably expensive and complicated tools called InDesign and Illustrator and Photoshop, and I find out just enough to be dangerous with those things. But now the tools are coming fast and furiously, and they’re much easier to learn, and they’re a lot more fun to do and they’re lower cost.
The truth is, when I’m asked to do design now, I do it. And I do it all the time for clients who admire my SlideShare presentations, and I’ve grown to be a bit of an expert on Keynote, which is a very inexpensive piece of software that’s Apple-centric for making presentations. I’ve become a bit of an expert on that. I really appreciate you bringing that up, and I’ll try to answer the question about why it’s important.
I think so far we’ve really been talking about graphic design; where the elements go, and what they typography is, and how much whitespace, and what order things are presented in and so forth. But, I think there’s also – to take a step back from graphic design – there’s a much more important thing that’s called design period. I suppose you can call it industrial design. I guess it depends on what you’re applying it to.
But design at large, when you think about some of the lessons that we have Steve Jobs to thank for, is really not so much about what things look like, but more about how they function. Of course, a lot of design went into every Apple product. You think back to the first iPod and the fact that it had so few buttons to press and it was so minimal, which obviously became Apple’s signature. That’s design. Getting the guck out of the way. Making it easy.
To me, it comes down to this, which is going to be a concept in my book; it comes down to the comfort level, or the comfort zone. You buy things from people you feel comfortable with. And you don’t buy things from people you don’t feel comfortable with.
So I think the answer to what makes design so important, beginning with design at large, and then in the terms of the materials we create and the online assets we produce; how do they function, how do I get comfortable with them? Do they feel right? Are they me? Is it easy? There’s nothing more important than that. Is it easy? If it’s difficult, if it’s confusing, if I’m being bombarded with stimuli, I’m going to bail. I’m going to go somewhere where it’s more comfortable. So this idea that if you’re going to persuade me to contribute, to hire me, to agree to my point of view, any sort of persuasion begins with getting the person you’re trying to persuade to be comfortable.
Pamela: And of course, that means in reference to the different glasses, going back to the book concept, whether I bring your information through my iPad or through my desktop, any mobile device, this design conversation really now needs to expand to that intake process, right? Of the person taking in the information and how they’re best suited to do that.
We’re seeing conversations around mobile, but my guess is that these are conversations you’re also having with your clients, Barry, when you’re doing website restructuring and all of that. Can the audience truly connect with this regardless of how they bring the information into themselves?
Barry: Yeah it introduces the idea of responsive design.
Barry: That’s a new term to some people, and it’s a scary term even to those that are designers, because it’s flawed. We’re in the early stages of responsive design. I’m working on the next incarnation of my website and having a few fits with responsive design. Because it doesn’t work perfectly, particularly when you’re talking about super-small screens like the couple of inches you have to work with on a smart phone. So a lot of marketers are definitely getting that wrong and responding. Responding, sorry.
Reacting to the need to adjust to different screen sizes. They’re doing it slowly, or poorly, or not at all. I just wrote a post about responsive design for a designer friend of mine and tried to simplify the story.
I think a really interesting thing about that choice of words is that what’s supposed to be responsive? In my mind, the consumer’s supposed to be the responsive thing. The word responsive design really means my content is going to adjust to the dimensions of the piece of glass people are looking at, but if it works, it’s because it did that well and it caused the reader to respond.
I guess the great example of the absolute, shameful way to get that wrong is you simply don’t adjust your stuff for mobile. It doesn’t respond, you know, it hasn’t been created in the new era of responsive design, nor is it a mobile website, so you get a little postage stamp version of a website. And that’s an invitation to leave. If people have to pinch and swipe and zoom and all that crap on their little tiny phone, they’re going to go find a website that works better on their phone.
Pamela: Absolutely. And we just literally have seconds to make it all happen. One, two, three seconds. Boom, you’re done. You mentioned responding, right? The whole idea that your audience is going to respond to what it is that they see. The design, really, the visual representation is the first piece, but what you also talk about quite eloquently is the next level of responding. That emotional connection that we really have to make now with our audience, through our writing, through our content.
So let’s move into that piece of the conversation. Some of these emotional elements of what it means to really connect with your audience. Tell us a little bit about your thoughts on that. We’ve heard this idea before – connect with the audience – but what does that mean to you, Barry?
Barry: It means a lot of things. I guess, first and foremost, it means having a voice, being recognized. You talked about how you’ve seen my voice develop and that I have a strong point of view. I’m not for everybody, you know? And I don’t want to be. Nor is any brand that’s ever succeeded. Marketers that don’t understand what it means to pull emotional triggers make the mistake of thinking, “Our product, our service, our cause,” whatever it may be, “is perfect for everybody.”
Erika Napoletano, a writing hero of mine, and a branding hero of mine, write a wonderful book that probably defines this phenomenon better than anything else I’ve read. Her book’s called The Power of Unpopular. She maintains in her book, “What happens to you when you travel down the middle of the road? You get run over. You’re road kill.”
So you’ve got to veer left or right and you have to polarize your audience such that, you know, the ones that are in are in with passion and fervor, and the ones that are out were never going to be in in the first place. You can’t appeal to everybody. I say this when I’m talking about writing, but also about speaking. I’ve had lots of conversations about this.
This is why my presentation I mentioned to you featured a guitar, and me with a little tiny amplifier, riffing on the Rolling Stones in front of my audience. It was unusual. It comes down to this: people do not remember what you wrote, largely speaking. Nor do they remember what you said. They remember how you made them feel. This is not a flash of brilliance that only comes from me. You’ll hear and read this everywhere. So, how do you make people feel? You have to figure that out, and it begins by you defining who you can and who you can’t appeal to.
Pamela: Well, I think it’s a really important point, also in evolution. I’m familiar with Erika. Great example of someone who’s really taken a strong stance on personality and voice and it’s worked very well for her. But would you also agree, it’s an evolution, almost a personal journey, right? To really tap into your own voice. Going back to – writers write. Getting that voice connected means you have to do the work.
Barry: Yeah, that is a personal journey. It’s going to take time and it’s going to take patience. You can probably accelerate it by reading a little bit about writing and personal branding. It’s great synchronicity, or timing, for you to bring it up now because I’m working on a post about personal branding. Because I have a lot of clients who are asking me to help them in that area. Even if they are employed or they’re a director at a large company and they’re not going anywhere soon. They still want to develop a personal brand.
The piece I’m working on has five suggestions. I think he calls them vital elements, or something like that. I’m talking about Michael Hyatt, who knows a lot about personal branding. His name comes up almost every time the subject comes up. I went to hear him speak and I captured his five most important ideas, which was the essential crux of the presentation that he gave, and then I added five. One of the five that I added and I’m working on and it’s the most difficult one it’s “finding your voice.” You don’t simply go, “Okay, well, my voice is sarcastic, and now I’m a sarcastic writer.”
Pamela: Right. You have to fail forward on this stuff. I just think it’s a great reminder to all of us. We have something unique, we just need to continue to hone it and connect with it. But, there’s also another word that you’ve mentioned throughout our conversation, probably three or four times, it’s a word I absolutely adore and believe that every one of us needs to tap into it. It’s that word passion. The connection that we have when we experience passion, when we can have it leap through the glass, so to speak, right?
Barry: Will you be my agent?
Pamela: Absolutely, Barry. I would be happy to. Passion is bandied about quite a bit, right? You have to show everybody your passion, but some people have really pushed through the glass of passion in a very unique way. And it doesn’t mean you have to be the loudest, right? It just means that you definitely have to connect with your personal voice. How do you define pulling out passion? What does that mean to get integrated into the passionate conversation when you’re also looking to engage with your audience?
Barry: The best metaphor I think is dating. If you’re going to go to a first date and sit down over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine or what have you and go into this dreadfully long monologue about yourself and only yourself, you’re probably not going to have a second date, right? Everybody’s favorite subject is themselves, but the people that interest you are the good listeners. So, I think this process of pulling out the passion unquestionably begins by listening to people.
You mentioned the Robbins quote with people’s pleasures and pains. You have to deliberately understand what they are. If you’re going to turn somebody on, you have to take them down Passion Boulevard or get them off of Pain Street.
Pamela: Right. There you go.
Barry: That’s a good one. That’s a keeper.
Pamela: It is. I’m going to write that one down.
Barry: Passion Boulevard and Pain Street. So, the process begins with being a good listener and then it’s going to be your turn to speak, and we’ve talked a little bit about developing your voice and figuring out how to find it. I suppose we haven’t got into that, but that’s something that you’ll want to do some exercises on and work at, like we talked about be patient and practice. How to use it, and ultimately, it’s about understanding your audience.
I think it brings to light a really interesting topic, which is about the authenticity that you bring to your writing, or any expression of creativity you’re doing or the marketing you’re doing. Brogan comes to mind. Chris Brogan comes to mind. I actually titled a piece that I wrote for Convince and Convert called, “Who Cares What Chris Brogan is Drinking?”
The back story there is that Chris is a leader in our field. What’s he a specialist in? I don’t know. I think a lot of things. You could certainly ask him questions about social media or e-commerce or what have you, but he’s kind of a specialist in humanity. The name of his company is called Human Business Works. The name of his new publication is called Owner. It’s sad, in a way, that we need somebody to specialize in humanity.
Pamela: Right. That’s the truth. But thank goodness that somebody did, right?
Barry: So that’s how I think of Chris. I get an e-mail from him every Sunday night. It’s no frills. It’s not even HTML. When he wants to sell something, he goes, “Hey, I’m going to go selly selly on you now. I’m going to sell you something.”
But at the top of each one of those things, he says, “I’m drinking a so-and-so tea,” Merlot tea from some nation I’ve never of. He’s very much a beverage expert and apparently he likes coffee and teas. I’ve got those for more than a year now and I’ve thought, “Why do I care?” You know? Now I understand, and that’s what I wrote that story about, because I met Chris. I actually went out of my way to meet Chris at that last conference I was at. And he truly does care about people, and he allows that relationship to happen and to grow passionate by letting them into his life. He’s putting it out there.
Erika, boy, as you know, she’s got a wicked case of potty mouth, and she doesn’t curb it. She might curb it on stage in front of a bunch of starched shirts, but generally speaking, if you’re at her website, you’re talking on her terms and it’s not for everybody. But also, she wears her heart and soul on her sleeve, so you know about a lot of things about her life. I think to the extent that you’re comfortable with letting people into your life, you have to do that.
I typically don’t go quite as far, and I haven’t started my emails with what I’m drinking, but if you know me, and you’ve been on this podcast, you’ve just been listening to me for a little while. I can’t go very long without alluding to rock and roll. If you keep paying attention, you’re probably going to hear me talk about my daughters, and possibly my pets, and my musical hobbies, and my tennis playing and so forth.
So I think that’s the real conversation starter. I can’t tell you how many about pages I’ve written in my time. I encourage my clients to make those little paragraph long bios about themselves. Include something from their personal life and their social life and their hobbies. I know if I’m going to go to your profile page, based on what you put on your about page, it’s going to tell me that you have a degree in blah blah blah, and you worked at a company before this one, and now you’re at this company. It’s like, “Duh.” You know? I expected you to know what you’re talking about. How can we connect? Tell me about you the person.
Pamela: It’s such an important reminder, Barry, because we do connect with the personal. When you share something personal, we get that. We can empathize with that. We have a life that might mirror some similarities, even if it’s not specific, right? We get it. “Oh, he loves rock and roll.” I might be into classical music, but I get the passion. I understand that concept of passion. It’s a fantastic reminder and what a spectrum between Erika and Chris Brogan for examples of voice. Quite the spectrum.
Barry: Yeah. I’ve never thought about that.
Pamela: But also, they’re both very strong and have developed a very strong essence of who and what they are just by being themselves, right?
Barry: Yeah. Every good writer has, I think–if you get into a blogging lesson and I’m giving it, you’ll hear me say that as you’re going through the motions to learn how to discover your voice, forget that you are a journalist now. The worst blogs – and this is unfortunately the majority or blogs – they suck pretty hard because people are going, “I am a journalist today. I shall take out my journalist pen and put on my journalist hat and do journalism.” That’s that form of content that they know, that they read in newspapers back when we used to have newspapers and people bought them and read them.
And it doesn’t work. It’s not how you do what we’re trying to do in online marketing. It doesn’t connect you to the people. If you read newspapers still, you don’t know who wrote the story. There’s nothing memorable in there.
Pamela: It is an interesting evolution in the writing process. But you’ve also touched on – we’re talking, obviously, a lot about bringing personality into the personal conversation of our writing. Tell us, if you would, how does that connect with establishing authority? Where is that fine line between authority and entertainment, where we’re also able to be ourselves and to be personal, yet we’re also building ourselves as an influencer in our particular industry and want to connect with the idea that we are an authority in what we say, what we write.
Barry: A big topic. I think it hearkens back to some of the things we’ve talked about, where I want you – I’m the writer, you’re the reader – I want you to open your ears to me and that’s not going to happen, and there’s no chance of making it happen unless I’m sensitive to what keeps you up at night, and what are your problems and what are your pleasures.
It begins with a keen understanding of knowing your audience. And then comes the development of trust. You typically don’t win that in an instant. It comes with time. So, yes, I’m going to ask for your time, and perhaps even more importantly, eventually I’m going to ask for your money. I might ask for some sort of emotional commitment from you, and therefore it’s not going to happen without trust.
You have to build trust. You have to invest in the relationship. That requires work, and if you’re doing it through blogging, and social media and the content that you create, that work not only involves creating great content, but getting people to see it. So there are a lot of recommendations I can make along those lines. There are processes and tactics that you’ll get into so that you’re discovered more so than you would be if you were just blogging on your own website. Every blogger in the early instances of their blog feel like they’re talking to the wall, because they are.
Pamela: Right. I think what you’re alluding to, Barry, is one of the ways that you can build influence that you’ve done well is guest blogging, right? You’ve really expanded this over the last year. Tell us a little bit about that process for you and how that helped improve your authority level, as well as this influence and piece that more people can see Barry Feldman.
Barry: I get asked a lot about having written for Copyblogger. There’s no application to fill out to write there. It’s not that easy to approach the principals of Copyblogger and say, “I’m a really good writer with a strong point of view and things to say that your audience will appreciate. Can I have a spot?” They don’t do things that way. They select their writers. You can’t go in this realm straight to Copyblogger. Perhaps in the news media, you can’t go straight to New York Times, “Hi New York Times. My name’s Barry. Let me write for you today.”
There’s a ladder to climb. The bottom rung is becoming a blogger. Having content. Then comes the next rung, where you’re looking for an audience bigger than yours. Reading books, in particular, I think I should credit HubSpot’s “Inbound Marketing” book, the two principals of HubSpot, I think in 2010 or 2011 wrote “Inbound Marketing.” And they stressed guest blogging, and it wasn’t lost on me. And I got busy.
First, you have to create your blog. I have this strategy in the works for multiple clients. First, you have to have, I’d say no less than six to ten great pieces that express your ideas well on your blog. Then, you have to think about, “How can I create content where it’s more likely to be exposed to more eyeballs?” It’s not as impossible as it may sound, and it’s not even an act of persuasion, really, because if you find the right partner to publish your stuff, they need content. They’re in the content marketing business. They understand, even if they’re a big company, that they’ve become media outlets, they’ve become publishers.
So you offer it to them. The easy place to start is the guest blog opportunities that advertise that they have guest blog opportunities. So, there are tricks to that, and I’ll stay out of that today, but you’re looking for places that are looking for content and that’s the next rung on the ladder. You’re going to start getting published there.
I started writing very shortly after I was writing for The Point, which is the name of my blog, for Social Media Today. And it’s a great website, and it’s probably in the top 1,000 Alexa rankings in the world, and it’s found me a tremendous audience. There are a lot of great writers there and my opportunities there have gotten bigger and better as I’ve nurtured that relationship. I put my podcast there, I put my infographics there, I offer them e-books, and now I’m a columnist there. I have a column that comes out every other Thursday called “Content Marketing Minds.”
I guess I skipped a few rungs here, but being a columnist at a high profile site on the topic that you want to be an authority in doesn’t hurt. In between, when you grow your audience, you’re also leading people back to your website and you’re also exposing your content to the Copybloggers of the world. The people that are influential, that do have the authority. And so it grows over time by association. There is no particular order to these rungs on the ladder, but since those three years ago when I first looked for opportunities such as Social Media Today – I think Business 2 Community was another one of them – I have either asked or been invited to write for Marketing Profs and Convince and Convert and SlideShare and Social Media Explorer. The list is long.
I guess you noticed that and you probably simply stumble into that stuff now and then, because I am so well-published across the place. It gets a little exhausting. I can’t keep up with the way I did once upon a time. I wanted to get into a new website, blog, media, and I knocked on the door until they allowed me to. And now, I try not to sever any of those relationships, but I’ve tried to be more occasional.
But yeah, guest blogging. Big time. Everybody listening, if you’re going down the content path and you’re new to blogging, and three months from now you’re worried about how little your audience is and how little it’s shared, the path to a bigger audience and a greater degree of authority and influence is indeed guest blogging.
And then there’s also, these ungated media where nobody tells you what you can and can’t do, such as YouTube, such as podcasting, such as SlideShare, such as Visual.ly, where infographics live. And they keep growing. So you’re also going to want to increase your digital footprint where you have an open invitation to do so.
Pamela: It’s a great reminder –one of the themes that seems to be running through our conversation today, it’s actually a two-fold theme. Foundational practices. Like you said, you don’t get to guest blogging until you’ve been doing it on your own a bit and starting to get that consistency and that factor of getting content out on a regular basis.
But, do the work. It’s definitely a theme I’m hearing here, Barry, is do the work. This is not magic, this not a silver bullet. This is not something that you start today, two weeks from now you’re going to have the same success that you’ve been experiencing, Barry. It is do the work. Put the hours in.
Barry: Yeah. No argument. Everything worth having that you value is worth working for, so yeah. Do the work. If there was a button you could press to make success come out the other side, please show it to me.
Pamela: I’ll get in line for that as well, thank you very much. Barry, we have covered a lot of ground today, and this is some valuable information for this audience of marketing professionals and business professionals that are looking to take content to another level. As we wrap our conversation up, I always ask my guest, is there one, or maybe two, action items, tips, suggestions out of all of this conversation today, that if I’m listening I can take and run with and start working on in my business, say in the next 24 hours?
Barry: Next 24 hours. All right, no sleeping during this time.
Pamela: It doesn’t sound like you’re getting a lot of it, either. So, that might be tip number one. Let sleep go.
Barry: Yeah, I do sort of have little battles with my mind to ask it to please turn off for a period of time so I can go to sleep. But my pity party is not to be taken too seriously; I’m getting my sleep. But I do put in a lot of hours at the keyboard.
To answer your question, some takeaways that might be action items from the advice I’m giving. I think it goes back to the kiss. To wrap up a conversation that’s mostly about the idea that I’m working on a book, and the book’s called Kiss My Glass, and the idea is smushing together new media lessons with writing lessons. Go figure out how to ignite passion in people on the other side of the glass.
How do you do that? 1) Figure out who they are. You need to know them intimately. 2) Figure out what keeps them up at night. What are their pleasures and pains? 3) Where are they? Do they like podcasts or do they like blogs or do they like both? Do they prefer this social network over this social network? You need to know where they are. And what can you say that’ll turn them on? And that’s going to take some practice.
So, A) Understand new media. Do everything you can. Train. Dive into it. Practice. Make friends in new media. Get to understand new media. It’s the only way you’re going to be relevant. If we’re having this conversation five years from now, you probably lost a lot of money and you’re running out of it. New media is where you’re going to connect with your audience. Then, B) master your writing skills. Again, there’s no magic button. Like I said, or like you said, that’s a lot of work. There’s no “Master your writing skills” button. So take to heart some of the things we’ve talked about in terms of reading and practicing and finding some mentors and establishing what you think is great writing and get to work.
Pamela: Get to work. You heard it here, folks. Barry says get to work. It’s been an absolute pleasure to chat with you today, because you’re a reminder that hard work does pay off. You’re putting in the hours, and even as you grow and become more broad with your message by hitting all these guest blogging opportunities and making more of a presence with your design and your uniqueness, the work doesn’t stop. I would think you almost –what is it they say, “It takes a lot of effort to get to the top, but it takes twice as much to stay there.” Or something like that.
Barry: Right. There’s a lot of, “What have you done for me lately?” And so you’ve got to keep at it. I agree with you on that one.
Pamela: We want to make sure that our audience can connect with you, Barry, directly. To read the good work that you’re writing. To connect with you, either on social media profiles or if you’re speaking out there on the speaking network. So, Barry, what are the best ways for our audience to connect with you?
Barry: All roads lead to my website. Obviously, there you can find the little chiclets that would tell you where to connect with me on social media. I also list on my website the various –I built a list.ly list, which has links to each of the publications that I write for, where they’re catalogued by author. So you can read the hundreds and hundreds of things I’ve written if you want to by starting at my website. So my website is Feldman Creative. www.feldmancreative.com I was trying not to get into social media or endorse one, but I’m kind of keen on Twitter. So if you wanted to start a conversation with me on Twitter, I’m @FeldmanCreative.
Pamela: Perfect. And I will also plug you’ve really developed a strong SlideShare presence. Lots of fun presentations coming out of your creative mind over that past year or so, and it’s also a fun place to find out what you’re doing, Barry. I would encourage folks to check you out on SlideShare as well.
Barry: Yeah, I wish I knew this for sure. I think it’s /BarryJFeldman.
Pamela: Okay. Yeah, I can’t always remember. It’s funny, I get out there and I just start typing in people I know. [Laughs] That helps. They have a pretty good search mechanism.
Barry: If you’re going down the marketing or online marketing path on SlideShare, trust me, you’re going to find me. I’m all over. I probably put a substantial piece of content there at least once a month. I think I have over 50 things there.
Pamela: Yeah, it’s good stuff, and it’s got a little rock and roll edge. Just the way I like it.
Barry: So you say. We got to jam, you and I.
Pamela: Oh my gosh. For Mother’s Day two years ago, my husband got me my first guitar. I’ve been talking about it for a long time. And on top of that, I’ve been kind of resurrecting my 20’s in my 40’s, Barry, and seeing as many live concerts as I can. Yeah, we need to chit-chat offline. Maybe a rock and roll gig is in our future.
Barry: Put another dime in the juke box, baby.
Pamela: That’s right. I love it. Barry Feldman, thank you so much for joining us on Content Marketing 360. Of course, FeldmanCreative.com is the website. You can find Barry on Twitter, SlideShare and just on dozens of blogs around the universe, basically.
Barry: Maybe not… yeah, I guess so.
Pamela: Yeah, you’ve built up quite a list.
Barry: More than a dozen, alright. So, I’ll get back with you on this representation that I have in mind for you now. You’re my new agent.
Pamela: Awesome. Awesome. I’m running in a good group of people. You know, content marketing professionals, so I would love to continue to stay connected with you, Barry, and of course to our audience. Please connect with Barry Feldman as well. Get that foundation set, as Barry said, and you too can start to get that overnight success that happens. Two decades in the making, just like Barry, right?
Barry: Right. Well, thank you for having me on your program, Pamela. It was a great conversation. I enjoyed it.
Pamela: Absolutely. And thanks to Barry, thanks to you. I am your host, Pamela Muldoon, and you are listening to Content Marketing 360 radio show.