When you’re contributing something of value, is the value determined by yourself or by the person meant to receive it? When you write articles, give talks, produce a course, teach or lecture, you’re looking to add value. In the business world, people often talk about providing value but what does this mean?
Write for one person
This can be challenging when you don’t know who is going to consume the content you create. Equally, this can be hard if your audience is diverse.
Let’s take article writing, for example. Of course, this could be applied to podcasts, videos and public speaking as well but let’s start with the written word.
Consider writing for just the one person.
Write for a close friend. Imagine them before you and write addressing them alone. Doing this has helped me focus and refine my message.
One of the hardest things people struggle with, when writing articles, is achieving the right balance. The writer wants to help but they also want to ensure they don’t over-invest their time and effort in a way that leaves them short. Otherwise, they find it hard to continue and be consistent. They feel spent, they begin looking for results which may be slow to realise, they become dejected or upset and then, they stop.
We don’t want that.
The reader is looking to evaluate the article. They want answers, they want clarity.
Is the article going to help them on their journey?
Is the article going to help them address their problems?
If not, they will not continue reading. Often, decisions on this are done quickly, sometimes a little too summarily but that is human nature.
Walking you through my process
So, let me share an example of how I look to provide value. Let me walk you through my process, share with you how I approach this so that you can gain a better understanding of how value creation can be delivered through something as simple as writing a short article.
What I am doing here is I will stop telling you. Instead, I will show you through an actual example and the power of story-telling.
A week ago, I chanced on a post by David, someone whom I neither knew nor was connected to. David posed a question in a very large LinkedIn HR group I was member of. He was an over-50 who was looking to get back into the workforce. He was asking for tips on how he could make himself more attractive to recruiters.
I saw an opportunity
This was an opportunity:
… to help
… to educate
… to inspire
… to learn from others
… to showcase what I could offer.
Yes, I was presented with “an occasion or situation that makes it possible to do something that you want to do or have to do, or the possibility of doing something.”a
Which meant a couple of things for me:
- I have to keep my eye out for opportunities which present themselves because sometimes, it is by chance, often happens very quietly and it will disappear out of sight if I let it.
- I always, always have a choice. I can choose to leverage the situation, make something good happen or I can just let things slide. Nothing good comes from letting things slide so I go do the work.
- For every one person who chooses to let it slide, there will be another who chooses to do something of value. Who do I want to be here?
- Tomorrow never arrives, today is what I have. Today is when I take action, make the change and achieve something.
Why I chose to write an article
I could have shared a few ideas in the comments section of David’s post like many other people did. But there were challenges with that. LinkedIn comments section tends to act up while you write (in my experience) and has a character limit. This is frustrating because these limits mean you may say very little or be quite general. Or you could write a whole bunch and then lose all of it before you hit post (which has happened to me and a few others). This does not add value.
Or you could be that person who commented 15 times in a row spreading your message out in a number of comments. That could be weird, not to mention it would be disjointed and lack flow. Again, not adding value.
Or I could offer consolation or words of encouragement. I didn’t think that would add much value, to be honest.
I knew that I would have more than a few ideas to share. It would take time to craft and put together. If I was going to take the time to do this, I might as well do it well and let it be something of value to others who may read the piece. In other words, I was considering how I could leverage my efforts.
I wrote an article (it took me a week to dedicate the time to do this – you don’t want to wait too long because sometimes, these things may cease to be relevant). Given that the post was on LinkedIn and I could load an article as part of my LinkedIn profile, it seemed a good idea to do that. Ordinarily, I would split publishing between a number of different platforms, including my own website, to expand my reach.
Post and promote – a two part process
Writing an article is simply not enough. You need to support content creation with content promotion. You need to publish, promote and distribute over and over for maximum results. You do not want to leave things to chance. You don’t want to be coy about it and hope that people discover it by chance.
So, I went back into David’s post in the group and shared the article there.
I also sent a message to David with the link in case he didn’t come across the post. When commenting or sharing an article you find useful, it helps tremendously when you tag the author because it sends them a notification. Again, now that I made the effort to weigh in, I had to tell others about it. The article was simply not going to promote itself.
The good news is that although this post was meant to address someone who is an over-50, many of the ideas are just as useful to anyone else. So have a read of the article and I’d welcome ideas or tips you may have about how an over-50 can get back into the workforce
My value-driven content checklist
These are some of the things I focus on when creating content I publish and which I believe will hold you well too.
1. Connect the dots
If you say what’s been said, there’s nothing new there. There’s nothing readers can be thankful for and your content becomes generic. There’s no harm in saying what’s already been said but the driving force is to be clear about what you want to share and why.
It is all about the context.
General advice rarely helps. When you provide context, share your personal story, give readers the backdrop, then the generic information is now no longer generic. It becomes contextual and can now drive more value. Connect the dots for your reader, help them to see what you saw. Help them to arrive at the conclusion you arrived at which is less about the destination and far more about the journey. But in that process, be professional, be clear, be non-judgemental. Speak in short sentences. Avoid jargon. Be yourself.
2. Blow them away
You’re not aiming for average or even, what’s reasonable. You’re aiming for wow. You’re aiming to exceed expectations.
Maybe, you may do just that.
3. Give more than you receive
Do not be preoccupied with what they have done for you, whether they will understand and what this will mean. Empty your mind out. Give it your all. Give more than you receive. Give before you receive.
It will all come back to you.
4. Don’t save the best for last – share it now, do it now, give it away now.
There’s a tendency as we gather our expertise and years of experience to horde our collective wisdom as if there’s a way that we could simply be emptied out or drained completely of all we know.
There’s no need to save the best bits for last. Share what you know now. Do what you think needs to be done now. Give what you can now.
Did it occur to you that perhaps, they may not wait till the end?
5. Consider yourself an educator
“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn”Phil Collins
Teach people and use that as an opportunity to refine your ideas and concepts. Learn as you go, share as you learn and in the end, build mastery of the things you choose to focus on.
6. Value is in the eye of the beholder
Value can be very subjective. You may think you’re delivering value and you may find it hard to convince someone you’ve given value.
Where do you go from there?
I believe the true test is whether someone else believes you’ve delivered value and maybe even, when more than one person believes you have delivered value. And you can do this best when you give your best effort.
7. Achieve a mix of content creation and curation
Content curation is about seeing yourself as a filter and aggregator. You’re assembling, managing and presenting the works of others. You first develop original ideas and then, you supplement that by filtering through the ideas of others on the same subject matter.
The trick is to get it in the right amount, order and timing. Before you start curating, you need to develop your own original content first. You need to be sure of the area you want to focus on and what you want to specialise in. Once this is clear, it then provides a guide to the content you curate.
And curation involves not just sharing this other content but providing value by adding your own insights to the piece as well. Over time, as you begin to build this body of work, you associate yourself with selected subject matter and raise your professional profile in this regard.
8. Three ways to provide value : show, tell and ask
If you only do things in one way, you and your readers will get bored. You’ve got to try different ways to say the same thing and achieve a different result each time.
You tell people when you give a talk.
You show people when you run a workshop or develop a case study.
You ask people when you probe with insightful questions and then, wait for the responses to come through.
With each method, there are nuances, strengths and weaknesses to be aware of but together, they provide a powerful way to develop more clarity about the kind of problems you’re looking to solve.
Use this time to articulate what you see as your reader’s pain point. When your reader can see that you capture them well, that you understand what they’re facing, you’ve got their attention. Go deep not just in articulating what you see as the pain point but also in terms of what you see as the solution. If you speak from your experience, it informs the solutions you offer.
This is how I believe you can add value to everything you do.
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If you need help with writing, getting published or building more influence, let’s talk.
Headline photo courtesy Adolfo Félix on Unsplash