Tell Me How Much You Value My Feedback by Responding

The online marketing space is interesting to say the least. Today I’m particularly thinking of people with podcasts and to a lesser extent blogs.

In a time when authenticity and trust are key to building relationships I’m surprised at the lack of follow-through or consistency. I don’t understand how you can proclaim in every email or podcast that you “want to hear from people” and how valuable you are to them, but when you contact them or make an episode suggestion as they’ve requested you don’t hear anything back.

Occasionally I put people to the test by sending an email or filling out a contact form when someone makes these requests. It’s my test of how genuine they are. I can’t seem to find any rhyme or reason to who writes back.

I learned a valuable lesson at a conference last year–the warmth and friendliness someone projects behind a microphone is not necessarily who they are in person or maybe even who they are when they aren’t podcasting. One conversation I had with a well known podcaster was downright awkward.

The person that continues to blow my mind in this space is Chris Brogan. I have never had him not return an my email. He must get a bazillion emails a day, particularly because he constantly asks people to write to him and tell him what is going on AND because he writes back.

Chris must have some special system that works for him. He doesn’t do the support@crapidontread.com email address that goes to a ticketing system because he makes it simple, “Just reply to this email. I want to hear from you. I’ll write back.”  And he does!

The most consistent red flag I see is stuff like,

Tell us what you thought of this episode by sending email to support@someonewhowillneverwriteyouback.com. Suggest a topic for a future show or leave your thoughts. We value our listeners and will address your question on our next episode.

First the “support” email alias is impersonal. I’m not writing to you for “support.” Is your operation really that big that you need a ticketing system to keep everything organized?

Second it gives the appearance that you’ve “outsourced” the interactions you say value most. With one popular podcaster, I filed a variety of tickets and multiple interactions with the person manning the support tickets. Some of the interactions were so lame I seriously wondered how their show and business was doing as well as it made itself out to be.

It was frustrating to feel that there was no real way to actually reach this person who had put themselves out there as being available and wanting to interact with their listeners.

 

Have You Experienced This Corrosive Disease That Ruins Teams?

Corrosion

One insidious way to undermine an entire group or product team is to allow or participate in gossip about other people–conversations focused around other people who “don’t do anything” or aren’t “busy enough.” It’s even more damaging when a leader initiates or participates in these conversations.

I once worked on a team where high value was placed on “how busy” everyone was. Some seemed to believe they possessed an omniscient ability to know “how busy” other people were even though they had minimal to no contact with them or understanding of their work.

At first it all seemed harmless. It felt good to hear about “someone who isn’t as good as me,” because that somehow made me better (only in my mind). Nothing good came from it. It felt good to be on the right side of “who is busy enough” until I realized the same criteria was being applied to me. That’s when I realized it was a losing game.

Trying to convince other people that you are busy enough is a race to the bottom. It’s an endless series of inauthentic positioning maneuvers focused on stuff that doesn’t matter–trying convince someone you’re innocent when they’ve already decided you’re guilty.

In the end it’s a toxic breeding ground for distrust.

Hearing and sharing gossip about the performance of others plants seeds of doubt that grows into distrust. As these seeds germinate and reproduce they spread like a disease. Over time an entire team is infected with distrust. Once distrust sets in, productivity grinds to a halt because nobody trusts that anyone else is doing the right things or spending their time in the right ways.

And this is the beginning of the end. Some team members take less initiative because, “nobody else is taking action, so why should I?” Others find themselves stuck in a place of inaction or going off to do their own thing (without involving others) because they don’t want to feed the gossip chain or be judged for the decisions and actions they’re taking.

I once had the opportunity to work with someone who had unknowingly received the badge of “not busy enough” and “focusing on the wrong things.” As I worked closely with them I discovered it wasn’t true. What made it worse, was when this person, unprompted by me, asserted that some of their unknown accusers weren’t “doing anything” and “focusing on the wrong things.”

That’s when I realized things were really bad and had little chance of improving. There was no trust between either side. Because both sides had made up their mind about the other side, there was no way anything could be seen in a positive light. It was like a relationship gone sour that’s reached the point of no return.

Next time you see a pattern of conversations around “how busy” other people are, look around and see if there aren’t other signs of distrust and dysfunction nearby. You might be in the middle of a team that isn’t functioning very well.

What I Learned from 30 Days of Blog Posting

Basketball Boy

Here’s a post I started in December 2014, but never published–among other things that didn’t get done in December. :)

Here are a few things I learned from my 30 day blogging challenge and what it took to make it successful. In no particular order:

  1. Planning ahead at the beginning of a busy day really pays off and helps makes sure the right things get done
  2. Have buffer material and several posts in flight at the same time. The one you think is a slam dunk will get stuck and the one you start writing on a whim will be the one you publish sooner.
  3. Expect something to go wrong (part of planning ahead and having a backup plan)
  4. You can achieve more, in a shorter time, than you think. Some posts came together way faster than I thought they would.
  5. Trying to write something clear and articulate at the last minute is almost impossible unless I’m polishing a final draft.
  6. Consistent posting sharpens the brain
  7. The act of posting generates more ideas for other posts
  8. I really enjoy writing. I do not enjoy writing under pressure or at the last minute.
  9. People will critique your approach or suggest you are cutting corners. You are the best judge of your own success.
  10. Adding pictures to a post makes a big difference and it doesn’t take very long with some practice.
  11. When you see pictures that you like grab them and save them in a special place for blog posting.
  12. When something is important and you are truly committed to delivering it every day, you’ll find a away–sometimes that means starting 12 hours early on a post that’s only 300 words.
  13. Capture inspiration when it strikes–if you have an idea or an epiphany, write it down in book you carry around or create a new blog post and spend 5 or 10 min sketching out a draft.
  14. The older a draft post gets, the harder it is to give it the original punch and inspiration it originally had.
  15. Consistent posting for 30 days was a definite challenge, but not impossible–60 days, now that sounds hard. Maybe that will be my next posting challenge.
  16. Sharing blog posts on social media was a good experiment for seeing what people were interested in and what they weren’t.
  17. If you look at an old draft and you can’t remember what it was for or it’s core message… just delete it.
  18. Magic often happens when you set a timer for 15 minutes and the only two options (until the timer rings) are to write or sit and stare.
  19. Add a link to your browser bookmark bar that pulls up all your draft posts.

Scale Back the Noise to Find the Good Stuff

Speakers

My 2015 reboot includes trimming back on email, Twitter and podcast content. I think this might be a good process to do at the end and beginning of each year because it frees up mental space and makes it easier to focus and feel ready to dig in.

I go through different phases of knowledge acquisition (an expansion and contraction of sorts) in new areas I want to explore and those that are continued interests. Over time I accumulate too many resources on a particular topic and then I start to drown in noise. With new subjects it takes to time to identify the most effective sources, but once I do it’s easier to slim down the others.

Email Newsletters

I prefer to receive information by email. Even before Google Reader died I was doing less and less reading blogs by RSS. If I found good content I wanted it sent directly to where everything else goes–my inbox. I didn’t want to have to remember to go looking for it.

As I was digging through my inbox at the end of 2014 I realized there were a bunch of mailing lists I was on that sent content I never read, wasn’t interesting or wasn’t helping me–I started unsubscribing wherever I could. For some of these lists I’ll probably end up subscribing again, but for the time being I just want less noise in my inbox. It’s tempting to want to stay on a list where there are occasional “hits” but I’ve found if it’s really good I’ll hear about it somewhere else.

Following Blogs on RSS

Over the past few weeks I randomly picked up reading RSS feeds again (I’m using Feedly on iPad) and purged a bunch of sites. I’m a little more liberal with what I keep here since it’s easy to “mark all read” and volume here is not the distraction it is in my inbox.

Twitter Pruning

I’ve pruned the number of people I’m following on Twitter. Over time I’ve zero’d in on what I like to read on Twitter. My preference is someone who shares a mixture of semi-personal content and interesting links. What’s most important to me is that more often than naught, they share some sort of commentary about the content they share.

I’ve grown weary of the robo-post, data-dump type tweets that you can tell are staged in advance and contain nothing beyond the title of the article and a URL. I agree it’s a form a curation and I know most people use some discretion, but when I all see is a stream of titles and URL it doesn’t feel human. Following real, authentic people is important to me.

Podcasts

Finally I applied the same process to the podcasts I listen to. Again, if there is a really important episode or topic there is a high chance I’ll hear about it from an email list, blog or Twitter.

An Interwoven Web

The real value seems to be in all the interwoven channels of email, blogs, Twitter and podcasts. The beauty I see is that you don’t have to be all in one one medium. When the same content pops up in multiple places there’s a good chance it’s worth the time.

My Best Podcast Listening Tips

Podcast iPod picture from FlickrI didn’t really get the value of podcasts until I started exercising more and changing my associations with tedious work (one of those Tony Robbins techniques that make a lot of sense).  Working out can be pretty boring.  It feels good to know your body is getting stronger and so is your brain.  I changed my association with dishes and cleaning up the kitchen  from drudgery and pain to “learning and getting smarter.”

Double Time

Listen to podcasts on an iPod Touch or iPhone–something with the ability to play at double speed and something that syncs and automatically deletes podcasts through iTunes.  It takes  a little getting used to and some people talk way too fast to listen to at double speed, but in general I find it easy to follow and you get through more content in the same amount of time.  You don’t have to have the latest iPod either–for a while I used an 8G iPod touch that was four or five years old and it worked fine for podcast listening.

Vote with your fingers

If after 10 minutes you are not engaged in the episode or bored, switch to something else or scroll to the end so it gets marked as “listened to” and deleted at the next sync.  The important topics come up over and over again.  There’s no point in trying to slog through a discussion or interview about how to secure $10 million in your first round of funding if you have no interest in or need for venture capital.  If a particular section is boring, skip ahead 5 minutes and see if it gets better.  When in doubt, punt and look for something more interesting.

iTunes

I’m not an Apple purest, but I do appreciate the tight integration between the software and the hardware and that most of the time their stuff “just works”–except when it doesn’t.

iTunes library management is key.  For a while I managed a lot of these by hand and tried to use different tools on Linux.  It just never worked very well.  I just want to have the latest content automatically download and sync’d to my device without having to resort to command line hackery.

Find Stuff You Like

iTunes has podcasts on every conceivable subject though sometimes the search is not as sharp as I’d think it could be.  If you hear an interview with someone that is interesting search for them on iTunes. This has led me to other great podcasts where the same person is being interviewed.

Don’t Overwhelm Yourself

It’s really easy to subscribe to a bunch of podcasts and then overwhelm yourself with all the choices of what to listen to or feel like you aren’t making any progress through all the stuff you’ve downloaded.  Sometimes I limit podcast selections that get loaded to my iPod to ten of the latest episodes from four or five podcasts I’m most interested in currently.

When to Listen

I like to listen while I exercise, drive in the car and clean the kitchen.  Sometimes for as short as five or ten minutes, every little bit counts.  For around the house, I recommend a cheap docking station like one of the iHome models from Costco.  The sound is pretty good and it charges while you listen without having to wear earphones.

There are also those times when I’ve been jamming through a number of podcasts in a row where I just enjoy a break with silence.

What are your podcast listening tips?

Photo credit to Brent Kure