WordCamp Boston took place this past weekend and based on my experience from last year, I was looking forward to it.
In 2010 I was just beginning to explore WordPress as a platform for publishing this podcast, as well as extending my voice into other media such as blogging and screencasting. There were only two tracks last year, one for coders and one for beginners. I was in beginners and the one day event was an exhaustive introduction to setting up and using a WordPress site. As a result, I felt confident enough to transfer 4 years worth of audio content from Blogger to WordPress. if you’re facing a similar challenge, let me put your mind at ease; it’s easy.
Transferring the show notes and links was as simple as loading a plug-in (in itself pretty simple) and pressing a button. All the posts transferred successfully and in proper order. All that remained was loading the Bluberry PowerPress plug-in for audio and video and then connecting 200 or so audio files to the mp3 player it created on the page of each post. Time consuming yes, but not complicated.
While WordCamp Boston 2010 focused on the ballpark view of WordPress (at least the beginner sessions did) I knew this year’s event would be different. Partly due to the organizing committee having gained a wealth of experience and attendee feedback to guide them. But I hadn’t stood still either. I was no longer a blank slate regarding WordPress. I had goals to achieve, specific things to learn.
This year there were three tracks with 8 sessions each. on Saturday and another 6 each on Sunday. I spent most of my time in the beginner category, although I did dip my foot in a couple development sessions. They were all very intense sessions. Towards the end of the day I had to take a break because my brain was saturated with information.
However, after a cold drink and some mindless web surfing I was able to return for the last two beginner sessions about Marketing for bloggers.
Now, talking about marketing at unconferences can generate a lot of mixed reactions. It’s an unintended consequence of the best intentions gone awry. Generally unconferences came out of the simple desire of people with like interests, usually focused on technical skills, to meet and learn from each other in a safe, encouraging environment.
Marketing, extending the brand, identifying the ROI and business model, these are not the first things you think of when you’re talking about programming or story telling but it is a natural part of any form of communication. It has a symbiotic relationship with content creation. Absolutely necessary, but also something most people think of as completely separate.
The whole point of a camp, whether it’s bar camp, podcamp or wordcamp is to make learning fun. That’s what I think about when someone mentions camp. Maybe some of that fun it work, but it’s fun work. Trying to figure out how to turn your camp craft project into a business, that’s not fun, unless you go to business camp. So, when I hear someone talk about monetizing my podcast or channelizing my listeners so I can make a business case for sponsor investment, I think, not fun and even kill joy.
But social media like podcasts or blogs are not merely about creating a key ring for your mother, it’s a communication platform and that requires listeners, people who don’t know you from squat, but who choose to listen or read what you have to say. And who stick around for the duration and tell other people to visit your site and become subscribers. That’s work, plain and simple
Of course, you can integrate this work into your production process if you take the time, sort of like thinking about the edit while you shoot with the camera, but most people typically would prefer not to give up time dedicated to their craft to think about marketing.
That said, I want to be fair, properly promoting your work is a powerful skill that requires attention to detail and a tremendous amount of insight in order to produce successful results. It’s like the shine on an apple. If you had to polish as many fresh picked apples as I had to as a boy scout for Apple Day you would respect the value that a good shine adds to an apple.
Anyway, back to the marketing conundrum:
• the need to promote your work
• and the resistance to make the time
If you have the money you can pay someone to handle the PR, brand identity, market positioning, but in a world where everyone is their own brand, we all have to know how to be a marketer to some extent. Still, there’s no escaping the fact that time spent showing the wares, whether it’s a website, investor calls or making presentations is less time honing my craft and getting “important” things done.
I think that’s a common feeling among people who attend these events. LIke, who let these people in here. They aren’t making anything!
Certainly that’s a common response, reject the value of marketing out of hand and look inward. But while I wish it weren’t necessary, marketing skills and brand awareness are as important as anything else you do as a creative individual.
And it’s not like we aren’t already doing it all the time anyway, in small bits, putting ourselves out there, promoting ourselves, talking with a “hey!, look at me” smile on our faces.
So to return to WordCamp, it’s been a long day full of information binging, it’s like an oven outside. The session rooms have varying degrees of comfort, from chilly air conditioning to stifling heat and after half an hour break I sit down to two back to back sessions about marketing.
And they couldn’t be more different. The woman presenting in the first session came out of the gate like a firestorm leaving behind the audience in her charred wake. She was energized, confident, prepared and focused to talk about how to maximize your audience potential. The problem, for me at least, was that she was focused on the topic and not the audience. I felt like I was in the way of her reaching the end of her presentation. She had lots of information to present but I quickly lost interest because I was so struck by her style. She would make a perfunctory nod to the audience from time to time, asking if they were getting it, or had any questions, but really, the implication was don’t break my stride, I’m going somewhere with this.
Midway through I made a twitter comment, “Are there any unconferences for marketers”? I was thinking her message feels like it was prepared for an audience of her peers.
There was no give and take between her and the audience. I wondered whether she ever had even been to an unconference before. In a nutshell her presentation didn’t connect with the audience, she was talking at people.
And I don’t want to sound like I’m hammering her for being a bad presenter. She was a good presenter, as I said before, alert, focused, dynamic, appearing to engage, but all the same disconnected from the audience. She wasn’t reaching out, she was handing something down. It’s an example of style trumping content and it’s a good example of the separation between content creation and sales/marketing. It may have wowed them somewhere else, but not me, not there.
And then there was the second marketing session, and man, what a difference!
Lots of information again, but different in lots of ways. Quite unlike the previous speaker:
• There was space between his various points so you could digest what he had to say
• His arguments were constructed in order to build an information ladder we could all climb
• He clearly defined how the content and the marketing goals fit together
• He engaged with the audience, including taking questions during the presentation
• While he presented a great deal of information, he kept the scale of actionable items down to a doable level that reflected the knowledge and skills of the audience
• And he kept getting back to the point that all these marketing tasks served the audience’s primary goal, which was the success of their WordPress blog.
As I said, Marketing and sales are complex and subtle practices that are alien to most people and there is no reinforcement of this skill in our daily life. Oh yeah, we all consume marketing, but most of us don’t produce it. So we don’t have the ability to take apart and reassemble the required elements for promotional success.
Ultimately, these two experiences, back to back, demonstrated to me that I can be as quick as anyone to dismiss the value of marketing information, while at the same time made me realize how important it is. I also recognized the difference style, presentation and knowing your audience can have in getting your message across. It was almost like a marketing seminar inside a marketing seminar.
You need a marketing strategy for your media production. It needs to be integrated into your production workflow. You need to do it or you need someone who works with you to do it. Either way, your business is going nowhere without it. It’s the wheels for your communication engine.
There are a lot of marketing tools that are available at little or no cost, but don’t over-look the hidden cost which is how much time and effort you need put into it to make it run.
What works for you? I’d be interested in knowing how you’ve used social media to bring attention to your projects.
A blog can be a marketing engine. If you take care to record every step of your production from concept to delivery, when you’re done all you have to do is plug it in.
As a filmmaker and producer, examples of promotional tools include:
⁃ a blog and or website is critical as a platform for anything you create such as
• video posts in the form of a journal or “making of”
• audio interviews with production team members and actors
⁃ (recording and editing audio is more cost efficient than video)
• production stills, including off-camera, candid images
• a film diary
• Social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube that point the audience back to the main site
Digital media technology is both a boon and a curse to content creators. On the one hand it broadens the horizon of our opportunities, while on the other, it requires that we stretch ourselves.
The technology that serves us also taunts into doing more because the tools are next to free and they brings so many new possibilities within our reach. All we need to do is add water, which is really our own sweat, and voila, it’s done. But it also pushes us in directions we don’t want to go, forcing us to embrace skills and attitudes we don’t think are worthwhile or at best distract us from our bliss.
Look at Designers. Nowadays desktop publishing has required they learn how to be typesetters, among other things,
and Artists now have to curate their own web galleries
Filmmakers have to be gaffer, DP, editor, color graders and more.
All in the pursuit of their passion.
And on top of it all, everyone of us has to sell our work and by extension, ourselves.
Do you think I am being too harsh here? Am I making something that’s quite simple over complicated? Maybe I haven’t read the manual, so no wonder I’m tripping over these roles.
If you’d like, you can help me fill in the gaps. Let me know what you think, or do.
Send a comment to the blog, videostudentguy.com, or email me if you’d like, at email@example.com. I would love to hear from you.
All this time talking and I haven’t told you very much about what I saw or leaned from the sessions that I sat in on at WordCamp. I plan to put out a blog a few days after I put this online where I can list the sessions I attended, add a brief commentary for each and provide links to the presenter’s slides.
The kind people who put on WordCamp Boston 2011 have videotaped every session and I will be posting links to those when they’re available.
There is a lot of good information in the presentations I couldn’t attend and I’m looking forward to watching them myself.
I’m Paul, the videostudentguy,
I’ll talk to you later,