We are delighted to share our blog with Austin Church. Austin is a writer, consultant, and startup founder, living with his family in Knoxville, Tennessee. He helps people build profitable businesses that they love. Sign up to get his best stuff here: austinlchurch.com/sign-up/. Or learn more about his marketing consulting company at wunderbarworks.com.
What I’m going to share with you won’t be earth-shattering. I, for one, tend to be skeptical of articles that start with a bang.
Of course, having taught rhetoric, I understand the rationale behind going for the reader’s jugular—all that fancy pathos stuff from the famous Greek and Roman orators like Cicero.
But let’s be honest. Am I really going to change your life with an earth-shattering revelation about—gasp—content marketing?
No. Because you care about “content marketing” about as much as the shovel in your garage. It’s a tool. You can use it to dig footers.
Neither the shovel nor the process of digging inspires awe. What may interest you, however, is the outcome: a strong foundation; or in this case, creating high-quality content for your company’s blog or email newsletters, for Medium and for LinkedIn, without the usual time suck.
So I won’t blow your mind. (You’ll want to hold onto that.)
I will send you away with a simple writing trick that grew out of my need to produce content for clients who were moving targets.
Brief but Delicious Backstory
When I’m not writing guest posts full of lame jokes in parentheses, I earn my keep as a consultant. I help people solve painful problems, particularly those related to marketing, sales, and business development.
Whether I’m writing for myself or for a client, I’m writing all the time; hours a day; six or seven days a week.
I have clients in various industries and niches: founders of SaaS companies and sales executives; accountants and attorneys; non-profits and independent consultants. My clients are all smart, ambitious, and hard-working people.
They have one thing in common: They run short on time.
Despite my best attempts to steal Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner, I cannot take my clients back in time. In fact, the same shortage of time that trips them up with writing on their own also causes them to be slow to pick topics and send feedback on early drafts.
Yet, I need input from them. We need to finalize each draft. We won’t see results unless we actually publish and promote new stuff consistently.
I’m not complaining. I’m simply explaining the circumstances that prompted me to try something different and expect different results.
The job to be done went something like this:
“How do I get busy professionals to slow down long enough to give me starter content? How do I help them help me help them?
(Say that ten times really fast.)
What Actually Works
What I discovered through trial-and-error is that asking for bullet points doesn’t work. Setting up phone calls doesn’t work. And heaven forbid I resort to email. The last thing my clients want to pay me to do is, perish the thought, produce more emails.
No, I request 5-8 minute voice memos like this:
“Here’s the topic. Take out your phone. Open the native Voice Memos app. Start recording a new voice memo on the topic. Your thoughts don’t have to be organized, linear, cogent. Your memo can be messy and meandering. No problem. Just riff for awhile. Tell me a story or two. I’ll take care of the rest.”
That’s the punchline of this post. That’s how I work around busy schedules.
5 Benefits of This Little Writing Hack
Even uber-busy folks can, while driving, walking, or exercising, record a memo and email or text it to me. Or, as a last resort, my clients can call me and leave one or more voicemails.
The end result is an audio file that I send to my transcriptionist. Later, once he sends back a clean transcript, I shape it up into a blog post.
This writing hack offers several benefits:
- My clients may get writer’s block, but they don’t get talker’s block.
- They can “write” while they are otherwise occupied. I can catch the COO of a SaaS startup while he’s riding his bike on a Saturday.
- Their stories, word choice, metaphors, and turns of phrase come through in spoken English. In other words, some of my clients are better speakers than writers, and in bypassing written first drafts, I can draw out more of the true personality and thought leadership. Their voices never come through more strongly than when they… speak. Duh.
- Writing projects move at a faster pace. Because I spend less time waiting for my clients to do their homework, I can do my part and achieve the desired outcome in a shorter timeframe.
- Because the projects move faster, we see results faster. What might have taken six weeks takes two. What might have taken six months takes six weeks. As a result, I can prove my value sooner, and, um, keep the client.
Hopefully, I have inspired you to give voice memos a try. You can get more writing done if you record an audio and then pay a transcriptionist to type out your first draft.
You’ll be so busy telling a story that you’ll forget to reach for big, impressive, Latinate words. You’ll be yourself, and that authenticity will pack more of a punch than a carefully worded treatise ever could.
Steal my process.
My step-by-step process will eliminate the guesswork:
- Open a new Voice Memo on your smartphone.
- Tap record.
- Riff on some topic or idea for awhile. Better yet, tell a story that illustrates a principle you’d like to share.
- Title the voice memo and save it.
- Save the file to the cloud-based storage platform of your choice. Some options include Dropbox and iCloud.
- Your saved file should automatically generate its own link. Copy it and paste it in the body of a message or email to your transcriptionist or virtual assistant. For clarity’s sake, be sure to include a message. I usually preface the link with: “Here’s a new one.” Based on past experience and the regularity of this task, he or she will know what to do next.
If you don’t already have a virtual assistant or transcriptionist, you can find one by partnering with any of the many online talent hubs that link professionals with skilled help on a project, ad hoc or ongoing basis. An online search will provide you with multiple choices. Be sure to read reviews and consider peer referrals before proceeding!
Also, you can reference this screencapture tutorial if you’d like to see how I record voice memos on my iPhone.
Small Price to Pay
And that’s all. I told you it wasn’t going to be earth-shattering. Well, now that I think about it, I promised you a shovel, and I suppose shovels can, in fact, shatter earth.
One week last year, I recorded four new voice memos while driving to meetings and running errands. The total word count was 5,226.
When is the last time you produced that much content in a week? If you have an book, guide, or article in your queue, hit record and riff for a while. A good transcriptionist will charge you $15 an hour, and that is a small price to pay for establishing yourself as a thought leader.
Voice memos may very well be your ticket to consistency. Use them to accelerate your content marketing. After all, consistency trumps everything in marketing.