"More than four centuries ago, William Shakespeare wrote, ‘All the world’s a stage,’ and his words are truer today than ever before. If you have something to say—through a blog, a seminar, a book, a song, a screenplay, a sermon, or a stage play—you are on stage. If you have something to sell—whether one-on-one, before a huge crowd, or on the Internet—you are also on a stage. "
I have been following Michael Hyatt’s blog for years now. Not only was he one of the first CEOs to start blogging, but he was also in the same industry as I was (publishing), so I wanted to read what he had to say. He has since stepped down from his role at Thomas Nelson Publishers and spends his time sharing his insights via his blog, books, and public speaking. His latest book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World is him generously giving us the step-by-step plan to build our own platform, with all his years of experience and hard-won lessons included.
The Big Idea
“Wow” Your Customers and Love Your Product
"The truth is, mediocrity is natural. You don’t have to do anything to drift there. It just happens. But if you want to create truly wow experiences—and if you want to create your platform—then it is going to require courage. Are you willing to be brave?"
Before you can build a platform, you need to have a product that exceeds expectations—“wows” customers—and that you are passionate about.
Michael therefore spends the first section of his book actually talking about the “what” you are trying to sell—the product or service—rather than the “how,” since as he explains, unless you have a great product, your platform and marketing efforts are doomed anyhow. Wowing customers is necessary to have something worth promoting and that others will want to share with their friends; being passionate about your own product is necessary so that you can become its best spokesperson.
When you speak about your product, it’s hard to hide your true feelings, so wouldn’t you rather it be your passion that comes out? Michael explains how Apple’s success is in part thanks to these two factors: they have great products that exceeded everyone’s expectations and every time Steve Jobs spoke, his passion for their products was evident and therefore more “viral.”
"While you are preparing to launch, consider your mental attitude. If you’re going to be the chief marketing officer for your wow product, you must think bigger than you have ever before."
We all know that our thoughts and beliefs have power, but Michael discovered that thinking big is the number one characteristic shared by all successful creatives. After reading The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, he taught himself how to develop this skill through the below steps:
- Imagine the impossible
- Write down your dreams
- Connect with what is at stake
- Outline what would have to be true
- Decide what you can do to affect the outcome
- Determine when this will happen
- Review your goals daily
Number 2 has its own power. Writing things down, as Michael explains, is what “transforms a dream into a goal.” He has first-hand experience with the magic behind putting your wishes to paper and describes another example from the book Write it Down, Make it Happen by Henriette Anne Klasuer: Lou Holz wrote all his goals in 1966, when he was broke and unemployed and his wife was about to have their third child. These goals included impossible things like having dinner at the White House and meeting the pope. Apparently he’s completed 102 of his original 107 goals—including those two “impossible” ones.
Although all this may sound implausible and be hard to believe, Michael’s seven-step approach is really just a way to plan and execute on the goals you commit to. The writing and the steps outlined are a means to this end and a way to get you focused and actually progressing. Either way, you lose nothing by giving this approach a try and have the world to gain if it succeeds.
Assemble a “Pit Crew”
"In his book Get Off Your ‘But,’ author Sean Stephenson shares the concept of assembling a pit crew, as is done in auto racing. This is a helpful metaphor for thinking of your professional career. In essence, you are the race car driver. Your message or product is the car. You must take responsibility for the outcome. But you won’t get far without a pit crew."
So you have an awesome product you love and are ready to build your platform…but you also need to keep producing the product, running the business, writing the content, etc. Where do you start and how do you get it all done?
No one can do everything nor should you attempt to. If you assemble your “pit crew,” as Michael recommends, it will allow you to focus on what you alone can do while they help you take care of the rest.
Michael lists the types of help you could potentially invest in:
- Administrative help such as an assistant, bookkeeper, and attorney
- Management help to manage your career (for your speaking engagements)
- Representation help via various types of agents (i.e., literary, booking, or publicity)
- Content creation help via coaches or mentors
- And publishers
Not trying to do it alone is a theme I’ve seen discussed in various books recently and one I’ve had to learn myself. Since I still have a “day job” and am building a business on the side, after reading similar advice in another book, I finally gave in and decided to hire a part-time virtual assistant. It was well worth the investment and I recommend it highly if you’re in a similar situation.
Regardless of what your professional goals are, chances are that having a platform will help you achieve it. Given all the social media options out there, it may seem overwhelming but Michael Hyatt has experience with it all and teaches us what to do every step of the way. There are chapters on how to set-up your home base (via blogging or website); how to extend your reach (via social media); and then how to build your tribe (to get more comments and engagement). All this is done in easy-to-read short chapters with lots of lists, so you can quickly refer back to anything you’ve forgotten. I highly recommend the book and have several to-do’s I’ve marked to try.
Do you have an existing platform? What’s its purpose and where do you think you could use more help?