As a thought leader, you may be great at telling stories through a presentation deck,…
In working with a wide variety of authors and thought leaders I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon that I now refer to as “the reality gap.” It basically means that there is content that a thought leader or author creates and there is content that the market buys. If what you are creating isn’t getting the traction you feel it should in the marketplace, I’d suggest that you do some or all of the following.
1) Don’t create in isolation. The creative process need not be a solitary one any longer. It’s actually better for you, your work and your clients if you are able to collaborate while you are developing content. You should pull from a variety of constituents (other thought leaders, potential clients, past clients, like-minded thinkers, potential end users of your content, etc.). Clients that are involved in creating their own solutions are far easier to retain and they have a vested interest in your success.
2) Fail often and fail fast. There are more tools available today than ever before for creating and deploying content effectively. Far too many authors stick to the formats or modalities that they know best or are most familiar with to avoid the risk or uncertainty that comes with trying something new.
Try as many things as you can, test them and be thankful for the failures and successes. The faster that you are able to fail (meaning you aren’t afraid to launch something that isn’t 100% perfect), the quicker you’ll learn what isn’t working and be able to adjust and try again. Not failing doesn’t mean you’re succeeding, it means you’re not trying a wide enough variety of alternatives that could very well lead to larger wins.
3) Only do what you love and what you’re great at. While this may seem trite or hokey (and I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of being hokey) what I mean is that one reason a reality gap exists is because the thought leader knows what they know relative to their work better than anyone else, but is not nearly as gifted when it comes to sales, marketing, business development, social media, PR, product development, client relations, etc. Why should they? Why would they? Yet they struggle and create things that they think the market wants only to wind up frustrated or disappointed.
Work with experienced experts that have the specific skills that you lack. If they love what they do and are as good at those functions as you are at creating powerful content, you are bound to close the gap quickly.
4) Know what the actual impact of your work is on your clients. Often thought leaders think that the value of their work is X when in reality is Y. Be sure you are effectively communicating to end users and understand how they are actually benefiting from your work. The more real-time feedback you can get the better your understanding of the actual value that can be attributed to your work. Top dollar is paid for content that drives a behavior change that moves a key business metric and therefore has a measurable ROI.
5) Monitor your competitors. Learning from others successes and mistakes is not only cost effective but much easier to do today than ever before. The first one to market with the “newest” gizmo, gadget or trend is not always the winner. In the world of content “first mover” advantage is typically a fallacy.
Understand the trends in your space and make sure you are not being left behind by innovations in marketing or technology. If you’re only offering keynotes and workshops and your competitors are taking market share with e-learning or video-based content, you’ll eventually fall too far behind to catch up.
Have you attempted to close your “reality gap”? What did you do? What worked? What didn’t? Would love to hear your stories.