Finding the Courage to Publish by Starting Small

After reading Demian Farnsworth's post The Awesome Benefits of Publishing Often the other day, it really hit home how much of communicating is about the courage to be able to say what's needed. One of the main reasons I first started playing around with Google Analytics a few years back is that the tools so clearly demonstrate what has already worked. So much of communication starts with a hunch of what might work, and we can take those ideas through a variety of tests to see how well we can expect that content to perform.

Sometimes the results turns out the way the tests tell you they will, and sometimes you're completely surprised by the end results. Even with all the data available, I'm still fascinated to try to understand why certain material really seems to resonate with an audience while other pieces don't -- even though all indicators leading up to the publication looked equal.

When Data Helps

Data is enormously helpful in trying to reduce the risk of publication. If you're a business that needs new customers, then you're not in existence just to try out new types of blog posts. No, you need results, and data helps you to know if you're on the right track.

You can see what kind of materials search engines have responded well to in the past, and you can use tools like SharedCount to quickly see which posts are resonating across the social media stratosphere.

Logic then dictates that if you want more success, then do more of what you've done before. Follow the path of Top 40 radio and any big-budget Hollywood picture and repeat previous efforts with a slight twist. It's safe. It doesn't always work, but it will usually have at least some return.

When Courage Is Required

When you are ready to try something new... like, "we don't have good data on how something like this will perform" kind of new... that's when courage is truly necessary. At that point, you won't have a good whitepaper that lays out all the steps to follow. You have to risk.

Here's the good news about that risk.

It doesn't have to be huge. You don't have to bet the farm on an unproven idea.

Various publishers have formulas for how often to try out something new. For the sake of argument, let's say it's something like a 90/10 split with safe ideas vs. untested ideas. The end result is for every 10 posts, you get 9 list articles / ultimate guides / meme-heavy pieces plus one article that touches on a new subject or uses a new format.

On the face of it, a "formula" for communication like this can seem a bit ridiculous, but let's look at it another way. In business communication (where I spend the bulk of my time writing), someone -- the business owner, the shareholders, whomever -- is spending real money on the outcome of these communication attempts. There's only so much room for diving into a new concept in the budget.

Small Tests

From the perspective of earning your return on investment (the ROI), you can start with an idea in a social media post that only takes 10 minutes to put together. If you see a response, then perhaps that idea is worth developing into a blog post. If the blog post works, then you can spin off that concept into a webinar or a speech or whatever form of presentation will help your business most.

All of this testing, of course, assumes that you have an audience large enough to bring you meaningful numbers. (A social media account that doesn't normally get much engagement can't expect new ideas just to take off automatically. It takes consistent work.)

This method of testing is relative to your organization. Your smallest method of communication at a meaningful enough scale may be a blog post or a podcast. The point is, there is always room to do more.

Give yourself a chance by communicating small first, and work your way up.