Christy Murdock Edgar is a regular Inman contributor who writes about news, tech and marketing. She has two recurring columns, “Lessons Learned” and “Dear Marketing Mastermind” that publish weekly and monthly on Mondays and Tuesdays respectively.
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I create a lot of content, and I talk a lot about content with clients, colleagues and organizations. One of the things that I am always interested in is the number of people who are resistant to content or who are resistant to the idea of doing what it would take to make their content more effective.
If you ask them what their goal is for their blog, social media or other content marketing, they would, for the most part, tell you “connecting with potential clients.”
In reality, however, when we talk about the kinds of content that would spark genuine connection, get attention and get results, the conversation ends or shifts to more generic topics and strategies.
I understand this well because my business has been built on content creation. I recently started creating video as well as written content, and it was a process that was fraught with angst. I don’t mind saying that I am utterly confident in my writing ability.
What I was not confident about was, well, everything about appearing on camera. As a 49-year-old woman, there are a lot of societal message hurdles about what I should look like, sound like and be like for me to get over to put my face on YouTube.
I finally decided to go to worst-case scenario — what would be the worst outcome that would make me the most embarrassed? If I could do that — on purpose — then nothing else could hurt me.
For me, the worst thing I could imagine was going on camera with no makeup, bad hair and no real concrete idea of what I was going to say. That would involve embarrassment about the way I look and the way I sound plus the very real risk of making people think twice before working with me.
But it would free me from my fears by forcing me to face them.
What did I see when I watched back that first video? Red face? Check. Bad angle? Check. Turkey neck? Oh yeah. Lots of “uhms” and “ahs”? Yup. But you know what? I did it.
Creating content — not just great content, but any content, I would argue — requires something that we as a culture — and as entrepreneurs — try to avoid at all cost: vulnerability. Ironically, vulnerability is exactly what you need to do what you say you want to do: connect with people.
Here are the reasons we fight vulnerability and the ways it can work for you — if you will embrace it and face these four fears.
1. We fear looking less than perfect
For many real estate agents, appearance-based marketing has always been a fact of life. The beautifully dressed, perfectly coiffed, jewelry-laden, Cadillac-driving real estate agent is almost a cultural archetype at this point.
Creating content can be messy. The wind might be blowing your hair around on that new video. You might feel silly talking to the camera. You might find that those crow’s-feet or the extra weight you’re carrying makes you feel bad about yourself.
If you’re still using a headshot from 10 years ago that looks nothing like you, it’s time to let go of your fear of looking older, or fatter or not as cute.
Authenticity is a totally attractive quality, and one that makes an impact when you are trying to build genuine connections with clients.
2. We fear looking dumb
What about all of those “uhms” and “ahs” on my video. Don’t they make me feel dumb? Well, yes and no. Do I wish I were more articulate? Absolutely. Do I wish I had the ability to spontaneously spew perfectly polished prose on camera the way I can in writing? Yes, indeed.
But guess what? I am getting better. As I continue to create content, I find that I am less hesitant and more natural. I might never be one of those people who is comfortable walking around and gesturing and communicating on camera — I’ve spent too many years hiding behind a laptop for that. But I am improving and will continue to improve.
The people who watch my videos and reach out to me don’t care that I’m not perfect, and they definitely don’t think I’m dumb. They are learning things and connecting with the topics I’m presenting, not critiquing my imperfections. That’s building community, and it feels great.
3. We fear looking unsuccessful
In our culture, we equate success with glamour, perfection and professionalism. I shoot my videos on my phone sitting in my Honda — so much for glamour.
If you think that you can only create content in a studio with a script while looking perfect, you’ll be waiting a long time to start getting that content out there. Success doesn’t come from having a camera crew following you around all the time — and it certainly doesn’t come from waiting until you can afford a camera crew.
Being a beginner isn’t a bad thing. Bootstrapping your marketing and content creation isn’t a bad thing.
Waiting until you’re a mega-agent with a marketing staff before you start talking to people is a bad thing, I would argue. Time’s wasting — get out there and do stuff.
4. We fear looking weak
If you’re a control freak, you might fear the loss of control that comes with putting yourself out there. What if people don’t like it? What if they think it’s dumb? What if they (gasp) laugh? Won’t that make you look bad?
In reality, the people who click on that video, read your blog or listen to your podcast sought you out. They spent time to consume your content.
They are probably interested in what you have to say — in your topic and your expertise. They’re not perpetrating some kind of Mystery Science 3000 parade of ridicule on you.
Talk about the thing you’re an expert in. Tell your story. Teach people. Communicate your passion. It won’t make you look weak. It’ll make you look like an expert on your market or your niche. It’ll look like you cared enough to show up. It’ll look awesome, for real.
I encourage you to find ways to put vulnerability to work in your content creation. Whether it’s:
- Admitting you don’t know something — then interviewing an expert who does
- Asking questions or seeking referrals from your sphere
- Taking a chance on developing a new skill, new platform or new niche
- Admitting a failure or struggle and talking about how you got through it
You’ll find that making yourself open and vulnerable will help you connect with your audience — and new fans and followers — in new and exciting ways. Take the risk; it’s totally worth it.