There are many things you might think you need to think about as you put content out into the wider world:
An attention grabbing headline (but not too much like click bait).
The right SEO techniques.
All important, but not the most important.
So, it’s all about the writing, right?
Well, yes and no.
Great writing, really useful writing, is ultimately what will keep people coming back to your site. Solving problems by providing useful, inspiring content is an absolute key part of making your blog useful to your customers, and your business.
But great writing is a given, not a question.
And my title is a bit of misdirect as it’s not just one question, it’s several questions but all with the same interrogative word at the start:
Why is why the key question?
It’s about the absolute basics:
Why does your business exist?
Why do you get out of bed every morning to run it?
Why do people care about what you do?
Simple enough questions. But the answers should form the bedrock of your approach to all your content, from your blog posts to the images you choose to put on Instagram and the captions that go with them.
You need to be measuring everything up against your answers to those questions, to check that it supports both the answers and the story you want to tell. Bring everything back to the truth behind your business, your purpose.
But isn’t my purpose to make money?
Well, quite possibly. But any brand with longevity ultimately ends up with a higher purpose than just cash in the till.
Look at The Body Shop.
It started out as a way for Anita Roddick to keep money coming in and support her family whilst her husband went off on a long distance horse ride. By the time he came back, she’d found a deeper connection with what she did and what people loved about it.
She found her why.
And can you think of any brand who really are truly all out about the money?
Even Apple, arguably one of the most consistently high performing businesses of recent times, had a purpose above money, according to Steve Jobs. In his era, it was “to make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”
They just happened to do that really well and we were all prepared to pay for it. And maybe having lost that in recent times and made their mission statement something quite different they have lost their why.
I mean how inspired do you feel by the following statement:
“Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.”
Well, kind of bully for them. It tells me what they do, it doesn’t tell me why.
Why liberates you, because it focuses you, not restricts you.
Imagine if your purpose every day was to get 450 people their jobs back?
That’s the commitment you’d made, and that’s what you told anyone who would listen your purpose was. It was out there in the public domain.
That would really focus your mind, wouldn’t it?
And you’d be thinking about those 450 people with everything you chose to do, to spend your time on. You can imagine the constant question in your mind.
“Will this help get 450 people their jobs back?”
And if the answer was no, do you think you’d keep doing it? Or you’d at least consciously think about why that time was worth spending if it didn’t contribute to that purpose. Maybe it’s an indirect benefit to the purpose, maybe it connects you with a different group of people who don’t yet know your purpose. But at least you’re sure why you’re doing it.
What’s the alternative?
I did a brand activity review last year for a small but well-established beauty brand, who wanted some help on defining their story. They have a great story but it’s somehow got lost in the world of doing business and trying to make money, as well as trying to save money.
Which is possibly why their branded Pinterest page had been allowed to be the personal playground of one of the team. I mean, I’m all for a bit of personality coming through in a brand, but the founder had no interest in hot rod cars, and not so much in men’s shoes, and it certainly had zero relevance to the brand story.
And the board on deserts? Not a picture of the Kalahari to be seen. Lots of dessert pictures, but no deserts.
Yet these boards would have taken hours to put together, and were out there contributing to the story people saw about that brand every day. And they’d have left confused about what that brand stood for. They’d have no deeper connection with it, no desire to take any action.
There was no clear why in that business, and therefore there was just a lot of busyness. All of that activity was an unfocused, scatter gun approach and business results were not improving.
Sadly, I can’t tell you that I rode to the rescue and gave them the focus. They were in a spiral by that point of pushing the brand wherever anyone called for it, cutting costs to allow for the expansion and didn’t want to spend any other money.
That’s fine, you don’t necessarily need someone else to do it for you. But you should owe it to yourself and your business to step off the merry go round and take the time to remind yourself why you are in this.
And those boards are still live 12 months on from when I told the founder the same story. They didn’t even know they were there.
Ask why until you can’t ask why any more.
Your first why may not be what’s really behind this, so just keep prodding until you get to the real, undeniable thing that makes you, or reminds you, why you want to get out of bed each day to do it all over again.
Keep asking the question.
You’ll know when you’ve got it, partly because prodding it any further gets to something that doesn’t feel like you, and partly because when you’ve got it, you’ll know. It’ll spark something in you, and you’ll be wanting to do something with it.
Make it public, make it visible
Write it down, pin it up somewhere you’ll see it, where everyone in the business will see it. Share with your team why that’s it, that’s your measure. Tell them how one question got you to that answer.
Then tell people. Nothing holds you to account like telling people that’s what you’re going to do, that’s what you stand for. Be brave and bold.
David Hieatt of Hiut Denim tells everyone at every opportunity that the purpose he works for is to get 450 people their jobs back. If you meet him, you’ll have no doubt about the purpose or his energy to make that happen.
Once you’ve said it, then it’s out there. People will measure you against it, even subconsciously.
Review your content against your purpose
Does it tell your story?
Is your purpose clear?
Does it get you a step closer to achieving that purpose?
Said yes to each, and you’re good to go. Press that publish button.
Got a no? That’s what they make the edit button for.
And if it’s a board on Hot Rods, well, that’s what they make the delete button for.
So, get your why sorted, and start making the most of the time you have by being really focused on what’s important to answering that key question.
What’s your why? I’d love to know.