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Why You Can’t Create Epic Content Every Single Time and What to Do About It

brand nameAlmost every day you are bombarded with this or some variety of this message: “Create Epic Content.”

But, what is epic content?

Well…anything that is inspirational, valuable, and useful to the audience can qualify as epic content.

Which means anybody can create it, anytime. Every time.

Right?

Wrong.

Every piece of content you create will NOT be epic.

It can’t happen. You can’t do that.

Even greats like Shakespeare, Dante, Hemingway, and Joyce couldn’t. If they couldn’t create epic stories every time they sat down to write, how can you?

Setting Realistic Expectations

There will be times when the quality of your work will not be as good. And, the more you write, the better the chance that your best work is and will always be behind you.

Elizabeth Gilbert admits this, and so does JK Rowling.

JK Rowling’s The Cuckoo’s Calling, which she wrote under a different name, only sold 1,500 hardback copies. But, it reached the bestseller list when her identity was revealed.

What does all this mean for you?

The name of the game isn’t to write great stuff every time – it’s to develop a reputation for writing good stuff most of the time. Or, in other words, the merit of your content lies in your name.

For example, Tim Ferriss’ second book was an immediate bestseller.

Why?

Because his name sold before the content of the book.

Your name is your identity, and your content is a mere tool to build that name.

Once that name is built, you don’t need to – and can’t spend – ridiculous hours creating epic content.

Nobody does that.

For instance, Danny Iny wrote 80+ guest posts in one year. But that was in the beginning of his business, and he did it as a way to build the Mirasee brand. However, though he still guest posts today, he focuses more on his core business.

Besides, as I said, no matter how hard you try, you will not be able to consistently create stellar content.

It is better you understand this, so that you don’t feel disappointed if and when you will not be able to create content as frequently or as well.

In fact, be prepared for it.

Build Your Name Using Content

So if you can’t rely on writing incredibly awesome stuff every time you sit down at the keyboard, how do you build a business around content?

First, build your brand. You can use content to do so.

And then, let your brand take care of the rest, including your content marketing efforts.

Let me explain how.

Step #1: Identify Your Most Interesting Thing

The first step to building your brand – what you can think of as your reputation – is to discover the one single thing that’s most interesting about you. Whatever it is, explore that. You don’t have to be an expert. You don’t even have to be Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. Simply know what makes you YOU. Think of it this way: what would you say if you were talking to your ideal client? There must be something about you that will make them leap out of their chair and say “Yes! You’re the one!”

I remember I had this professor of political campaign management at Columbia University, Jefrey Pollock. He is a Democratic pollster, and has been a part of some of the most high-profile political campaigns. What makes Jef appealing to his students, clients, and colleagues (yes, I have spoken to some of them) is the fact that he is unabashedly passionate about his work and politics. And his sense of humor is uniquely his own. He can sometimes be blunt, but boy is he persuasive!

Don’t think too much about what your audience wants to hear; focus on what you have to say. Create good content around that what makes you unique, and you’ll be well on your way to establishing your reputation.

Step #2: Determine Your Style

In the digital space, the quality of your content is not what will set it apart. There’s a lot of high-quality content out there, and you can’t compete with most of it. So instead of trying to compete on quality, give some thought to your style.

Your style gives your content a signature touch that no one else can provide. That’s what will make your post stand out. (Note, however, that good quality content is still essential – no one will read your post on style alone!)

My friend JC Little, for example, has been an animation artist for the past 30+ years, and is the co-creator of the Disney-syndicated kids’ TV show, My Life Me. Her persona screams wackiness. It reflects in everything she does: on her blog, The Animated Woman, she makes drawings, which are sometimes eclectic, sometimes wild, but always interesting.

And on Twitter, she was attracted to the work of Justin Lyons, owner of whyisdaddycrying.com, and decided to make a three-minute-long film about his blog. “As a result, he got so much regard that I thought it’s not fair,” she told me once during our conversation. “I also wanted it.”

That’s JC for you. You know whatever she does will be slightly crazy but always fun and animated.

What’s the lesson in it for you?

Set the tone for what people should expect when they hear or read your name. Because, in the online space, your credibility comes before the quality of your product or service.

Step #3: Find Your People

The third step to creating a reputation is to find the people who are interested in your style and your content. Don’t aim for buyers, or customers. Think instead in terms of building an audience of people who can become your fans and rave about you to everyone they know.

Let me explain what I mean.

The other day, I was talking to Saif Akhtar, Founding Team Member at OrionCKB, a Facebook advertising agency. In reply to my question about his personal social media preferences he told me that he watches a movie or reads a book only after he receives the feedback from friends and people he shares interests with within his Facebook network.

That reminded me of something important: in today’s social media age, what you create is not only for your audience. It is for their friends, colleagues, and every one else in their networks. In fact, your content is aimed at these people first, since they are the gatekeepers to your audience. You need to reach out to them first if you are to get to your target audience.

But, here is the thing.

You can’t possibly do that: reach out to your audience AND their influencers.

That’s a lot of work.

So how do you pull all three of these steps together into a plan that works, but doesn’t take up all your time?

Let Your Reputation Work for You

When you’re first starting your online entrepreneurial journey, focus first on building your online reputation before you start focusing on building your business. Be known before expecting to be bought from. Your name should reach people before your content.

After you achieve a certain level of visibility and credibility (you hit your target number of subscribers, publish a set number of guest posts, or whatever it is you are aiming for), switch your focus to your core business. Let your reputation precede you, and use it to launch your first offers, get your first clients, and make your first sizable income.

Of course, you don’t want to stop producing content completely. Your reputation does still need some fuel to keep it moving. In this situation, you can do one of two things. You can:

  • create good content consistently, but not very often – maybe only once or twice a month.
  • curate content intelligently. Or, in other words, solicit guest posts or recommend articles by other authors.

It all boils down to the fact that people place a premium on brands and reputation, and are willing to forgive mistakes by brands they know and prefer. So once you’ve built up your reputation, do enough to keep it going, and focus on your main business offerings.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Creating epic content is very difficult. As entrepreneurs, we don’t always have the time we need to create this kind of content on a regular basis. And even if we did, there’s a lot of great content out there to compete with.

But, you can create a body of good content that showcases your unique gifts and style in a way that will really resonate with your audience. Once you’ve built up that reputation, you can use it to advance your business goals.

Have you struggled to produce epic content? If so, tell me about it in the comments below. And if you have more suggestions for developing your online reputation, I’m all ears!

About Sharmeen Akbani Gangat

Sharmeen Akbani Gangat is the founder and CEO of The Glocul Group. She transforms service providers into rainmakers by teaching tools and techniques that traditional sales training programs don't. Sharmeen combines her filmmaking education and training in short story writing with her radio production and freelance writing experience in New York City to develop and deliver a business development training and coaching program that is audience-focused, captivating, and responsive. Besides running Glocul, she is also a corporate trainer with University of Houston's Small Business Development Center, and taught marketing and branding classes and workshops at Hunter College and New York University. Sharmeen is a certified filmmaker from New York University and has a master's degree from Columbia University.

27 comments

  1. I do my best to write “epic articles” – meaning articles that provide valuable input for my readers – about once, twice a week and articles that are closely related to my niche – spy technologies – every other day. You can’t and never will be able to write only super high-quality articles because it takes time to research, to put the article together, to find the actual source and so on.

  2. I loved the setting realistic expectations part. The purpose of doing so means that we can recognize that we will not hit a 100% epic content all the time.

    It’s also a psychological phenomenon related to statistics. (I will butcher this but I’ll try anyways) there is a “curse” about being on the front cover a Madden video game. The curse goes once you’re on the cover you will go down hill. The funny thing is that most players on the front cover are there because they are at the peak of their success.

    So you can only go down. In other words we tend to gravitate towards the average. One great post, one so-so post, one average post, one bad post, one epic post but we always tend towards that average. This principle is also kind of how Warren Buffet made money. The markets will rise and fall but there is an average (intrinsic value) and so by knowing that you can buy and sell accordingly.

    A little rambling but I still feel it contributed. Good post too btw.

  3. Hi Sharmeen,
    Excellent post. I would like to offer a slight different point of view 🙂 When people discuss epic content they often think length. I disagree with that view – just because something is long doesn’t mean that it is good. I learned this a while ago when I hosted a morning show in Santa Barbara. We were running skits that went on and on and just were not good. It was until I learned to cut out what is unnecessary that my content improved. To me, epic content is content that connects with the reader on a level that other content does not. It is not the size of the content which makes it epic, it is the connection.
    – Adam

    1. I hear you, Adam. In fact, that’s precisely the thing Corbett mentions in his post, Write Epic Shit. Long doesn’t mean epic. But, that’s not my point. What I am trying to say is that long or short, the aim to write a valuable post every single time is not humanly possible. There will be some posts which will not connect, no matter what. Or, be as valuable. In fact, they might just fail miserably. It happens to the best of writers. The thing is that a writer or a blogger always wants to connect, but this process is like trying to put the thread in the needle hole. Sometimes, it just doesn’t go through. It is for that time I say we prepare ourselves. In fact, allow ourselves that luxury: to fail.

  4. Sharmeen one thing that really hit home is how creating epic content is just not going to cut it now. Your business HAS to have some personality appeal to thrive.

    In my opinion, business has become increasingly personal. Especially with online service based businesses.

    One person I usually find myself babbling about to my friends until their ears bleed from boredom is Ash Ambirge.

    Her writing and her website ooozes a punchy, sexy and rebellious way of doing business which makes like her the “vibe” which is similar to mine and makes me trust her.

    Thanks for removing the heavy mental chains of
    writing “epic content” every time!

  5. There’s always pressure to create more awesome content once a post does really well. But the great thing about one post doing well is that it highlights the others you have along with it – and one-off readers can become loyal readers.

    For me, it’s all about the slow-build. Overnight success isn’t a thing, and breakthroughs happen after a lot of work !

  6. Hi Sharmeen,

    Aha! The power of doing your best each time out but detaching from outcomes. I loved this post and the strategies you outline.

    Why try to knock each post out of the park? Why not just do your darn best, make solid contact, and stop looking for the fences to see if you’ve hit a home run? Simply do your blog, speaking your voice, from your angle, and you should be OK.

    Last night I was chatting with an ex-pat living here in Fiji, on the beach. Heck just that line makes me stand out 😉 But anyway, after I told her what I did for a living, she asked for my blog. I told her it’s pretty simple to recall: bloggingfromparadise of course, followed by the com.

    She noted how easy that was to remember and I agreed. Although many awesome, successful bloggers teach you how to live the internet lifestyle I decided to drill down a bit deeper for people who want to blog from paradise. So that’s my angle.

    As for my voice, that came about through year’s worth of writing practice. Just like how Danny’s 80 guest post helped him find his voice, and build his brand, my 3400 plus posts on my old blog and 30 or 40 guest posts helped me do the same.

    BTW his campaign worked, as I recall having met him through one of his guesties on problogger.

    Brilliant advice here Sharmeen. So happy to tweet it.

    Have a fun week.

    Ryan

    1. Ryan, I like how you have said it so beautifully. Sometimes, the pressure of saying the best thing keeps us from saying anything at all. Btw, love your insights! Thank you for sharing your story…and for the Twitter share:)

  7. Thanks for this article, Sharmeen. It’s something I needed to hear. I’ve been struggling to produce MORE content, and develop epic content, and wondering when (if ever) I’ll get the time to do it all.

    You’ve inspired me to take a more relaxed approach to content. It’s a huge relief.

  8. I think there is way too much emphasis placed on the words epic, passion, and everything has to be massive to be important. Anything you do is important – even those things that are just okay. If you are trying, you are successful – whatever you are doing.

    1. I so agree with you on this. Words like passion and all have lost meaning for us. Have you read ‘Adams How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life’ by Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert)? There is a whole chapter on passion is bullshit.

  9. Well, nevertheless, this was an epic post. 🙂 I really liked it, easy to understand, easy to follow and it points out to core principles to stand out and move step by step, but safely. 🙂

  10. The latter part of the post really gave me “sympathetic vibrations”, so to speak. My first inclination was to try “branding”, even before joining Firepole to learn strategic marketing. My experimenting coincides with your description of reaching to a wider audience through your primary target. It works wonderfully! In fact, as I have discovered, the popularity of the branding content can outrun your valuable offer. Indeed, your branding can launch multiple credible blogs, offerings or other content. This is very valuable advice for those struggling to provide awesome content every time. Thank you!

  11. Wonderful, Sharmeen! It goes back to the Biblical principle: ” A good name is better than good oil, and the day of death is better than the day of birth.” (Eccles.7:1) It takes time to build our name (reputation) but it is our most valuable asset to those we have the privilege of serving.

  12. Thanks, Sharmeen. I’m so glad I don’t have to be epic all the time. I couldn’t do it, and realized recently it was burning me out. I’m at the point, where I’m only posting on my blog every 4-6 weeks, and focusing on guest posting to build traffic.

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