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30 March 2017 at 08:21

200 OKWhen computers talk to each other, 200 is the HTTP response status code equivalent of 'Got it, thanks.' It means the connection, the information request, has been successful. It's expressed simply as '200 OK'.

No fanfare. No drama. Just business as usual, nothing to see here, everything's fine, move along. 

And that's pretty much how it felt yesterday when I climbed off the treadmill in the evening and realised I'd hit 200 consecutive days of blogging and running, aka streaking (if you want to find out what that's all about, read the blog post that started it all). 

That's a satisfying number, and I don't honestly know if I believed I'd get here. I'm quietly delighted: I can see all the benefits that I'd hoped for, and I've proved what Seth Godin knew all along: 

Habits are more powerful than fears.

But really it's just another day. Connection successful, keep it moving, bring on the next day, and the next. Purposeful rhythm, powerful habits, personal mastery. 

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29 March 2017 at 10:02

After I posted yesterday’s blog singing the praises of connection and collaboration, I realised the topical irony: here we are, about to sever ties with Europe and ‘make Britain great again/take back control of our borders/secure our freedom’ – there are a variety of ways of expressing the general idea of plucky little Britain standing in splendid isolation.

I am desperately sad about this. I’m also cross: I think the Yes campaign was misleading – culpably so – and the margin too narrow to have committed us to this massive decision.* But mainly I’m sad because I feel part of my identity is being take from me and because I think we’ve opted for something smaller and more selfish than what we could be.

‘If you want to go fast, go alone,’ goes the proverb. ‘If you want to go far, go together.’

At corporate level this plays out in the diversity agenda too: it’s harder to recruit and manage a more diverse board, with a mix of men and women, ages, experience, ethnicity and backgrounds, because there’s typically more negotiation and confrontation than is found in a traditional board of middle-aged white blokes who all play golf together, but the pay-off, proven time and time again, is a more effective team and a more successful company. (And, incidentally, a fairer society that provides aspirational role models for our young future leaders.) 

So here’s my tiny act of rebellion on the day on which we trigger Article 50 and opt out of Europe and all its complexity and constraints to do things our way: I’m going to look again at my own network and identify the connections that most challenge and stretch me, that take me out of my comfort zone, and work on developing those and creating more of them.

Sitting around with people who look and think and speak and act exactly as I do, however comfortable that is, is not where the really important work is done.


*I get that many will disagree, which is absolutely brilliant, this is the whole point.  But this is my blog.

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28 March 2017 at 23:04

ClaraOne of the most wonderfully unexpected things about the 10-day Busines Book Proposal Challenge is that people within the group connect not just with me, but with each other. Who knew?

Three great examples today: 

1. One second-time challenger posted her marketing plan, which included a joint venture with someone who was on the previous challenge with her and is in a similar space. 

2. Two first-time challengers swapped contact details for high-profile speaking opportunities - and discovered that they shared a mutual family friend in the process!

3. One previous challenger posted the gorgeous character, Clara, that a fellow challenger had drawn for him to illustrate his book. Meet Clara - illustrating clear English for Howard Walwyn, drawn by the winner of the last proposal challenge, Cara Holland.

And this is what happens when you set up a community: people connect, things happen, new stuff comes into the world. It's ace.

27 March 2017 at 20:40

Whenever I train or coach on content marketing, the second big step - the first is figuring out your WHY, as always: what is it you're wanting to achieve? - is identifying exactly who it is you're trying to reach (or whom if you're a stickler for these things). 

But as I was working with someone today I shocked them by saying that it's not only about the target market. It's also about you. You're building a relationship after all, and that takes two. 

Don’t make the mistake of focusing ONLY on your target market. It’s also important to think about the other party in the relationship that you're building here, and that's you. In a noisy world, where everyone seems to have something to say about this topic, what’s distinctive about your company’s approach? What’s your brand’s personality, and what tone of voice, visual identity and type of content fits with that? Content marketing builds not only awareness but also trust and liking, so it’s important that you show up, and keep showing up, authentically.

26 March 2017 at 19:35

The Magic CalendarThe great promise of e-ink is the way it can hook up our physical and digital worlds so effectively. I've been complaining at the universe in general for several years now that my digital calendar in all its multifaceted ever-changing compexity bears only a passing resemblance to the calender hung up on our living room wall. There's a limit to how much you can squeeze into those wee squares, for one thing. 

Finally it seems the universe, or at least a Japanese designer named Kosho Tsuboi, has been listening. He's created a wall-mounted e-ink calendar that syncs with your Google calendar, updates in real time, and can last 30 months on a single charge: The Magic Calendar

The video is in Japanese, but he doesn't need to sell this to me.

It may not be the kind of technology that the big companies invest in or the gadget fans get excited about but as a working mum this is for me one of the best examples I've seen in a long time of innovation that can make my life better. 

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25 March 2017 at 12:24

Putting my full Table of Contents online for comment felt terrifying at the time - like standing naked in Tesco - but has proved more helpful than I dared hoped for lots of reasons: accountability, visibility, content development and engagement to name just a few. (The Tesco gig would be effective in terms of visibility and engagement I suppose, but of a rather different kind...)

But one of the most useful things to have come out of it was the redrawing of my underlying model. I'd originally envisaged the underlying structure of the book as an interrelated series of circles, each of the outer circles with to the writing of the book at the centre, with each circles the title of a section in the book, thus: 

TBMB circles

But it became clear from feedback that not only were the headings wrong - they talked about features rather than benefits, for one thing - but this static, contained model didn't reflect the experience of those who'd worked with me, and saw the process as more dynamic and expansive. 

Which made me think of my beloved growth spiral model, a tool I developed myself to help map the evolution of my clients' book and content strategy against their business development. 

It's based on the logarithmic spiral – described by Bernoulli as Spira mirabilis, ‘the marvellous spiral’ – which is both a mathematical and organic concept. Mathematician Eric Weisstein demystified the hard math by describing it as a progression of lines linking rays, each new section perpendicular to the next ray, creating a consistent expansive pattern:

Logarithmic spiral

Organically, it can be found in numerous natural expressions at every scale: the nerves within our cornea, the buds of Romanesco broccoli, the curve of the nautilus shell, the approach path of a hawk hunting its prey or an insect circling a light, the flung out arms of galaxies.

It’s logical yet organic, and for me that makes it the ideal model for the book-writing journey, embracing all aspects of personal and professional growth.

And so I redeveloped the model, and with it the underlying structure of the book, and suddenly it's not just a neat visual representation, it's an expression of my vision for publishing and ultimately my way of seeing the world. 

TBMB growth spiral

It's hard to explain just how much this simple shift in underlying model has changed the energy around it for me. I've fallen back in love with my book, and the flow from one section into the next suddenly dropped into place. It's a beautiful demonstration of some of the key concepts in my book: drawing out your ideas, getting feedback, and making the writing your book into an opportunity for some of the best thinking you'll ever do. 

24 March 2017 at 20:09

An exchange in the 10-day business book proposal challenge that made me laugh out loud today (we're working on author biography): 

'I'm loving how this challenge is making me do stuff I would've spent AGES procrastinating over.'

'Yeah, it's great isn't it? It's really given me the kick up the a**e I needed to lay it all out on the line because of the accountability thing....!'

I couldn't put it better myself, so I'm not going to try :-)

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23 March 2017 at 21:56

This morning I took part in Bryony Thomas's Watertight Marketing conference, which was itself a masterclass in running an event. I hugely admire Bryony's joined-up thinking and her incredible attention to detail, and today's online conference was testament to that. 

Bryony asked me to talk about building community, with particular reference to The Extraordinary Business Book Club and my 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge. 

What I didn't get to say when we were talking tactical marketing, but what I've been musing over ever since, is that I didn't expect such joy from creating these communities.

Each community (and particularly the proposal challenge, where the pace is fast and the energy fizzes) creates its own magic. I watch in amazement as participants connect and come up with ideas and offer suggestions I'd never have thought of. 

The whole is massively more than the sum of the parts, and hosting it is an incredible privilege. 

22 March 2017 at 21:48

This week's blog is over at BookMachine, and draws out the lessons for authors from my interview with Andrian Zackheim, one of the world's leading business book publishers and the founder of Portfolio Penguin. 


21 March 2017 at 21:57

Day 2 of the 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge, and today we're focusing on target reader. This is perhaps the most fundamental of all the bits of thinking the challengers will be doing over the course of the challenge - the synopsis, selling points, contents, marketing plans, EVERYTHING falls out of that understanding. 

I was explaining in today's live video how, for a commissioning editor, there's a complex instinctive calculation taking place whenever they read this section. On the one hand the primary target market needs to be big enough to make the prospect of at least several hundreds of copies possible, ideally several thousand (depending on price); but on the other hand, a broad market sector is hard to reach and even harder to convince that this is the book they need to buy. A narrowly focused target market, on the other hand, is easier to reach, more likely to be actively interested in the book and therefore to convert to purchase, and probably willing to pay a higher price. Less potential upside, but less risk. That balance then feeds into an even more complex calculation involving the timeliness of the topic, the credibility of the author, the strategic direction of the list, the competition already out there, and many more factors. Commissioning is an art, not a science.  

(For the business book author, of course, the calculation is slightly different. If the book brings in one big bit of new business from a corporate client, that's likely to outweigh several years' worth of royalties from book sales. So it's important that you're clear on who it is you most want to reach, and that you hold that in mind during discussions with the publisher.)

It was lovely to read this from someone who took the challenge back in June last year during the course of the day, between responding to the posts of all the current challenges:

'I just wanted to say a huge thank you to Alison Jones - I joined her book challenge last summer on the advice of a few people from this group. Out of that challenge I developed a robust and well thought submission document. I spent a huge amount of time thinking about what I wanted from a publisher and /or agent and I am so excited that today the official announcement has been made about my publishing deal, my new book comes out in September. I am absolutely convinced that I would not have reached this point or been able to navigate this world of publishing so well without those early weeks spent under Alison's online guidance developing my proposal.'

Just doing my job, ma'am :-)


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