Barrett Brooks: How to Create Content that Stands Out (FS371)

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Episode 371: Barrett Brooks: How to Create Content that Stands Out (FS371)

“A person’s best thinking is rarely communicated through synchronous conversation.” At least that’s what Barrett Brooks contends on today’s episode. We start there to help you think about how you can communicate in unique ways to stand out.

Barrett Brooks is COO of ConvertKit, email software for creators, and Barrett was co-host of The Fizzle Show a few years back. Welcome back Barrett!

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Transcript for this episode:

Note: apologies for transcription errors, this was generated automatically by Descript, our editing software.

Corbett Barr:[00:00:00]Hey there. Welcome to the Fizzle Show. I’m Corbett Barr and this is our podcast about earning a living independently, doing something you love. And today I am joined by a, not a guest, exactly. More like a friend, an old friend of theshow. Barrett Brooks is with us. Hey Barrett, how are you doing?

Barrett Brooks:[00:00:18] Hey oh!

Corbett Barr:[00:00:20] I don’t know if I have to host you anymore.

Sort of like when you come to my house, I don’t have to host. You can just

Barrett Brooks:[00:00:25] I know where the liquor cabinet is.

Corbett Barr:[00:00:27] That’s right. Pour your own old fashioned

Barrett Brooks:[00:00:31] It’s good to

Corbett Barr:[00:00:31] have you back. Yeah. Great to have you back on the show. Uh, you may not know this, but Caleb was on last week, so we’re having like a little bit of a reunion month

Barrett Brooks:[00:00:39] I love it. It’s a victory or victory, Tori, it wouldn’t be a victory toward BA or reminiscing tour. I don’t know what you’d

Corbett Barr:[00:00:45] Yeah. We haven’t made victory yet. I don’t know what the end is, but we’re not there for sure. I’m happy to have you on today. Separately, we’re still in covert land, which means we’re recording in the same town, but you’re several blocks away and, we haven’t had a chance yet to, caress each other and, share a cocktail yet,

Barrett Brooks:[00:01:04] Give a nice hug and hang out and I know, it’s a bummer.

Corbett Barr:[00:01:07] Hopefully soon. but you cause a little bit of a stir recently, and this seems like perfect conversation for the fizzle show. You responded to a tweet from James clear, another mutual friend of ours and friend of the fiddle show who asked on Twitter as he often does. He said, what is one interesting idea or concept you can summarize in a single tweet.

And, you popped in there, I don’t know how many responses you saw before you wrote, but, what you responded, and what I want to cover today is you said that a person’s best thinking is rarely communicated through synchronous conversation. And here we are of course, in a synchronous conversation. Where we’re going to debate whether or not that is true, but I want to expand it a little bit further and just talk about content in general. And today I want to cover ideas for making unique forms of content, content that can help you stand out. But this was really interesting because. Of all the forms of content.

When we think about, you know, podcasts and interviews and YouTube videos and so on. In many cases there are both scripted and unscripted versions. And here you are, I think making an argument for the scripted version of content where you have time to chew on something, to digest it, and to simmer it down.

We’ve probably all heard the, I forget. Who the quote was from, but it was something like I would have, you would have written you a shorter letter except I didn’t have time. Right, because it, it does take time to boil something down and the end result is that hopefully somebody gets something that is more thought through and more polished and they don’t have to listen to so much of the thinking that goes behind something.

Barrett Brooks:[00:02:58] Yeah. And you

Corbett Barr:[00:02:58] came to mind was this just off the cuff for, was this more thought through.

Barrett Brooks:[00:03:02] well, he was one of the most fascinating things. I loved the question number one. I, James has really fascinated me with his ability to go platform to platform and find the best way to engage there. And he seems like he’s found one of the highest signal to ratio ways to just engage with people on Twitter.

He’s got very high value content that he puts out there and he gets, as you’ve seen, I mean, my tweet in response, his tweet got 720 likes. My, and I wouldn’t even the tweet, you know,

Corbett Barr:[00:03:33] Right.

Barrett Brooks:[00:03:33] and he got 700

Corbett Barr:[00:03:35] you’re onto something there, by the

Barrett Brooks:[00:03:36] I know,

Corbett Barr:[00:03:37] I don’t know about you, but I can’t like tweet something and get 720 likes on my own account, but you’re just on James, his coattails, and there you go.

Barrett Brooks:[00:03:44] Well, it was funny, I was working out in the yard and I just took a break to check Twitter and he had just tweeted it. And so I think I was maybe the first or second response. So I, you know, it was cheating from that perspective. But he got 760 responses to this thing with mine right up front.

It just got a ton of engagement and I’ve always admired, I’ve been in this role. Line of thinking lately where there are some people on Twitter that a few people I outlined to you where James, a guy named Neval Ravi current, Maria Popova I think actually does it better in her, her kind of blog posts that she writes.

But she’s pretty good on Twitter too, that just seem to think. Clearly the value of every word that they put out is just very high. You know, you get a lot of value if you read their work. And it’s made me think about why. You know, what is different about them? Are they more intelligent? Are they better thinkers?

Do they just have more time on their hands? And when he tweeted that, I said, you know what? I’m gonna engage with this because I bet I have a lot of ideas that I just haven’t taken the time to put them into a sentence. And this was one of them. And so I had been thinking a lot recently. We run, you know, convert well, you may not know if you’re listening.

Convert kit is the company I run. And, we have a fully remote team. There’s now 55 people as of today on the team. And so we’re growing pretty rapidly. We’ve got people like 13 time zones and, it gets more complex. The bigger you get and communication is very challenging, the more people you add to any organization.

Jason fried and David Heinemeier Hansson over at at base camp. The founders over there have long been advocates of this idea of asynchronous communication, communicating in a way that you don’t have to be online at the same time in order to get a point across. I was always challenged by it. I didn’t ever really like that all that much.

It felt pedantic and kind of dogmatic coming from them. And the more that I’ve led this team and the more that I’ve paid attention to my own thought process, the more I realized that. Conversation can spark ideas for me, like me and you talking, I’ll have a new idea and I might tweet one of them later. I found that a lot recently in podcasting daily, but.

It’s not usually the purest form that I communicate like this. It’s usually just the beginning. And then I go and think about it and it’s like, well, what did I actually mean there? And how can I distill it so that it’s easily consumed and then I write it? That’s almost always the case. Now, we might be able to dig in on it together in a conversation, but the written form is the purest form.

It’s the best thinking I have on the topic, and that’s usually when I find that people. in my organization, at least have the least confusion about what I’m trying to say is when I’ve written something down, I’ve edited, I’ve taken some time to consider what I’m trying to say, and then I hit publish.

Corbett Barr:[00:06:32] If you, you know, think about people that write books frequently. To be able to write a book and a year is pretty fast. So a lot of people take, you know, two or three years to write a book, and here you end up with their best, you know, several thousand words on a, on a topic. And if they had just, you know, for the time that they were working on that book, hit record and said everything that came to mind, you would have.

Hours and hours and hours, like days and days worth of audio material versus the 10 hours or so that you could listen to a book in. So it’s clearly condensed information we used to talk about on the fizzle show. People once in a while, I’m sure you remember this, would, Talk about our style, especially when there were several of us hosting at once.

And, and chase was running the show. And we would often say to them that the show is more like where the sausage is made. You don’t necessarily want to see that you’re getting all of the. Just unraveling of ideas, and then the best of those ideas end up living in guides and blog posts and courses and workshops and things like that.

But the podcast, just by nature of recording for an hour every week, or like you’re doing daily now, you’re going to have some dead ends in your thought process. So maybe.

Barrett Brooks:[00:07:55] podcast is not the highest signal to noise ratio. That is not where you go. If you want really dense information, I don’t think

Corbett Barr:[00:08:02] and, and you can see that just in, if you look at the 24 seven news channels, right? Ever since the news has gone to this, you know, ongoing cycle, the signal to noise has gotten so low. If you watch now, often they have some kind of breaking headline with no more information. Beyond that, and then they just have like four highly paid people sitting around a table speculating and guessing and making up all of these like, you know, vibrantly colored scenarios, which are very unlikely to be true, but that’s the entertainment piece of it.

They want to keep you glued to the TV. If. On the other hand, you wanted to find out what really was important about that thing. You would read about it later in the paper after a reporter had time to digest and vet everything. So, so, so maybe it’s, it’s. Just because of form. And I don’t think there’s a whole lot you can argue about this, that, you’re saying the purest form of communication or a person’s best thinking ends up being communicated in the written form or in an asynchronous form where they have time to, digest it and whittle it down.

I don’t think there’s, that’s an argument, but. That doesn’t necessarily mean that that should be the only form of communication, right, because sometimes there’s a lot of synchronous communication required to get to that point where you can put out your best.

Barrett Brooks:[00:09:26] Totally. And this was, you know, you always know you landed on something when people want to poke holes in all the ways it’s wrong, you know? and I got a bunch of those replies. I pulled this out and I tweeted it in my own account and got the same kind of engagement. And a lot of people wanted to say, well, what about this situation, that situation, this situation.

So, yes, all of those things are still valuable. I’m not saying don’t communicate any other way. I’m just saying that even if I tried to communicate my best idea and we had a conversation back and forth about it, and I refine my thinking, I’m probably still not going to communicate the refined thinking accurately.

In the conversation, I’m going to go away. I’m going to process that. I’m going to come back with a better version. And so absolutely, I mean, the creative process of getting to the idea and coming up with it to begin with. Yeah. I think you’ve got to have these kinds of moments, or these kinds of conversations with other smart people who can really help you hone in on what you actually mean.

But then once you mean it. You’ve got to, you can’t get interrupted at that point. You know, you distract from the message. I think it’s when someone can look at it and say, Hmm, is that true? And really sit there and think with it, not just respond to it. I think that’s why there’s value in communicating that way.

Corbett Barr:[00:10:35] I love, not to sidetrack here, but I, I love the way that James uses Twitter, James, Claire, and, you know, there are, when Twitter was new, it was really interesting to watch how people used it and that it kind of just turned into a, a chat. basically. But because James is a writer, he uses it, I think to test ideas, right?

And to put things out. But you can tell that there is a lot of thought that goes behind a lot of them. Any and rightly so. He gets a ton of engagement from it. But that brings up sort of the broader point of today’s episode, I think in that is what are some unique ways that you can use content to make it stand out.

So that people take notice and that you rise above all the noise that’s happening because there is so much content out there now, and we used to talk about this on the early days of the fizzle show five years ago and 10 years ago when we started the started blog that matters course. We talked about the fact that, you know, there are millions and millions of blogs in existence.

Only a handful of them really get noticed. And what’s the difference between them and now it’s, you could say that for social media channels or YouTube channels or, or whatever. So. Clearly standing out is really important, and there are other things that are important to showing up, having a voice, all that sort of stuff.

But making your content stand out because it’s unique is still a big part of that equation. When you say.

Barrett Brooks:[00:11:56] without a doubt. And you know, we’ve always talked about, Kind of these different modes of standing out. There’s, there’s teaching, there’s inspiring, there’s entertaining. there’s different ways to stand out, you know, entertainment’s completely different. Like you could argue that chases bag reviews, for example, are as much entertainment as they are about the bags.

And that’s why, I mean, I know people would just watch them. Because they’re funny. That’s not, they don’t even need a bag anymore, you know? and so he’s taking the approach of, let me entertain you while also talking about bags. And Oh, by the way, some of you will buy them and I’ll make money in like, as you all would know, if you’ve been listening for a long time, I like to think of myself as a serious person.

I want to have serious ideas and debate them and all of this. And so I get drawn to this way of standing out that we’ve been talking about James or Nevada or these other thinkers where they’re making you. Really test your brain. You know, what is your brain? Think about this idea that I’m sharing with you.

You know, not just like sit back and watch a Netflix show, but engage with me. Debate me. Tell me what you think and where am I wrong and how could I refine this? That’s really fascinating to me. It’s a, it’s a different and interesting way to try to stand out.

Corbett Barr:[00:13:09] Yeah, it’s interesting as well. You know, to say that again, just to repeat what you said here, a person’s best thinking is rarely communicated through synchronous conversation. In the case of someone like chase or someone who’s entertaining, you might make the argument that a person’s best, and you don’t have to use the same word.

You don’t have to say best thinking. but you could say that a person’s best moments are often communicated through unscripted. Medium, you know, in, in, in the case of chase, you’re, you know, people watch that 30 minutes because they know that something unexpected is going to come out of his mouth because he just winds himself up and sees where it takes him.

Right. As opposed to if he tried to script all of those videos, they just wouldn’t come out the same. And I know from watching him produce courses, even that, when he wanted to get his best thinking out, he would script it, but if he wanted to get his best. I don’t know. Charisma, like it’s hard to, hard to know exactly what you’re trying to convey there, but that thing that connects you to a person through the screen sometimes that needs to be unscripted.

Barrett Brooks:[00:14:16] Right, right. Yeah. And you know, I guess if I were going to like refine this, so let’s say we were just playing with this thought and we said, all right, well, best thinking, that’s really kind of. There’s not a lot to hold onto there. There’s very a morphous. Okay. Maybe, well, it’s a person’s most refined ideas are rarely, maybe it is, are rarely communicated through synchronous conversation.

And then the addendum would be. But every great idea must come through refinement with conversation or something like that, you know? And that would create this interesting contrast where people can be like, ah, I don’t know. Is that true? Like what about this situation and that situation? And there’s always more.

But the question was, what’s one interesting idea or concept you can summarize into saying, Oh, he’s cute. He said, single tweet. I gave him a single sentence. And so if I were going to do single tweet and build on it, that’s probably how I’d build on it. Now.

Corbett Barr:[00:15:06] I’m, I’m also thinking of, like Broadway shows. Obviously there are. Weeks and weeks and weeks of grueling practices and revisions to the script and directorial notes and so on. That end up being, you know, culminated in one 90 minute performance and that 90 per minute performance is what the audience is all there to see.

It’s the thing that’s been refined down as opposed to watching how the sausage was made. So, but you know, there are plenty of theater buffs who would love to sit in on a practice and see what’s going on behind the scenes. Right.

Barrett Brooks:[00:16:42] Well, and here’s what maybe some of this is just about writing, and, and James retweeted me at some point and talked about it being an argument for writing, but you could argue that a Broadway show is written before it’s performed. A song is written before it’s performed. I think a lot of great YouTube videos are written before they’re performed, and they’re not always scripted to the T, but they’re outlined and written.

And so I think there’s just something to the written medium that allows us to refine our thinking in a way that gets clear. I guess the core here that I’m, I’m arguing for in terms of standing out with content is be clear about what it is you have to say, you know, the best books, the best Ted talks, the best, whatever.

They’re the best because someone is clear about what they’ve learned enough to be able to say it directly to you. And I think that’s pretty rare online right now. I think a lot of people are publishing things right now that are trying to figure out what they have to say. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

It’s where everyone’s like, we all start there. Any new topic, you have to figure out what you have to say. But one of the best pieces of advice from, I don’t know if it was an agent or an author or something, was don’t write a book until you know you have something to say. Because when you have nothing to say, it’s it’s, I don’t know.

I w I was going to say it’s trash that’s too harsh, but it’s going to have a hard time getting traction on its own. And I think you see this sometimes when authors sign four or five book deals all at once because they had one successful one and they’re on a every year pace. You get to that, he maybe they had a second idea and then you get to the third one and the fourth one in the fifth one.

And I think this is where you get chicken soup for the teenage soul and the grandparents soul and everything else, because it’s like, I don’t have any new ideas. I can do the same idea for different audiences though. Would that work for you?

Corbett Barr:[00:18:24] the first one sold a million copies, so why not? Let’s try it. I just saw a good example of this. yesterday, actually my, my wife sent me a link to a video from a YouTuber. His name’s JP Sears. Are you familiar with him? He’s got this long red hair and he does these like really satirical, sarcastic kind of.

10 minute rants or so. And he did one recently about, the epidemic that we’re living through and about how people are just believing everything that the media says. And it’s really interesting. But point being he recorded that. And that became one of his most popular YouTubes ever, like very quickly, like multiple millions of views.

and then because it was so successful, he recorded another video shortly after kind of explaining his thinking and going into more detail about it behind the scenes, the behind the scenes one, the second video that he recorded was unscripted. Just him direct to the camera. The one that was scripted was the one that was more popular, and that was 10 minutes that he had written out.

It came out very quickly. He woke up with inspiration in the morning, wrote it all out, and then recorded it on video and probably had some edits and so on. But it was just interesting to see that that was the one that really grabbed people versus him. Kind of just riffing on it later.

Barrett Brooks:[00:19:42] I love this. I think one of, one of the insights I’ve had recently, and maybe this is just like having enough professional history to be getting to a point where I have my own thoughts, but. So much of what we do in life in general is in response to something. I am responding to something you said. I am responding to a situation.

I am responding to not having money in there for I want to have money. I’m responding to hating my job, and so I’m starting a business, whatever. or it’s something we feel like we should do as a, this kind of content creator. I should make this kind of video. I should make that kind of article. And. I think what I’m learning is some of the most interesting people, which is maybe something I’m placing a value on that some of the most interesting people to me.

Are saying, well, what do I think? Regardless of what’s going on out there, you know, regardless of what someone else has asked me to write about, like what am I thinking about right now? What am I interested in and what are the conclusions I’ve reached on that? And it’s never truly original, but I think there are original ways to communicate what it is that you’re taking away from different situations.

and a lot of times all that takes is stepping back and saying. All right. I’m just just, I’m gonna sit here quietly. I’m going to shut down Twitter. I’m going to turn the electronics off for a minute. I’m gonna write with a notebook. What are some things I’ve found to be true? If you’re, you know, to go back to our classic example of like the fly fishing blog that we used to talk about, well, what have I found true about fly fishing.

And maybe maybe you get into like a personal essay about you actually find that you fly fish because you find that you connect with yourself or nature or the world. There’s something through that activity and you get into all of these details and maybe moments start to come to mind. A memory is when you really felt that, and so there’s this, there’s this element of truth to your experience just because you took a moment to step back and say, okay.

Why do I do that? Or what do I think about this topic independent of all this other stuff happening out there? I think there’s a lot of gold to be mined there cause we’re always trying to impress someone, you know, we’re social creatures.

Corbett Barr:[00:21:51] Yeah. And it, it’s, it’s so natural, to try to fit in, right? It’s just kind of human social behavior. There’s so much of what we do that’s based on not wanting to be thrown out by the village and have to fend for ourselves. Right? So we just try to fit in. but when you’re creating content. Like you said, if, if you are just doing what everyone else is doing, it’s unlikely that that’s going to rise above and, and grab people’s attention.

But on the other hand, it feels so risky to try doing something that no one else has done before. You kind of assume like, well, nobody’s done that because it’s not going to work. Right? And so you end up just regurgitating and, and using the same old tropes that everybody else has kind of going through the motions without ever stepping back to think for yourself and try something.

And. You know, I can say as you can, I think that if you try something that’s original, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a home run. A lot of times it’s not. A lot of times you find out, Oh yeah, there is some reason that that’s not. You know the way that people do things, or it just didn’t work this time.

But if you try several times, several original things, then eventually you might stumble on something or somebody might notice the pattern and say, Hey, you know that Barrett Brooks, or Hey, you know, convert kit. They do things differently and they really seem to care. At the end of the day, that’s what you’re trying to get across is that you have someone else’s best interest, that you consistently put out things that are worth their time and.

Doing things originally over and over again is a, is a good way to kind of get their attention at least enough to look deeper into your work. You guys at convert kit, have done a lot of things in unique ways with content. I’d love to hear a little bit about behind the scenes. I mean, I have a little bit over time, but I know that when you were with us at fizzle.

And then moved over to convert kit. You had a lot of ideas, some things that you kind of wanted to do here that we never did. And then other things that have come about since I’m thinking specifically of things like, the fact that you have done an issues based blog for a long time or that you did for a long time where you basically, instead of writing something every other day, you collected it all into a central topic and published it almost like a magazine. I’m thinking about. the book that you guys wrote, I am a blogger. That was something interesting and unique for a media or for a software company to do, to produce a piece of media like that. I’m thinking about these creative sessions that you talked about recently. What is the like central ethos behind your content strategy and why do you do so many things over there that are different from what other people are doing.

Barrett Brooks:[00:24:39] there’s a lot there because I’ve thought a lot about what I want us to be when we grew up basically. and yeah, it goes all the way back to us working together. And two years before that, even doing my own thing. Some of it is just having the resources to do it, but there’s a philosophy behind it and one of the greatest driving forces that the of the philosophy is, I’m not trying to be like ClickFunnels or teachable or.

You know, I respect a lot of the founders of the companies that our customers use alongside us in terms of tools and everything. I’m trying to be like Nike or Patagonia or masterclass or, you know, we have these like, the great discontent is a site that I really admire. Vanity fair. I’m looking in other areas and saying, huh, that’s interesting.

What if we took that and brought that over here? So. With Tradecraft, which is the issue based blog thing. One of my takeaways from fizzle in kind of thinking through our content strategy, both for courses and for, blog posts, is it’s a crowded space to teach people to build a business online. I mean, there’s so much content out there and it’s really hard to stand out.

So what I knew immediately was we had to do something different in order to build an audience. Secondly was my mind always wants to create information hierarchy, and I think that’s the basis of good curriculum too for teaching. And so I kind of said, all right, well, I saw over here what it looks like when we structured our course curriculum and an order for people.

People really liked that. They wanted a sense of completion and progress. Okay, let’s take that principle and apply the curriculum based ordered education. Well, what are the topics that an online business creator needs to learn about? And we put them in order of, here are the things you’re going to need to know.

And then we did an issue on each of them. So in a way it was just like a course, but in written form. But then we make it pretty. Because pretty is attractive. We’re visually, we’re much more visual than we are text-based creatures, and so we applied a layer of design to it that made it look really high quality and give it the thud factor of something that’s been highly produced.

And sure enough, over a long period of time, some of that stuff started to get traction. It started to be shared and it grew in organic search rankings. Did we know that was going to happen? No, for sure not. And a lot of the articles have gotten no traction whatsoever, but you’re playing the lottery, you know, all of online businesses, you’re playing the lottery and you’re just trying to buy enough tickets to get some winners.

And so that was a systematic way to buy some tickets and get some winners. That was probably the closest to things I had already done before. That was probably the thing I knew most was likely to work. So then we went out and we said, alright, kickstart is a really interesting platform. Nike is a really interesting company that’s using essentially sponsored athletes.

As they’re marketing. They’re saying if we go get the most well known athletes in any space and we pay them money to wear our stuff, then the weekend warriors and the people who think of themselves as athletes and everyone in between, we’ll buy her stuff too. Cause they look up to those people. And we thought, all right, well let’s define that for us.

We also had a little bit of a bone to pick because blogger was this derogatory term that people had kind of derided and said, Oh, you’re a blogger. What are you actually do for a living? And we wanted to play with that a little bit and kind of send a message. So all of those things combined, the Nike idea, let’s find some iconic bloggers.

from a bunch of different industries. Let’s demystify this term of blogger and show that people make legitimate livings with it. And then let’s see if we could launch on Kickstarter to get even more reach from the thing. Well, the Kickstarter thing completely failed. I mean, it was a horrible failure.

People accused us of trying to make money from them when we could have just given the books away and whatever. Fine. But, one of the things we did that was really smart that I learned from Seth Godin was we packaged them in books. groups of two. You could only buy two. You couldn’t buy one. So what you end up with is you end up with one for you and one you got to give away.

So is that this conference, actually, JP Sears was at this conference. It was the everything food conference. I think anyways, whatever, it doesn’t matter. and this woman walks up and we had the books on our table at the conference that we were sponsoring, and she says, Oh. Y’all created. I am a blogger.

This is convert kit. That’s awesome. I said, yeah, do you know about it or what? I said, yeah, and her friends there with her. She’s like, yeah, she knows. She quit her job because of that book. Tell them the story. And so then the original lady says, Oh, well, you know, I read the book and I was reading the opening letter.

I wrote the opening letter. She doesn’t know this at the time, and it ends on something like, there’s nothing special about these people. You can do it too. You should get started. We hope this book is the inspiration you need. And she said, when I read that sentence, I knew I was going to do it. And she said, so I started building my blog and I ended up quitting my job as a lawyer, and I make a full time living as a food blogger now.

I said, Oh, that’s cool. I wrote that insurance. She was like, Oh my God, that thing changed my life. And did we do that for thousands of people? No. But I bet it was for a few. I bet a few people that was like the goal, right? Was to show them that it was a legitimate way to earn a living and give them some examples that they could hold up.

so that’s cool. And now we’ve turned that into a, we have a system around it. Every week we do a interview with a creator. We’ve kind of expanded from bloggers to creators of all kinds. We publish it with original photography on our blog. that’s beautiful. And then once a month, one of them is also a mini documentary.

And so now it’s become a system because we know it works. And then the third one, this is a belonged monologue, but thanks for giving me the platform to talk about it. the third one, now, the next risk we’re taking are called creator sessions. This is still completely unknown, but, We had set aside in events budget to go to all these conferences and sponsor them and get our name in front of all of the people we care a ton about and that we hope will use our software while COBIT hits.

And you know, we’re not going anywhere to, because there are no events. and now we have this budget and we have an entire person on our team dedicated to it. And she’s like, well, I better find a way to stay busy cause I want my job. and we wouldn’t have let her go anyways, but, She said, well, what if we tried something a little different?

What if we started doing digital events? And what if we combine this idea of kind of Nike sponsored athletes with masterclass where they’re taking famous people and having them teach and creators, which is our market, and we did a thing where they share their art. And then in between, they kind of share the process behind the art.

And so we did a few of them. We did like a cooking show. We had a food blogger teach an hour long cook dinner with us kind of thing. we did an at home workout. We did a sound bath, which is a, I’d never heard of that before. It’s like a, an auditory experience where you sit and almost kind of like meditate to sounds that this guide creates.

It’s fascinating. and then we did one with a musician and the musician was named drew hokum. he performed with a group called drew Holcomb and the neighbors, kind of like an Americana country artists based in Nashville. And. It was magical. I mean, the other ones were good, but this one was magical because the video quality was high.

He was in his real living room at home, just him and the camera with his guitar, and it felt like, like I threw it up on our TV in the living room when I was doing it or watching it live, and it just felt like I had this famous performer in my living room giving me a concert. And then in between every song he’d say.

We, well, we asked him questions, you know, we send them a list of questions to talk about on on the thing, and it’d be like, how hard is it to get started as a musician today and earn a living from it? And he, he’d go into it, well, you know, you gotta, you gotta spend 10 years at least to make it, if you’re going to make it, or when did, you know, you made it?

And he’d go through that in between songs, but, so you’d have this beautiful experience of watching live performance, and then you’d get to hear the actual thing behind it. One of my favorite moments though, is, his wife comes on at the end. She’s a performer, a musician as well. And they do a couple of duets, but on one of them, he forgets the lyrics.

And he just stops and he’s like, Oh shit, I forgot the bridge. All right. Hold on, let me go back to it. okay. All right. And she kind of helps him get it on his guitar and, and he’s like, okay. All right, let’s go. And you’re just seeing the art happen, you know? And when that, when we saw that one, it was like, Oh dear, we’re onto something there.

I don’t know how many people watch it. A few hundred. It’s not, we’re onto something. A million people watched it. It’s, there’s something here. And if we keep doing this for 10 years, this is going to be a, this could be iconic. Like this could be a thing where a musician says, I’m coming out with an album.

I’m trying to make it, I better go do a creative session with them. Or a chef says, I’m coming out with a cookbook. I should go do a cooking show with them to launch it. And, Nathan our, our founder, he’s been on the show before. Y’all have probably heard him. He shared the story of Michelin stars in response to kind of this vision that our teammate had come up with for creator sessions.

And we said. You better lean into this because there’s going to be a lot of people who think this is a foolish way to spend money and time and there’s going to be this dip where we don’t have enough people watching. It’s a lot of work. We’re spending money to get these people, and just on the other side of that is where it becomes really, truly interesting for the brand, and you’ve got to be the biggest advocate.

So don’t let this thing die just because it feels hard. But. His story attached to that was the Michelin star story. So Michelin is a tire company. They were started, I’m sure that’s not how people from France say it, but they were started in France.

Corbett Barr:[00:34:34] Michelle

Barrett Brooks:[00:34:35] Yeah. Something like that. Missile missile. Oh, that’s, that’s a moment when you need chase.

and as a marketing thing, they started producing guides. To restaurants and hotels and places we’re seeing. And their thesis was, if we tell people what’s worth traveling to eat or see, they’ll drive on their tires more. And if they drive on their tires more, we’ll sell more tires. And you know, it’s not linear.

You’re not thinking, if I publish a guide to a restaurant, people are going to buy more tires tomorrow. It’s a longterm thing. And what ended up happening was they, they didn’t disclose how they would rate restaurants, but they did it in the region and then they picked several regions and now they do it in 34 regions every year.

They rate restaurants all over the world, and Michelin stars are the icon of the food world for chefs. A chefs singular goal is to get a Michelin

Corbett Barr:[00:35:33] And so many people have like no idea that that that’s the tire company and they’d produce those guides.

Barrett Brooks:[00:35:39] Because why would you think that it makes no sense until you hear the story and then you think, okay, so these, I think it was two brothers or something like that. These brothers a hundred years ago or something said, here’s an idea. Let’s try it. I love that so much, and that’s. We’re trying to think in those terms.

And part of it is the privilege of we don’t have investors, we’re profitable. We keep our team small so that we’re, we have free cashflow and everything, and then we go out and we say, let’s try and be not, let’s try and be iconic, but let’s do the kinds of things that could end up being iconic because we can

Corbett Barr:[00:36:14] and yes, you have the time and energy and money, but at the same time, I love what you were talking about with Nathan giving the owner of this project a pep talk saying, don’t let this die because so many projects can die and. The average company would, instead of thinking about it and saying, how can we do something unique that will stand on its own as great, useful, interesting content, and then have the side benefit of getting our name out there instead, most average businesses would go directly at it.

As every other company had, and simply start a YouTube channel with instructional videos about how to make better email templates or something, and they would grind it out amongst the hundreds of other people doing the exact same thing. And then when you have that pep talk with the person in charge of that project, it’s even harder because.

Not, you don’t have an interesting project with amazing like musical guests and chefs and things. Instead, you’re just grinding out yet another tutorial video over and over and you hit that dip and then the project dies. So you have to spend your time and your energy somewhere. You can do it in lazy fashion like most companies do, or you can do it in an interesting way.

Something else that came to mind when you were talking about Michelin stars. You also mentioned the Guinness book of world records, right? Which is Guinness, the beer company has this book that’s amazing and everybody loves to read it. It’s so fun. How lucky are they that their name is out there and get us, does a ton of advertising as well.

And the history of advertising wouldn’t be what it is if Guinness hadn’t been involved. but. How great is it that they produce this, this book, and they don’t have to pay for their ad to go somewhere because the book has their name all over it. On the other hand, there are all these lazy companies out there that just drive me insane by naming stadiums and paying for the rights.

How lazy is that? To spend a hundred thousand or a hundred million dollars or something over the course of how many years to force everyone who talks about a sporting event to use their goddamn name, it’s just. I hate it. And I wish there were more cities that said, screw that. We’re buying the rights to this and it’s going to be the such and such, the, the Portland, you know, whatever.

As opposed to Moda center, which is some company that nobody even likes, like look up the reviews for Moda. Jeez, it’s a healthcare company or health insurance company. So anyway, point being like there’s a, there’s an interesting. Useful way to do something. And the thing that I heard throughout the thread as you were going over the different things that convert kit has tried, not all of them home runs, but, the thing that stuck out to me is that your main goal is to produce something that.

Is interesting and useful and has the potential to change one person and not necessarily that you’re going after it as a numbers game. Just trying to reach the masses with this thing. You hope that it will grow and become, really big, but it has to be good first and then hopefully it’s big because there’s so much crap out there.

Barrett Brooks:[00:39:45] Right. I, I think about this in terms of when I was in my early twenties I’d always read those 30 under 30 lists and I think, Oh, I want to be on one of those. And it was probably about the time I turned 30 when it was obviously no longer going to happen. I realized. You can’t actually get there by wanting the outcome.

You can’t get famous by wanting to be famous. He can’t be on a 30 under 30 list by wanting to be on the 30 under 30 list. You have to do something worthy of being on the list. You have to do something worthy of fame sometimes in negative ways, unfortunately, in that case, but for us, my hypothesis is exactly that.

You can only spread if you can make it work for one person, or if you can really. Resonate with one person. You know, if that, if that musical performance doesn’t hit home with the few people that did watch it, then you’re never going to have one that spreads to millions of people because it just doesn’t work that way.

People are lazy. They’re not going to go share something that doesn’t resonate with them deeply on the in, on the inverse, just because it resonates. They won’t either, but it’s got to resonate. I think on some level it’s got to hit a nerve on some level for it to have any shot at spreading far and wide.

Corbett Barr:[00:41:03] is there, Anything that we can boil it down for an individual creator. Any examples that you’ve seen? So you mentioned James clear and , both on Twitter and elsewhere, who are, who make really interesting uses of that particular medium. And they both do in, in other mediums as well. In fact, Neval I think if I recall, doesn’t he have a incredibly short podcast.

That also has like a YouTube channel. Yeah. With with just like

Barrett Brooks:[00:41:36] So he’s got like this, he’s got this thread on becoming wealthy or something like that. And that, interestingly to the original point, is the distillation of longer. Podcasts clips that they’ve organized all into one big thing on becoming wealthy. It’s like three hours now, but it’s from all those short clips.

So what I would distill it down to, I’ll tell the story of Guinness, cause if you heard the, the cap stone of the Guinness story, you got to get the origin too. And then relate that to how I think it applies to people listening. The Guinness founders were on a hunting trip, like a shooting trip for birds and England, I guess, or the UK somewhere.

And a bird flew out and one of them said, that’s gotta be the fastest, whatever, hunting bird in the world. And someone else said, no, it’s not. And they decided they were going to find out what’s the fastest hunting bird in the world. And so that was the route for this thing that became. Guinness world records.

They went and researched that one and then they said, okay, well what if we started making a guide to records that are answers to the kinds of questions people debate and bars. And that was how it tied back to the beer. And that became the Guinness book of world records. His answers to the questions people debate over beers.

Guinness. I love that story. I think it’s hilarious and brilliant. And now Guinness world records is its own organization, you know? But to your point, it’s still got the Guinness name all over it everywhere. It’s one of the, I think it’s one of the most bestselling books of all time. you know, the Bible is always first and then you’ve got books like that.

So the way I think it relates is, content is a habitual game. Without a doubt. It’s still is. You must make. Content habitually over a long period of time, you have, you have to keep going and you have to do it on a somewhat regular schedule to get enough attention to be able to earn a living at this stuff.

And I think it would be more valuable to decrease the frequency of what you’re doing and increase the originality of what you’re doing in order to get more traction faster. And so if you take some of the examples that I talked about, I think it would be more interesting to go interview a creator and take original photography of them that you are interview whoever that you’re, you know, your topic relates to interview fly Fisher people, and take photos of them fishing and to publish one article a month.

That’s a deep dive, really emotional, like connection to the craft. With beautiful photography attached that’s really high quality. One of those a month, I think will get you a lot further than a crappy little article every week. And that’s not to say you shouldn’t write the how to stuff. You know, you can work that stuff in between, but if you want to get noticed in a saturated content world, you’ve got to do something unique.

And so that’s going to take some risks. And the biggest thing I think you’ve gotta be comfortable with is you can’t. Need the content to work tomorrow to take this kind of approach because it’s, it’s too much pressure for that content. You’re not going to do it the right way. You’re not going to actually come up with original ideas.

And I tweeted this one yesterday, coming off the back of a podcast episode. You’ve got to know that you already have love and belonging like that baseline. The village already accepts you, your village, or not your readers or your Watchers or your listeners. Your village is your family and your friends and everyone else, and they’re going to love you no matter what.

You can’t be looking for the content to make you loved or to give you belonging. Like you’ve gotta be starting from a place of, I am okay, I belong. I have the, you know, whatever resources I need and because I’m okay now I’m going to go try some really interesting stuff and make some work and it’s not going to change my life.

It’s not going to make everything better, but it’s going to be a worthwhile endeavor that I enjoy along the way. And so I think if you take those two approaches, knowing you’re okay and trying original things rather than just getting on the content hamster wheel and staying on it forever. I don’t know, maybe it’s not a surefire path to success, but I think you’ll be pretty happy with how interested you were in the work along the way.

Corbett Barr:[00:45:49] And also, I think when you finish a project as most projects, and at some point you, if you, take a more unique labored, intentional. Curated sort of approach to something you will look back and have something that is, that stands on its own. You know, a lot of times we feel like a blog or podcast or something just has to live forever.

Just goes on and on and on. Never knows when it should end. unlike Michael Jordan, as we’ve seen in the recent documentary, like he went out on top, right. And, it’s so great to see that sometimes, but, A couple of examples of this. You brought up one earlier that we didn’t really talk about, but here are two that I love, that people can look at.

One is the great discontent, and this is a, sort of blog. It’s really a series of interviews with really interesting people in design and, and other creative fields. and then there’s another one called in the make and in the make was. A series of studio visits with West coast artists, and unfortunately in the make ended at some point because the people behind it moved on to other projects, but that project lives on and you can go in and read those studio visits, and they’re just as interesting today as if they were producing new ones.

and the people who did that had. Notoriety and we’re able to go on and do other things because not necessarily because millions of people tuned in, but because the right people tuned in and so often, so many of us are after just the numbers, the clicks and the likes and the raw download numbers and so on, when really it’s the quality of who is tuning in that matters so much more.

Barrett Brooks:[00:47:35] Yeah. I love that. Couldn’t agree more.

Corbett Barr:[00:47:37] Barrett Brooks, thank you so much for being on the show today.

Barrett Brooks:[00:47:40] It was fun.

Corbett Barr:[00:47:41] Yeah. We’ll have to have you on again soon. everybody, you can find links to everything that we talked about over at You can find Barrett Brooks over at his own site, and you can find the company we were talking about that he runs with Nathan Barry convert kit, which offers.

Email software for creators. You can find that over at I’m Corbett BARR, and until next time, thanks for listening to the fizzle show.

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Claire Pelletreau

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