The anatomy of great content.

Pop quiz. What is the goal of any content? To get it seen, read, loved and shared. Duh.

Now let’s agree on another thing from the get go, creating engaging content takes time, perseverance and loads of gusto. It’s a long, hard road, and to be honest, one that has no final destination. In order to reap the benefits of great content, you need to be creative, consistent and committed to the cause.

But why does content matter? How do I go about creating it? Will my business die a painful death if I don’t? And will I win a Nobel Prize if I nail it?

Well, no, we can’t all win Nobel Prizes every day, but what I can promise you is this.

Creating killer content will propel your brand forward, win you some serious street-cred amongst your following and give you a gold star as a bonafide expert in your field. In a nutshell, you’ll hit that sweet spot like Julia Stiles does in the paintball scene of 10 Things I Hate About You, where life is great, her smile is a 10, and she hasn’t yet found out that Heath has been lying to her this whole time.

With the expanse of this thing we call the internet and the many many new businesses popping up, there are mountains upon mountains of mediocre content landfill out there, unless your content is creative, relevant and unique, it’s just added pollution.

The good news is, in this crazy clicking-tweeting-poking world of ours, relevant and engaging content travels faster than my mother to an episode of Grand Designs. Hence why smart companies the world over, are tapping into this epidemic and spoon-feeding their audience killer content to heighten awareness, foster brand loyalty and drive their bottom line. If you simply know and practice the things that create quality content every time, you can’t help but please your audience and win new friends left, right and centre.

I read the other day that between 60-70% of consumers feel better about a company that delivers original content and are more likely to buy from that company than others. So, if you were still questioning whether or not to create your own stuff, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

I’ve seen first-hand how creating original content can transform both a business and its bottom line. Ever since focusing my energy on content creation and curation for Smack Bang many moons ago, I’ve noticed the impact it has had on our brand awareness, customer loyalty, and even our bottom line. It still surprises me that each time we put out a new piece of content, whether it’s a blog, a newsletter, an Instagram post, or a jet plane message in the sky (we’ve never done that, but we will), we see a spike in our interaction and more often than not, our new business enquiries. It’s this ability to weave our brand culture into every single facet of our business that gives our audience, (and potential customers), a look into our world, a spark of connection and a genuine reason to get in touch with us.

A quick disclaimer; I don’t just write and publish content for this reason. I do it because I hand-on-heart genuinely love it. I love writing, I love sharing and I love using it as a platform to connect with loads of like-minded people. And connect I do.

Creating content has become one of my main focuses of my role. I pour countless hours and drink countless coffees to produce everything you see the Smack Bang Gang deliver. I write, I post, I publish and I track our stats like a kid counting their eggs from an Easter hunt.

So, how do you go about creating your own killer content? Well, let’s first begin with what actually makes a piece of content. You my friend, are about to get schooled in the bizniz of telling stories. And quick tip up front: whatever story you’re writing, make it original and compelling, the cross section of this is where the magic is made.

    The precise moment between drinking the strongest coffee you can find and putting fingers to keyboard, have a think about the purpose of this piece of content you’re creating. Is it to provide a new perspective? Solve a customer’s problem? Show off a certain aspect of your business? Or are you just blasting out an improvised cat meme hoping that if your Aunt Sue reposts it, it will go Bieber viral?
    Pinning down your purpose means jumping in your customer’s shoes for a second – listening to their problems and responding with timely, targeted and relevant content.
    At the risk of sounding like a broken record (not that any of us know what that sounds like anymore), people don’t like to do business with brands, they like to do business with people. Killer content harnesses your humanity. Each piece of content you create should have a fair whack of you injected into it. Don’t just skim the surface of a topic and regurgitate info that Wikipedia could have said better. Dig deep and provide a personal perspective, written from your heart. By doing this, you’ll lift your reader out of their ordinary world and invite them in to see yours.
    With every man and his MacBook Pro jumping on the content bandwagon, it’s important, now more than ever, to spin a good yarn. We are living in an age where customers crave more than just flashy features, a jazzed-up catchphrase and will no longer respond to a toothy grinned salesman in a suit. Being ‘sold to’ is so 1990. Today’s customer wants to buy into a lifestyle, a perception, and a philosophy. Sell them the story, and in return, they will want the thing.
    When I first started creating content I would sit down, consult my magical crystal ball and tap out a compilation of words that I thought sounded ‘chic-nerd’, hit publish and call it a blog post. Here I was thinking I was a ‘blogger’ but in actual fact, I was just a hot mess with a thesaurus and a WordPress login. I was adding absolutely no value to anyone’s life. Not even my Mum’s, and that’s saying something. Take the time to think about how your content will add value to your customer’s lives in a meaningful way. The end goal is for them to walk away with newfound knowledge, a thirst for more and an appreciation for you and your brand.
    Consistently produced content is the difference between a one night stand and a long-term relationship. It is the great divider and the ultimate checkmate of killer content. Consistency breeds connection and inspires loyalty. Avoid being the Eiffel65 one-hit wonder (Blue Da Ba De, much?), and instead become the reliable friend and familiar voice, the one they grow to love and trust. Believe me, this ongoing recognition is a powerful thing.
    And last but certainly not least, write your own g-damn story. Being authentic means writing from the heart and telling your own story, not a story that you found, loved and ripped from a web page. A few years ago, I came across an article online that was a word for word rip off of one of my recent posts. At first, I was gobsmacked, not only because of the next-level plagiarism but also at how freaking unlucky this girl was for me to find it? I mean, in the huge labyrinth of online content and the miles of blogs I could have stumbled across, I came across hers! Unlucky for her, but fury-inducing for me. She had quite literally ripped my entire blog post that was littered with personal references about my journey as a business owner – even the one about selling belly button dusters at the age of 5! C’mon girlfriend, you, me and the rest of the world know only one kid was weird enough to do that.

Image credit: Felix Schöppner

Consistency breeds prosperity

Contrary to the popular song, the best things in life are not free. The best things in life come at the following costs:

Bottle of red – $20 (much under and you’re not invited to dinner)

Chocolate – $3 (Cadbury is still king)

Memory foam pillow – $200 (worth it)

Massage – $55 or $120 (depending on your risk tolerance)

Overseas holiday – $5,000 (those ‘Euro summer’ selfies don’t come cheap)

Therapy – $100-150 an hour (any less and you may as well rent my dog for the day)

The above is a list of the reasons why I work.

Whilst I’d love to be the token philanthropist who works endlessly for free. The above necessities cost money and therefore require me to have money in my bank account at all times. I’m okay with this, particularly because I’m one of the lucky few who get paid to do work I love.

But what I’ve come to realise is that ‘getting paid’ as an entrepreneur, certainly doesn’t come as easy as it did when I used to throw on my Gloria Jeans apron and dish out a coupla hundred coffees a day.

Working hard as a business owner takes on a whole new level of Arnie Schwarzenegger muscle. When you work for yourself, you have to work much, much harder to get those pennies in your pocket. And what’s more, if you’re working in a growing business, you’re last in line for those pennies.

So how does one do it? How do you make ends meet and earn enough keep for your weekly block of Fruit & Nut?

In my opinion, it comes down to consistency. You show up, every damn day.

I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by some pretty exceptional business owner friends, and the common thread that I see amongst those that are striding forward and feeling fulfilled by their work, is consistency. They know that it takes grit, determination and hard bloody yakka to see their dreams come true.

And whilst I don’t condone slogging it out to watch every second of your Apple Mac’s journey of depreciation, I have seen the rewards of consistently showing up to your desk, to your inbox, to your customers, to your staff and to your coffee machine.

Among my mates, there are a few that play with the brakes and accelerator of business like all the good taxi drivers of New York – it’s a game of Russian Roulette – they go hard and go home far too sporadically in my opinion. From what I’ve seen, this just leads to a lack of momentum, a feeling of exhaustion and stopping just short of the finish line each and every time.

Because the thing I believe, is that success isn’t built on strategy. Success is built through execution.

Having a consistent practice of showing up and doing the work is, in my view, far more valuable than any degree of talent or experience. It’s also far more valuable than the business idea itself, no matter how grand that lightbulb is. Having the world’s best talent coupled with the world’s best idea simply doesn’t cut it in the long haul. Being successful and bringing your vision to life is about doing the work and showing up. If you ask me, it’s the defining factor between failure and success.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. That’s a truckload of time, requiring some consistent behaviour and discipline to show up each and everyday and practice. It means putting in the effort, being engaged and interested, and above all, following through.

In my brief, but bracing, time as a business owner (who pays way too much attention to other businesses and how they’re run), I’ve been convinced that brilliance isn’t born, it’s built. Here’s why:

  1. Consistency leads to habits.

For better or for worse, our habits come to define us. Habits are creepy little things, they sneak up on us whilst we’re going about our daily lives and before we know it, they’ve latched onto our souls like permanent parasites. But if you can gain control over your habits, and form positive ones that ensure productive days and conscious choices, you can forge yourself into the person you want to become. My day starts when the sun rises, and from then it’s all systems go as I always do my best work before 9am. This habit allows me to pump out three hours of uninterrupted work before the phone starts ringing and my inbox starts filling. It’s a habit I’ve consciously cultivated for the majority of my working life and will (hopefully) stick to forever.

  1. Consistency creates accountability.

By consistently showing up and doing the work I’m unintentionally but very clearly telling the people around me that they can rely and depend on me. And in return, I give myself a sense of accountability, to be there for those people. Simply put, it’s a two-way street. As business owners, we consistently expect our employees to be accountable for their deliverables and goals. But what I think is even more important than that, is that they should be able to expect the same in return from our leadership. I put a priority on making time for and being available to my team whenever and wherever they need it – no if’s, but’s or maybe’s.

  1. Consistency establishes your reputation.

Just like your street cred, your business growth requires a track record of success. From my experience, it’s difficult to establish a track record if you are constantly shifting gears or failing to follow through. From what I’ve noticed, the majority of business objectives don’t fail before they get to the finish line because the strategy was flawed, but instead because the vision wasn’t played out right to the very end. If you’re showing up, doing the work and following through, you’re building on your reputation and staying relevant, just simply by putting one foot in front of the other.


When I back look over my relatively short but sweet career trajectory so far, I’m well aware that I haven’t done anything amazing. I’ve just done the work consistently. And what I’ve noticed is that eventually you reach a point when success can’t outrun you anymore. Not when you’re steadily hunting it down with a dagger in your hand. Success is not about luck or a brilliant idea. It’s about stickability. The stickability to keep going, even when reason and distraction would suggest otherwise.

Image credit: Yoshinori Mizutani

Good things take time (unfortunately).

I have tried, and failed, god knows how many times to cook sausages for the adult portion of my life.
And I know why.
I rush it.
Every. Single. Sizzling. Time.

I think my partner and I have avoided close calls with salmonella at least eleventy thousand times now. I just can’t stand to wait around for the little logs to toast themselves right through. Personally, I’m all for the simple steak – blast your pan as hot as the devil’s infurnace, chuck them on for literally ten seconds each side and Bob’s your uncle. But sausages? Oh no, put them on, progress from childhood, through to buying a house, popping out a few kids and then by the time you’re ready to pack your bags and move into a retirement home they might be ready. Might being the operative word.

Aside from the key lesson that you should never research what is actually in a sausage, these BBQ favourites have also taught me an important lesson in life – that good things take time.

And they also take a certain mindset. One of perseverance. One of persistence and one of painstaking patience.

If there’s one saying that I hate the most it’s that ‘Patience is a virtue’. I’ve spent the most part of my life trying to prove this theory wrong. I live and die by the motto that impatience is actually more of a virtue. Hell, last time I sat around and waited for something to happen, it just simply, didn’t.

I recently spent a week of solitude down the coast with nothing but my laptop, my dog and great hopes / plans to get a tonne of writing done. Yet, for the first time in my working life, I really struggled to make any headway.

I’m not sure whether the anaesthetised vibe of the area got to me or whether my adrenals had finally called it a day. But I just simply could not get it together.

And I think I know why. It comes back to the sausages. I’d forgotten that good things take time. I’d put all this pressure on myself to take the week off and smash out the most part of a brand new ebook.

Oh girl. Stop right there. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

My last ebook took my contributors and I almost a year to write. And here I was gallivanting down the coast thinking I could smash out the next one in a week. What a big fat LOL!

But really, can you blame me? We live in a world of snack-sized information: the 15 second insta story, the 25 word elevator pitch, even my Dad chooses to leave all conjoining words out of his messages for the sake of word economy, rendering his language a certain kind of broken English.

It’s 2018 and we’ve well and truly come to expect turbo results, quick-fixes and overnight success. And apparently, 40,000 word ebooks in a week.

So here I am, with only a few chapters of my ebook complete. I’m taking a deep breath in, slowing down and reminding myself that good things take time. Here’s how I’m going about it, please join me…

    Whilst I certainly believe that in business, it’s the fast who eat the slow, not the big who eat the small, I do not condone working to the speed of the hampster dance song under any circumstance. If that song doesn’t give you nervous sweats and an increased heart rate then I don’t believe you to be human. Slow down, do one thing at a time and be present with your work.
    Turns out we are all too much of a rush to get to places, do the next thing, tick the boxes and do it all with a smile on our dial, a calm mind and a green juice in our hand. Our standards and the pressures we put on ourselves are so unbelievably high. Right yourself a note, forge your own signature and grant yourself an extension.
    Modern society can be irrationally over-zealous, and trying to persuade someone to only do one thing at a time – rather a bajillion tasks at once – can be like trying to stop a 6 year old from overdosing on Easter Eggs by explaining that the Easter Bunny would prefer him not to have high blood pressure and cavities.
    Taking your time is no longer just a sweet little creed your mum urged you to follow so you could colour neatly between the lines, it’s rapidly becoming the only way to successfully do your job. Taking your time means questioning why you are doing the task in the first place and ensuring that your output is actually of value.
    Technology is great. But don’t use automation to free up your time only to cram that free-time with more things to do. Use automation to rid yourself of unnecessary complexities, protecting your business (and self) from burnout. But be discerning with your new found time.
    Don’t play victim to your own life. Whether it feels like it or not, you are very much in charge of your time. What you do with the hours in your day is entirely up to you! It’s too easy to slip into martyr mode and crack the whip on ourselves for fear of ‘slacking off’.
    You’re allowed to pause from going full throttle every once in a while. Especially if you’re anything like me and you’ve been peddling yourself up a steep-ass hill for so g-damn long. It turns out that if you ease off, you might actually find you’ve still got enough momentum to roll you down the other side. And maybe, just maybe, there is more wisdom in ease than we realise.
    If you get lost in biz-know-how on the internet you’ll soon find yourself wading through the ‘more’ trend that promotes diversification, multiple income streams, and complex business models. It’s the land of plenty. But instead of overextending ourselves, I think we need to shift to a simpler business model. After all, “Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.” — C. W. Ceran

Image credit: Mother Design

What branding can do for your internal alignment

I can safely say that my team would rather have their teeth ripped from their mouths with a rusty knife much sooner than they would allow me to sit them in grey cubicles wearing stiff corporate attire on crazy deadlines with a strict no-laughing policy.

Actually, I think they’d probably think I’d finally lost it entirely and ship me off to the funny farm.

The thing is, I’ve built this Smack Bang dream on a strong foundation of love, loyalty, and lols. Our brand reflects our values and our personality — a totally strategic decision that has been the top of my list and front of my mind since day one of opening this biz. I place a huge emphasis on using our branding to not only sing our song to customers, but also to our employees because I believe that what starts within, spreads throughout.

When a kick-ass brand gains alignment, both externally and internally, it’s like a campfire at one of those awkward personal development camps. It brings everyone together to unify and get on the same page to better understand one another and the greater vision they are working towards. By investing in your branding early on, you allow your people (both internally and externally) to fully understand the ins and outs of your business, the overarching vision and rally together to achieve the mission. By enabling everyone to ride the same wave from day dot, every person who connects with your company and its products will have the same understanding of who you are and what your business stands for.

Of course, ironing out your processes, fine-tuning your customer journey, pitching to those investors, purchasing that new software, negotiating a better deal with your suppliers and all those ‘elbow grease’ tasks are important. But unfortunately, they don’t set the tone for your employees or your customers. Elbow grease simply isn’t enough. Elbow grease doesn’t tug at the heartstrings, create a gut feeling or brand loyalty. Elbow grease is necessary, but it doesn’t rouse emotion or stir action.

Branding, on the other hand, does all of the above.

Strong internal branding is the magical key to growing brand superstars from within, keeping your best peeps on side, by keeping them in the loop of firstly, what your values are, and secondly, how to deliver excellent service to your external audience.

The talk among my 15 caffeine-high crazies is generally a younger, more jacked-up version of the cast of Friends at Central Perk. They are a young, energetic, change-minded bunch and they totally get what I set out to achieve. As a team, we’ve infused our company values into all aspects of our company culture, and as one delectably delicious result, my employees have become true representatives of the Smack Bang brand. And I can safely say that it is by far my greatest achievement.

The thing is, you can’t really think about your customers unless you also think about your people. Branding starts from the inside. Your team must understand: your values, your place in the world, and your ‘why’. They have to get what you stand for, who you stand with, and why you’re flipping standing for anything at all. This will then seamlessly be carried on to the audience.

Even the most creative business leaders I know recognise that success is not just about coming up with more flashy product enhancements, more eye-catching ads, more aggressive use of Insta Stories, or more dreamy-eyed models wearing your dreamy products. It is also, and perhaps more importantly, about giving a damn. Giving a damn about your customers, your employees, and about how the company conducts itself among many who are willing to settle for mediocre and not put their customers at the tippy-top.

So how do you go about setting the structures of your internal branding walls?

The goal is to give your employees the tools they need to live the brand. Make it clear and easy to digest. Comprendo? Here’s the 411:

    Your team is your greatest asset, so fill them in on all aspects of your brand. Creating excitement and buzz around a central theme or goal will help them, in turn, to be informed, engaged, and ultimately, persuasive when they evangelise to others (ie. your audience). Make sure that your team fully comprehends the vision that you are building, and make it fun enough that they connect the best damn memories to learning what it is you’re losing so much hair over. In order to reach for the stars, they’ll need to know which stars to chase.
    Employees need to hear the same messages that you send out to the marketplace. If you’re preaching honestly to your customers, but not following that through to your employees, you risk threatening employees’ perceptions of the company’s integrity: being told one thing by management but observing a different message being sent to the public. Major bummer, dude.
    Every month or so my team and I do an activity that reinforces who are we and where we want to be. Successful branding is a journey, not a one-and-done activity. It’s important to keep revisiting this as your business grows and evolves. The more consistently you develop your internal brand, the sooner it will cement employee commitment to the company and ensure alignment.When your team’s values, actions and behaviour is in alignment with the greater brand, it helps with recruitment, retention and relationships at every customer touchpoint. Of course, advertising for us is important, of course, the design of our website is important, but if our clients have a positive experience every time they come into our studio for a meeting and see bright, bubbly, happy faces, that’s what builds our reputation.Your team are your secret weapon when it comes to brand evangelism. If they dig you, they’ll run at 110km/hr to give this thing wings. Conversely, if they see blatant hypocrisy or incongruence between internal and external messaging, they’ll still run at 110km/hr, but in a different direction. A strong internal brand is the nuts and bolts of your baby that will directly impact the effectiveness of your external efforts, bringing your brand values to life and giving them legs to run off into the sunshine and do all the things that pairs of legs can do! Make your employees brand ambassadors, and the battle is half won.

Image Credit: Ice Cream Books

What to do when your brand has too many different directions

Fun fact: Most business owners don’t die of starvation, they die of indigestion – being gluttons for bright, shiny things that overwhelm rather than satisfy their primary business objectives.

Naturally, a business owner is a business owner because they have had a bright idea. There are light bulbs ding-dinging overhead at a million miles an hour and often, entrepreneurs feel like they just have to do it all: the graphic design, the magazine, the website business, the plant rental business, that new app idea – even the bloody belly button dusters.

Finding a direction for a business is not often the hard part, but sticking to it generally is. We usually know where we want our business to go… in all 23,908 directions, without delay. As entrepreneurs, we get so excited by all the possibilities that it can sometimes be paralysing, or at the very least, leave us feeling scattered, burnt out and as though every cell of our body has been pulled in different directions.

I’d like to fly a little warning flag here: when we flutter off into scatter-space, it becomes super obvious to our audience. As much as we don’t like to admit it, the way we feel and operate is reflected in our branding. We wear our inside thoughts and emotions on our outside appearance.

I was chatting to a client the other day as she described how she felt that her business had too many directions. I explained that I already knew that – I could tell by the ten different fonts she had going on, the mix-matched collage of styles throughout her Instagram feed and the fact that her website copy sounded like it was written by a collection of 30 different authors. Harsh? Yes. True? Very.

We all know the importance of having a clear idea of why we exist in this world, to whom our brand is speaking, and what kind of brand personality we want to reflect. However, without setting up some systems and keeping tabs on this, it is easy to venture off the pathway chasing bright shiny things into a rabbit hole of no man’s land.

Having a clear direction, with clear branding allows you to attract the right kind of customer, and treat them to a good time.

So, how do we get focused and stay focused?

    “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek
    Whhhhhhyyyyy are you getting out of bed each morning? Why do you skip social events and hunch over your laptop into the wee hours? Why do you stay on top of trends like a cyber-stalker and conduct your inbox like a ping-pong tournament? You’ve got passion in spades about something spectacular – so make sure you’ve connected to your ‘why’, and see if others don’t follow suit.
    If you’re anything like me, the ideation stage is easy. All it takes is a sharpie and some butchers paper and off I go. Within ten minutes we’ve negotiated a double storey studio, landed the best project to date, worked out our major process issues, landed the deal of a lifetime, solved life’s meaning and eradicated world poverty. The first step for getting clarity is getting it all down. Brain. Dump. Everything. Jot down every idea, thought, feeling and persistent little glimmer of hope – it’s the golden key to the next golden key (and so on).
    Check your ideas against your big fat ‘why’ and work out which ones to keep and which ones to park for the time being. The ideas that fit within your core idea are the ideas that you need to work towards. There’s no point wasting time and energy on the duds that don’t match your overall mission – cull, and cull some more!
    Identifying your core idea is as crucial as caffeine before just about anything. Your brand needs to have one core idea in order to clearly communicate why people should work with you. What is it that your brand does? What does your brand want to represent? You need to be able to be conveying this in one easy-breezy sentence, to keep ‘em coming back for more. Under promise, over deliver.
    The next step is to work out who you’re bending over backwards for. Whose problems are you actually solving? Having a clear idea of your market is essential. Who is your niche/target market? Tailor everything you do and every move you make to that one ideal client. This will help you streamline your approach and prevent you from wandering into too many different directions. Keep coming back to that one client profile and ensuring that everything is in line with their ‘problem’. Love your people – it is infectious.
    Now that you’ve got (most of) your ducks in a row, you need to craft a brand that tells your story, creates an emotional connection with your target audience, and engages people to do business with you. Building a brand is not something that can be rushed; it requires time, care and thoughtful energy. It is vital to have solid branding foundations and a winning style guide so that everything you do is founded on the best premises and remains constant as you progress forward towards superstardom.
    Here you are! You’ve done the hard yards and have a sweet, sweet branding deck on-board. Now, it’s crucial to stay consistent and do regular check-ins with the core of your business and brand to make sure that you are staying relevant and true to the cause. Keep the main thing the main thing – I will never tire of saying that. Consistency is key to loyal groupies that want to ride every wave with you!

Image credit: Asis.