Last week we talked about leadership, impact, and influence, today we are going back to discussing the importance of having a plan to promote your business and executing that plan consistently. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that many people feel uncomfortable about promoting their business. The smaller the business and the more necessary the need for promotion, the more likely this is to be true. Many small business owners see their business as an extension of themselves and often see promotion as a form of “bragging.” I’ll tell you a story that illustrates this. My undergraduate degree is in marketing and advertising management, but I recently completed a masters degree in apologetics. It was quite a different change in track. There were people from all different industries and backgrounds. A few, such as myself with a business background, attorneys, engineers, and even a former NFL player, but a large percentage of the students were pastors, teachers, and writers. People who work in ideas, not necessarily the nuts and bolts of production or sales.  One of the classes was on communication and one unit in that class was specifically on promotion. One of the books assigned was Platform by Michael Hyatt. If you don’t know who Michael Hyatt is, he is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. His business was not only about finding good writers but about getting those books sold. Platform is about building your personal distribution channel. The subtitle is “Get Noticed in a Noisy World.” It is about building a base of people who like and follow what you have to say or offer, or as I mentioned before, expanding your reach and developing those customer conversations. The book is specifically written for authors, and Hyatt explains the publishing industry, but the principles he covers are good for anyone in business. He tells aspiring authors that it is absolutely necessary that they create their own “platform” or distribution channel if they want to be published. The publishing industry has changed quite a bit. Traditional book deals where the publisher gives the author an advance and invests in the development, production, and promotion of the book are not as common as they used to be, but authors that have their own developed platform are more likely to receive this. I know this to be true. I have a friend who is a food blogger who has published online since 1995. She was offered a deal for a cookbook from a publisher because she already has a site that gets a million views a month, a mailing list, and robust social media profiles. Offering a deal to someone like her is a much safer bet for a publisher who is fronting an advance and investing in the development and promotion of the book versus an unknown. I’ve created marketing pieces for other authors and they have told me the same thing. Even with traditional publishing, they are primarily responsible for promoting their work.

Hyatt explains why this platform building is necessary and then lays out a step-by-step blueprint for building one. It is an overview, an entire book could be written on each specific element of building a platform, but Platform does a very good job of painting the big picture. Platform was published in 2012 and I took the class in which it was assigned in 2016. There were a few things in the book that I thought were a little dated, after all, online marketing changes rapidly; but overall, all I thought it did a very good job of explaining what and the why of what needed to be done. When I read it, I thought, “This is an awesome book.” I was the only person in my class that thought so. Everyone else absolutely hated it. They hated it so much that some wanted to petition to have it removed from the reading list for the class. They didn’t like Hyatt’s recommendations, even though he had decades of experience in the publishing industry and is a published author himself. So, fast forward a couple of years and some friends and I decided to start a journal. The first issue launched in April of this year, and just a couple of weeks ago we released the fourth issue titled, Celebrating Planet Narnia. It is in honor of one of the professors of our program, Dr. Michael Ward, who published Planet Narnia ten years ago. The main idea of his book is that the influence of the seven planets in the medieval model of the solar system are the unifying factor among C.S. Lewis’s seven books in the Chronicles of Narnia. If you’ve read, or watched The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and wondered what Father Christmas was doing in Narnia, Ward explains the continuity in his book. Included in Celebrating Planet Narnia is an interview with Dr. Ward about the journey the publication of his book launched.  This is what he says about publishing a book:

I also feel a responsibility to Planet Narnia itself, if that doesn’t sound like a strange thing to say. But I say it because of something the Inklings scholar, Diana Glyer, once remarked to me about her own (excellent) book, The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community. It’s not enough just to write a book and get it published, any more than it would be enough just to conceive a child and give birth to it. You then have a responsibility to give your work ‘a good start’ in the world (by giving talks, recording interviews and podcasts, signing copies, responding to readers), and to do what you can to tend its mid-term development in appropriate ways. . . You get to shepherd your own work for a while, which hopefully increases the chance it will gain a wide and fair hearing and accordingly be able to stand more and more on its own feet. So that has taught me a lot about the job of being a writer; it involves much more than just writing![1]
It sounds like Dr. Ward is saying pretty much the same thing that Michael Hyatt does in Platform doesn’t it? The point is, whatever type of endeavor that you have, whether it is a business, a book, an event, or a nonprofit, it is important to nurture and promote it. So make a plan for that promotion and execute it consistently.

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[1] Michael Ward. “Seven Questions: AUJ with Michael Ward.” An Unexpected Journal 1, no. 4. (Advent 2018): 10.