On Having A Platform

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The way any individual can move the needle in their professional career is by having a platform.

Part of the dance that many aspiring writers must do to get a major publishing deal is to demonstrate to the publisher that they have a platform. It’s not just about an interested audience, it’s about having a place (actually, it’s preferable to have multiple places) where you can get the idea of your book to spread. If you wanted to use me as an example, I have multiple platforms: this Blog, the Six Pixels of Separation Podcast, my bi-weekly newspaper columns in the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun, my semi-regular appearances on CTV News, I speak at over 70 corporate events every year with two of the leading speaking bureaus in the world as my agent (Greater Talent Network and Speaker’s Spotlight) and beyond that I am active in both traditional media as a subject matter expert, with industry organizations, through our clients at Twist Image, and through channels like Twitter, Facebook, etc… A well-rounded platform like this gets publisher’s excited, but it’s not for everybody.

Why can’t publishers focus on what matter most: the quality of the idea and the book that is looking to get published? 

Seth Godin recently Blogged about this over at The Domino Project in a post titled, Dinner And A Show, where he says: "The show is what sells books. If the author can promote, create a viral sensation, get media, do talks, sell in bulk – the book goes along for the ride. This cripples great work, because great work without a great show can’t easily break through." Michael Hyatt over at Thomas Nelson Publishing had some similar thoughts in his Blog post, How Important Is An Author’s Platform? "Sure, as a publisher, I would like to have a great book from an author with a giant platform. But you rarely get both. I’ve seen plenty of big-name authors fall flat on their face. And I have eaten my share of unrecouped royalty advances from these under-performing titles. Media exposure does not always result in a bestselling book. Too often I have seen publishers rely on the platform and not pay enough attention to the quality of the product. This is a recipe for disaster. Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in the power of a great concept and great writing."

The content needs to stand up on its own.

This is an important lesson for Marketers who are quickly realizing that their jobs in a Social Media world force them to act a lot more like publishers and content creators than the traditional advertising roles they are more accustomed to. In order to generate significant levels of success, their content can’t be thinly veiled marketing pieces, but must live and breathe with authenticity and value within the ecosystem. Most brands can’t deliver on this because they have no idea how to quantify what success looks like (and how not to be self-serving with their Social Media endeavors). Seth and Michael are right: most people can do one thing amazingly well and it’s a unique type of character who can leverage multiple media platforms to deliver unique messages that resonate with an audience (people like Seth, Malcolm Gladwell, Jeffrey Gitomer, and a handful of others have this gift). In a world where an author’s time may be best spent on the actual writing (their true craft), it gives pause to think that a Marketer’s time could well be best spent marketing.

Is the attempt to turn Marketers into content publisher’s going to backfire or it a natural evolution?


  1. A few thoughts stood out for me in this post: (1) authors need great work plus a great show to be successful, (2) great work requires a an excellent concept and strong writing, (3) authors need to have a platform (part of the show) and (4) marketers have been extending their roles into publishing and content creation.
    A huge challenge for authors is the many hats they are expected to wear, particularly under circumstances of fundamental industry change and rapid technology evolution. But if, as your post seems to suggest, authors should focus on writing and marketers on marketing, who will marry them together to create the kind of synergy necessary for success?
    Is a book merely a mechanism to drive revenue from speaking engagements, consulting services, other paid writing gigs and so on? Does the marketer analyze the marketplace in terms of segments and competition, determine the best way to bundle products (book? speech?) and services, and figure out how and what to communicate with the marketplace?
    I suppose I’m a little confused about the message ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. The question would seem to me to be better directed at agencies, unless I am being too linear in my interpretation of the word “marketer”, which I’m sure is an insult to all agency professionals to NOT assume they fall under the “marketer” label. Anyway, I quite liked one of the principle tenants of Seth Godin’s book The Dip, which urges to be the best in the world at one thing. That said, I guess I’d have to vote for backfire, although fail to succeed is probably a less dramatic way of putting it.

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