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Alastair McDermott, Craig Burgess
Alastair McDermott 00:00
Hi, folks. So I have something a little bit different for you today as gift for St. Patrick’s Day. This is a special bonus episode of the podcast, and it’s very different from our usual interview episodes. This is a behind the scenes look at an impromptu conversation between Craig Burgess and I. And this is the first time I ever spoke to Craig, I’ve been following on Twitter for a long time, sounds like really interesting guy. Actually, I thought our conversation was so interesting that it might be useful for somebody out there to listen in. And when we started chatting, we had absolutely no intention of publishing it publicly, but as you hear in the conversation, I do ask Craig for his permission to share it at the end, because I thought it might be of value to you. The intention of the call was to talk about content creation and burnout. And we hit record about five minutes into the conversation just after we introduced to each other because like, it was literally the first time we spoke. And Craig is just explaining to me what he wants to talk about. And actually, that was why we recorded this because he wants to do this as as a bit of research for a post that he’s writing about content burnout. This is not amazing quality audio – it’s not bad, but it’s not amazing – because we recorded our call on Zoom, rather than the usual recording studio that I like to use, just because it wasn’t originally intended for broadcast. And it is a longer episode, it’s over an hour. But you know, you might find it useful. have, you know, started listening and see if it’s something that interests you? If you prefer the interview format episodes, I completely understand that feel free to skip this one. Yeah, I hope you find it interesting. And if you do like it, please let me know. Because I do have some conversations with people where we don’t originally intend to to broadcast and, you know, even talk during this episode about that, about the difference in how we respond and talk when we know something’s going to be recorded and broadcast versus not. Let me know what you think of this. I’d love to get your feedback on it because it is totally different. Now onto the conversation.
Craig Burgess 01:59
I used to do, I used to do a conversation podcast myself, but but as part of the things that I’ve parked, I’ve also parked that temporarily as well. Right? Yeah, due to the whole content burnout thing? Yeah. Yeah. So I used to, I used to promote, he’s the only talk about design, blah, blah, blah, all that kind of stuff. I was writing 10 tweets a day, I was endlessly replying to people on Twitter, I would comfortably be spending one to two hours a day on Twitter. And outside of the work day as well in the work there. But outside of the work there to write. I was, quote, unquote, growing an audience. and the whole newsletter array is investigations. Well, I’ll read you the exact wording. So it gives you a kind of flavor, an ongoing investigation into the state of our online publishing habits and how we can strive to make better work. So I’m writing a bigger piece right now that I’m talking to people like you about, about how people become burned out on content, and I’ve just wanted to, I’m pushing myself a little bit more on this one. Try and talk a little bit, dare I say my journalistic integrity Talking to other people and getting other people’s perspectives. So yeah. So yeah, I know that’s a big run rumbling intro but bigger.
Alastair McDermott 05:08
Okay. So yeah, I certainly did. And I think in a couple of different ways. So, one, so about four or five years ago, so I’ve been in business since 2007. And I have been blogging on and off since 2007. I even was making YouTube videos and stuff like that back then. Now, I find it very difficult. And I had, I had a, at the time, I call it an internet marketing, consulting business. So I did a lot of SEO, and I got into building websites, because clients just kept asking for websites. So I eventually got into doing websites, and then I rebranded as website doctor and went down that route. Because I hated selling SEO, I just like the, the way I view SEO is, we’re gonna do a huge amount of work, we’re gonna take a lot of your money to do that. And we’re going to hope that it works, and it may not, and we’re not all in control of this. And so it may work, it may not work, it’s going to be timely, and, you know, very, very costly. But that’s kind of the promise of SEO. And I know like there’s a bit more nuance to it than that. But it’s just a heart like, it was just something I wasn’t I wasn’t really comfortable with selling, particularly when the timelines were so long. I also saw a couple of times where I knew a lot of people in the SEO industry. And I saw a couple of times where friends of mine had been working with somebody for 6, 12 months, the clients got tired of seeing no results, and then hired somebody else. And then two months later, something besides ranking. And it certainly wasn’t the the new. It wasn’t the new SEO agency that came in that that was buying all sorts of dodgy, you know, dodgy gambling site links and things. It was the hard work the previous guys had put in. But it’s it’s this thing where the timelines are so crazy in SEO. Anyway, that’s a bit of rambling a change away from that. What I found was that creating, I got burned out creating content, because I was creating lots of content that didn’t work. And I am now quite opinionated about way didn’t work. Because of my own experience. It was because I didn’t have any specialization. And that made it so difficult. So I was writing blog posts that were for such a generic audience, it was really difficult to write them. Because I really love writing blog posts, that’s that’s the thing. I actually love the process of writing and doing the research and figuring things out and editing and everything, just just writing something really good. So like I, I once wrote a guest blog posts thing for Danny Iny. Whose was like he would he would be quite well known in the kind of elearning space. Like he would have probably hundreds of 1000s of followers that type that type of guy. And I think I spent 12 hours writing that guest blog post, you know, so much so that later I actually turned it into an e book, I kind of tacked some more stuff on to it, and turned it into a book. But the problem that I had was, all of this content was so generic, and I had so many different types of clients. Like for example, one client that I had was a magician for a children’s like it was like the children’s birthdays and things like corporate stuff, like weddings, and that kind of guy. Another client that I had was a mining company that literally had owned quarries and trucks. And then I had lots of weather, you know, the regular like E commerce, like businesses that own shops that sold you know, children’s toys, or children’s clothes, things like that. I had a pharmacy, all sorts of different types of clients like all across the board. And you know, over the course of seven or eight years, like I must have had clients in about 30 different industries, maybe more, you know, all these different sectors. And so there was no pattern. And so I was getting burnt out because I was trying to write this content that was so generic. And because it was so generic, the advice would appeal would appeal would be relevant to all of the different types of clients. And so what happened is it ended up being so bland and generic, that it was horrible to write it because it was difficult. I saw zero results from it. And I slowed down and I started releasing less and less and less. And so it kind of it was and ended with a whimper rather than a bang. And what really did it for me was was one day I realized and it took me years to actually properly act on the realization but I realized that I needed to specialize. And that that was the key thing. And that once I specialized in my niche down, everything changed for me and it became so much easier to create content. Because I was writing for a special If it Guardian’s about a specific problem, and and so, and that was maybe like my first realization of a specialization. It’s horrible to think that it was so long ago, but it was by 2014 2015. But I only really acted on it in about 2018. And I started turning the ship in terms of starts to niche down 2018 2019 and was only in about 2020, that I was the end of 2021, I really took it seriously. Because I had burnout for another reason, which was just overwork. During the pandemic, I was working crazy hours, I had 404 sheduled calls in 2020. And most of those, and like all of those were real calls. All of those were like they weren’t five minute calls, they were long calls with people. Because I worked with the with my local enterprise office who are like a regional government agency for business support. So I was working with them to help businesses to get on line because obviously, there was so many businesses needed to get in line job during the pandemic. So, so I suffered burnout from that, which was just overworked burnout. And that was when I said, Okay, I really need to work on my own specialization stuff here now, but But before that, yeah, it was it was the, the problem was, was trying to create this bland, bland contents, the the bleep bag type contents that you’re talking about, you know, I also did the did the kind of the naive thing of creating content for my peers for a long time. And so creating content for my peers rather than my clients, to impress other people. Yeah, and like, so I got, I got a reputation where I was being invited to speak at, you know, techie conferences and things like that, like, particularly around that around WordPress. I know, like, like WordPress is to Penny nowadays. But I was big into WordPress in 2006 2007. I kind of bet the bet the business owner in 2007 2008. And that was my specialization for a long time was I make WordPress websites. And there was enough demand, and there was conferences about it. And so it’d be asked to talk, you know, things like that. But, yeah, I don’t know if I’ve answered your question fully. But did they certainly want me to clarify or talk about they’re
Craig Burgess 12:15
just curious as to what so you said, you’re specialized, what have you specialized into, and what’s been the result?
Alastair McDermott 12:23
So what I’ve done is I have I took my I went through process specialization, where I audited all of the types of people that I worked with, and, and I put them all in a spreadsheet, which I’ll happily show you. And then I went through them all for Who do I like working with the most. And I realized that the people that I like working with the most were the people who work quite similar to me. And so I have never wanted to have an agency type business. I’ve always wanted to have a consulting type business, and a kind of expertise based, smaller. And I realized that consultants, experts were my favorite clients to work with. And it was the thing that I was most interested in. It was also one of the hardest problems to deal with. Because what I found with with marketing and internet marketing was literally in my business name. It was LogOn Internet Marketing was the first business name I had. And a lot of the internet marketing techniques that I used with my clients, who were B2C consumer type clients, selling products and things. A lot of the techniques that I used with them, worked great for them and worked horribly for me, like things like Facebook ads, Google ads, things like that. And I was I was really frustrated by that. Why is why am I able to do this for other people, but not for myself? Like, is it just that the shoe maker has no shoes? Or is there something different there is there? And so it took me time and I actually had to do some research, I surveyed over 1000 consultants. And I, the way I did that was I surveyed, I did I was a little bit gnarly. Now I have to say I would did some LinkedIn automation, and in a way that they wouldn’t allow you to do now. And I did get slapped a couple of times by LinkedIn like, but I got cut back. But I, I sent out a certain literally a mini survey to multi choice questions, and then two paragraph answer type questions. And then asking people if they wanted to give me their email, I would send them the results of the research. And so I sent that out to about 100 120 people. And I started off with with a couple of with certain types of questions about websites in particular. And then as I got answers back, I realized that I need to ask other questions to learn more. So after about 100 or so, I sent out and I changed the survey to ask different questions. And so I was asking this on LinkedIn through the connection request automation. And so a lot of people were connecting with me on LinkedIn as well. So they were connecting with me on LinkedIn, they were taking my survey and some of them were also giving me their email All dressed to subscribe. And so it was, sometimes it was a triple win. But even if they just took the survey, or even if they just connected with me, I saw it as a winner as well. But sometimes people will do all three, which was great. And so I did, I did this process of doing a survey until I got 100 or 120 responses. And then I would change the survey and ask different questions based on what I’d learned from the last one. And so I learned a huge amount, basically, this kind of market research I was doing, I learned a huge amount about the way that consultants in particular, and I’m thinking, business consultants, management consultants, people like that. Any kind of independent consultant could be people like SEO consultants, you know, anybody who’s really an expert in their field, I was, I was going to targeting all of those with this crazy LinkedIn search that looked for a particular people. And so I learned a massive amount about how they view marketing what’s important. And that kind of formulated my thinking. And since then, I started a podcast. And I originally call it Marketing for Consultants, because that’s what I was focusing on. Even before that, I was thinking Websites for Consultants, that’s what I wanted to do. But I kept seeing this thing coming up in the survey we don’t care about about our website, our website is not important to us. And I needed to dig in and understand that and that’s where I, I started asking more and more questions. And in fact, I got to the point where I got some interesting results. And so I surveyed independent consultants, and then I surveyed consultants in firm size two to 10. And then in firm size 11 to 50. And then in firm size 51 to 200. Because I was so amazed at the results of this research, which was that networking and word of mouth is our number one way of getting business. Now I thought, okay, that makes sense for solo consultants. But for larger firms, like what, 200 people, but surely they’ve gotten a bit more advanced than that, but their past word of mouth, and they weren’t. And in fact, what’s really interesting to me is that even when you look at the big, like the Big Four consulting firms, word of mouth, networking, personal networks, is still the major source of business for them. They’re operating at a different scale. And they also do other types of marketing, like like brand marketing, and that kind of stuff. But I was just amazed at this, the dominance of this. And so I started to, I started to ask more questions about that, trying to figure that out. And what I realized was, so the websites aren’t important to them, because they’re getting their business through word of mouth. So if you’re getting your business through word of mouth through a personal referral, then your website doesn’t need to sell all your net website needs to do is basically meet the low bar of making you look professional and trustworthy. That’s all it needs to do. It doesn’t need to do anything interactive. It doesn’t it, you know, it can basically be a brochure site. Planners, you know, there’s a semi Well, I want to examine fashion sounds as a professional picture of you wearing a suit and tie, you look like, Hey, this guy looks like a consultant, yeah, we’ll go with them, you know, there’s a certain bar, I have a list of things that I think they’re important, but that so I call I call that like a passive trust building website. That’s kind of what it is, is like a brochure site. But I was also interested in, there are some people who are doing something different, which is the people who were doing something more active with their websites, the ones who do care about their websites. And so what they’re doing is typically, they are doing content marketing, or inbound marketing, or authority marketing, or education, marketing, whichever one of those things you want to call it. And I was really interested in that. And so I started the Marketing for Consultants podcast, because I wanted to focus on that part. And after about 25 episodes, I rebranded to The Recognized Authority, because I did some research. And that was the phrase that I liked how to become a recognized authority in your field. Because I could see that this is the other path, the path of becoming known as an authority is the other option to surviving off referrals. And so most people will actually live on referrals. That’s, that’s where most consultants, what most consultants will do. Even large firms, it’s like, it’s astonishing. But for some people, referrals don’t work. Some people are introverts, they don’t like the networking that’s required to build up a big referral network. Some people you know, they just have small networks, or that maybe they want to change what they’re doing. And now their referrals are passing, they’re passing the wrong type of business. So yeah, so I was really fascinated by that. And so I got into I got into helping people or helping consultants to become known as The Recognized Authority in the field. That’s kind of my specialization now. So I have a few different ways. I I say that one, one Like, I see consultants, these generalist consultants wearing this cloak of invisibility, like in Harry Potter. And they’re really good at what they do, but nobody knows who they are. And so in order for them to become better known, they have to start publishing. But you can’t just start publishing, if you don’t have a specialization, because like the phrase, The Recognized Authority in their field, you have to have the fields. If you don’t have the field, then you can’t become an authority just just won’t work. You can’t be a generalist authority, because it just doesn’t really exist. I know that people will argue about that, and, and, you know, give examples of people. But I think that if you dig into those examples, what you’ll find is they did actually start out as a specialist at some point, like, for example, Gary Vaynerchuk, is well known. He started out Wine Library TV, he started out as that specialist, he has expanded Sure. But in reality, he was a specialist, and he still is a specialist in a couple of key areas. I know he answers questions where he authoritatively on any topic you’d ask him, but I think that’s more to do with his confidence and brashness than his actual expertise in every area. I know he’s a smart guy. But yeah, so. So that that was that was really interesting to me was this journey to authority that that people had to go through. So they started off as a novice, I see this literally as a journey, they started off as a novice, they’re really smart, but they don’t have a lot of experience, they’ve got to get some broad experience. So they have this kind of windy road for a while. And then they become this generalist expert, this consultant. And at that point, they’re really good at what they do. Quite often, they’ve built up a really good referral network at that point. But they’re invisible to the wider world. And so in order to get more visibility, what they need to do is start doing publishing, speaking and research. And in order to do that, they have to go through a process of specialization. And that’s the key thing is, most people are scared of their life of specialization, because specializing in niching down is a process of turning away opportunity. It’s your, you’re saying, Okay, I’m going to leave the ocean, I’m going to move to this small pond. And, you know, it feels terrifying to do that. But the thing is, it’s so much easier when you’re in that pond, because you can be the big fish. And so long as you pick a right the right pond. So the process of specialization for me. And it’s a process that I’m trying to help people with, because I think that it’s, it’s something that you need to do. I also think that everybody focuses on what they’re losing, by not specializing. But they don’t focus so much on what they’re losing, by not specializing. Because you’re turning away a lot of different things. If you don’t specialize, you’re turning away the ability to become an authority, you’re turning away the ability to do bleep marketing, you’re turning away the ability to partner with other people, because when you’re a generalist, everybody is your competitor. Whereas when you’re a specialist, you can partner with other specialists and, and work together. And you say, hey, you know what, Mr. Client? I don’t do that. But I know somebody else who does that, rather than saying, oh, yeah, I can do that for you. And so you’re not working on projects where, you know, it’s not a perfect fit for you. So you can you can, you can work on your specialization. And then there’s other things that come from it as well, which is, when you specialize your, your workflow is easier, because you’re not learning on every project, your profit margins go up, and life just becomes easier, even if you just specialize and don’t go on to become an authority. Just going from generalist specialist I think was a great advantage. So I am fanboy number one of specialization of niching down. So there you go. Does that answer everything? Sorry for the rant?
Craig Burgess 23:46
No, no, it’s interesting to listen to, because so is it man or just the podcast? You’re doing that?
Alastair McDermott 23:53
You said the podcast is my primary bleep. And
Craig Burgess 24:02
I love this right? Because I love it whenever. Whenever I discuss this with someone and I say, or they go listen to the Wednesday audio, they become completely red pilled on this idea of bland content that you’re talking about. And they and they hate it. I love it. I love it to see the reaction.
Alastair McDermott 24:21
Yeah, yeah. Well, I think a lot of that plan content. Okay, so the other thing about the plan, kind of first of all, it’s probably because people are not specialized. Good thing as well as like there is there is a steep learning curve, particularly when you go from generalist to specialist. And you’re like one of the things about it is once you start to focus all of your mental energies and your your your thoughts on one particular problem area, one particular type of clients. It changes the way that you that you think about it. So suddenly you’ve got you’ve got this deep level of focus on something And maybe you’re doing some research in it as well, you’re talking to the same types of clients over and over again. And you start to go into this pattern matching, where you start to develop this really deep understanding of a topic, way deeper than you ever could when you when you were a generalist, I know there are a lot of smart people who are generalist who are really, really got what they do. But I think it’s just not the same thing. As when you specialize. Like I think, for example, if you took any of the, you know, the Olympic sports, the, the decathlon, the heptathlon, or any of those, any of those competitors who do all of those multi sport events, I don’t think that they would, they would be in the top three, in any if they were just in the specialist event, or they just specialized in that one event, because the specialists are able to focus. And so I think it’s quite similar to that, you know, it’s not not identical, but I think that’s a, that’s an analogy for it. It’s, it’s just not quite the same when you totally specialize in something, and you start to, like, I don’t think that you can write a book on a topic, unless you’ve specialized niche down out, you know, at least not a not a good book, you know, you might be able to Rice, you know, business cards, pamphlet type book, you know, but but something kind of with deep insight, I think it takes a bit of, I think it takes that that that clinic going deeper. I agree. And
Craig Burgess 26:19
I think particularly in the focus, when you’re just talking about specializing on the marketing side, our content side, or whatever word you want to use. I’ve long since held this belief that people can only know you for one or two things, probably one thing. And if you’re trying to say, I am this comma, this comma, this comma, this comma, this comma, they’ll only remember the first two, the first two things in the list, even probably on the first one,
Alastair McDermott 26:49
or worse, they will believe that you’re not good at all, at any of them. Because there’s too many on there. Like when I’m hiring somebody to work, if I’m hiring a freelancer or a subcontractor of some kind, I’m looking for a specialist. I don’t want somebody who works. I don’t want like I was talking to somebody. And they said, Oh, I can edit your podcast. I can also edit YouTube videos, I can do Instagram, I can do graphic design, and I can do SEO. I can No, you can’t click that. Like, that’s, you know, I appreciate you’re really good at what you do. But you’re just spreading yourself too thin. Like, there’s only like, there’s only so many. So so far the jam can spread, you know? And, and, like, up to the point where, like, I know, because like that was me, you know, 15 years ago or 10 years ago, trying to do everything? You know,
Craig Burgess 27:43
I think that to some extent, it’s all it’s all of us at some point, you get that thing, especially when you’ve got your your own agency or your own freelancer, when you’ve got to make your own money. You take everything on, you say yes to everything, because you never know where the next piece of money is coming from. Yeah. So you’re, you’re literally learn a new thing. I’ll do it once. And you’re like, I can do that ourselves. And then you tell him that to everybody. And then you just find yourself jumping between all these crazy different skills that you have? No, yeah, and but for
Alastair McDermott 28:15
me that like That’s okay, at the start. I mean, in fact, it’s required at the start. That’s why I see like the novice, who starting out has this winding path as they they go from side to side, they get a gate gaining this broad experience, because unless you get that broad experience, you can’t actually make a good specialization decision later on, when you want to specialize. But I think that it is an evolution, I think that you do, at some point, say, you know, what, I’ve had enough of learning on every project, I’ve had enough of doing a different thing every time I’ve had enough of you know, and the other thing is, you just can’t charge a premium when you do everything. You can’t charge a premium, because you’re not the best. It’s only when you niche down that you become, you know, you become the top of a handful full of people who specialize you know. So I think that it’s hard to charge premium prices. And so you you then get in this feedback loop where you have to say yes to everything, because your profit margins are lower.
Craig Burgess 29:13
Oh, coming back to the content side of this. How much do you think? Yes, it’s an element of your niching down. But this also links into the referral thing, which I didn’t know about bigger companies. That’s quite interesting. We get them easily the majority of our work, in fact, probably 100% of our work from referrals. From probably me talking to people. That’s usually how it happens. Yeah. And I’m surprised at the bigger companies. Well, one once one side I am surprised one size I’m not. But the point I’m getting at is that I wonder how big of this factor is not necessarily the referrals. It’s the fact that we’re human and we’re connected to personalities. Yeah, do you know the whole the old adage Have people buy people? And I wonder if that’s just the thing at any scale that we all just we meet a person, we like them, and we want to work with them.
Alastair McDermott 30:11
Yeah, but content does that too. Sorry, bleep does that too. Because if you’ve got a podcast and you’ve got a podcast, I’ve got a podcast, we have people literally putting our voice in their ears when they go out for a jog or they drive to work, or they’re on the bus or whatever, you know. And there’s incredible privilege in that. And that so we are developing a parasocial relationship. They call it this one way relationship, where they are quite familiar with us from listening to us on a regular basis. And the people who I listened to, you know, I’m familiar with, with podcast hosts, who have never heard of me, and never will hear of me, because I trust them, because I listened to them on a regular basis. So if you are developing relationships, you’re building that trust. And it comes back to trust for me, like, the reason why referrals are so important, is because they pass trust. If I if I say, Listen, you should talk to Greg, he’s really good at what he does, I am telling that person that I trust you and they should trust you too. And so you’re passing the trust in the relationship. And because what we do is usually quite risky. Like IT consulting work in particular, there’s a few different things about it, compared to other types of things that people sell. It’s usually invisible. It’s intangible. So you can’t, you know, pick it up and knock on it and feel the build quality. It’s usually something quite often, it’s something that people don’t want to talk about. You know, we don’t want to talk about how our SEO was terrible two years ago, or we don’t want our competitors to know that we invested a lot in SEO. So we don’t want to tell people with that. Or, you know, whatever that is. And quite often, it’s even embarrassing. So people don’t want to talk about it. Because the before I say it was embarrassing for them. It’s usually quite transformative. Like, if you’re doing something important, it’s transformative. But transformative also means risky. So all of those things about consulting mean that the level of trust that you require, as a buyer is higher than when you’re buying a buyer chocolate or a pair of shoes. And it’s usually much more expensive as well. So that means you need more trust, which means that trust is more important, which means that the personal referral is really crucial. And this is what really got me is, is there any way to substitute for that personal referral? Well, you can’t use Facebook ads, usually, and all of those kinds of things. You can’t actually use them, but only in a very particular way. I think that you can use those ads into content or into bleep. But you can’t use those content. You can’t use those ads to sell send people straight to a sales page for for coaching or consulting gig. It just won’t they won’t they they need more than that. So what you can do is you can use that content to create the trust, because as they consume it, they will start to trust you more and more. They’ll subscribe to your podcast, they’ll subscribe to email. And they say, you know, I like this guy, Greg, I like the way he talks. He’s my kind of guy. I like the way when he gets on video, he’s wearing mountain biking, Jersey. And I like that cuz I like mountain biking. Alright, and there’s all these little things, you know, that gives me purpose
Craig Burgess 33:14
for year, I look to your history. And so yeah, I can dominate to get that piece of luggage.
Alastair McDermott 33:22
Yeah, but all of those things kind of go together to make this this trust. And yeah, it is more one way than two way. But But that means it also scales as well. It’s
Craig Burgess 33:31
sorry to interject. But I think I think that builds into the personality thing as well, though, isn’t it? If I think there’s two levels of content, I wrote about this recently enough, in a massive 5000 word piece about what what is content and bad content and good content. And I think a podcast can be both good and bad in terms of good content, bad content. So for me bad content is primarily surface level stuff, the kind of things used spoke about making before surface level doesn’t specialize into any particular topic doesn’t really help anybody. It’s just, you know, it’s just a bitch. You know, Magnolia, whatever, Magnolia pin. And then good content goes into detail. It is those kind of 5000 word articles that I’ve just spoke about. And it’s specialized in that particular thing. And I think those kinds of articles, either article or podcast, a podcast can be good and bad content. And the thing that always comes back to me the point I was I was trying to emphasize was the personality thing, which I think is a key part of it. I think the personality, a good podcast, you connect with the listener, you connect with the host because he’s sharing something of himself or herself that they’re either they’ve got on a very surface level. They’ve got a unique accent in some way or they’ve got some kind of unique acquire species. They share little tidbits about their life, or they seem warm or they seem normal, quote unquote, normal. They seem like a real person. But I think then, conversely to that with podcasts, the person who is very staid and very, you know, not clearly not themselves reading from a script, for example, not sharing any personal insight, all of those kinds of things, you wouldn’t connect with that person on a podcast. So I don’t think it’s as simple as to say that it’s just what is a podcast? You’re hearing them, it’s in your ears, therefore you connect with them? I do, I do think is to some extent, like the referral is the person you’re connecting with. And the reason you’re connecting with them, is because of, to some extent, the personality, you know what I mean?
Alastair McDermott 35:49
Yeah, I take your point. And I guess, you know, some people have, some people have more of that than others. And it’s something you know, I try and work on it a bit, you know, I tried to bring more humor in, I have a very, very dry sense of humor. And I know, that doesn’t work for some people. And I also know that crossing cultures, I’ll make a joke, and somebody just won’t get that. And so like, I’ve had it, where I’ve I’ve actually caught out of podcast interviews I’ve caught where I’ve made a joke, and the other person just didn’t get it. And I said, I said to the other Look, just clip that 30 seconds, because it’s awkward, you know, so, and it’s just like, it might be a cultural thing. It might be we’re on video or whatever. But like I’m, I’m, I’m very much into having a sense of humor about business. I like, I want business to be fun. I don’t want to just to be like, I’m self employed, because I want to be my own boss. And I want to decide how I work. And I want to work with people who I like, and I want to work with people who I have fun with. You know, it doesn’t have to be always funny, but it’s nice to work with people who can have a laugh about something, and, and not be all business all the time. So hopefully that comes out. But at the same time, you know, I think I think that there’s a balance there because there are people who are like, there are people who I listened to, and I wish that they would bring some more personality to what they’re doing. But I’m still listening because what they’re talking about are so fascinating. And, you know, I think John Lee Dumas for me, so he’s, he’s, he’s the podcaster who kind of started the daily podcasting thing. I think he was the one who kind of burned into my head, the know like and trust factor. And, and, and so I always think know, like and trust. I want them to know me, I want them to like me, and I want them to trust me in that and that is all like, that’s part of why I do the podcasting. Also, I’ve been listening to podcasts since forever. Since before this is before you can actually subscribe to feeds. I was listening to podcasts, we had to download the mp3 Plus
Craig Burgess 37:54
our Jesus Christ, it’s seven mp3 player, an actual mp3 player. Yeah. And it wasn’t an iPod. A creative, creative Zen, I think, as well. Yeah, I’m sure it was called the creatives that 20 gig and I used to I think it was Joe Rogan’s podcasts I used to loto because he was one of the only podcast I knew, but I can pretty much abide him anymore. But
Alastair McDermott 38:18
the bow ag world podcast was the first one I was listening to. Well, yeah, that’s in about 2004 I think. And I just loved those, the those two Paul Boag, Marcus Lillington. And just the the, the banter that they had. And what was amazing about that podcast was it was about web design in 2004. And I used to listen to when I was cycling, to sailing, actually, because I used to after work, I would go sailing on a Tuesday, Thursday. And I’d cycle across Dublin. And I used to, I used to listen to that. So I always made sure I had two episodes one for the way over one for the way back. But what I remember about that being really interesting was that they spent the first 15 minutes slagging each other off, not talking about the topic. And they were just having banter. You know, it was it was good for like, I mean, obviously, they were like, they were making reference to it and, and things but I just loved that the way that they were doing that. I still haven’t managed to find the right person to have have a podcast where we have a co host, where we have two co hosts and you just go back and forth with I would love to have a podcast where we can have that kind of fun, you know. So yeah, but that was that for me was what podcasting was so that they’ve always kind of borne that in mind when I’m when I’m doing my own podcast.
Craig Burgess 39:35
I still strongly think that’s what podcasting shouldn’t be. And I think a lot of that has disappeared from podcasting. In a lot of people’s efforts to be more professional and slick and more like radio hosts. The two mediums are not the same. And a lot of people try to be radio hosts rather than podcast hosts.
Alastair McDermott 39:55
And I think getting rid of the personality. Is that what it is? Yeah,
Craig Burgess 39:59
I think is I think is that is,
Alastair McDermott 40:03
is that the same thing as people wearing suits when they’re not really suit kind of person?
Craig Burgess 40:09
Yeah, I think definitely. I think it’s definitely that because all of my favorite podcasts, they’re my favorite. Because often they’re funny, you know, often they’re funny. So I don’t know if you’ve listened to Athletica minutes before by Bob Martin Monet’s Powell. That is absolutely hilarious. But it’s just, it’s quirky, it’s weird, you know, it’s not selling anything other than their stuff. But I like I like it. Because you are. And you often see this with comedy podcasts and comedians and the bill burr podcast and all these kinds of people, because they’re already being a version of themselves when they jump on a podcast, you know, builder resist himself every time to stand up. And they’re not afraid to be the self. But a lot of other people fear and I think the whole podcast in markets been flooded with it. As people go, right. What do I need to do? They? Right, I need to make myself an expert. You know, I’m not dissing on what you do. You’re doing it? I think it’s absolutely correct. But they see the advice from someone else and go, right, I need to become an expert. What do I need to do? Well, he started a podcast. So I’m going to start podcasts, what do I need to do next? I need to get some guests. So I get some guests. And then they have this very staid, boring is boring in bar in podcast with random people they found on the internet, and they follow the formula over and over and over the same funnel that everyone else follows. Never stopped in to think. Well, maybe I’ll just bring myself to it a little bit more. I always found this when I was doing my conversation podcast, and I used to battle against it so much trying to pull out the real person when I was talking to them. As soon as I hit record, they changed. Yeah, often. And when I hit stop the change back to the previous person. I always tried desperately to bring out the person at the end of the podcast, because they were always more interesting. Always more always more themselves. And
Alastair McDermott 42:19
yeah, so for example, we’re recording this right now without the intention to publish it as a podcast. But we could just we could just decide to say we’re going to put this up. But even just talking about that and saying that, does that change now how we think about it?
Craig Burgess 42:36
It doesn’t for me, because I’ve done this for quite a long time, but would change it for a lot of other people that should only be thinking that’s Can I say that?
Alastair McDermott 42:45
That’s what I was thinking as well. I think that some of it isn’t experiencing. Now, some of that is, you know, I, I can be a bit undiplomatic sometimes and just say what I’m thinking. And I think some of it is about confidence. I think it goes back to also, the thing of when I started out in business, I used to put we on the website, when it was just me, we do this, we do that. And then I got to the point where I said, Nah, Screw this, I’m confident enough to just say, Hey, this is just me. And I had a picture of me on the front, on the homepage, and I said, this is me, this is what I do. And then ironically, I hired somebody. And they had a team where I had three or four people part time. And then I hired somebody full time, as well as some part time people. And they were genuinely as a team. But now I kind of, I want it to be I because I want it to be, hey, this is about me and what I do in my business. And actually, I probably should change it back the way now, because that would be more accurate. But I think that the I think stands out, because you’re kind of you’re, you’re saying hey, this is me, this is my ownership of, of the client relationship. You know, you’re gonna be working with me when you work with, with my business, you’re gonna be working with me, you know, so ever forever, isn’t it? Yeah, I think it’s just putting yourself out there. And it’s just, it’s a confidence thing. Maybe it’s it’s more maybe it’s, it’s slightly more risk taking. But you’re saying, you know, this is genuinely, I mean, it also is just been in business for 15 years, you just kind of get to the point where you don’t really give a damn, it’s like, okay, you know, and also the other thing is, there is a scarcity mindset, particularly when you’re starting out where you need clients, and you’re afraid to turn people away. And so you don’t want to do things that will potentially offend somebody, like even with your draft, like, for example you’re wearing, you’re wearing Mike jersey, I’m wearing a regular t shirt from from a store, you know, some people would would see, you know, you gotta, you gotta dress up more, at least wear a shirt when you’re on the Zoom. Like you’re, you know, you’re talking to consultants, you should be wearing a shirt, at least, you know, this kind of thing. That’s like, no, that’s, that’s not my style. You know, I might wear a polo shirt if I want. But I’ll typically wear a t shirt, you know, and that’s just that’s just the way it is, you know? And I think it’s, I think partly confidence and being called comfortable and not feeling that we have to have a certain portrayal to be to be a professional have a certain appearance or something like that.
Craig Burgess 45:10
Yeah, I think that’s the sorry, let me just quickly just send this message think that’s the thing I’m coming back to is confidence. I think that’s, that’s what it is confidence. I think it’s a combination of confidence, specialization. And I often I think the, you need to have the confidence to specialize as well. And I’m not even just talking about this in terms of business. I’m talking about this, in terms of even just having any new career. Yeah, and, and just even having the kind of right, I’m gonna set up a Twitter account. But I want this to kind of serve my career in some way. Even being confident in doing that. And even being confident in being yourself on that platform there as well. I think that leads to a lot of it, because I think I made the same mistakes when I first started podcasting. And video three or four years ago, now, awesome thing. I used to mostly have a script. And I was and it was because I was hiding behind the script because I lacked confidence in myself. Whereas now I am completely the other direction. I barely have a script, I have a list of bullet points. If that. And I make a wacky comedy podcast, that’s probably the best way to describe it. And I would never have had the confidence to do that even a couple of years ago. And I think it has become a combination of specializing one in what I want to say, which is all of this kind of marketing is bullshit, essentially. And having the confidence to say that, you know, brazenly, basically and not not worrying about the consequences. I think a lot of people get stuck in that middle ground up. And then they see no results from it. And then they kind of just quit, because the girl Well, that wasn’t worth it was it? But they never even got started in the first place and never even blossomed into what they could potentially become.
Alastair McDermott 47:22
Yeah, I mean, like I was talking to Mark Schaefer, who is a mother known marketing consulting has written nine to 10 books. And his his take on it was people just quit too early that, that so many people are close if they kept going, but you know, they give up I think part of it is that you you just get so tired of creating this bland content. And you see everybody talking about my content marketing. This for me is why the why I kind of like this is almost like a personal mission for me now is to help people understand that specialization is like niching down is something that is is kind of transformative for you. It really has changed my business has changed my philosophy. I think it’s just something that’s so important. And I know some people don’t want to go that way. And that’s okay. But just be aware, you’re probably not going to be able to write good blog posts, you’re probably never going to write a book, you’re probably never going to host a podcast, if you stay as a generalist, because you will be creating that same bland content.
Craig Burgess 48:27
I’ve written a couple of fellowship books, and every single one of them have been niched, down to a very specific topic, because it’s the only way you can write such a thing. Yeah. The nation down to business stuff. And all that kind of thing is outside of the remit of this thing that I want to write. But the message is still really important. And I’ve never even considered that really in a niche, a niche mindset. When you’re writing something, and everybody I can think about now, when they’re making something, it’s better when it’s very specific. And when you understand their mindset as well of where they’re coming from and what points they want to make. Always better. Always better. Now, that’s really useful, while more thank you for that.
Alastair McDermott 49:14
Yeah, I think this is I mean, I think this whole thing is really interesting, you know, like, we’re trying to create more interesting content, because what’s out there is bland. And the other thing is, and I mentioned this a couple of times on my podcast that I did a YouTube training course with video creators who are it’s Tim Schmoyer is the name of the guy and he’s got a huge YouTube channel. And the number one thing I took from it was, I need to make my educational content more entertaining. And, you know, I think that’s what you’re doing. Like, I haven’t listened to podcasts yet. Sorry, but I’m gonna listen to it sounds really interesting. But I think that’s what you’re doing with that is you’re making it interesting as well. Now I try and do that with the conversations that I have with my audience. I don’t really know how to do that with my solo episodes like, I’ve done very few solo episodes because of that, because I feel like my solo episodes. I know keep them much shorter like, like 5, 6, 8 minutes, maybe. But I find it hard to make those interesting because it’s usually me kind of pontificating on a topic that I find interesting, and hopefully interesting for the audience as well. But I kind of think that it’s hard to make that entertaining. And I don’t know what I can do about that, if anything, but
Craig Burgess 50:31
I always think with it. Number one, this is a general question not for you, because you are clearly quite funny, because remember the last several times, but if you’re not funny, don’t try and make it funny. Yeah. If if you are, if you are funny, all I did. So I don’t know if you’ve got the patience or time to go back to Episode One of I’ve done about 4043 episodes, 45 episodes of that Wednesday, audio now, the podcast initially started where it was five to eight minutes long. Every single one of them from episode one to 15, where were me being very kind of innocent, and still being quite trying to find the value. That’s another word, I believe that I’m trying to find the value of Wednesdays. So it was literally a creative exercise for me to try and make a podcast about Wednesdays, talking about Wednesdays and trying to find the value underneath. And then there was something that started to change around episode 15. And what I discovered is, and this is to your point about making it more interesting, is I started to get a little bit brave with attempting to be funny. And taking a few risks and things like that and just trying some ideas out. But then what started to happen is I started to find almost these, these memorable moments that I kept doing over and over the podcast, they just accidentally happened. So one week, I had no content. So I said send me some messages in an hour. We’ll talk about them on the podcast, and I’ll call it listen to missives. And that became a bit. So that became a section a podcast like a radio show. And then I’d run out of things for another bit. And I accidentally, I was recording my, my main normal podcast, my interview podcast, and I’ve had this thing sent to me multiple times where I have you read that in atomic habits, you know, James clays, atomic habits, I was like, I’ve never read the book. And, and I got that sent to me three or four times. I don’t like I’ve never read this book. But just everybody. Yeah. Everybody just keeps telling me, you know, I’ve, this is from atomic habits. So I went away and had a look, a brief look at atomic habits, I’ve still not read it. And that became another feature on the podcast where I’d pull out an insight. That’s another word that’s believed. I pull out an insight from James clears atomic habits. And that became a bit that I called Jia claims, which is basically a James clear quote, and I just take the piss out of it. So everything just started stringing together to become like a 30 minute radio episode really, with repetitive bits. So what’s happened now with episode 4 30 odd, is if you listen to it, you won’t even understand half of the jokes, because they’ve all developed from previous episodes, but it builds up such relationship with the audience that they they’re getting a little bit of an injury or kind of a little bit of a snigger, but it’s still funny to new listeners. And what accidentally happened, it makes everyone go listen back to the other ones because they all linked together. So it becomes this tangled mess of in jokes, comedy that nobody understands unless you listen to the rest of the episodes. And it just, it just forms into something accidentally hilarious. And to be honest, is the best podcast in terms of download numbers I’ve ever done. I get like 100 150 downloads every episode and the conversation podcast. After about 200 or 150 episodes, were getting 30 If I was lucky to 50 downloads and this this was getting that in half of the time. Quickly on I was just taking the piss out of everything. I’m not taking it seriously. And that’s when I stepped back and thought there’s something to be discussed here about blonde content. Yeah, and there’s there’s something to be said. And I also started reading another person on substack called Thomas J. Bevin, who talks a lot about this as well. And I discovered this subculture of people who talk about this. And even some old books that talk about this as well. And amusing ourselves to death by Neil Postman is, is specifically talking about television and and how it’s destroying our attentions buttons. But a lot of that applies to modern day content. And there’s a whole range of books about this kind of topic as well. And as soon as I discovered that I started niching down, it’s a raising awareness of there’s a different way to make content that’s personality driven, rather
Alastair McDermott 55:38
than Yeah, I think you’d get on Do you know, Louis Grenier? No. Okay, so fighting marketing bullshit is one of his phrases. He’s the I counted on my podcast. So he had the most were swearing on my podcast by a long way. I think like he had 27 sheets 45 books. He just, you know, so I didn’t leave them. I just put an explicit tag on it. Left it so but Louie is French. And everyone hates marketing is his podcast title. And, yeah, he’s, he’s fantastic. But he’s a bit more aggressive about it. Like his his his approach is a bit more aggressive than mine. That’s not my style a bit. I’m a bit more kind of laid back. But I think that you get on with him, because he’s kind of fighting that that blindness as well, you know, so, like, just check him out.
Craig Burgess 56:35
Yeah, I’m just Googling and now I will go have a look at that sounds perfect.
Alastair McDermott 56:39
Yeah. So what’s the conclusion?
Craig Burgess 56:45
What’s the conclusion? Yeah. Well, I think, just from what you’ve said, I think the main points in the bit where I’m talking about what I’ve learned from you, I want to talk about niching down personality specialization. And I want to talk about this, this Trumps transformation that you realize as well. And when you were making generic and bland content, you saw next to no results, business ROI. And then, once you’ve niched down into it all. I’ve also written down content is primarily a case of specialization. That wasn’t a phrase that you’ve said. But let’s paraphrase from some of the other things you
Alastair McDermott 57:27
learned there is something else there, I just want to talk about so you mentioned that your first episodes that you were finding your feet, the first 15 episodes or so you were a bit more naive, and you, you know, you were finding faith. It’s exactly the same even when I niche down the first, the first articles that I wrote, were not as good as what I would produce. Now. They weren’t, they weren’t as insightful. They were, they were more bland. Whereas now, after developing a much deeper expertise, a much deeper knowledge of the area, but I create now later is is much better. I think that’s important as well, because like you, like I think like it goes back to you have to put in the reps, you have to actually, you know, you have to create content, to create good content you have to create, you have to spend time creating content, it’s not just going to happen naturally. Like, you know, I think there’s very few authors who published the first book, and it’s amazing, you know, what you will find is, you’ll find people like Brandon Sanderson, who is one of the most prolific fantasy authors. He and He is just incredible, like he’s so prolific. But he wasn’t published, his first book wasn’t published, his first five books weren’t published, it was only his sixth book, when he wrote it. That one was taken by, by a publisher. Now he has like, he has 30 or 40. But he’s incredible. He also teaches creative writing. But if you’ve seen the Wheel of Time on TV, he was actually invited to write the last three books that have that after Robert Jordan died. But so they brought him into to complete because they knew he’d be able to do it. But there is a thing where you know, when you’re starting out, you need to, you need to just, you need to do do bad content to create good content later. And so I think what a lot of that is, is a lot of that bland content is people who are starting out, and some people will start out, and they will have this kind of specialist this niche. And so their first content will be terrible, but they will improve quickly. Other people will start at like I did originally, and won’t have that kind of Northstar to guide them. And they’ll just continue to make that bland content. And then we have, you know, people being driven by by the wrong metrics, you know, by pageviews and all this clickbait kind of almost AI Generated Content crap that you see this kind of churned content. People have been underpaid to write articles and so they’re, they’re creating total total rubbish. But I think that you do If you have that North Star like that, that specialization, and you put in the time, your content will ramp up really quickly in terms of quality, but I do think they have to go through the learning curve.
Craig Burgess 1:00:14
Alastair McDermott 1:00:20
What’s not diplomatic? Diplomatically, so? So Craig, if I turn this into a podcast? Where can people find you online?
Craig Burgess 1:00:30
You’re really good at this podcast.
Alastair McDermott 1:00:32
I don’t know. Do you want me to?
Craig Burgess 1:00:34
I don’t care. Either way. Actually, I self censor myself. Thanks. So I’m going to say, I don’t give a shit. And that’s normally what I would have said.
Alastair McDermott 1:00:43
That’s awesome. You see, like, this is, you know, a perfect example of what we just talked about. No, seriously? Yeah. But you know, I’ll put it out as a, I’ll put it out as a bonus episode. Has that?
Craig Burgess 1:00:56
Yeah, that’s, that’s fine. Where can people find you online? The probably the best place is Twitter, to be honest. Yeah, just Twitter twitter.com. Forward slash Craig Burgess. And my website’s going through a bit of an overhaul at the minute after, especially after all the stuff was discussed. Yeah. My website is mostly based on the old bland content that I was making. But if you want to see that it’s good doing
Alastair McDermott 1:01:20
well, no, I read some of your articles or either of them. So yeah, that was where I wanted to have a proper chat. And, and that’s why I almost insisted that we have the call, even despite we had to cancel last time and then my car problems this morning, so let’s go. Well, okay, yeah, I’m gonna I’m gonna stop recording and then we can have a proper chat. I’m just kidding.
Craig Burgess 1:01:43
My only thing my only apprehension to point out is that I know when I listen to it, my audio quality is going to be terrible. Yeah, yeah. No. I feel like I’m letting letting the side down. Yeah, I’m a podcaster on our podcast, and, you know, they come on your podcast and the audio of politics ship.
Alastair McDermott 1:02:04
Okay, well, we’ll we’ll we’ll make we’ll make an executive decision later. Okay. Thanks for listening. I hope you found that interesting and useful. If you’re enjoying the podcast, can I ask you to take a moment to review it? It really helps us out. And it keeps it free from sponsor ads. You can review it by visiting TheRecognizedAuthority.com/review and that will give you appropriate options for your device and for your listening app. That’s TheRecognizedAuthority.com/review – thank you. I really appreciate it.