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3 Key Takeaways From A Writers Conference To Help Build Your Online Platform

As a first time attendee to the ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) Writers Conference, I didn’t exactly know what to do expect – especially since I am not officially a writer. But many of my favorite clients and authors regularly attend this gathering, so I figured there had to be some value in spending two days in NYC with very prolific people.

And value there was, not only in the sessions and the keynotes (more below), but even more so in the warm, welcoming and very engaging group of people who organize it and attend the conference. Yes, there is networking, but it doesn’t feel like a shark fest of schmoozing, much more like a reunion of family and friends. Everyone asking about each other, their work and helping to make connections.

But I digress, and now want to share the three most valuable things that I heard at the conference that are critical concepts to people strategically building and growing their online platforms:

Being a thought leader is NOT the same as being an expert. From a panel of publishing gurus, Janet Goldstein, Nancy Peske and Dan Gerstein, who work on “big name” books, we were guided through their respective definitions of a thought leader.

Their combined basic premise is a thought leader is an expert who:

  • Has a brand and a point of view
  • Has fresh and original ideas
  • Is making a contribution in her/his sphere of influence
  • Is recognized and seen by others as a thought leader

This distinction is critical because many experts get caught up in their expertise, jargon and industry that they neglect to distinguish themselves with a clear voice, point of view or brand. On the flip side, there are many self-proclaimed thought leaders today, that might have big brands and even be recognized, but they are short on point of view or fresh and original ideas.

Takeaway tip: Making sure you tick all of the boxes for thought leadership is critical for building your online platform.

Having empathy for your reader can be more important to Google than keywords. Yes, this sounds like common sense, but many of us in the content world have been led to believe that keywords are king (or queen) and nothing else matters. Experts Tom Gerencer and Miral Sattar. While, advised while you shouldn’t ignore keywords, it is even more important to think about your readers’ pain points and reasons for looking for you. When writing your content or copy put yourself in their shoes, and think like they would when they need or want to find you.

Takeaway tip: Think about what people would “Google” or what they would ask “Alexa” if they were looking to find you. Make sure your content is being found for and is answering those questions and queries. Also, train your readers how to find you, especially on smart speakers.

The path to getting published is not always direct.
According to author and keynote speaker, Camille Pagán, there are no right and wrong decisions in your career journey. What’s more important than the perfect path, is your following your passion with persistence (lots of Ps!). Camille gave several examples from her career trajectory from journalist to novelist where her decisions and results might not have been what she had planned. However, they all served to the greater good of helping her get where she is today – writing a book a year!

Takeaway tip: Don’t get fixated on the traditional route or doing what everyone else does or says you should do. Stay faithful to what you believe in, get your content out and surround yourself with people who will support you on the journey.

If you are stuck in your own way of your expertise or your passion or can’t figure out how to get your best content out into the world, let’s set up a call and see if I can help. And I most definitely would recommend the ASJA Writers Conference – maybe I’ll see you there next year!