By Robert Rose published May 8, 2020 Est Read Time: 7 min

Can You Break Rules in the Right Way? [The Weekly Wrap]

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And that’s a wrap of the week ending May 8, 2020

This week I’m wondering whether rules are made to be broken. I share my take on an article about how the Financial Times is enjoying better … financial times. I talk with Brian Clark about his journey as a solopreneur, co-founder, and sabbatical taker, and about his new work. And I point you to an article about breaking the (right) rules with your content.

Listen to the Weekly Wrap

Our theme this week is breaking the rules (you break ’em, you might have to buy ’em).

Let’s wrap it up.

One deep thought: Are your content rules made to be broken? (3:22)

It’s a weird irony. We want rules. We need rules. But we also want to break them.

Would you ever:

  • Check out at the grocery store express lane with more than 8 items in your basket?
  • Start a company without a business plan?
  • Use a sick day to just take a day off?
  • Agree to terms of service without reading them?
  • Have a dog but not register for a dog license?
  • Selectively present (or avoid) market data to build a desired business case?
  • Expect your employees to work off-hours?
  • Go visit a business without a mask?
  • Reopen your industry’s economy against federal guidelines?

You might feel OK about some of these, but probably not all. Somewhere in that list, I may have suggested something that crosses a line for you.

People’s willingness to break rules seems to depend on three things: (1) the consequences of breaking the rule, (2) the social context of it, and (3) the ability to tell themselves the story about why they broke the rule.

Breaking a rule can depend on your ability to tell the story of why you did it, notes @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

This last one fascinates me.

One study found that those with creative jobs, like writers and designers, were more likely to be rule breakers than, say, accountants or IT professionals. The researchers concluded that creativity plays a role in your ability to tell yourself a convincing story about why you’re breaking the rules.

In content marketing, I often see this correlation of iconoclasm to creativity as one of the biggest challenges to instilling a scalable governance and content management strategy. Create or enforce too many rules and you can squash creativity. But if you allow too many rule-breakers, you lose the ability to scale and measure your efforts.

We set rules because we believe they codify the “right” thing to do to achieve a predictable and preferable outcome. And we break rules because we come to believe they don’t do either of those things.

This creates an interesting paradox. If violating a rule is shown to create a different or more preferable outcome, then breaking the rule – in essence – becomes a new rule. I talk about this (and one notable marketing rule-maker/-breaker) in the episode:

A fresh take on selling subscription expertise (10:16)

A fascinating article from Digiday caught my eye this week: The Financial Times is Selling its Subscription Expertise. 

The article describes a project run by FT Strategies, the consulting arm of the London-based Financial Times newspaper, to help eight European publishers develop “digital reader-revenue businesses.”

The project is funded by the Google News Initiative Subscriptions Lab and aims to help publishers retain their new subscribers.

The article mentions that FT Strategies was created to make use of the Financial Times’ capabilities in growing subscription businesses. This is yet another example of a media company developing new products and services to build audiences across different platforms.

I think FT Strategies missed an opportunity. Why not create a consulting arm to help brands figure out how to build audiences or to create publishing strategies that help engage audiences? I bet there are lots of brands these days looking for some of the new rules of publishing and audience development. (Even though that means more competition for me.)

This week’s person making a difference in content: Brian Clark (16:19)

This week we have the first part of our first two-part interview. The wonderful Brian Clark joins us this week and next ­– our conversation was just too good for just one episode.

Brian Clark is a writer; traveler; entrepreneur; and founder of the pioneering content marketing website Copyblogger, the personal-growth newsletter Further, and the podcast Unemployable, a resource that provides smart strategies for freelancers and entrepreneurs.

Brian’s been at this for 20 years as a solo entrepreneur and co-founder. The first one failed, but every company since has yielded higher revenue, profits, and happiness.

We start Part 1 of this interview with his evolution from being a leader in the content marketing space to taking a sabbatical, a trip around the world, and then coming back to entrepreneurship and writing on the topic of solopreneurs and Gen Xers.

Here’s a sneak peek at what Brian has to say:

All the little tactics that we do to meet our business objectives that are also satisfying (hopefully) the audience’s idea of success … if those two are congruent then it’s great. You’re taking them on their preferred journey to solve their problem or satisfy their desire. They’re the hero of their story. You’re the guide. And that’s a really cool meaningful thing.

Your audience is the hero of their story. You’re the guide, says @BrianClark via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

After you listen to Part 1 of our conversation, learn more from (and about) Brian:

Come back for Part 2 of this interview next week when we talk about interesting trends in content marketing and get a bit more philosophical about why we chose content as a career.

One content marketing idea you can use (34:44)

The one post on the CMI site I’d love for you to read for the first time or take another look at is based on an interview with the marketing rule-breaker and iconoclast Kathy Klotz-Guest: Want More Creative Content Ideas? Break These 6 ‘Rules’.

My favorite suggestion of the rule to break is the rule that says we should only reward results. Instead, as Kathy says, we should reward learning. If all you do is reward the outcomes, you’re going to get people going for the easy, safe checkboxes. It’s a fantastic article, I hope you’ll go check it out.

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The wrap-up

Tune in next week for one deep thought that’ll make you feel like part of a team (even if you’ve Ben Solo for a while). I’ll have one Luke-warm news item (you may find it a bit chilly, because it’s a Hoth topic). And I’ll point you to one content marketing tip to save you from looking in Alderaan places. And it’ll all be delivered in a little less time than it takes for you to get freaked out by murder hornets.

If you have ideas for what you’d like to hear more of on our weekly play on words, let us know in the comments. And if you love the show, we’d sure love for you to review it or share it. Hashtag us up on Twitter: #WeeklyWrap.

To listen to past shows, go to the main Weekly Wrap page.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Robert Rose

Robert is the founder and chief strategy officer of The Content Advisory, the education and consulting group for The Content Marketing Institute. Robert has worked with more than 500 companies, including 15 of the Fortune 100. He’s provided content marketing and strategy advice for global brands such as Capital One, NASA, Dell, McCormick Spices, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Robert’s third book – Killing Marketing, with co-author Joe Pulizzi has been called the “book that rewrites the rules of marketing.” His second book – Experiences: The Seventh Era of Marketing is a top seller and has been called a “treatise, and a call to arms for marketers to lead business innovation in the 21st century.” Robert’s first book, Managing Content Marketing, spent two weeks as a top 10 marketing book on Amazon.com and is generally considered to be the “owners manual” of the content marketing process. You can follow him on Twitter @Robert_Rose.

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