This is a very long post that could be a ebook for podcasters and bloggers. Speaking as a podcaster I am going to share how to survive as a digital creator in a very crowded space.
To survive, I believe one way is to think like a military sniper A sniper is a highly trained person who successfully hits what they aim at. In the military they are also adept in stealth, camouflage, infiltration, and observation techniques. In social media, you see them but can’t touch them. They seemingly get to the people they are trying to reach, they observe trends and move at the right time to make things happen. They hunt key people and distinguish themselves from others by succeeding where others fail. They break the will of many causing them to quit early, to lose hope, and podfade. They don’t even do it on purpose or maliciously. Snipers concentrate their energy on a mission. They seek targets of opportunity. They track movements, and wait patiently. They do all of this without fanfare. They do all of this based on something internal. It’s called mindset.
“Your mind is your primary weapon.”
I have learned that survival is usually not something you learn in college. Survival skills even online boil down to a mindset. You have to have the will to win despite and inspire of what your circumstances are. They are never ideal for anyone. No-one has a perfect life. And if it was, it stopped being so when you have to interact with the rest of us. Your biggest enemy is not us is the one on the inside of you. But lets get back outside…
Look out into the “jungle.” Can you see your opposition? You rarely will see the sniper. She is there. She is not alone. A sniper is a highly trained marksman who operates in a pair to maintain close visual contact with the enemy. They can engage targets from secret positions or great distances. You know several of them. Most of the successful podcasters and social media gurus are or have been snipers. They kill your morale by their success. They have stopped many competitors without firing a shot. They have remarkable analytics. They have statistics and sponsors. They share their earnings report. OUCH, make it stop hurting.
If you are actively involved in the production of content on the Internet —it’s like a jungle in there. There are so many undiscovered countries, communities and competition for your time and efforts. Mixed in this vast space are knowledge, aversions, and opportunity. It’s like the 19th century gold rush. And like the gold rush there is a trail of tears of long dead blogs, podcasts and videos creators that have lost their motivation to continue. They have lost their reason for doing what they thought was going to be “it”. There is a season for everything. Many of the people that have “pod-faded” (lost their motivation for continuing to produce their podcast and stopped) or stopped writing on their blog only failed to know that it is a war they could have won. They lost the battle inside their head before anywhere else.
When your enemies are apathy, fear, resources, fatigue, frustration, disappointment, motivation, or lack of resources then you have to dig deep, hold your position and take inventory. You have to operate with the disciple of a Marine Sniper. That is what this is about. That is war I speak about fighting in this long post. Personally, I loathe fighting and war although I have been doing it for decades.
Ok, I know I am using a lot of gun and military jargon but stay with me. I am a gun guy. I have liked guns since childhood. I like them for their mechanical properties, aesthetics, and the history behind them and how some of them can be used as a tool in marksmanship. That said, I don’t ascribe to the notion that they are only for killing. Or that owning one makes you a murderer. When I was a child, all my heroes had guns. You could tell a character by the gun they had. As time progressed, guns became a symbol of some for evil, violence and the trouble in society, and I don’t believe that. I still believe it is the heart of man that is desperately wicked.
Over the years, jobs and positions that used guns seemed to come my way. I have been a protector all of my life. I am known internationally as the Black Man With a Gun. I had a website with that URL since 2000 and published my first book with that title that year. Although I have had an online presence for a long time, I have made a lot of mistakes. I am still learning how to best use what I have better.
What I know is how to push through. I know how to keep my internal motivation and focus when the external elements beat you down. What I have is a good grasp on is the mental preparation and mindset needed to fight one more round.
If you have been podcasting for a while, you know you must start with a passion. If you want to learn how to podcast, my go-to-guy is Dave Jackson from the SchoolofPodcasting.com. He teaches how to make your podcasting dreams a reality without the long tales of how great he is affordably and respectfully. And if you want to get a dynamite audio branding package after you know what you want to be, check out Music Radio Creative out of England, or my secret weapon, Jeff Straub .
After you know what you are passionate about, you have to answer some questions in order to identify your target. The answers to those questions become your mission. Your mission keeps you on track when the environment changes. The mission is the big picture. These questions are not foreign to you. None of this going to be hard– just so simple you missed it. (Remember I am a Marine. It’s not going to be rocket science. ) They are the basics for every great story. Define the who, what, where, when, how and when of your story and you will be able to flesh out your target. That passion has to cover a niche to be successful today. You don’t want to wander around like Forrest Gump and I. The niche is the Who. (Pronounced like “nitch” in the US) Niche marketing is a must. Everybody is selling something, so you to specialize in this crowded world in order to survive.
Who is your target? We have two eyes but your eyes will only let you focus on one thing at a time. When you know whom your audience is; you can find them and they can find you.
This is super important.
NICHE You Say?
Your target market, or niche becomes your community. It becomes what Seth Godin wrote about in Tribes. My tribe supports my show. My tribe became super fans that consume all of your content as soon as I put it out and will “quickly” tell me if there is a type-o, glitch or shortcoming in my content so I can fix it. Unlike those that just like to find fault, these fans are easy on my ego, and seek to make me better. It is like having your brother and sister review your blog or podcast. That is the kind of “love” you get when you identify your niche. One of the benefits of identifying your niche is that you can grow this garden of super fans that help you succeed.
“You don’t win with X’s and O’s. What you win with is people.” - Joe Gibbs
To hit your target or to be effective -you must solve a problem for a specific group.
Once you have an idea of who or the niche you are talking to, you need to solve a problem. This is one of those chicken or the egg things. Do you solve a problem first or identify the people. I think you need the people first and then find out what they want.
My podcast started out about guns. I don’t own a store or have a range so after a few episodes I was out. I started focusing on the problems that people in the gun rights community have and spoke to that. The longer I did this the more I learned. There was stuff that I knew but being able to articulate it back made me the “validator.” I represent the older shooter that has been branded a racist and is not. This is the trusted patriotic person you know in your neighborhood that flies the American flag on their front porch. This is the couple that loans you a power tool. The one you tell your kids to go to if you aren’t home.
This is the educated and successful entrepreneur that carries a concealed firearm and or that hunts and is not the stereotype of a redneck. My listener is about my age, likes classic rock, the blues, and barbeque, and may have children in college or be a grandparent. Or is a younger parent, with traditional American values that just got into guns but doesn’t just listen for the technical. They like the history, the guest and the stories I bring to the show. Its family friendly and I talk sometimes about pop culture, comic book conventions, motorcycles, and a host of topics that makes the listener feel like we are just sitting on the porch “shooting the breeze.”
The problem you solve doesn’t have to be life critical. From what I just wrote what problem did you see? Several times doing my podcasting lifespan I worried that this was just average stuff. The good news is the masses are average. There are a lot of gun podcasts now. We have a surplus of average. I realized that one thing that nobody could duplicate was me. Don’t just be different, be better.
You were born and original, don’t die a copy.
Your target is identified. You have your mission. How do you get there? I just realized that those that know the answer to that question have an advantage.
If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.
We all have a finite amount of time to live. In that space we are to love, learn, fail, fall down, get back up, rinse and repeat.
I was called a “Renaissance Man” recently by my guitar teacher who I just reconnected with after almost twenty years. Technically, it means a man who has broad intellectual interests and is accomplished in areas of both the arts and the sciences. I think it really means “dude you are still alive,” but haven’t mastered any one thing.
I have had points in my life where I have mastered what I was aiming for but I shot too low. My goals weren’t high enough to achieve anything of significance. Maybe you have been there too. We all started off like that. Remember when all you wanted was to pass a test, drive a car, kiss a girl, etc. Then it was to be “legal,” for whatever that meant to you.
I have been the best of my group at certain things but it was still all too trivial in hindsight.
I think the top three mistakes too many of us make first is not setting good goals. The second would be settling for whatever comes. And finally that we sell ourselves too short. We are capable of much more than we produce.
To change your situation you have to ask yourself some hard questions and answer them. What and where are you now? Where do you want to be in a year, three years, or five? What do you need to do to get there?
Once you do that, it’s on you. Don’t fall into the trap of living for someone else or trying to keep up with what’s trending. There are too many podcasters that talk about controversial subjects just to get a lot of traffic but it is all short term planning. Some even resort to using negative commentary to start debates online. You might get a bump in your numbers but in the long game, people will either not trust you or think of you negatively. Don’t settle for what comes easy. Don’t stop or quit because what you want is not done in your neighborhood. When I go fishing, if the fish aren’t biting where I am, I move. You might have to move too.
Most of us are frustrated trying to keep up. We are mad at our failures. We want to blame someone or something. We are in various stages of depression. Some of us are so pissed off, we just want to cry.
Life is what you make it. Happiness is fleeting, temporary and dependent upon situations. Joy comes from inner peace. The best motivation comes from within.
“Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out” - John Wooden, Basketball
A sniper has to crawl in mud, climb trees, and deal with the environment. He can’t change the jungle; he uses it to his advantage if possible. All you can control is yourself. As soon as you get your blog going one way, Google changes the algorithm. You know what I mean. Where is your favorite social media site today? Will The Facebook still rule in five years? A sniper adapts.
There is a lot going on and you have to stay focused. Your spotter can be crucial for reminding you of your goal when you forget. If you don’t have a spotter, get a logbook and write down your goals. Break the big things down into smaller pieces. Prioritize your list. Use that list to track your progress. It will keep you from going in the wrong direction or staying in one place too long. You are tracking a target. The target doesn’t stay still. The target moves. Stay committed. Even if this is a hobby, act like a professional. Don’t quit. Give yourself a star or notch your “gun” to reward yourself when you accomplish something on the list. Establish a routine. Everything has a routine. Remind yourself of the result you are looking to accomplish. Every now and then dream of what the finish looks like. Rest and play, rinse and repeat.
One of the things I learned as a Marine is to keep it simple. If you want to be proficient in anything you have to have focus. Focus in my context is taking the complex or blocking out a multitude of stimuli to finish one task. Smart guys don’t last in war for very long. Over analyses leads to a paralyses, and you want to keep moving forward closer to take your best shot. As a sniper you may have started miles behind your target. You might have to creep up to them.
I know you like listening to podcasters that can pontificate about the best of this and that but you don’t have to compete with that. Keep it simple to survive.
I started podcasting because I like creating things. I have always wanted to be a broadcaster. My best Christmas gifts were tape recorders, reel to reel then cassette recorders where I could narrate stories, and interview people. Podcasting allowed me to do this.
From 1991- 2007 I unsuccessfully tried to start a business as a firearms instructor, police /security guard training and public speaking. I had my first office/ classroom and went belly up from the cost of overhead, and a host of other failures.
I had been involved in historic gun rights changes across America and found out that I had a knack for persuasion. I was known as an articulate speaker with wit and wisdom beyond my years. Actually, I am blessed with some unique DNA combinations of Native American, and African that makes me look younger than I am.
At that time, I was happy to take the burning knowledge I had about tactics, crime fighting, terrorism, guns and personal safety into a growing and successful business. It sounds good but the timing wasn’t right. I found out that I was good at helping people. I was good at listening. It was not where I was trying to go initially.
I thought if I could travel around I could make money as a speaker but that had too much overhead again. I had to find a job doing something I could do solo for the most part and on my schedule. I was still employed by the government and doing all kinds of things.
Podcasting allowed to speak directly to people without having to leave the safety and confines of my basement. Next to the washer and drier, often freezing in the unfinished part of the house I broadcasted. Using gaming microphone, a laptop often plagued with viruses and crammed with software I began.
It was exciting. It was using technology. It was scratching the itch I have always had to be “on the radio.”
My first shows were loosely based on guns, gun rights, history and whatever I thought was entertaining at the time. I tried a little of everything that wasn’t connected to my employers. The Central Intelligence Agency didn’t like media back then. They barely liked me moonlighting as an instructor. It cost me promotions and a career. Thankfully my world has a lot more in it that I can share other than politics or national security so it was easy to stay out of trouble. I did hope that podcasting would somehow make me enough money that I would be able to leave the Agency. They weren’t happy with my hobby. It was a culture of secrecy.
I am a former U.S. Marine, trained in firearms, elicitation, counter terrorism, police sciences, hazardous material response, high risk driving, first responder first aid and a host of other things that pop up into my head every now and then like a character in a Jason Bourne movie.
My podcast gave me the opportunity to share just me. The people that listened and liked me became my best friends that I have never met. I stumbled and bumbled through podcasting like that for the next five years. I have had sponsors. I have a paying advertiser now. I have listeners that have donated money so that all my equipment has come from them. There wasn’t a plan. There wasn’t a goal. I did some things well, and I did and do something things poorly. It wasn’t until recently that I decided to treat this medium as a business that things changed.
In all honesty, I didn’t know what niche marketing was a year ago. I have read some stuff, and see a few videos on the subject but I wasn’t really sure about it until recently. I realized that my success as a podcaster has been because of my niche.
I have been podcasting since 2007. I have changed the name and focus of my show several times. I have made minute and gross direction changes. I have been online since 2000 without the knowledge of search engine optimization, CSS, or Google ad words. My brand would have been more successful if I had known those things but those are not the secret sauce to longevity. Like the number for Pi, it has just continued. It has evolved. I think any living organism has to adapt to survive. My show has survived because of who I am and not because I did what was right or trendy. It has survived because of what I have learned as a US Marine, trained by spies and raised by a Christian grandmother with a story to tell.
You can’t live long enough to make all the mistakes I have made and live, so take the best of what I have learned and podcast like a sniper.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” - Charles Darwin
Thanks for reading. Hope it helps.
Kenn BlanchardRev. Kenn Blanchard is a professional speaker, writer, podcaster, and digital influencer. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook He is the founder of Blanchard.Media and the GunPodcastNetwork.com