Trevor Young: Leading Australian blogger

Trevor YoungTrevor Young is a PR and social media communications consultant, speaker and coach who helps companies and individuals to increase the intensity of connection they have with the people who matter most to the success of their business, cause or issue.

He writes one of Australia’s leading marketing blogs – PRWarrior.com – and is the author of the new book:microDOMINATION: How to leverage social media and content marketing to build a mini-business empire around your personal brand.

You can follow Trevor on Twitter @trevoryoung.

Click play to listen. Running time: 34.56

MicroDomination

Transcript

* Please note these transcripts have been edited for readability

Valerie
Thanks for joining us today, Trevor.

Trevor
Thank you for having me, Valerie.

Valerie
Tell us about your latest book, microDOMINATION, and the longer title is microDOMINATION: How to Leverage Social Media and Content Marketing to Build a Mini Business Empire Around Your Personal Brand. 

Trevor
Do you like that?

Valerie
I love it! It’s a mouthful, but I love it.

What’s it about?

Trevor
That’s what the book’s about, I don’t need to say anything else.

Valerie
For the listeners who haven’t read it yet, can you go into a bit more detail?

Trevor
I can. What I’ve done in the book is examine what I call the rise and rise of a new breed of creative entrepreneur, and I’ve called them ‘micro mavens’. And these entrepreneurs – what they’re doing is they’re leveraging the power of the internet and social media to build, often, a global platform for their personal brand, but along the way they’re also developing a lifestyle business, with multiple sources of income, and with the longer term view of living the life that they really want, I guess. So, running a business from wherever, whether you’re running it from home, or whether you’re traveling around the world, or whatever. So, it is about developing a platform, building a brand, growing your business, and then I say living your dream lifestyle.

Valerie
I love that term ‘micro mavens,’ and I love the title of the book, microDOMINATION. But, why is it ‘micro’?

Trevor
Well, the whole notion of the book is about the global micro brand, and I guess in the past our micro brands were probably an Oprah Winfrey, or Kim Kardashian, someone who is known on a global scale, but you could say a bit more than micro. The use of the word ‘micro’ really is for niche. So, if you’re an expert in a particular area, you’ve got a niche, or a subject, or a topic that you’re very knowledge in, that’s what you build your brand in. So, I guess the beauty of technology today means that you can have a very, very narrow niche, and when it’s global and connected, that’s not so little. And, it just means that it makes it easy for experts, or people who have expertise in a particular area, to drill really deeply in that space and become known as not just an expert, but an authority on the subject.

Valerie
So how did you come up with the idea for this? Why did you want to write it? What inspired it?

Trevor
Well, there was no lightning bolt, unfortunately. It would have been a lot easier if there was. It took some time. I guess the genesis was – the earlier days was, I had a few mates sort of getting into middle-age, and have been doing the same running their – not so much running their own business – a few were running their own business, but mostly were working for other people. They found it difficult to change, to do something that they wanted, to do something with purpose, and you look around at a lot of the research that is out there, and people are very unhappy at work, they want to be doing things that they want to do. So, the genesis of it was really around doing something that you love, but that’s very nebulous and means absolutely nothing.

Then I started looking around, I had a few mates that were – they had what I call a portfolio approach to work, so they weren’t micro mavens, but they were probably consultants of a particular kind. And so they’ve been running a business from cafés or home, on occasion they’d go into an office somewhere, but they’re also on a community board, or an arts board, or doing something on the side that was probably that purpose that they wanted.

And then moving along, some months later, or even a year later, I look at the people who I was following online, so a David Meerman Scott, or Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Guillebeau, these people who are authors in their own right, very successful, but they’re more than authors, they’re doing other things, they’re blogging, they’re writing podcasts, doing video, all of these things.

And I looked at what these guys were doing, what others were doing of that ilk, and I found that there was a lot of characteristics they all shared, and even if I went outside of the people that I was following and looked at others really broadly, and I probably researched hundreds over the journey, but they shared certain characteristics, and that’s when the penny started to drop. It’s joining a lot of the dots. And, I think in my own way of probably going down that path, not to the degree that these guys are going, but of going down my own path of become a speaker and running a business from wherever I was, and, you know, now with the book deal, and things like that, so I was going down this journey of creating my own portfolio approach to work.

So, that was a long-winded way of saying there was no lightning bolt, and it was aggregated over time, joined a lot of the dots, and we’re all much there in hindsight, aren’t we? We can look through the rear view mirror and see all of those dots joining, but at the time it wasn’t as obvious.

Valerie
You were doing research without knowing that you were doing research for this book, really.

Trevor
Well, I was, because these were just people that I followed and that was it. I wasn’t going out to look for anything specific. But, then on the back of the fact that people are looking for purpose in work, the fact that we have got the tools and the technology to be doing things, the fact now that we don’t need a gatekeeper, we can be our own platform and create our own media, all of these things started to join up.

Valerie
Yeah, so you noticed a trend.

You have a very popular blog yourself, The PR Warrior, which has been going since 2007. What part, if any, do you think your blog has played in you getting a book deal for microDOMINATION?

Trevor
Not necessarily directly, but ultimately the most important thing I’ve done. I think blogging is one of those things that moment you go down that path you open a door to so many other opportunities you probably wouldn’t have seen or had available to you, had you not gone down the blogging path. Ultimately, when I blogged I had also been on LinkedIn early days, a couple of years earlier, I was on Twitter in 2007. So, it’s not necessarily the one thing, but the combined – I call this the planks of your platform. So, if I looked at my platform, the blog is the anchor, the centrepiece, and then you’ve got followings on Twitter, and LinkedIn, for example, I write a regular column or a regular post for LeadingCompany.com.au. And, so their my planks in my platform, so that’s my stage, I suppose, to get my voice out there and spread the ideas.

But, I think blogging, and when I say ‘blogging’ it could be a podcast, it could be a video show like Gary Vaynerchuk, he did1,000 episodes of Wine Library TV, where he talked about wine on a daily basis, that was the start of his platform. That got him a ten-book deal, a million dollar ten-book deal. So, yeah, extremely, extremely important.

Valerie
You talk about these being the planks of your platform, and your book discusses the importance of building a platform, which is really something that many aspiring authors can do, and in my opinion should do. Can you explain a little bit further, for those who aren’t familiar with what a platform is, what that’s all about?

Trevor
Yeah, I can. Again, it’s allowing you to have a voice outside. So, if we looked at a platform going back years ago, it was probably a soap box and a very crude megaphone, but in more recent years it’s been a traditional media-driven thing. So, in the book I describe Michael Jordan, his platform, you could say, was the NBA basketball courts, plus Nike’s multi-multi-million dollar advertising budget, but thrust him into the public consciousness. Oprah Winfrey had a TV show, Kim Kardashian had a TV show.

You need a gatekeeper to say – even if you are talented, you still need a gatekeeper somewhere along the line to say, “Yes, we’ll put you onto that radio show.” Or, “Yes, you can have that TV show.” And, it’s very hard to get noticed going back a few years, unless you did a lot through traditional media.

So the micro mavens that I look at, they didn’t have such platforms, they didn’t have the luxury of having a media gatekeeper come to them and say, “We’ll give you a column in the biggest magazine, business magazine, for example, in America. That didn’t happen. It happens afterwards, once you build your audience. So, the platform is designed to get you an audience, or a tribe, or a community of followers, it’s more than an audience, I think, it’s a more connected community.

Valerie
So, it’s what you start doing before they tap you on the shoulder, or in order for them to tap you on the shoulder to give you TV show?

Trevor
A hundred times yes. A hundred times yes. OK, so we look at all the micro mavens in the book, some where along the line, not all of them have got radio shows, Gary Vaynerchuk is on radio, but a lot of them have got – they’ve got columns in national magazines, for example. The media came calling to them because they are seen to be authorities in this space, and they’ve built their authority and their visibility by having a platform. So, that is often their blog, but it’s also they’re very active on Twitter, Facebook, et cetera.

So, content is one thing, social interaction is the other, and that’s the combined. And, once you get that into play, then you get noticed. So, a publisher is really interested in someone who has a platform.

Valerie
Yep, so some people listening to this who are fiction authors or aspiring fiction authors, I know that I’ve spoken to many who feel they don’t have to go down this path, because they feel that they don’t need to build a platform, because in theory if they’re fiction authors the words should speak for themselves – it’s a good book, or it’s not a good book. So, what’s your comment on this?

Trevor
Yeah, we’re going to take that from a couple of levels. I still think you need a platform, that’s my positioning on that. People still buy the author, they buy the story behind the story, if social media has done one thing it’s taken us, the public, behind the scenes of people’s lives, and companies, a lot of the companies now that are starting from scratch and growing, often digitally and connecting with an audience, they’re doing it because people are buying the story behind the company and the people. And we like to connect with the people. We want to get close to authors, we want to almost go through when they’re writing the book, be there with them. And, again, there’s that side of things to build that community of followers who are interested in your work, which I think is fantastic.

If you’re an author, and you’re a crime fiction author, and you attract crime fiction fans because of your words, your insights, your blog posts, your – all sorts of things, your commentary on – you might do book reviews of other crime writing books, of other crime fiction books. If you get fans that are interested in what you have to say, your ideas and that side of things, you’re already well on your way, because that takes a long time to build. Any community or tribe of followers takes a long time to build.

And then you have the marketing reality. So, there’s the nice fluffy stuff, you have the marketing reality of a publisher probably won’t go near you these days, they’re less likely to go near you if you haven’t got a following. I won’t say that they’re less likely to go near you, they’re more likely to want you if you have a big following.

Valerie
Yeah, that’s right.

Trevor
They can see that, “Well, you’ve got 10,000 fans, or something, how many of those are going to buy a book? That’s a really, really good start for us.”

And self-publishing being the massive trend at the moment, for a number of reasons, and that’s probably another 10 podcasts. You know, if you’re going to want to publish your own book, you need to be talking to people, you need to have it out there, you need to be going through the process of taking people along for the journey, along for the ride, that’s what people are interested in. They’re interested in your book, but they’re interested in you and your journey first.

Valerie
Yes. So, the publishing industry certainly has changed over the last, even, five years, where publishers who once did all the marketing for you are now really relying on the author – it’s up to some authors to do a lot of the promotion and marketing themselves.

So, when it comes to a non-fiction book, like your book, some people do say that the hard work actually starts after the book is published. So, what have been some of the key elements in the promotion of your book?

Trevor
Well, it’s still very early days as we record this, Valerie, but I will say, just before I get into that, I think it must be really hard for authors that have never done this, you’ve never marketing. I mean I’m in the space, I’ve been in public relations for twenty years. And, I can see a lot of the dots and know what has to be done, but even I can sit back and say, “Whoa, there’s a lot here.” “There’s a lot to do.” So, I have empathy for authors who might be confronted with this and it might seem all too hard, but I look at the positives. The positives are you can actually go out and make a difference yourself now, where it was a lot harder years ago. So, I think that the opportunities for those who want to be doing it are fantastic. I’ll just sort of dropped that in.

On my side of things, yes, it’s a little overwhelming at times. I’m starting up a new business, I’m doing all of that as well, so the book is sort of on the side, as it were, and I wrote it on the side, I wrote it at night, and I wrote during the weekends. So, I’ve got to get my head around the fact that this is a really big part of my life, and it should be part of my business. So, I should be doing a lot more during work hours.

But, given that the book is all about content marketing and social media, they’re the areas that I’m concentrating on, so I’m working with the publisher, who’s Wiley Publishers, who are very good, very big in the business publishing space. And, I’m working with the publicity department there, and together they’re doing probably more of the traditional type of publicity, and that’s just started in the last couple of weeks, because the book’s just about out now. So, the timing-wise, this is still reasonably early days.

I’m doing a number of podcasts, like this one. I’ve got a number of guest posts lined up, that means that I write a blog post for someone else’s blog – very, very powerful strategy, a really good one, if people intend to get into that space.

And social media, you know, I’ve been into this space since 2007. I’m active, I love it. I’ve got readers of my own blogs, so I promote through that. I’ve got, you know, big followings on Twitter and LinkedIn, for example. And, I’ve been drip-feeding tidbits of the book out for six, eight months. I started writing in August, so I probably started talking about it in August. But, just dripped it out every now and then. You know, when we looked at the cover, we revealed the cover. When the manuscript came in, I’d take an Instagram shot of that. So, the marketing of the book starts when you get the deal. That’s the marketing. You don’t shut up and just hide away in a cave, you might have to hide away in a cave to actually do the writing, but once again, I’ve tried to take people along for the journey.

Now that’s not widespread, that’s for people who are in my – probably my comm – if I can use the word ‘community,’ the people who read my blog, who I interact with online and social media, who are friends, who I see at events, and that sort of stuff. So, that’s been – I go to those people, they then retweet, or talk about my book to their personal networks, and that’s how I get to amplify my story. It’s not me, just me doing it, there really is a definite ripple affect.

Valerie
It’s brilliant advice that the marketing starts when you get the book deal, because it’s building that sense of anticipation as well.

But, let’s move onto the actual writing of the book. Now, I lapped it up. I loved everything in it, and I also know that there’s a lot of information, a lot of really useful information, but because there is a lot, tell me how did you figure out how to structure it? How did you plan it out? Did you plan it out? Or, did you just start writing?

Trevor
I started writing, but it was a bit half-hazard. So, it was a little chaotic early on, until I was finding the threads. I knew what I wanted to write, I just didn’t have the structure around the book. I had the big theme organised, but I needed that to get the book deal in the first place. But, I’ve got to say I’ve done the deal and I was still, “OK, now I’ve got to write this thing,” and it took a few weeks to get the contents down pat.

Once I got the contents and the big chunks, and the big chunks to me are the cornerstone elements, being a non-fiction book, I think that’s important. The cornerstone elements, for me, were to Develop Your Platform, Build Your Brand, Grow Your Business, and then Live the Dream, those four areas. But, then we segmented it even further. There’s the introduction to what the marketplace is like, introducing the notion, or the term of ‘micro maven,’ introducing people to the micro mavens who I would be including in the book. So, I list 26 of them early in the book, ‘Meet the Micro Mavens,’ and then shared the characteristics of those micro mavens, and then this is what you have to do become one, based on what my research of these people is. And, then finish it off with the micro Maven in Action.

So it really did start to make sense once I had that corner stone around it. So, in terms of parts: Introducing the Micro Maven, Exploring the Micro Maven – what are they all about, Becoming a Micro Mavens, and then The Micro Maven in Action. So, it started – once you get that narrative, or that linear plan, then you can just rock and roll. For me, I just wrote. And, I didn’t have to write in a linear fashion. I could go and write page – I could write the conclusion first, if I wanted to. I was writing the profiles, I did all of the profile work first anyway, because while I was learning and researching about those people, I was writing about them at the same time.

Valerie
So you just mentioned before that you wrote the book at nights and on weekends, so tell us about your writing process. Or did you have some kind of routine once you decided, “OK, I’m spending the next ‘X’ number of hours writing.”? Did you have to get into the zone somehow?

Trevor
Yeah, I think that’s probably generous, calling it a ‘process’. Yeah, I had three months to write the book. So, my word target was 55,000. I ended up writing 65,000, and I think it’s around about 62,000 mark now. I did a spreadsheet, very unlike me, I did a spreadsheet and said, “Well, if I’m going to hit this target, this is what I have to do.” And three months is not really a long time.

Valerie
No.

Trevor
So, I broke it down into weeks, and that’s the easiest way, into small chunks. And, I thought, “Well, OK, I can do it… in that respect I can do it, if I do ‘X’ amount of words a week.” And some weeks I went over, when I was having good writing weeks, and some weeks I’d go under, but I averaged out. I’ve got to say once I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, I was getting into that 48,000, I was really relaxed and comfortable then. And, that’s why I kept writing and I got to 65,000 words.

But, it – I had a couple of nights, two to three nights where I wrote. The idea is to always be doing it. Weekends were pretty full on, they were my big chunks – Sunday was my very big chunk, Saturday was a bit more about tiding up what I had done during the week. Wednesday night was a big night for me, and then I’d do a couple of hours on sort of a Monday and a Tuesday.

Valerie
Wow, very systematic.

So, once you handed in your first draft of your manuscript, what was it like working with your editor?

Trevor
Yeah, the editing process I found – when I say ‘stressful’ it was because of the time. I didn’t know what we had to do, I had never done this process before. So, I was very much a newbie. Probably had I known I would have probably tried to crib a couple of weeks on the other side, and got it in a couple of weeks earlier. Because we were heading for Christmas, and in terms of publishing there is a schedule, and you have to hit it, and it has to go and get printed and shipped back, and all of that. I really, in hindsight, I would have probably cribbed a couple of weeks to give myself a couple of weeks extra break – not break of not doing it, as in not having to do all of the editing in one piece.

The editing is an unusual thing, we don’t really sit there and talk about grammar or anything. The editor’s role, and they’re fantastic, I must say, their job is to make the book better. They are objective, and they know what the publisher wants, the style, they’ve got all of that in their head. And, it’s just a matter of they plow through it, they mark up the manuscript, then you have to agree/disagree, add things.

But, what I was doing is I was – you know, as questions come in I’d have to do more research. I think once you go down – it was me, anyway, others might not do it, I’d go back and I was almost rewriting as I was going through it again, because I was delving in, I was changing things, I’d go back and almost re-research stuff again, and again, and again, and again. And, so I did extra research during the editing process, which I probably didn’t need to do.

Valerie
Right.

Trevor
But, it was a very short – I reckon it was only about ten days.

Maybe two weeks, but it was very short. And you do it in chunks, and you can let the chunks build up, because then the editor hasn’t got a chance to finish it off by their deadline, it’s not fair for them. So, it’s a rolling thing.

So, I guess I handed it in, I had about – I was hoping for a few weeks break, I didn’t get that many. And then it was straight back into, and then it was Christmas. And, then you’re planning the book, and looking at the cover, and all of those things. So, if I did have the time again I would certainly try and crib a bit more time.

Valerie
Some aspiring authors also look at having a book to help them build their credibility, you know, their platform, as you talk about. But, one of the key reasons is to enable them to get more lucrative gigs like consulting or speaking engagements. So, what’s been your experience in building up a speaking portfolio? Because I know you do a lot of speaking around at places, and I know a lot of authors are keen to get those speaking gigs.

Trevor
You’re right, I cover in the book the importance of having a book. It gives you that extra credibility, this is obviously in the non-fiction space. Again, it came down to the blog. I didn’t really do – I did some sporadic speaking years ago when I ran a PR firm, but really I was not known out of the area, and no one knew me. But, by having a blog, that was the credibility – you get asked to be on panels. People say, “Oh, you must know this stuff, can you talk here?” You start packaging up and acting like a speaker. You put it on your website, and then you get more speaking gigs. So, to me, it wasn’t the book, it was the blog. And, the blog plus my connections. So, but I go back, it was the platform.

A platform will get you speaking gigs. In fact, if you’re doing a number of speaking gigs, that is part of your platform as well, because that’s what gets you known and seen, and people Tweet about you and write about you. If you’re talking at an event in your area, or conference, the program goes out, it’s all about you, it’s got your Twitter handle, more people follow you, all of these things are connected.

So, I think by the time you’ve written the book you’re probably speaking potentially anyway. But, the book, in a lot of cases now, will help you, hopefully, take things to the next level. All of the research shows that it is, anecdotally as well, as sort of researched by some firms that I’ve seen.

Valerie
So you are a big user and advocate of social media, and also in the book you talk about how to use social media to be a micro maven. I find that a lot of authors that I speak to – both fiction and non-fiction authors, shy away from social media, because they either find it overwhelming, or they just don’t get it, and they don’t think it’s relevant or necessary. What’s your comment on that?

Trevor
I can understand it, particularly if you’re a writer, a fiction writer, you’re probably more on the introverted side, and you sit down at your computer and you’re writing. I think, you know, that’s probably reasonably hard. But, if you’re non-fiction writer and you’re passionate about a space that you’re in and you’re out there talking about it and all of that, it’s probably going to be a lot easier.

I mean, to me, it’s changed my life. And, I wouldn’t have a book deal, or a book, which has always been a dream, I certainly would have that had I not done social media. There’s no question about that. Social media today, we live in – Seth Godin calls it a ‘connection economy,’ and Iggy Pintado, who’s a co-author and probably an acquaintance, he’s certainly a good friend of mine, he’s probably an acquaintance of yours too, Valerie.

Valerie
Yes.

Trevor
Iggy talks about every social – what is it? Every connection is a potential business or social opportunity. That’s the way the world goes around.

And authors are their own brands, they are a brand. They’re a personality based brand, but they are a brand. And you need to be out there, you need to be consistent in your actions, whether you’re writing an article, whether you’re doing a book, you’re giving a talk, you’re on a panel, you’re Tweeting, you’re blogging, you’re doing a podcast interview. And, all of that – a large proportion of that today is social media. And, you know, if you’re going to be an author and you want to be successful, social media is kind of getting even more important today than it was three years ago. I just would struggle to advise anyone not having a go at it.

Now, if they don’t understand it, that’s fine. It’s a matter of getting in, getting your feet wet, doing what works for you. You might not like Twitter, you might not need to do Twitter.

I was talking to someone the other day and he said – he runs a business and he’s got something like 20,000 followers, but he hates Twitter. I was telling him, “Don’t do it, because you’re not interacting with anyone, so why are you even bothering?” He built up quite easily through some connections, and he had a bit of high profile help to build his Twitter following, but I said, “If your heart’s not in it, don’t do it.”

Valerie
So if people would like to follow what you’re doing on social media where can they find you?

Trevor
On social media – well, Twitter – I’m probably giving Twitter too much a burst today. But, my Twitter handle is @TrevorYoung, and my website, my portfolio website is www.TrevorYoung.me, and I’ve got all of my jump off points there.

Valerie
Great. And the website for the book, microDOMINATION is?

Trevor
Just to confuse people, I’ve got two.

MicroDOMINATIONbook.com is just about the book, a very simple website. And what I’ve done, I’ve created a blog around the book, in true social media parlex, I suppose.

That’s just microDOMINATION.com, and what I’m trying to do there, and I’ll get into it a bit more over the next few months is create discussions and more content around the themes in the book, because the book is a – it cuts a swathe across a lot of areas, and it was not possible to go deep diving into any areas in the book, because that would have changed the tenor of the whole thing. So, I’ve decided to do a blog for all of those off-cuts and to go deeper in areas. So, if people are interested in the themes discussed in the book, then microDOMINATION.com, the blog, is the community where I want to continue things going.

Valerie
Great. Finally, what was the most challenging thing about writing the book and what was the most rewarding thing?

Trevor
Gosh… the challenging…

I think all of it is challenging, in a way. Let me go back to the challenging one.

The good thing is I don’t think I’ve seen a good thing yet. I was – when the books arrived at the publisher, at Wiley’s, and they said, “They’re here, do you want us to send them?” I said, “It’s only around the corner, actually I’ll pop by and pick them up.” And they were just saying how they’ve never – they don’t often see the author open the box and look at the books, because they generally send it to them.

I think when you open the box and you see the book and you touch it, you feel it, that’s a pretty special feeling, particularly if it’s been a goal for a long time, as it has with me, for me. But, I’m sure that the first time I see it in a bookshop, that will be a very good moment, I think.

Valerie
Yes, and that’s just around the corner. And, on that note, thank you very much for your time today, Trevor.

Trevor
No problem. Thank you very much, Valerie.


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