What’s interesting is that about 20 months ago, I began to perceive that law might be a part of the “Shine” calling, in ways that I had never anticipated. At first, this nudging was simply other people making suggestions, which I resisted. I didn’t see the connection.
Then inquiries from “outsiders” (people I didn't know personally) who had no familiarity with what I'd been trying to do. Multiple inquiries, from different (unrelated) sources.
It was, quite frankly, a difficult time for me. By March 2016, I was completely broken—self-will was demolished. My response to God during those months was that I would do whatever He wanted, just please make the first step clear and plain. That's what I thought I was doing, and had intended to be doing, when I resigned my faculty position to pursue the Shinecast venture. Nothing had worked out as expected. I was confused.
Empowerment Through Law
The light on the path started blinking: “I equipped you as a lawyer you use that knowledge to equip and empower others.”
I said, “OK, show me the way forward.”
Doors opened, opportunities arose, resources appeared. It’s been a walk of faith.
It's been a long year+ since my last update on this website. It's not that I haven't been busy (or even blogging), but my focus as been elsewhere.
I returned to the practice of law, while continuing to work on the Shine Vision as much as time would permit. From April – July of 2016, I was super-busy getting all my “ducks in a row” for my return to the legal world.
During July and August of 2016, I was also hustling lots of farm produce grown at Shine Springs Farm. We had a great mid-summer harvest of watermelons and okra.
Our Shine Springs Farm watermelons took 1st and 2nd place at the Franklin County Watermelon Festival “best tasting” competition.
My recipe for watermelon-flavored sweet iced tea won the “best flavored tea” competition sponsored by the Franklin County Extension Service (ACE / Auburn University). I'll find the recipe and share it.
Thanks to Chef Chris Newsome, Chef-Owner of Ollie Irene for buying and serving lots of Shine Springs Farm produce in 2016 (and 2014-15). It's been great to get to know Chef Chris and wife, Anna, through my farming activities.
I handled several trademark registrations and then the legal work started to take off.
My niece Allison lived with me for 8 weeks in the late Fall while she did a round of clinical training with a Birmingham PT healthcare provider for her degree in physical therapy. It was fun having a room-mate again. 🙂
It turned out to be a great year, although it was definitely not without its challenges!
God is good and He will meet our needs when we come to him in faith.
The whole return to law practice was an exercise in faith, because it wasn't something I intentionally chose to do or that I entered into lightly.
As I opened myself up to fully embrace His will and purpose in my life, the doors began to open to law in ways I had never anticipated. As I took the tentative steps in faith, the opportunities and somewhat bigger picture began to unfold.
Each week has been a continued exercise in faith as I've sought to take action in ways that serve the clients I've been blessed with, while continuing to pursue non-legal activities and work that are consistent with the Shine vision and values.
As the “bigger picture” has unfolded, I've also come to see how my background in law is entirely connected with necessary for my Shine vision to come to fruition, in part through Shinecast® media and in part through other similar-but-separate ventures.
In late February, I attended the Lawyerist's TBD Law 2 event in St. Louis.
In a few days, I'll be making the official announcements, but I'm about to launch a series of courses to help creative professionals, solopreneurs and entrepreneurs with legal and business topics. The initial offerings will be through the Sheree Martin Law website, but I'll be moving them into a standalone portal later in June.
This isn't the final logo for Write: Legal but it's one of my early DIY designs:
This post is a reflection on a year of brand confusion and my failed strategy for launching the Shinecast® media brand.
You see plenty of blog posts about success stories and how-to-succeed in digital business, but not many about the missteps. This post is an overview into a venture that didn't work out as planned in part due to strategy, in part due to execution, in part due to messaging and, perhaps, in part due to complexity and resource availability.
The best lessons often come from experiences where we don’t achieve what we thought we were going to achieve. I hesitate to call it a failure, because I’ve learned so much over the past year. This post isn’t really about the lessons learned, as such, but more about the road to the missteps.
The Shinecast® Brand
In 2015, I attempted to ramp-up and roll out the digital media business I’ve branded as the Shinecast®.
The Shinecast® is a brand, first and foremost. It’s the brand I’m using to indicate the source/origin as I distribute the multimedia content through a variety of digital channels.
It’s easier if you think of Shinecast in the same way you think of Disney® as a brand or National Geographic as a brand. Shinecast is not in the same league, of course, but conceptually similar.
As the search engine results in Google indicate (graphic above), some of the Disney brand is digital content, some requires brick-and-mortar visits to experience, some is tangible (clothing, toys, etc.), some intangible (the Disney experience at theme parks and resorts).
National Geographic began as a print magazine and later evolved into multimedia categories of branded video, digital content distributed through the internet and mobile devices. National Geographic also offers travel adventures and an assortment of branded content and experiences.
The vision for the Shinecast® brand doesn't exactly include theme parks and guided tours, at least not here in the early stages. The initial vision is heavily focused on multimedia content delivered digitally to share the Shinecast messages. Eventually, I have plans for “real world” goods and services related to the Shinecast message.
Shinecast in the Digital Realm
When I launched the Shinecast® brand, my goal was to begin with audio content distributed in podcast format through separate, distinct shows on topics related to the Shinecast message (more on that in a moment) that would help to grow the brand in the audio medium.
I also envisioned creating other digital products–initially ebooks–to share the Shinecast educational message.
Both audio and text-focused digital content would offer messages to help YOU (the audience) Discover, Grow and Shine in various areas of life (health, wealth, etc.).
Once I had the podcast and written content coming out on a regular basis across the various “channels” I planned to venture into short videos.
I started, early on, with the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast, to talk about sustainability topics, growing and preparing real food.
The second podcast I launched was Birmingham Shines, a Shinecast® show about creators, innovators and makers in Birmingham. The goal of that show was to introduce the Shinecast brand and inspirational message of living authentically and doing work that matters.
I added the Ignite Alabama podcast as Shinecast® show #3 to talk about entrepreneurship in the context of an Alabama audience. My research indicated this was an unserved niche. In podcasting, the topic of entrepreneurship in general is oversaturated, but there was no Alabama-focused podcast that I could find on the topics of innovation and entrepreneurship.
I saw Ignite Alabama, and the companion website, as the place where I could provide valuable digital resources and implement a monetization strategy that would provide the funding (and some content) for the “wealth” component of the larger Shinecast® message.
Show number 4, the Discover Grow Shinecast, was the podcast that would combine all the facets of the Shinecast way of life in one podcast for a global (or at least a national audience). I envisioned it as leading the audience along the path to health, wealth, wisdom and happiness.
The whole purpose of separate podcast shows was an attempt to distribute the Shinecast message to targeted audiences, to make it easier to get their attention, and then (I hoped) this would lead them to brand awareness, some curiosity and, eventually, build an audience for the main Shinecast website.
Well, it didn’t work out as I’d planned.
Most everyone in the Birmingham audience saw Birmingham Shines and the Shinecast brand as one-and-the-same.
In the Disney analogy, it’s as if the sum total of the Disney brand consists of The Fox and the Hound. Charming, but not the main point.
Busy, but Not Productive
The more I tried to crank out the content for Birmingham Shines and Ignite Alabama, and promote it properly, the less time and energy I had to write and produce the main Shinecast content.
Moreover, I found it extraordinarily difficult to identify and schedule great guests for the Ignite Alabama podcast. Entrepreneurs in the start-up world are too busy and the business advisers largely don’t “get” podcasting as a medium to reach prospective clients.
I pivoted on the Ignite Alabama podcast and turned to the behind-the-scenes production ideas for the monetization path, but I was ahead of the curve. Most of my pitches were received with this response: “Intrigued” or “great idea” but “not yet for us.”
No one wanted to be first in the Alabama market to spread their message through on-demand audio. Most of the internal decision-makers in Alabama businesses don’t get niche marketing through controlled digital channels or still need the ego boost that comes with devoting most marketing dollars to mass advertising.
The Future of Birmingham Shines & Ignite Alabama
I put the Ignite Alabama podcast on hiatus last year, as I explored a rebranding possibility. I'm still mulling over whether I'll implement the rebranding and relaunch to an expanded audience.
As I approach the one-year anniversary of Birmingham Shines podcast, I’ve been exploring whether to give it a few more months or issue a fond farewell. I’ve decided my answer. Stay tuned.
People, Objectives (as in Objectives for the Content Strategy), Strategies, Technologies and Tactics.
This post is the companion piece, where I want to further explain the Strategies, Technologies, and Tactics components.
What is a Strategy?
Strategy defines the parameters of the actions you will take to achieve your objectives.
In the simple analogy I used in the previous example, if the objective is to get to Atlanta from Birmingham for a job interview on Thursday, your strategy would be to drive to Atlanta early Wednesday morning and spend the night. That’s one strategy among several that are possible, and probably the best given normal circumstances.
The tactics would be the choices you make about departure time, which highways to follow, which hotel to stay in that’s most convenient to the interview location, etc.
Inbound Marketing Content Strategy
Inbound marketing is based on the creation and delivery of useful content to your prospects. This content is designed to help your prospects come to know, like and trust you and to move them through your sales funnel.
In this context, I prefer to craft an overall content strategic framework and then develop separate strategies for each technology channel in the mix. Hence, the extra T in my version of POSTT.
Let’s use a landscape design firm as a possible client. This hypothetical firm focuses on upscale residential landscape design.
An inbound marketing content strategy might be built around creating and publishing a series of articles on topics that address the why-and-how of various techniques for caring for turf, certain plants used in landscaping, how the investment in landscaping adds to the value of a home, how the homeowner can incorporate pollinator friendly species into the mix for eco-friendly reasons, and so on.
As I emphasized in the previous article, the bulk of the content would be created and published first on the website, for SEO benefits and to ensure that the content isn’t lost when prospects leave one digital network to join the next shiny community. Hosting and publishing the content on your own website also helps you with lead capture and tracking the prospect through your sales funnel.
An editorial calendar will be created to identify who is responsible for creating and approving each piece of content, along with when the content will be created, reviewed, approved and published on the website.
The editorial calendar is a key part of the content strategy at this level.
Social Media Strategies
Identification of social channels where you’ll also publish the content is another aspect of the overall content strategy.
Continuing with the example of the residential landscape design client, we might choose to use Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram as the social channels to reach prospects.
Based on the likely demographics of this client’s prospects, I would probably focus on Facebook and Pinterest, primarily because the Instagram audience skews younger and this audience might not be at the socio-economic stage to be a great prospect for this particular client.
Then next step would be to develop specific strategies for repurposing and enhancing the articles, photos and videos for publication on Facebook and Pinterest and, perhaps, Instagram (mainly for aspirational brand awareness, if the client has someone who can take ownership of the Instagram publication schedule).
Each social network requires a separate strategy that is designed to maximize reach with the target audience on that network in a way that’s consistent with the cultural norms of that social network.
The biggest failure I see in business marketing on social media is an effort by many small and medium sized businesses is to use a one-size-fits-all approach to social media marketing. [Actually, that might be the second biggest failure. The first might be simply to follow the “let me throw some stuff out there and hope someone sees it” strategy.]
Example of Simple Facebook Strategy
Let’s use Facebook to briefly describe a strategy for this hypothetical residential landscape design client.
We have a Facebook business page and the strategy is to publish a mix of photos, articles and videos on the Facebook page that target a certain demographic with the objective of brand awareness and lead capture.
Tactics for the Facebook Strategy
Next we create the tactical plan for Facebook:
The plan includes publishing 2 pieces of content each day, excluding Sunday.
We create the Facebook-specific portion of the editorial calendar. This should that identify most of the content for a 7 or 14-day window, with some flexibility to respond to weather issues, current events, etc.
All content published on Facebook will be shared using link customizers or tracking pixels to identify the source.
Possible Types of Content for Facebook
Content might include photos of work performed.
Short excerpts from the text resources created for the website with links back to the website
One 30-60 second video each week from a job site (without revealing the home, unless the homeowner gives written consent)
Three items of promoted content that lead directly to lead-capture tools on a landing page.
We can get a lot more advanced in the tactical stage and talk about tracking pixels, using dark posts for promoted content on Facebook, the benefits of uploading video directly to Facebook, issues with organic reach of content published on your Facebook business page, but all of that is beyond the scope of this article.
Wrapping it Up
I hope this 2-part overview of the content marketing strategic planning process helps to explain the difference between objectives, strategies and tactics.
Perhaps more importantly, I hope this 2-part series convinces you of the the necessity of crafting specific audience profiles and a plan-of-action to reach those audiences in an engaging and meaningful way to build awareness, familiarity and trust to grow your business.
The terminology is less important, in the end, than the results.
If you speak with your clients, customers and prospects as people, not demographic segments, you’re more likely to find success than if you throw out one-size-fits-all content, as a traditional media ad or on your social media channel.
Social media offers new channels of communication to serve existing customers and clients and reach new prospects. The challenge is this: Unless you have a meaningful plan to use social media to achieve some outcome, you're probably spending time and money in the least effective way possible.
So that's why I focused on the strategy side of social media marketing each time I taught Social Media Practices, a course I developed when I was a faculty member at Samford University.
Strategy is the same approach I take when consulting with clients or preparing a conference presentation on social media marketing and content development. I find that most people (students and business owners) like to focus on tactics–what's where the fun is.
But if you don't know where you're going or why you're doing something, you have no way of knowing if you're accomplishing anything or just spending time and money churning out noise.
This post is a part 1 of an article I published over on LinkedIn and I'm offering here to widen the distribution.
Here's the thing about social content for small businesses:
The value of social content comes when it serves a business purpose and is based on a strategy that's carefully designed to support business objectives.
How Does Social Serve One or More Business Objectives?
The first questions I ask prospective clients are aimed at helping me understand what they are trying to gain through social media. What business objective will your social media presence relate to? If they don't know, we talk through some possibilities.
Meaningful social presence and good social content can help business objectives related to sales, customer support, product/service development and enhancement, and broader market research.
The obvious (ultimate) answer is, of course, to grow your business through sales, retain and support existing customers, and find new clients who need the services your business provides. But you need to spend some time thinking specifically how social media content and engagement can serve specific business functional areas.
Quick Aside: I believe your social content must tie back to your website presence. That's a topic for another post, but everything I'm saying about social content presupposes that it is, in some way (directly or contextually) leading prospects to your website and lead capture tools. This is something Chris Brogan is known for advocating, along with most other small business marketing consultants.
Today, the digital and social sphere is usually the front lines of customer service and social content may be the first touch point for a prospect who is exploring the types of products or services you provide.
Takeaway: Before you start to develop a content strategy for social media it's imperative to identify the ways this social content will serve the ultimate business objectives.
Once you know where social fits into the larger business picture, you can start to consider social media on a more strategic level.
People – Objectives – Strategies – Tactics
My version: People – Objectives – Strategies – Technologies – Tactics. (POSTT)
I'm not the originator of the P-O-S-T approach, although I added a second T (for Technology, as in channels), as a wrinkle to help students in a class on social media strategy that I developed at taught at Samford University.
People: Who Are You Trying to Reach?
Before you launch into sharing content across a multitude of social channels, you MUST first identify the audience(s) you need to connect with.
It's not enough to say “new customers,” “existing customers,” or even demographically: Small business owners with more than 5 employees, or plumbing service providers, or parents of kids age 8 and up who need orthodontics.
Your customers and clients are not demographic segments or socio-economic data points.
Your people are real humans who have interests, needs and values. You may serve multiple audience segments, so you need to carefully craft the biographies of your ideal customers. These are sometimes called avatars, sometimes simply customer personae, sometimes bios.
Develop one of these avatar bios for each category you serve or want to serve. And write it like you're describing a character in a book or movie. Give each person a name, think about what they want (or might want) from you in relation to how this relates to their overall life. What are their hobbies or values or goals? Again, think of each as a real person.
If you know your customers well, you can use a few real people to develop these audience biographies.
Once you have those biographies in place, then you can start to understand more about how to reach them. More on that in a moment.
Objectives for Social Media (Digital) Presence
Before we get to strategies and tactics you need to consider social objectives that relate back to the business objectives.
Perhaps if you're a B2C retailer or provide a service like home repairs you may want to offer a social presence to help with customer service (support function) and respond to prospects who have questions (a sales function).
If you're a B2B provider or offer services that are confusing, complicated or new, you may want to emphasize thought leadership (sales) or helpful resources that educate prospects and explain what you do (business development).
Once you've defined your objectives for digital, then you can move on to developing the content strategies to lead you closer to achieving these objectives.
Strategy is Your Road Map
In my teaching days, I often had students who were confused about the difference between a strategy and a tactic, so I used this analogy:
Let's say your objective is to travel to Atlanta from Birmingham to attend a job interview.
You need to develop a strategy to get to Atlanta. Issues to consider in developing your strategy are whether to drive, fly, walk or ride a bicycle. What's your budget? How much lead time to you have? When do you leave? If you drive, will you drive your own car or rent one? Will you take the interstate or backroads?
Let's say the strategy is to drive to Atlanta to achieve the objective of attending a job interview on Thursday. Then we define specific tactics: Leave Wednesday midday and stay overnight so you're rested for the morning interview, travel Interstate 20, etc.
The same approach can be used to understand strategies vs. tactics in developing plans for social content and social engagement.
This post is getting a bit long, so I will divided this up into a second installment, where I focus on a hypothetical social strategy and offer some tips for identifying the technologies and tactics to implement the strategy.
If you're looking for help, I'm available for consulting work on digital content strategy development and can also help you on the digital content production side.
My production specialties are writing and on-demand audio. I can help you find the right partners for comprehensive branding services and videography, if that's necessary.
Find out more about Sheree Martin here on LinkedIn and elsewhere on the internet, including:
I developed my version of the POST approach based on the ideas in Groundswell, a book by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research Group. [The link is to the book on Amazon, and is an affiliate link.]
Groundswell was first published in 2007 and I used the 2011 revised/expanded version as a recommended textbook in the first semester I taught Social Media Practices. Even though the statistics and other data, along with discussions of social media practices and platforms, are of only historical relevance today, I still think the book provides a great backstory for anyone who doesn't fully understand the underlying foundation of social media marketing.
You can find better sources for tactics and best practices in 2016, but Groundwell is still a great resource for anyone who feels that they don't really understand this whole social media thing and how it relates to business. [Amazon affiliate link.]
For the Fall 2012 semester I proposed a faculty shoptalk on the topic of teaching through food, since the health benefits of real food and the economic benefits of a sustainable local food system are two of my favorite causes.
I could easily see the value of using food as a theme to connect learning across various disciplines: Nutrition classes look at the nutritional side of food, while biology classes focus on botany or maybe even the science of genetic engineering, journalism students learn to write about food and food science, lit classes could focus on food in literature, art, well, you get the picture.
We ended up making the session a panel discussion.
Here's the session promotional synopsis I wrote. I found a copy as I was cleaning out papers from my office move and figured I may as well share it:
Food—and associated issues arising out of our complex modern food system—is a topic that can (and is) being taught in a multidisciplinary fashion. Food can be approached from many different directions: Economics, marketing and advertising, the environment, health and wellness, public policy and political science, entrepreneurship, sociology, even literature and art. Items to consider when teaching food include: The health benefits of eating “real” food (personally and the societal impacts of poor eating habits), the environmental issues associated with “modern” monoculture and large-scale industrial farming, the benefits of diversified, sustainable biodynamic types of agricultural practices, food security and access to healthy foods (locally and globally), the ethics of food marketing, the cultural aspects of food and society, and the economic benefits of a local food system.
Thereafter, I presented a poster on how to use social media to promote and market a sustainable farm and also gave a couple of conference presentations related to food and farming research I was doing.
Not Everyone Gets Interdisciplinary Education
My subsequent faculty evaluation by the chair advised me to select research and scholarly activity that was more closely related to the discipline of journalism and mass communication. I guess I should have thought to footnote all the job opportunities students have for careers in magazine journalism related to food, the billions of dollars spent on food advertising, the massive growth in marketing organic food products, the power of food bloggers, etc. etc. etc.
When I stepped to the front of the classroom, Mrs. Bowen already had the big, gray behemoth powered up.
I carefully positioned volume W of the World Book Encyclopedia into the image capture area and a state map appeared on the grayish white screen pulled down over a section of drab green chalkboard.
I gently lowered the arm toward the 45 until the needle rested on the spinning black vinyl.
A few crackles of static. Then the plunking strings of an acoustic guitar rippled across the classroom on College Avenue in Russellville.
“Almost heaven, West Virginia. Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.”
That was John Denver singing, it was 1971, and I was 8 years old.
That’s how I began my first public multimedia presentation.
We had been given the assignment of doing a report on one of the 50 states. I picked West Virginia, not because I’d ever been there or had any particular connection to the “Mountain State.”
I just wanted to do my report on West Virginia so I could use the John Denver song, “County Roads.”
John Denver was one of my favorite singers at the time and I had the record. I envisioned using his music and lyrics to make my report on West Virginia more than just a boring recitation of facts about a state.
No one told me to include music in my presentation. I just instinctively felt like the music would help.
[Note: I wrote this back in 2013-2014 when I was doing my professional self-reflection work and then forgot what I named the document file on my computer. I just stumbled across it and decided to go ahead and publish.]
The Opaque Projector
As for the big behemoth projector thing, I’m not sure if other students used it. I seem to recall specifically asking my teacher to set it up for me.
Mrs. Bowen had used this big machine on various occasions to display images on the screen directly from books. Other teachers had used film projectors, film strips and transparencies, maybe even slide projectors.
Mrs. Bowen is the only teacher I remember using that big hulking gray machine that captured images on pages from books and projected them directly onto the screen. I suspect it was a big hassle to move around and set up.
I think it was known as an “opaque projector.”
I needed that machine for my presentation because I wanted to show the photos of West Virginia I found in books and the idea of putting photos on the screen seemed, to me, better than simply holding up photos, putting them on a poster or passing a book around the classroom. I didn't have slides or transparencies so that wasn't a choice.
I knew, instinctively, that my report would be stronger if I used music and visuals.
Also, well, I just wanted to use that projector. It fascinated me. The other projectors could transmit images, but not images from a solid page. The other projectors transmitted images from negatives or transparencies. I had a curiosity about how all this media technology worked and wanted to use it.
I’d already developed an interest in media, despite the rudimentary capabilities of the consumer-level audio/video equipment accessible to me in those days. I would sometimes try to “splice” audio by using two or three tape recorders and switching back and forth manually.
Compared to kids today, my early childhood years were in the technological dark ages. Over-the-air TV delivered 3 commercial channels and the “educational” channel. Over-the-air radio was still AM only until around 1970-71 in my home area.
CB radios were around and I got to play with those from time to time so I understood the notion that anyone could speak into to a radio transmitter and send a message to someone else. I understood that “radio” wasn’t simply a technology available to the select few licensees, but I also knew the license thing existed because TV and most radio stations signed off at dark or midnight with a message about some FCC license.
I had my own cassette tape recorder and I used to play records and record my voice, as if I were a DJ spinning tunes and reporting the news.
At my first career day–in second grade, I believe–I converted my big appliance box into a radio station and demonstrated my music mixing skills via the cassette recordings I’d made using my family’s limited-but-diverse record collection.
Some relatives had an old 8 mm film camera and every once in a while someone would have one of those home-movie screenings after dinner.
I wanted a movie camera so badly in those days. Never got one. Around the time I started junior high I got a Kodak 110 Instamatic, which I considered a major upgrade to my parents Polaroid Land camera. I also had to use my money to buy and develop the film, which wasn’t inexpensive. I used to send the film cartridges off in the mail to a development house because it was cheaper. Eventually I learned the film replacements they sent (as an incentive to keep users in the system) yielded pictures that had poor color and faded faster than the Kodak film.
All of this technology-reminiscing has a point. I like to think that my report on West Virginia in Mrs. Bowen’s 4th grade class reveals some of the core aspects of my personality:
I like to try new technologies and I’m always looking for ways to improve, to grow, to be distinctive. I’m willing to experiment.
My approach to the report also demonstrates an early example of resourcefulness.
I wanted to do more than stand up and read a report, so I asked to use the technology I needed to do the best I could do at the time.
I’d love to hear your stories about using tech at school. Even though the technology is constantly changing, it’s the willingness to engage with and learn through the technology that makes you stand-out.
Leave a comment and share a story about an experience you had with whatever technology was available to you at the time or, even better, how you overcame a challenge due to the lack of technology!
Sometimes I think Copyblogger's Brian Clark installed trojan horse in my computer a few years ago when I joined the Authority community.
Or maybe he's just a mind-reader.
Of course, it might simply be a coincidence that has something to do with the fact that we're both non-practicing lawyers of similar age who discovered the internet in the early 90s, way before most of our generation, and we both escaped from the drudgery of law practice.
And, just in case you're curious, this isn't a rant and it's not intended to be mean-spirited.
I feel a sense of validation, knowing that the brilliant Brian Clark comes up with many of the same ideas as I do—and succeeds at implementation.
And since this blog is where I tell my story of my own hero's journey, I thought I'd share this mini-epic—if only to serve as a reminder to myself that I am a hero who's generating the same ideas as early as those who are the masters of the internet universe.
Of course, I would also like to be one of the unemployable at Rainmaker Digital. I think I would make a great podcaster for their team.
[Tweet “The next great member of the @RainmakerFM @Copyblogger team should be @RealSheree”]
In any event, Brian is the “successful” one, at least in terms of business and finance. And I'm a Brian Clark/Copyblogger fan-girl.
Disclosure: I use Genesis framework on many of my websites (not this one) and I've been in the Authority community since 2013 and have paid for the Rainmaker platform since the beta days of July 2014. And I got to say hello to Henry Rollins at the 2015 Rainmaker Authority Conference. None of the links in this post are affiliate links.
From Go-Go's and Emma Peel to Digital Media Empire
Here's one of my videos circa early 2002, available on YouTube thanks to ValleyEarl (After posting to YouTube in 2007, I took mine down, since I'm risk averse):
While I was stalled as a freelance writer doing long-form copywriting for ad agencies and working as freelance online editor for a couple of manufacturing trade sites, Brian was building his own online business portals.
In 2000, I could see the future and I wanted to be part of it, but I knew that my HTML coding skills weren't going to take me where I needed to go and I didn't have the capital to hire developers.
Like Brian Clark, I was reading Wired, Fast Company, and The Industry Standard.
I thought about writing this blog post that evening but, like I said, I was busy with my last semester of teaching.
I was also in the midst of starting a new podcast, Birmingham Shines, which I planned to use as a promotional vehicle for my rollout of the expanded Shinecast® media empire.
Instead of writing a blog post about “great minds” or mind-melding, I filed the idea away in my head to write someday, or not.
We're Each On a Hero's Journey
A few days later, in early April 2015, I wrote my About page for the Shinecast.tv website.
And on that About page, I wrote this, pretty much in the form it appears here:
Each of us is a hero.
Our life is a journey.
On the path, we encounter the people, places and things we are given to teach us the lessons we need to move farther along the journey.
The mission of Shinecast® is to help you on this journey.
We can’t be the true hero of our own life unless we grow into the person we were meant to be.
Real. Authentic. Integrated.
Shinecast is where you find stories, inspiration and the tools to help you Discover, Grow, and Shine in all areas of your life.
The Shinecast vision is about living a whole, real and authentic life in the 21st century.
The Shinecast lifestyle is about achieving health, wealth, wisdom and happiness.
Although I published the About page on April 6, and made a few copyediting revisions since then, mainly to break up the paragraphs into shorter phrases, the essence of my message has been in development since late 2012.
The idea to use the hero's journey as my own metaphor came mainly through my use of the hero's journey as the framework for a freshman Communication Arts course I taught in Fall 2014.
I wanted to find a way to help students move beyond traditional academic essay writing and focus on storytelling.
The story behind this photo?
While doing yard work, a cacophony of chattering and screaming birds (of all stripes), prompted me to look up to see a snake slithering into this bird house, where the blue bird's nestlings were housed. I managed to grab my camera and capture a series of photos of the unsuccessful hero bird.
The message to the students in my class:
Each of us is a hero and we're on a hero's journey and we need to face our obstacles, fight our battles, and be transformed.
Aside from learning to tell better stories, I wanted the students to feel empowered as they began their college experience, rather than being stuck in a box that someone else created for them.
In the first class session, I scattered a bunch of boxes on the floor and asked the students to write a few paragraphs about what these boxes represented to them.
It was my way of getting acquainted. I don't like feeling boxed in.
I believe in the power of the hero's journey, so I decided to use it as the framework for all of the content I planned to create and publish under the Shinecast® brand.
The Shinecast mission is premised on the idea that life is a journey, we're on a path, and my Shinecast resources are intended to help shed some light along the way.
If you're interested, check out some of my podcasts on iTunes
That episode is about what makes a brand (hint: it's not the logo) and the importance of authenticity in finding your brand identity.
So anyway, that coincidence was, as they say, the last straw.
I had to chime in with this blog post and my own hero's journey to this place I'm at in mid-September, 2015.
This isn't the whole story.
Even though this version is highly abbreviated, this blog post is long enough, as it is….Keep in mind that I'm a lawyer. We like words. Perhaps I'll use this blog post in my memoirs some day.
Flashback: Spring 2012
By late Spring 2012, I knew I was going to leave my academic position sooner than later.
I had have big, long-term plans for building my Shine Springs Farm and Apiary, so I started looking for ways to transform my blog, The Ben Franklin Follies, into something more than a variety show of content, where I let my curiosity determine what I'd write about or, occasionally, curate.
In September 2012, I started my first podcast, the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast, and quickly realized that:
(a) My love for audio content was stronger than ever. I'd majored in broadcasting in college, with an emphasis on radio, and had worked as a college radio DJ and weekend board operator for my university's big NPR-affiliate station.
(b) Podcasting was only going to get bigger and I wanted to have a whole stable of shows.
(c) The Shinecast was a cool name for a podcast and could be a key part of my branding.
If you listen to the earlier episodes, it's clear that I was learning podcasting, but you have to start somewhere……
From Podcasting to Online Courses
The Shine Springs Farm Shinecast developed a small, but seemingly loyal, following.
Thanks to Copyblogger, I knew by that point that teaching and online courses were going to be huge, so I registered the domain, Teach Social Business, and put together a website where I would document how I was teaching a college-level social media/content marketing course I'd developed.
I intended to create some type of course to sell to other college professors who needed to teach a course in social media yet didn't fully understanding social media and content marketing.
I started posting to the Teach Social Business site and decided to take a few courses myself, to get a feel for how these online courses worked. It's still there, although it doesn't look very pretty right now.
Chris Brogan's Brave New Year
As it happened, my 50th birthday was coming up in November of 2012 and I'd been on a self-reflection and journaling binge through the Fall of 2012, trying to figure out how to transition out of my academic position into something entrepreneurial that would also support me at my current standard of living.
Chris Brogan happened to announce the launch of his Brave New Year course during the week of my birthday, which always falls around Thanksgiving. I signed up.
Over the next 60 days, I worked through Chris's course and was fairly active in the Brave Facebook group and Google+ community. I also did a couple of other small online courses and joined Corbett Barr's Fizzle program for about 6 months, just as it came out of the beta test.
One mistake I think I made in those months from December 2012 – February 2013 was to listen too much to the feedback I got when I posed questions to community members.
I remember sharing that I was going to develop a course to offer to college professors to help them teach social media and I distinctly remember getting a bit of pushback, including a comment from Chris Brogan that asked something to the effect: “What makes you think a college professor would buy your course?”
He may have meant this in the context of doing audience research, but I felt somewhat chastened. After all, it was Chris Brogan asking the question, not Joe Schmo.
Not long after that, Chris launched his own course, Social Media Mastery. I'm not sure if it had that exact name, originally, but that or a similar course came along not long after I put my idea on the table.
That was the first clue that my ideas had validity, even if I wasn't quite ready for prime-time.
Come On, Get Happy
I've always loved my idea for The Ben Franklin Follies, even though I've never expressed it well or executed it well.
Because I'm so in love with it, I've also always been reluctant to let it go and move on.
I still don't know whether I should let it languish or revive The Ben Franklin Follies and I'm still trying to decide. I know all the psychology about sunk-costs and all that. But hey, Pal Joey gets a revival every now and then and The Ed Sullivan Show was huge (in its day).
Some of the blog posts get decent traffic (by my measure), especially for a site that's updated sporadically and is all over the map in terms of content.
The Ben Franklin Follies truly is a smörgåsbord, especially if you go deep into the archives.
In February 2013, I sat down and wrote the basic outline for how I could transform The Ben Franklin Follies into something bigger and better and more focused.
I thought of Ben's essay, “The Path to Happiness,” and the Poor Richard maxim: “Early to bed, early to wise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
When I set out to look for domains (such as the happy life project), I discovered someone named Gretchin Rubin had written a book called the Happiness Project. I'd never even heard of it. Not wanting to be influenced by her thinking, I avoided even looking at her website. I know she's successful. Props. I look forward to reading it someday soon.
I had still have plans to publish The Happy Life Manifesto as a book of short essays.
After a great deal of back-and-forth, I ultimately revamped the Ben Franklin Follies blog around the theme of helping my audience on the path to health, wealth and wisdom.
And I found someone in England to design a logo for the Ben Franklin Follies:
By the end of March 2013, I had a website re-design completed and seemed ready to move forward.
But I languished.
Not sure if it was fear, or just too much on my plate.
I got my first two colonies of honeybees in May 2013 and spent massive hours each week from late May through August doing my Shine Springs Farm thing. I loved every minute of it.
Becoming an Authority
In August 2013, as I turned my attention from farming back to teaching, I also turned my attention back to developing my online media empire.
I joined Copyblogger's Authority program and signed up for the first Authority event as soon as registration opened.
I managed to keep my blogging alive, but I continued to languish, seeking advice and letting the short-sightedness of others poke holes in my balloon.
I got a couple of bits of meaningful feedback from and one naysayer who apparently didn't ready the part where I wrote that the existing content was all over the place and that I would be more focused in the future.
Of course, I let the naysayer's admonishment hold sway, at least for a while.
Turtles Eventually Win The Race
In the 20 or so months since my post to the Authority forum, I've continued to push forward, sometimes 2 feet forward, 23.9 inches back, but I'm making progress.
I've written an ebook on real food that's essentially ready for sale–just needs a final proof-reading (and a better cover).
18 years ago—June 1997—I was in the midst of an internal struggle about what I should do next with my life.
On the outside, I was a successful lawyer. I was a shareholder in my law firm and, for the first time in my life, starting to make “real” money, by which I mean that I finally had enough to travel and invest after covering relatively modest living expenses and sizable student loans from law and tax school.
But despite the relative career security and stable financial situation, I was unfulfilled, both professionally and personally. I’d reached a place where I feared I was at the point of no return. Of course, that was probably not the reality of the immediate situation, but that’s what I felt at that point.
The Fork in the Road
I was 34 years old and it seemed like I was about to cross some threshold of life and professional standing that would close off opportunities.
If I stayed in my career as a lawyer, I would forgo the chance to make a significant change for years to come. Whether that was true or not, I don’t know. But that’s what I felt at that point.
I was at the proverbial fork in the road.
For several years I’d been grappling with whether I should be practicing law or doing something else, like writing which seemed to be at the core of my being. I would get up at 5 a.m. most days–sometimes 4–to do my “morning pages” in a journal and then write more professional stuff.
Throughout 1996 I sought the professional advice of others: Spiritual counseling through a pastoral counseling program in my community, professional career counseling, psychological counseling. I met with several professionals in fields I thought might be suitable to get guidance on careers in those fields.
I didn't have anyone in my family or circle of friends that I could call on for real, deep guidance. My brother was the most helpful, but even he could not offer anything more than support. A couple of the lawyers in my firm were as helpful as they could be when I shared things with them, but they could not define my happiness and my own future for me.
Confused & Uncertain
The whole process of counseling left me more confused and uncertain. I could not find a thread of consistency in any of the guidance I received from these others (all men, I recall in retrospect), other than impression that this was going to be something I had to figure out on my own.
I began to realize that the answers had to come from inside.
My heart-of-hearts felt that communication and creativity had to be the core of whatever I did, but I had not idea how to pursue that.
I’d been writing for several years, but had doubts about my ability to “make a living” as a writer. In those days, you still had to be picked by an editor, a publisher, a producer.
On a lark in Fall 1996 I enrolled in a graduate course in organizational communication and applied to take the GRE. I’d explored the possibility of moving from law into corporate communication, to focus on communications in crisis management.
I had been applying for executive-level positions in the PR and corporate communications field and to the extent I ever received feedback on my applications I was told that I was “overqualified” or “underqualified.”
My morning pages ritual included spiritual reading, writing and reflection and I was a frequent reader of Ecclesiastes. In 1997, as I approached the point of decision, I was deep into struggling with the words in the book of James.
I was very hung up on the faith vs. doubt message of James 1:5-8. I remember asking my brother, an ordained minister, to help me understand that passage.
I wanted to make a wise choice because I knew (or at least felt at the time) that I would be closing a door by leaving my career as a lawyer. I knew I could always practice law again, but I would be leaving a position of relative security and even if I returned to law I would be starting anew, to some extent.
What Goes Around
Anyway, here I am today in 2015 at a very similar point in my life.
In August 2014 I tendered my notice to Samford that I would be leaving the tenure-track position I had and leaving the University in May 2015, when my contract expired. So that decision has been made and is final and I am very confident that was the correct decision.
A few weeks ago, the pastor of my church—Avondale United Methodist—embarked on a summer sermon focus on the New Testament book of James. I’ve been very excited about that because James remains one of my go-to books when I’m perplexed and seeking guidance. That said, I haven’t studied or pondered it, deeply, in a couple of years.
As I began to re-read the first chapter of James on my own over the past few days, I began to focus words and phrases that I had not previously underlined.
This new focus was not of my own intention. As I read, my eyes are automatically drawn to the underlined verses and phrases, which I struggled with in the past, but my perception is different.
Today, I’m seeing the underlined passages in the light of other words not previously emphasized. For example:
“Count yourself supremely HAPPY [emphasis mine, today] in the knowledge that such testing of your faith makes for strength to endure.”
“HAPPY [emphasis mine, today] is the man who stands up to trial! Having passed that test he will receive in reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.”
“But he who looks into the perfect law, the law that makes us free, and does not turn away, remembers what he hears; he acts on it, and by so acting he will find HAPPINESS.” [emphasis mine, today]
“…By so acting he will find happiness.”
Discovering the Path to Happiness
In February 2013 I sat down to write something that I called the Happy Life Manifesto–my thesis on happiness and what it takes to achieve a happiness, based on the lessons I’d learned in my 50 years of life.
I’d embarked on period of self-reflection in the second-half of 2012, in anticipation of my 50th birthday in late November of that year and you might say the Happy Life Manifesto was the summation of what I'd learned from that process.
What I’d recognized is that I was happy, in spite of an ongoing time of trial and tribulation in my job, uncertainty about the future, and occasional family challenges that still surfaced from time to time.
So it’s interesting to come today to the place where I’m in the midst of a major change in my life and no human certainty as to how it will play out and yet I feel happy and at peace and back in the book of James.
I’m finally moving to turn the Happy Life Manifesto in the book that I envisioned in 2013, when I was about half-way through writing the first iteration. But the thing is this: I don’t think I was fully ready then. Some of the pieces to the puzzle weren’t yet in place.
But it’s an even stronger feeling inside today. I don’t think I was fully cognizant in 2013 of what it means to say “it starts with Love.” And for that reason, the book has had to wait until now, when I'm better equipped to write it.
Faith, Hope & Love
I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be in June 2015 and continuing to grow into the person and purpose I’m here for now.
I believe I’m in this place for a reason and a purpose.
I am moving in faith to take the actions each day that I discern to be the right ones to fulfill the purpose that I'm here for right now. I'm not perfect–I still get distracted and off-track, but I’m trying.
I’m trying to be the person I am–the person God designed and created.And taking action in faith.
I have hope–I'm confident, not doubting (at least rarely having a flash of doubt).
Picture an elementary school cafeteria, circa 1969.
All the tables have been pushed to the side. The room is now Main Street, America. Sidewalks paved with shiny waxed linoleum tile provide pathways into second-grade small businesses built from appliance boxes.
My First Career Day
I was the owner of a radio station, blasting out 0.00125 kw of audio across the box town using my trusty Panasonic cassette recorder. WREE played an eclectic mix of music, interspersed with news updates, time, weather and station promos.
I wanted to own a radio station.
I also wanted to be a wildlife conservationist and an astronaut, and a chef like Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet.
That was before the world told me you had to pick one thing.
This is the backstory to how I came to envision and create the Shinecast.
A couple of years after the second grade career fair, my local PBS public television station (which we called “the educational channel,” back in those days) started airing new kids show produced by WGBH in Boston.
I loved ZOOM so much that I wrote a letter and mailed it to WGBH in Boston, Mass 02134 (sing along, with me).
In my letter I asked how I could get on the show. I wanted to audition. One minor problem—I lived in Alabama, nearly a thousand miles away.
I received a very nice letterthanking me for my interest and letting me know they didn’t plan to add any new cast members at that time. The reply included a package of publicity photos. I still have some of them.
The years passed.
I enlisted my brother to help me create an AM Radio “morning show” that I called “Wake Up With Jake and Kate.” He might not remember it, but I do.
The tag line: “It's time to wake up with Jake and Kate.” We would say the “it's time to wake up” bit together and our names separately. I was about 12 at the time, so my cheesiness is excusable.
“It's time to wake up–with Jake–and Kate!” I can hear it quite clearly, as if we were saying it right now.
We recorded our show on my trusty cassette recorder, which I carried with me everywhere. I tried to “broadcast” the show over our home's intercom system but that didn't work so well.
Chip and I also put on variety “shows” for our parents. We had sets, costume changes, scripts, spotlights rigged from lamps…..
In those pre-VCR years, I liked to record the audio track from TV and experiment with editing from tape-to-tape by simply stopping/starting the recording and switching tapes back and forth. Saturday Night Live was one of my favorite shows to experiment with.
In those years I was, to borrow aterm that Seth Godin uses, an impresario.
I joined the band, the school jazz ensemble and the “show choir.” I was rehearsing something every day.
I knew, deep down, that I didn’t have the depth of talent (or focused drive) to be performer. I never aspired to be an actor or singer or other type of performer. But I loved to produce shows, media, club events.
Eventually, though, the “real world” led me to shift my “career” focus to something more “realistic”–law or, maybe, journalism.
None of that “choose yourself” stuff existed in my world in those days. The early 80s were all about career paths and business suits, particularly if I wanted to escape the confines of small-town Alabama.