Receiving clear and direct feedback is necessary, especially when it’s uncomfortable.
Over the last few months, I’ve been pondering how I can build a readership, serve my audience, and use my writing to build up others, especially fellow Christians. Thanks to Jeff Goins’ recent series about email lists and Seth Godin’s book Tribes, I had a flash of inspiration a few weeks back: What if I put together an email newsletter?
I could focus the content toward guys like me–lay pastors who want to grow as teachers and communicators and faithfully lead their families and churches. I’d be writing as a peer, not as an expert, and would focus on encouraging the brothers. Maybe I’d even throw in some writing advice or Scriptural encouragement.
I was instantly excited about this idea, so I decided the best way to gauge potential interest in this project would be to ask my Twitter follows; after all, they’d be my core audience for such a venture.
I put the question out there as a poll, with the plan that, if I got at least 20 or 25 “yes” responses, I would start brainstorming for an early 2020 roll-out.
I certainly got an unambiguous response.
In the words of Alex Hitchens (Will Smith’s character from Hitch))…
I’ll admit, my pride took a bit of hit. When a brother started asking very specific follow-up questions about what exactly I would include in such an email, I started to get defensive, mainly because I hadn’t thought it all through yet. I had an exciting idea but no plan of how to get there, and no real clear goals. Truth be told, I may have been more enamored with the idea of having an email list than actually serving my readers, which would have been almost instant death to any goodwill if anyone had signed up.
What’s more, this clear response said something else I wasn’t eager to hear: An email audience is earned, and I hadn’t put in enough work to earn that level of trust.
Let’s be real: of the 170 or so “followers” of this blog, there are maybe 20 of you who actually read my posts. (In fact, do me a favor: if you’ve made it this far, reply in the comments with your favorite ice cream flavor. Just humor me–or Good Humor me, if you prefer.) Most of my blog follows are other bloggers looking for follow-backs, or folks looking to sell me something. If I tracked actual engagement via likes and comments, the number is much, much smaller.
As Jeff Goins puts it, joining someone’s mailing list means giving them specific permission to get into your “space” and speak to you directly. This is a closer level of access than a blog post that can be ignored. For an email newsletter list (of any kind) to grow, readers must believe I have something worth saying that is worth their valuable time to read. It’s clear I haven’t done enough to prove that yet.
It may not have come the way I wanted, but I’ve heard my 2020 challenge loud and clear: I need to give my audience a better reason to listen.
AND I need to have a better answer for the inevitable “why” question. Maybe that starts by deciding why I’m really interested in the idea of an email newsletter at all.
Suffice it to say, I won’t be creating an email newsletter in 2020. I’ve heard you loud and clear, folks.
Now, a podcast, on the other hand–there’s an idea…