You Are The Media 2019

The relentlessly helpful® blog by John Espirian

24 May 2019
You Are The Media 2019 write-up

Where: Bournemouth
When: 23 May 2019
Wow: It was properly sunny ☀️


You Are The Media 2018 was one of my highlights of last year, and I couldn’t wait to get back to Bournemouth for this year’s event.

The evening before the conference, some of the speakers got together for a meal, kindly organised by You Are The Media community member Gordon Fong. I wasn’t a speaker (this year *cough*) but somehow managed to tag along:

The day of the conference started with an unexpected animal theme.

First, there was the conference doggie (Possibly related to #DogsAtPollingStations, as the European elections were on at the same time and we did have a polling station right next to us.)

And then there was the inappropriate use of a fish in this year’s intro video

Here’s a super-short and rather silly roundup, recorded with my buddy and marketing expert Janine Coombes:

Mark Masters

Mark Masters

Title: Are You Going To Borrow Or Build?

Kicking off the event was host and builder of the You Are The Media community, Mark Masters. I’m still not sure what this entrance was about. Looked like a hare-brained idea to me

Mark asked us whether we were going to borrow an audience or build a community. No surprises that building a community is the right way to go.

He came up with a simple framework for doing this:

  • The thing you stand for …
  • Delivered to an audience …
  • On a consistent basis.

The You Are The Media community is a perfect example of this in action. So much so that I really wouldn’t mind living in Bournemouth (rather than being 3 hours away in South Wales).

Andrew and Pete

Andrew and Pete

Title: How to Be Remarkable: The Unusual Yet Proven Path to Marketing Success

Andrew and Pete are the head honchos of the ATOMIC membership community. (I’m a member of their gang and you can find out why I think it’s worth being a part of it here: How marketing communities can help businesses grow.)

The boys kicked off their session by getting us to agree that creating something is better than creating nothing. Or is it?

(Hint: the world doesn’t need more crappy content.)

As they dug further and further, the title of their talk kept growing and growing. This isn’t even the final version, but I gave up at the point where I couldn’t say it in one lungful of breath.

The key point of the talk was about the 90:10 rule.

Andrew and Pete’s 90:10 rule

Spend 90% of your marketing efforts doing one thing remarkably well.

Spend 10% experimenting and “scratching an itch”.

In practice, this means that you shouldn’t try to be on every social media network. I’ve been there and it didn’t work.

I’ve since focused almost entirely on LinkedIn and am in a pretty good place as a result.

Or, “People who spread themselves too thin … never win.”

The boys shared examples of creators of great content, all of whom doubled down on one platform and one type of content. Unsurprisingly, they’re getting stellar results. Check out the following people:

  • Brian Dean – epic SEO blog posts that get huge attention.
  • Joe Wicks – his Lean in 15 videos have led to a content empire.
  • Marie Forleo – lifestyle coaching videos have made her millions.

As Pete said, “People who go deep – the benefits they reap.” (The boys have clearly been spending too much time on RhymeZone, but I can’t blame them. Love that site.)

There was also an interesting look at how ITV used data to help them make the decision to move their social media efforts around Love Island from Snapchat to Instagram.

Even the biggest companies need to do what’s right for their audience, and that starts with being visible in a place where your audience hangs out.

Andrew and Pete’s closing message said a lot about good marketing: “If it’s not fun, it won’t get done.”

Let’s put more fun into our marketing and make it less of a chore.

Margaret Magnarelli

Margaret Magnarelli

Title: How You Can Use Empathy To Get Closer To Your Audience

Margaret talked about the value of empathetic listening. She told us that “listening, validating and suggesting” is the path to reducing the release of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the brain.

There was a good example to illustrate this:

The framework she presented looks like this:

  • You have a problem.
  • Friend listens to you.
  • Friend validates you.
  • Friend proposes a solution.
  • You feel better.

We need to get the problem out before we’re ready to hear a solution. And we need to feel as though the other person is listening to us.

We can use the same framework when dealing with customers – it’s not just for personal relationships. In empathetic marketing, we have to be our customer’s friend. We must listen and validate first before we try to present a solution.

Margaret’s tips on how to listen better to your customers:

  • Look for opportunities to survey or go 1-to-1 with customers, and “steer into the pain”.
  • Increase exposure to customer interviews and feedback (e.g. quote board or mandatory viewing).
  • Use social listening and customer service to peek into people’s frustrations.
  • Map the emotions – and antidotes – at every stage of your customer’s purchase journey.

Margaret’s tips on how to validate your customers:

  • Do a “validation audit” on existing content; look for opportunities to insert validating language.
  • Test relatable content to see what resonates with your customer.
  • Find an influencer who “gets” your audience and has a highly engaged following to create content.
  • Seek out real-time or journey-based moments where you can be a proxy for your customer.

Margaret’s tips on how to suggest solutions to customers:

  • Work to identify signs of “readiness for conversion” and time messages appropriately.
  • Ask questions that let people tell you whether they’re ready.
  • Strike the word “should” from your content and reframe from urgency to benefit of acting urgently.
  • Enable customers to arrive at a decision, by laying outfacts, alternatives and an honest cost-benefit analysis.

She used the excellent example of a newlywed receiving baby information by email before she was ready for it. Data alone isn’t the whole story!

Emotion affects revenue …

… and engagement …

A summary of some of Margaret’s points on empathy:

  • Emotional validation breeds trust.
  • We have to understand the problem before presenting a solution.
  • Pain that isn’t recognised gets worse.

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler

Title: How We Built An Audience (And A Business) On Content Marketing

Doug is the co-founder of Velocity Partners and was my favourite speaker of the day.

He talked honestly about how a lot of his early content marketing efforts were just “stuff” and didn’t really work.

We were reminded that not all marketing campaigns are home runs: “Behind all the good campaigns, there are some real dogs.”

Doug’s advice was to identify our Mojo Zone – where our confidence and passion in what we’re talking about shine through and where our content can genuinely compete with that of anyone on the internet.

He broke down his approach by talking about the Who, What and How.

Step 1


Think about your ideal prospects – the people most likely to buy and most likely to be happy when they buy.

I always suggest keeping an ideal reader – a pen portrait – in mind when you produce any content.

⚡️ My conference highlight

When talking about identifying your ideal prospects, Doug said something that really struck me:

Marketing can be a filter as well as a magnet. – Doug Kessler

In other words, it’s not just about who you want to attract: it’s also about who you want to repel. It’s a great reminder that our marketing should be faithful to our true personalities, so that we don’t end up working with people we can’t stand.

Step 2


The type of content we produce. Doug has had success with ambitious, opinion-led content.

I admire this a lot – it’s the kind of thing I’d love to work on if I were a little braver.

Step 3


Tone of voice – the way you sound and what I call your personality written down on paper.

Doug’s equation is Story × Voice = Impact

Remember that tone of voice isn’t sprinkled on. It’s part of your content and acts as an important signal in itself.

The right tone of voice helps to build trust, which Doug said comes about through authenticity, transparency and simplicity.

He also talked about using “the wink” to express some charm and have fun with the short bits of text in our content. I liked this one in particular:

Doug encouraged us to embrace insane honesty. He told the story of the Hans Brinker hotel in The Netherlands, which has taken this to a new level by bringing out its negatives on social media, so as to attract the backpackers who want a cheap place to stay and turn away anyone expecting a luxury experience.

It sounds like madness to close doors to potential customers, but Doug rightly pointed out that “the people you’re alienating aren’t your people anyway.”

Some more of Doug’s top tips:

  • “Open the kimono” (be honest) and milk your failures.
  • Do negative case studies.
  • Do the marketing you enjoy.
  • Remember that fun is where it’s at.

Doug’s slides were a gift. He really packed a lot of great ones in. Here are just a few:

I was pleasantly surprised at the content of the talk because, having seen Doug speak twice before, I was expecting him to go over a lot of old ground.

But this was fresh and relevant and inspiring. I loved it.

Jake Moore

Jake Moore

Title: Trust Doesn’t Sit Behind A Logo

Jake is a cyber security specialist and speaker for ESET. He’s a former member of the Dorset Police Cyber Crime Unit and is this year’s YATM community champion. (I think he might also moonlight as a Baywatch actor, but you had to be there to understand why.)

He wanted to do something more interesting with his life than to use his maths degree (amen to that).

After his apparently rather wise mum talked him out of becoming a bank robber(!), he decided to work for the police. He eventually found his way into the high-tech crime detection unit and working in digital forensics.

Jake got through 100 talks in a year (and perhaps the same of cakes from his friends at the Women’s Institute) before he looked at working with the private sector.

Then he discovered ESET, an internet security company based in Bournemouth. He wrote his own dream job description and, to his surprise, got the gig. The lesson was that this trust came about because of his content. ESET already knew him through that and employing was therefore an easy decision.

Jake ended by reminding us that “the face of trust is more important than brand values.”

A quick lunch break was spiced up with some fun and games by You Are The Media podcast co-host Chris Huskins, who brought his version of the ITV gameshow The Cube to the Shelley Theatre.

This looks more dangerous than it was:

Janet Murray

Janet Murray

Title: You Need To Build An Audience Before You Step In With The BIG Sell

Janet is an audience builder, keynote speaker and author. She started by talking about passive income and selling online courses.

She told us how she started selling online courses in 2016, managing a modest 14 sales in the first year, then 30 in 2017 and then a massive jump to 208 in 2018. This is a good reminder to be in it for the long term and not to be swayed too much by early results.

We learned that the average conversion rate for online sales is just 1%–2%. This tells us that we need to build an audience and get traffic to our content if we hope for it to convert in any significant way.

After playing us short videos to show how her audience had been positively influenced by her content, Janet asked us to commit to being the best content creator in our space. I’ve been trying to follow that idea for a while – it’s tough work but the process is rewarding.

Janet suggested that there are 3 layers to creating good content for businesses:

With social media in mind, Janet used an example of announcing a podcast topic on Facebook and asking people to comment if they’re interested in listening – and then replying to those comments. A good way to be seen and to drum up interest.

Janet recommended several content types, from “need to know” through to “how I feel” content. The content that gets most traction tends to be that which divides opinion – she calls them “grenade posts”.

She gave examples of a couple of grenade posts:

  • A post about being at an event as a speaker and being asked whether she was the wife of one of the speakers.
  • A post about whether women have to ask their husband’s permission before spending money.

There was also a good reminder that posts can divide opinion (and therefore get good engagement) without being particularly controversial or edgy, e.g. whether people prefer tea or coffee at work.

Another type of content that does well for Janet is story-led posts that are based on something personal to her.

Janet shared a personal story about her family and how it related to her participation in the London Marathon. This sort of content has done well for Janet and is a good way for her to keep her name top of mind.

Steven Lamb

Steven Lamb

Title: Transferring Principles From River Cottage And Beyond To Your Business

Steven is the brand ambassador for River Cottage. He’s an author, presenter and teacher, and formerly worked for Endemol on TV production.

(There were pantomime boos when he mentioned helping to bring Big Brother to the UK )

Steven talked about developing the River Cottage brand, and focused on the importance of integrity. Having worked on Big Brother, he wanted to work on the opposite of a programme like that.

He told us that values and integrity are meaningful only if you really live them. We saw this in River Cottage’s bold mission statement. I was heartened by this, as it’s exactly the point I’m going to make in my book: if you have a brand identity, really live and breathe it.

Steven talked about embracing the power of storytelling, sharing the brand story of Woodall’s, a British maker of charcuterie. When your food has been on Concorde and taken up every ascent of Mount Everest, that’s a story that people want to hear.

(I often say the same sort of thing to my clients: paint a bigger picture about what your business is about.)

I’d love to share the secret exclusive that Steven gave us, but I’ll be a good boy. It’s to do with bacon and sounds like a smart move for River Cottage and for the nation’s health.

Jon Burkhart

Jon Burkhart

Title: The Firecracker Closer To Sum Up The Whole Day

Jon wrapped up the day in style by sharing his hot take on events.

He watches the sessions, takes notes and then hurriedly puts together a presentation based on what he’s seen, complete with audio and video clips.

I’ve no idea how he does it all so quickly while hunched over a laptop, but the result is a joy to behold.

It’s like one giant, hilarious and dirty protest against crappy marketing. “Crappy” was the important word there #ItHappenedAgain #AlgalBloom #ToiletTrauma

Here’s a little snippet:

Let’s wrap up

The first You Are The Media conference in 2018 was fantastic. If anything, I enjoyed this one even more.

Mark Masters has done an amazing job of building an engaged community in Bournemouth and has again managed to get international-class speakers on his stage.

On a personal level, I loved meeting so many enthusiastic and interesting people, and the sessions gave me some inspiration for the book I’m writing (Content DNA – due out in spring 2020).

I’ll be back next year with bells on. How about you?


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John Espirian

I’m the relentlessly helpful®️ LinkedIn nerd and author of Content DNA

I teach business owners how to be noticed, remembered and preferred.

Espresso+ is a safe space to learn how to ethically promote your business online and get better results on LinkedIn.

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