Who is your perfect content partner? A big brand? A cool start-up? A charity you believe in? Or is it a repeat customer who puts you on a retainer to create artful short film projects with great budgets? (Don’t laugh, they do exist).
In today’s highly collaborative world these opportunities exist in spades, you just have to know how to land them. Here I’m going to share how I’ve successfully built my ideal content partnerships and why you will make your best work in the process.
1. BE PROACTIVE
I’m going to assume you’ve already made a list of your ultimate content partners. You’ve written a profile of their business and you know the key personnel within their organization. You’re like a detective on the verge of solving a case, with photos of their products, personnel and company reports on your wall. You’re not a stalker, but you’re close.
If you don’t have a list of your ideal content partners, make sure you do that on a yearly or quarterly basis. You should have a list of 10 or 20 dream content partners at any given time, and actively be looking for ways to approach them, collaborate on content, and work together.
Quick tip: Take the time to seek out potential partners and understand their business. The more you know about what makes them tick, the more able you’ll be to identify the right opportunities at the right time.
2. THINK IN TERMS OF ‘COLLABORATION’ AND ‘PARTNERSHIP’
Notice I’m using the term ‘content partner’ instead of ‘client’. There is a fundamental difference between how we think of clients and partners. With a partner, you often share a philosophical point of view. With a partner, you are working toward a mutually beneficial outcome. With a partner… you get the point. Your ideal content partner runs a business you believe in, and believes that working with you is a key ingredient for success.
“One of the biggest challenges companies face is finding people to work with who are as passionate about their business as they are.” – Cal Fussman, bestselling author and Esquire writer
By reaching out to companies that you genuinely believe in, and approaching them with enthusiasm for their business, you are already filling a major criterion of what they are looking for. As a result, you will also stand a much better chance of creating excellent content together. This is how I got to work with Xero, Nikon, and Wipster. These are businesses I respect and care about, that provide services that I believe in. I also use them on a weekly, if not daily, basis, so I understand their business inside and out.
3. LOOK FOR WAYS TO PULL, NOT PUSH A COLLABORATION
There is a marked rise in collaborative content these days, from reciprocal blog posts to YouTube channels, to podcasts inviting collaborators to share their thoughts and opinions about their industry and the world.
If you approach your ideal content partner and ask if they would like to be a part of a piece of content you are creating about their industry, you are giving them a chance to show their expertise. This helps you to create a relationship built around your mutual interests and opens the door to further collaborations, as well as putting you and your abilities at the front of their mind.
Compare these two approaches to contacting your ideal partner:
- “I run a film production company and would love the chance to work with you. Could you spare 30 minutes sometime in the next two weeks to look at my website and check out my reel?”
- “I’m putting together a video featuring some of the most innovative new companies in the tech space, and I would love to interview you. Could you spare 30 minutes sometime in the next two weeks to be a part of it?”
The first approach is all about you, and is all push. The second approach is all about them, and is almost all pull.
The first approach might elicit a “thanks for reaching out, I’ll keep you in mind” response, but probably wouldn’t inspire further investigation. The second approach, however, is far more intriguing and would be much more likely to generate a positive response. They would probably ask who else is being interviewed and consult the great oracle of the modern age (Google) to find out more about you and the work you do. If it all checked out and aligned with their objectives, they’d most likely say yes – they’d be foolish not to. It’s a chance to be featured as an expert and gain exposure for their business through collaboration and positive association.
Quick tip: Keep pulling with positive ideas about how to collaborate. Every idea you pitch is a chance to understand more about their business and what they are looking for. If they aren’t interested in your first idea let them know that there’ll be more opportunities in the future, and you will keep them posted.
4. CONNECT PEOPLE AND LEVERAGE RELATIONSHIPS
As content creators we are sometimes so focused on storytelling and creating great content that we forget to behave like partners, looking for every opportunity to leverage the work that we are doing. As creatives we are in a powerful position to connect people and create tremendous value for others, which puts you in the driver’s seat.
“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” – Napoleon Hill
As an example, when I began working with Xero way back in the cloud-computing stone age of 2012, I found a research study that indicated small businesses were much more likely to switch accountancy packages based on word-of-mouth recommendations than due to a piece of direct marketing or advertising. I shared that insight with the marketing manager, and we worked together to develop a video series featuring small businesses that credited Xero with their success.
In this way, Xero became a marketing partner with each of the businesses we featured, effectively marketing their accounting software by promoting the success of businesses who used Xero. Those stories also functioned as word-of-mouth endorsements for their software, which helped them reach the tipping point they were striving for. It was a hugely successful content collaboration for everyone involved.
Back in 2014, I was enamored with Wipster’s great video review interface, and I wrote to tell them how I felt, mentioning that I’d love to work together. Over the following year and a half, I dropped them a line periodically, with ideas about how we could do that.
Then, earlier this year, I happened to be in Wellington, New Zealand, meeting with another client and realized that Wipster’s office was right around the corner. I made a point of getting over there to see where they worked and get a better sense of how their business operates. I spent most of the two-hour meeting discussing their features, and giving them feedback about what things I liked or struggled with as a filmmaker.
Armed with that information, I realized that Wipster was really focused on making the post-production workflow a fun, enjoyable experience for teams, on both the production and client side. So I suggested we shoot some behind the scenes footage of a project we were doing for Accenture and create a companion piece that shows how Wipster helps us connect our team, the agency, and the client across the whole post-production process.
The resulting video was a chance for us to talk about what we do as filmmakers, and give props to a company that helps us and our clients better collaborate on video content – and get paid while we’re at it.
The world of content is changing rapidly, creating a whole new landscape of opportunities for people who are looking for new ways to engage and collaborate. Take the initiative and go after people and companies you would love to work alongside and open your mind to new ways of presenting the value you can bring. Be creative, confident, pull them in, and keep your eyes open for the next opportunity.
I don’t know about you, but I do my best work when I am creatively engaged, working in a collaborative environment, and feeling invested in the success of those I’m working with. That’s collaboration. That’s a partnership. And if you put your finger to the wrist of this new entrepreneurial wave that we’re a part of, that’s the pulse you’re feeling – evidence of a new, collaborative model we are in, where businesses realise that they can achieve more together, and are seeking ways to collaborate with people who think like partners, including content creators like us.
Are you actively exploring partnership opportunities? Share your experiences, tips, and questions in the comments below.Business & Finance Articles on Business 2 Community