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The Astronaut, the Rock Star, and Your Writing Business

20 million views … and counting.

I remember the first time I saw it. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, then commander of the International Space station, had taken his guitar into space. He posted a simple but powerful video of himself performing David Bowie’s classic “Space Oddity” — in space.

As far as I’m concerned, this pretty well cemented his position as coolest dude there has ever been. I mean, Canadian plus astronaut plus Bowie? That’s the trifecta of cool right there.

Like a lot of people, I assumed that Hadfield had an amazing innate understanding of what worked and didn’t work as content. He had been posting neat and interesting content to the web for months — great tweets and YouTube videos on funny, everyday aspects of life in space.

They were memorable, they were highly shareable, and they paved the way for that 20-million view bombshell.

So imagine how surprised I was when I read Hadfield’s biography — and found out that when he was getting started, he was actually sort of an idiot about content.

Enter the entreproducer

Hadfield was on Twitter fairly early on … but (by his own admission) his content was pretty bad.

It was boring. It was dry. It wasn’t well suited to the medium.

Fortunately for us, Hadfield’s son Evan is really smart about content. He helped his dad understand what kind of content was worth posting — and would get people talking.

It isn’t so much teaching him how to use it, as teaching him how to use it properly. And the lessons continue even today. There is a difference between tweeting and tweeting in a way that people can respond to and enjoy properly. ~Evan Hadfield

Evan continued to work with his dad on how to make his content more remarkable — up to and including suggesting the Space Oddities cover, and working on securing the rights and getting the video edited.

Chris Hadfield is arguably the most effective promoter for space travel since human beings first landed on the moon. But he couldn’t have done it without his behind-the-scenes help — the “entreproducer” who understood how to make it rain.

In other words, Evan was the one in charge of guiding his dad’s presence and keeping the Seriously Cool factor cranked up to 11.

This is the role you need to play for your clients

Your clients might have amazing abilities. Maybe they’re the equivalent of a space station commander in their field.

That doesn’t mean they understand anything about what makes content memorable.

You may even not be the one who writes the words. (Evan didn’t — he provided the guidance and took care of a lot of housekeeping tasks, but it was Chris Hadfield who actually wrote all of the tweets.)

The words matter, but the strategy matters even more.

  • Understanding what the audience wants.
  • Understanding how different formats work together.
  • Understanding what makes content shareable.
  • Understanding how content creates the overarching message you want.
  • Understanding how to drive the behavior you need, whether it’s a sale, an email opt-in, or international support for the planet’s patchwork of space programs.

When your clients bring you on to help them, they’ll probably be paying for your wonderful words. (Or video and audio skills, as the case may be.) But remember — they’re also paying for your rainmaker hat. They’re paying because you know how to make them remarkable and memorable.

Sonia Simone
Sonia Simone, chief content officer and co-founder of Copyblogger Media