How the rule of 10% – 90% applies to content creation, and you


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I recently participated in a week-long sales training program designed to help employees at my company dig deeper and examine sales cycles more deeply. At the risk of exposing myself here – though most of my co-attendees won’t be shocked to hear it – I have to say that I had a very hard time figuring out why I was in the class.

I’m in public relations, I don’t come in contact with prospects. My job is to get the company name out there in a positive light so that when our sales teams call on someone they can actually say they’ve heard of what we do and that we do it well, but I never see that prospect. And then, once a sales cycle is completed, I’ll write a press release, maybe a case study, and possibly interact with people at the other company, but the sale has already been made. Basically, I’m as much of a physical non-entity in the sales cycle as anyone can be.

In fact, I have my own customers. They’re journalists and I have to figure out where they’re hanging out and how to interact with them, which doesn’t generally include the same type of interactions that a software sales person would face in a sales cycle.

So why was I in sales training?

It took three days of slogging through material, metaphors, group discussions, presentations and maybe even a little Casablanca thrown in for me to finally have a breakthrough.

One phrase was said, after an intense discussion of the PGA tour, Arnold Palmer and whether or not Tiger Woods’ exposed lack of values was causing him to play bad golf, that immediately clicked with me –

“Golf is 10% technical, and 90% mental.”

While this quote, in relation to golf, is talking about muscle memory and being as concentrated on a goal as possible, the same can be said of the sales cycles, and most importantly to those in marketing and PR, content as well.

I’m going to jump on the viral bandwagon here and link to someone who linked to two someones in a recent article. In his article, “In These Tough Times Here’s A Way To Print Your Own Currency Legally … With Content,” Steve Kayser referenced Brian Solis’ two-part article called “The Future of Marketing Starts with Publishing” and Kathy Klotz’s “EC=SC: Every Company Must be a Storytelling Company.”

Content has been king for a while, but social media has given content producers the keys to the castle. The ability to own content is crucial and that is exactly what you can do with Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.

Solis talks about a new CEO – the Chief Editorial Officer. The person in charge of “the timely creation and distribution for relevant and material content delivered as attractive and engaging social objects.” Klotz takes it a step further to say that great marketing only comes out of great story telling.

If it is generally understood – which I’m not convinced it is, yet – that content is entirely necessary to connect with those people who will buy your product, then it should be generally understood that this content should be compelling.

But how can you be sure that what you are writing falls under that umbrella?

This is an especially hard question to ask for a technology company when our products must integrate with infrastructure systems while transforming and revolutionizing a customer’s business model. How much is too much when it comes to technical aspects?

That’s where 10%-90% comes in.

People will ignore you if you only say that Product XYZ version 7.7.1 comes with WSDL and GAAP and IASC compliance. And people will have a better chance of paying attention to you if you provide a fabulous user-story about how Company ABC cut millions of dollars, but the story won’t hit home unless they know that your solution would fit with their system.

You have to find a way to meld the two together and a good rule of thumb is to remember that golf, or content, is 10% technical and 90% mental.

I could want to play a round of golf, I could get myself into the right mindset, I could even believe that I was going to play awesome, but that wouldn’t excuse the fact that I’d be working at about 0.4% of the technical capacity needed to actually drive or putt a ball. And Tiger Woods, who has that 10% of technical ability, could fail miserably on the course if he doesn’t get into that mindset.

If you’re going to play a good game, or close that sale, you need both aspects and they need to be (un-)balanced in a way that is interesting, relevant and adds value to a discussion.

It also needs to be arranged in a way that grabs and holds a readers attention.

And for that, we turn to Kayser’s 1-10-1 equation:


1 Second: Your title or subject line must capture the readers attention in one second to EARN the right to …

10 Seconds – more of their time. In that 10 seconds you have to intrigue, pique or totally discombobulate the reader into believing you are trying to share helpful, unique, specific information. If you do that you EARN the right to …

1 Minute – of their precious mind-time. In that minute you have to share ideas, information, insights and information that might make a real difference in their life of business or business of life. If you do that you’re on the right path … the  P4 path. (that alliteration isn’t  path-etic is it?)

Unforunately, what Kayser says is all to true. I’ve worked under that equation for the past 5 years as a journalist and content creator, but I’ve seen far too many writers who don’t.

And it doesn’t matter if the writer is tweeting, facebooking, blogging, or mailing their content. If you don’t give someone a reason to continue reading, they’ll stop. And if you don’t give a prospect 90% mental and 10% technical content, chances are they’ll stop too.

It’s a hard balance to strike and a hard skill to learn (afterall, writing is 10% technical ability and 90% your mindset … see, I told you it resonated with me!), but it isn’t impossible.

It takes a willingness to revise, to be revised, and to never get too attached to something you wrote or an idea you had to never want to strike it from the record.

I’m still learning. Are you?

Post By Liz Harter (70 Posts)

Liz Harter has a degree in English Writing with a minor in Spanish from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. She is an award winning journalist on the collegiate level with a strong background in journalism. She currently works in PR and is a social media autodidact Google+

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About the Author

Liz Harter has a degree in English Writing with a minor in Spanish from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. She is an award winning journalist on the collegiate level with a strong background in journalism. She currently works in PR and is a social media autodidact Google+

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