Have you thought about what makes someone a thought leader? One of the best ways is to publish content consistently. Today we’re talking to Shawn Smith, the co-owner of Trizone. Shawn knows all about how to create high-quality content with limited resources, how to involve subject matter experts in creating your content, and why automating processes can help you get everything done. You’ll want to stay tuned to hear about all of this and more!
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- A bit about Trizone and what Shawn does there as a “jack of all trades.”
- What it’s like working with a small team and how they work as efficiently as possible.
- What fluidity means to Shawn and how it helps his team be more effective and productive when it comes to creating great content.
- How automating some of the process helps Shawn and his team be more efficient and save time.
- How and why the Trizone team works with subject matters to help them with their content creation and thought-leadership. Also, Shawn talks about how he gets into contact with them and gets them to contribute.
- Shawn’s best tips for working with subject matter experts and collaborating with a remote team of people.
- Information about the Trizone workflow process and why it works for them.
- Advice for a small team who is looking to become an authority in their niche through content creation.
Nathan: Publishing content consistently is one of the best ways to become known as a thought leader. Just look at the brands that do it extremely well like Red Bull, Subaru, and Trizone. Trizone is one of the top publishers of triathlon content in the world.
Today, on the Actionable Marketing Podcast, you and I are chatting with Shawn Smith, the co owner at Trizone. You’re about to learn how to create lots of content as efficiently as possible with pretty limited resources. To do that, you’re going to learn what Shawn calls fluidity in the publishing process.
You’ll also learn how to improve your content by involving subject matter experts from outside of your business in your content creation process. You’re going to learn why automating manual processes helps you focus on getting more done.
I’m Nathan from CoSchedule. Let’s check in with Shawn. Hey Shawn, thanks a lot for being on the show today.
Shawn: Hey Nathan, thanks for having me.
Nathan: I’m excited to have you. I was wondering if you could just kick us off, Shawn, by telling me a little bit about Trizone.
Shawn: Absolutely. Trizone is an Australian based small publishing website specifically around triathlons, the sport, the multidiscipline sport. It’s the number one site here in Australia, probably in the Asia Pacific Region now probably as well. We spent a lot of time talking to professional athletes as well the age group athletes and write a lot about trials and tribulations as well as sports and nutrition. I have a lot of sport sites people come on. It’s a really good site.
Nathan: I know you guys are doing a lot of great things there. I’m just wondering. Tell me a little bit about what you do at Trizone.
Shawn: I’m jack of all trades. I’ve got a small team as well, but me personally, I run the show. One thing that I really love doing though is overseeing the majority of the operational side of the business as well as rolling my sleeves up and then talking to a little group of a pro athlete type and grow relationships with those athletes. I spend a lot of time talking to them about their journeys. That’s ultimately the things that I like doing, is really getting to the cracks of why someone has got to the sport where they are and how they got there.
Everyone has a story no matter how big a name or how small a name is. Everyone has a story. I love to bring those to fruition during the sessions I have with them.
Nathan: You touched on just a little bit of your team. I was wondering about that. How big is the team? Who helps you publish all that content in Trizone?
Shawn: We have some full timers as well as some part timers but mostly, there are probably about six of us. The number one thing for me is the social side of things. The content is great and we certainly try to push out as much content as we can. As I mentioned in a previous discussion, we try to get one to two pieces a day. For a small team, it’s pretty tough especially when you have long stories to tell.
Moving forward, certainly, we’re getting there. We don’t think we’ve ever said we’ve solved the world’s problems pushing content out but for me, we’re still working on what’s the magic formula around the social part and I think we’ve spoken about that before, Nathan, too. Utilizing CoSchedule for me personally gives me a top down view straight away about where we’re missing things but also the automation piece which is for a small team, you’ve got to be lean, you’ve got to be efficient, you’ve got to be flexible.
I know we spoke earlier about fluidity in our storytelling and my story but being able to move things around in a rapid sense. If there’s a new story that’s been created that we might need to push out or the old stories, then have everything follow that. That’s so important for us.
Nathan: You mentioned that a smaller team and process helps you boost your efficiency. I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about that. What processes have you guys implemented to help the team work as efficiently as possible?
Shawn: I suppose because I’m not necessarily a control freak but certainly, there are certain aspects that I still take over. That’s the scheduling of the work. Our formula is pretty straightforward. We know that each week we have a certain type of content that we want to get out each week. It maybe a feature article each week. A feature article may be around a headline story, an athlete, an event, or some heavily opinionated piece.
As long as that’s done each week and we know what piece that’s going to be about, we then focus on the next tier down, which is our standard content. I call it standard anyway. But a standard content which may be around nutrition, maybe we have a piece around training, or which we’re now focusing a little bit more of my attention on, which we just put a new person onto our systems and these are the reviews of our product and services. It might be a review of a bike, or a bag, or a piece of new swimming goggles or something like that.
We know that what style of content needs to be delivered each week. That’s a pretty easy task for us.
Nathan: You mentioned fluidity just a little bit ago. I want to dive into that because we chatted before and you talked about that topic. Tell me about fluidity. How would you define that? What do you mean by that?
Shawn: I probably should talk about what it never used to mean to me first to give a bit more context. The fluidity part, before when we didn’t have it, we would have a spreadsheet or because we use WordPress as our publishing platform as well as all the other social media platforms, having all those in sync was near an impossibility, there’s a lot of guess work. There’s a lot of are we ready to go? Hey, hang on, three or four different windows open in Explorer or your web browser, Safari or Firefox.
I can’t believe I just said Internet Explorer, actually. I don’t know why I said that. Does anyone still use it? I should say Chrome or Safari. Having those sitting open and making sure they’re clicking save, or send, or post, or tweet, or whatever, I’m sure some people may have said, “Well, you can do that with other platforms. There’s other things that can help you post things at the right time.” But then not all are in sync and that’s the question. That’s the challenge that most people will have.
When searching for something, I needed to make sure that the major thing was centered around the content publishing piece and making sure that when I needed to publish something, everything else followed. That was what it wasn’t before.
When I talk about fluidity now, is being able to drag things around. I coined the phrase, Outlook and steroids. That’s how I look at CoSchedule. It allows me to drag and drop things really quickly and the subsequent social media components to it are moving around. I may have something that I’ve planned to schedule this week but it may be a recurring post for the next week to two or three and I need to move it out. Essentially, just dragging it for one day to another and changing times if I need to.
That’s what I call the fluidity. It’s just moving things around. In our business, in our style of business, some things really need to be moved really quickly. If I’m on the move and I can just open up my laptop, jump into CoSchedule, and move things and it’s done. It’s less than a minute to do.
Coming back to the small team environment, I don’t have a dedicated person that’s just overseeing publishing times and when things need to be moved. We don’t have that person. Like I said, it’s probably me but the team just rely on me to make sure things are getting scheduled when they need to and they know when their tasks are required as well. The side note to that it when they need to know when their things are required based on the requirements of that week or that month.
Nathan: Part of that is automation. You’ve tried to avoid some manual processes. I know you do that really smartly so you can focus. Tell me more about that. Why is automating some of the manual things important to you?
Shawn: Time. Just so simply, time. And then, ensuring we don’t miss anything. One of the things that I did do actually when I first jumped into CoSchedule, I hope no one ever looks at these because I think they’re probably a little bit antiquated now. Just to prompt me when I create a potentially new article and I’ve created those tasks that are inside of the, since it’s not the social media component, this is just the task that are required for us to complete something.
For instance, that might be to create audio and who’s assigned to do that. Sometimes, I might require an assistant in doing some research on a particular athlete because I may not have time to and then I’ll actually provide that to someone who I think they may not know that athlete. Therefore, it gives them some insights into that athlete also. They’ll spend probably an hour or two doing research.
That for me it’s just those quick buildup of tasks and assignment of those tasks is really easy. This is probably the thing that I’m a little bit embarrassed to actually say first off, is I really never use the social media templates. I know you and I talked about this a while ago, Nathan. Thank you. I actually use them now. I hate to say I kind of was doing this somewhat manually. I was taking somewhat of a bit of a guess and thinking how long can this story run based on its content. Rather than actually saying numbers, which I’m such a numbers guy. I’m a numbers driven individual around performance of website and KPIs and those types of things but never really did on a social media site that often.
But now, moving forward, certainly now, when we’re building out our piece of content, we will build all of the headlines based on different variations for all of the posts that we’re required to go out for that piece of content during the process of building the content itself. That, for me, is outstanding because once we’ve built that piece of content, we start to go and jiggle it. We use the social media template and then we start building it out. It’s so quick and easy.
Nathan: The last time we chatted, Shawn, something that you mentioned is that you rely on subject matter experts for science topics, well beyond. Why do you do that at Trizone?
Shawn: The sport has matured, it’s got such a huge heritage. [00:12:34] is synonymous for a lot of the Western countries around the world. It’s such a huge human fade in terms of multisupport and endurance. Overtime, sport sciences, it’s now more prevalent in it than ever before. Certainly, I’ve been now able to speak to those individuals a lot more based on what I do but also they’re getting into that support a lot more now. Because of the subject matter experts, they’ve become even more granular in their approach. They may only specifically look at run technique or swim technique so that people will have coaches specifically for swim and run or a sports physiologist, sport science, nutrition, those type of people.
We do really spend a lot of time with those individuals talking about their subject matters in depth because they do bring a wealth of information that clearly, we will never have. Something that is really important for our readers. That’s the part that I probably need to get to talk to is the importance for what our readers are expecting us to hear and see. The enablement part for us is certainly. I’m having those relationships with those individuals or teams that allow us to go and dig further into those questions that their age group athletes will be asking us.
Nathan: At this point, I’m wondering how do you actually connect with those subject matter experts. How do you reach out to those people, maybe what tactics have you found work really well for getting these people to help contribute to Trizone?
Shawn: Several of them will know of us anyway. I think a little bit from our brand and reputation that we take a fairly mature approach to our content creation and the way that we work with the athletes and storytelling. When I say storytelling, that’s not telling stories that are not true or that are just publishing stories, clickbait type stories. We’re not interested in any of those stories. I think as I’ve transitioned to the role of running our team and slowly getting a reputation for engaging the right people. I think it sort of goes to why they see benefit in talking to us and we see benefit in talking to them. It’s a mutual understanding.
For the people that have not known us, there’s certainly people who have never heard of us. Once they’ve gone to our site, had a look, and understood some of our content that we’ve created before, for instance, when I’m talking to someone who doesn’t know us, let’s say it’s a product or a discussion of a new product that we’re looking to do, I will send them a link of something that we’ve done previously and 9 times out of 10, they’ll be, “Wow, okay. I see the benefit.”
I’ve probably said this before. One thing that I push is getting the story behind the story rather than it’s just a new product, it’s just come out. Let’s actually dig a little deeper and find out who actually came up with the design, who are the designers, why did they build this? There are a lot of the whys and hows rather than just this is a nice, new shiny product.
Nathan: I think that’s really smart, Shawn. I’m wondering once you get their foot in the door and they’re interested, what is your process for collaborating with those folks?
Shawn: If I’m not really sure about who they are, either myself or one other team member will go and do some research on them. I recall someone, I won’t mention the name of the show but not that it matters anyway, someone who is a designer for bag. The brand itself on occasions will sub contract in industrial designers or bag designers and a whole team of people will come in and do that. It’s quite a long process, wind tunnel testing, etc.
This particular individual, we struggled to find any information about him. We had such limited time to go and do our usual research anyway. I’ll usually say Google is our friend but Google wasn’t our friend this time. We couldn’t find anything. He was just void of anything on the internet. Even his own website, his business website was void of a lot of information. I had to wing a lot of questions. He was very easy to talk to. He was quite full frightened. His responses. That made it a bit easy. When we don’t know something, we have to fish for things.
We know the narrative that we’re looking for. I say it upfront. Most of the people are pretty, given it’s not sitting on the couch and it’s not a psychological traumatic situation for them. Most people want to tell their own story, anyway.
Nathan: Shawn, you’ve obviously reached out to different subject matter experts. You have them help you create really, really great content. I think Trizone, you take a look at what you guys are doing and it’s world class. There’s a reason why you’re the number one publisher around this topic in Australia. What are some of your best advice for doing some of this sort of work? What are some of your tips for working with those subject matter experts or even collaborating with a remote or distributed team of different people?
Shawn: Let me answer the last question first. Distributed team, I don’t like them. You and I talked about this quite extensively last time. You have to trust. It’s such an important ingredient in life in general but especially when it comes to not physically having to sit over someone and say, “You’ve got to do this today.” You have to still trust in the team.
But then also, if something’s not working, be very upfront with people and let them know because sometimes, they just don’t know. Don’t have those water cooler conversations with people. You may be at the end of an instant messenger type system. Text doesn’t have context. It doesn’t have emotion attached to it so you’ve got to talk to people.
Speaking of technology, we use Slack extensively in our environment as well as for our internal collaboration. Each person that we onboard sees new things through specific channels. We also have a channels set up specific to our content, which really helps us dive straight into people who decided they’ve questions. We can have people collaborate through there.
Slack is paramount to how we collaborate. For me, I call it a stand up, it’s a bit more of a technical term guys that are doing our job or development work. We do a little stand up at the side of the week. I chat to the team either individually. We try to have them all together but individually sometimes, it has to happen based on times, people are travelling, and those type of things.
Mondays is just sort of a balancing of what we’ve already done and what are we doing next week or that current week. Just being pretty realistic in the approach. That’s where fluidity comes into and I’ve talked about that before but where we can start moving things around really quickly and just dialling what we need to deliver that week and trusting the people to deliver.
Nathan: The last time we chatted, you mentioned that you have a simple workflow for creating and publishing content. Can you share that? Because I think if you instill a process, then you can let the team execute the process.
Shawn: We try to work four weeks in advance for specific pieces of content. Sometimes, a little bit longer but most of the time, we try to work four weeks in advance. That way, we’re always ahead of time. Obviously, time critical pieces are exactly that time critical pieces so that’s where the fluidity makes it work for us.
But in terms of creating the feature articles or the articles that have a lot of work that’s required, I will engage with the subject matter expert or the person that I’m interviewing at the time. Before that, we’ll do some review of who they are, what they do, some of their accolades. Get them really knowing that we’ve done our research and understand who they are. Make them feel we actually really do care for them. Generally, we will because it is about them not us.
I use Skype most of the time because a lot of these people do travel extensively throughout the year. I’m not talking just once or twice. Some athletes will be in different countries once a month. 20 to 30 flights a year type of thing. For them, the only way that we can talk to them is usually via Skype.
We will then record the session, so much like what we’re doing today. Record the session. I’ll take notes during that session also and then I’ll send the audio off either to myself or to one of my team members to then start working on the article and the narrative that we’ve worked on already.
Once it’s completed, coming back to that trust and relationship piece and making sure that all parties are happy. Once the draft is completed, I send a copy back to that person who I’ve interviewed for them to make sure I have got the data right and they’re actually with where it’s going. 99% of the time, they usually come back saying, “This is fantastic. We love it.” There’s no surprise on any side of the fence.
Huge reasons that I want them to buy back into the piece of content they have just written about them, so when it is published, from a social perspective, that is going to shoot amount of traction as much as we can organically that I don’t have to then go and beg them to do some additional work for us. Again, that’s really important for us. That builds long term relationship so I need to go back to them so I can get access to them as quickly as possible.
For the last part is from the workflow is scheduling it into CoSchedule. Generally, 9 times out of 10, that’s usually me and then working within those components that we just talked about before. Using that social templates are now part of the workflow when we’re creating that content. As I mentioned before, it’s making sure we extract all those really nice new headlines that we’re going to use for each of the social posts throughout the 30 days so I should talk about that.
Funny enough, I’ve sort of done a little bit in that without using those templates but now, I’ve manned it for the whole team, “Guys, this is what we’re going to go and do. This is how to go and do about it.” That’s probably the last part for us. Once that’s scheduled, it’s ready to go. We don’t need to do anything to post that.
Nathan: You’ve done amazing work to become an authority in your niche. Just to wrap this up, I’m wondering, what would be some of your best advice for a smaller team who’s looking to build their brand as an authority in their niche through content creation? What would you tell them?
Shawn: Stay on point. Whatever you believe is right, stick with it. Have some mentors externally about your business. I’ll talk about two parts. I think externally, absolutely stick to your guns. Make sure that you champion your own course. From a business side of things, this is more the internal focus, find mentors that can help you because you’ll go through some dark times. Underestimating yourself, underestimating the time you’re investing as well and probably more so worried like hell that you’re doing the wrong things. Find some people that are not specific to your industry and talk to them. They always have some ideas. Mentors and close friends.
For a small business, like you mentioned, publishing or authority on your own topic, I also that engagement with your audience, I have to call this probably form my side of things. I don’t think we’re doing enough of that personally. Again, it’s on the roadmap for us to continue to do it. Engage your audience not just because you’re posting something, engage your audience and have those fun dialogues online which will create the respect that you are demanding from people. chime into conversations that might not have been started by you or derived from a post that you’ve created. Just have fun online. I don’t think there’s too much seriousness or too much stuff that’s rubbish on there, probably things that we’re not doing too well. That’s one of those. We certainly are looking at addressing those.
Nathan: All of that sounds like awesome advice, Shawn. That wraps it up for us. I just want to say thanks for being on the episode and for sharing all of your advice today.
Shawn: Fantastic, Nathan. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.