If content doesn’t cost you anything, it isn’t worth anything

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One day I was in an Acting Fundamentals class at drama school and I was struggling to emotionally connect during an intense scene.

See, if you’re an actor with an emotional scene, you’ve got two options: You can either pretend you’re emotional (bad acting), or you can find a way to actually reach the emotion (good acting).

But actually connecting (especially night after night) is hard. It’s embarrassing. You can’t do it without exposing a part of yourself.

My teacher looked me dead in the eye and said a sentence that I’ll never forget:

‘If it doesn’t cost you anything, it isn’t worth anything.’

Cue tears. So. Many. Tears.

And as cringey as it is, it’s totally true.

What’s more, it’s just as true in content marketing as it is in acting.

Content without content is worthless.

It’s like a sausage roll with no sausage.

A hot air balloon with no balloon.

In order to produce content that is actually valuable to your audience, you have to give away a little of something precious.

Your content has to cost you something.

The cost of content

Now, that cost will be different for everyone.

Sometimes it’ll be about rolling your sleeves up and putting in the hours.

Other times it’ll be about putting your money where your mouth is. Invest in that research. Commission that infographic. Think that e-book should really be a video? Ante up.

For some it’ll be about taking a risk. In order for content to truly resonate with some people, it’s probably going to alienate others. Disruptors disrupt. If everyone likes you at the end of it, you’ve not disrupted anything – it hasn’t cost you anything.

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And sometimes (fair warning, this one will sting) it’s about giving away hard-won industry secrets or practices.

I know, you slogged to get where you are and now you have to give away the secrets for free?

Here’s the thing: If hitting ‘publish’ doesn’t feel exposing, it’s probably not going to make much of a splash out there in the real world.

Because I can guarantee whatever subject you’re writing about there’s a veritable boatload of crap out there already.

If your content doesn’t contain anything new, anything valuable, anything risky, why is anyone going to read it, share it, like it?

Think about it from a prospect’s point of view.

Would you read: ‘How to achieve success’?

Probably not. I certainly wouldn’t.

It’d be a vague waste of my time. And if I want to vaguely waste my time, there are much more enjoyable ways to do that.

Now how about: ‘Pixar’s 5 rules of success’?

Yeah. Sign me up.

Because a company that has achieved that kind of success is going to tell me how they did it.

End credits

When you watch a film or play where the actors are faking it, you feel cheated.

If you read a blog post or an e-book with no actual, hard-earned insights in it (no cost to the company that made it), same deal.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you tell all your secrets any time you write a blog post.

But it does mean that every piece of content should cost you something.

That’s right.




There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and if you’re putting out content that doesn’t cost you anything, you’re trying to get a free lunch.

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So next time you go to publish a piece of content, stop, take a look at it, and ask yourself:

What did this cost me?

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