Finding coherence in a weekly newsletter

In August of 2016 I started a weekly newsletter, Clarity First. My objective was to position myself as the kind of brand and communications strategist that change makers could relate to. My strategy, in the words of Austin Kleon, was to “write something that you yourself would read.”

And what I want to read are articles about the new ways of working and being together that millions of people are co-discovering world wide. So, while my audience is interested in better branding and better communications, they are also interested in thinking about a new, post capitalistic economy, collective leadership and collaborative learning. And, btw, most like music and art, too.

Right from the start the letter has included a weekly call out to a musician of note. One reader said “What I value next is the music tips….because I know they come from a true connoisseur.” This is singer Xenia Rubinos performing a Tiny Desk Concert.
But, being a newsletter that has always been produced in the cracks of time between client and other personal work, I never wrote down a list of ideal topics. Rather, using a carefully built Feedly RSS feed, I just started filtering ideas straight from the information firehose.

Last week, in the 86th weekly edition, I stopped to ask my readers for feedback. The replies were rewarding. I was especially pleased to learn that readers really appreciate the eclecticism of my curation. “The fact that you select across many content domains makes the newsletter particularly interesting to me” is typical of the replies I received.

Every issue has featured an Image of the Week. This one was plucked from an article called Route 66 Through the Eyes of Ralph Graef.

Others suggested that I repackage the content as a book. One suggested that it would make a really interesting podcast. These are great ideas, and they got me thinking. If I were to repackage this content, it would make sense to bundle the thinking into categories. This would let the reader see how the ideas represented aren’t disparate and independent, but instead they are parts of an emerging understanding of who we are as a species, and of what our true potential is.

So yeah, I love the idea of collating the ideas expressed in Clarity First into a a coherent whole. As a step toward this goal, this week I scanned all of the letters written in the past eight weeks. I jotted down the relevant idea category that the story represented. Here’s what I found:

Systems Thinking
New Economy
Purpose, Mission, Vision
Business Model Generation
Collective Leadership
Group Productivity
Value Proposition
Marketing Communications
Design Process
Creative Process
Change and Transition
Gender Dynamics
Personal Productivity
Personal Development

(It’s interesting to note that in the feedback I solicited and in the “opened” reports that Mailchimp gives me, Personal Productivity is, by a long shot, the most popular category.)

What do I do with this? I don’t know yet. For starters, as of this week’s letter I’m going to add a small line of type before every story that telegraphs its category. At the very least, when I do figure out how I want to repurpose and repackage the content, I’ll have a place to start.

Stay tuned.

The image in the header, which was the Image of the Week in the very first letter, is one of Arne Svenson’s portraits of his New York neighbors taken through apartment windows.

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