📻 — A Chat with Christina Pashialis on Building Communities, Content Marketing, and More.

Reading Time: ~ 7 min.

Good morning yenizens!

We’ve got a fun text-based Question and Answer for today’s issue! We haven’t had one of those in a while…

A few good links before we jump in:

  1. Simple community management system. Skill matrix via GitHub?
  2. Analyze competitors. Gumroad CSS customization is dope.
  3. More thoughts on Parler, become a Makerpad Creator in Residence.
  4. Mapping the creator economy and how to use Twitter.
  5. SOC 2 on auto-pilot? What. Most-liked Codepens of 2020.

To infinity & community,

— john

I met Christina via a number of shared Slack Channels and it’s been neat to learn how she’s been putting together her community around content marketing and content marketing professionals.

And, if you have more time for a podcast, she’s done one recently via Uncommunity as well:

Christina’s got a lot going on and you can find her via Twitter, her community, or via her own website here. Let’s jump in!

Tell us more about your career! Highlights, lessons-learned, and who helped you get to where you wanted to go?

Career Highlight #1: Working for a Startup

Joining the startup world early in my career was a big opportunity for me and it’s something that I’d recommend to any budding entrepreneur! Joining a startup is a powerful “crash course” in building processes from scratch. I worked at Hubbub as their 7th hire for 3 years and loved it.

I joined as a community manager — before communities were hip! — where I experimented with ideas outside my main role like setting up a newsletter and showing the impact.

This made it easy to rapidly switch into a content manager role within the company. One of the more obvious and natural benefits of being in a small and more agile organization is that you’re less likely to be pigeon-holed into a role at startups in the way you are at bigger companies.

In that way, I was able to craft and build my career with a bit more control than I would have been able to in a larger firm.

Career Highlight #2: Starting ContentUK

I loved building out v1.0 of ContentUK! I set it up alongside my day job as a content marketer because I rarely met others with my job in London. I started organizing monthly pub meetups for content marketers in June of 2019.

I made these “low pressure” opportunities to meet others and to gather together, share learnings, and I made it easy to join. No one was paying me to organize these and I was able to build up a small group of folks who would meet every month over a fine drink (or two).

An unintended consequence was that I was also building out my CV a bit more which continued to curate as I gained more experience. Organizing and leading the free meetups was a fun way to test my own community-building systems without fear of failure or public pressure.

Big Career Challenge #1: Zero Freelancing Clients

When I decided to quit my full-time job and try freelancing I had expectations that I’d start things slow and build up a healthy reserve of clients as I scaled this exciting new venture.

Except, that’s not what happened.

Instead, I failed to get a single customer in the first 6 months! And, as you may know if you’ve ever tried this yourself, those were some very tough months as I struggled to convert these important lessons-learned / “failures” into something that I could use for my next gig.

Big Career Challenge #2: Free to Paid Community

Moving ContentUK into a paid community whilst working full-time was… draining during the best moments and insane during the worse!

My day job was intense and required my full output from your typical hours of 9:00am to 6:00pm. And then I needed to work on my startup!

At the time, I was committing regular webinars for ContentUK, virtual meetups, a jobs board, a growing newsletter, an engaging Slack community, and working out all types of monetization models (during the pandemic)!

Exhausted, I realized that I had create zero boundaries for myself and was physically and mentally drained. I started instituting small but important changes like “No Work Sundays” that helped me begin to gather momentum in a positive direction during these tough periods.

You’ve worked for others as well as yourself; how has this impacted community-building?

The most important lesson is that when you work for yourself, you are the persona that you’re trying to serve (and build a community for).

More specifically, I was an in-house content marketer for years as a full-time professional so it meant that I understood that space and target customer intimately; it meant that I also deeply resonated with the challenges that they face every single day.

These folks love to learn, love the power of content and how it can be used to persuade and educate stakeholders of the fundamental value of content, and are often over-worked, under-resourced, and under-appreciated.

And, of course, every single one is business-minded with a focus on figuring out how to maximize business outcomes with very little resources! We’re scrappy and I knew of every “nuanced pain points” that they experience in any given day.

This is how I intentionally shaped the ContentUK community.

My advice is this: Build a community for an audience that you know inside and out! If you don’t know your audience then you won’t know how to truly empathize with the struggles and hardships that they face and this will limit your ability to serve them well. 

You specialize in B2B content marketing — what are the best strategies and what are most folks not doing right?

An under-utilized tactic is getting closer to the sales and customer success teams! It is too common for the the organizations and teams around content, sales, and customer success to be trapped in silos with poor communication.

Sadly, this is where some of the best content resides as the material and content developed by all teams is going to be vastly better than any off-the-shelf content search via keyword research tools.

Whether that’s fortnightly check-ins with each respective team or listening in and participating in sales calls, or analyzing the more common support messages that the team gets you’ll uncover frequently asked questions and the language customers use.

The point is this: Source content from where you already are instead of trying to spend too much time elsewhere. From here you can create content across the entire “buyer journey” and mimic the language in your copy for the outcomes that you’d like to see.

Example Newsletter issue via ContentUK

Tell us about ContentUK: What inspired you, what’s working, and what’s not?

ContentUK is a community to help UK content marketers flourish. Members connect with like-minded content folks and learn from the best in content through resources, workshops and meetups. I try to keep things interesting, useful, and fun!

What inspired me (and how it started)…

The first iteration began by me organizing a content marketing meetup in a London pub so I could meet other content marketers. By starting with something small it minimized the pressure!

In addition, I’ve always loved “bullshit-free” conversation that happens in these types of small pub environments compared to the noise and formalities of conferences!

I put a message on social media and 7 of us rocked up — it was super chill and everyone loved it. Consequently, I started organizing these every month.

In time, I created a Slack group to stay in touch and a basic newsletter to let people know when the next event was and to share content jobs.

How it’s going…

I’m super-proud of what we’ve done so far!

We’ve fostered a supportive culture with content marketers of all levels and folks tend to stick around when they join which is awesome to see. Growth-wise, that’s something I’ve struggled with a bit; showing the value upfront, and at scale.

But this whole business building thing is still new to me so I’m proud of how it’s going!

What would I do the same if I were to start over again

I would start by building a free community or audience for a while if I were to start again. Building a free community meant there was no pressure.

I think this would have helped develop trust a bit more “naturally” which could have helped me build more of an abassador program before monetizing. Instead of focusing on the money, I think I could have spent more time on simply building a strong foundation of relationships.

What would I do differently

The main thing would be to put self-care first — I would have slowed down, put my well-being above my business and would not have compared myself to others as much.

I think I’m getting better at the self-care thing but it’s something I keep working on!

Peter Thiel Question: What is one important truth (about community) that most folks disagree with you on?

The smaller the community, the better for members. 

There’s a different vibe once it goes beyond 50-ish people. This might mean thinking of ways to replicate small groups as your community scales. For instance, increasing membership prices to keep that small size or introducing mastermind groups. 

One thing I’m doing at the moment is #30DaysofContent challenges to help people develop a daily content creation practice.

It’s a cohort at a time so you spend a month with a small group, with a private Slack channel and accountability calls. Communities within communities may be the way to go!

Any shoutouts?!

Yes, of course!

  • All ContentUK community members; blessed to have such talented humans in the community to learn from every day!
  • 2 of old Hubbub colleagues – @RamyKhuffash (Page Flows) and @lewisdclayton (spudseeker) for being soundboards to bounce ideas off
  • @rosiesherry – always elevating women and minority groups in entrepreneurship.
  • @Charlieward of WeekendClub – love his philosophy towards community building
  • @socialveronika for supporting ContentUK early on and her passion for content marketing

What is one thing that folks who know you know uniquely about you?

I’m a fantasy football nerd!


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