When I was 20, I packed my bags in a bitter January, flew out of Kansas City and 36 hours later made my way into Galway, Ireland, for the semester. I didn’t know anyone. Yet.
What I soon learned is that Ireland doesn’t know a stranger. Sure, a Guinness or two (or three?) helps with this, but the hospitable nature of the Irish is woven deeper than a Celtic knot into their culture.It’s been nearly 15 years since I had the wonderful experience of Ireland, but I find that much of what custom publishing should be founded on was taught to me inside the dark, hops-infused wood paneling of those Irish pubs. Here’s what the Irish know so well that they can teach us about our custom publishing.
Build community. I quickly learned that within seconds of meeting someone in Ireland, they would spend the first minutes of conversation trying to find a family connection. I am from Iowa, so these conversations quickly came to a halt with me, but could go on for quite some time with my friends from New York or Massachusetts who joined me at the bar. “Ryan you say? My second-cousin Shawn Ryan moved to Boston 13 years ago …” I would often imagine the spiderwebs of connections sprouting from individuals’ heads as they would continue talking — and wonder where they would finally intersect. The Irish thrive off of making a personal connection. Because they understand that there’s nothing stronger in the world than that.
Takeaway: A good custom publication is founded on the principle of creating a strong connection with its readers — understanding them and helping them connect with one another. Help your readers see themselves in your pages by celebrating your audience with testimonials, creating an online community in which they can continue the conversation you begin in your publication, and connecting an individual who has a challenge with someone from your publication’s history you know has overcome it.
Tell a story. The Irish are born storytellers. They know when to insert a dramatic pause, and when to make eye contact. When an Irishman leans back in his chair — something good is about to happen. I took a two-week vacation to meet a girlfriend in Spain when I was overseas, and within a half an hour back in Ireland, I’d hopped off the plane and into a taxi when the driver said, “Returning from Spain? You know … I have an uncle who just went to Spain …” and I knew that in the next 10 minutes, he would likely make me laugh, possibly cry, and overall remember my taxi driver and his uncle who went to Spain.
Takeaway: Strive for story. We are built to listen to a story, to stop, to tune out excess sound and to focus. If you’re sharing a technological advancement, it doesn’t have to be technical. Tell the dream of the one who invented it — the midnight scribbling by nightstand lamplight. Describe what the brainstorming room looked like — discarded papers and red-rimmed eyes, stale coffee and determination. Tell us a story.
Be helpful. The vast majority of my time in Ireland was spent traveling. Every time I spoke with someone about a trip my friends and I were planning, they would pitch in a recommendation: “You have to see the Aran Islands,” they would say or “Dingle Peninsula is a bike-ride must.” They were determined to help us have a better experience. And we did. We discovered so many things — from clam soup to B&Bs — that we never would have otherwise, thanks to them.
Takeaway: Be a resource. With the content you’re creating in your custom publication, ask yourself —How am I helping my readers? Am I helping them be more knowledgeable? More efficient? Not all of your content has to prove helpful, but a vast majority should be. Time is money, and you want your readers to see value in the fact they’ve carved out some of that precious time to sit with your publication.
Be entertaining. I miss those pubs. I can feel them come alive in my memories. The bartender seemingly made like an octopus — pouring multiple drinks at a time from different taps. The random explosion of music that would happen when four people in a booth, pints in hand, would strike up a song. The old men, who would often stop us on our way out the door and sing a serenade (my personal favorite).
Takeaway: Be bold enough in your content to encourage laughter, or be poignant enough to make someone cry. Insert a silly comic strip to get your point across versus a 900-word story, or let a children’s thank-you card artwork be the beginning of the article thanking your readers. Entertain them, and they will remember you.
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