|“What happened to fashion?”|
“Why is he wearing the same thing in a different color every night?” (Which, um, relatable. Hello Katie’s gray cardigan worn during every zoom meeeting.)
“I don’t know why he’s paying a stylist.”
“I’m so disappointed.”
The Internet has spoken and it is displeased.
A garden writer with whom I’m acquainted posted in an industry forum, “The latest thing in ‘writing’ seems to be a push for using AI instead of doing it yourself. Thoughts?”
There was a little bit of discussion about who likes to read what, where, and what The Internet is doing to our brains.
I read it and quickly replied, “I think there will always be a place for craft. As for content? Who knows?”
I will never have as much certainty in my convictions as when I’m quickly replying to a thread on the internet that I’ve thought about for 10 seconds, tops.
Craft or Content?
Here’s how I’m using these words:
Craft: Bespoke, handmade, one-of-a-kind, directed, seeking a narrow audience, ideas, personality, quality more than quantity, specific, targeted, perspective, costly
Content: General, seeking a broad audience/ casting a wide net, derivative, mass-produced, widely-available, facts, inexpensive
Which do we need?
So, which is it?
What do we need?
Reading in-depth stories or quick bursts of info?
Paper or pixels?
AI or just I?
What should we spend our time on?
Stories or facts?
What’s going to give us the results we seek?
Mass-produced or bespoke?
Creative or formulaic?
Well, I’ve thought about it for more than 10 seconds.
And, we need both.
After thinking about it a lot, I’m a little like DUH KATIE. Of COURSE we need both!
The Internet, though, enables and rewards binary thinking (this or that, never both), that it’s hard to hold space for two seemingly opposing ideas.
But, we need both novels and newspapers, cell phones and legal pads, laptops and notebooks, movies and Tik-Toks because they’re different.
The physical forms of craft and content will endlessly evolve. We don’t routinely communicate by chiseling words on rocks anymore except in cemeteries. And even headstones are starting to have QR codes.
Which do we need right now?
The better question that will get us closer to the results we want isn’t “Which do we need?” but rather “Which do we need right now?”
I have an unconventional and completely self-indulgent example of how you might go about answering that question.
If you want to skip right to the answer, just jump to the heading “How to choose between craft and content”
2017: Fresh out of boyband One Direction, Harry Styles drops his first single, Sign of the Times, a 6 minute power ballad that The Guardian described as “David Bowie meets Queen.”
He embarks on a world tour, wearing outfits like this:
Photo collages from HS Fashion Archive
He rocks up to Madison Square Garden, with Vogue editor Anna Wintour in the audience wearing this:
What happens when you wear that for your solo Madison Square Garden debut and The Guardian all but anoints you as the NEW ROCKSTAR OF YOUR GENERATION?
Articles. Lots and lots of articles.
Chatter. Lovers, haters, Google hits.
Notice from people that didn’t previously notice you.
Those suits from the first tour weren’t for Harry Styles fans. (Even those we enjoyed them a lot.)
Those suits were for The Internet.
Those bespoke suits, hand crafted by Gucci, Harris Reed, and others, were, themselves, Craft, but they were used to create Content.
They were used, along with other strategies and tactics, to make Harry Styles into Harry Styles™, a brand and a household name.
Fast forward to 2021. Harry Styles™ has co-hosted the Met Gala. He’s won a Grammy award. He’s appeared in at least 4 movies.
When someone says, “Have you listened to that song ‘Lights Up’ by Harry Styles?” The person they’re speaking to probably says, “Oh yeah, Harry Styles, I’ve heard of him!”
During his 2021 tour in the United States he’s mostly wearing some version of his second album cover outfit. High waisted pants, suspenders, a shirt, and boots.
Photo collages from HS Fashion Archive
The Internet is upset.
But Harry Styles™ outfits this time aren’t for The Internet. They’re for the people at his concerts. He doesn’t need a bunch of articles about what he’s wearing every night at his concerts.
He needs to engage in creating Craft. Intimate (If 20,000 screaming fans can be considered intimate), one-off, experiences.
He needs the people at his shows to have a good time and tell everyone they know about it.
How to Choose Between Craft and Content
Ask yourself, what do I need right now?
- Any attention or attention from potential customers?
- To be found on Google or found via word of mouth?
- To sell 2,000 units or to sell 20?
- To become known or to serve those who already know you?
- To piggyback off a current trend or to create a new trend?
- To provide facts or to provide inspiration?
- To reach a wide audience or dive deep into a topic with a narrow audience?
- To conserve time, conserve money, or conserve customer attention?
- To interact frequently or interact memorably?
There’s no correct answer, other than, “What is the wisest use of my resources that will get me the results I want?”
Odds and Ends
- Content is often less expensive to produce than Craft. Stock photos cost less money than bankrolling a professional photo shoot.
- Craft often makes a deeper, more lasting impression.
- Both can elicit immediate action on the part of the viewer. It depends on the situation.
Just ask yourself:
“What is the wisest use of my resources that will get me the results I want?”
Do I need to communicate quick facts? Grab a stock photo and slap some text on it. (Content)
Do I want to make sure people open my emails every time I send them? Spend the time to craft something intriguing, useful, or delightful. (Craft)
Do I want to provide a fully customized experience? Be flexible and charge more. (Craft)
Want to reach thousands of people? Write a social media post or create a TikTok video. (Content)
Want to deeply impact hundreds of people? Write a book. (Craft)
Want people to come visit and/or spend money with you?
Get a coach. Craft a welcoming environment and experience.
Want to delight yourself? Do whatever you want.
Want to be Superbetter at, well, everything? Start here. This book is frickin’ changing my life! Kudos and thanks to Meghan for sending it to me.
Great article about “How to Write Google-Friendly Stories” by Randy Schultz in this quarter’s GardenComm’s QT newsletter.
Do you have a team working for you? Staff? This podcast episode is a must-listen. It really hit home for me and delivered actionable advice for developing a culture of trust. (HECK, what she discusses is valuable if you are a part of any group- which is all of us.)
Open source illustrations resource
Free, royalty-free stock photos
Scholarly article about what The Internet is doing to our brains.
The Novel Panic of the 18th Century
Newspapers are not Cell Phones
Bones or No Bones?
I am absolutely delighted by Noodles the Pug and I think you might be, too.
PS: If we’re not connected in LinkedIn, click here to connect! We’re sharing a lot more quick tips on the Garden of Words LinkedIn page, too.
P.P.S: I went to the Harry Styles concert in Raleigh and it was amazing. If you ever get a chance to go to one, do. It is 90 minutes of complete and utter joy. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never heard one of his songs, you won’t forget the experience.