At Public Platform, we help academics, writers, organizations, and academic institutions and centers solve their distribution problem, present their work to a public audience, and become thought leaders by guiding their platform and distribution strategies. But the process doesn’t start with setting up your platform. It starts with creating a focused syllabus that structures the way you present your brand and distribute content.
The StoryBrand Framework
Our syllabus-building process draws from Donald Miller’s StoryBrand Framework, which focuses on the power of a strong story to inspire action in an audience or customer base. A central argument of Miller’s book, Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen, is that companies need to put their audience/customer at the center of the story that they tell through their branding messages. In Miller’s highly effective framework, the hero of the story is the audience, not the company. The company’s role is to be the guide to the hero.
The same principle applies for academics and organizations who are trying to find or expand their audience. Your job is to act as a guide (think Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings) for the hero of the story, your audience. Your syllabus should act as a plan for how you will guide your audience using your expertise.
Why Make a Syllabus?
One reason you should take the time to create a syllabus before you start producing content is that it will help you identify who your intended audience is and figure out the pain points, goals, and needs of your intended audience. It is important to solidify these elements early on, as they will inform what content you create and curate, and where and how you distribute that content. The process can also help you think through why you want to have a public platform in the first place, as well as how you want your work to impact public discourse.
Another reason is that your syllabus will provide a structured plan for consistently curating and creating content that is relevant and empowering to your audience. If you create a syllabus and a detailed lesson plan for your platform, you will be better equipped to share content that matters within the larger message you want to communicate. Taking it a step further, if you also set aside a few hours a month to schedule your content according to the topics you have previously scheduled to cover in the syllabus, you set yourself up to succeed in maintaining your distribution schedule no matter how busy you get later on.
A third reason a syllabus is useful is that your syllabus can double as a draft of a book proposal. Our syllabus format is designed to cover 12 months of content, one theme per month containing 4 or 5 main points, one per week. These 12 months of content can be converted into a 12-chapter book with around four sections per chapter. Your existing work, combined with the practice of creating and curating content for your platform, can translate into writing your next (or first) book.
What Does a Syllabus Look Like?
Your completed syllabus will have the following elements:
A description of your target audience: This can include age groups, professions, interests, belief systems, etc. common to audience members that you think would benefit most from your content. You should also describe what needs and desires they might have.
A discussion of the challenges that your audience faces: Your audience will share some external (surface-level), internal (deeper, emotional), and philosophical (relating to beliefs and ideas) challenges. In order to be their guide, you should seek to understand what your audience struggles with.
An explanation of how you will empower your audience: You should think about what your platform will do for your audience in these five categories: personal growth, emotional support, career success, social status, and fulfillment. In the empowerment section, you should ideally address the items you listed in the challenges sections.
A list of places where your target audience gathers: Look for events, publications, organizations, etc. that your audience gravitates towards. You can use this list to collaborate with or contribute content to these channels and grow your audience.
Content themes by month and topics by week: The audience demographics, the audience’s desires and struggles, and your ideas for how you can empower the audience should inform the themes you plan on teaching each month, as well as the topics that fall under the month’s theme.
In the next few blog posts, we will look more closely at the steps involved in creating your own syllabus.