Scrappy content can juice up your brand

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I just got back from Chicago, where I delivered my book workshop to the latest group of incredibly interesting and diverse entrepreneurs-in-the-making. Their willingness to share and support each other was truly amazing to witness. At a certain point in the day, I stepped back and watched them have at it.  Here is a shot of the group (click to enlarge):


Directly under my left armpit (my left, your right as you are looking at the picture) is the wildly funny and talented Colleen Wainwright, known in many circles as Communicatrix.  She delivered 90 minutes of social media and branding wisdom, enhanced by gorgeous PowerPoint slides that would make Seth Godin and Garr Reynolds weep in appreciation.  I was definitely jealous, and motivated to clean up my slide templates.

Sometimes it is worth having killer-looking content to reinforce your knowledge.

When scrappy comes in

On the same trip, I had the opportunity to meet with two longtime virtual friends, author and speaker Barry Moltz, and journalist and author Alexandra Levit.  I met with them at different points in the weekend, and was able to capture short interviews on my Flipcam.

The criteria I used for the interview questions was audience relevance.

Barry published a book last year called Bounce: Failure, Resiliency and Confidence to Achieve Your Next Great Success about dealing with failure. (I did a podcast interview with him on the book here). So I asked him for a minute or two of advice for people feeling deflated from losing a job or experiencing a slowdown in business. Here is his response (link here to YouTube video):

As for Alexandra, she writes for the Wall Street Journal, so I imagined that most of you would kick me if I didn’t ask her about good ways to pitch the media.  She gave some wonderful tips here:

Notice that the quality of these videos is not perfect. I could have dressed them up by adding titles or music introductions, but for the purpose of this post, I wanted to show that even raw content can be really useful. The key is capturing useful information for your readers (or listeners) and sharing it right away.

My third video is one I took while wandering the streets of downtown Chicago. I had a moment where I stopped cold in my tracks when looking at all the large office buildings, and realized something about my market. I know that if I shared the moment with you visually, you would understand it better than if I just wrote about it in words. Here is my scrappy video moment, proving that Chicago is indeed the Windy City (link to YouTube video here):

What does “scrappy” mean?

I define scrappy for this purpose as something done quickly and with few resources.  So it could be a quickly shot flip camera interview, a small recorded audio piece, or a short, informal blog post.

To be “good scrappy,” it should be juicy information that takes an informal tone.

“Bad scrappy” would be information unimportant to your audience, done in an informal tone.

I received my favorite example of scrappy marketing material at South by Southwest when I met the delightful Steve Spalding of Crossing Gaps. Steve and his crew help creative people tell good stories using the web. Otherwise known as marketing.

After gabbing away intently over drinks, Steve handed me this business card:


If you have trouble reading the type, it says “About this card: Learning to forgive is important when your business partner forgets the business cards at home.  Find us @

The true story was just that:  the Crossing Gaps team hand-wrote unique business cards on the airplane when they realized that someone (Steve?) left them at home.

The result for me was a huge laugh, and direct insight into the fun and creativity of this team.  It was scrappy at its best.

Lose the tie or nylons and let your scrappy self loose

How can you mix “quick and scrappy” with your overall buttoned-down content:

  • Have a nice “mother ship” (Chris Brogan’s word for your blog or website that is the hub of your social media activities) that looks clean and inviting.  It is the equivalent of an elegant black dress that you can dress up with funky earrings.  If your blog or website looks nice, you can add some tidbits of quickly made videos that will still be visually appealing.
  • Have some good tools available, like a Flipcam or good quality audio recorder (If you don’t know what that looks like, download the incredibly helpful e-book from my client Cristy from Online Sound Advice).
  • Use scrappy means to get a quick interview with a really interesting person. My workshop participants know of my (platonic) obsession with John Legend and Matt Lauer. If I get stuck in an elevator with them, or, say, happen to be camped out on their lawn when they get the morning paper, I want to have my FlipCam handy.
  • Know when you need to have better quality material.  If you are selling a set of DVDs of you delivering a workshop and charge $500 a set, you should not consider recording on a FlipCam. That is a time to use professional equipment, and good editing. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect to sell (often our own standards are higher than that of our target audience), but it does have to reflect the value of the product.
  • Let your personality shine in scrappy content. Steve Spalding’s hand-drawn business cards are a perfect example.  Don’t worry if your hair isn’t perfectly coiffed in your videos (you saw mine in Chicago, right?), just let your ideas rip.

I would love to see some more examples of good quality scrappy content. Your favorites?

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27 Responses to “Scrappy content can juice up your brand”

  1. sifano says:

    Pam – I love the name “scrappy content” – it is perfect and it is so you! Scrappy.
    Thanks for the interviews – very helpful as always.

    I think that “scrappy content” also goes a long way towards sharing your authentic self with your peeps. It’s the blogging equivalent of the “Stars Go Grocery Shopping Too!” kind of articles from People magazine.

  2. mckinsey says:

    Very rapidly this web site will be famous amid all blogging and site-building visitors, due to it’s fastidious articles or reviews

  3. […] I blame Pam Slim for the “I’m sitting in my room right now” brand of quality. She’s lowered […]

  4. […] Pam Slim once put it, sometimes you just have to stop fretting over all the imperfections and “let your scrappy […]

  5. Sarah Bray says:

    You have inspired me to no end, my dear Pam. Scrappy content is awesome! (Because otherwise, I would *never* do video, as opposed to once a year!)
    .-= Sarah Bray´s last blog ..How to outsource your social networking without being an idiot =-.

  6. […] finally met up with Pam Slim, from Escape from Cubicle in Chicago a few weeks back. I had been corresponding with her for many years. Pam is a wonderful […]

  7. Jim Taggart says:

    This site’s a blast…first time on. Love the scrappy concept, which is very much needed in large bureaucratic organizations. I see a real link to people empowering themselves and just doing it.
    .-= Jim Taggart´s last blog ..Obama’s War: Will He Succeed? =-.

  8. Allan Bacon says:

    Pam – I love the name “scrappy content” – it is perfect and it is so you! Scrappy.
    Thanks for the interviews – very helpful as always.

    I think that “scrappy content” also goes a long way towards sharing your authentic self with your peeps. It’s the blogging equivalent of the “Stars Go Grocery Shopping Too!” kind of articles from People magazine.

    – Allan
    .-= Allan Bacon´s last blog ..How Best-Selling Author Pam Slim Started Her Blog to Balance Her Life and Dreams =-.

  9. Peggy says:

    Pam – I love this post – thank YOU! I’m pretty sure that both my blogs are scrappy little black dresses…

    Looks like I need to get my hands on a flipcam… 🙂
    .-= Peggy´s last blog ..Dreaming Perfection =-.

  10. Hi Pam! You inspired me to create some scrappy content of my own while at BlogHer. When we went to California I found a FlipCam of my grandfather’s. He loves to buy devices but never uses them. I thought it was a

  11. Great post, I agree. I think a great addition that might help others would be learning how to outsource. It’s really helped my business. I found a free outsourcing mini coarse and I learned a lot from it. It’s amazing what you can do when you can hire someone for $4 per hour to help you run your business. outsourcing strategies
    .-= sarah michael beaches´s last blog ..Instant Squeeze Page Creator. =-.

  12. Love the idea of ‘scrappy’, though it requires a baseline level of expertise before you can pull it off. As with jazz, the best improvisers are those that have mastered the basics.

    After seeing your flipcam interviews, I suspect that podcasts will be the thing that never really was. Gotta get me one of those.
    .-= Whitney Johnson´s last blog ..Angela Henrie: Guilt be Gone! =-.

  13. […] Scrappy content can juice up your brand (Escape from cubicle nation) […]

  14. Jon Strocel says:

    Even though I’m in the video business… honestly, people don’t care nearly as much about video quality as we do. People will put up with bad video as long as the scrappy content has working audio and it’s something that resonates and is quick. Great examples here.
    .-= Jon Strocel´s last blog ..New Member of the upNext Family =-.

  15. […] just wrote about creating scrappy content yesterday.  Here is an example of something I put together as a refresher for my audience at the Martha Beck […]

  16. Really great post, Pam… thanks. I like how this is all about being ready for anything all day long… not going from ‘business hat’, to ‘friend hat’, to ‘husband hat.’ We need to be looking for opportunities and capitalizing!
    .-= Andrew Parkes´s last blog ..Day 3 of 7 – Do You Have a Game Plan for the 2nd Quarter? =-.

  17. Jan Smith says:

    Pam — I’m still in the “planning to escape” stage and I’m about half way through your book — practical, sensible, feet on the ground yet oh, so very inspiring.

    It’s easy to believe, especially if you’re more than a little scared, that it’s not enough to have your ducks lined up, they have to be cleaned and polished and standing at attention before you can make your escape.

    Scrappy means the line might be a bit wobbly and the ducks might need a bit more buffing, but I can get out there anyway.


    — Jan
    .-= Jan Smith´s last blog ..Make the most of your natural network =-.

  18. Tim says:


    Thanks for sharing your scrappy content — it gives me some ideas. I like the bnsiness card example that you shared…it reminds me of the time I forgot my business cards when I attended a key networking event…I just wish I would have thought about something as creative as Steve did.

    Thank you to both you and Colleen for a very enlightening seminar last Friday in Chicago. I’ve begun to poke around in the Quickstart Guide area and I’m very impressed with the content. Stay cool in the desert.
    .-= Tim´s last blog ..The Miracle of Everyday =-.

  19. Gwen Dille says:

    Great post, Pam. Love the examples you shared. I think one of the best things about scrappy content is that it allows the authenticity of the message — and the person delivering it — to take center stage. And when done well, there’s always a bit of magic in that. 🙂

  20. Jeff Sliger says:

    Really great stuff Pam. I “found” you because another scrappy type person @LisaBarone was kind enough to tweet about your post. I absolutely love it. We have been scrappy for years and were just waiting to be identified. I was beginning to think we were just “Flying by the seat of our pants,” which would be old fashioned. But after reading your post (which will now be bookmarked and shared heavily) I know we are cutting edge scrappy. Thanks and keep it coming

  21. Christy says:

    Wow! I got a mention sandwiched between Chris Brogan and Matt Lauer. I think I may actually swoon! 🙂

    Thank you, Pam, for the mention and link.

    How’s this for a deal … And it’s just because Pam is one of the most wonderful and amazing people on the whole of the interwebs …

    Anyone wants or needs a one-hour focused session to help your online (or offline) audio not suck, reference this blog post and my comment here, and I’ll give you 20% off the normal fee.

    This offer is limited to the first 20 people who ask for it, with a deadline of 31 July 2009 (that’s next Friday, folks so don’t delay!)

    Email me directly at christy (at) onlinesoundadvice (dot) com and make sure to reference Pam’s fantabulous blog post to get the special offer.

    Thanks again, Pam!

    .-= Christy´s last blog ..Success Story: Emma Newman of Post-Apocalyptic Publishing =-.

  22. What a clever way to write up all this info! Like Jim, love the style, and love the info, too. (And it goes without saying, I hope, how mad I am for YOU, o Pied Piper of Cubicle Nation.)

    For the record, while I got the mother ship concept from Brogan in a talk he did last fall (note to everyone: this is why you see every talk by your smart friends, even if it’s about something you’re already conversant in), I believe he called it “home base” or something more logical along those lines. Ask him; he probably knows!

    I just picked up “mother ship” in a different context somewhere else on the Internet—most likely from Merlin Mann, whom I also like a whole lot and who is also given to birthing helpful, interesting concepts.

    We’re all just floating around in some big tureen of awesome soup, aren’t we?

  23. Jim Valeri says:


    Really digging the “Johnny on the spot” style you’re doing here. Kinda cool, and something I hadn’t thought of before. Most of the people I run into though are clients, and their stuff is confidential. I could do stuff of me, but people think i talk to fast. Oh well. 🙂

    Indeed your audience is vast, but how to reach them? And, how can everyone have a piece of the non-cubicle pie? It sure isn’t easy, and sometimes I think some people have luck marketing themselves with their blog because they happened to get on the bandwagon at the right time. Personally, I think everyone has talents and skills that are unique to them, but it really involves a lot for someone to get out from that cubicle and do their thing AND get paid well to do it. I could be great at tearing cardboard, but I don’t think there’s a huge market out there for cardboard rippers!

    I’ve been out of cubicle nation for about 7 months now, and it hasn’t been easy, but its certainly rewarding. How to stay out? I guess that’s where you come in!

    Thanks for the suggestions!

  24. Barry Moltz says:

    I liked being called Scrappy and love our definition!
    .-= Barry Moltz´s last blog ..Save Us Soon =-.

  25. Hiro Boga says:

    Pam, I love Steve’s hand-drawn business card. It’s one I’d remember, and keep, long after the generic ones had disappeared into the Land of Lost Business Cards! 🙂

    Thanks for the clear steps you’ve outlined above, for creating memorable content on the fly. It’s a practical way of making space for serendipity.

    And thanks, too, for the very useful links, especially to Cristy’s website.
    .-= Hiro Boga´s last blog ..There’s Wisdom in Shoes =-.