If you want to have more influence and help more people, then you must build your platform. Your platform consists of all the ways you can reach people. So if you listen to Howard Stern each morning, that’s not a part of your platform. But if you are a regular sidekick on-air performer on Howard Stern, then that is a platform that represents your ability to reach millions of people, and that can be leveraged into major book deals and lucrative standup comedy appearances.
If you work from home and you have a monthly newsletter that goes to 10 people, then your platform is 10. It’s not always about how large your platform is in absolute numbers, but chances are, 10 is too small a number to help you do much. But 10 is a start, and 10 is OK as long as you figure out a way to make the number of people you reach grow on a regular and consistent basis.
When major publishers and other media executives size you up, here are the questions they will ask you to determine your platform:
- How many unique visitors come to your website each month?
- How many websites do you have?
- How many unique visitors come to your blog each month?
- Do you host and TV or radio talk shows?
- On average, how many local radio and TV talk and news programs do you appear on each month?
- On average, how many national TV and radio talk and news programs do you appear on each month?
- If so, how large is their measurable audience?
- Do you have a regular column anywhere?
- If so, what is the total monthly readership?
- How many people are on your newsletter list?
- How often do you publish your newsletter?
- What is the open rate of your newsletter?
- How many Twitter followers do you have?
- How many friends do you have on Facebook?
- How many fans do you have on your Facebook fan page?
- How many videos do you have on YouTube?
- How many friends and subscribers do you have on YouTube?
- How many total views have you received for all of your videos on Youtube?
- How many times do you give paid speeches a year?
- How large is the audience on average at your speeches?
- How many units of your last book sold?
- How many units of all of your past books sold?
- How many fortune 500 clients do you serve in a year?
- Counting all sources of revenue, what were your total billings last year?
OK, people might not ask the last question, but they will be curious and they may even try to figure it out. The best predictor of future success is previous performance. Everyone in the media business, speaking business, and expertise business is looking for ways of minimizing risk. A large platform on your part means they have to spend less money advertising and promoting you.
So if you are a publisher and you have a choice between putting out a book by a brilliant young political scientist who has cutting edge ideas on political reform or a book by political commentator Sean Hannity on why “Liberals Hate American and Want Your Kindergarteners to become Crack Addicts,” you are going to publish the book from Hannity. Why Hannity’s book? Because his platform is comprised of more than ten million views a week in prime time, more than ten million radio listeners a week. And a gazillion other people who experience Hannity on line, on books or at live speaking appearances. So it’s relatively easy for Hannity to sell tens or even hundreds of thousands of books because he can promote it for free to hundreds of millions of people over the course of a year. The publisher can’t lose unless he or she pays too much up front in an advance to Hannity.
But back to our brilliant young and unknown political scientist. He has no platform, so there is a very real chance that his book will sell only a few hundred copies. So even if the publisher pays the political scientist zero dollars upfront, there is a very high chance that the publisher will lose five or ten thousand dollars or more by publishing this book.
Why should the publisher take the risk? And if you think the publisher should take this risk then you are free to start your own publishing company and gamble your own money.
The solution is not to bemoan the current state of the publishing industry or wax nostalgic for some golden bygone era that never was. Instead, you should focus on one thing: building your platform one person at a time, day in and day out, one email at a time, one news letter subscriber at a time and one YouTube follower.
If you build your platform consistently, your opportunities, reach and influence will grow with you too.