Suzy Quinella Burke, 2001-2016. The reason my content is personal.What do you do when content gets personal, so personal, that you can’t see any other way forward?

Our editorial theme this month is content (though we’ll also have posts on measurement, seeing as how that was last month’s theme, and last month was a wash).

Normally I don’t have trouble coming up with content. But this week, I do, because none of the content I want to produce is particularly professional in nature.

You see, Suzy Q. died on Monday.

It wasn’t that we didn’t know the end was near; after having its butt kicked (by her) for two years, her cancer came back with a vengeance. The “two to three months” we were told we’d have with her collapsed under the weight of her mushrooming melanomas – all over her body, it felt like 4-5 new ones every day – into two weeks.

So this Monday, we said “goodbye” to our darling girl, unable to see her in this much pain and discomfort (despite pain meds, of course we tried everything), when she’d given us nothing but happiness.

If you’ve ever lost anyone – or a pet – you’ve loved truly, madly, deeply, you know what I, as well as my husband and Lola, are going through. And when you’re in that space, how the hell do you concentrate on work?

I suppose you compartmentalize. And that’s what I’ve been doing, because work is, after all, work… and I need to keep doing a good great job… which I am.

But the last thing I want to do today, right now, is give you a homily on content marketing, or some facet thereof. Because the only content I really truly want to create right now, or wallow in, is intensely personal.

Yesterday I created a tribute photo album for Suzy on Facebook (I would love you to look at it, I’ve set it to “public” for that very reason).

Last night I wrote about how Suzy Q., my heart dog, almost wasn’t, on Medium.

I want to look up pet memorial jewelry, as John (my husband) carefully snipped some of Suzy’s fur for me before she passed (he did a really good job, you couldn’t even tell where he’d snipped it from)… and I don’t want to keep it in Ziploc baggy forever.

I don’t know if all this makes me sound morbid – or like a crazy dog lady (which I’ve always said I am) – but it’s where I’m at right now (that’s the four of us below, at a photo shoot by Melissa Fox Photography last week… it was serendipitous in its timing).

The Burkes with Suzy and Lola

So what do you do when content gets personal?

I think you have to go with the flow. This may be less or more natural, depending on the nature of your business, the structure of your organization… but if you don’t, you are: a) not being true to yourself, which is the only way you can do honest (and, therefore, potentially great) work, and b) not being fair to your colleagues, clients, and customers.

Corina Manea did this beautifully yesterday. It was her birthday, and she wrote a terrific – just terrific – post about today being the first day of the rest of your life.

So, so true… and so true to who she is, and her life experience.

She didn’t get stuck in the merry-go-round of “is this too personal” or “is this unprofessional”… she just wrote it, from her heart.

And it worked.

Because for the type of work that Corina does, and the kinds of clients she has, the folks she interacts with… they get it, and won’t hold it against her.

It works for me. I don’t answer to anyone but myself (and my bank balance!), and I’m very, very grateful to be in a place where I can choose my clients as well as my students, as I build the educational wing of my business.

But what if you don’t have the luxury of “being who you are”?

What if you do need to be more mindful of your external construct, yet your inner voice is so insistent that you have to listen to it?

A few things:

  1. Tell the truth. Tell your audience what’s going on, and that you’ll be away for a while, as you’re dealing with your stuff. I have not ever, EVER seen a business – even really large ones – get dinged for being truthful. It’s usually when they’re not truthful that they get into trouble.
  2. If the content you feel compelled to produce is intensely personal, and you’re not 100% comfortable with publishing it on your official platforms, publish it on a personal one. That’s what I did with the Medium post, and how I think I will be using Medium moving ahead.
  3. Scale back your scheduled content, maybe even go dark for a bit (tell people why, though, if you can). This is where the Buffers etc. of the world come in very useful.

In the rush to keep the marketing wheels turning, we often forget that business is, ultimately, an extremely personal thing.

No entrepreneur strikes out on their own simply to make money, though of course most of them (us) want to.

We go out on a limb, accepting that what we’re doing is risky, with huge potential for failure, probably huger than the potential for success, but because we have to do it… because it’s who we are, as people, and it’s how we feel we can best be of service to our world.

And it’s entrepreneurs who build businesses and corporations that some day turn into conglomerates. But they always, always have people at their core; it’s when they forget the “people factor” that they start to have such a hard time connecting.

That doesn’t mean we should flood every single person, on every single channel, with every single thought in our head, every single minute of the day. God, I can’t think of a worse fate, and apologize profusely if you felt that way in my early days on Twitter.

Yes, keep your personal and professional channels separate, if that’s how you stay true to yourself.

But that’s the key, I think. Staying true to yourself.

So that’s what I’m trying to do, because you deserve no less, I deserve no less, and heck, Suzy definitely deserves no less.

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps purpose-driven brands bring big ideas to life. She teaches at The Johns Hopkins University, has gone back to school herself with the Harvard Business Analytics Program, and is creator/lead instructor at The Social PR Virtuoso® online training hub , where ambitious PR pros learn how to unleash their inner Social PR superheroes. Owned by Lola the Basset Hound, she's mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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