Do you lose value by turning off comments on a blog?

If you’ve ever spent a Sunday evening clearing out the contents of a website or blog anti-spam filter, you’ll identify with the decision of Dave Winer to turn off the comments on Scripting News. And having commented on Twitter and received some replies from Dave, I wanted to expand on the subject. But it’s important to note I’m not criticising this or any similar decision – simply evaluating whether it might be beneficial or harmful.

 

Is it ‘right’ to turn off the comments?

I want to start by establishing something – there is no ethical or moral argument against the owner of a website or blog making the decision to turn off a commenting system.

A digital publication of any sort belongs to the creator/owner, and they have the right to decide how they wish to communicate, and how they wish to allow any responses. That’s why I might question whether it’s a positive or negative thing for the site itself, but I respect the right of that person or business to do it, whether it’s Dave Winer, Seth Godin, or a large media company.

 

The benefits of no comments:

Whether you’re an individual or a large business, the main reasons for ditching comments always comes down to the same factors – the cost in time and effort versus the benefits of allowing them. And the costs always include two main contributors – spam and internet trolls.

Various software solutions attempt to curb the constant flood of spam comments, for instance Akismet, and most commenting systems also include moderation tools, such as Disqus, which runs here. The problem is that the low cost of automated spamming tools or outsourced labour means that an incredibly low hit rate can still be profitable, as it is with spam email. Figures as low as a response in hundreds of thousands of emails can still make an email spammer rich, and with comment spam to engineer search engine results, it doesn’t even need someone to click on a link – just by appearing, it’s mission accomplished.

Spam

And the simple fact is that the spam industry doesn’t have to worry about the occasional false positive or negative, so that their carpet-bombing will tend to always lead to some mistakes and time-consuming manual input on top of any anti-spam measures. Not too bad if you only have a handful of readers, but when you have tens or hundreds of thousands, plus years of content, it can become an almost never-ending task in itself.

Then you get the added hassle of the entirely human ‘internet troll’ who posts to annoy, infuriate and cause trouble. Not only does that mean they’re going to get through anti-spam measures, but it also devalues the conversation that may be occurring, and damages a community which may have taken months and years to slowly build.

i not a troll

No wonder so many of the more prominent bloggers have turned comments off, particularly when they tend to elicit the most rabid of fanboys for particular companies.

 

The value of comments:

But there are also reasons to justify the time and effort of moderating and responding to comments. The usual example is Fred Wilson’s community at avc.com. But there are countless websites and blogs where the comments have added valuable insight and conversation in addition to the original article, including many on my own sites.

And there is also an element of reader frustration. Several times I’ve seen someone post an article and wanted to respond with some material which would be pretty important to their position – and given up when I realised they didn’t have comments enabled.

No Talking Thru Window

The argument is that I could reach out via Twitter, facebook, or G+, assuming I have an account, know their username and don’t mind sharing that within my own content stream.

Or I can respond with my own blog post, as I’ve done here, which does carry the additional potential benefit of a link back if the conversation continues, or they publish their pingbacks (When a site links directly to your article). But that doesn’t work so well if I just wanted to mention a website name and a link, for example.

Is that frustration enough to stop me, or others, from reading? Probably not if I generally agree, but if there are regularly times when I’m tempted to correct something or quickly disagree, it might cause me to give up.

 

The options for minimising comment problems:

The good news is that comments aren’t simply an on/off question. Besides choosing a reasonable anti-spam solution, and allocating an amount of time which will be dedicated to trying to raise the level of comments with moderation and decent quality responses, there are some other things you can do:

  • ‘NoFollow’ all comment links. This removes any search engine value for anyone commenting. People can still click through a commenter’s link, and many spammers will still submit content, but it will reduce the overall levels and if anything gets through, it won’t help as much.
  • Turn off comments on older posts: A common technique for spam is to target older posts with comments as these aren’t checked often, so the spam is more likely to get through. Turning off comments on older posts will stop this, and most posts don’t elicit new comments after a few months.
  • Use Facebook’s comment system: You could try using a comment system which ties to more ‘real’ identities, such as Facebook. Someone can still attempt to game it, but it’s much more of a hassle, and noone wants their internet trolling tied to their real name and details. The downside is that in addition to limited comments to those with a Facebook account, many people might be dissuaded from contributing if their real identity is on show – for instance, those with confidential information or those commenting on sensitive subjects etc.

Personally and professionally, my advice is that those businesses and individuals running a website or blog should budget time and resource to moderate and respond in comments effectively to build a valuable community which gives much more value in the long run. Not only is this more likely to result in valuable contributions which helps that article to be shared socially and rank higher in search, but if you’re lucky enough to build a reasonable community, you’ll find members who could help with the comment workload.

 

A hope for the future:

But there also needs to be more resource devoted back to improving the commenting systems available – ideas such as Disqus tools for commenter badges and status levels need to be more widely available to allow for better user moderation. Most innovation and funding seems to go towards whatever the latest shiny new social toy might be (Quora, Pinterest etc), rather than looking at improving platforms which have been around for a few years, and provide the basis of the open web which underlies all the growth and value we’ve since received.

no "trash talk"

It’s interesting to see Dave follow up his decision with a post which says that,

The people who read this blog, by and large, are really smart. I’m learning that because, after turning off the comments, I’m hearing from people about my blog that surprise me. People I didn’t know read it. If I knew they did, I might ask them what they think about this or that. Or to fill in a bit of knowledge that I am missing and don’t find online. But if I don’t know they’re reading, I don’t know to ask.

It echoes with another recent experiment, this time by John Batelle, who tried to guage whether people were still reading his blog via RSS, and found out that despite constant rumours of its demise, actually a lot of people access his content that way (I’m one of them, and the irony of mentioning RSS and Dave Winer in the same post without linking them is making me chuckle!)

We need intelligent and talented people to return back to some of the technology which has been neglected – particularly RSS and Blog Linking/Comments. There are many reasons why ‘mainstream’ internet users, governments and some big entertainment industries might envisage a closed internet inside Facebook or a similar network, but there are massively important reasons why many, many vocal and notable people are against it, and why the ‘mainstream’ may start to switch if the benefits of the open web are made easier and more accessible at a consumer product level rather than a ‘You’ll need to tweak the CSS but at least you’re not handcoding it all from scratch’ level.

Show the fight in the dog…

Someone I’ve known a long time recently commented on the way I interact with people, and it’s something which is probably true of you and particularly your business.

I’ve always tended to view confrontations as something to generally avoid in business. The main reason is that it’s unlikely someone is going to totally change their mind in the course of one debate or argument, and that it’s generally more productive to let them get out all of their thoughts and reasoning. That way I can not only look at what they want, but more importantly figure out why they want it, and what led them to that decision. By working on those areas longterm, I’ve often been able to find the best solution for both them and their business.

It also means that people can underestimate you until it’s too late, which is a handy advantage!

But occasionally it appears to people that I’m not commanding enough respect by standing up more visibly, and that’s something I’m changing right now. Whereas the softer approach is definitely more productive if you have a longterm relationship with friends or in a business, it’s not necessarily right if you’ve only got one shot at getting a new client, for example. And it also means that although the business benefits, often people don’t realise how you’ve shaped things and you don’t perhaps get the credit you deserve – I’ve certainly seen that happening to some of my colleagues in the past.

Show the fight:

Standing up and being counted has never mattered more for brands and businesses. It’s not only about believing in what you are doing, but also showing your fans and customers that you are willing to claw tooth and nail up a vertical cliff for all of you, if the situation requires it.

When Adele was cut off mid-acceptance speech at the Brits and showed her annoyance with her middle finger, she may have offended some potential casual fans. But most of the hardcore Adele fans are on her side, and they’re the ones who buy her records, go to her concerts, and appreciate her being herself as she was the previous year bursting into tears by the end of her performance.

When Godaddy was revealed as a supporter of the proposed SOPA Act, several domain and hosting came out against it, and immediately saw their profile and new business increase. And when Godaddy flip-flopped in withdrawing support, they did it in the most lacklustre and non-committal way, rather than gaining support from either side.

It’s ironic that media publications are often quite obviously targeting, and are categorised by, their political leanings, and yet so many try to claim impartiality by forbidding journalists to remain neutral on everything in public.

There are some areas of my life in which I don’t hesitate to fight passionately for what I believe in. If it’ll adversely affect my son, my close friends and family or my business, the longterm approach isn’t an option.

But that follows on – if you’re providing a service to my company, I want to know you’re also going to stand up on my behalf. If you’re dealing with individuals or small businesses, that long tail of people who are probably feeling set-upon by the current economic conditions would love to know that someone is genuinely trying to help them – and take note that it absolutely, positively has to be genuine. Look at #Occupy, Anonymous, The Pirate Bay, The Grameen Bank, Kiva, the outcry at SOPA, PIPA and ACTA or the uprisings around the world.

And it doesn’t have to be a political fight – Apple built fanatical fans by fighting for beautiful design and implementation. In the words of clothing store Howies, ‘every company needs an enemy. Let ours be the landfill’. Look at Dylan or Neil Young, an author like Cory Doctorow, or a filmmaker like Kirby Ferguson.

 

What we’re fighting for here.

Personally, I’m starting a mission with TheWayoftheWeb. Too much bad writing is being bought cheaply to supposedly help bad search engine optimisation tactics and drive traffic to websites and businesses which aren’t even built to take advantage of it properly.

On one side you have companies and agencies paying pennies for crap content which is using keyword stuffing and other techniques long disproved. And on the other side are journalists either complaining about low wages or being made unemployed at a time when companies are repeating the ‘content is king’ mantra.

It’s time to fight harder for the methods which really do produce good, longterm results by putting in the right resource and effort to create a successful digital business with clear returns.

In the words of Network’s Howard Beale , “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” The question is, have you got a business capable of standing up and fighting? And what are you fighting for?

What is ‘The Way of the Web’

When I started blogging years ago, I had no idea that one day it would become the main public face of my business and career. It started because I’d made a few attempts to launch websites before becoming employed as a journalist, but had never made the effort to learn how to code and develop a decent site, so when technology offered me a way that I could publish whatever I wanted with no Editor, it seemed like a wonderful freedom.

If you’ve ever tried to name a website, business, book or band, you’ll identify with the problem of coming up with a name for something – until it’s established and familiar, most names just sound odd. Considering I was once guitarist with a band named ‘Inflatable Hostess’, this shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise!

But as the site has grown from friends and family to thousands of people every month, I’ve been increasingly asked about the name (Although not as much as my Twitter username ). So with a lovely new logo now in place, it seems like a good time to explain what on earth I was thinking…

What does ‘TheWayoftheWeb’ mean?

The name of the site was inspired by a number of things, but is mainly inspired by my interest in Japanese culture, particularly around martial arts. I’d read the ‘Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai‘ not long before launching the site, having seen it referenced in the film ‘Ghost Dog‘. It’s an interesting book of notes provided by the samurai Yamamoto Tsunemoto, around the time the samurai class switched from being mainly warriors to administrators.

But the main inspiration comes from the philosophy behind Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. If you only ever considered Bruce Lee a film star, then the insight into his approach to martial arts and fighting styles might be a little bit of a surprise, but the key element that inspired me is that Jeet Kune Do isn’t a fixed style like Karate. It’s fluid and changing, hence why it’s often called a ‘style without a style’, and that a good martial artists should be like water, and moving fluidly without hesitation.

And that’s the personal hidden joke within the name.

There is no one set ‘Way’ of the Web – the important thing is to set out on the journey and find the way which works for you and your business.

 

So what does ‘TheWayoftheWeb’ do?

The succinct business philosophy is simple – it’s much easier to find what works for you with experienced help. The longer version is providing:

  • Content creation - Content is a foundation of success in digital, whether you’re a publisher, retailer, manufacturer or service provider. Sometimes it’s hard to see how you can produce amazing writing from inside your business, which is why hiring someone with experience in journalism and writing online can really transform what you’re doing by asking the right questions.
  • Marketing – You need people to see what you’re doing. But how do you achieve that with the ever-changing state of search engine optimisation, or the constant launches of new social networks? What you need is someone who can advise on where to start, and give you a solid foundation to work from.
  • Training – Whether or not you want someone to provide content and marketing services for you indefinitely, at the very least you probably want to know exactly how to measure whether it’s successful or not, and the world of analytics and social media monitoring can be daunting with so much potential data to turn into insight. And if you do plan on transferring content and marketing to an internal resource, then you can shortcut a lot of time, money and experimentation.
  • And lastly there’s this site – which aims to provide insight and guidance into journalism, writing, and marketing in a digital world, with the occasional more personal post to avoid becoming an endless stream of tutorials, and to provide an insight into the actual person you’re hiring – the most qualified person in the world won’t be effective for your business if you decide within 10 seconds that you hate them, so by taking a look around you hopefully get an idea whether there’s a fit with your business.

And that’s it in a fairly large nutshell. Of course, it also provides you with a way to Contact Me, and who I am.

 

Your turn: I’d love to know how you came up with the name of your own blog/site/business and how it came about… And what you think of mine!

Apologise like everyone is watching…

How do you apologise when you’ve made a serious mistake? I wrote about how brands can actually be more successful by admitting imperfections and mistakes last week – and tonight I happened to read a jaw-dropping example of a mistake by a newspaper (via Newspaper Death Watch).

The summary is the photo of an innocent 40-year-old man named Angel Ortiz was used in a front page story about a horrific crime comitted by a 20-year-old with the same, and apparently very common, Spanish name. As a result, the innocent party has lost work, been persecuted and is effectively reduced to hiding in his house in fear of what might happen in public.

I’m sure that noone involved in publishing the story ever intended this to happen, but when a lawyer for the innocent Ortiz wrote to the paper demanding a front page retraction, the newspaper responded by removing the image from its website, and the ‘retraction ran on the bottom of page 2, with no photo‘.

Why apologies are business-critical:

I understand that sometimes the ‘right’ thing to do can run into roadblocks when lawyers advise on the ‘correct legal’ thing to do. But certainly retractions need to be an equal size and prominence to the original content, and reach the same audience.

Secondly, there’s been no personal apology, or any help and assistance in correcting the situation, which would have gone some way to rectifying the situation. I’m trying to think of any legal reasons why the paper couldn’t have run something asking for help in finding work for an innocent man, for example, besides their own guilt?

But here’s the thing – I don’t know the newspaper or any of the parties involved, and I’m located halfway around the world, but I’ll now associated the MetroWest Daily with this debacle. I’ve now also written about it to you, and shared it via Twitter etc. Besides my personal feelings about whether I’ll ever read or do business with the company, some quick google searches for relevant terms shows a number of sites picking up on the screwup, and nothing on the newspaper website offering any explanation or apology to make me think any better of them.

What they should be doing:

Anyone using a search engine for related terms will see coverage of this horrendous mistake. What the paper should have done is looked at how this error happened (and how to prevent it in the future), and then published a full apology in print and online which explains how they’ll avoid making such a disaster in the future. A human response would at least appear online and in search to provide some mitigation.

They should then have followed that up with a decent effort to try to rectify things (along with a personal apology), perhaps by running follow-ups to help Ortiz find work – again, this would show that despite the mistake, there are decent human people working at the newspaper, as well as that evidence appearing in search and social networks.

It’s how you handle mistakes that matters:

Errors have always happened, even if they seem more and more likely due to widespread editorial cuts around the world. But whereas the outcry even 15 years ago would have been barely noticeable in another country, the internet means that everything is catalogued and saved for all eternity.

If you understand that any mistake is extremely likely to be publicly indexed, then you understand that the response is key. And that response is going to be seen around the world, for as long as we have an internet, so responding ethically is more important than any other consideration.

And if you’re publishing or re-publishing any image online, double-check and triple-check the source, the content and the licensing restrictions.

Fighting for the internet, and for my son…

If you read my blog regularly, or follow me on Twitter, you’ll doubtless have an idea of my views on SOPA, PIPA, ACTA etc. I’m one of over 2 million people who have signed a petition to try and get ACTA rejected, and I support the hundreds of protests taking place later today in cities across the UK and the globe.

I’m against these measures for 2 reasons, and it’s not about being able to pirate films, music or books. In all honesty, I can’t remember the last time I consciously attempted to download pirated content – I’m too busy to spend time worrying whether my laptop is secure enough to be safe and locating a decent copy when I can generally pay the ‘lazy man’s tax’ and download from a legal site. Generally many of the acts, artists and authors I enjoy tend to be aware of and use Creative Commons licences anyway.

The reasons I’m against the attempts by large media companies to shore up their moribund traditional business practice by funding politicians to bring in laws are simple:

  • I believe that a free and open internet provides far more benefits to the whole of society than it damages, and that copyright is an incentive for creation which is meant to serve society as a whole, not restrict innovation and ideas in the service of extending profits for large corporations.
  • I’ve enjoyed the benefits of a free and open internet which allows me relative freedoms of self-publishing and self-expression, which has enabled me to continue to build a business and career based on creating content, training journalists, and helping companies to connect more effectively with their customers. All of this will become more difficult due to the lack of understanding shown in all new bills and treaties proposed so far by people who have little empathy with the users of the world wide web.

And there’s an additional reason why I’m standing up against these proposals with more strength than ever before – my son. I don’t want him to grow up in a world where the greatest tool for access to knowledge, community and enabling basic human rights is castrared by large media companies because they haven’t evolved and want to keep doing business the old fashioned way.

After almost 4 years, I still occasionally feel surprised and amazed that I have responsibility for another human being – looking after a cat and a rabbit were stressful enough, let alone remembering to eat healthily and get enough sleep when I’m working hard. But as a parent I share what I presume are normal concerns – worrying my son might get ill, hurt, be unhappy, etc. As a geek parent I also have two concerns specific to technology:

  • I want my son to benefit from education and access to the tools to be able to take things apart, modify them, and create with them to build his own inventions and ideas, whether that’s hardware, software, art or ideas. I don’t want him to be a passive consumer forcefed applications and content which is so protected that it can’t be examined, played with, and learnt from.
  • I want my son to benefit from a free and open internet which allows him to potentially connect with a global network of people who may share his ideas, beliefs, and passions. He may turn out to be the most popular kid in his school, but he may also have interests which aren’t shared by everyone else – the internet is an amazing tool for establishing other people share the same problems or hobbies, and reducing the isolation which can be a symptom of being a teenager in particular.

With my limited knowledge of politics and finance, I have little hope that the current administrations and electoral processes will change enough to stop the constant challenges to our digital evolution. So it’s my duty, and yours, to stand up for the things we want to preserve, for ourselves, and for our children, family, friends and everyone else.

If you’re in Europe, contact the relevant MEPs now – the questions being raised over ACTA have led to positive signs in both Poland and Germany, and there’s no reason why we can’t make a change in other coutnries if we all act. I have no doubt that eventually an open system will prevail no matter what laws are passed, but lets not allow the current generations of teenagers and children to have their potential wasted while that happens.

 

Quick heads up for Peterborough people who work in digital…

The next DPiP meetup is being planed for March 1st, 2012, including a meal at the Imperial Bento restaurant in Peterborough.

So if you’re interested in attending, send a tweet to @DPiPboro or add the event on Facebook to give us an idea of numbers, please.

Oh, and DPiP is also on Google+ if you’d prefer to keep up with events and news there instead.

What brands need to learn about true fans

Are you watching the Super Bowl tonight between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants? I’ll be watching at least some of it, but my main interest in the NFL was in the in 90’s, watching Troy Aikman and the Dallas Cowboys in whatever coverage was available in the UK.

By contrast, I was on the edge of my seat during the Ireland – Wales match in the Six Nations Rugby today. And [spoiler alert] being a passionate Ireland supporter (The two manifestations of my Irish ancestry are in rugby and whiskey), the end result was a bit of a kick in the teeth.

Chatting with a friend, I was struck by the difference between the ‘fan of a game’, as I am with the NFL, and he is with rugby, and the ‘true fan’ of a team. Watching a match as a fan of a sport can be quite relaxing, as you can enjoy an entertaining game without investing your own emotion. Watching as a fan of a team is a stressful rollercoaster of emotions which often ends in disappointment.

The Agony of Defeat

In fact, even when your team wins, it can be so stressful than you have little memory of the event, which was certainly true when I watched Chelsea win the 1997 FA Cup Final against Middlesborough, which was the first major victory for the team in 27 years, and the first in my lifetime. As I walked home from the pub after watching the game and people asked about it, I could remember the score, but not even who had scored. And that’s including a goal after just 42 seconds which remained a record for 12 years!

 

What brands need to know about their true fans

Here’s the important point for brands, and it isn’t about pricing season tickets, or how to sell hats and scarves. It’s the fact that the majority of fans will continue to follow their team with passion and enthusiasm despite the fact that they won’t win. Statistically, 99% of the teams in any competition will end up losing at some point, and will have lost the previous year, and the year before that, and potentially for many years before.

Brands always want to portray their best side, hiding flaws and imperfections in the belief that this breeds success, rather than some kind of marketing uncanny valley.

More perfect than Helvetica

The belief has always been that brands need to portray themselves as perfectly better than their competitors to attract customers, and because any flaw leads to complaints.

But that’s not the case – it’s how you react to any problems. The main complaints about brands via the internet are not that they screwed up – it’s that they don’t respond, react, or solve their screw-ups.

If you’re brave enough to talk about your problems, failures and mistakes with honesty and how you’ve solved them, it works. Talk to all the community managers who meet with their communities and find that explaining the reason behind common issues results in those communities becoming staunch defenders of them.

There are fans in the world who have spent decades following teams in lower leagues and divisions with extremely little chance of success, and will make great sacrifices to support them day-in and day-out. Wouldn’t you like customers like that?

The book that inspired my career…

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been fascinated by surfing. Something about the elegance of seeing someone balancing on a board floating over the forces of nature manages to be both inspiring and relaxing to watch. But despite a period of trying to conquer skateboarding, I knew I’d never be a surfer. Partly it was down to geography – Kent in England is not necessarily a hotbed of surfing talent. More importantly, I combined a lack of balance with a dislike of swimming.

But around the age of 11 or so, I read the amazing Walking on Water by Andy Martin. Like me, he grew up in England, and didn’t become a professional surfer – but due to his fascination and obsession with it, he did spend time in the water, and the book covers his journey to Hawaii to speak to the leading stars of the early 90s and to cover the world championship at the time.

What really hooked me was one passage, in which he describes being stopped at airport customs and asked what the purpose of his journey was. Having been hired to do some freelance reporting on surfing for The Times, he pulled out a busines card stating ‘The Times, Surfing Correspondent’, and that allowed him to carry on his journey. (I’m writing from memory as I suspect a previous loan of the book led to it never returning to my possession).

It’s followed by amazing writing, characters and stories as he gets to meet all his heroes and surf Hawaii, but the key thing that stuck with me was this:

You can be an expert, earn a living, meet your heroes and be utterly absorbed by something as a writer, and sharing that can be as powerful as actually doing it for a living.

Suddenly I realised that I might never be paid to race cars or bikes, but I could earn a living by sharing my obsession and knowledge of motorsport and all things with an engine.

Having applied that approach to motorcycles, cars, technology, and writing itself, I’ve had the enormous good fortune to be published by leading publications in their field, visited foreign countries, had amazing experiences and spoken with a number of my childhood heroes. Less than 1% of racers will ever get to legitimately be in the MotoGP paddock, for example, but as a journalist I was able to experience it, which I’ll always treasure.

And there’s another key lesson.

You might think that ‘those that can, do, and those that can’t, write ‘ (to adapt a hackneyed quote about teaching). But many top sportsmen and women can’t explain what they do and how they do it. It’s not their job. They have to concentrate on whatever it takes to get to the top and stay there, and not consider anything else. It’s why quite often the most talented people are the worst instructors, because they have no idea what it was like to be an untalented beginner!

That’s why it’s our job. And why it’s my passion and obsession to share the things I love in a way which could inspire the same passion in others.

Failing to understand the social media economy?

This is a great example of how you can listen to someone talk about the way that social media, social business and engagement are all supposed to work, and yet miss the entire point when it comes to actually trying to interact. If you’re not familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk, it’s worth me pointing out there’s some strong language.

It’s so often the case, particular with larger companies and the relentless need to show immediate ROI that even when someone understands the concept of earning what they want, that they succumb to the temptation of just diving straight in with the request, because someone has insisted they need to show results in the next day or week.

(Incidentally, Gary has released two books, Crush It! and The Thank You Economy. Both are well worth reading).

It’s why I’m been sharing this article by Michael Ellsberg on the Forbes website – a recommendation from one notable blogger did more for the success of his book than national broadcast television or newspapers. But the flipside is that he’d built that relationship up over a period of years, rather than days, weeks or months.

That’s also potentially a great reason to use freelance resources, which is something I intend to expand on. If you’re a new company or you’ve never tried earning coverage and referrals before, then it can take a long time to build those relationships. Whereas I’ve tried to work on them every day for the past decade, which is why I’m able to survive via word-of-mouth referrals and work via previous clients, colleagues and friends.