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Fresh Perspective on Newsletters with Amber Petty

Content Creation Made Easy - Fresh Perspective on Newsletters with Amber Petty

Do you struggle to come up with ideas for your emails?

If you feel like no one cares what you have to say OR you’re uncomfortable using story-based email content…

OR you don’t like the “selling” vibe that a lot of email marketers use…

You’re gonna LOVE Amber Petty’s concept of approaching your emails as a newsletter: a platform to share valuable content rather than a sales-driven tool!

Get ready to transform your own newsletter strategy.

Amber is a talented writer and writing coach who made a name for herself by helping creatives get published in prestigious media outlets such as The Huffington Post, The New York Times, Vox, and more.

In this episode of Content Creation Made Easy, Amber shares her unique approach to email marketing, which differs from traditional methods.

Amber’s an expert who leverages email marketing to connect her clients to their audience.

Listen in & walk away with practical tips that infuse personality into your content.

 

Connect with Amber here:

 

Take her up on her Special Offer for CCME listeners:

This is a list of paying publications that take pitches. This is not an exhaustive list! That would be impossible. But, it’s a pretty wide swath of what’s out there!

 

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Full Transcript

Jen Liddy

Hey, welcome to Content Creation Made Easy. I'm your host, Jen Liddy, and we're talking all things content on this podcast.

And today we're talking about a topic that I love talking about, but we're using a word that I don't normally use to describe this thing.

So let me give you some background before I explain it. I found this woman, Amber Petty, and I just fell in love with the way that she approaches her emails.

She gives away...kind of like insights and jobs about being a writer. So she finds all of this information about how to be a writer, how to use your expertise as a writer, here's like links to jobs.

It was like, “Oh my God, she's like curating all this information and then sharing it with the people on her email list.”

I love writing and I fancy myself as kind of a writer, so I signed up for her email list. And it's been really informational.

So I reached out to her and I'm like “I want to talk about your approach to email, because it's completely different than my approach to email,” which I'll talk about later, it's less important than just getting Amber in the room.

So Amber is a writer and a writing coach, and she helps creatives get bylines and build their audiences.

She has helped hundreds of people get into Huffington Post, the New York Times, Insider, Vox, Vulture, like on and on and on.

She's not only a writer, but she helps other people kind of step into their writing identity.

She's got a newsletter that you may want to join at the end of this and we’ll tell you how to do that. But basically she can help you start your own newsletter/email, which is how I always approach it.

And Amber, I want to say thanks for coming on and I freaking love email. I love using email. Sometimes I don't love receiving emails, but I want to talk all things email in terms of content marketing today. So welcome, welcome.

Amber Petty

Yay, thank you so much, Jen. I'm excited to be here.

Jen Liddy

Well, I gave you a pretty random introduction so I'm hoping that you could tell us a little bit about your background and how you stumbled into this, not only writer/writing coach, but then like really leaning into email newsletters.

Amber Petty

Yeah, well, probably the story you've heard a million times, you start by spending 13 years as an actor off broadway and musicals and improv and then get into marketing. Tale as old as time. That old, Jen. So yeah, I started as an actor.

I had no intentions of ever having a business or anything like that. I got tired of waiting around. That's a lot of what you do as an actor. And so I started freelance writing and that became a lot more fun and interesting.

It felt like I was using creativity, the creative things I'd worked on, as opposed to waiting around for them. And during the pandemic, I started to offer some free classes because so many then actors were out of work, not just with acting, but with their side jobs too.

It kind of just started from there and then I developed more of specializing in freelance writing and helping people get bylines and also start their own newsletter as a way to build their platform.

So though I do work with people, it's not just people who are professional writers or trying to be professional writers, it's definitely a wide mix.

But it is a great thing for business owners to think of, because I know some people have so much trouble coming up with ideas for email and it feels like it's just another thing to do and all that kind of stuff.

To me, email marketing is just the greatest thing. It's the greatest thing. It feels like the time you put into it, you get out from it, and it's just such a wonderful way to connect with your audience and potential clients and all that kind of stuff.

So, yeah, it's helpful for anybody that has to write anything or anybody who wants to build an audience around what they do.

Jen Liddy

Well, I want to start by talking about your background as an actress and a performer. Were you always good at writing?

I know that you said that was kind of the thing you started to lean into, but was writing just natural to you or was it an extension of, “Oh, I'm an actor and I can parlay this into something else?”

Because I feel like a lot of people tell themselves that they're crappy writers, and that's part of why they don't want to have an email list.

Amber Petty

Yeah, I mean, so many people tell themselves that even the people who want to be writers, half the time people that are writers. George R.R. Martin still hasn't finished those books of Game of Thrones books.

And I bet every once in a while he's like, “because this is going to suck.” And everyone's like, “Please, though, we want to give you money.” So that's super normal. I liked writing as a kid.

I wrote all the time, and then as I got older, it got much scarier. So I wrote some, I wrote like sketch shows and things like that, but I didn't really take it seriously.

It was like a secondary thing, even though I liked it. And then what's funny is that because I started it as a side job type of idea, you know, like, “Oh, this will support me while I'm doing something else,” it helped me not have the pressure of an entire lifetime on the back of every project I tried to do.

So like, with acting, you know, sometimes every audition felt like a make or break thing; which isn't a good way to think of that either. But that's how I was thinking of it.

And with writing, it felt like, “Well, this is just something to do in the meantime. I think I'm at least kind of good at it. Let's give it a try.” And I did a lot of crappy jobs, you know, that didn't pay very much or whatever.

But it was kind of a blessing because it helped me get through that perfectionism that made writing feel so impossible before because I found, “Hey, if I do turn this in, they're only paying me $20, it's literally for Snooki's blog, real thing I wrote for from the Jersey Shore.”

So you know what, I don't have any more time. I have to turn it in, even though I might be scared and think it's horrible or assume I'm gonna get fired.

And then they went, “No, this is fine, or this performed very well, or whatever.” And it started to kind of change my perspective on what's “good enough”, in quotes, you know? And keep going for it.

So even today, I go back and forth. Some days I feel like I'm a great writer, I'm amazing at it. And other days I'm like, I'm the bare minimum of fine.

But it's something that's enjoyable and it's enjoyable for me to do and it's an enjoyable way to connect with an audience.

So that kind of knowing that that's true for me also kind of helps me push through when the confidence is at a lower ebb.

Jen Liddy

Well, there's a couple things I want to unpack there, which is, first of all, there's a whole bunch of places you could be writing and making money that generate content for other people.

I did not even know that was a thing.

So you wrote for Snooki's blog, and they were paying for that. So that is a whole thing for people who wanna actually make money doing this.

It sounds like it's a bit of a hustle because there's like pieces and parts, right? But the other thing I really heard you say was, I got to play with it because I didn't hold it too closely.

It's almost like you didn't treat it so preciously.

Amber Petty

Yeah, exactly. I didn't treat it so preciously. And because I had to make money at the time. It was like, “I don't wanna go back to a bartending job. I don't wanna go back to this.”

So, all right, figure it out. And so it was less about, “Oh, what's gonna be a perfect distillation of my writing voice or what's gonna get me a book deal or whatever.”

It was just like, “What's going to pay the rent currently?”

And even though that sounds so backwards for something in the artistic fields, thinking about it that way as a little more transactional, actually, allowed me to get through all that artistic mess in my brain that would typically stop me or hold me back unless it was the ultimate perfect, wonderful thing.

Jen Liddy

So it's like you learned how to hone the craft of writing for a varied audience, and then you parlayed it into teaching other people how to not only, like you started using email for your own business, but then you started teaching people how to write email.

So can we talk about when your people come to you and they're not using an email list as part of their content strategy, what's going on with that person? What's holding them back generally?

Amber Petty

A lot of it is, there's both like, “Oh, this is gonna be too much. Is anybody gonna care?” Like too much time, too much, oh, some people, it's like “The tech's gonna be too hard. I don't wanna figure this out.” “I don't want another thing to have to do” is a big one.

I think people equate it to social media a lot. So people that don't love social media kind of feel like, oh, well, this is just like another social media platform to be on.

Jen Liddy

That is true, why do people do that? That's so true!

Amber Petty

They really do. And I think it's especially with the growth of Substack. So it's like, if you're talking about email marketing, I think people kind of half and half are like, “Oh, that's social media.”

And other people are “No, it's a different, it's a different, it's more sales-based thing” or whatever. You'll kind of get a range.

When I say newsletter though, lots of people are like, “Oh, is Substack a new platform I need to be on? Does their algorithm, you know, promote this or that?”

And it's like, “No, it actually doesn't do any of that stuff really.” It's just email marketing. It's just packaged in a way that is simpler.

So if people are more from a creative bent, it's easier to use. There's fewer technical things.

And also it just feels like writing a letter or writing a blog, which if that feels more comfortable to you, is gonna feel easier to do and generate as opposed to ConvertKit or something which feels like this whole technical, maybe like corporate thing that you've got to get into and know how to do the right way and all that kind of stuff.

So I think Substack is really helpful in a lot of ways, although people I think get the wrong idea from it in a lot of ways too.

Jen Liddy

So can you explain what Substack is for people who don't know?

Amber Petty

Yeah, totally. So Substack is really just an email platform, but it's kind of like a blog and an email put together. So with Substack, you write a post, which is a newsletter.

So whoever is following you on that list, they opt in like most any other email provider would do. They opt into it.

When you write a post, they get that post via email and they can also come to your Substack site and see the previous posts laid out kind of like a blog. So it kind of looks like both.

There's a little bit of organic lead generation. You can recommend other newsletters and they can also recommend you. So there is a little bit of organic growth there.

I feel that it's really overestimated in a lot of the stuff you read. It's not a place where you're just gonna organically get a ton of followers all the time, you just might get a few, you know, you get a handful here and there.

So yeah, so unlike a ConvertKit or something like that, you don't get the same abilities to tag and segment and stuff like that.

So Substack is really built for, what it's meant to be built for, you send something out, you have a newsletter, then if you want to, you can monetize the newsletter.

You can add a paid newsletter and then Substack takes, I don't know their percentage, but they take a percentage of the paid newsletter fees.

It's free forever if you use just the free option, but once you go to paid, then they take a portion of that. So that's their model.

They want people to move to paid and have their whole thing just be a newsletter subscription model.

Jen Liddy

Okay, so whether we're talking about Substack, writing for Substack, or writing for, like using your email list, which might be on, like mine is on Kajabi, you could have yours on ConvertKit, some people have it on MailerLite, whatever.

I use the word email marketing, and you use the word newsletter. And so when I first reached out to you, that was what I was really interested in, because what does that, like what are the differences, what does that mean?

That's what I wanted to talk about because I feel like there is a difference and I feel like what I want to unpack is let's talk about using email in the way that will work for your personality, your business, and like wrap your head around what your specific email marketing or slash newsletter marketing looks and feels like.

So let's talk about all that.

Amber Petty

Yeah. So this is definitely not like everybody should think of it as a newsletter. Nobody should think of email marketing. Like not at all. It's just a slightly different way to think of it.

So how I think of it as a newsletter… So I, again, I'm talking to writers a lot of the time, but I find a lot of coaches, course creators, online business owners could benefit from the exact same thing.

So a newsletter to me feels easier, one, because it doesn't have the word marketing in it. So you're already, if that makes you nervous, if it makes you feel salesy or fake or gross, we've already taken that out of it.

The main difference is just that a newsletter has a certain format that repeats every week or at whatever cadence you like.

So instead of having to just think of a story to share that week and connect it to a call to action, or just do sales emails, it gives you some kind of structure.

So my structure, for example, is I share student wins, so byline students have gotten, then I share some jobs or pitching opportunities that I've found, and then I share either a link of the week or a tip of the week.

That's where I kind of will write something of my own so people get a sense of what I think and do with my expertise and all that stuff.

So those three sections are there every week. Now for some people, that's like too constricting and they don't like it.

And then thinking of the more regular email marketing formula, that's gonna be better for them. And that's great.

For the people who feel like I don't know what to say and who's gonna care about what I say, I think a newsletter format can be super helpful because I started a business a while ago that didn't go through at all, and had that same kind of thought with my email marketing of like, “What do I say, who even cares?”

And I tried to start another newsletter and the same thing happened. And then with this one, I finally went, “Okay, what can I give that is helpful?”

Because if I give something helpful, it helps me detach it from myself. So instead of wondering:

“Who's gonna care about me”

“Who cares what I have to say”

“Why do they want it”

I could still think that all day long, but at least the answer is, “Well, I'm actually just giving them job opportunities.”

So if somebody doesn't want that, they don't want it, but that's nothing to do with me. It gives me a reason to keep going when my confidence is very low.

Because yes, like ideally we should all get through the inner critic and master all of that. But like, I didn't want to start my business in 400 years. I wanted to start it then.

Jen Liddy

Right.

Amber Petty

So I find adding that touch of helpfulness in a concrete way, because I know we always say like, “Give value with your emails, give value,” sure, but, and that's true, but it can be vague.

And especially when that value exclusively comes from your own opinion or your own stories, it can just be harder for you to get through that hurdle of who cares or why do they wanna hear it from me?

Jen Liddy

You're making a great point. And I hear a lot of the same complaints from my clients who resist doing email.

Partly they're like, “I'm not a good writer. I don't know how to come up with stories the same way you do.” They don't know how to segue.

And so it's another barrier that keeps them from being consistent. And when you talked about your first business, one of the things you told me before was like, it was that lack of consistency that really bit you in the butt.

Amber Petty

Absolutely.

Jen Liddy

You've found a way to be consistent by offering this value of, you know, “Hey, here's student wins,” which frankly sets you up as an expert and an authority, right? Like, “Hey, I work with people and they're getting jobs.”

Amber Petty

It does. And it's funny because I honestly started doing that just as like, “Oh my God, cool”. And then somebody was like, “That's so smart. You put that at the top because it also shows.”

I was like, “Yes, I did that on purpose.” Uh, no. But it does. Yeah. It's nice to people being mentioned. I like showing the possibilities of it and it's good for you.

Jen Liddy

And then you move into that helpful piece, which is like, the thing I like about your newsletter is it's helpful, like here are links, here are jobs.

The other thing that you do that is really, I will say cute, but I mean it like really charming. You kind of editorialize, like, “Hey, if you want to write about like you know, deodorant all day, this is the job for you. Or if, hey, you can, if you're interested in this weird thing, this is an opportunity for you.”

So you always, like, you get to pepper your personality in, which I think sometimes people who do newsletters, they lose that piece.

Amber Petty

Yes, and I think sometimes that can come from the pressure of both value and sales, like, “Oh, it's not valuable enough if I'm kind of being sarcastic” or being funny or being however your personality is.

“Oh, then that's not valuable enough if I put that in” or if I'm selling “Well it can't be like joking around or whatever, because I'm selling something.”

And I know it's very hard to believe this, but the more you do that, the more you're going to sell and do all of your things. ‘Cause anybody can see blank, plain copy.

Even if you don't have a person, if you're like, I'm not funny, I don't make jokes. I don't, I'm really kind and open and, or I'm really serious. It's like, great. All, any of those things are great. Like just be more of that. And I know that sounds so simple and it isn't.

Jen Liddy

It's hard. It's hard, especially in a ChatGPT age where you could actually, like, if you really wanted to do a sterile newsletter, you could just run it through ChatGPT and say, “This is what I want to convey. ChatGPT, make this for me.”

But you don't do that. And I think that's what makes your newsletter so enjoyable for me, is I love looking for the little pieces of Amber in the email.

Amber Petty

Yeah, and I think that's also why adding that helpfulness portion to it, it's helpful to me because one, it's like less creative work.

So I have a mix of like, I get to think of a tip or I get to do this or that, where it's just totally my idea. But also a piece of it, if I have no energy or creativity or brain for that, then I still know I'm going to have a big chunk that is links I find.

And for me to describe them in a way that seems fun is fun and easy. There's not a lot of pressure to that.

So I think part of it would also feel sustainable, just thinking of a newsletter format, is it just gives you kind of building blocks.

So it's not like rules, you can still change it or do whatever you like, but instead of having an absolute blank page, you have sections and you have pieces there to relieve you when you inevitably just don't have the capacity to come up with a brilliant essay or story.

But you can still find a couple of links, put it in there, even if there's nothing funny about it, nothing cute, nothing interesting, it's still helpful. It's still helpful to see that.

Jen Liddy

The other thing I like about this piece of the newsletter that is valuable, it's not how-to's. And I think this is something that experts fall back on a lot.

Because in their expertise as practitioners or service providers or healers and helpers, they are trained to solve problems.

And so in their content, they're often giving away all the how-to's, which I rail against that because it makes your audience think they could do the thing, and if they could have done it, they already would have done it. I always say that.

So you give options like here, go look at this link, or here, go look at this job or this opportunity, but you're not saying here's how you pitch yourself, here's the thing you need to have on your resume.

It's the onus of the reader to go take action and get the job. So it's valuable, but it's not like you are making them think it's easier than it is. They still have to go do the work.

Amber Petty

Yeah, definitely. And I think sometimes what can maybe help, because there is like a feeling, like you have to put out all this how-to information.

Like I know I did, I felt that way, I still sometimes feel that way. And I think it's also because of like, that's good SEO, that's good, you know, it's good for algorithms and things.

I think one way to maybe switch that in your brain a little bit can be like, ”Okay, here's the how to I'm thinking of. Well, instead of just teaching these steps, where might I see this problem?”

Or how does this come up in everyday life? So sometimes looking for those kinds of things where you see, “Oh, that same thing I talked to a client about, I had to do myself at the wine bar,” where I was at the wine bar and it was a disaster, but I was glad I tried.

And that's something I tell people often of, if you just try, you know for sure, and you can move on. It's all the in-between that's hard.

So sometimes just taking that how to, and then brainstorming where in life has this shown up for me is a way to like give an example, which is very helpful, but you’ll just be doing boring explanations.

Jen Liddy

Right. So remind me what the third part of your newsletter format is.

Amber Petty

So I have a tip of the week or link of the week. And so that's basically where I just have. And then sometimes they'll be really short.

Sometimes they'll be more of a longer kind of regular email marketing newsletter. Sometimes it's where I promote things. That's like the kind of free section so that I can.

Jen Liddy

And that's where you could tell one of those stories if you wanted to. Like, “Oh, this reminded me of this thing,” yeah.

So I love that this format actually gives you freedom, right, like it gives you freedom from all the how-tos, it gives you freedom from having to come up with a story in a segue every week, it gives you freedom from, you know, it gives you the consistency.

Amber Petty

Yeah, and then you don't have to think of segues. You're just like segues aren't as big of a deal. You can just kind of be like, also here's this thing I'm promoting or send a sales email or whatever.

Jen Liddy

Yeah, so that's what I wanted to move into as we kind of wrap up talking about newsletters because I think you've made it so clear that newsletters are a different way of doing email, but they're still email and they're consistent and they get delivered to people who raise their hand.

Where do promotions come in? Where do sales come in? Because the purpose of having an email list is to eventually sell to people.

Amber Petty

Oh, absolutely. So this is where I think it differs from a lot of people is that the traditional newsletter is just made on, you have a newsletter and then you have a paid subscription, and like that's the whole monetary basis, right?

Now that can work. It does work for some people. I think it's some of the hardest way to make money for yourself, quite frankly. So, I mean, mine is still just an email newsletter.

So sometimes I will promote things in small ways in the newsletter itself, where it is at the top, mentioning a free thing coming up or a class or whatever. But then when I have a launch, I just do a regular email sequence.

I give an opt out at the top, you know, for people that don't want the sales sequence, but want the rest of the newsletter. But I just do a regular, I do a regular sale, you know, I'll send 10 emails over six or seven days and promote like normal.

Sometimes I might do just one, you know, if it's a smaller promotion, but that is really just classic email marketing. And then I'm not following the newsletter formula in there.

I'm just doing the sales email. So it's just the classic kind of, a testimonial email, an FAQ, a story. That's where it goes back to the kind of basic sales email stuff.

Jen Liddy

Great. I love that essentially what people can take away from this is, you know, a way to provide value without having to like, you know, overhaul every week, like trying to come up with a story.

When it's time to sell, you sell, right? Like when you have a free offering, you share it. And that you can be helpful without really killing yourself with free how-to content.

So this is really interesting to me because, well, part of my marketing, I really love writing my emails. I love coming up with a story. It's the nerdy English teacher in me, I think.

I love trying to figure out what do I want to teach and how can I get people's attention to teach that thing. So that's just a personal challenge every week for me.

But I know that some people really struggle, but email is such a great marketing tool and I just really wanted people to have access to this style and think about it differently because I've never ever talked about it before.
So thank you for unpacking it and bringing it out into the open. How can people get into your orbit and find out more about you or get on your list and find out what we're talking about?

Amber Petty

Totally. So I'm at AmberPetty.com. If you want to sign up for the newsletter, I also recommend you, I have a freebie, called 250 Places that Pay for Your Writing.

It's fun to look at. It's not about just being a professional writer. It's also a good way just to sometimes get a story out there and maybe get paid.

So you can get that and get on my newsletter at AmberPetty.com/250.

And I'm on Instagram @AmberNPetty. That's where I am less consistent, but I make infinitely less money there. So there we go. And I do have a podcast called Don't Wait to Write if you like writing exercises and such.

Jen Liddy

I love that. That's so beautiful. I'm going to have the links to everything in the show notes today.

But I wanted to say, I really love having this conversation because I love, you would think that after I don't know how many podcast episodes I'm into now, over 200, you would think like, “What the hell else is there to learn about content marketing?”

And there is always something new to learn and always a different way to do it and always a new way to think about it.

So I really love that we're just having this conversation, so thanks for agreeing to come on Content Creation Made Easy.

Amber Petty

Thank you so much.

Jen Liddy

All right, please come back next week when we have another great conversation about some aspect of content that maybe you haven't thought about before.

And we're always trying to make it easy for you. If you can leave a review, I would be so grateful because that's how people find content creation made easy. See you next week. Bye.

 

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