Chip MacGregor

August 24, 2012

What is a “platform”?


I’ve had a couple people write to ask, “What is a platform?” 

The simplest way to view this is to say that a platform is a NUMBER… the number of people who have contact with you and your writing. Let’s say that you speak at conferences — how many conferences? in what venues? to how many people? who gets to hear the recordings? All those folks who hear you speak over the course of the year add up to a number. 
Next, let’s assume you have a column in a newspaper, or maybe you do occasional feature articles. All those folks read your words, so the readership of that paper is another number. 
If you are regularly on a radio show, or perhaps host the occasional program on local radio or TV, the listenership or viewership has a number. 
Perhaps you’ve got a popular blog, or you post online articles on e-zines. That readership can easily be quantified. OR you’re heavily involved with social media, so that you spend a lot of time Facebooking or Twittering, checking in with LinkedIn or ShoutLife friends. All of those folks who have regular contact with you and your words via the web — another number. 
And yes, your previous books have a readership, and perhaps you’ve captured names and email addresses so that you can more easily re-connect with them. That’s another number. 
If you’re well-connected to an association, or you’re a member or leader of an organization, those folks all have contact with you. So your organization, your church, your city’s arts council, the college alumni association that interviewed you for their newsletter — all of those types of connections present a number of readers who are familiar to you.
Add those numbers together. That’s your platform. Everybody who has a connection point to you.
That’s a how a platform is built. You make friends and build an awareness of yourself and your writing. You don’t think of it as “selling a product” but as “sharing your gift” or “sharing your story.” Then you add up all those numbers, and you let your publisher know. You present a comprehensive view of the number of people to whom you can say you have some sort of connection. The bigger the number, the happier your publisher will be. 
Two additional thoughts: First, while the concept of building your platform may scare you (especially if you’re a quiet writer type, rather than a public speaking/media type), keep in mind that everything I listed above is based on WORDS. Sometimes they are spoken (from a dais or over the airwaves), but more often they are written. So you get to use your best gift to build your platform. Second, your publisher is going to count on you helping to sell your book. A big platform can help you accomplish that.
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1 Comment

  • Ed Hird+ says:

    Thanks, Chip. “Platform is a number.” I found this a very practical demystifying of the concept that we have all heard so much about at writers’ conference.

    The ‘Engineering side’* of me can see that. Since I heard you talk about platform at Write! Canada, I have been working on my platform, specifically with developing a blog that has now reached 440,000. My peak day was Dec 13, 2011 with 1,162 people visiting, but summer tends to be lower. My hunch is this relates to students being off school.

    Ed Hird+

    * From Grade 3 to 10, I knew that I was going to be an electrical engineer like my father. In Grade 10, I realized that I had a more social side, changed course, and eventually became a Social Worker and Anglican priest. Thanks to our hi-tech culture, the engineering side of me is integrating with my social work side.

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