By the time it's playing its third Sting song, I decide-yup, let's just turn off the random selection, and let me listen to the entire Sting series of albums. On other days, I will go right to the iPod, put on the Sting album, knowing just what I want to hear for the next hour or so.
But how did I end up bugging my wife for the next 72 songs of Sting?
I do so by choosing a unifying theme. Whether the iPod plays just one Sting song after another, or chooses from a selection to bring up the same Sting-genre of music, it's using a theme to make the music appealing to me. And this same concept applies to your products and courses.
So let's just clarify: What is a unifying theme?
A unifying theme is simply the one word/thought that drives your product/course.
It's much like you'd have at a theme wedding or a theme party and everything and everyone conforms to the theme. In the same way, a product/course should have a single theme running right through, which then binds the product together.
But why is this binding so very important?
It's important for several reasons
1) It helps the writer
2) It allows the reader to understand concepts better
3) Boosts the chances of better publicity/marketing
1) How it works for the writer
When you sit down to create a product, more often than not, there's confusion in your mind. You know too much and it's hard to get a thread that runs through the entire product/course. If you did have that thread, it becomes easier to fit the elements of the product/course to the unifying theme. So, for example, when I wrote the series on 'Black Belt Presentations', I had a similar problem. There were hundreds of books out on presentations already. And they covered tons of aspects of presentations. To make my series different, I had to choose a unifying theme.
The unifying theme chosen was "control"
I realised that all the information I had needed to be split up into three parts: control of visuals, control of structure of presentation and control of audience. I also realised that in doing so, the series was covering ground that the other books weren't. So for me, as the writer, it gave me the benchmark to then create three separate books and put it under one unifying theme. Instead of mashing a ton of information wildly together, as is done with many books, I could focus on the specific aspect of control.
And yes, this specific theme helps the reader too.
2) How does it work for the reader?
Most readers are swamped with courses or products that don't have a unifying theme. Even some of the best-selling books on the planet, simply mash concepts, research and examples together without having a clear binding force. And this means the reader bounces from concept to concept madly, trying to understand the concept and apply it to their own life or business. When the product/course has a clear unifying theme, it's like that theme party. Everyone knows why they're wearing their 70's suit and handlebar moustaches and it's easier to assimilate the information.
But the advantages of the unifying theme don't stop there. It's pure shark-bait for marketing and publicity.
3) How it helps with marketing and publicity
The media has always thrived on something short and sweet. They call it a soundbite.
When a reporter asks you: What is your book or course about? You need to be clear what it's about in a single line, or single word, if possible. So when they ask, what is the 'Black Belt Presentations' about, we can say "control". When they ask, what is The Brain Audit about, we can say, "Why customers back away at the last minute". So we can use a slightly longer set of words (a line) or a single word. And as you can tell, they're both shark-bait.
Immediately the media person knows, you know your stuff
Because the next question will be: Oh, and what is that? And that gives you the permission to quickly tell your story on radio, TV, magazines. But say you never go to the media, your sales page is still a media outlet. The customer still wants that sound bite about your product/course. So in effect, the unifying theme doesn't just help you put things together, but also helps you sell/tell the world about that product/course.
Of course, this leaves us with one puzzling question: How do we get to this unifying theme in the first place?
There are two ways. The first way is simply to keep ploughing through writing the rough draft of your notes or slides. I personally would be inclined to do a slide-like storyboard, even if I were writing just a book.
You might want to do a mind map, or stick Post-It(r) stickers all over your wall
But once you have all the points down, you need to find something that clearly connects all the parts together. Something that you can ideally sum up in one word.
If you can't do it yourself, organise a set of friends, or clients or anyone who will be able to help, so that you can work out what binds your product/course together. But as you'd expect, there's another way.
The other way is to decide in advance
You decide that you're going to write an article writing course, and you choose the word "drama". Now every part of the article writing course or book must hinge on drama. And so, in a way, you're force fitting the ideas to a unifying theme. Now the word you've chosen becomes a benchmark to measure against.
And this is where the biggest problem lies
When you've come to your one word/your theme, you'll want to choose something else.
Like I could choose another type of music on my iPod. Or we could choose from dozens of party themes. But instead, we grit our teeth, make our decision and stick with it. And that creates the foundation of a great product/or course.
Try it. It's like the experience of listening to 72 songs of Sting back to back.
For me, it's heaven. For my wife, it's hell.
But at least there's a unifying theme for both of us