Chuck Jones, the cartoonist behind the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, once created a set of nine rules (road runner rules) that he used as a filter for his creative process.
We’re gonna steal his idea, and create Road Runner Rules for a content-based business.
But before we go any further, you know what a content-based business is, ya?
A content-based business is one in which a business owner shares consistent and free content (emails, blog posts, articles, videos, podcasts, etc) with an audience. That content helps audience members improve some aspect of their lives. The business owner makes money by creating products and/or services that build on the free content and provide even more value to the audience.
I’m certainly not the first to stumble upon Jones’ rules, which were first made public in a 1999 autobiography. (In fact, I didn’t even find them on my own—my friend Matt Giovanisci told me about them.) But once I read the nine rules and understood how Jones used them, well…BEEP BEEP! I knew they could work for business, too.
Here are Chuck Jones’ original Road Runner Rules:
OK, off you go to implement these for your business!
Kidding. Obviously, your rules may have fewer beeps and comedic anvils, but the list above can still be incredibly helpful. And just like your values, your Road Runner Rules can become a set of guiding principles (or filters, if you will). They can help strengthen the content you put out into the world.
Inspired by Jones, I’ve come up with nine questions we can ask ourselves to create our own set of rules for a content-based business.
I’ll share my rules after the questions, specifically as they relate to content I used to share on my JasonDoesStuff website and with my previous community, the Action Army.
Questions For Creating Your Own Road Runner Rules
Grab a pen and paper, open up a Google Doc, or fire up your Notes app of choice and answer these nine questions:
1. What’s something unique about the way you create and share content?
2. What topic or genre will you never create content about?
3. What’s one word that can describe the outcome you want for the people who consume the content you create? Include the definition of that word (or a quote that really resonates with you).
4. How do you speak to your audience? Is it from a place of relation? From a place of authority? Both? Somewhere else entirely?
5. What is your content schedule? What can you commit to that doesn’t waver or change?
6. Do you share stories from other people, or only talk about yourself and your experiences?
7. List out the tools you’ll use to create your content. (Having a list of tools will help you create with more consistency and without getting down rabbit holes of trying new tools all the time.)
8. What’s one question you can ask yourself at every turn to make sure you’re staying on track with the content you create?
9. What’s something you won’t compromise on when it comes to creating content for your audience?
Your answers to these nine questions may/will change over time…
I’d challenge you to stick to your answers until you absolutely must make a change. These are foundational things. The answers should be based on what you believe in and what you stand for. Those things shouldn’t change too often.
(If you’re questioning this, think again of the original Road Runner Rules. How different a cartoon would it be if those nine things weren’t consistent?)
Example Road Runner Rules for JasonDoesStuff (My Previous Business)
1. Something unique: I will always write and share content in my own authentic voice. I will not remove my nonsensical tangents and commentary. Those are what make my content stand out from the rest.
2. I will never: write from a place of criticism or belittlement.
3. In one word: Action. (Action is defined as inspiring people to do something specific.)
4. I speak to my audience: from a place of relation, and hopefully with some experience to share. I never want it to feel like I’m talking down to anyone. I always want you to feel like I’m in the entrepreneurial trenches with you, because I am!
5. Content schedule: I will send my weekly newsletter to the Action Army on Monday mornings at 10am Eastern.
6. When sharing stories: I can share other people’s stories, but I must always pick stories that I have some experience with or that have helped me make a big change in my life/business.
7. Tools: I write everything in the Bear Writer app. My editor edits in Google Docs. I send the finished article through Drip to the Action Army. Then I update my Content Calendar Spreadsheet, which helps me track what I’m working on and when I post.
8. At every turn, I ask myself: Does this thing I’m creating help someone take a specific action in their life/business?
9. I will not compromise on: sponsorship integrity. I will never create paid content for companies I don’t use/love. I believe selling out is defined as taking money for something you don’t absolutely enjoy doing (or talking about).
As I wrote out my own Road Runner Rules, I realized how helpful it will be to revisit these rules whenever I felt stuck. If I ever felt like a piece of content, an online course, a podcast episode, or anything I created didn’t meet the requirements of my nine rules, then I wouldn’t share that thing. In fact, I should immediately blow that piece of content up (with Acme dynamite, obviously) and make sure it doesn’t see the light of day!
What If You Don’t Have A Content-Based Business?
Your Road Runner Rules can be a set of guiding principles for your business.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you probably do. Whether you’re actually creating content is a different story, but nearly all businesses can benefit from putting out targeted content these days.
If you’re starting your business from scratch, this doesn’t mean you need to sign up for social media accounts and start posting tweets, status updates, pins, snapchats, and whatever else. It means that you should create content that can help your customers improve their lives and their experience with whatever product or service you create.
Road Runner Rules can work for all types of businesses
My friend Jeff Sheldon runs the popular apparel company Ugmonk. Over the years he’s focused just on creating quality products and hasn’t worried too much about the content. In recent years, however, he’s released a few – beautiful – videos and has shared some behind-the-scenes stories of his creation process.
My favorite video from Jeff, taken on a trip to Iceland:
Jeff has noticed an increase in attention and revenue from the content he puts out.
He’s rewarding the loyalty of his existing customers and bringing in new people who love his content. He understands that creating content (in a way that he enjoys creating it) is helping his business grow.
There’s a reason why almost all of us immediately run to Google when we want to find something. What shows up when you Google something? Content!
If you can create helpful content (read: stuff that makes your audience/customers more awesome), you can attract way more people who matter to your business.
It’s time to create your own Road Runner Rules to build your business foundation!
Scroll back up and copy and paste the questions into whatever writing app you use. Then, answer the 9 questions!
So what’re you waiting for? Run as fast as the Road Runner, avoid any falling anvils, and start writing your nine rules now.