Keeping Informed

by Scott Austin June 01, 2012

Keeping Informed

In a startup, its important to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible.  As a team, you need to share your learnings with everyone else and learn theirs. I've developed a little process for staying informed and sharing information.  Most people probably have developed a process of their own.  I hope mine helps you a bit. The first step is to get the right, relevant content to come to you.  I've never gotten into using RSS.  No real reason why, just haven't.  So I prefer content to come to me through email.  I have three main ways that happens:
  1. On the internet today, there is a vast wealth of content.  Many companies/people send out regular email updates.  The key is to find the best ones for your needs.  I start off by doing some searching on the web around the area I am interested in.  I sign up for all of the newsletters that I can find.  In my Outlook mail client, I set up rules to have all of these emails go to a folder that I named Review.  As I review these emails over a few cycles, I decide if the content from one source is unique enough and worth my time.  If it is not, I unsubscribe.  If I find new newsletters, I'll run them through the same process.
  2. Tracking competitors or key issues/topics is important but may not get covered well though the process the step above.  So I also use Google Alerts.  Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your keywords.  At a minimum, I set up an alert for each of my top competitors that I want to track.  Also, my company.  And any other important, relevant keywords.  I have my alerts go to the same review folder.
  3. The last one is a pretty valuable source of information because it the way you find out about things that don't get caught in your net.  And that is content that other people send you that they find.  It's the way I usually find out about a new competitor.  Whenever anyone sends me something, I send a note back to them thanking them.  That way, they know their effort was appreciated and they'll be likely to do it again.

So, now I have all of this content coming into the review folder.  And it ends up being a lot of content.  I go through the folder daily (when I'm on top of things) and read what is interesting to me.  If I find content that is worth sharing with the rest of the team, I then move it to another folder called Industry Update.  If the mail doesn't have content worth sharing, I then archive it. Then once a month, I go through the Industry Update folder and take the best content and put it into a simple HTML email format that I made.  I then send that out to the whole team.  No if I find something that I should share immediately, I will immediately send it out.  But most of it can wait for the once a month update mail.  By only sending it out once a month, I reduce a lot of the overlap and the really important stuff rises to the top.  The image below is an example of one of my Industry Update newsletters:

Hope that this gives you one or two new tools to add to your research too

Scott Austin
Scott Austin