writing

Don’t assume people understand

Are you introducing a new program? Running an event that’s going to be amazing? Offering all kinds of incredibly valuable products and services that nobody is buying?

Sometimes we need to take a step back from what we’re doing to make sure that we really and obviously explained to people what’s in it for them to buy or take part in something.

Figure out the key value points

First, think about what the main value is of what you’re offering. What will people get or what problem will it solve?

Try to come up with three to five things. It could be that they’ll learn something, it could be that they’ll feel better, it could be that they’ll meet like-minded people. Having these values in writing will help you get better at selling. 

Share that information in detail somewhere

Now you want to really explain the value. This is where a blog is really useful. If you don’t have that, a product page or a post on Facebook or on other social media networks will work.  Write out in about 500 words (this is more of a blog post guideline) what the value is. Break it up in much the way this post is done with sub-headings that jump out (download our free infographic on the key parts of a great blog post).

Value one – two to three sentence description explaining how that will translate for them.

Value two – what is going to change for them as a result of taking part or buying your product.

Value three – what tangible learning point or thing will they get out of buying? 

Use plain language 

Sometimes one of our biggest weaknesses is not realizing that other people don’t understand the way we speak. As much as possible, break things down as simply as possible. Try not to think of this as “dumbing down” your content, but instead think of it as making it easy to read quickly and simple to understand. 

How plain and simple your content is also depends on who you’re talking to. If you’re offering an advanced class in something you’re going to speak in a language that makes it clear that this isn’t for beginners, but take the time to think that through. You want to ensure that people don’t feel overwhelmed when they’re exactly who you’re hoping to have take part in something.

End with a call to action

One of my biggest weaknesses in business in the past has been to tell people all about the things that I do, but fail to make it clear and easy for them to actually start working with me. I think that’s something a lot of people feel uncomfortable with and worry feels pushy. 

Here’s the thing though – people often don’t think to take the action you’re hoping that they’ll take. You need to make it as easy and straightforward as possible for them to do the thing you want them to do.  

State the call to action – Download this free infographic now,  sign up for the class now <insert a link for them to sign up>, buy this amazing widget here <insert a link for them to buy>. 

By clearly explaining the value of what you’re offering and making buying or taking whatever action you want them to take as simple as possible you are far more likely to convert your readers to customers.  

Leave a comment and let me know if you have anything to add or experience with making this work!

 

Blogging: a story is worth repeating

Lately, everything I write feels stale (sort of like the writer’s block I had in the Fall).  I’ve written so many blog posts on so many topics that I keep having deja vu every time I start writing.  So today I am going to write a post reminding myself of all the things that I tell my clients about why you can write about the same topic repeatedly without it being a problem.

a story is worth repeating (2).png

1) Not everyone has seen every blog post you’ve written

Your audience changes, and it grows. On top of all the new readers you probably didn’t have last time you wrote about a subject, not everyone actually sees and reads everything you write, and not everyone remembers everything they’ve read.  In the end, how many people will actually think “she’s written this before!” and even more importantly, mind? The answer is, not many.

2) Things change

Even if you’ve written about something before, chances are quite high that you’re now coming at it from a different angle as you revisit it.  You have new experience and new knowledge, and whatever prompted you to write about the topic is probably different than it was the last time you wrote about it.  That changes the perspective, the facts, and the overall tone and message of the post.

3) Repeat repeat repeat

Just because people have heard something before doesn’t mean they couldn’t get something valuable out of hearing it again. Repetition is important.  I know that I often need to hear something a few times before I start taking it seriously or take any action.

So what does all of this mean for you and your content?

It means that not only should you be OK with writing about topics you’ve written about before, but that you can actually go through your old posts and your analytics to see what topics were particularly popular and plan to write about them again. Instead of being held back, you’ve now got more to write about!

A nice bonus is that the more you write great content on a subject, the more likely Google is to rank you as a credible source on that topic.  It’s win win.

So on that note, over the coming weeks you can look forward to some old topics coming back again.  If you have any preferences on which topics, leave me a comment and let me know!

The challenge of consistent content delivery

What’s the challenge?

 

Not enough businesses plan ahead.

What topic do you want to discuss today? How about tomorrow? Next week? Next month? How do these topics help you achieve your overall business goals? Did you write them down?

Many business owners feel they have to sit down for X amount of time per day and “do” social media. While I think setting a dedicated time to check in is a good thing, it’s not necessarily the best time for you to scramble to put a blog post together, promote it on Facebook, Twitter et al and then try to squeeze in some actual social interactions. 

Instead, why not block off a half day once or twice a month to bulk schedule your foundation content? Does that sound overwhelming? Here are three steps to make it painless.

1) Create and use an editorial calendar.

Your editorial calendar is where you can decide whether you want to have themes to focus on - monthly, weekly, and/or daily. Here’s a sample of our editorial calendar:

See how organized it can make your process? Sign up for our newsletter and I’ll send you the Excel file!By taking an hour to plan out about 6 months of themes, you will create a plan that guides your work.

2) Write the content.

Set aside a fixed time when you can sit and write uninterrupted. Use this time to write blog and other social media posts that fit your themes. Don’t forget to update the editorial calendar as you do the writing. 

3) Schedule the content.

Since you’ve already put everything in your editorial calendar, scheduling it all out is a pretty quick process. I recommend scheduling no more than 1-4 weeks in advance so you can easily make adjustments. Sometimes things happen that can change the focus you want to take. That doesn’t mean that content isn’t still good - it just means that it may be put off for a bit.

Bonus tip: Be present.

Scheduling your content is okay, even though some have differing opinions. However, scheduling content does not mean that you set it and forget it. I’ve met with clients who do this and they’re very unsatisfied with the results of their efforts. Get on social media and be social. You don’t have to tell your life story, but don’t push out content you want people to read without being there to talk to them about that and other things as well.

What other tips do you have for organizing and minimizing the time you spend on social media?

What to do when you get writer's block

Lately every time I sit down to write a blog post I hit a wall.  I can usually get a paragraph or two out but then it just won’t come any more.

I’ve started blog posts on why small businesses need to use social media, on Facebook ads, about personality in your writing…. they’re all saved and closed because getting them finished seemed impossible.

We all hit walls

We are constantly encouraging people to write a lot of content.  Content for their blogs, websites, newsletters, Facebook, Twitter and sometimes more!  We know it isn’t always easy.  Even when we know what we want to say, sometimes the words just don’t come out.

What can we do?

I decided that instead of hitting my head against my desk because I couldn’t complete a number of posts even though I knew what I wanted to say I was going to write a post about overcoming writer’s block (hoping that the change of subject would help me overcome my own).

I googled and I read all kinds of articles and I’m going to share some of the tips that struck me most.  Oh, and one of them I saw repeatedly was “Write about something else” so this totally wasn’t procrastinating!   

Free writing

Just write.  Write anything that comes into your head.  Do you remember stream of consciousness exercises?  Do that.  In my opinion, it would be even better with a pen and paper, but wherever you write, just let your brain throw anything it wants out. Write until it doesn’t seem difficult anymore.

This quote from Maya Angelou really made me smile too.  Irritate your muse into getting back into action:

“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’”

Mind mapping

What are you trying to say?  Map out the entire thing. 

I know that I have a tendency to have an idea and think “I know where I’m going to go with this” and then wonder why I’m sitting halfway through not knowing what to say next.  Break it down.  

  • What are you writing about?
  • Why are you writing about it?
  • Who are you writing it for?
  • What are you telling them?
  • Are you making suggestions?
  • Breaking down the steps on how to do something?
  • How will you conclude what you had to say? 
  • What was the key thing they should have taken from all you wrote?
  • And finally, what do you want them to do next?

Now that every part of what you wanted to say is down on paper, it may be a lot easier to tie it all together into the style of writing you’re looking for.

Tell someone else

I loved this piece of advice from John Steinbeck because I could immediately see how it would work for me.  If I had someone ask me to tell them why social media for business was important, I would have no problem doing it.  Writing it as an article is an entirely different proposition.

“Many years ago, I met John Steinbeck at a party in Sag Harbor, and told him that I had writer’s block. And he said something which I’ve always remembered, and which works. He said, “Pretend that you’re writing not to your editor or to an audience or to a readership, but to someone close, like your sister, or your mother, or someone that you like.” And at the time I was enamored of Jean Seberg, the actress, and I had to write an article about taking Marianne Moore to a baseball game, and I started it off, “Dear Jean … ,” and wrote this piece with some ease, I must say. And to my astonishment that’s the way it appeared in Harper’s Magazine. “Dear Jean …” Which surprised her, I think, and me, and very likely Marianne Moore.”

— John Steinbeck by way of George Plimpton

Go write something

Next time you’re stuck on a piece of writing, try one of the above tricks or check out some of these resources with other tips.  And if you have a really great way you battle through writer’s block, leave a comment below.

Quick note: I think this is the longest post I’ve written in months, so maybe (just maybe) I broke down some of those writer’s block walls!

More posts on writer’s block:

Do you have any tried and true writer’s-block-busting tricks? Tell us in the comments!

Can I hear your voice when I read your written words?

Earlier this summer at the last #SoCapOtt twitter chat, Lara sent this tweet:

The statement was so simple, yet so profound and I have thought about it quite a bit in the weeks since. Lara and I both have years of experience writing for the web and have both found our distinct voices. My writing is definitely more formal than Lara’s, but - as much as I wish it weren’t so - I naturally speak more formally too. I have a lot of respect for the way that Lara says things simply and concisely and I know I’m not alone in that.

If you disregard the technical skills of writing - grammar, punctuation and spelling - and focus solely on style, there are two important areas that can influence how your words are received by readers online. 

Active vs. passive voice

Always be cognizant of active vs. passive voice in your writing – online and off. Generally, the experts would say active voice is strongly preferred in most writing, but this is especially true of writing for the web. If you aren’t sure which voice you’re using, these articles may help you: 

This is not to say that passive voice is always wrong – it isn’t! However, choose carefully when you employ passive voice; readers on the web tend to engage better with content that has an active voice. Active voice is easier to comprehend, quicker to read, and gives concrete action. 

I am the QUEEN OF PASSIVE VOICE at times - or I used to be. I’ve worked hard to reduce the amount of passive voice in my writing so that what I have to say has greater clarity and focus. 

Formal vs. Informal

I think formal vs. informal is much more subjective than passive vs. active. If you speak formally, that IS your voice. If you speak informally, that IS your voice. It’s an area where good writers are able to be flexible. They use formal or informal tone as required by the purpose, medium and audience of a piece. However, if you’re all the writing for your small business blog and social networking accounts, you are likely THE voice of the brand and it is appropriate that it should sound like you.

Online, the style that is easier for readers to engage with and respond to is informal, or conversational.

It makes sense; we’re all participating in a conversation on our blogs, social networks, and email that often extends to phone calls and face-to-face meetings. You can’t go wrong if you write conversationally.

Pro-tip: Record and Transcribe

Not sure if you’re writing the way you speak? Instead of typing your next post, record your thoughts and then transcribe. How does it compare to your usual content? 

If you find it’s significantly different and you like the result from transcribing, try out some of the voice to text software that’s available. 

Can I hear your voice when I read your written words?