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Who speaks for you?

Anyone else watching House of Cards? I’m not a big tv watcher, but the writing on this show is really compelling. Disturbing, but compelling.

I won’t give any spoilers for those who aren’t caught up, but in an episode that we watched last weekend Claire invited Tom, the book writer, to join her team  for speech writing.

I’m excited to see speech writers being given recognition on this show. Lots of people don’t really realize what an integral part of the team they are for any public figure. All those speeches are critically important and if you have to give the same message, yet say it a little differently each time, it helps to have a wordsmith on your team helping you get the spin right each time for each audience.

In this particular episode, Tom puts a little something extra into one of her speeches that she takes out. And yet a few scenes later Claire takes that basic idea and the framework that her writer set up for her and ran with it to a huge response. The job of a speech writer is to know your message maybe better than you do yourself, because while all your time is focused on creating the message and making it happen, we the writing staff can spend all our time figuring out how to frame and describe the causes and changes that you feel so powerfully about.

If you are incredibly passionate, but you feel that words fail you when you try to share that passion, talk to a writer. Work as a team.

It’s not about the credit.

I am often asked if I don’t get frustrated writing for other people behind the scenes.

I really don’t.

See, it isn’t about the credit, because the concepts and ideas that I write about aren’t mine.

I am an endlessly curious person and I love learning about new things. A wide variety of new things. I love working with professionals who know things I don’t. A videographer. A chiropractor. A lawyer. A psychic. Through a process of interviews I have access to their professional expertise and their unique perspective on their specialty. Then I get to take the knowledge, pair it with their own speech patterns, and write it out to share with others.

I get to read (as I write) interesting blogs and books and I get paid for it. I get to meet and work with fascinating people and learn things I might not have had time to learn otherwise.

So no, I really don’t need the credit.

Your bio matters.

Are you happy with your business bio?

Most business owners I talk to aren’t, they just don’t know if it’s important enough to fix. It was pretty torturous to write in the first place and no one wants to mess with it again.

Fix it. It is that important.

Why are customers buying from you? We tend to think our talents and strengths are normal and everyone has them. We miss marketing our most unique and valuable abilities because we just don’t see them. In the new world of passive marketing that’s an advantage we can no longer afford to miss.

Are you telling perspective customers who you really are with the bio you’re currently using?

In Your Voice has a unique way to create a remarkable business bio that shows off who you really are. We still use the traditional things, like a copy of your existing bio and your LinkedIn profile. The twist is, we get permission to interview 3 of your best referrers, people who really know you. They provide an invaluable perspective on what makes you the very best at what you do. This gives us the insight to really showcase what is unique about you from an unexpected direction.

The result? Three versions of your bio suitable for speaking engagements, social media, and your website and even unique-to-you phrases you can use during in-person networking events.

You don’t have to write another word.

Ready to start? Drop me an email.


So, you write ghost stories?

I notice when I go out networking many people haven’t actually heard of a ghostwriter.

No, it’s nothing to do with ghost stories.

I write for other people, then fade away, like a ghost.

The two best known examples are celebrity ‘autobiographies’ and speeches.

While I’m sure a few very famous people have really written their own stories, for the most part they are too busy, and writing may not be their thing. So they hire a special person to come in and work with them and through a series of interviews, with them, and perhaps with their families, the ghostwriter is able to portray the story they want to share, in their words. If the celebrity has published articles, those can be incorporated as well.

Politicians and other public figures often do not write every speech they give. They work with very special professionals who can take their own word choices and speech patterns, as well as an understanding of their platform, whatever it may be, and they create a speech very much like the person would have written, if they had the time. The best of the public speakers then take these speeches and adjust them, alter them, personalize them, until they are exactly right. Speech writers are a special segment of ghostwriters.

Take that concept and apply it to the business world. Does the average CEO write their own blog? How about prominent lawyers? I suspect most of them work with a writing professional.

It’s an effective, efficient way to get your thoughts out, while limiting the time you take to do something you don’t like to do, you don’t feel that you do well, or that you just plain don’t want to do.

The core of your business.

Recently as part of my personal development I finally, finally figured out how to identify my ‘core values’. The words that describe the things that are most important to my life.

How did I do this? I Googled ‘core values’ and read some things. I didn’t find them helpful. I downloaded a list. I printed it out. I circled some things. I crossed some things out. I made some notes on the side. I added a word that wasn’t there. I made a list. I rewrote the list. For about a week I had this piece of paper in the main work surface of my desk, and I’d read the list I wrote yesterday, I’d look over the words, and I’d make some more changes. Now I think I have the ones that really drive me.

So why am I writing a business blog about this?

Because I am an entrepreneur and my business is part of my life, not separate from it. Even though those core values are personal development, every day that I use them as a guide they help me make the right business decisions for my life.

Teaching- I like to teach. I like to share my knowledge. So I have a blog. Actually, I have several blogs. Every day that I find I’m thinking something over and over, or every time I have several clients that get the same explanation, I try to write a blog about it. If I have several clients who need to learn something, then others probably do to. Blogging isn’t just about marketing.

Integrity- This is huge for me. Am I walking my talk? Am I advising people for their highest good, or mine? Am I offering my services because that’s what I do, or because I really think I can help this person? So sometimes, my advice to a potential client is “I’m not your girl”.

Nature- I’ll admit that this one plays a little less in my business life. Except that my office is lit with natural light light bulbs. It’s painted a color that relaxes me. I have pictures of the outdoors that inspire and relax me on my bulletin board. And I always open the blinds and look out the window as much as possible.

My people- The terms ‘family’ and ‘community’ were both on that list, but neither of them said the right thing to me. Some of my people are blood, some of my people are customers, and some of my people are cats. They get priority. Sure, sometimes I have a real tight deadline, or an appointment, but I try to be sure that time is rescheduled so those important to me never, every doubt that they are important. It also helps me realize that time-to-cuddle-the-cat is an integral part of my life, that I value and cherish. It is not an ‘interruption’ of something ‘important’. It is the something important. How wonderful that my job lets me work from home where I can focus on that.

Fun- I want my job to be fun. I like what I do. I like to write. I have 3 personal blogs on top of the many blogs I write for customers. I like my clients. I take my ‘spidey-sense’ very seriously and try to never sign a client that I don’t think I can have fun with. Sure, there are parts that I don’t love and I don’t find fun, but as my business grows you can be certain that the not-fun parts are the ones I’m most urgently planning to outsource as the resources become available!

Those are my values. Each and every one of them helps me make better business decisions, according to my definition of ‘better’. What makes me happier and more satisfied? What makes me more eager to start work each day? I urge you to look over your core values and make sure that you are applying those to your business choices. Your business is part of your life. Make sure it reflects what is important to you.

30 Seconds-Go!

In the world of small business marketing, there is this thing known as the 30 second commercial.

I shudder at the very name.

Really, the name is a problem. If you think about it as a commercial you’re going into it with the wrong approach. You want to think about it as your Brief Introduction.

You can’t sell me in 30 seconds, so please don’t try. Most people are trying to cram their entire business profile into those 30 seconds. It’s full of jargon, carefully constructed (can you say convoluted?) intricate sentences and it is obviously rehearsed, because no one talks that way.

Much like a commercial. Usually, your 30 seconds sounds just as fake as the woman who loves mopping the floor.

Those 30 seconds shouldn’t be your sales pitch. They should be a teaser that makes me say “I really need to talk to her when we break.” Use that time to interest me, to engage me, to show me what a fun person you’d be to work with, and give me enough information to generate some questions. If I need what you do and I think you’re fun and interesting, I’ll hunt you down. So lets rebuild your introduction.

Shortly after I went into business for myself I learned that whatever it is that we’re selling, what we’re really selling is “I’ll take care of that for you.” So what will you take care of? What problem are you fixing? What pain will you take away? But then turn it into something unexpected. Instead of “I write blogs.” I like to start with “I want to tell your story.” Make me wonder where you’re going with that so I’m still paying attention when you get to the end.

Then make sure people can relate by sounding conversational. I could say “I offer developmental editing services to business professionals looking to increase their credibility by becoming published authors.” Sometimes I do say that. More often in a networking setting I’ll say “I work with professionals to get that half finished book off your laptop and out into the world where it can make a difference.” Give me an example. If I need your service, make me see myself in your description.

Once you’ve gotten my attention, then give me a few more details about the kinds of things you do. What makes you different? Why should I pick you?

Choose wording that comes naturally to you. This may get me blacklisted from the editors guild, but don’t worry so much about complete sentences and grammar. In conversation, some times an incomplete sentence, or something humorously grammatically incorrect, stands out in a good way for emphasis. Speak the way you normally would, but at your best and most eloquent. You have time to practice after all.

Do practice, and then practice some more. The only way to sound natural is to rehearse. Just think about some great speakers, or how about great performers? Have you ever heard a comedian do a stand up routine? They sound as if every word is just made up on the spot. If you attend their show again tomorrow, it will be the same laughs and stories, and it will still sound completely natural. That brilliant, easy assurance comes with practice. Once you’re really good at one version, mix it up a little, choose a different point to highlight. Then practice again. Like a politician, have your sound bytes ready for every opportunity.

When it’s your turn to stand up, smile and watch your body posture. When you smile and relax, the people you’re addressing will also relax. If you can get them smiling, you’re on your way to building a relationship, and that’s where the sales happen.

So if you’re me, your brief introduction looks something like this:

My name is Pamela Potter and I want to tell your story. You know that half finished manuscript on your laptop that you’ve stopped looking at? I work with professionals like you to get those manuscripts finished and out where they make you look good. You know those blog posts that you don’t write because you don’t know what to say? I write those so you don’t have to. Speeches, articles, all those ways you could be getting your message out to the world, but don’t? Well, not everyone gets to be good with words. I do, so lets work together to get your story out where it can make a difference. I’m a ghostwriter and editor and I want to help you change the world.

No list of services. No details about my methods. Just telling my story of how I’m going to fix something that you don’t like. If I touch on a pain that you feel, you’ll make a note. If I intrigue you, you’ll ask for more information. If I don’t resonate, then you aren’t my client and we’re good. Listing the details of everything I can possibly do isn’t going to change your gut reaction.

Most people buy with the heart, not the mind. So reach out to them there. Ditch the details.

Get focused.

I’ve recently been working with several customers who are having some trouble with the idea of the target market. I really, really understand this because it was an issue I struggled with for quite a long time.

Here’s what you really need to know.

Identifying your target market isn’t a limit, it’s a focus.

Suzanne Evans is a coach who really resonates with me. Her approach to helping you find your target market is “who can you help the most”? Who are you driven to serve? Given your knowledge and life experience (not necessarily formal education) who are you best equipped to help succeed in their own journey?

Where can you do the most good?

When I was looking for these answers for my own business, all I could see was that by defining who my target was, I was excluding everyone who didn’t fall under that umbrella. Which causes panic and anxiety in a new business. All those people who can’t be my customers! But that isn’t really how it works.

By clearly defining my target, I know where to look. I have a way to decide which networking events to attend. I know how to phrase my own story about what I do. I know who I want to be reading this blog article. I have some selection criteria on how to choose who to approach at an event. I have a focus.

It does not mean that I have to turn down a client who is outside my target. It doesn’t mean I exclude. My target is generally educated professional women between 40-60. Does that mean if I’m approached by senior gentleman wanting to write a memoir about being enlisted military that I’d say no?

Not a chance. I’d love to work with someone like that. If you know one, please send him a link to my website!

Your target market won’t be written in stone either. You should reevaluate it regularly. Have you had some clients that didn’t work out as well as you’d like? How are they different from the ones who work brilliantly. Are there similarities you can use  to refine your focus? If you started helping older women but you’re finding that your best clients are young mothers, then by all means, adjust things and go after them. Don’t get rid of the great customers you already have, but as you go out to find new clients, use your new understanding of who you love to work with as a guide.

After all, we’d all like to be so busy that we have to pick and choose carefully who we work with. Understanding your target is a way to help you get there.


The first rule

The first rule of professional writing is “have it edited”. I don’t mean for writing professionals, I mean for anyone writing professional copy. Websites, workshops, handouts, fliers, if you are creating something for the whole world to see, have someone, almost anyone, read it for you.

When you look at something you wrote, you can only see what you think it says, not necessarily what is really there. You’ll catch some mistakes, but maybe not the most important ones.

Of course, there are limits. I’m not suggesting that your Facebook posts on behalf of your business need outside editing. They are usually quite short, so any errors are easy to see and generally at the level of a typo, and Facebook viewers are remarkably tolerant of typos. I’m not really talking about blogs. Heaven knows if I had to wait for a 3rd party to edit every blog post I write, I’d never get anything posted. Blog posts, until you become tremendously famous, are usually light and chatty and your audience is likely to forgive a small error or two.

On the other hand, I recently attended a conference and was very impressed with one of the speakers…until I saw her event flier. I was still impressed with her vision and presentation, but it was tempered by her lack of attention to detail. There were 2 major errors that would have been caught by just having one other person look the material over before printing. When you are putting materials out that represent you and your business, you can’t afford to be sloppy in the details. It is counter productive.

Even as a seasoned professional with years of editing experience, I stick by this rule. On the very rare occasions that time pressures cause me to be over confident? It seems that it always comes back to haunt me. Which is very embarrassing. Have your work edited by someone you respect. It doesn’t have to be a paid professional, but it has to be someone other than you.

Don’t wear it out…

What is your favorite word? Most people, especially writers, have a few favorites. They aren’t usually sexy or inspiring, just the words we tend to use regularly in our speech patterns.

The thing is, speech is ephemeral. Writing tends to last, possibly forever, and the words we saw in the previous paragraph are still visible to us as we dive into the next one.

So, if you have a certain pattern of speech, like starting sentences with ‘so’, what is barely noticeable in a conversation begins to really stand out in writing.

The thing is (there it is again), many of the verbal connectors we use for emphasis while speaking just don’t function the same way in writing. They clutter up your text and distract from your point. In blogging and online we’re walking a fine line between wanting to sound conversational and recognizing the limiting factors of writing versus speech. If you’re writing stories, articles, or especially books, it becomes even more important to pay attention to the details and not fall into verbal bad habits.

I encourage you to take a look at the last few things you wrote and see if you can identify your personal pattern. If you can’t find it, invite a friend to look at your writing and offer comments. It isn’t exactly a problem, but if you write often it can become a little wearing on your audience.

I have a friend who is a most excellent writer. I read everything she writes and enjoy it immensely. Her characters are complex and well designed, her plots are detailed and interesting. But, her favorite words during one set of stories are ‘peculiar’ and ‘unique’ and at some points I lose the thread of the story trying to substitute alternate descriptive words. Distracting.



Should you bite your tongue?

I’m constantly amazed at the things people feel it is acceptable to ‘say’ via email and social media that I don’t think they would ever, ever come out and say to your face. Maybe they would and my friends are just unusually polite and restrained…but I don’t think so. Restrained isn’t the first thing I think when I consider the people dear to me. So it is probably something else. Here are a few techniques you can use when conflict and nasty communications are forced upon you.

Don’t take it personally. Often there are multiple ways to interpret something in writing. Reread the offending piece a few times and see if you can find a way to take it that isn’t offensive. Even if you’re pretty sure they meant it the offensive way.

Consider not responding. What will really happen if you just let this go? Will it really hurt your business? Are there real world consequences? If not, let it pass.

Keep it cool and professional. If you do need to respond, make your responses temperate and professional. Try to choose words that don’t provoke. Don’t escalate the situation; respond as neutrally as possible. If you must, you can say you find the situation unprofessional, against current policy, contrary to normal guidelines. Don’t say they are idiots, ill mannered morons, or liars. Even if you are quite certain they are all of the above. Call your friends and be honest some other time. When you reply, be professional.

Be brief. In conflict less is more. Let them bluster if they must. Make your points count and then withdraw. The longer you engage the more hostility that can come up and the more opportunity they have to drag you down to their level. Answer any salient points they offer, and stop. Don’t respond to anything but facts.

Stay off the phone. If you must engage the conflict, do it in writing. That gives you more space to think about what you’re going to say, and possibly to run it by someone you trust before you respond. If you’re on the phone it’s easy to let your mouth run away with you in the heat of an exchange. Email also gives you a record of the conversation, should you need one.

Just one more word to the wise. When writing a cathartic email, write it in word, in note-pad, anywhere but an actual email . Then you, or someone helpful, can’t accidentally send it before editing. Don’t be a cautionary tale.