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A few tips for better blogging.

Blogging is an important way that we market ourselves, our businesses, and our beliefs. Everyone feels the need to have one. The question is, are people reading them? Here are five things you can do to improve your readability.

Keep it short. One idea per blog. Say what you have to say and move on. If it starts to exceed about half a page, then you should review it and see if maybe you have enough to say to make it 2 blogs.

Within your audience, keep it informal. Obviously if your audience is corporate lawyers then your tone and vocabulary should stay more formal than for the home puppy training set, but even then, you want to be a relatively easy, quick read.

Don’t forget the personal. Why is this relevant to you? Why do I come to your blog rather than someone else’s blog?

Proof, but don’t fuss. As a professional editor and writer, I know better than most how important it is to be grammatical and well written, but frankly, if it isn’t horrible, then most of your readers won’t notice. Blogs are the one place that I break my own rule about always have someone else proof your work. I read, re-read, and then post. If I’ve made an error, someone will gleefully point it out. If I take too much time, the blog doesn’t get finished, and I don’t make my posting goals.

Stockpile when you are in the mood. I’m not always in the mood to blog. I don’t always feel inspired. Sometimes you have to make yourself write something anyway. I get around this by writing more than one blog on the days I’m really inspired and saving them as drafts until I need them. You’re more interesting when you’re interested. Save it up.

 

 

3 Ways Your Business Bio Can Hurt Your Business.

Are you happy with your business bio?

Most people 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.

For a small business the bio is an important sales tool that most entrepreneurs are ignoring. On the Internet or on your print based materials, if someone is taking the time to read your bio, they are already looking for your product or service. Your bio needs to help them see that YOU are the one they want to buy it from.

Is your current bio doing the job? Here are three ways your current business bio can hurt your bottom line:

It’s badly written.

People say they hate to write their bio. It’s a chore that gets put off until the last possible minute. That shows, and that’s the wrong sort of message to be putting out there. Is your bio clear? Is it concise? Is it properly directed, in tone and vocabulary, to your target market? Did you have it edited before you posted it? All these things can make or break your first impression – you only have a few seconds.

It’s boring.

Corporate speak is for corporations. If you are a small business you need to be personable and approachable. A boring bio suggests you are a boring person with nothing new to offer. An enticing bio needs to sell you as a person at least as much as it sells your professional skills. Be engaging, be fun. If you can make the reader smile you’re already on your way to a sale.

It’s too long.

Your business bio isn’t a full resume. It isn’t designed to tell everything about you. It’s a quick snap shot that should intrigue your audience and encourage them to contact you directly if they want more information. What makes you and your business uniquely different and why do people buy from you? It probably isn’t what you think. If you want to really understand what sets you apart? Ask your clients.

So, are you ready to be honest? Is your bio one of the tortured ones?

Are you ready to fix it? Do you want some help?

It’s all about the platform.

This weekend I attended a conference sponsored by Hay House. (They’re a publishing company.) The first session I attended was by and for writers presented by best selling author Cheryl Richardson and Hay House CEO Reid Tracy.

Every third point was about platform. Possibly every second point. So they are very, very serious about it. Particularly Reid Tracy. He said that when they get a book proposal at Hay House, the first thing they do is read the query letter where you tell them about the idea for your book. If that is at all interesting, the very next thing they do is look at your platform.

So what is the platform?

Your marketing. What have you done. What will you do. Who is your audience and how are you going to reach them. How many of them have you already reached? How do you stay in touch. Do you have a blog? How many followers.

I had no idea that this was the critical turning point that could make or break your book. Apparently, it is. I highly doubt that Reid Tracy is alone on this in the industry.

So what do you need to do? You need to find your people.

Start a Facebook page. Not just your personal account, but a page for your book, or your interest, or yourself as an author or subject matter expert. Use this page to start collecting people who are interested in what you have to say.

Start a blog. Blogs are a way to share your subject matter expertise, ideas, questions, and to reach the people who are interested in what you have to say without them having to invest too much into accessing your message. If you can build a following for your blog, then you’ll already have reached the people who will then want to read your book.

Collect a database. If you offer a newsletter, or if you have a piece of information you’ve written into an e-Book (or if you can think of one that would be interesting) then send it to people via email. Once you have their email addresses, then you can inform them when something new happens. Like the upcoming release of your new book. There are a lot of rules and regulations and guidelines about emails. That’s another topic. Go with a reliable provider like AWebber or MailChimp, they have all the rules worked out so you can follow them.

Buy domains. If you’re going to be a brand then owning the domain that goes with it is a good idea. If the one you really want isn’t available, figure out some permutations that make sense. Try to own the domain for any book titles you’re working with. You can always relinquish or sell them later, it isn’t that big an expense.

Build a website. If you have a subject matter expertise then maybe you have a website devoted to that long before you put your book together. Or if you have a business website, add a section about your interest/cause that your clients and friends can start connecting to.

Answer emails and comments. If people are  taking the time to reach out to you (and they aren’t being ugly about it) then you have given them something they wanted and you have become someone they admire at some level. When they reach out to you, reach back. Maintain those connections.

Reid Tracy highly recommended the book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt. I haven’t read it yet, since I’m currently in the middle of 3 other books, but I have downloaded the kindle version so I’m all set as soon as I finish one of the others in progress. It was just published in May so the details should all be very relevant and Reid said the instructions he lists are extremely detailed and easy to follow.

One question that came up during the session is, shouldn’t I wait and do all this when the book is done and being published? Absolutely not. If you want to go  the traditional route, then without it, you might never be published at all. If you self publish, getting noticed will take that much longer.

And even in our 24/7 media hype twitter fueled world, it still takes a suspiciously long time to become an overnight success. Start reaching out now with what you have. They’ll notice when you have more.

Make time for praise.

How often do you take the time to write a recommendation on LinkedIn?

Usually that answer is ‘not as often as I should’.

Why don’t you?

What tends to stop people is the idea that they don’t know what to say.

Recently my husband’s company made some lay offs. It happens even in the best companies. Actually, the best companies do it regularly to make sure that the people who are there are contributing to keeping that company one of the best. People who don’t contribute, or don’t fit the culture, or are negative… there are lots of reasons to let someone go that have nothing to do with competence, although certainly that is an important reason too.

So what happens when someone you liked working with but didn’t know very well but found pleasant and competent is one of those people who got the axe, and then you get a linked in message asking for a recommendation? Around here you talk to your favorite writing expert and she gives you some guidelines!

1. You weren’t the boss and that will be clear on your recommendation.
LinkedIn makes it clear when you start what your position relative to the person you’re recommending was. A colleague, someone you hired for a specific service, a friend. You’re making your recommendation based on that.

2. LinkedIn will also ask you to pick a few highlights of the service you got that you’re recommending about. This will help you decide which parts of your interaction were most significant to you. Where they helpful? Exceptionally competent? We often find it easier to pick from a list of options, so that’s what LinkedIn gives us to work with. Let that guide you.

3. If you look at the list of options and none of the things listed are what you wanted to focus on, then pick some for the form and then write your paragraph about what you do want to focus on.

4. Remember, it’s a paragraph. 2 at the most. You can be as brief as you want and still say something meaningful. Pick 3 characteristics (or only 2 if that is what comes to mind) and say what you need to say. Then stop. Be genuine. Be positive. Be brief.

5. Don’t over think this. This is the biggest stumbling block. We get caught up in saying things just right. Does this sound too…whatever. This is not a make-or-break document! This is a friendly gesture. Write it as a gesture of friendship or appreciation of service well provided, or professional respect, and then move on.

If you’d like to see examples, check out this recommendation I wrote for the person who built my spiffy new website, or for one of the amazing health coaches I work with. I’ve also been gifted with some great recommendations of my own.

Are you using the force?

Getting everything you want in life is simple, but it isn’t easy.

Mel Robbins

Mel Robbins does an excellent presentation about getting up off your…chair and putting yourself outside your comfort zone to make the changes you really want in your life. Well worth your 20 minutes.

Inertia is so easy. So easy to do what you’ve always done.  And if you already have everything you want, then I suppose that works. But if you want something new? That isn’t going to cut it.

I set myself some ambitious goals this month about making some internal changes for my business. Progress is pretty good, as long as I stay off the couch. But if I sit on the couch? Suddenly the inertia is overwhelming and hours can pass without actually accomplishing anything further than bonding with the cat. Which I consider important, but it shouldn’t really be my dominant accomplishment for the day. I’ve been experimenting with ways to get myself back off the couch once I’ve sat down. And experimenting with different ways to structure my day so that I never go over there. Which means not working from my laptop until late in the day no matter how much I tell myself it will be fine and it is perfectly possible to have a great productive day from the laptop.

I’m sure it is, but not for me, not right now. Not until I’ve broken the habits I built during a grieving phase where I used the laptop to escape. Escape was then. Productive is now.

What tricks do you use to keep from getting sucked into a seemingly innocent behavior that is actually a productivity black hole? And what is the ‘force’ that you use to get yourself back up out of it?

An uphill battle is the wrong one.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that life is going to be easy or that we don’t have to work hard for what we want to achieve.

Recently I had one of those situations where every time you think you are making progress another road block throws itself squarely in your way and you have yet another problem to mess with. You never quite feel that you are really making any progress at all. It is exhausting and frustrating.

Those situations should be your first clue that you are going about it, whatever it is, the wrong way.

If you think about it I’m sure you’ve experienced the other kind of progress where you put your full effort into a situation and suddenly you’ll meet just the right person or find just the right website with exactly the information you need or you’ll get a sudden flash of insight. The work isn’t less, but it is more productive and more satisfying. You get the help or inspiration that you need to keep moving forward with your plan or project. You get energized by each little success and it spurs you on to work even harder.

Those are the right battles.

Today I’m promising myself that the next time I find myself in a two-steps-back-for-each-step-forward uphill all the way battle I’m going to take a moment to sit calmly and focus on what other ways this topic could be approached and try it that way instead.

And I’m telling you all about it because I’m pretty sure I’ll forget that promise the next time I’m in a tizzy. So please hold me to it!

What are you saying?

Nothing forces you to think about what you’re saying like a bad case of laryngitis! For several weeks now I’ve had to think about every word I wanted to let pass my lips because each word is an effort. Or had to be written down. Which is a heck of a way to have a conversation with your family.

I think its been a great exercise for me. It has really reinforced my conviction that how you say what you’re going to say is really critical. If every word is an effort, then you pay very strict attention to what each of those words is, and what impact it is going to have. Is it exactly the right word for the situation? Is it going to convey my meaning precisely without requiring a forced, painful explanation as follow up?

Wouldn’t our professional communication really benefit from that kind of review? To say what needs to be said as clearly and concisely as possible. To make sure your message is conveyed exactly as you wished, for maximum comprehension, the very first time it goes out to your customers? How much thought are you giving to that part of your sales process?

In our world of instantaneous communication, I think we could all benefit from a short period of silence to think about what we’re saying, and how we’re saying it.

But its been 3 weeks now, and I’m really, very ready to go back to talking.

Who are you?

This is not an existentialist, meaning of life question. Its serious. I’ve gotten 5 separate requests just today from people who want to connect via LinkedIn. People who I would not recognize if we were making idle conversation in line at the grocery store, face to face.

When trying to build your LinkedIn network, the very best thing you can do is type over that pithy generic default message that comes up. Just highlight it and type over it! Then take a few seconds to remind me who you are, and why you think we should connect. Are we friends with many of the same people? Did we meet at a networking function? Are you my second cousin twice removed? Who are you?

LinkedIn is about building business connections and relationships. They should be based on something other than you saw my name in someone else’s list.

If I can’t figure out who you are, then I probably won’t connect with you. I’m not that kind of a girl.

My new focus- In Your Voice

I had a really wonderful winter holiday. It was fun, it was relaxing.

It was very productive.

I had the opportunity to learn so many new things and be exposed to so much new information in 2010 that my head was spinning. Much of what I learned and realized is well captured by this talk by Simon Sinek, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, as part of the Better Off TED, Ideas Worth Spreading project. He says, among many other things that really resonated with me “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

My winter break gave me an opportunity to slow down and think things through. I realized I wasn’t going in the right direction for me. I wasn’t inspired enough. I wasn’t excited enough. So I did what I always do when I get confused. I googled.

One of the great questions I found was “What would you do anyway, if you weren’t getting paid.” I thought about that for a long time. Then I asked some friends. “When you call me for help or an opinion, what are you calling me about.”

The answer was pretty clear. Writing.

When people ask me to look something over for them, its always about the writing. How can they say what they said, only better. I love to make words better. I hate things that are unclear or badly expressed.

If I’m going to do that kind of work anyway, which I definitely am, then perhaps that should be the work I do as my business. Because I love it. I’m passionate about it.

And I’m good at it. If I weren’t, people wouldn’t be calling me for help, now would they?

My new business is In Your Voice.

The value of editing.

Yes, I mean the editing in the traditional sense, where someone looks at words that you write and gives you feedback on them. At the very least pointing out homonyms that the spell checker didn’t notice.

This blog is inspired by an article I read today in an online news journal. The author suggested that we “search for visual queues” in a dark room. That would seem to be very odd advice, to search a dark room for a line of people waiting for something. Then I realized we probably were actually looking for ‘cues’.

I’m not perfect. I’m sure my blog has mistakes. But there are levels of care that need to be taken that vary depending on the publication and distribution of a piece of writing. Your Facebook status? The odd typo is no big deal. Most people are typing from a smart phone keyboard of 2.5 inches, we almost expect errors. A blog? Well, its nice when you get all the words right, but if you don’t, your audience is likely to be forgiving, depending on your readership following.

If you’re publishing something that calls itself a Business Magazine? I don’t care if you’re all online all the time or not. That is no excuse for not having someone on staff who reads things before they are published to catch the most egregious of errors.

But for some reason, the expense I’m certain, editing has fallen out of fashion. I’m a voracious reader and the more recently a book was published, the more likely it is that there will be some fairly serious mistakes in word usage or placement or maybe that the story just plain needed some tightening up.

Self publishing is no excuse. There are plenty of people in the world perfectly capable of doing a freelance editing job for you. I’m on my second book with the 3rd sitting in my dropbox waiting for my schedule to open up.

So please, if you’re publishing anything more serious than a blog, or if your blog has a readership of more than 100 people on a regular basis, for pity’s sake, please have someone, anyone literate really, read it before it goes public. Your spouse, your buddy, your kid, just anyone.

Because no matter how interesting your subject, your badly structured sentences and your incomprehensible grammar is going to get in the way of me caring.

‘Are’ going to get in the way. See what I mean?