Well Said Wednesday: Do You Haiku?

April is “National Poetry Month” in the U.S.

I enjoy poetry and a long, long, long time ago I used to write poetry*. It was well before I started focusing on more practical applications of writing — marketing content, content coaching, speechwriting, corporate communication planning.

In 2013, I decided to write a couple of “work-related” haikus in honor of National Poetry Month and post them on the 423 Communication Facebook page. At the time, I did it “because I could.” I mean, why have your own business if you can’t loosen up and have a little fun with words, right?

Editors are not
A necessary evil.
Just necessary.

 

The next year, I did it again. And then the next year. And the next.

When you work at home,
Formality falls away.
See ya later, pants.

 

This year was no different. I looked forward to coming up with compact little stories, contained within five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables.

Now, I hold no illusions that haikus are going to catapult my business to the stratosphere. They are unlikely to gain new clients for me. But they give friends and clients of 423 a smile. They give me an avenue to share a bit of my personality — the word-nerd, amused part.

Perhaps most importantly, they let me flex a different kind of writing muscle and that keeps my words from getting stale. It’s like cross-training. It helps break up the muscle memory by providing new challenges.

Do you ever find yourself in a content rut? Out of ideas? Not sure where the words are going to come from? Try writing in a different form. Channel your inner Dr. Seuss. Write a marketing rap. Pen lyrics to a Broadway-worthy show tune. Or try haiku.

You don’t have to post it anywhere or share it with anyone. And you certainly don’t have to commit to writing a month’s worth of silly little poems. Just try a different format. See what it can break free for you.

Where is my coffee?
How can I be a genius
Uncaffeinated?

Tell me how it goes.

*Recently, a friend from high school shared with me a poem I wrote for her that she had kept al these years. Yikes!

Well Said Wednesday: Abridged

…and some weeks the blog post just doesn’t happen.

See, it happens to the best of us even if we’re totally organized, have a content plan for the month, have writing dates in our calendars, and all the other best practices.

Sometimes life intervenes.

That’s okay.

You can always pop over to the 423 Communication Facebook page to catch the latest work haikus if you need some fresh content.

Well Said Wednesday: Write From the Heart

Last week, Richard Branson posted a heartfelt “Dear Virgin America” letter on his blog after it was announced that the airline brand would be phased out by its new owner Alaska Air.

Having worked in executive and internal communications for eons, I’m always happy to see this kind of prose from a business leader. It’s engaging, it’s human and it’s on point. It praises the wins, addresses the losses and acknowledges mixed emotions. That’s a rare combo.

I have no idea if this is the work of Sir Richard himself or a team that gets, and is given the freedom to use, his voice. But I do know that in a sea of corporate speak, gobbledygook, stay positive messages from corporations, entrepreneurs and small business owners, this one is a nice example of speaking from the heart.

There simply isn’t enough of that in business communication, regardless of what business you’re in.

Now, it takes a bit of bravery to come out from behind the curtain of happy talk and lingo.

Content written from the heart might not be expected or appreciated by all. Some people may sniff that using the word “gobbledygook” is in itself gobbledygook. That’s okay.

You can’t possibly contort your message and words to be all things to all people. All you can do is use your right words for your authentic message. It will resonate with the right people.

Will you give it a go and write from the heart next time you sit down at the keyboard?

Well Said Wednesday: Really Excited Edition!!! (Again!!!)

Last week, my friend Jen posted on Facebook about her company’s policy on using exclamation points. She is being limited to one per email and it’s kind of a drag for her. To me, it’s sound grammatical policy that I applaud heartily. (Heartily!)

Yes, I kind of discriminate against exclamation marks.

Of course, I use them. But more often than not, when I am editing or commenting on clients’ content, it’s delete, delete, delete. Especially multiples. (See headline. Don’t do that.)

I’ve climbed on this particular soap box before, in an earlier iteration of this blog. So enjoy this flashback to a Well Said Wednesday from 2010:

My dear friend and content coaching client Andrea Herran sent me a link to a blog post about exclamation points. I was fond of striking them from her text as I edited her Focus HR website content.

The essential questions in the Authentic Organizations blog post were this: are exclamation points unprofessional, do they corrode the credibility of women and did the writer really care or not? You can read it here.

I don’t have a problem with exclamation points in general. They serve a purpose and give writers the ability to use their authentic voice when writing, which I always advocate for myself and all the business owners and content makers I work with.

However, I do have an issue with exclamation points used in bulk (and I believe that ending three out of four sentences that way is the very definition of “bulk.”) It makes your writing start to sound breathless and vaguely like an infomercial. Act now! Limited time offer! Operators are waiting! The blanket that has sleeves!

So go ahead and use an exclamation point now and then. Moderation is the key here, just as it annoyingly is in all good things. Just don’t use multiples. There is no excuse for ending any sentence or headline with !!!! unless you are a fourteen-year-old girl trying to convey just how cute that boy in your homeroom is and you agree to dotting all your I’s with hearts.

 

Well Said Wednesday: Who Are You? (And Why Should I Care?)

Next week, I am headed to a several-day, out-of-state conference with a couple hundred other entrepreneurs working on their businesses.

Most of my prep work is done. Flights and hotel were booked long ago, the conference itinerary is loaded into my calendar, I’ve got an Evernote list of local restaurants I want to try. I’ll pack next week so there is only one thing left to do:

Practice my answer to “so what do you/423 Communication do?”

Yes, all these years later, I still think about my core message and I still practice saying it.

If there’s ever a time to be on message with a strong intro that captures what your business does, it’s at a conference. It’s a no-brainer question you know you’re going to get. Repeatedly. And, you know your business better than anyone. There’s no reason to mumble or shuffle or blather.

Still,  it happens to the best of us. We meander our way through what we do and cringe as our words are met with a blank stare or a polite retreat.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Watch out for these four common traps that kill our introductions:

  1. Relying on a intro that isn’t very descriptive.
    We know what we do and what title we’ve given ourselves. But what does it mean to the person whose hand you’re shaking? How does it translate into value for your customers? If you don’t have clarity about how you make a difference, you can’t create a clean, lively, succinct introduction.
  2. Covering too much ground.
    Some businesses are complex. Some are multi-faceted. That’s cool, but it doesn’t mean you get pass from having a clean, lively and succinct introduction. Boil it down to its most compelling essence. People can always ask you questions (and those who hate making small talk will thank you for giving them some conversation fodder.)
  3. Not considering your audience.
    You’ve done your homework (haven’t you?) and you have a basic understanding of who will be in attendance. Focus and adjust your introduction to match the audience. For instance, one area of my business is creating employee communication strategies to support organizational change. Will this be relevant to a  a room full of small business owners and entrepreneurs? Not likely. I’m better off focusing on content planning and message development.
  4. Not practicing. Out loud.
    It is a universal truth that the way you say it in your head and the way it comes out of your mouth can be very different. If you don’t believe me, record yourself saying (not reading) a description of your business. Then listen to it. If you haven’t practiced, it probably sounds a little rough, a little rambling. You can bet I’ll be pacing my hotel room telling the furniture that I am “a content coach to small businesses, helping them get clear on their message and deliver it consistently and authentically to support their business.”

Like most things in life, a little planning and preparation can make a big difference when you want to be well said. A clean, lively, succinct and focused introduction sets you up as someone who knows what she is doing and the value she provides. Every entrepreneur deserves that.

So tell me, what do you do?

PS – Later this year I am re-releasing the fun and effective “Rock Your Elevator Pitch” workbook and launching the Core Message Crash Course. Get yourself on my mailing list if you want to stay on top of these programs before they launch. Sign up below.

Well Said Wednesday: Consider the Hunch

We live in a metrics-driven world.

How many likes did that post get? How many followers do I have? How many readers joined my mailing list? How many mailing list subscribers have turned into clients? How many clients have referred new people?

As small business owners, we spend a lot of time counting things. We’ve been raised on the idea that “what gets measured gets done.” KPIs or bust. (If you’ve been fortunate enough to live blissfully free of corporate acronyms KPIs = Key Performance Indicators.)

Paying attention to the right numbers is necessary to running a business.

So what do you do with a flash of inspiration that doesn’t come with a ruler to measure it against?

What happens to the language you know will speak directly to your ideal clients but hasn’t been tested against top-performing keywords?

How do you handle a program idea that appears out of thin air without reams of data or research in tow?

Do you ignore it? Or do you Frank Capra it?

That quote was last week’s Friday Inspiration, direct from Frank Capra, the director of classic movies including It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and many others.

And it’s a solid endorsement to not let those nudges go unheeded. They are a signal that may lead you to create something unexpected, unexplored and unrepresented in the world.

Play with that hunch. Give it some space to breathe and see what it turns into.

Maybe it’ll be something, maybe it won’t. Maybe it will freshen up your thinking about what you do and how you talk about it. Maybe it will just be a funny little idea that doesn’t stand a chance of panning out.

That’s okay.

All metrics all the time make our businesses, our words and, dare I say, our personalities* a little dull.

Leave some room for the hunch. You never know what you might end up creating.

Have any hunches tapped you on the shoulder lately? Tell me about it on the 423 Communication Facebook page (and “like” 423 while you’re there, because, metrics!)

*Okay, the personality thing is completely subjective and coming from the skewed perspective of someone who could easily convince herself to follow a sketchy hunch into a dark alley. For a long time, numbers and metrics were not my thing. At all. Residue of that anti-metric zealotry still pops up from time to time. I’m working on it.

Photo: DeathtoStockPhoto.com