8 Steps to writing your story

iStock_000019172466SmallRecently, I started listening to the “Writing Tools” podcasts available at iTunes university.  The author, Roy Peter Clark, outlines 23  rules that provide the nuts and bolts of writing effectively so that what we want to communicate comes through clearly to our readers.

The last chapter of this book describes a metaphoric writer’s workbench.  A five step description that describes how writers work.

As we develop our company stories these steps provide a basis for starting the process.

Step 1–Get your ideas.  Take the time to explore your environment.  Open yourself up to listening, watching and being mindful of your company and your business.  Look for ideas that will get your customers attention.

Step 2–Explore those ideas.  Look at your business as a storage room of ideas. Collect related and even unrelated details. Keep your mind and ears open.

Step 3–Collect evidence.  Get out of your office chair. Leave your office and explore your business environment.

Step 4-Find your focus.  Get to the heart of the story.  As the author of “Writing Tools” states “Break the shell and extract the nut.”   This step requires research, going through all the gathered information and critically thinking about the message and how the message is supported by clear evidence.  In this step, the focus could be expressed as a summary paragraph, mission statement, theme statement, or a question that your business story will answer for your customers.

Step 5–Select the best parts.  A writer knows that they can’t or don’t want to include everything.  It is in this process that they eliminate research that doesn’t fit or clearly document the focus of this business story.  I find this step a difficult one because I would like to include all the information that my hard work has generated.  However, my readers could become overwhelmed and miss the nugget of what I want to get across if I included everything.  Be selective.  Keep what you don’t use because it may be useful in another story but for now cut what you can’t effectively use to make your main point.

Step 6–Put your key points in order. Outline the scope of your work.  Develop a plan and work from that plan. Working from a plan gives you, as the writer, the benefit of a vision that allows you to see the story in your head and understand fully your mission.  At this stage, simply outlining the beginning, middle and end of your story is sufficient.

Step 7–Write a draft.  Just write, if you can, fast and free.  Don’t scrutinize or criticize your initial draft–just write and get your thoughts out in writing.  If you have taken the time to complete the first six steps this step will be more fluid. Remember this is a draft and for your eyes only so just write and write and complete a draft.

Step 8–Revise and clarify. Now is the time for rewriting.  Alone in your office, read your work out loud.  See how it flows.  Does it make sense? Does your story document your goal?

Roy Peter Clark identifies the steps in these key words…Sniff. Explore. Collect. Focus. Select. Order. Draft. Revise.  Now have a good time developing your business story.

Thinking about company growth

Sometimes, even if your business is doing okay, there are things that can be done to enhance your companies growth.

It might be you know the problem but don’t have time or resources to work on the solution or you might need an outside resource to come in and from a fresh perspective look at what is working and what isn’t.social-brain-fullimage-960

You may realize that you want to engage more effectively and efficiently with your current and potential customers.

You may hear all the buzz about social media and are not quite sure which social tools fit with your business model or how to effectively combine the traditional approaches with the social media approaches to effectively communicate your brand, have one voice and not be confusing to the audience you are working to engage.

It could seem like you are trying to find a path through a dark forest. If you don’t have a compass, a map and beginning and end point you could just end up getting lost in the deep dark forest. And, just like climbing a steep trail or heading up a mountain to get to the top it can be time consuming and exhausting.

However, with the right information, thorough knowledge and profile of your target audience(s), a solid competitive analysis, a good strategy and knowledge of marketing and communications tools your planning will be more effective and your organization can move toward increasing revenue rather then exhausting funds.

With all the noise and activity in the marketplace, it is easy to become swayed and moved in different directions but with the appropriate goals, objective and plan you will know where you are going. And, when course corrections are necessary and they will be, it will be easier to understand what needs to change and how to make that change.

6 questions to answer before creating content.

I know it’s a temptation to want to move forward quickly when adding pages or new sections to your website.  But, it is really important to think about content and message before moving full speed ahead.

Before creating content,  take the time to answer the following questions.

  • What is the goal of this page or section?  Thinking through this question will not only help you determine the purpose but also the necessity of adding a page or section to your site.  It is necessary?  Is this information better handled elsewhere?  If this is the best place to add this information, what is the key point that you want to make.
  • What is the one thing that you want your reader to understand after they have read your copy? Skimming and scanning is the way web readers review content online, therefore, make sure that the design and copy of your page focuses on the key point and supporting points in a succinct manner.   Use headlines, subheads and bulleted copy for easy reading.  If applicable, visuals such as photos, video or slide presentations are helpful and can hold your audiences attention longer if they relate to the needs of the audience.
  • Who is the audience that this page or section is targeting? Knowing your audience and their goals, needs, ways of working, and their environments will help your site resonate with your audience.  Research, as much as you can, about your audience including who they are, where they are, major characteristics, their questions and their concerns and ultimately how what you are providing meets your audiences specific needs better that your competitors.
  • What phase of the buying cycle is the page addressing?   The buying cycle includes 6 distinct stages–awareness, interest, research, desire, user and evangelist.   Where does the audience you are targeting fit and what stage of the buying cycle are you focusing on?  I know we would all like users but you may find that your audience is only at the interest stage.  If so, they will need different information and approach then someone ready to buy.
  • Considering the topic you are covering, what is the primary benefits you need to communicate?   Knowing your audience is essential in knowing how to identify the key benefits of your product or service in relation to your audience.
  • What keywords and phrases do you need to include for search engine optimization?   The mentality of create and they will come does not work in any area of social media and particularly not your website.  Learn how to enhance your SEO by researching articles online.  There is a wealth of SEO articles all over the internet.

Taking care to answer these questions first will help make the development of the copy and design of your section or page much easier and more effective.

Social Local Mobile

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SoLoMo is when someone accesses social media on a mobile devise to obtain information on the local area.  I like to have my vacations planned a little better than this but many people don’t.

SoLoMo lends a great deal of help to the tourist or someone new in the area that wants to gain information about places to stay, places to eat and visit. All with recommendations on how others did or did not like their experience.

The hospitality industry has a great tool to make themselves known to consumers quickly and easily. And, with good recommendations, a possible place for the connected consumer to land.  By using the social networks (So), geo location (Lo) and mobile devices (Mo) everyone can find exactly what they need either close to home or when traveling for personal or business.

For example, after touring a few sites, the individual wants to find a place to eat.  Just using their smartphone and an application like Google Maps, Foursquare or Yelp, they can find a restaurant that satisfies their needs in an area that is close to their current location.  In addition, using the rating system, find the one with the best rating.
A recent Google survey found that 51% of mobile users find trip information with their smartphone.

Next time I am in an unfamiliar area, I will try this SoLoMo and see how helpful it is to me.

Finding your target audience

To be a successful marketer, get inside the head of your prospects and customers. Think like they think,  feel what they feel and literally become that person.

Before spending any marketing dollars, it is important to articulate information about your targeted audience(s).  Putting this information in writing is a useful tool to make sure that there is agreement within your company about the audience and you have a document that you can revisit on a regular schedule or as needed to make sure the information is still accurate or update, if needed.

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