A community: what it means for you and your (writing) business

community

Humans are social beings. No matter how we might enjoy solitude (for many reasons, like creativity, that’s already written throughout this blog), we want to satisfy that need for belonging to a group that shares our vision, interests; who can help us find and deliver our purpose. In this post I emphasized the importance of defining our message that will resonate with who we really are, what we stand for, what we believe and our true values. It’s a way we brand ourselves.

I would say that this is the first step in creating your community. Community is about interaction and engagement based on trust where reciprocity is the absolute law. The more value and contribution you put out there, the more like-minded people you will attract. How physically the exchange of information will go is of lesser importance. Being that blog, twitter, facebook, podcast … or a chit-chat with a friend over coffee – each time you communicate you build your community. Sure, some people come and go, but community is a live thing: it changes and evolves along with you. With your growth and your contribution,  your audience grows, matures,  breathe, dream, eat, sleep, just as you do! In other words, how much work and effort you put in your community, there is a higher probability for your message to be heard at broader scope. In return, your supporters will help you grow your business.

One of the vital ingredients that you need to provide while building your community is a personal touch. Most people best relate to struggles, little victories and specific experiences of their peers. They easily identify their own needs and wants, which is a force in building an audience. By sharing our story with them we give an opportunity to people to learn from us as well.

There is no one out there with your skills, your experiences, but you. And you bring that uniqueness to your community, that ‘quirkiness’ that differentiate you from other people. It’s a sure way to building your right audience.

And is also true that people easily get destracted, with life going too fast and information that is bombarding all our senses. What you deliver to your community has to be focused and relevant message and on the regular basis. Distraction leads to oblivion.

And your community has to be well pampered with all goodness you can provide, because at the end of the day how much you have been of service to your community, will show the real support you have.

As long as you stick to these rules, your community will start to manifest and yet you will never have to impose any self-promotion and marketing. Your behavior, communication and contribution, in my opinion is the best marketing tool you can apply.

Good we must love, and must hate ill,
For ill is ill, and good good still ;
But there are things indifferent,
Which wee may neither hate, nor love,
But one, and then another prove,
As we shall find our fancy bent.

If then at first wise Nature had
Made women either good or bad,
Then some wee might hate, and some choose ;
But since she did them so create,
That we may neither love, nor hate,
Only this rests, all all may use.

If they were good it would be seen ;
Good is as visible as green,
And to all eyes itself betrays.
If they were bad, they could not last ;
Bad doth itself, and others waste ;
So they deserve nor blame, nor praise.

But they are ours as fruits are ours ;
He that but tastes, he that devours,
And he that leaves all, doth as well ;
Changed loves are but changed sorts of meat ;
And when he hath the kernel eat,
Who doth not fling away the shell?

John Donne

 

When you write, let your content be your branding

willieamfaulkner

In one of my previous posts I wrote about the importance of creating your personal brand and how to “fine tune” your own writing voice. The issue of branding, marketing, self-promotion can put an additional pressure in any creative work. For many is still a dilemma: do we follow the mainstream market currents and compromise our creative integrity or we follow our creative dream – even if it’s not reliable source of income?

With the rise of digital era and social media, the expansion of creative entrepreneurs is still on the growing rate. And especially if you are a writer, because what ever you write – being that related to your work or not – it sends the message out to the world who you are; what are your values; what do you strive for. With every word we write we literally paint an image about ourselves.

So in a way we can treat our writing as a branding tool. Our writing should communicate our creative vision, in accordance with our professional credibility. In time, it might be hard, to achieve the level of objectivity we desire, but with focus on intentional writing, having aligned our purpose and values, our writing will more reflect of who we are, and how we want to be perceived by the world around us.

Writing (not just as an act of writing), but about our creative endeavors, sharing our creative vision – doesn’t necessarily has to be seen as a try to convince someone into something or selling anything, but rather as a creating an experience where we can share our talents at broader scope; building a firm foundation for a contribution we can make with our work. It’s a natural way of attracting like-minded people and fostering community.

I believe that expressing creative action in any way that will find its course to the hearts of people who want to engage in that kind of experience, doesn’t have to be seen as crude, soulless marketing. Actually, once you create something and let it be seen by the public-it takes the life of its own: to inspire and motivate someone else, to bring enjoyment, purpose or improve someone’s life. That’s the moment when the loop of creativity cycle is closed and it becomes the source of something more beautiful: world can benefit from fruits of your work.

Following some of the rules of poetic expression can be very helpful. Using the words that have a rhythm can amplify your message to the level it resonates with your audience; to become more memorable and make that human connection we need in sharing our creativity. They say: “Content is the king” – then how do you present is it’s throne: how you say something is as important as what you say. It’s a basic a foundation on which you will further build your message to be embraced by your readers. “Wooden” language, with no emotion, no personal perspective, “flat” narrative without promise of adventure and surprise cannot cut through the noise of ordinary information into the hearts and minds of target audiences.

What constitutes good writing? A content, but also concise and well organized information, wrapped in your unique writing style. Now, unmerciful editing will get us closer to more understandable information, but the style is what one remembers. Enriching our writing with poetic tones can add that distinctive melody to our writing. And I’m not talking about metaphors and adorning your writing with useless attributes: I’m talking about the structure, rhythm and balance, skillful art of the phrasing right. It can give the strength to your writing, expressing your creative outlet in right way – the way it will stuck to the hearts and minds of your audience. That’s why I stress out the importance of what you write to read out loud. If you are ensured that what you wrote communicates your personality, in comprehensive manner, then it will have the desired impact.

How These Words Happened by William Stafford

In winter, in the dark hours, when others
were asleep, I found these words and put them
together by their appetites and respect for
each other. In stillness, they jostled. They traded
meaning while pretending to have only one.

Monstrous alliances never dreamed of before
began. Sometimes they last. Never again
do they separate in this world. They die
together. They have a fidelity that no
purpose or pretense can ever break.

And all of this happens like magic to the words
in those dark hours when others sleep.

A simple thing you can do to make your storytelling more engaging

franBG

No matter are you a writer, a business owner or you just want to improve your presentation skills, effective storytelling is like having an ace in your sleeve that you can pull out just in time when you have to make your point or become more persuasive. In my previous posts about storytelling I discussed the power of narrative and today I shell go more deeply into how to harness that power to keep your audience active, engaged and responsive. Now, structuring your story, speech or even website content can be hard with distractions coming all over the place. In order to pass your ideas across and stuck to the memory of your audience you have to use all tricks and tools available to you. And avoid little mistakes along the way.

Here is what I mean:

Don’t begin with unattractive facts and figures (unless you are dealing with science and research, but even that kind of story we can make more compelling).

Frankly speaking, nobody cares about that! Stats are boring. We are addicted to stories, actions, emotions, adventures. Humans like a hero that’s on a journey, capable of mastering endless obstacles in order to fulfill his duty and purpose. So give your audience a hero, a story with purpose that delivers message, leaving them motivated and inspired.

One simple thing you can implement in your story telling is to incorporate the technique of a mythological narrative.

It’s a story structure that is found in many folk tales, myths, poems and religious texts from around the world.

In a mono-myth, the narrative goes like this: something happens that provokes our hero to leave his home; hero has (usually) a difficult journey ahead, where the destination and conditions are uncertain; after completing a series of challenges, hero returns with some kind of a reward, wisdom – some kind of benefit that he brings to his community.Think of Gilgamesh or Iliad. These were very long, epic and spoken word poems, that portrait the journey of a hero, all of his struggles, tragedies, misfortunes or little victories.

This is an excellent strategy when you want to accentuate the information you have and how that can benefit your audience. It also shows the pros and cons of taking risks and how we grow while learning something new.

In this article you will find three beautiful examples of using storytelling for small business purpose. The one I would like to share is about company Stio that introduced the outdoor apparel brand with a blog called The Town Hill Chronicles. The blog, by a team of professional writers, profiled people living in mountain communities across the U.S. In doing so, it helped Stio tell its brand story, how ordinary people experience outdoor life and activities (making them heroes of their brand), which eventually turned an audience into real a community that promotes and shares value of living in accordance with nature.

For the end I will leave with some thoughts by John M. Ford:

Against Entropy

The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days
Perhaps you will not miss them. That’s the joke.
The universe winds down. That’s how it’s made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you’ll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.

The Go-getters guide to building your personal author brand

hartman

Branding for sometime now has been a buzz word. We instinctively recognize branding as a purposeful creating of authentic image, identity and most importantly the “feeling” that companies want their consumers to experience – about different products and services. Yet you are a writer, not a company or a product. How that applies to you? Do you really need a brand?

Let us put it this way: Your personal author brand can be seen as a purposeful creating of unique and distinct theme in your marketing approach that you want your audience to remember you by.

How do you that?

Well, there are few questions that can lead you along the way discovering your brand personality. I would start with:

How do you want to be remembered?  Think in terms of senses, feelings, experiences, words, language, ideas, concepts that you want to be associated with. That can also depend on the field and focus of your writing: if you are in area of business writing do you want to be remembered as a tough authority or compassionate leader? Do you want to teach or inspire? As a fiction writer what mood do you want to evoke?

Once you define these primarily goals, you will be more clear on your purpose, message that you want to deliver and who are you trying to reach. That one simple message around which will revolve your whole branding theme is of pivotal importance, since it will communicate your philosophy and your values: what are you bringing to your readership.

Be open, honest, tell your story, since people like to connect on the personal level. This will also help you communicate who you really are and what distincts you from others. You are your brand, but also your readers are your brand – who you attract and what impressions you make.

Follow your distinct writing voice!

The tone and style of your communication should naturally reflect your expertise, brand promise, and core belief.

By consistently building your author brand, you can broaden the areas of your influence and involvement.

You can:

  • get offer for guest blog posts which will increase your readership;
  • get advertising requests for your website;
  • position yourself as an expert in your field;
  • increase probability for future book deals;
  • get broader exposure in media;
  • even get the opportunity for product/service endorsement.

Think about it and start building you brand now!

Poetry in advertising: misused or too much used?

The most common trouble with advertising is that it tries too hard to impress people.

~James Randolph Adams 

When we think of business and poetry, our first association comes to advertising. And there is a good reason for that. Many companies aware of the power of language, use short, minimal poems that often rhyme with aim to attract customer’s attention and with memorable fable just try to get “stuck” to their minds. From one point of view, poetry is the ultimate, sophisticated artful use of language, a beautiful tool one can use to express emotions, thoughts, experience, where advertising is not even a “stand alone” art. As it is described in the paper Poetry and Advertising:

it is the handmaiden of commercial motives; its name carries connotations (well earned, one might add) of halfruths, deception, and outright fraud, of appeals to vanity, fear, snobbery, and false pride…

But, we shouldn’t forget that poetry and advertising, do have much in common: a tendency for putting what we want to say in rhyme, following specific rhythm and words so precise in their “attack” on our unconscious thinking. They intent to give meaning to everyday life events and subjects, using symbolism and metaphor to express ordinary world. The emotional response that poetry retrieves from customers often means an immediate engagement and we can see how multinational corporations are using poetry to promote their products. For instance:

A narrated ad for McDonald’s (“the Gothy types and scoffy types and like-their-coffee-frothy types were just passing by“) or very good example of the use of more traditional poem like in the Levi’s commercial:   “I see their knavery: this is to make an ass of me; to fright me, if they could. But I will not stir from this place, do what they can: I will walk up and down here, and I will sing, that they shall hear I am not afraid.”

“Midsummer night dream” is a Shakespeare’s classic and here it is stripped down from its original meaning and put into a whole different context. It offers new, refreshed interpretation where a love story is translated into our modern infatuation with fashion. Very interesting approach.

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In one of the Guardian articles  they interviewed two contemporary poets and asked for their opinion on the use of poetry in commercials. Roger McGough, a performance artist from Liverpool wasn’t that happy with use of poetry in advertising, since it’s usually “distasteful and not respectful enough”.

On the other hand Nick Toczek welcomes the exposure that advertising offers poetry:

Shakespeare would have thought commercialism was worth it. Populism is good. The more language matters to people the better.

At the end of the day, good poetry is a sincere appreciation of sadness, love, joy – and even death. And that appreciation comes both from poet and the reader. It’s hardly ever going to be found in the cheeseburger or a bowl of candies, because as poetry did get its role in advertising, the real purpose of poetry is to convey something much more deeper and bigger.

3 lessons that writing haiku taught me about business

Clouds come from time to time-

and bring a men chance to rest

from looking at the moon.

~ Basho

Poetry is a mindfulness in its most exquisite form. It is integral part of human nature and therefore is a sort of celebration of life in all its manifestations. Especially haiku, an “instant” form of poetry, focusing on the world around us and fostering each moment of life.

As a form of poetry, haiku originated first in Japan and later became popular in other regions. Haiku poets write short poems, consisting of only 17 syllables. In Japan these poems are valued for their simplicity, openness, depth and lightness.

In original Japanese form the structural rules are:

  • use exactly 17 syllables
  • syllables are arranged in three lines of 5-7-5
  • similes and metaphors are avoided
  • refers to a season of the year.

Haiku poems can describe anything, but mostly they are a result of the observation from the outer world, and have a major theme that appeals strongly to one of the five senses.

Writing and reading haiku is a wonderful way for us to stay connected to our true nature and recognize our role and position in the world. Further more, what we observe and conclude we can use for the purpose of our business practice and it taught me three valuable lessons:

  1. Observe on the outside, as well on the inside

When you want to start your own small business, one of the best strategies you can apply is to build a niche business, where customers are ready to pay more for specialized products/services. In order to determine your own little “gold mine” you have to carefully look around, listen, observe and sense what is that people need; where are neglected and overlooked markets that you perfectly fit in.

But that is only one side of the coin. When you identify those ignored markets, how that complies with what you like to do, with what you are good at; with your own talents, needs, goals and values; how do you actually want to contribute? For those answers wee need to look deep in ourselves and be honest, because anything that contradicts our passion and our own values – won’t produce results in the long run.

And while writing haiku, I learned to observe the world around me more carefully, to see beyond the ordinary. It also helps us learn more about ourselves, our deepest desires and what makes us tick.

2. Keep your business plan short, simple and well structured

Your business plan is a sort of your road map to success – the more simple – less chance you will get lost. That plan is for you, to help you navigate through certain milestones you want to achieve; how to utilize the resources you have; order of actions you need to take and ext. Preferably, it will lead you to do one thing at the time and leave you just enough room, for any adjustments according to the present conditions.

While writing haiku, one of the first things you learn is to live in the now, do things timely and in order. Haiku is a very short and simple poetic form, yet

business plan tree

very powerful. It has specific structure, and by following that structure while writing, you are able to capture and express the beauty of the moment in the most exhilarating way. As you go beyond that, you might get lost, distracted: just as with your business plan. The more simple and structured, the better chance is that your business plan is going to work out for you.

3. The kind of message is your business sending out to the world

Have you thought about what makes your business different form other similar businesses? What’s your uniqueness –if there is any?

The look, the sound, the feel of your business tells a lot about it and all that information people get from your business name, logo, colors, website design, marketing materials, packaging materials etc.; the written content on your site, product descriptions, newsletters; products you offer, your sales approach, and finally you – your customer service.

That everything put together forms a message about your brand and it should be clear and consistent: in every product you make, on every social media platform, in every single interaction with customers you have. The message should reflect what your business stands for and your values.

Just as haiku: it’s a clear vivid image of the world, reflected moment in our minds that is translated into the words.

Analyzing our business practice from all this corners will not only help us improve, but we will begin to appreciate the beauty of simplicity and how that is beneficial for our life in general.