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Category: Writing Tips (Page 1 of 4)

The deadly “shoulds” of blogging

Live a life free of the deadly “shoulds.”


 

Does blogging stress you out?

I’m a writer who loves nothing more than settling in at the keyboard, but sometimes blogging stresses me out.

 

What stresses me out most about blogging is the long, tired list of “shoulds” that plague my blogger’s conscience.

I *should* write more frequently.

I *should* write more regularly.

I *should* focus more on SEO.

I *should* pick a #@^$! niche and stick to it.

I *should* publish more list posts.

I *should* labor over my headlines.

I *should* seek out some guest post opportunities.

I *should* reorganize my categories and tags.

… and so on (and on, and on)

 

All these “shoulds” weigh heavy on my mind and heart.

They leave me feeling like I’m doing it wrong, like I don’t deserve blogging success.

I look at the blogs of other branding/marketing/writing folks that I admire, and I think, “Wow. They really have it together. How can I compete? I’ll never be like them.”

Have you done that, too?

Stop. Right. There.

 

As Jon Stewart says, “Meet me at camera 1.”

Hi. Let’s chat. Whether you’re a newbie  afraid to start blogging or an old hack feeling beaten down by years of less-than-stellar blogging results, I’d like to invite you to kick all your blogging shoulds to the curb. Seriously. They aren’t doing you any favors and you’ll be way better off without them.

The trouble with shoulds is that they suck all the joy out of a thing. They turn it from an adventure into an obligation. They kill your creative impulse and leave you with nothing but a husk of something that used to be a good idea but is now just you going through the motions.

Shoulds spring from the muck of comparison. Just think – if you weren’t comparing yourself to another person or some universal standard, would you have any idea what you “should” do? Nope. You wouldn’t. You’d just have to figure things out on your own – experiment, moodle, PLAY.

Playing is a good thing.

Strategy is a good thing, too; but play is better.

The myth of best practices tells us that there is only one way to do something right. It tells us how we should do a thing in order to do it correctly. But, the truth is that there are no best practices. What works for one person may not work for another. And what works for you today may not work for you tomorrow.

If blogging is stressing you out, find a way to make it fun again. Try something different. Forget the so-called rules. Stop trying to be someone else. Do what feels right to you. Relax. Play. Give yourself a break.

Ditch the shoulds and try out some “want to’s” instead. What do you want to do? How do you want to feel? What do you want to say? How do you want to say it?

Go with that and let me know how you make out.

 

 

Image Source: Pinterest

Write drunk; edit sober. How to blog like you mean it

Listen to this post:

 

Blogging can be scary. Some days, it feels like you’ve been pushed on stage and asked to do stand-up. The guy who was on before you totally killed it. The crowd was laughing in the aisles and people were repeating his catch phrase. Now you’re up there, peering through the glare of the floor lights, trying to catch a glimpse of the audience, sweating under the deep and awkward silence of a crowd waiting to see what you’re going to do.

Yeah. Sometimes, blogging is like that.

So, you ask yourself, how do people get brave enough to put themselves and their brands out there in authentic, vulnerable, stick-their-necks-out ways? How do they find the nerve to say the thing that needs to be said? What gives them the self-assurance they need to blog in a way that makes them stand out from the crowd, capture attention, and make people give a damn?

 

The answer: courage.

Courage isn’t a lack of fear. It is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. True courage does not come easily. You have to dig down deep and find the strength to face the dragons that stand in your way. You have to take a breath, square your shoulders, and push past the fear.

But, we all know there’s another way – a shortcut. It’s called liquid courage. You know what I’m talking about – the inhibition-lowering, boldness-bolstering, let-me-at-‘em kind of courage. The sure-I’ll-karaoke kind of courage. The lemme-tell-you-what-I-think kind of courage.

If you haven’t gotten to the point in your blogging evolution where you can tap into true courage, if you’re still teetering on the edge of writing posts that make you cringe a little when you click the “publish” button, you might want to try writing like you’re a little tipsy.

 

Write drunk; edit sober.

Most often attributed to Hemingway, this little gem of writing advice is perfect for bloggers. Like good fiction, a good blog needs to reach out and grab the reader. It needs to say something worth saying. It needs to take some kind of stand, but too often, especially on business blogs, we settle for the ho-hum and so-so. We play it safe.

This is called “going through the motions,” and it’s not going to help you build an audience, drive leads, or get known as a “thought leader.” It is going to bore people.

Whether you’re a solopreneur blogging as yourself or part of a corporate team trying to get out from under the red tape of management reviews and legal approvals, it can be hard to push beyond the easy, run-of-the-mill content so you can try something new or even controversial. I get it. But, if you don’t start taking steps in that direction, if you don’t start giving people something worth reading, why even bother blogging

Now, I’m not saying we should all go out and get hammered; but what if we applied the attributes of intoxication to our blogger’s mindset?

 

Lowered inhibitions

You’ve seen it a hundred times in the movies and probably in real life, too. The shy guy finally asks the pretty girl out. The shy girl finally gets up and sings her heart out to a bar full of dumbstruck friends. The downtrodden desk jockey finally stands up and tells his boss what he really thinks.

Turning down the volume of your internal censor can be a good thing for your blogging. If your primary worries are about being politically correct and pleasing everyone, you’ll end up watering everything down and diluting your message until it’s not worth hearing. Instead, loosen up a little. Try to be less self-conscious. Roll with your “crazy” ideas.

 

Brilliant random associations and wild, unruly bursts of creative insight

Speaking of crazy ideas, get some more of those.

Whether your brainstorming takes place in the conference room with a team of editors and writers, or in your head with just you and your inner critic, make it a free-for-all. Make it a no-bad-ideas zone. Encourage wacky suggestions and cultivate an environment of curiosity and creativity.

Sometimes it takes a little inebriation to see more clearly. How many winning ideas have been hatched during happy hour? We get a different perspective. Our internal filters shut down and the ideas can suddenly flow freely – colliding into each other and creating new, hybrid ideas. Happy hour can be very fertile ground for innovation.

 

Swagger

“Lemme at ‘im!”

Eyes slightly glazed, but with a fire burning in them, you’re ready to take on Goliath … bare fisted … with one hand tied behind your back. You know you can handle him. No problem. No problem at all.

Blogging requires a little chutzpah. You have to believe that you’ve got what it takes. You have to believe you’ve got something worth saying. If anyone says, “Who do you think you are?”, you have to be ready to tell him exactly who you are.

 

Honesty

A cocktail, mixed correctly, is as good as the best high-test truth serum.

When you’ve had a few, pretenses drop, charades dissolve, and facades crumble. Your authentic self, who has been waiting patiently behind the lines of sobriety and propriety, rolls her head and cracks her knuckles like a boxer preparing to enter the ring. It’s finally game time. Finally her turn to show her stuff.

“You know what I’ve always wanted to tell you?” … and then it all starts to come out – all the really juicy bits, all the stuff that keeps the listener hanging on every word. You don’t need a fancy vocabulary, you just need to tell it like it is – straight up, no filter.

 

Affection

“I love you guys.”

What is it about spirits that makes it so easy for us to express our affections? Defenses come down and the whole world seems like one big hug fest. How did we not see the awesomeoness of these people before?

Feel the love. Go with it. You’re trying to connect with these people on a very real level. Why hold back? If you feel moved to do it, tell them you love them. They are the reason you’re here. They are the reason you do what you do. Go ahead – lay one on ‘em. They’ll love it.

 

The morning after

Hemingway’s approach is only effective if you work both sides of the equation. I think we’ve covered the “write drunk” part, but what about editing sober?

The key is breathing room. Premature publishing is akin to drunk dialing (or texting). The results can be disastrous and embarrassing. Brainstorm and write to your intoxicated heart’s content, but don’t hit “publish” until you’ve come down off your creativity’s party train and are able to look at things with a sober and impartial eye.

Believe me, you don’t want to wake up with a tattoo you don’t remember getting.

 

From liquid courage to the real thing

Eventually, you’ll find that you don’t need a shot of faux fearlessness to blog like you really mean it. Over time, practicing blogging like you’re tipsy (even though you aren’t … really), will give you all the true courage you need to get out there and speak your mind in a unique and engaging way. You’ll feel at ease, be open to new and creative ideas, find your groove, embrace your truth, and surrender to your affections.

And that’s when the magic will happen. You won’t worry about feeling trapped up on a stage you didn’t want to be on in the first place. You will have found your voice, your audience, and your stride. You’ll be working that spotlight like a pro and having a great time doing it.

 

 

What do you think?

Have you ever written something while under the influence? How’d it turn out? Did you publish it? Did you have to censor much?  If you work with a team, have you ever had a Friday afternoon happy hour brainstorming session? Did anything interesting come out of that? What holds you back from blogging like you mean it?

 

 

Special thanks to David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) and Gareth (@dartacus) for inspiring this post. Scott wrote a post about why you should avoid deleting your content and Gareth asked if that also applied to “the content created at 2am when you were drunk & shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near the internet?” Scott conceded that maybe that could go, but the conversation got me thinking about how the stuff you write at 2AM when you’re drunk just might be some of the best stuff. So, there you go. Food for thought.

 

Image credit: WordsIGiveBy on etsy

Be human. Your customers will thank you.

Technology, analytics, ranking, ROI, KPI, metrics, SEO, statistics, widgets, automation, media … each of these has a role to play in marketing a brand, but sometimes we put too much weight on them. We get caught up in making sure we have installed the latest plug-in, created a presence on the newest social network, and optimized our content to within an inch of it’s life. We forget that search engines and apps don’t buy our services – human beings buy our services.

Your brand needs to be human, too.
Whether you’re selling coaching or core processors, pet sitting or software, connecting with your customers on a human level is critical to capturing their interest, building strong relationships, and nurturing brand loyalty. People do not fall in love with brands because of what they are. People fall in love with brands because of “who” they are – the people behind the brand, the human experience of the brand, the emotional “why” and “so what?” of a brand.

If the face of your brand lacks a human element, you’re making your job as a marketer much harder than it needs to be. You’re setting yourself up to do a lot of extra work around convincing prospects of your brand’s value. Though we humans like to think we make choices based on a logical thought process, the truth is we usually make decisions based on gut reactions. We “like” a person or a product or a brand “just because.” Though a side-by-side comparison of two similar products might tell us that product A is the logical choice, if product B has found a way to connect with our human, emotional side, it will have the edge.

Four ways to humanize your brand:
There are four brand element categories that can benefit from the human touch: message, language, visuals, and interaction.

Message:
A human message focuses on people and their problems instead of products and their features. You’ve heard it a million times, but it’s worth repeating: talk about benefits, not features. Don’t make your product the star of the show, shine the spotlight on your customer. Talk about her life, her problems, her goals. Provide clear examples of how your product or service has real world applications for her.

Language:
Use simple, straightforward language to communicate your message. Don’t get tangled up in corporate-speak, marketingese, or technobabble. Talk like a human being. The shorter and simpler you can be in your presentation, the higher your audience’s comprehension and retention. Use stories and anecdotes – story is the language of humanity. Stories are easy to remember and share. Develop a conversational tone and style that is pleasant to read. Don’t be scared off by the naysayers who warn it’s the kiss of death – give humor a try. (Humans love to laugh.)

Visuals:
Please, please for the love of the marketing gods, do NOT use boring, seen-everywhere stock photography. The ubiquitous image of the office girl in glasses seen drawing a flow chart through a clear white board does not give anyone the warm and fuzzies, and it doesn’t do anything for your credibility either. Take the time to source interesting images that speak to the personality and philosophy of your brand. Better yet, invest in custom photography. Use nice head shots on your team bios, add head shots to your testimonials, include accent images throughout your website and in your ebooks and white papers. The rise of sites like Pinterest shows that we humans are visual creatures – give your customers something to look at.

Interaction:
Perhaps most importantly, be human in your interactions. Encourage conversations on your blog, and participate in them. If you engage in social media, don’t make it all about you or your product. Share other people’s content, share non-business content, don’t be afraid to show your personal side. Write emails that sound like emails, not like mandates handed down from on-high or slick sales messages wrapped in pseudo-informational content. Make customer service a central focus of your humanizing efforts. Your policies should advocate for the customer, not act as laws to keep her toes to the line. Provide direct access to real people. Respond promptly. Don’t freak out if customer interactions include banter or chatter or gossip about favorite TV shows. Embrace it. Those are the moments that make magic.
If you can humanize your brand, you will have an easier time connecting with customers. You won’t have to push so much on the hard sell. You won’t be cornered as often in feature- or price-based showdowns with competitors. Your brand will have that je ne sais quoi which appeals to people’s emotional, gut reaction side. And – just like that – you win.

So, how human is your brand? When you convert a customer, do you know what tipped the scales in your favor? Did the human element come into play?

Image Credit:  Anthony Reeves

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