Why every soloist should journal

Dear Diary, I feel a bit nervous telling everyone about writing in you. What if they laugh at me? What if they think I’m being precious? Worst of all, what if they ignore me?!

Well, at least I got it out there. I tried my best. That’s all that matters.

Journalling is a time-honoured tradition. So many people that shaped the world jotted down their thoughts for the day, every day (or close enough to it.): Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Alexis de Toqueville, George S. Patton, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, George Lucas, Alfred Deakin, Teddy Roosevelt. That’s some great company, there. Research even tells us that outstanding leadership requires insight, and writing a journal can help achieve that.

That’s not to say journalling will spur you to instant success, of course. But it does give you pause to reflect, analyse, and process where you are and where you’d like to go.

Read the entire post on Flying Solo.

How To Make Your Writing Out Of This World

 The iconic space station, Deep Space Nine.

The iconic space station, Deep Space Nine.

One of my favourite TV shows is Star Trek. My favourite spin-off is Deep Space Nine. My least favourite is Voyager. Let me tell you a story about both of these shows. (Be prepared for a journey through time and space until we land back on Planet Earth!)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a bold effort in television at the time. (Not as bold as its rival Babylon 5, but that’s another story.) This was a science fiction show using their abundant technology to stay still. Star Trek was, and is, about exploring strange new worlds. Deep Space Nine was set on a space station. Things interacted with it, not the other way around.

Star Trek: Voyager put a twist on what had come before, however. The premise of “exploring strange new worlds” was still the pillar of the show. However, this time the crew of the titular USS Voyager finds themselves stranded in the Delta Quadrant, 70.000 light years from Earth. Even with the futuristic faster-than-light tech that Star Trek relies on for storytelling, this means a 75-year journey back.

During season two of their epic seven-season run, Deep Space Nine began serialising their stories. They introduced a chilling antagonist in the Dominion, bent on destroying the peaceful Federation and her allies. For a show that was set on a space station, their adventures and conflicts took place between people and tough moral situations. This was an age where binge watching and catch-ups weren’t an option (1993-1999). If you missed a week, you missed a vital part. The final season wrapped up narrative threads artfully set up in the preceding five seasons.

Voyager was the opposite. In comparison, Voyager was a cartoon. Anything that blew up the ship, imperilled the crew, or caused mischief in the Holodeck reset the next week. Voyager was indestructible, from a narrative point of view.

Deep Space Nine was created with no endgame in mind. Voyager had an endgame – get back to Earth. In fact, production staff titled the last episode Endgame. As predicted, they returned to Earth. They had to, right?

So what does this have to do with writing and communication?

Back To Earth - Communication with Purpose

Screenwriting is a form of communication – to directors, actors, prop masters, designers, costumers and so on. So is your writing – to managers, customers, distributors, suppliers, and so on.

Every piece of writing you set to create must have an endgame. There has to be a reason for it, and a set of outcomes you want to achieve. If you lose sight of that endgame, people will tell. It’s why fans pilloried Voyager at the time (and still do to this day.)

Some pieces of writing such as an annual report or a request for comment have an endgame baked into it. A request for comment is defined by its title - it’s asking for requests for comment! But the endgame is not enough. It has to reach out and touch someone. This is the basis for all types of writing. Sharing our wants, needs, and experience using the medium of words.

Connecting With Humanity - Communication with Passion

Once you’ve established an endgame, Deep Space Nine, unlike Voyager, had vulnerability. This vulnerability served a purpose. If your message has no heart, it is pushing uphill to connect with people. If you write without exposing yourself as a vulnerable individual with conflicts and feelings of your own, it falls flat.

Vulnerability is how we connect with readers - the Ancient Greeks called it “pathos”, a critical part of rhetoric, or the art of persuasion. You can connect with readers in a book, an essay, or even a simple email. Vulnerability expert, author, and TED sensation Dr. Brene Brown says vulnerability is the beginning of courage, and courage helps us belong in the world. She says:

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Perennial business cliche (and he’s a cliche for 74.8 billion reasons) and Berkshire Hathaway founder Warren Buffett always has an endgame and a vulnerability. As he says himself:

“Whenever I sit down to write the annual report, I pretend I am writing it to one of my sisters. Though highly intelligent, they are not experts on accounting or finance. They will understand plain English, but jargon may puzzle them. My goal is simply to give the information I would wish them to supply me if our positions are reversed. To succeed, I don’t need to be Shakespeare; I must have a sincere desire to inform.”

When you reveal yourself as a real person through your writing, you make every instalment an unmissable piece of your story. It must have passion, and it must have purpose.

So in your writing, what will you be? Deep Space Nine, or Voyager?


Want copywriting that's out this world for your business?

Turning Phrases, Turning Heads - Seminar Part 1

Part 1 of my Bayside Business Network seminar, Turning Phrases, Turning Heads is now available on YouTube! I will make Parts 2 and 3 available to seminar attendees next month (October.)

The first part of the seminar covers bad writing, how to make bad writing good, and improving business relationships by looking at how you write and to whom.

I'm also conducting a pared-down workshop-style seminar at NAB Village on 14 November, 2016. Strictly limited spots! If you want to attend, sign up now!

Are You Too Far Away to Persuade?

First off, thanks to all who attended my BBN Seminar at Sandringham Yacht Club on Monday, 9 May. I very much appreciated it! One of the more resonant pieces from my talk was about distance and wordiness. Wordiness - adding too many words for the sake of adding words - creates more distance between yourself and your audience.

The thing about wordiness is this: it creates more flaming hoops to jump through for your reader. If your reader has to sit there, his or her eyes scanning the page waiting for crucial information to leap out at them, they will eventually give up. If people can’t understand the value of your product or service, it may as well have no value.

I had a client that was all into arts and crafts – her business was making custom greeting cards, candles, gifts, that sort of thing. She knew her website content wasn’t working, so I looked through it. Her writing seemed stilted and impenetrable. I didn’t understand what she was selling or why she was selling it. As part of my usual process, I conduct an interview with my clients to get information on the business. It allows me to get to know who they are as people, so I can better express their unique point of view. The person I talked to was such a departure from the “person” on the website, I was almost beside myself. Jamie, or Freckles as her friends call her, was colourful, bubbly, friendly and her website was grey, static, lifeless. It didn’t make sense!

Freckles didn’t play to Freckle’s strengths. Freckles made a craft corner in her bedroom into a hobby business, which is now her full time business. She had that playful, youthful energy about her, and it wasn’t anywhere on the website. That’s because her copy didn’t cut to the core of what Freckles was about – making custom candles and gifts for you is your gift to her. It didn’t come through because there were just too many wrong words on the page for people to get a sense of her.

A lot of writing is cutting. Stephen King said it best – writing (or any creative endeavour) is all about “murdering your darlings” – cutting the unneeded words, sentences, paragraphs. However, the process of writing as writing isn’t thought about as talking onto a page. That’s kind of what it is – we’re substituting our ears for our eyes. What we can't hear we see, and what we're told to see, we imagine. We want to lead our reader down a path toward understanding, familiarity and above all, trust.

It works with business, it works with dating, it works with any human interaction - if you're writing, just be yourself first! It closes your "credibility gap" from page to person.

What do you think? Does wordiness turn you off?

Here's my pitch and sizzle reel

Well, not quite. But the great friends at Bizividz recorded a great promo video for my upcoming seminar on Monday, 9 May at Sandringham Yacht Club. Click here to register!

To talk copywriting (accounting...website development and everything else) you're always welcome to come along to one of Bayside Business Network's networking nights at the beautiful Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Sandringham. It's on Wednesday, the 4th of May. Click here for more information!

The Pointy End Podcast now up!

A month or so ago, I was humbled to be a guest on Active Elements Radio The Pointy End podcast, hosted by Dr. Leslie Fisher. Dr. Fisher is a good friend and colleague of mine, and we've had many long conversations about a variety of topics during our meetings at the NAB Village. The Pointy End is his podcast series looking at "the pointy end" of what people in small business do, in probing and insightful detail. It's a relaxed but no less informative talk...I hope!

It was a great privilege to guest "star" on the podcast, which you can hear above. We talked about the "pointy end" of copywriting, its relation to journalism and media culture as a whole. About 40 minutes - let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Think About It: are you adding content or transforming your business?

Below is a modified version of the Hysteria Magazine industry mailout.

In 2011, I finished my Masters’ thesis, Rock Sells Out: Australian rock journalism—cultural creation,industry influence and electronic evolution. The last part of my thesis dealt with the inevitable—print was in decline and new ways of delivering content and experiences was on the rise. This is before anyone thought of the concepts of 'distributed content' and how to engage Hysteria’s core demographic.

Even back in the doldrums of the early 2000s, the research was clear: people aren’t paying for content if they don’t have to. The onus was on us to innovate. The old models of engagement are over.

Journalists and content creators aren’t simply word monkeys any more: they have to be content producers AND search engine optimisers. There’s no going back to filing copy and putting your feet up after. This new age affords us many benefits. Streamlining a content experience on one device means better and greater opportunities for all.

Analytics. Hysteria Magazine is a completely digital experience. How do you know you’re making a return on investment placing an ad in print? You can guess. In reality, you don’t. By going digital, you tap into analytics. Analytics are cold, hard and accurate facts staring in the face of blind faith. For example:

We gather this information precisely and in real time. The CAB audit might show you how many titles are in circulation, not how many eyeballs are on pages. Do you know for sure your ad made a sale? Online content is an opportunity to refine one of your business' investments.

Engagement. Using our proprietary app and social channels,  you can unique experience tailored around specific media. Do you think about your business as having one function plus content, or does your content transform your business entirely?

Distributed content. Hysteria isn’t a mag, a website, an Instagram, a Twitter, a Facebook. It’s everything. One channel doesn’t drive traffic to the other—it’s the complete package. If you have content that doesn’t fit the traditional 'website as print substitute' model, we get creative. We maximise reach using our social and proprietary channels.
All of it is Hysteria.

Copywriting and content isn't simply "marketing" or having a "presence." If you have a website and social media, it transforms your business. You may not be a "content provider" or "news site," by trade. It's undeniable content forms part of your identity and how you communicate that identity to the world.  Content shouldn't be an afterthought. It should feel as important as what product you sell or what service you deliver. What people see is your business. That's how you should do business!

How do words explode a thousand times?

Hiring others is more than getting someone with a skill you don't have to complete a task for you.

I realised earlier this week that writing words isn't just a service, but an investment.

Copywriting and content is an investment that pays dividends over and over again. Like the great Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin said many years ago: "Books are of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite only explodes once, whereas a book explode a thousand times."

In a business sense, your words are written once and potentially convert hundreds, thousands - even millions of readers into customers. Think of your favourite book. How many times have those words been read by millions, even billions of people?

Think of slogans like "Just Do It" and "I'm Lovin' It." It's almost impossible to think of those three words and separate them from their brands. These precious little words "explode" in the mind, impossible to ignore.

How do you get your words to "explode a thousand times?" If you aren't content with doing it yourself, you hire professional and practical copywriters in your stead. It's a form of short-term business building and long-term investment.

Hiring external contractors to write your copy not only saves time and effort on your part, it's also:

  • A form of passive income. Good copywriting increases web traffic. Great copywriting converts them into customers.
  • Gives your brand identity. A consistent tone and voice sets your brand apart from the rest. It's vital for all businesses to lend familiarity and consistency in their dealings with customers.
  • Forms part of your overall marketing strategy. Consistent blog posts and other marketing materials increases your reach and potential customer base.

If you or someone you know is willing to make an investment in words that attract, engage and convert, contact me today! I'll make sure your words "explode a thousand times," too!