As an editor/writer, it is easier to stand in the background. A few years ago, I was honored to be in a three-day, thirty-person mastermind with the renowned and loveable Les Brown. His key message is “Everyone has a story.” So of course, he asked me, “Heidi, what is your story?” I answered, “Les, my story is that I help everyone else share their story.” I don’t know if that was the answer he was looking for. I told myself, “We all have our own path.”
Some people seem to gather and share amusing or inspirational tales naturally in conversation. I love the mantra of “Get up, dress up, show up, stand up, step up, and speak up.” We are all being challenged to find our “voice” to share our story, to say what we need to say or do what we need to do—to fulfill our purpose.
But for me, this is a major challenge. The written word is where I feel safe. It is where I believe I can best represent myself. Words behave for me when I write them down. They become unruly little brats when I try to corral them while giving a speech.
A friend once explained why so well. He loved to speak to groups and he had managed to write a book. To write the book was by far more challenging than public speaking. He explained, “There are speakers who write and writers who speak.” At first I thought he was being clever; then I saw his wisdom.
Ask yourself, which is easier—speaking or writing? If both are equally fun for you, you are lucky. The rest of us need to acknowledge and understand. If speaking is easier for you than writing, forgive yourself. If writing is easier than speaking, forgive yourself.
Progress starts with self-awareness and self-acceptance.
HOW OFTEN TO BLOG (OR…WHAT AM I GETTING MYSELF INTO?)
People hesitate before they start a blog. They ask thoughtful questions. Will this become a burden? How often do I have to blog? What if I fall behind?
Blogging is not about perfection; it is about consistency. This is difficult for me, but I have finally committed to “get over myself” and come out from hiding behind helping others with their blogs and start “putting myself out there” again. To share thoughts online breeds its own apprehension. Add to that the requirement of dedication. However, I have a moral responsibility to be a role model. I believe that when someone starts a conversation, they shouldn’t walk out of the room, mid-sentence.
I did that, and I apologize.
I am starting to feel better, now that I have asked for your forgiveness. I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I am starting to have fun!
I should have known better. When I coach clients who want to start a blog, I make sure that they take an honest look at their time allotment, their overall strategy, and their commitment to consistency. They explain logically that they feel they don’t have time, they run out of ideas, and they need help with accountability. I recently designed a unique program that solves their problems.
“How often do I have to write a blog post?” This is the most asked question. If your blog is purely personal, for you and your friends and family, the answer is wide open. If you want to make a living as a professional blogger, a lapse in consistent blogging could lose your following. Trainings on this ambitious pursuit are available. You need lots of faithful followers, who will find you if you achieve high search engine ranking. You achieve high search engine ranking if you have lots of followers. Chicken. Egg. Egg. Chicken. One thing is clear: if you want readers coming back on a regular basis and stay “top of mind,” with them, it is not a good thing if you “go dark.”
In an ideal world (the one I want to live in) a blog can become a dynamic dialogue between post writer and post reader. That’s how you develop a loyal following, your tribe. As in offline relationships, bonds are built with trust. Trust is built with consistency. You can like someone who is not consistent (such as sometimes cheery, sometimes moody). However, your trust in that person eventually will weaken. Same with the cyber friendship called a blog.
How often to blog gets different answers, but over time the general consensus seems to be a minimum of posting one blog a week. For many of us, that is often enough. Once a day is optimum if you have a lot to say and your readers want to hear from you that often. If you post on Twitter or on a fast-breaking topic such as sports or world news, you easily could post almost hourly.
Before you start your blog, think about how much time you can realistically devote to it. After you start your blog, keep it up. Plan to be consistent. Start with once a week. You can always increase the frequency of your blogs if you need or want to.
Thank you for welcoming me back into the blogosphere. The cyber world, its customs, and expectations are always shifting. I would like confirmation or dispute of my “post at least once a week” recommendation. Would you please tell me what you think?
Yesterday I heard some great advice about how to stay in the job market. In a video of a seminar by prominent motivational speaker Connie Podesta (www.conniepodesta.com), she said, essentially, that you had better be able to tell her, in thirty seconds or less, why she should hire you. In these days of downsizing, that’s truer than ever.
Do you have a thirty second elevator speech, explaining why someone should hire you?
A good template for saying what you do, or “pitching,” is the six questions asked by traditional journalists–Who? What? Where? Why? When? And How? Tell others what you do and why you are valuable to them. Then trim it, tone it, rearrange it, and polish it to make it easily roll off your tongue.
Who: Who are you? We each wear numerous hats. Which hat will be most attractive to the person you are talking to, your prospective client or employer?
What: What do you do? How does what you do fill the need of the person you are talking to?
Where: Where do you do what you do? Are you geographically focused like a realtor? Or can you help anyone, via the Internet?
Why: Why do you do what you do? What is your educational and professional background? Is your professional passion due to a personal experience?
When: When do you do what you do? Do you work during a specific season, month, or days of the week? If so, this is important to share.
Whew…this takes some deep thinking, right? Lastly…
How: How do you do what you do? This is probably the most important but most difficult to describe. You do what you do in a special way that makes you different from everyone else. Explain your unique approach, your “special sauce,” the way you stand out from your competition. In just a couple of sentences.
Yes, it is a challenge to put all this together succinctly in a way that is both easy to understand and easy to say. I challenge you to work on your thirty-second pitch. You will need only four or five sentences. Thirty seconds doesn’t sound long, and it isn’t. However, it is approximately the maximum amount of time that anyone is willing to listen after they have asked you, “What do you do?” If you drone on, their eyes glaze over and their listening will shut down.
Instead of boring them, wow ‘em with what you say and how briefly and concisely you say it! Leave them wanting more and asking follow-up questions.
Explain what you do in the best way possible. These are the most important words you could ever write and say, to propel your business. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking with it. What’s yours?
In our society’s currently contentious and downright crude era, the necessity to say or write the words, “I’m sorry,” is increasingly frequent.
Sorry for the convoluted sentence structure. But you get my point. Not only that, I proved my point by apologizing!
Now that I have your attention, let me be clear.
Every once in awhile, something we say, do, or write requires the carefully crafted words called “an apology.” An apology is a fine art that is a necessity in smooth business transactions and good customer service. The technique of “smoothing ruffled feathers” is truly one of the best ways to achieve your goals with words to retain a client or a relationship.
It is so easy to offend. Often we are not informed that we have offended someone. When someone does complain, their concern needs to be dealt with right away.
If I ever create a misunderstanding as a result of something I wrote in an email, it is my practice to be in a hurry to take the blame, within reason. I don’t want to make things worse by claiming more responsibility than necessary. However, I want to diffuse the situation before it devolves into a slow simmer or, worse, a rolling boil.
Simple misunderstandings in email exchanges can blow up and damage relationships. Put out kitchen fires quickly before they burn down the house. If someone emails back that they are disappointed or offended by something that you wrote, figure out the source of the miscommunication and take responsibility for it, if at all possible.
I try to respond quickly with a simple apology that depicts the misunderstanding in slightly vague terms. But it must still be an apology: “I hope you know that I would never mean to offend you, misunderstand you, or to take your concerns lightly.” Then, if I still am unclear about exactly what I did wrong or what happened that was offensive, I politely ask for clarification: “Thank you for your email. I am glad that you let me know about this situation. I would really like to get this cleared up as soon as possible. I am very sorry for any miscommunication. Perhaps there are some issues or situations that I was not aware of such as…. or, perhaps I should instead have written more specifically that…”
I am firmly convinced that, secretly, everyone’s favorite four words are “You’re right; I’m wrong.” Speaking of achieving goals with words, try these; they seem to have a magical affect on people’s attitude when they feel hostile.
As you make every effort to be courteous, bear in mind that others may not be as “enlightened” as you are. You have to be nice and understanding while others don’t. Also make sure you don’t misinterpret other people’s emails. Don’t read too much into them. Don’t suspect a disrespectful tone that isn’t really there. Sometimes people are in a hurry and unintentionally seem to be abrupt.
Value the power of words to heal and to harm, to connect and offend. Adopt a practical, courteous approach or strategy to respond to the inevitable discords of human interaction. You will see the power of a few well-chosen words come to your rescue. Please share with us what is your practice, if someone were to become upset with you.
An “elevator speech” is that mini-speech, or “pitch” that you say when whenever someone asks you, “What you do?” It is named that because it needs to be short enough to answer the question when you are on an elevator, traveling between floors.
Give yourself a few moments to think about the words you use when people ask you, “What do you do?” These are valuable words. Don’t waste them. Use the opportunity to your best advantage.
Here’s my suggestion: Say what you do that helps others succeed. Think life purpose and desired outcomes. Don’t limit yourself with just a vague label.
For example, if you are a doctor, you could say, “I’m a doctor.” On the other hand, you could say, “I help heal people when they break a bone (if you are an orthopedist).” If you are a lawyer, you could say, “I help people resolve their legal disputes and stay out of court.” A teacher could say, “I help 3rd graders appreciate how the history of our country affects their daily lives.” Plumbers keep drains clear so homes and buildings don’t get flooded. Electricians help keep the lights on. You get the idea.
If you are a consultant or coach, you could use this formula: I give [your kind of client] the [what kind of skills you teach] to do [what does your client want to do.] For example, if you are a speech coach, you could use the formula like this: I give politicians the public speaking skills they need to get elected.
How do you help others to have better lives, better health, wealth, relationships? How do you help them have an easier life or to succeed in their endeavors?
I recently was reminded of how every word – even every letter – counts, when I recently revised my Twitter bio. Only 160 characters are allowed! Another way to look at an elevator speech is to consider it as a “baby bio.”
Here is the latest version of my Twitter “baby bio”: “I am a word polisher and consultant to help professionals and speaker/coaches write books, blogs, and all they need to achieve their goals with words.”
Do you have an elevator speech? What does your Twitter account say you are? Please, if you care to share, we can all learn from each other!
Whether I like it or not, abbreviations or acronyms are used online more every day. It’s kind of like a secret code. If you have to ask what it means, you’re obviously not “in the club.” When I asked my web designer why he ended all of his emails with LMK, I felt stupid when he responded simply, “Let Me Know.”
Granted, acronyms have been common for years, since before World War II, when the word snafu became commonly used for “situation normal, all [flubbed] up.” Other well-used acronyms are RSVP (please respond), TLC (tender loving care), ESP (extra-sensory perception), and FYI (for your information).
Now, we’ve added FAQs (frequently asked questions), KISS (keep it simple, stupid), DIY (do it yourself), and TBA (to be announced). Businesses use RFP (request for proposal), TOM (top of mind), WIIFM (what’s in it for me?), POS (point of service), B2B (business to business), USP (unique selling proposition), SOP (standard operating procedure), DD (due diligence), VA (virtual assistant), WCB (will call back) and LVM (left voice message).
Gaining popularity are TMI (too much information), NIMBY (not in my backyard), XOXO (hugs and kisses), BFF (Best friends forever), BTW (by the way), OMG (oh my gosh), and ETA (estimated time of arrival).
Some humorous or cute acronyms are GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) and its counterpart COCO, (coffee in, coffee out), *$? (Starbucks?), ruok (are you okay?), cul8r (see you later). Texting created the necessity to communicate in as few “characters” as possible. Therefore, we now see b4, ru, and u2, w/ (with) and w/o (without).
You can show consideration with minimal effort with the use of GMTA (great minds think alike), GMTA (great minds think for themselves), SLAW (sounds like a winner), KUTGW (keep up the good work), NRN (no reply necessary), DRIB (don’t read if busy), HTH (hope this helps), and EOM (end of message). Even if you are in a terrific rush, I urge you to have time to type the always-welcome words pls (please), tks (thanks), ty (thank you), sry (sorry), and yw (you’re welcome).
Beware of miscommunication when using ambiguous acronyms. LOL can mean laugh out loud, but it can also mean lots of love. Two very different emotions. As you can imagine, people have gotten into trouble with this one! CYA can mean the well-worn advice, “cover your ass[ets], or simply, “see ya.” CB? can be “Did he call back?” or “coffee break?” ED can be “by the end of the day” or “end of discussion.” Again, all very different meanings.
To make things more confusing, some acronyms can mean three things. For example, GG can be a compliment (good game), a salutation (gotta go), or an emotion (giggling.) Which one is it? Another risky one is STD, which has a negative history, indeed. In this acronym’s newer, more positive uses, it can mean “save the date” or “seal the deal.”
I get it that acronyms are here to stay. I’m okay with it. What I don’t like is the way they are used to be crass and insulting. Hopefully, your colleagues are not describing you or working with you in terms such as ACORN (a completely obsessive really nutty person), CWOT (complete waste of time), WOMBAT (waste of money, brains and time), ADIH (another day in hell), and SSDD (same [stuff], different day). If you have kids, keep an eye out for POS (parents over shoulder), NP (nosey parents), or PIR (parent in room).
Acronyms are less annoying than emoticons and they are used more often in a professional environment. Of course, the red heart emoticon is perfect to use with loved ones. But to some people, the smiley face doesn’t look very sincere and the angry face looks petulant.
Online acronyms and emoticons can be convenient and fun. Just make sure that every participant in the game is playing with the same set of rules. Here are a couple of questions for you: 1. Am I wrong about emoticons? 2. What are some of your favorite acronyms? I look forward to reading your comments, as you weigh in on this cryptic topic!
Technology is cool, but have you ever noticed how it also is a bit “chilly”?
All business owners and professionals are aware of the need to “do social media.” Marketing experts advise urge everyone to amp up their social media efforts.
Nevertheless, here’s my problem. In this age of rampant rudeness, technology also is creating even more separation between people. I recommend that everyone focus on strengthening their online relationships, to help thaw out the chilly medium of technology with the warmth and consideration of the human touch. Without a doubt, warmth and consideration strengthens connection, deepens loyalty, and builds business, both offline and online.
Throughout time, one of the best connecting words is simply “you.” “Put yourself in your reader’s shoes” and tell them what’s in it for them. That will give you the clues you need to know how to reach out and connect.
Remember that all your words need to have the ring of authenticity. Aren’t the words “awesome” and “incredible” overused to the point that they devoid of any passion? I would love it if I never saw or heard those words again.
If you post a blog, another way to warm up your relationships online is to allow commenters on your blog. Why should your readers be required to comment “in a vacuum”? Aren’t they actually trying to engage with you by commenting on your blog?
Allow commenters on your blog. Allow commenters to post without your approval. Above all, be sure to respond to every commenter. This is a powerful technique to warm up your relationship with your readers and prospects. It’s also basic courtesy, which is never a bad thing.
Speaking of posting comments on Twitter or on other people’s blogs, Mom was right. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Put another way, if you wouldn’t be thrilled to see your email or your post on the front page of your local newspaper, keep it to yourself. You can think an insulting comment, but the moment that you type it and place that fateful finger on the “send” button, it can haunt you forever.
“Digital dirt”–things that you said or did online that you regret–is very difficult to bury under a pile of other posts. As I was taught so cogently in journalism school, “When in doubt, leave it out.” Remember, once something is printed, you cannot “un-print” it.
Even if you aren’t willing to always be nice, at least be willing to always be smart. If you are angry or upset, don’t share that fact on the Web. Instead, type your thoughts into a Word document, read it over, and sigh over it. Then, delete it. If you absolutely must send something that you might regret later, give yourself a cooling off period. Sleep on it and give it to a friend to read first. Then, delete it.
You will never regret applying warmth and consideration abundantly in your social media. Have you ever written something online that you did regret?