If you don't know what this means, better ask a local.
The language and words we choose show if we’re locals or tourists – and if we know what we’re talking about.
When you visit New York City, you want to go to “the Hi Line” not “Hi Line Park.” And if you’re looking for good Cuban food you ask the taxi driver to take you to Broadway and Houston- but you pronounce it “How-ston.” Then you’re speaking like a local.
When you visit Pittsburgh, don’t be offended if you someone mentions that you’re not a Yinzer but do be offended if someone in Cork, Ireland calls you a langer.
When you’re looking for someone to write your copy – whether it’s for the web, ads, brochures or a simple customer letter – make sure you’re using a writer who knows how to speak the vernacular. Give me a call and let’s talk about the language your customers will understand best.
In a two-hour delay at LaGuardia, I wrote up a 400-word interview, 2 blog posts for my business and one for my personal blog. I had a little trouble focusing because I was worried about my toddler who was rushed to the hospital earlier that morning due to an asthma flare-up. But if you have trouble focusing on your writing day to day, if you struggle to find the right words, and you just don’t know how to get started, you probably need a professional writer who can focus and deliver under any circumstances. Give me a call, let me see how I can help!
It’s never to early to learn how to talk to customers.
Lemonade Stand Proving Ground
My kids are learning to do this at ages 7, 5 and 2 thanks to their very first lemonade stand. We live near a park and have a relatively constant flow of potentially thirsty neighbors walking past our house. So my boys decided they could earn extra cash and my husband and I supported their entrepreneurial spirit.
One of the first things they had to master was not making lemonade (they are old hats at that) but building a relationship with their customers. Each of my children have different areas of skill here:
One is more articulate and can enunciate clearly.
One is more willing to engage strangers in their interests.
One is more aggressive about making the ask.
Working together, they are a flawless team. But when one loses interest or has to run inside to use the bathroom, their sales process slows.
As I oversee their efforts from my C-Suite (a lawn chair on the porch) I realize what a delicate dance it is to engage customers online and try to channel each of the three heads of Cerberus (not a bad name for their lemonade business…) equally.
Since our lemonade stand opened, I’ve become very aware of this when I’m writing sales copy, web copy, customer letters or social media content. I check to see if I’ve allowed one approach to dominate the others. When it does, I just call for a potty break.
I work out a lot – for fun, for stress relief, and because it’s in my nature to set and strive to achieve goals. To help
Work Hard for the Results You Want
me reach these fitness goals, I hired a coach. Having a coach gives me accountability and someone to help me overcome obstacles and celebrate my successes.
For my clients, I’m their social media coach. I don’t always write all their content – many times I’m just laying out their editorial calendar (training schedule) and teaching them how and when to use new platforms (workouts).
But my own training hit a bump in the road when my coach accepted a new job in another state. Now I am meeting her replacement and I have to bring her up to speed on my goals, my philosophy, my strengths, weaknesses, what I’m afraid to try and what motivates me. The good part is – I know what I want her to know.
I try to help my customers with the same thing. One thing I offer my customers is the creation of a social media policy or guidelines. I know there will come a time when I need to move on or they decide to take over these tasks in-house. By working with my customers to build a social media policy, my goal is to make the transition and education of their new social media manager as simple as possible. I can’t make it seamless, but I can give them a sense of history of what customers have hated and what they’ve loved, what we’ve tried (and where we’ve failed) and the overall goals all of this creative work!
I found out recently that some employees at one of my customers’ offices are scared to talk around me! They are
Social Media makes some people nervous
worried that anything and everything they say will end up on the Interwebs via one of the nine social media platforms that I manage for their brand. Where did they get that idea?
They are scared to say something wrong and don’t realize they are valuable sources of information.So to counteract the feelings of fear, in this particular office – I have a new strategy.
I now email staff and ask what they are up to that week. Sometimes I ask for their “three most challenging tasks” or “the thing they never thought would be part of this job” or “their favorite activity/what makes it all worthwhile.” I also ask for photos of their day-to-day or that captures what can’t be expressed in words.
This had led to astonishing success and resulted in very engaging and useful info from various levels – like the accountant, the CEO and even the warehouse manager! Seems like all they needed was a little structure they could trust to increase their comfort with providing content.
I know their customers are going to love what I have to share. It’s content gold.
So, how does your enterprise make it easier or more comfortable for employees to give you the content you need?
Bauhaus-inspired Bangle - a reminder of utility, economy & a bit of fashion.
On a recent trip to Germany, I visited the Bauhaus Archive/Museum of Design in Berlin. I wasn’t expecting to find great writing advice while on holiday, but there it was, in a summary of the instructional style of weaving master Benita Koch-Otte.
All writers weave words whether they write journalism, copywriting, or fictional storytelling. A great writer weaves words together and ensures each word has a purpose (utility) and the story is told as succinctly as possible (economy). Great writing is great when it truly relates to the needs of human beings but is also aware of its context and style and how it fits into the big picture.
You don’t need to know anything about the Bauhaus to understand that this advice, though 90 years old, is absolutely relevant to all writing today.
Emoji add some tone to written messages - but nothing replaces real face-to-face communication
Should you deliver bad news in person?
I would argue yes.
Experts say that 70% of our message is carried in non-verbal communication, that is how we convey meaning without words. The height of our eyebrows, the position of our arms, the volume of our voice, even the rate we blink all carry important information about our message to our listeners. People believe the messages they receive from non-verbal channels more than the words they hear. Purely written communication loses a huge amount of information and is so easily misinterpreted.
Unfortunately the organizers of the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon missed an opportunity to connect with their customers – the 51% of runners who didn’t get official results. Only a written statement appeared on their website, explaining their concern for runner safety.
If they were my client, I would have recommended creating and sharing a simple video from the race director, expressing regret for the fact that the weather was out of their control and that runner safety was, and is, their number one priority. And if the race director didn’t have the communication skills to express that perfect mix of regret, compassion and executive decision-making power, then find someone with authority who could.
It’s so easy to share videos today, thanks to smartphones and the variety of social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and via video sharing on LinkedIn) all businesses should be thinking of ways to maximize the delivery of their messages to their customers – not just 30%.
One of my favorite aspects of LinkedIn, besides Answers, is Recommendations. I’m not shy about asking for Recommendations, and all the pundits will tell that waiting patiently for someone to take the initiative to recommend you is fruitless. You must make the request.
And if people are following that advice, chances are you’ll be asked to make recommendations for others at some point. I have! In “How to Write About Something Negative Without Negativity“, I discussed how to write a letter of recommendation that conveys when someone has done a terrible job without coming across like a complete troll.
When you’re asked to write a recommendation for someone you truly feel made a difference, providing high quality work, constantly offered creative and practical solutions and kept up a professional attitude all the while – how do you write a recommendation that person deserves without sounding cliche?
Give that person a STAR.
The STAR approach will help you be specific and really lay out the deserved kudos and endorsement.
Situation – Lay out the scene. What was the environment or time frame? Were there unusual factors involved like it new product bugs, supply chain failures, staff shortages? Be specific and show you know the facts.
Task – Talk about the job that needed to be done. Close a big deal with a customer? Implement a new process? Develop a new branding strategy? Again, be specific.
Action – Highlight what the person did to successfully complete each task and how they did it. Include powerful, positive verbs!
Result – Did the project come in under budget? Did the team seal the deal on a new account? Focus on the real outcomes and again, be as specific as possible. If you saw really great work, you don’t need fancy language. You just need to accurately and specifically
Can’t think of what to write for that next blog post, tweet or update? Even the most creative writer gets in a slump. I never get “writer’s block” because I’ve discovered that I’m an alchemist. What looks like ordinary matter to some is pure gold to me.
After I get my feet wet working for clients with several employees, I turn on my nosey side. Actually, that side is rarely turned off, so let’s say I ramp it up a bit and market it as “the natural curiosity of a writer.” I will actually linger in the kitchen and strike up conversations with folks I haven’t met. I’ll start a hallway conversation and invite passers-by to comment on a topic I’m covering. I’ll pop my head into someone’s office, asking if they’ve seen so-and-so (who I know isn’t around) and then casually get their opinion on a current project. I rarely talk – my goal is to get them talking. And each time I engage in one of these tactics, which could appear to be time-wasters, I’m turning what could be ordinary information into writer’s gold.
No one person knows the complete ins and outs of a medium to large organization. There are tiny pockets of useful information stored all over the staff and as a writer and social media strategist for several clients, I know you cannot sit at your temporary desk or in your cubicle-on-loan waiting for people to drop juicy details in your lap. You’ve got to go and uncover them, sometimes with the delicate brush and other times with a pickaxe. As an outside consultant, I’m fortunate to see connections that others inside the organization take for granted and overlook. It’s probably a little easier for people to share things with me than to share with their co-workers or managers. I’m thrilled when someone begins a sentence with, “No one else really knows this but…” That usually means they are about to share something really exciting and I can bring it to the attention of eager customers and loyal followers.
I also never take the credit for content I get this way. I share the love. I mention to my point person how valuable it was to speak with the lady in accounting, or the man in tech support, or the folks in operations who pointed out a new system they are trying to streamline a project. I want to person who hired me to realize what a great team they have in place. I also want the people who shared ideas and thoughts with me to realize they have a lot to offer.
So if you’re trying to go it alone and create all the content for your business blog, Twitter feed, Facebook posts, Pinterest images, Google+ page, or YouTube channel – take a step away from your computer and become an alchemist. Turn that ordinary material into social media gold!
The Bumpy, Grumpy Road, available in paperback & e-book
Mine was, and sometimes still does. But as a mom, I am always looking for the solution that fits the personality of each child (much the same way I work with clients). And as a writer, I know a well-told story can really convince a potential customer to become a satisfied client. So I combined both perspectives and wrote my first children’s book for my grumpy son. It’s called The Bumpy, Grumpy Road.
It tells the story of a boy named Dylan who drives a car. As he makes bad choices (angry words and behavior) his road gets very bumpy and unpleasant to drive. As he makes better choices, the road gets easier. I used this story to illustrate to my son that our actions and attitudes are choices. We can choose the easy road, or the hard. He really got it.
And after FamilyFun magazine printed my essay about the story, other parents wrote to me that their children understood the concept, too.
Never underestimate the power of a well-told tale!
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