Dec 31 2016
In 2016, my favorite high school teacher, Nick Ferentinos, lost his battle with lung cancer. Nick was a teacher who selected the best and brightest students to participate in his journalism program. We thought we knew how to write until our first paper came back with more red ink than we’d ever seen on a page.
Though I hadn’t seen Nick in 25 years, I’d heard him in my head regularly, whenever I started to break one of his many rules. In journalism class, he’d tell us, “You can only break the rules once you know them.” Each day, he implored, cajoled, and castigated us until we internalized the knowledge he held so dear. Whether the lessons were about small points of grammar or large philosophical discussions, Nick delivered them with unrelenting passion. Here are a few pearls of wisdom I carry with me.
- If you feel compelled to use the word “very,” choose a better adjective. Instead of “very hungry,” use famished, ravenous, or starving. Instead of “very tired;” say exhausted, wasted, spent, or bone-weary.
- There’s never a good reason to use “in order to.” Just say “to”–the rest is superfluous.
- Express yourself with powerful verbs; and the corollary: “There is” is a horribly weak subject/verb combination.
- You have more than a number, not over a number. Can you climb over the number 100? No. But you can have more than 100.
- You can almost always cut a little more and your writing will be a little better. Distill your story to its essence.
- Pay attention to spelling, especially names.
- Talk to everyone who has a piece of the story. Reserve judgment. Keep digging.
- Tell the real story; this is not always the obvious one.
Thank you, Nick, for teaching me to write and to dig for the truth no matter how deeply its buried. With your teachings firmly embedded, I just published my first book, Perseverance and Passion: The People Who Shaped Health Care in Ukiah, California (available at Mendocino Book Company and the Ukiah Valley Medical Center gift shop). I will always be grateful for your brutal honesty and your loving compassion.
Dec 20 2016
This holiday season, I’m throwing out a challenge: take a moment to reflect on the people who have positively influenced you this year and write a quick note to thank them. It can be an email or, if you’re old school, a hand-written card.
Your note doesn’t have to be long, but it should be specific and heartfelt. Here are some of the notes I plan to send:
To the graphic designer who turned my text into a beautiful book, thank you for teaching me the importance of reviewing the details over and over and over, and then over again. Thank you for encouraging me to clarify the copyright so the book’s integrity is safe for all time. Thank you for leading by example with compassion and patience the whole way through.
To the graphic designer and dear friend who always forces me to dig deep, whether I’m rebranding my company or crafting a persuasive bit of prose, you always ask EXACTLY the right questions to help me do my very best work. Thank you; I don’t know what I’d do without you.
To the business coach who never judges my faults, but rather supports me to grow by focusing on my strengths, I am so glad we’re working together again.
To my web developer and friend, thanks for showing me what it looks like to improve continually. Each time we meet, I find you’ve discovered yet another way to better express your creativity, build your business, or grow as a person. I see you do these things, and I think, “Hey, if Marc can do all that, maybe I can, too.”
There is something about receiving a written note that feels more thoughtful and permanent than a verbal compliment. If this feels like an intimidating task, why not simply start with the last three people who did something helpful? Don’t get hung up on saying something amazingly poignant. Just share what’s in your heart. I promise you’ll feel happier and so will those on the receiving end of your gratitude.
Dec 12 2016
As you think about your marketing and promotion for the coming year, consider who else serves your clients. I’m not talking about your direct competitors, but rather organizations or individuals who provide a related or complementary product or service.
If you are aware of a something that you genuinely believe would benefit your clients, why not publicly promote it? Promoting someone else says to your clients, “I’m looking out for you.” And I guarantee the folks who provide the product or service you promote will see you favorably.
In my line of work, I help with clients on public relations and communication strategy. This often spills into related areas like marketing and advertising that require graphic design, photography, and web design. It helps my clients when I say, “I know a great graphic designer. Her name is Karen Adair, and she owns DG Creative. Or, “For commercial photography, I think Cat Vibert can really help you tell your story. And, “If you need a web design that is both functional and visually appealing, I always call Marc Carson.” (I really do recommend these three people. They are amazing at what they do.)
You can informally promote a related business, or you can team up and agree to a mutually beneficial cross promotion plan. Be aware that you’re putting your reputation on the line when you promote someone else’s stuff, so be discerning. But as long as you choose well, you can actually enhance your own reputation when you enhance someone else’s.
If you’d like to learn more about how to do this, let me know.
Dec 05 2016
As you contemplate goals for next year, why not create a whole year’s worth of social media content at the same time? This will actually save you time and likely result in better posts. Rather than trying to come up with brilliant social media posts when you’re too busy or too tired, you can create a year’s worth of posts and get them scheduled in a single afternoon.
If your social media marketing efforts are a collaborative endeavor, create a Google Docs spreadsheet and invite contributors to add organizational events/promotions. When you’ve collected this information, you’re ready to start. You can either schedule posts right in the social media platform or create a spreadsheet with planned posts.
I usually begin with the easiest posts: those related to major holidays. While you’re wishing everyone Merry Christmas, you can also include information about when you’ll be closed. For example, you could post: “Merry Christmas! We wish you a happy, healthy holiday with family and friends. We’ll be closed December 25-26 and December 31-January 1. We look forward to serving you again in the new year.” That same afternoon, you could plan the post for the first week in July: “Happy Fourth of July! We’ll be closed July 3-4. Enjoy your Independence Day celebration.”
You get the idea.
Next, take a look at your organizational calendar. Does your business have seasonal promotions? Plan the posts for them now. If you’re in the health care industry, you can provide useful information about flu shots in the fall and immunizations in August. Each month has different health observances, so piggy-back on those to share timely, relevant messages. If you’re in education, the school year offers plenty of opportunities for pre-planned posts, from back-to-school nights to parent-teacher conferences to school board meetings. If you’re in real estate, you can recommend seasonal home maintenance tips.
Regardless of your industry, always post information from the consumer’s perspective. Instead of describing your services, your posts should explain how you meet consumer needs–share information about how much better your consumers’ lives will be once they use your service, attend your event, or take your advice. Describe the problem you’re solving and then demonstrate how you solve it.
I highly recommend using engaging photos or images with each post. Most of us are attracted to interesting visuals. Even if your text contains the funniest, most heart-warming, or most profound message, without a picture it will often get missed.
Bing.com has a great way of allowing you to share images without running afoul of copyrights. Once you enter a keyword image search, a little menu across the top of the images (under the first image bar) appears. It includes image size, color, type…and license. If you click on license, you’ll see options like, “Free to share and use.” These filters help assure you don’t inadvertently steal someone’s image.
Like I said earlier, you can create a spreadsheet with planned posts and enter those posts at the beginning of each week (or each month), or you can go ahead and schedule a year’s worth of posts so they populate on the predetermined date in the social media platform of your choice. Then, when you’re feeling inspired, you can add posts to augment what you’ve already planned.
By creating a social media calendar ahead of time, you don’t have to come up with witty remarks and engaging posts under pressure. And because the pressure’s off, you are far more likely to come up with those witty, engaging posts. If you need help getting started, let me know.