January 2017

Monthly Archives

  • Self-Promotion: How to Be Less Awkward

    Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to promote services and products you believe in, and yet, feel completely awkward promoting your own work?

    The first thing to understand is that this is completely normal. The second thing to do is take action to overcome the awkwardness and promote yourself like a star.

    Before you can do so, you need to be REALLY clear on why people should choose you to solve their problem. (Do you know what problems you solve? Start there.) Why are you better than your competitors? Who can you help the most (which target audience)? Have you developed your key messages?

    I try to put myself in my clients’ position. What do they need? How can I help? Am I the best person to help them? If so, why? If not, why not?

    If you struggle to answer these questions and you have clients you trust, it’s okay to ask for input. Ask them questions like, “What do you value most about our work together?” Or, “How does my product or service help you achieve your goals?” Let your clients know you want to continually improve, and gathering feedback is part of this process. I’ve yet to meet a client who reacted poorly to this type of inquiry.

    If you’re just getting started (and don’t have many clients) or if the idea of asking your clients for input makes you want to close up shop and become a barista at Starbucks, there’s another option: pretend you’re someone else.

    Yep, you read that right. Think of someone, a friend or colleague you really admire and respect. What is it about them–their personal traits, their professional skills–that engender such positive feelings? That was pretty easy, right? Now, imagine you are your own friend or colleague, and do your best to describe yourself in the third person. For the sake of convenience, let’s say your name is Jaden.

    What are Jaden’s best skills? What makes Jaden stand out among peers? Why would someone want to work with Jaden? How would Jaden’s friends describe him/her?

    As unorthodox as this sounds, I highly recommend giving it a go. As long as you’re honest with yourself, this type of self-exploration can lead to some insightful realizations.

    When it’s time to promote yourself, the most successful way to do so is to focus on what others need, and how you help meet that need. How do you feel when someone tells you all about a valuable product or service? Most of us are grateful. Imagine that’s what you’re doing when you promote yourself, because hopefully, you are.

  • The Importance of Closing the Loop

    When people ask for my help with communication, they often begin by asking how to broadcast their messages. Only after I ask whether they are interested in feedback from their stakeholders do they remember communication is supposed to be a two-way street.

    As you plan your communication, whether you’re launching a massive marketing campaign or sending an all-employee email, consider whether you’re inviting your audience to respond (and be sure to create a mechanism for them to do so).

    “How?” you ask. Well, if nothing else, be sure to include contact information at the bottom of press releases, blogs, emails, and other communication tools. Then, consider surveys (formal and informal, online and in-person). Keep surveys short if you want responses. Also, if you are part of a large organization, check your website to see whether it has a search function and/or directory listing. Try to imagine how outsiders would search for information, rather than using your internal corporate structure to organize information.

    Basically, you can’t go wrong if you put as much effort into listening as you do into getting your message out.

  • Avoid Embarrassing Mistakes With These Proofreading Tips

    Spelling, grammar, and other writing mistakes tell your audience you either don’t know or don’t care whether you’ve gotten things right. These are not good messages.

    In today’s busy world, many of us feel like we need to proofread our work right after we write it (if we proofread at all). This is a tall order for our brains, because our brains remember what we meant to write and will often breeze over mistakes, filling them in with the intended word or punctuation mark.

    Whether you’re writing a quick email or a major proposal, mistakes can be costly. Here are some tips to help your brain see what you actually wrote.

    1. Read each word out loud slowly. If you have colleagues within earshot and your information isn’t for public consumption, this approach is problematic. However, if you have enough privacy (or don’t need it), this is a great way to proofread. Carefully look at each word before saying it — each word should take about a half-second to look at and then pronounce. The first few times you do this, you’ll notice your eyes darting ahead. Force them back to the word you’re reviewing.
    2. Take a small break and do something else before proofreading. The more time you can put between the time you write and the time you proofread the better. While your subject matter may remain familiar, the precise way you intended to tell your story will begin to fade. This makes proofreading easier because you actually have to READ the material to know what it says.
    3. Read your work backwards. I know it sounds weird, but reading backwards works really well to spot misspelled words, repeated words, and formatting mistakes. Because the narrative doesn’t flow, your brain doesn’t get swept up in the story, and instead stays focused on each individual word.
    4. Find a proofing buddy. While this may not be practical for every email you write, it’s great to find a colleague who’s willing to review your work before you send it to key audiences, like your boss or prospective clients. You can do them the same favor.
    5. Never send anything without reading it through at least once, twice is better. If you are in a hurry, at least read over your work once before sending it. Look for common mistakes you know you make (for example, I often write “your” instead of “you”).

    If you’d like to improve your writing, let me know. It’s amazing how much progress people make when they dedicate a little time to it.

  • Speak Clearly, If You Speak At All…

    Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. was poet, among other things, who said, “Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.”

    I love this quote because it reminds me of the value of people who wait to speak until they have taken in all the information available and decided they have something worthwhile to contribute. For those who remember the old EF Hutton commercials, it’s kind of like that: when EF Hutton talks, people listen.

    One of the mistakes new leaders often make is to share their opinions early rather than waiting to hear what others have to say. Rushing to prove how smart you are or how much you know often has the opposite effect: better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

    If you’re interested in communication coaching, let me know.