The popular expression of dialing up to 11 comes from the movie This is Spinal Tap, where the band had an amplifier with a dial that typically went up to 10. The guitarist wanted the maximum impact, so he showed off his amplifier saying, this one goes up to 11! So the expression means to maximize beyond expected limits.
And, oh did I have some limits! The economic recession of 2009 had a harsh effect on my personal economy and career. Beyond the poor collective circumstances, I had a poor image of my strengths and how to package my many and varied jobs into an asset worth hiring.
I noticed in the recession that not everyone lost their businesses, home, marriage, and savings. I was curious how they did that. How did people survive and even better, how did they thrive? This is the story of what I learned about thriving and how I applied it to maximize my career beyond the limits of my circumstances.
Without the permission to feel, make mistakes, and be human, before the recession, I felt unsafe and that I must project an image of knowledge and availability. I did almost anything for clients at lower and lower prices. After my personal economy crashed, I opened up to vulnerability and authenticity in my personal life, which then spilled over into my professional interactions and career aspirations.
Second, I allowed myself to change my mind. I noticed that I wasn’t thinking about myself in the best light. I noticed how hard I was on myself. What I did was to question the back-story of my life and career. Over time, I realized more and more of my unique value. Over time, I came to believe I could reframe my perceptions. And over time, I changed my thinking and I finally feel aligned with a life that is full with unique gifts to share.
Third, I rebuilt my career based on my strengths. At one point, I had to trick myself into seeing those strengths. One of the techniques I used I call “It’s a Wonderful Life” based on the movie of the same name. In this exercise, I took time to think about jobs from the past. In the movie, George Bailey gets to view life as if he’d never been born. So, that’s what I did in my minds eye with each past job. What if I weren’t there? What would have happened? I wrote down those things and started to see a pattern of a story of someone who saw the big picture, identified areas for potential issues, and assimilated those things into a comprehensive plan that I meticulously executed.
At another point, I was an independent contractor offering my services. While my services were based on my strengths, companies didn’t have a spending priority connected to what I was offering in product positioning. I took another look at myself. Where was the gap in what I was offering? It turns out I was missing the critical element of my skill in breaking down technological or other complex concepts into simplified, understandable language, metaphors, and images.
I called on my network and began discussing those skills. By talking to colleagues and researching, I ended up being hired for a project training users on how to use email in Outlook, since their old program was being replaced. After months of agonizing over my flailing business, the time from my “aha” to getting that project was a matter of weeks. Then I took the outcomes from that project to identify my skill, and target my communications skills from an IT perspective – sharing technology changes with users. Again I tapped my network and got confirmation. I updated my LinkedIn profile to highlight my accomplishments in the area of communications.
At that point I felt ready to present myself to the world as a communicator of technology. I sent out an email from within LinkedIn to about 150 of my 700 or so connections, and authentically described my change in direction.
Guess what happened? I love this quote that says “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” A man that I worked with 15 years before responded to my email. He acknowledged me for the authentic changes I was making. He said his wife worked in IT Communications, and she had a job opening. I interviewed with her for a job title I’ve never had, in an industry I’ve never worked, and yet with her husband’s recommendation of my work ethic and positive character, she offered me the job. I feel like I created leverage from knowing my true skills, and expressing them in my LinkedIn profile and resume in a way that had the recruiter saying my resume was one of the best she had seen. I dialed it up to 11!
In making these changes, I feel that I’ve captured the essence of thriving in this new economy, and if I can do it, so can others. I feel I’ve discovered the tools and attitudes needed to go beyond expected limits, and I want to help others do the same. I’ve taken a career path of authenticity, given myself permission to change my mind and adapt, and built a career on my truest strengths. If you’re feeling stuck or you want to transition to a new position or industry, read my blog for ideas on dialing your own career up to 11.
I'm refreshing myself on storytelling mechanisms. One of the themes I'm looking at is the Hero's Journey. As a professional offering services to other businesses, your market is more narrowly defined as a people who are business leaders or members of a department or group with a specific objective to accomplish.
The hero's journey starts with the a conflict or uncertainty (competing stakeholder needs? How to get all the MBOs (objectives) completed with the few resources on hand?) As an organization offering them a solution for their needs (including making other stakeholders happy), you can deliver the story of their journey through your communications - your sharable articles, your guides and studies, or thought leadership tips and how-tos.
Here are a few things about crafting the framework of your story:
By following these concepts, you'll give them a context to relate to, so they will want to take the hero's journey with you.
This post was inspired by this article on storytelling tips for fundraising.
The right story will bring 'em in, compel them to accept your offering, share with their friends, and keep them coming back for more, right?
What's needed for the right story? And what makes it right?
Audience. If you were writing a story to address young girls, you likely wouldn't write it about fire trucks, would you? No, it would be princesses and ponies for them! Same in business. A friend's tagline spoke to the knowledgeable technician, but the opening line of his copy was insulting to that technician with a over-simplified explanation. Know your audience and stay true.
Fulfill the purpose. Either the audience is reading your content for a reason, or you are leading them into reading content for a reason, or both. Just make sure to use the "rule of you" where the word count of "you" or "your" (directly or implied) is higher than the count of "I" "we" and "our." And do your best to anticipate what they are looking for in a unique way.
Creativity. Some of you say you have none of this. But I think you would be surprised if you apply yourself. Take a look at some ads in another industry, and see if there's a creative way to apply concepts to your industry. (Except some worn out ones that follow "Got Milk?" - that is so over.) Mash up the story of your logo with some how to's, or combine business predictions into your message. Creative ideas can be launched by seeing other ideas in action.
The story told for the audience, with the audience's purpose in mind, in a creative and compelling way is the right story. Happy Storytelling!
I recently was watching, for the first time, Mad Men, which is a show with stories about a 1960's ad agency and the characters who work there. The central character, Don Draper, is fascinating. His money account is in Big Tobacco (and there's is a lot of literal and figurative smoke in these stories!). In the show's pilot episode, the government started releasing reports about cigarette smoking being bad for your health, and Don was pressured to come up with the right slogan in this new market ecology for his client. Despite his best tries at talking to customers, brainstorming with co-workers, hearing the research, and drinking for inspiration, he couldn't find the right words. When the clients decided to walk out on their meeting, Don finally came up with the slogan "It's Toasted;" everyone thought he was brilliant and he saved the day. He later said, "Fear stimulates my imagination."
If some of you operate like Don, and fear stimulates you, I'm presenting you with a list of what could happen when you don't provide your target audience with content that connects. In no particular order, if you don't concentrate your content toward what your target is wanting, these are some possible scenarios.
This isn't an exhaustive list, certainly, but if I missed anything really important, email me.
I've been writing about what's needed to set oneself up for success in blogging. Most of these decisions made at the front end apply to most online content. Now, we're almost there, nearly blogging! If you've been following, there was the foundation of your purpose and ongoing inspiration, setting the direction of your blog, and creating the time for your blog.
A final element is setting up your tools and technology to make sure your blog makes sense, is easy to find and read by your visitors, runs smoothly, handles comments, and contributes to SEO. A blogging ecology of success!
First, if you haven't yet, set up a platform for blogging. I hesitate to make product recommendations, but I can tell you this blog was started on a simple to use, drag and drop platform which I chose because it was really easy. The goal is to move the blog to my own domain and download the Wordpress.org platform. The benefits are that it's a common platform, it's easy to maintain, and it has a lot of available plugins, or small software components that add functionality to the platform, like accepting payments, or integrating with social media. There's a lot more to selecting a platform, hosting, SEO considerations, etc.; do a Google search or email me if you have questions. (By the way, I have no connections to WordPress, or any products mentioned here.)
Part of getting found by visitors is your blog name and your domain name. In most cases these days it's best to incorporate your blog with your business, but that's not always the case. If you are just starting or you're re-energizing your blog, then it may be good to consider a new or integrated name and domain name. Do a name search, a domain name search, a trademark search, and don't forget to check Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or any other relevant social media sites for availability of a profile with that name.
Here are some other tool ideas to consider for your blog:
The final thing you want to do is set up a way to measure your goals. In step one, you identified where you wanted this blog to go and that will indicate what to measure. Google Analytics is free and popular, and there are others that will help you measure more. I will address this more in a future post. In the meantime, consider one of your measurements to be the stories you receive...like this example which exemplifies the Storycology perspective.
To learn more, read my e-book "5 Decisions: Creating a Blog;" email me to request a copy or with your questions. I hope I inspired you to keep blogging!
Almost anyone can figure out the how of blogging, right? Go to one of the blogging sites, write a post or two, and you are blogging. Do you know what it takes to sustain the now of blogging over time? Do you wonder how to find the time to write or pull together audio, video or image content? That's what I was wondering when I began my research project and ended up writing a e-book on the decisions to make before even starting a blog. Email me and I'll send it to you.
If you haven't read the previous posts, here's the one on a Blogging Foundation, and here's one on setting its Direction. Now, we address the time issue. Time is valuable. Your blog is valuable. If you want to sustain a blog and keep it going, arrange time to include your blog.
First, I noticed that authors, whether of a blog or a book, are all saying the same thing: set aside time to write. I'd say that holds true whether you are writing a marketing brochure, an article, a blog post, a book, a resume, or anything else, you need to set aside time to write. Some of you may have full schedules already so then it becomes a matter of how important it is to write. If it's part of something bigger that you're aiming for and is important to you, you'll find the time, whether it's at 4am before everyone wakes up or after the kids go to bed or once a week on Saturdays or even everyday at 3pm.
What I did is I used my Google Calendar to section off blocks of time to write and attend to my blog. I have a day job, and there are blocks of time for client work, for following up with clients and/or prospects, and for writing. And of course, blogging! When my calendar says it's time, the time to blog is now!
If you can commit to a writing schedule that helps you produce enough material to post 2- 3 times a week or any regular pace that works for you, then give yourself a huge pat on the back as that is great progress toward achieving blog sustainability.
The second helpful time tip I learned is to create a blogging publishing schedule, aka an Editorial Calendar. If we're blogging, we are now in the publishing business, so it's a good idea to do as the professionals do and create of schedule of what to publish when. That way we don't repeat ourselves and we can keep our readers interested with variation. Plus, it may help writer's block to have a pre-assigned topic to write about at a given time in your writing time.
The TLKMA Key and the Editorial Calendar
Here's how I put together my Editorial Calendar. I googled something along the lines of "Excel calendar template" and found a month template. I then printed it out and decided I would post twice a week. On the days I wanted to post, I placed vertically, the letters "TLKMA." This is a key for:
Then, I assigned various attributes to make sure I was mixing up content. Here's what I suggest:
First, assign blog categories (or topics from the last post) to different days, rotating them or grouping them as you see fit. Place the topic by the "T" in each instance.
Then, assign a length. It may be helpful to switch up long posts with short posts or medium posts. Assign the length of each post on the calendar by the letter "L."
It would also be great to vary the kind of posts you are creating. It may be a how-to, a how-not-to, an article of thought leadership, a Q&A, an interview, a definition, a story, etc. Get the idea? Place the kind of post next to the "K" in each instance in your calendar.
The "M" assignment is to vary your media, whether written, image, audio, video, or a combination. If you choose to have more of one kind, or none of one kind, that's okay. Do what's appropriate for your blog.
The last assignment is "A" for author. If you are including other authors, then you will want to assign in a way so that their responsibility of submitting a post is spaced out evenly.
That's the Editorial Calendar. Schedule out a month, and repeat. I'm playing around with one month at a time, which gives me a little freedom to post about relevant topics that are happening now.
I hope that's helpful to you! Let me know if you have any feedback about this process.
Thanks to Alan Cleaver for the image, Creative Commons license via Flikr.
I've had some takers on the challenge to blog with me, and I'm very excited. The idea of the accountability we have toward each other is keeping me motivated to write. It helps that I enjoy it!
I've been writing on the results of my research about starting a blog, and I'll continue with the next step, "Cultivating a Direction."
The goal of this step is to begin defining your theme, which defines the direction your blog will go. Select seven categories and five headlines for each category (thanks to Denise Wakeman for this tip).
1. WordPress and other blogging platforms allow you to create categories so readers can search by topic. Think of topics by breaking down the overarching theme 7 sub-categories. Open up a document on your computer and write the theme and the categories. As you blog, you may have more categories and you can add to them at any time.
2. Now develop five headlines for each category and write those down.
3. Write 300 – 500 words for each topic (or at least 10 of them). You can show these to people and get their feedback. Or, just have them ready to help you launch. I think it's kind of cool that you could schedule a coffee meeting, and then you can offer to buy the coffee while your associate reads through a post your wrote. When you arrive at the table with the coffee, they'll be ready with feedback!
If you're blog is to be comprised of audio or video only, then this is the step where you want to make sure you have the tools and equipment to create audio and video. Create your list of 7 topics and 5 subtopics for each, and then script or storyboard 10 of them and make them into recordings.
If you have trouble writing, then you may want to take classes, hire a freelancer, hire a writing coach, or just write and then hire an editor and/or proofreader (read here about the difference between an editor and proofreader).
After my research on business blogging I discovered there is a certain order of things to think about, identify, and have in place before even writing one bit of a blog or online content.
First, take an inventory of your business purpose for the blog - is it for awareness, thought leadership in your industry, to simplify complex ideas about your industry, or something else? Your purpose will help you create topics and posts that fit within a theme.
Know your audience. It helps to profile your readers, so you can present them with ideas they'll appreciate. If you don't have a specific reader in mind, your posts might lose the interest of the people who do read it.
Now that you know the purpose and audience, then it's time to identify your uniqueness in the market. Need help? Email me.
Next, you want to identify where your audience is, so you know how you'll promote the blog. This exercise is not so much about all the places you could promote as deciding which ones you can realistically commit to.
You also want to commit to a publishing rhythm. How many authors will there be and how many times a week? In the beginning especially, you want to build up content. Experts say 2 to 3 times per week is optimal.
Rounding out the foundation of any ongoing content is setting up a system of constant inspiration. Follow blogs you like, receive email newsletters, Google alerts, and RSS feeds that will inspire you to post with your unique perspective.
In my e-book, which started out as a plan and checklist for myself, I detail the resources and actions needed to develop this solid foundation of your blog. Join me, and we'll blog together! I'll announce here when my free e-book is ready.
Blogging is a common and relatively simple action these days. In fact there are over 150 million blogs on the Internet, and I heard somewhere half of those are about cats. In all that blog “fluff”, how do you get your business blog noticed? Where do you begin? And how do you keep it going?
Maybe you began by going to a blog platform website and started writing. I did that once or twice. Or maybe it was hard to keep up because your message was unclear or unfocused. That’s what happened to me . Let me know if you recognize this… you start a blog, then wrote five posts, then forgot to post for several months? Well, me too. This is why I studied the topic, attended workshops from some masters, and then set out to reinvigorate my own blog. While I was assembling my notes, I thought, why not take others with me?
I decided to create a template with simple instructions and tips and specific action items. Then, I would follow all the steps myself. Along the way, I felt the need for accountability and heard that authors have critique groups, so I thought that these actions would be a natural framework of accountability.
And that’s how my new ebook, “5 Decisions: Creating a Blog” being released later this month, was conceived. If you are new to blogging or restarting an old blog, would you like to blog with me?
You’re familiar with stories – you may have seen a movie last weekend, watched TV, or recently read a news article or a novel; or maybe you just had a phone conversation and talked about a family member’s latest shenanigans. Let’s review what a story is and does.
A story is an expression using words, pictures, or a combination. The expression usually portrays an insight, a truism, motivation, or lesson. It can convey general knowledge or the author’s perspective. It usually has a beginning, middle, and end; and usually there is a hurdle or obstacle that gets resolved. A good story will evoke feeling from the reader or listener. It may inspire them to take action similar to that of the main character. Or it may stick in their memory, waiting to be recalled and/or retold when triggered.
What A Business Story Is and Can Do
A business story begins with setting the desired outcome of the reader. Do you want them to be inspired, motivated, or persuaded? Do you want them to have a feeling of agreement or maybe awe?
In a good story there is usually tension, complication, or conflict and it needs to be resolved; this is why you are in business, correct - to resolve issues and make work, life, everyday tasks and occasions easier for your customers?
The theme of a good business story expresses your unique Point of View (POV) as it relates to your field of business. Because it contains a plot that addresses interests of your readers, rather than a string of facts about your project or offerings, it is memorable.
Use a story when bringing people into your project, in awareness campaigns, or in describing your offering.
Dori "Story" Gilbert is Chief Storycologist; passionate about professionals, their journey, and their ability to direct a career story they love.