I was thinking about how networking is more effective for me when I go fully prepared with goals for the event. Especially if an event costs money to attend, I want to activate my story by putting it in action and making the most of my time and money. It’s almost as if I can think of that money as sponsorship, then I’m taking my investment more seriously. After brainstorming some ideas to activate our story at events, I came up with five areas of the story by name, characters, narration, setting, and message.
Sponsors get to place their logo/company name everywhere. Well, we’re not technically sponsors at an event, but we could prominently display our logo on a shirt or badge. Name recognition is huge, because it takes folks several times of hearing or seeing it to get who we are and what we do.
A business story includes several characters that will progress the story of our business, profession, or current project along. Who are these people and what specifically will we ask of them? For an introduction to a certain person? A question about an industry or a how-to? A sponsor typically answers these questions before attending an event.
It’s up to us as storytellers to set the direction of the plot – to offer ourselves as connectors and resources when we network. This builds goodwill and extends our network for mutually beneficial connections long term. We can even place ourselves prominently by volunteering at the event. One time without asking the organizers, I stood at the door and greeted hundreds returning from lunch at a conference. It gave me exposure and a sense of authority. In fact, someone came up to me to ask a logistics question about the conference, as if I were an organizer!
The event type, place, and agenda might affect our story. Is the event primarily other people in our profession? Are there connectors there with a high sphere of influence? The conversation might be different at a sit down dinner than it would at an event of open networking. Follow the rules of good networking, and adapt your story to the setting. Sponsors know in advance what to expect and how to best use that setting to frame their objectives.
Was our presence felt at the event? Did we leave an impression through connecting, sharing, or asking? It’s good for us to know our message and leave a positive impression of it by the end of the event. This is not done by pushing cards or flyers at people. Think of the sponsors that have left an impression on you – isn’t it mostly because they had something to offer or give?
Did I miss anything? What do you think of using the idea of sponsorship as a way to think about our attendance at events?
This past weekend, I had the honor to volunteer as part of the executive team for one of the premier events of the area, ProductCamp SoCal. This is an unconference that focuses on markets and products. Topics range from Agile development practices and market research to product execution methodologies, market launch, and social media. The beauty of an unconference is that participants drive the theme and topics by proposing sessions and then voting on the ones that will get selected.
While most participants come (424 this time - our fourth event!) to learn in sessions and facilitate sessions, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes with participants who choose to be volunteer for this vibrant event. A lot of planning and execution goes into it all, including engaging sponsors, utilizing the facility, getting the message out, registering, counting votes, and providing food, conference materials, and up to date information for attendees. We had a crew of over 60 people - including students - who were part of this well-oiled machine.
It’s amazing how every person that participates adds to the flavor (hunter-bear-ranger, anyone?) of the conference and create these moments. Not necessarily the conference moments, the ones in between the logistics of pulling it together, around planning meetings, in preparations, between the sessions or in session interactions, really anywhere there were two or more willing participants, opening the opportunity for magic to happen. New collaborations were formed, new friendships made, old ones renewed or strengthened. Business opportunities were found and new light was shed on old ways of doing things. And that’s just from the immediate feedback!
If you have the opportunity to be a part of a collaboration like this, take it. It will enrich your life in ways you didn’t think it could. I know it has for me.
Photo: Volunteers preparing the conference bags at CSUF.
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.
The basic story in this video is about how Mandar Apte launched a program called Empower which is system of nurturing innovation inside Shell Oil Company. Besides the cool factor of using meditation and breathing in leadership techniques, there are many aspects that fit in the Storycology paradigm.
The Roles of Innovation, Idea to Story to Fruition
When someone has an idea, that person needs support roles to see the idea happen. There's the role of being able to persuade others on the idea, creating a story so it can be socialized. At 3:25, Mandar said the roles are:
how to sell; the ability to build a story and a network and circles of trust to get good feedback and build the idea; and authentically connect with people who can help bring idea to proof of concept. Not everyone has to have an idea.
Feedback and Mentorship (i.e. Editing)
At 7:15, Mandar talks about his own journey of learning the importance of having social skills, creating a circle of trust, getting feedback from mentors, and he uses this model within the Empower program to grow ideas and make them happen.
This reminds me of you and the story of your product. As it is socialized, it builds on itself and become more and more valuable to the people buying and using it.
And as you develop your story, be sure to get plenty of feedback through the editing process.
Measurement through Stories
And, my favorite, when asked how he would measure it (12:18) and how he would quantify the results, he says they are measuring stories of empowerment and changes that have been made in their own work habits.
He's received stories of how people are making unique connections and how participants in the program are connecting and co-creating. I think this is awesome too: "It's not an I win, you lose world, it's a world where I win and how can I make you win?"
I hope you were as inspired as I was by this story.
The clearer you are about you purpose, your distinction, your “secret sauce”, the more leverage you have in situations where you present your business. That leverage turns into boldness in three ways:
Clarity Gives You Boldness in Articulating What You Do
My friend Janis is a life coach. I don’t know about you, but in networking, I’ve met several life coaches and their message is fairly similar about how they help clients transform. How to choose? Janis differentiated herself by highlighting her own unique story of how inner transformation caused outer transformation in weight loss and released her to do something she loves, which is ballroom dancing. I remember four years ago when she faced her fears and boldly offered the program to her first group of clients. Many success stories later, her latest bold move is to reapply the tools and concepts to her own life to lose 35 pounds, and publically journal about it on her blog. Read more about Janis and her journey at http://www.owlweightloss.com/blog/.
When you are grounded in a distinction, and you can back it up with the work you produce, you’ll enter new situations boldly and confidently. Read on, and you’ll see how it can apply to you as a job searcher, too.
Produce Work that Boldly Exemplifies Your Distinction
Another friend is very clear about her career. Are there others in her profession in the local area? Yes. She stands out because she is so clear about her skills and point of view; she knows exactly the job title she will arrive at in three years (or less) and the path to get there. Her job is knowledge based, and she has created a portfolio of work products showing her planning and execution skills. She carries that portfolio to coffee meetings and interviews, and boldly presents examples of her ideas with her work products. Her distinction has given her boldness about her work.
The reason I thought of her for this post is because of the stories of interviews and connections she making.
Teach Others with Bold Stories Framed in Your Point of View
You’re in business for a reason. Hopefully one of those reasons is to improve lives. Whether your company offers a product that will help an employee get their job done more easily, or a services that eases a patient’s suffering in some way, your contribution is making someone’s day better. When someone’s day is made better, your business purpose is solidified. You can share these stories of success boldly framed in your point of view.
Are you ready to be bold about your profession? Getting clear about your differentiation is as easy as tapping into your personal uniqueness. There are no two humans alike, and every person has a unique story.
Dori "Story" Gilbert is Chief Storycologist; passionate about professionals, their journey, and their ability to direct a career story they love.