Moulding Business Language Into Shape

The Creative Language Of Kenneth Grahame

Kenneth Grahame

Returning from a visit to see my mother today, we decided to put on a tape of Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind In The Willows’. (It’s the only way to get my car radio to stay tuned into the traffic news without having to listen to the radio). I read the book as a kid, enthusiastically encouraged by my mother, and I was always in two minds about it. I quite enjoyed it, and the pictures were fun, but I never re-read it like I did some of the other classics, such as Black Beauty and Treasure Island.

As we listened, I was totally captivated by the poetry of Grahame’s writing. It’s lyrical, evocative and enchanting. It’s also quite funny. As a child, all this passed me by. For me, it was just a story about woodland animals, not unlike ‘Tales From The Riverbank’, a children’s TV programme from the ’60s narrated by Johnny Morris. In fact the two got muddled up in my 7 or 8 year old brain.

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Twitter Tools Test

Since blogging is a key tool for my business, then I always want to let my Twitter followers know when I’ve posted a new blog. In the past I have used Twitter Tools. However, Twitter changed the way it worked with plug-ins (the Word Press euqivalent of an app), and the Twitter Tools set-up became too complicated for my little brain.

Bravely, I have decided to have another go, because Twitter Tools is a great way of ensuring that Twitter knows when I have written something new. It does it automatically, so I don’t have to waste time ensuring all the links are correct and that I have sent out the right messages in the right directions.

So this post is a test, to see if I have set it up right.

It’s also a reminder of the benefits of automation for getting your business known across the internet. Unfortunately there are too many people who overdo it. Tweets every 20 minutes, or some such foolishness. As a customer, or a Twitter follower, I never have time to read everything that appears, and I get very irritated when people tweet just for the sake of it. Or rather, for the sake of increasing their scores on reputation indices such as Klout or Peer Index.

Automate? Absolutely, but do it with care. Consider your reader. Don’t swamp them – it might make them fall out of love with you!

What IS A Content Strategy?

Someone asked me recently: ‘What is a content strategy?’  Since one of the services I offer is to help business owners develop their content strategy, it seemed a good subject to discuss in a blog post.

When I use the term ‘Content Strategy’ I’m talking about how you use written content to support your business aims – particularly on your website.  This presupposes you know what your business aims are, and it inevitably leads to a conversation about the purpose of the business, its customers, its products and services, its long term goals and the image it wants to project. Because content doesn’t exist in isolation: it should serve the needs of the business, not the other way around.

Back in the days before the internet, business owners didn’t have to worry about such mysteries as keywords and SEO (Search Engine Optimization). You needed to know what category your business fell into for a range of purposes, including advertising in the yellow pages or the classified section of a magazine. You also needed to know what themes and phrases were important to the business, to give consistency to your business messages, but you didn’t have to worry whether an advert, brochure or article matched some mysterious algorithm, guarded closely by a huge, faceless organisation. Read more »

Desperation Doesn’t Justify Bad Business Writing

Puzzling Marketing Material

There’s a creeping kind of desperation spreading across some corners of the Internet Marketing world, which is resulting in some appallingly bad business writing. And the problem with bad business writing is that it turns off potential customers. I have recently received two stunning examples of poor business writing, both through the post, but both trying to sell me a course about Internet Marketing.

Back in the mists of time, perhaps 10 years ago, when the internet still had some mystique, there were plenty of examples of websites which had simply lifted written material from the printed page, and stuck it up on the net, without realising that we read differently when we are looking at a screen, as opposed to a piece of print.

Gradually people ‘got’ that you need shorter paragraphs for screen-reading, and you need to think about the dreaded ‘fold’ – the place where the screen cuts off the rest of the page below. Read more »

On Becoming A Dark Angel

Moniack Mhor Writer's Centre

For a long time, I have had difficulty separating my business coaching and marketing services, and the personal coaching and therapy I offer. It always seemed as if I had to keep the two apart, because these are two totally different client groups. Good marketing practice says I should be clear which segment I am talking to, and I should make sure my communications are appropriately targetted.

I’ve had that view challenged recently. In part it’s come about as I have a new coach (I definitely believe in the physician heal thyself philosophy, so having a coach myself is important). In part it’ s come about because I recently attended a Dark Angels Creative Business Writing course up in Scotland, at a wonderful converted croft called Moniack Mhor.

There are 3 Dark Angels tutors. On the recent foundation course we worked with two of them: John Simmons and Jamie Jauncey. ‘We’ were an eclectic group of 10 writers, with varying degress of writing experience. Some people were already published authors, but for many of us the course brought the realisation that we were really are writers already. John and Jamie gave us the space to explore and expand our talents through a mixture of exercises, readings and tutorials.

There was a kind of magic that came about during the 5 days we were there.  We’ve all remarked upon it. None of us can quite pin it down. But that’s what makes it magic. Some of it came from the tutors, some from Moniack Mhor itself which has a serene energy, and is set in a beautiful part of rural Scotland. But alot came from our interaction as a group.

I’m not just talking about the boozy evenings where we caterwauled, sorry sang, our way through the karaoke songbook, courtesty of 2 ipads (for the words) and some wee iphone app which gave Jamie all the chords he needed to accompany us on the piano. The time delay on the wi-fi meant that we were often on to the next song before the words for the previous one appeared. Half the time I was too paralysed with laughter to participate, and I ‘ve never been an Elton John fan, so I never learned the words to his songs.

There was also the spirit of the support, encouragement and friendship, which has continued after the end of the course. It was a piece by Neil Baker, one of the other participants, that got me thinking again about this question of separation. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you can make it work, all well and good. But if you can’t do it without experiencing significant amounts of angst and cognitive strain, then don’t.

In my career coaching work I see people tearing themselves apart as they try to be ‘themselves’ at home, and a corporate being at work. Clients even tell me it is not possible to be true to themselves at work, because Work wouldn’t like it, or they would miss the next promotion, or they would have no authority, or they would suddenly lack credibility. And in the next breath they explain how stressful this is.

How interesting that I have being doing something similar without even realising it.