She called me Fierce: Finding my Brand Voice

Recently,  I was working with my coach on finding my voice.  This was somewhat ironic to me since I have 28 years of experience as a communication expert (including doctoral work in adult communication, teaching MBA communication classes for an Ivy League school for the past seven years AND being a writing coach for that same school.)

Perhaps you can relate, I was stuck on how to write to my community not the content I want to share with you but how to say it.  Put me in front of an audience or a video camera, no problem. Tell me to email my community and suddenly I was without words.

So we started with adjectives.

She asked me, “How would you describe myself?”  Oh, that was so hard.  At first I was speechless and then I said a few lame (though true) things like “hard-working”, “smart”, “somewhat funny” (though what I really meant was playful and goofy.)

And that is when she said it!  “Sue, I have met you and I heard you speak and you are FIERCE!!  You show up and play full-on.”

 

Well, that hit me smack in the face and if I had a red nose, I would have been flying in the air like Rudolph did when Clarice called him “Cute”.

“She called me F-I-E-R-C-E, she called me F-I-E-R-C-E”

 

 

Fiercely- Caring….

And, you know what, Denise was right.  I am Fierce!  Fiercely- Caring.  I fiercely care for my family, my friends and all those in my community.  I often say to my clients that I care about their businesses as if they are my own and I always want the best for those around me.

This sense of fiercely caring also shows up in the coaching and teaching spaces I create.  It is why I tell it like it is and do it with a caring touch (I have often been described as having “an iron fist in a velvet glove” or a “steel boot tip in fuzzy slippers” depending upon what you need.)

Don’t come to me if you just want me to sugar-coat things for you because I don’t.  I quickly get to the heart of what is keeping you stuck, call you on it and then help you move forward.  I do this because I care about transformation and I care about you.   Not only about your business success, I care about you living as your best self.

That is the caring piece.  My goal is to always move you forward so you can take the next step.  This fiercely-caring me is how I show up everywhere offline.

I am committing in 2017 to bringing the fiercely-caring me to my community online.  I will be sharing more of who I really am and what I care about in an effort to better support you.  I also like giving gifts so I will be doing that more often here on my blog.  The first one is my communication ebook to help you communicate better.  You can get it as my gift here:

http://thrivingentrep.wpengine.com/100-tips-better-business-communication/

Enjoy!

 

Why You Need Good Listening Skills

Dog listening

The Importance of Having Good Listening Skills

Dog listeningWe often think we are communicating effectively and of course, we want people to take action on what we say. So it can be frustrating when we talk and share a message and NOTHING happens.  Crickets…. Most likely, you were doing only half of what needs to be done to effectively communicate- the talking part. Listening is the other half – perhaps the better half – of all communication. Unfortunately, most people rarely receive any formal training for how to do it properly. Improving your listening skills can enhance your professional and personal life. Follow these practical steps towards becoming a better listener, even in challenging situations where it’s most important.

5 Tips for Better Listening

1. Ignore distractions:

Give the speaker your full attention by looking him/her in the eye. Don’t be looking at your phone or anything else.   Let the speaker know you’re interested. Having an appreciative audience makes it easier for people to express themselves. It will also help you stay alert.
 If you notice your mind wandering, bring it back to the subject at hand.

2. Listen for the main points:

It’s usually more effective to focus on understanding the key points that someone is making, rather than trying to etch each word into your memory. Listen as though you were taking notes even if you’re not.

3. Hear people out.

Let people present what they have to say without being interrupted. Concentrate on what they’re saying rather than formulating your own response. Don’t just wait by patiently until you can have the next word.  Listen for understanding.

4. Encourage people to express themselves: 

Sometimes people are hesitant to approach a sensitive topic. Use open-ended questions and patient pauses to enable a more complete discussion.
Verify the message. With complex or emotionally charged material, it’s important to listen attentively and verify what the other person is saying. You can repeat back a brief summary of the message to be sure you’re both on the same page.

5. Listening with empathy:

One of the best ways to understand what a person is really saying is to put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand their thinking and feelings.
 Manage your own emotions. When you’re listening to something that evokes a strong emotion, you may need to detach yourself temporarily from your feelings. It’s critical to distinguish between what is actually being said and your own assumptions and emotions.

Remember, God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Becoming a better listener can enhance your own life and help you make a more positive contribution to the lives of others. Enjoy the many benefits of improving your listening skills.

Tips for Solopreneurs – Get the Blogging Weight off Your Shoulders

Helpful Blogging Tips

Tips for Solopreneurs – Get Blogging Weight off Your Shoulders

Helpful Blogging Tips“Yikes!”  “I don’t have enough time.” or “I don’t know what I will write about!” is what I often hear when people talk about blogging on a regular basis. .  There’s no question about it – blogging takes time. If you’re a solopreneur with a daily to-do list as long as your arm, you may feel like you don’t have the time to update your blog. However, it might be your day’s most important task, so don’t skip it. Here are some tips for taking the blogging weight off your shoulders and making blogging what it should be – fun, energizing, and creative.

 

Find Your Best Time to Write Your Blog Posts

Everybody has certain times of the day when they feel more inspired than others. For example, you might have your best ideas in the mornings just after you wake up. Set aside some time each day during these periods for working on blog posts. Make it part of your schedule and it will become a habit and ideas will flow and when they do, write away.

Load Them Up

Now even though you have created a schedule and are getting into the habit, sometimes things happen and you have to change your schedule.  So, let’s be prepared for that.   Set aside some special time to write for a longer period of time.  Perhaps you can devote a morning or afternoon (or maybe a whole day) to writing and loading up your blog with draft posts.  You never know what could happen to impact your ability to write. However, if you write a number of posts at one time, when you’re on a roll, you can create enough for several days or weeks. Just upload it to your site in draft form. Then, review and hit publish whenever you’re ready for another post.

Keep a Blogging Idea List

Any time you get an idea for a post, write it down (or jot it in your audio notes.) It could be while you’re at work, out walking around somewhere, or even going to sleep at night. Start an ‘Ideas’ file and just keep adding to it. Whenever you’re feeling uninspired or have writer’s block, refer to this file and pick one that strikes your fancy. You might also set aside some time for brainstorming topics. Let the ideas fly and don’t judge whether they’re ‘good’ or not. An idea you think is off-the-wall now may be a winner later.

Know Where to Get Blogging Ideas

Bookmark some good sites for getting new ideas when you run out. You can find interesting ideas absolutely anywhere online, but some of the best places include forums, question and answer sites, article directories, social media sites, or other blogs. Read what people are talking about. Take each question you see asked online and write a blog post that answers it.

Outsource and Edit

Hire someone to write your blog posts for you and then edit the work they deliver so that it’s ‘you’ and in your blog voice.  (see post on having your own blog voice) One great way to save money doing this is to hire people to write short articles (300 words or less) to use as skeletons that you’ll flesh out. As you edit, expand on the points they make and add your own ideas. This is cheap and it saves you a considerable amount of time. If you find a good writer, you can also let them come up with post ideas for you.

When the Inspiration Dies…

Whenever you don’t feel like blogging, stop. If you push it and write when you’re not feeling inspired, it’ll show. You need to give your readers nothing less than your best. And if you’re feeling uninspired, remember that there are simply days when the writing doesn’t flow. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, maybe shooting a video will be more fun or a quiz or  sharing a quote that inspires you and that will inspire your readers.  Blog posts do not always have to be written articles.  Change it up and have fun with your blog.  And always, share who YOU are with your audience.

Create Your Blog Voice for Your Business

How to Create the Blog Voice for Your Business

Find Your Blog VoiceMany businesses start blogs without a real plan. After all, it’s easy to do and you just need to start writing. But actually, there’s some serious planning involved and one of the major decisions to make is  your blog voice. Just like you need consistent, clear messaging in the rest of your business, a good blog has a clear and consistent voice that is communicated on every page. Consistency helps you create a brand and this is what builds trust with your audience. More importantly, you need a blog that is not a copy of anyone else but a true reflection of you and how you want to show up to your audience.

The Elements of a Blog Voice

What does ‘blog voice’ mean? It sounds simple but it’s made up of a number of different elements including personality, beliefs, tone, style, and type of content. Some questions to ask include:

  • Is your blog going to be strictly factual or opinionated? (are you going to be a technician or thought-leader)
  • What values will it speak to?
  • Is the tone going to be casual and friendly or more professional?
  • Are you going to focus on recent news items, write reviews or offer how-to information?

Personality is an especially important consideration because your blog can’t be dull and formal. The human aspect has to come through. It needs to be engaging and speak to emotions as well as simply giving the reader information.

Your Ideal Reader

Just like any other time you are communicating your message, the best way to determine all the elements of your voice is to picture your perfect reader. Who do you want to become a fan of your blog? If you can imagine this person clearly, you can write posts to them that resonate perfectly. It may take a bit of market research. Find out which demographics are important parts of your niche. Find out what they like and dislike. Learn about how they feel, what they want out of life, and how they see themselves. Some people even draw a physical picture of their ideal reader and look at it whenever they write!  I even recommend going further and naming this person so you can really connect to them as if s/he was sitting next to you.

Your Blog’s Image

Now that you’ve got a clear image of your blog readers in mind, the next step is to create an image for your blog that appeals to them. Consider not only your readers but also your business’s unique selling proposition. The key question to ask yourself here is – ‘How is my blog different than other similar blogs in my industry?’

The answer to this question lies in the specific niche you choose for your blog. One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is trying to be everything to everyone. The truth is that no niche is too specific (unless it’s a market of one person). You need to carve out a unique place for yourself in the blogosphere that will set your blog apart.

Finding Your Voice

Finding a voice for your writing is something all writers must do. If you’re going to blog, you’ve got to consider yourself a writer, even if you don’t have the training, experience or writing chops. Take some time to read different blogs to see how each person’s voice differs. Some write in a very personal style, some are humorous or slightly outrageous, some write posts that are short and to the point. Find your own way of writing that you enjoy and that resonates with your readers.

So, I would love to hear what your voice is…. Share in the comments.

 

10 Things to Help You Be Your Best Self

Be Your Best Self

Be Your Best SelfAs we head into the weekend, here is a quick top 10 list to living as your best self.  When you are in control, you feel confident and you can reach out to others and support them just a little bit more.  Feeling your best allows you to smile more, stay out of overwhelm and just plain Love your LIFE!  This takes a little bit work (hey the payoffs are huge so a little work is not so bad.

So here it is, the 10 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do to Be your Best Self:

 

  1. Manage your time:– everyone has the same 24 hours each day.  So learn to use yours most effectively so you can spend more of your time doing what makes your heart sing.
  2. Set goals: To set a goal, you need to know what you want.  That is half the battle.  Spend some time each week reflecting on what you really want and doing things that move you toward your goals.
  3. Listen: Do you listen to others or are you really just waiting to say something next? When you are thinking of what to say, you are not fully present with the other person.  Few people truly listen.  Be one of the unique who really do and you will see your conversations and relationships deepen.
  4.  How to have a conversation with someone new: Every person you know now was a stranger at some point in time.  Learn how to engage and chat with new people and your perspective on the world will change.
  5. Apologize:  Hey, we all make mistakes.  No one is perfect.  Learn to accept responsibility and apologize easily and your relationships will be much smoother.
  6. Back up your computer:  As someone who recently experienced a computer melt-down, I emphatically recommend that you do this on a regular basis.  You can not act as your best self is you don’t have the tools to support you and most of us use a computer to support us.  Just consider the havoc you would face if you computer died on your today.  Be proactive and back-up.
  7. Eat properly: Nothing impacts your health more than the food that you eat.  You can not be your best self if your health is not optimal.  Learn what are the best food choices and make them on a daily basis. Your energy, confidence and feeling of well-being will sky-rocket.
  8. Ask for help:  This may be the most important of all in order to living your best life.  You can’t do it alone!
  9. Receive: Not only do you need to ask, you must receive help graciously.  Whether it is help, money, advice or anything else, you won’t get much of it unless you are open to receiving it.  So ASK, then RECEIVE.
  10. Find your voice and use it: Everyone has a message to share and when you are sharing it, you are connecting to others in a powerful way.  Learn how to effectively deliver your message so you can reach more people.

 

So, as you look through the list, see where you are already and what you can improve to help you Be your Best Self and Live your Best Life.

Values are a Key to Success- What are Yours?

Values are a key component of how we think, what we believe and how we show up in the world.  When you create you life and business based on what you value, you experience greater connection and passion.

What is Important to you Changes on a Regular Basis

Interestingly, your values can also be a window into how you are feeling on a particular day and thus what is important to you right at this moment.  So for fun, take a look and share what are the first 3 words you see.  Are you surprised?  OR did they reinforce what you already know is going on for you right now.  Share what you see and your reaction to it.  Consider how you might use this as you move through your day.  ENJOY!

So what are the first 3 words YOU see?
Values

Cross-Linking Blog Posts for More Interaction from your Readers

cross-link social media posts

What is Cross-linking?

As your blog starts to grow and you’re adding more and more posts, chances are readers won’t see every single post you write. Why not make it easy for them to find related content by cross-linking where appropriate.  You can even do this across social media platforms.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you blog about social media marketing and a particular post talks about using images effectively on Facebook. You could link within that post to an older post where you talk about using images on Twitter, or a more specific post where you explained how to fix things when Facebook doesn’t pull up the right image from your site. Do you see how this works?

The Power of Leveragecross-link social media posts

Let’s look at another example. Let’s say you’re writing a recipe blog and you’re sharing a new recipe for an amazing BLT tomato salad. You could link to an older post where you shared how to cook bacon in the oven. This is pretty easy stuff, right?  Or you can link to/from a post you did on Pinterest or Instagram or LinkedIn.  What about a video you posted on Youtube?  Sure, link them as well!   The more ways you can connect your content, the better.

This strategy serves a few different purposes. You’re engaging your readers more with your content. This gives them a chance to get to know you and your blog a little better. It also means you’re getting more exposure  and your visitor numbers will start to look better. It also helps you with search engines, believe it or not. They keep track of how long readers stay on your site and if they click around to read more. This is an indication of the quality of your content and your blog. In other words, if you can get readers to stick around longer, it will help your blog rank higher in the search engines.

Be of Service

Let’s not forget about the positive influence this has on your readers. You’re going out of your way to be helpful and share all sorts of great information with them. Not only does this allow your readers to get to know you better, it also builds credibility and trust which is exactly what you want.

Last but not least, the more pages your readers  look at, the higher your chances that they’ll comment or share your links on social media. That, in turn, will help you broaden your reach and grow your audience.  So, let’s see some cross-linking.

Today is the last day I am writing a  “How to” type blog for the October challenge ( I will keep sharing blogging strategies, resources and tips with those in the October Blog-A-Day Challenge so you can sign up  to keep getting this information –  http://www.blogadaychallenge.com).  I would love to hear what you have found helpful so far. 

Starting tomorrow I will demonstrate other ways you can blog and create a relationship with your audience. 

Yes, Your Blog Posts Need Images

Cute redhair dachshund is among the photos

Your blog is often the first thing new readers, new prospects, and new clients see of you and your online business and first impressions count. That means you need a well-designed and layout blog, great content, and pictures that draw you in and enhance your content. In other words, yes, your posts need images.

It doesn’t stop there. You want to keep encouraging your readers to come back and read more of your posts. Before that can happen, you need to catch their attention and draw them back in. It takes a while to build a loyal following of readers who will devour anything you write. Images will help draw them in again and again. In other words, yes, your posts need images.

We live in a very social and internet based world. One way to broaden your reach and grow the traffic to your blog is social media. Guess what captures attention on sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. That’s right, it’s images. The images make people click through to read your blog post.

Getting Images

You have two options when it comes to getting images for your blog post. You can use your own pictures, or you can buy photos to use. Your best option for purchasing images is a stock photography site like Istockphoto.com, Depositphoto.com and Pixabay.com  to name a few. You can find both free and paid stock photo sites. Get your images and move on to the next step.

Formatting Images

How you format and size your pictures will depend on a few different things. The first is where and how you are displaying them in your blog post. Next, keep the different social media sites where you’re active in mind. Different sites prefer or convert better with different images sizes. Do a little research and come up with an image for each of your most important social media sites.

Images and SEO

Last but not least, let’s not forget about SEO. The file name and the alt tag are both used to determine what the page (or post) the image is found on is about. Use this to your advantage by including your keywords.

There you have it. Start using images in your posts regularly. Play around with style and things like adding text and titles to your images until you find a winning combination for you, your blog, and your audience.

Content Recycle – Turn Your Emails Into Blog Posts

recycle your content

recycleOnce you build a bit of a following with your blog, you will start to get questions and comments via email from your readers. Or you may find yourself chatting with a friend or colleague about a topic, again via email. Take a look at your inbox and more importantly your sent folder right now. Chances are you’re doing a good bit of writing on a regular basis and much of it applies to your target audience.

Reach a larger audience

Isn’t it a shame that many of these emails only go out to one person? Which means only one person potentially reads them?

And what about the emails you send out to your list? Yes, they get seen by many more, but once you’ve sent them, they are gone and a few days later no one will look at them again.

There is an easy little content recycle strategy that will turn those emails into evergreen content for your blog. The basic idea is simple. Anytime you write an email, be it a reply to one person, or an email you send to your list, ask yourself, “Can this content  be repurposed into a blog post?”

Recycling One-on-One Emails

An easy way to recycle one-on-one emails where appropriate is to introduce the topic, share the email conversation, followed by your comment where applicable.

For example, you may share how the conversation started or that you received a question from a reader in response to another post on your site. Then you would share the email they sent you (anonymously unless you’ve gotten permission to share their name) along with your reply.

From there you can elaborate a bit, or give more general advice if it was very specific. This is  a quick and easy post since you did most of the writing when you replied to the email.

Recycling Email Messages and A/R Messages to Your List

Paste the entire email message into drafts and edit away. Maybe you can expand on an idea or tip, or maybe all you need to do is change a few words so it reads more like a blog post than an email. Use the formatting tips we talked about a few days ago (here is the blog on formatting tips)  and you’re good to go.

Anytime you don’t feel like writing much, or don’t know what to blog about, dig through your emails. I’m sure you’ll find something you can use.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Down and Dirty Formatting Tips to Make Your Blog Posts Shine

blogging tips

blogging tipsWe live in a world where people have very short attention spans. We’re bombarded by so much content every single day, it simply isn’t possible to read and consume it all. The solution we have developed is to scan things quickly and decide if we want to invest the time to read the article, watch the video, or listen to the podcast.

Blog readers are no different. That’s why it is important to format your posts in a way that makes it easy to scan, get a quick idea of what the post is about, and then make a decision about reading it. That’s what formatting is all about. It’s an important step in your blogging process.

Add to that the fact that formatting is also an important part of on- page SEO and it is something you want to pay a lot of attention to.

Formatting For Your Readers

Always start by formatting for your readers. While search engines are important, they won’t do you any good if no one is reading your posts.

Make It Easy To Scan the Content

The most important thing you can do for your readers is to make it easy to scan the content. Use headlines, break up text, etc. to make it quick and easy to scan the post and figure out what it’s about. Of course your headline and your images are a big part of this.

Break Up Things into Bulleted or Numbered Lists

Break up your content, tips, ideas, etc. into lists. Depending on the context, those could be bulleted or numbered lists.  Lists are easy to ready, quick to scan, and help readers consume your content.

Keep Your Paragraphs Short

Reading online is different from reading a print book or newspaper. It’s much harder on the eyes, and since we’re consuming so much written content on a daily basis and scanning much of it, our attention span for reading has gone down quite a bit.

Make it easy on your readers to read your posts by keeping your paragraphs short. One to three sentences is usually all you want in each.

Bold important Concepts

Highlight the most important concepts or keywords of your post by bolding them. Not only does this help readers understand that this is an important point, it also helps with scanning before they commit to read your post.

Formatting For the Search Engines

Now that your post is pretty and easy to scan and read for humans, let’s talk about formatting for search engines.

Use H Tags

Using H tags like <h1>, <h2> etc. show search engines what words on the page are important. Use an H1 tag for your post title. If you’re using blogging software like WordPress, your theme should take care of this for you.

But don’t stop there. You can use various other H tags throughout your content. Let’s say your blog post can be slit up into two major sections like this post for example. One section is about formatting for readers, the other for search engines. Those sub headings are H2 tags.

Bold Key Words

This one is easy. If you haven’t already done so for your readers, find your main keyword and make it bold. This will also show search engines this particular word or piece of text is important. Don’t overdo it though.

Use Alt Tags in Images

As you’re adding images, include text in the alt tags that describes the image, but also includes your main keyword. As with the other tags and formatting tips, this will help with ranking.

Use Your Keywords in the Text

Last but not least, give your post a quick scan and make sure you’ve used your keyword several times in the main body of your post. Again, it’s important to strike a good balance here. Don’t overdo it, but also don’t forget to include it. In a 400+ word article like this, using the keyword about 3 times is a good general rule of thumb.