How to Tell Your Business Story with a Blog

katharine fraser

My business blog about digital communications showcases my guiding principles for how to improve communications in daily practice, whether in your own blogs or newsletters, on the About Us page of your business website, and in other venues for the written word and speech.

My blogs provide free tips and insights as well as further samples of my writing style. Here you will find #DigitalDo advice as well as #DigitalDon’ts.

The consistent theme is that your should integrate all of your digital marketing so there is a cohesive brand throughout newsletters, blogs, websites and social media. Moreover, these must connect to each other to maximize your opportunities and exposure with customers/clients and prospects.

Not finding what you want? Reach out directly through the Contact Us page to schedule a consultation. Adroit Narratives offers content creation for a variety of formats, such as speech writing, presentations, white papers, blogs, advertorials and news-style stories.

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bourbon

Own Your Topic to Promote Your Business

Define yourself before someone else can do it for you is a political mantra that also applies to business. In this day and age of rampant disinformation and misinformation, it is critically important to push out as much correct information as possible, especially when it comes to your business and industry. It’s also important to make it interesting.

When you run an internet search of your industry, what comes up first and who posted it? Let’s take a fun example of a subject matter I know little about, except for some recent exposure: craft distilleries. On a recent family trip, we took a few outings to local distilleries in two locales because a relative is interested in investing in this business. Two of these businesses were retail only and one of those employed hip mixologists serving fancy cocktails to inspire sales.

The third example focused on a tour of the actual distillery (something the first two lacked as they bought supplies at wholesale) with the charming owner stirring together an enchanting mix of history and science to explain how bourbon came to be the quintessential American spirit and why his concoctions taste so much better than the competition.

See the difference there? Two out of three businesses took a generic approach. The third stood out by citing specific information, crafting a narrative or two or three, etc., around it and telling the story in an expansive, approachable and impactful way. How does this relate to digital marketing? The same advice applies whether in person or online: tell your own story and tell it often. Tell it to anyone who will listen and keep the audience captive with details, insights and enjoyment.

Make it personal. Tell the story of why your staff and management are the best in the business.

Make it useful. Provide information that gives your audience insight, even if they don’t buy on the spot. They’ll come back.

Make it specific. Spare people the platitudes. Show them, don’t just tell them how great you are.

Make it compelling. Layer on the details. Build from a strong base and reinforce the narrative with memorable anecdotes and examples.

And, then, make the offer. Give the audience the chance to buy. If it’s digital, it’s the call to action. In this case, contact katharine@adroitnarratives for blog writing, editing services and social media management.

trading floor

Who Is Listening to Your Brand and How Good Writing Makes It Happen

Ever enjoyed an awkward moment in a meeting? Years ago, I was a young financial writer interviewing a guy who had gone from peddling beer to selling securities and found myself being yelled at by him behind a closed door just off a trading floor.

We sat on chairs facing each other, exposed without a desk or table. I fidgeted my skirt to ensure modesty. The air between us felt thick with tension and my eyes were fixed on my notebook as I tried to keep up with his rapid-fire comments. “Look at me when I am talking to you!,” he bellowed. The criticism was so sharp, I didn’t pause to come up with a polite response. I went Jersey on him. “What, would you prefer I not take good notes and misquote you?” Yes, I had a recorder (pre-smartphone age), but note-taking makes for a better use of time when writing for a daily newspaper.

He fell at ease, if only for a moment. He realized I was not an adversary. I wasn’t there to be his best friend either, but I wasn’t out to get him. Just then, there was shrieking coming from the trading floor by a man who evidently had messed up a client trade and was issuing a mea culpa. He couldn’t take back the error and no one could resolve it for him, so he opted for a form of primal screaming. My interview subject stood up and strode to the door. As he opened it, the shrieking man happened to be right there and immediately became stunned to be inches from the boss’s face. The boss man quietly seethed that the employee should cease all verbal emanation. This was quite effectively expressed with pithy, graphic language.

While I was amused, I wasn’t sure how to get all that into my story. After all, it’s not like I would be able to get confirmation as to how exactly the trader messed up and what was the underlying deal. And, I wasn’t sure I wanted to immediately alienate my new subject. Besides, haven’t we all had one of those days? At least, I witnessed instant karma: you snap at me, and then you look like you’re running a circus instead of a business.

Why do I tell you this story? Well, if you got this far, then you liked the writing. Moreover, I wanted to illustrate the importance of attention to detail. A writing professional is assiduous with note-taking, whether the act of writing or observing. A writer shows you rather than tells you what is happening. Now, ask yourself, how is the story of your business being told. Your marketing narratives needs memorable details. Is your marketing staff or agency listening and observing what is happening with your business and market? Does the marketing, in turn, reflect your core competencies and speak to your target market?

Good storytelling is a craft. It takes experience. And, in the digital realm, it requires strong writing skills. If you want Adroit Narratives to take care of your writing and editing, contact Katharine for information on hourly rates and monthly packages.

editing

The $1,000 Blog – Why It’s Worth It

You’re a mid-sized or larger company and you need a raft of blogs and white papers to launch a new product or to reframe your existing core competency. When it comes to writing talent, you have a lot of options. Perhaps too many.

For starters, eliminate the urge to get writing on the cheap. It will suck. Excuse the crass language, but it will suck up your time because you will end up revising it or rewriting it. It will suck time and energy. To call this a fool’s errand would be too kind.

If your business is complex, such as finance, commodities, etc., you need to find someone sophisticated, well-educated and extensively experienced with writing for B2B audiences.

Time Management

How much is your time worth? If you’re making six figures in a corporate role with full benefits, just plug your salary into a typical salary>contractor rate conversation formula and you can get a sense of how much you are worth in hourly terms. Granted, how you spend your time each day varies (think fruitless meeting). Now, imagine wasting your time vetting and correcting bad writing. Actually, there is a job description for that: editor. Is that really your job? It is essential, but do you have time for it?

Roles and Responsibilities

The job qualifications of a top-notch professional writer go beyond spinning out beautiful prose. A B2B writer is also an analyst, who can glean trends from complex data points. The highly-compensated writer is also a strategist, who gathers your objectives and pinpoints carefully chosen wording to drive home a message.

A business writer is also a collaborator, who can efficiently canvass other principals, including senior executives, to ensure all key viewpoints and decision-making are incorporated in the final product and then conveyed across the entire digital spectrum to reinforce that message (social media, paid, organic, earned).

The professional business writer is also an editor. Be prepared for this person to gather up all your past efforts and shred what was unnecessary, fluffy, tedious or just plain terrible. Don’t take it personally. It’s a professional assessment. Also, be prepared for the editor to capture the best of what the company has done and reinforce that messaging.

Partnership

When you find the right writer, you can engage them on an ongoing basis with a contract that can button down the hourly rate and other considerations, such as NDAs and non-compete clauses. Such an arrangement provides you with the assurance your writer is available as a reliable extension of your team. The collaboration fosters an even more refined understanding of your business and, by extension, more effective marketing by the contractor. This way, you gain all the benefits of an inside marketing professional with all the nimbleness and responsiveness you need. The question is are you willing to pay for it? You could end up paying $75 to $150/hr or $1-2/word. The value gained is worth it.

For more information about contract writing and editing, contact Katharine Fraser at katharine@adroitnarratives.com.

Repeat sign

Repeat After Me: Reinforce Your Marketing By Rote

In the news business, there is a sensibility that there is no need to repeat a story. We’ve covered that already! After all, the job is to deliver new information. By contrast, in marketing, the message needs to be reinforced.

Repeating your business story is essential to getting the message to sink in. That’s why taglines and jingles are so successful. It’s crucial to ensure you get the message right. You don’t want to repeat something boring or vague.

What messages can hit home? For a range of products and services from home repairs to weight loss, you may want to tout rapid and effective results. For professional, white-collar services, reinforce your experience, trustworthiness and subject-matter expertise.

How do you reinforce the story? Put it in your tagline. In your elevator pitch. In your social media posts. In your blogs. In your videos. Time and time again, remind people of your core competency and what value it brings to them. Think of effective TV ads that always end with the same motto for a business.

Am I Repeating Myself?

Why, yes I am. Adroit Narratives has previously blogged about drip campaigns and the importance of a consistent message across marketing channels.

By repeating the message, you are also standing by it. This reinforces that the message represents an eternal truth.

Repetition is critical to learning. Think flashcards and memorization. How does that learning work? By repeating the information.

Must you use the same exact words every time? Not necessarily. But the tagline or motto can certainly be tacked on the end for that final reinforcement you want ingrained in the minds of the consumer or client.

Should you consult with a thesaurus for alternative words? Absolutely not! Use words you would in a normal, verbal discussion. Thus, the wording is true to you and your business culture.

Should you use some off-the-shelf AI or outsource to a cheap blog mill? Only if you are comfortable with insincere messaging, word salads, and grammatical, syntax and spelling errors.

Distilling the Message

Sit down with your colleagues to review your existing marketing message with a critical eye. Is it consistent? Is it specific? Is it memorable (in a good way)? Is it effective? How can it be improved?

Or, how would you start from scratch? Go around the table and talk about strengths and weaknesses in the business itself, not just the marketing message. What is the greatest value you offer? Take those one, two or three things and build the messaging to buttress (yes, reinforce or underpin) those ideas.

Next, if you are confident you nailed it, then get to work with a multi-media campaign plan. Which social media should you use? How should you produce video and blogs? Who should coordinate the content for those as well as email marketing and your website? If you do not feel comfortable doing that work in-house, then retain an agency or individual to contract with for the marketing content and coordination. Take a look at how they market themselves and their client base. And, lastly, do not go with the lowest bid. Just like anything else, with writing, you get what you pay for. For Commanding Digital Storytelling, contact me at katharine@adroitnarratives.com.

New rules spelled in tiles on wood

New Rules for Social Media

  1. Don’t open a post to a group with “Admins, I hope this is OK” and then post something is clearly in violation of the group’s content rules. Read the rules and follow them. Don’t use a group to promote your business, ask for medical or veterinary advice, share info unrelated to the group topic, etc. “Admins, if this is not OK” is a form of clickbait and you should just be banned for life for it.
  2. Don’t use all caps. Don’t use all caps in run-on sentences either. If you cannot form a thought and then write it out without all caps and with proper grammar, please get help.
  3. Don’t call everyone you disagree with in comments on news stories a troll. It gets old. Unless, it’s definitely a Russian troll. By all means, call that out.
  4. Don’t post a nastygram review about a business unless you truly had a horrible experience, e.g. you were food poisoned. In any event, take it up directly with the business first. You can use the direct message option for that.
  5. Don’t share an article with an alarming headline before you have even read the article.
  6. Do post a supportive comment to a friend expressing concern in a post.
  7. Do recommend businesses you really like and relate a good experience.
  8. Do share pictures of cute babies, doggies and cats. You will make people smile.
  9. Do join groups on Facebook and elsewhere that engage in hobbies you love or want to learn about, e.g., gardening, sewing, cooking, kayaking, hiking, etc. That is to say, use social media to actually be social, even if just in the digital space. These groups could actually get you out to engage in healthy hobbies in the real world too.
  10. Do send a direct message to a business on its Facebook or Twitter account. Ask them something specific about a type of product or service you want or need. You will get great, actionable information back!
Happy emoticon for social media.

Social Media Diplomacy Test: Kind? Useful? Fun?

We live in trying times. I admit cursing while driving on the Houston highways. But would I say those things if those drivers could hear me? Nope.

Do many people say those things in social media? Yep. Have you? Well, never mind. If you get on social media even once per day, you are subjected to something that will make your eyes bug out, whether it’s related to international news or domestic problems.

At this moment, people are balking over Tom Brokaw saying Hispanics need to assimilate. Ut-oh. This is a tired assertion. After all, many of us whose great-grandparents came from Europe found themselves assimilating. Yep, and many of them already spoke English (like my forebears from Scotland and Ireland) and others learned this second-language over time.

That notion is so thread-bare is didn’t make me flinch, but when he said some people aren’t sure they want brown grandbabies, my jaw dropped. Outrage ensued! And, understandably as that is a genuine WTH comment.

So, using a completely unscientific examination, I scrolled through reaction comments on a news story about this posted to Facebook. Surprisingly, people with opposite opinions on this hot-button issue were not abjectly caustic or abusive. Some people defended the comments, mostly with I-think-I-know-what-he-meant-to-say reactions that acknowledged the comments sounded terrible. Others agreed wholeheartedly with the assimilate part. I didn’t spend all day on this, but it seemed like his specific remarks on intermarriage and “brown grandbabies” were avoided.

To be fair to Mr. Brokaw, he took to Twitter to apologize. Within minutes, we will be on to the next outrage. Frankly, some things going on in our society are outrageous. The question before us now is, so, what are we going to constructively do about these matters?

We can each one of us do, myself included, to foster a better environment on social media?

There is similar to asking before one speaks: is it kind, is it necessary, and is it true? Yes, I believe it is necessary sometimes (but not always!) to engage in political debates. Go ahead. Just be kind and stay in the realm of facts.

Do not allow oneself to be triggered. I just saw a meme about how Roger Stone is being unfairly and that [expletive] Hillary isn’t in jail. I stopped. I got outraged at the false equivalency. I almost commented. I liked a comment debunking it. Then I unliked that comment and scrolled the hell out of there. Why? Because that post is just not worth engagement.

My congressman is active on social media and I do comment, sometimes positively and sometimes skeptically, on his posts. Who knows? He might actually care about what his constituents say. If I comment again, I will try to be mindful to be as reasoned as possible. The other key is fully listening to or reading someone’s comments before getting ready to tear down one thing they said. Listen to the entire content. Consider the whole point.

Another test for you: are you making the best use of your time on social media? If you are scrolling out of boredom, stop. If you are getting consumed in a debate that is not constructive, stop. If you are clapping back at memes, stop.

Make a conscious effort to share in something positive.

Spend less time each day on social media and consciously decide to make it fun, educational and useful. If it is not one of those three, ask yourself if it is worth your time.

Doorbells, Drip Campaigns and Delivering Value

If you live with dogs, you undoubtedly are frequently jarred by doorbells in television commercials. I’m going to name names: thank you, Walmart and Stouffer’s, who insist on multiple doorbell sound effects in their ads. No doubt the creators of these ads know that dogs will go bonkers each time they hear them and, ergo, dog owners will remember the ads.

But that certainly backfires when your target audience finds your ads incredibly annoying. I have other choices and do not need to go to Walmart, and I certainly wouldn’t serve guests frozen lasagna.

Analogously, are there certain retailers who send you multiple emails each week? If it is for the same offer, this practice is called a drip campaign. If the campaign is promoting a sale from a store I like, such as Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft, then yes, I rather like the email reminders. But, if the email is from an entity I find mildly interesting, then I really do not need two to three emails per day.

Who wants to be touched by digital marketing that often? Some email marketers seem more aligned with robocallers in practice than storytellers. What are you trying to tell your prospects and customers? Too many drips can feel like Chinese water torture for the email recipient.

Also, too much frequency can suggest desperation. Better to go with one to three emails a week, not several per day (you know you have seen that in your inbox).

And only talking about products and offers can get boring. What value are you bringing to people?

For example, if you are selling clothes, your newsletter could include an article about how to dress up or down with key pieces. And, sure, include sidebars with special offers as well as high-end items.

If you’re selling a professional service, include articles that are useful to your target audience. These are articles should be written by your company and posted to your website. The articles should describe how you solve a particular problem. You can illustrate your expertise without giving away the farm.

With storytelling you are inviting prospects to learn something of value from you. Think of it this way: if you ring someone’s doorbell in real life, they would appreciate if you are bringing something of value. (I’m waiting on the UPS truck as I type).

This is why guests bring hostess gifts to parties. You wouldn’t show up, ring the doorbell repeatedly and then try to sell your wares. So, why would you do that with email marketing? The Pavlovian response you are likely triggering is getting people to click delete, or worse, unsubscribe.

Instead, relate something positive and inviting. Did you hire someone new who is a standout in the field? Share that. Do you have an insight about some current event or controversy? Share that. Can you open with an anecdote about yourself in your business? Share that too. Let your customers and prospects get to know you and appreciate you.

Katharine Fraser is a communications consultant, social media marketer and freelance writer and editor.

Dictionary and stylebook.

Why a Dictionary Should Be Your Best Friend

Sunday at Grandma’s house featured dinners with tomato “gravy,” meatballs and ravioli and reading from the dictionary. My grandparents kept their dictionary on a large wooden stand in their dining room and I would pull up a tall stool to go learn from it.

The habit of perusing the dictionary started with my introduction to newspaper reading. Whenever I came across a word I didn’t understand, I would ask my parents for its meaning and they would tell me to bring the dictionary to the kitchen table. It was an unabridged Oxford dictionary. Once I lugged out this anvil, I would continue flipping through it to better acquaint myself with the English language.

When I was a news desk editor, Merriam-Webster’s website was bookmarked on my browser and still is. Why? Perhaps I second-guess myself with spelling. Moreover, I’d rather avoid the embarrassment of not appearing to know my own mother tongue.

After all, Merriam-Webster is now known for highlighting the malapropisms of a certain leader of the Free World, including referring to “Scott Free” instead of scot-free. Graciously, Merriam-Webster referred to this gaffe as an “uncommon spelling.” Nice.

Ever received a business email with a misspelling or two? Yes, we have all been victimized by autocorrect and our constant use of cell phones increases the likelihood of such errors. So much so that it became briefly fashionable for people to disclaim in their signature line that any typos should be ignored because the email was sent from a phone. Such a glib explanation brought to mind the image of a carefree jet-setter heading to Aspen or some other glamorous locale. “I don’t care about you peons enough to check my spelling. Ta-ta!”

This is the writing equivalent of arriving at a business meeting with dirty hair and rumpled clothes. Try to at least make an effort of looking like you have self-respect and respect for those with whom you are communicating.

All that said, I have missed typos. The sting of that embarrassment never lessens.

I know what you’re thinking. You use spell-check (that is Merriam-Webster’s preferred spelling, although spellcheck and spell check are acceptable). Plus, there is that ever helpful red, squiggly line to point out the errors of your ways. True. Yet, these tools are not infallible. Befriend the dictionary. It won’t let you down.

How many times have I checked the dictionary while writing this? Multiple times. How often do you?

Katharine Fraser is a communications consultant, social media marketer and freelance writer and editor.

Woman writing on laptop

Why You Should Write Your Business Correspondence Yourself

LinkedIn just notified me a colleague received a promotion and offered me a one-click option to congratulate her. Unfortunately, that resulted in the following post being created and attributed to me: “Congrats [Name].”

Do you see the problems? For starters, that should read: “Congrats, [Name].” Also, I don’t like “congrats” because it connotes the person bestowing this good will cannot be bothered to write out the word congratulations. I deleted the post and wrote it my normal way.

Maybe “congrats Susie” doesn’t bother you. But it grates on my nerves. Just like poor grammar in holiday cards drives other people insane. Do not place an apostrophe after your surname to make it plural, e.g. “the Smith’s.” For further information on that topic, watch this fabulous PSA on how to make surnames plural (make that the Smiths).

“Congrats [Name]” is not something I would ever write. Thus, it is insincere. I keep hearing about how AI is making life oh-so-much easier for the busy professional.

Now, to be fair, I use Grammarly.com and the utilize the spelling and grammar check in Word. I just have no use for auto-generated digital communications.

It’s been a couple of years since Twitter users taught a chatbot developed by Microsoft to become an overnight racist. Social media has revealed another disturbing problem: many flesh-and-blood people do not know grammar and eschew spelling.

If you are one of those people with horrible grammar and spelling, banged out in all capital letters, I recommend you slow down and try to focus on one thought at a time. This way, your writing will be more cohesive. Another pro tip: forget about voice-to-text. It doesn’t work.

If you do either – crazy all caps rants or voice-to-text – in business email, texts or social media, then stop to ask yourself this: do I just not care about making a good impression? Do I want my customers to think I am a few sandwiches short of a picnic? C’mon, take a few minutes to check your own writing. And, check yourself, if you know what I mean.

Now, let’s review the positives of writing your own business correspondence. The recipient will recognize you took a moment to convey your thoughts, appreciate, advice or questions because the wording sounds like you. We all have our own signature manner of speaking and writing.

When I was a cub reporter at a business newspaper, a man in circulation sat at an adjoining table in the breakroom listening to reporters chatting over lunch. He picked out each person based on word choices and sentence structure that he recognized from reading our articles. He had never met anyone at that table before. But, of course, he did know the voices of the writers.

We also all have our own writing ticks. I will write you in lieu of your and also write your when I mean to type you. This is a nightmare I don’t care to share! Again, grammar checking is your friend. Better yet, read your wording out loud. By doing so, you will catch mistakes in grammar and spelling. Best of all, you will ensure the presentation comes across in your voice.