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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Staying in Touch without Touch: Covid-19 Communications

The bad news is most of the business world is staying at home for the foreseeable future. The good news is you have a captive audience.

For example, my investment advisory firm just sent a 9-page analyst note on the CARES act federal bailout and the macroeconomics of the global pandemic. Would I normally stop everything to read a newsletter from my broker? Probably not. They have sent seven market updates this month, up from two in late February and none in January. This is the inverse of the old corollary that everyone’s a genius in a bull market: the investment firm is holding itself out to clients as the sage guide through a crisis. Smart.

Are you too reaching out to clients and in doing so, trying a new approach in light of current events? In my last blog, I cautioned against sending email blasts to every single contact you’ve ever had. I maintain that position, but go ahead and reconnect with past paying customers. For instance, a fine food purveyor has included me on its recent email marketing campaigns. I only made a purchase from them once for a Christmas gift a couple of years ago. Now, they are kicking into high gear with the digital marketing. After all, they are a website catalogue-based retailer. I believe I first encountered them in a Facebook ad. Smart.

Now, they are hosting a virtual happy hour with a chef from a hip restaurant to discuss recipes that no doubt will use the olive oil they sell. I think I’ll tune in. Note: this is effective cross-marketing, especially for the restaurant that cannot serve in-house at the moment.

Stay on point. Offer an immediate solution. I just took a minute to watch a hand-washing tutorial video embedded in an email from Real Simple magazine. I had forgotten I was on their email list. Instead of unsubscribing from their emails, I know feel a heart-warmed desire to keep hearing from Real Simple, to which I used to subscribe in print. And, oh, I now realize I really should be changing the hand towels every day.

What is the net result of these digital interactions? I’m not likely to yank my investments from the firm that demonstrates they are on top of the situation. I might by some fancy foodstuffs online from a business I had forgotten about. And, I might start paying attention to Real Simple magazine again. After all, their brand is all about tidying up and enjoying your home. That’s where we’re all going to be for a while. Enjoy!

Best Practices: Marketing and Communications in COVID-19

You’ve activated emergency plans and all non-essential workers are logged on from home. Any essential workers are socially distanced. You’re using email to update employees and customers what’s going on. What’s next?

If you are rolling out a new service in response to the slow-motion natural disaster, by all means, let people know. Start with your email marketing mailing list. You may also consider Facebook advertising, especially if this product can be delivered or sold as curbside pickup. Or, if you’re in the specialized deep cleaning business, communicate that.

Before sharing examples of good communications, please let me advise on some don’ts.

  • Don’t refer to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis as “craziness,” as someone I don’t know did in an email marketing blast. (Would you believe that was a cold call email from a salesperson at a major payroll processing company? Wow.) Confine your personal feelings to personal communications. You’re still a professional in a business, no matter what is happening. A crisis is no time to lose your cool. At least not in your marketing and other business communications.
  • Don’t include every email in every database you can lay your hands on to let customers know how much they mean to you. I am getting heartwarming messages of concern from companies with which I do not recall ever having had any contact or business. This will come off as phony. Just use a list with legitimate customers/clients.
  • Remain friendly, but avoid jokes in professional correspondence, unless you are sharing a moment with an individual you know well. No one wants to see gallows humor at work and certainly not in a marketing message.
  • If you are in the lifestyle business, please don’t share recipes for comfort food that require a lot of fresh milk and eggs. I even saw a social media post today suggesting people “run out” to get fresh shrimp and crusty baked bread for a recipe. The reality is most people are not running out to buy shrimp right now, even those of us lucky enough to live on the Gulf Coast. If shopping, they are likely more concerned with social distancing than obtaining seafood. My shopping list includes bread flour, not bread. Maybe that’s just me. I’d love recipes for all the dried beans I bought earlier this month in anticipation of being housebound. In other words, make your message relevant to current events.

And, now for the great examples of businesses staying on brand with their COVID-19 communications:

  • Tractor Supply’s latest email addresses its customers with “A Message to Our Neighbors.” If you live in a small town with a Tractor Supply, it’s where you go for everything from chicken feed to overalls, dog food to cookbooks and a bunch of around the farm and house stuff in between. It’s all about basic supplies for survival. And their branding is homey and comforting. The message is about easily ordering online for quick pickup and how they are treating their employees. All good stuff.
  • Team Beachbody wants you to know their on-demand exercise sessions are there for stress relief and exercise. The supply chain for their nutritional supplies is uninterrupted and ready to deliver wellness to you. The email reminds you how their products and services can make you feel healthy.
  • Next Level Urgent Care got right to the point in its message line: “Get Tested for COVID-19!” If ever there was an appropriate use of an exclamation point in a marketing email, this is it. The content of the email is straight to the point. If you are experiencing symptoms, it gives text directions to download the app for a virtual visit. “Once you complete your video visit and receive your test order, we can direct you to the nearest drive-through testing location.” This is the best COVID-19 marketing email I have seen. It immediately identifies the pain point and offers a remedy. Short and direct. Boom.
  • Who else is out in front on good COVID-19 communications? Big Brown, a.k.a., the people who bring goods right to your home. “Many people are asking the same question: is it safe to receive and handle a shipment? The WHO and CDC have stated that the likelihood of catching the COVID-19 virus by touching cardboard or other shipping containers is low.” Comforting, right? So, go ahead and get those things delivered by UPS.
  • Even Discount Tire is reassuring. If you need your vehicle to be able to roll on down the road, you can get your tires fixed… by making an appointment ahead of time, please. Usually, you can just park and walk in, but not so fast anymore. They include the link to book an appointment for “essential customer needs,” which include flat tire repairs and replacement of tires with unsafe tread. You can hold off on tire rotation and rebalancing. Discount Tire is.

All of the good COVID-19 communications share the same hallmarks:

Emphasize health, safety and well-being of customers and employees.

Explain what has and what has not changed with your product offerings or services.

Speak confidently about crisis management and warmly about a shared future in which we can all resume normal operations.

Stay well and keep communicating.

Illustration of happy story in business

Nailed It – How to Tell a Business Story for Success

What is storytelling when it comes to marketing a business? It’s simply telling the story of how your company resolved a problem.

Any good story has a beginning, middle and an end. The beginning of your story is the how you came to identify a problem or challenge. This could be a so-called pain point that consumers are facing until someone builds a better mousetrap. Or, it could be a question of figuring out how to arrive at a better price to bring more value to the marketplace. Or, it can even be finding or acknowledging a shortcoming and turning around a better product or service. The message around the latter can simply be a cheerful, we listening to you and we now offer the new and improved widget.

The middle of this kind of story is relating how you evaluated how to solve the problem. This part of the story might involve character development (a valued employee or star player), appealing to stakeholders (clients/customers/vendors). Here, you decide how much of the backstory is needed to convey your plot. Too many details, and you will lose your audience. The key is to winnow down the details to the essential specifics. This is true for any medium in which you tell this business story, but specific wording can be crucial for search engine optimization. Just like a search engine is crawing website seeking results with specific words, your target audience is also looking for the specifics that relate to their situation.

The middle of the story should also involve action that illustrates the concrete steps taking to resolve a problem. As you tick off the action items, be sure to check them again the classic storytelling list of who, what, when, where, how and why. Decide which of those elements are critical to your story and include them. You can generalize here to obscure a customer or client’s identity, e.g., a mid-size manufacturer in the U.S. Southeast, as opposed to the company’s name. (Also, check with the customer to make sure they are OK with this. Who knows? They might want you to name them and link to their website. This kind of strategic alignment in marketing could help you to if they link back to highlight your company as a trusted resource.)

The end of the story should provide a tangible result, ideally with some numbers to illustrate a positive change. We published more than 130 blogs that drove traffic to the website, boosted visits to the Twitter profile by 550%, and bested similarly situated businesses in Facebook post reach. The bottom line for most businesses is what am I going to get and how much is it going to cost me. Be sure your business story gives prospects of sense of that value proposition so they embrace it when you give them your pitch. Facts always drive business decisions, so the more specifics you provide in your storytelling, the better.

B2B connections illustrated with puzzle pieces

Stay on Point: B2B Content Marketing with Purpose

The whole point of content marketing, e.g. blogging and vlogging (video blogging), is to showcase your business expertise. This must be the mainstay of B2B marketing. When you get too far off point, your intended audience will not realize you are trying to reach them.

I was reminded of this while watching a TV special on the greatest Super Bowl ads of all time. There it was: the memorable video from 2000 of cowboys on the range wrangling with kittycats. There’s even the expression of herding cats. Everyone loved this TV ad. That’s so great, but can you name the company whose ad it was? “EDS, managing the complexities of the digital economy” is the spoken tagline at the end of the ad. Well, that’s still a fine tagline today. (EDS was later acquired by HP.)

To be sure, a commercial with office workers clashing over IT management would not make for a compelling storyline. Perhaps a viable alternative would interlacing the cat herding imagery with references to the “complexities of the digital economy” so that the audience would know exactly what the ad was for. That way the memorable message would be inextricably tied to the product and/or service being offered.

There’s no shortage of businesses leaving their lane for promotions. The latest example is Popeyes of fried chicken fame. Kudos for Popeyes for previously snagging eyeballs and attention in social media, and by extension news media, for creating a sensation over its chicken sandwich by positioning itself head to head (beak to beak?) with a competitor. But now, it is selling athleisure clothes. Do what, you ask? Well, it is harkening Beyonce’s clothing line, Ivy Park, with its own line dubbed “That Look from Popeyes.” I could be wrong, but I would not recommend other business try this tactic, especially if your company is not already a household name retail brand that sells tasty food. I also am speculating that Popeyes’ people talked in advance with Beyonce’s people about this promotion as to avoid a cease and desist response. If this is an example of a strategic marketing alliance, then good for them. If Popeyes succeeds in selling a lot of clothes for charity, that’s wonderful. Will it help them sell more chicken? I’m not so sure.

Take Adroit Narratives. What is for sale? Editing and writing services. Look at the Adroit Narratives blog and you will see that entry after entry is about the power of blogging and content marketing. It does not stray into other business sectors. Does this jibe with the business offerings of the company? Yes, Adroit Narratives is in the business of providing outsourced content creation and digital dissemination with blogs, videos, newsletters and social media.

Your business can also create (or outsource the creation of) consistent digital content that is delivered on a systematic basis to reach your customers and prospects. Focus on the topics that align with the top revenue drivers you already have. These are the areas where you are the subject-matter expert. Your core content should reflect your core competencies. Decide which specific lines you want to emphasize and create a scheduled plan for delivery content to match. This should be a long-term plan, as in months, not weeks. Keep on it. And, stay on topic!

Looking to outsource your business marketing? Contact Katharine at Adroit Narratives: katharine@adroitnarratives.

editor

B2B Blogging with Polish and Panache

Need to convince your audience that you know your stuff? Then you better know your audience first. Now, you can better address them.

Ask yourself (or better yet ask them) how much do you already know about this topic? How interested are you in learning more? Why do you want to hear about it from me?

Now that you ideally have the audience’s attention, you must keep it. One surefire way to lose their interest is to misspeak. In writing, the equivalent is a glaring typo. Nothing says I don’t quite care about getting this all right like a big, fat spelling error. In this day and age of social media and texting, we’ve gotten quite used to seeing spelling and grammatical errors, but are we completely inured to these shortcomings?

If your senior management sends an email with a new company directive and you spot typos, just how seriously are you going to take the memo? It might inspire you to dust off your resume rather than fall in line with the new policy or initiative.

Likewise, how would your customer take it if you dashed off a proposal to them and it was riddled with errors? You get the idea. The same goes for website content, blogs and social media posts by businesses. No matter how casual we may become in tenor and tone, no business wants to leave a tweet hanging out there with a typo.

What about the style of your business blog and digital marketing? Are you striking the right chord? This might be one of the more challenging aspects of social media and blogging. Yes, you want to have a little fun, but certainly not too much. A seasoned editor can ensure your content captures just the right balance between informative and entertaining.

To be sure, you cannot please all people all the time and critics may still emerge. You just want to showcase as much good material as possible. To do so, hire professional, experienced marketers and copy editors. If you write your own content for websites, blogs, etc., then bring in an editor to review the material before it is published.

If you attempt some panache but it comes out as frilly or silly, the editor will put a stop to it. The editor might even add an appropriate flourish. This is what people in the craft call “good writing.” Yes, that is the technical term. This ability is not God-given. It is a talent honed with extensive practice.

When it comes to content marketing and good writing, employing a great editor will make your efforts more effective.

For more information, contact Katharine Fraser at katharine@adroitnarratives.com.

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!