What’s in your story vault?

What's in your story vault?The women at my table went wild, which surprised me. All I’d done was answer the ice-breaker question “What’s the most fun you’ve ever had at a business event?” For some reason, a 30-year-old story bubbled up in my mind. I’d locked it away in my story vault — probably haven’t told it more than twice since it happened.

But I told it that night.

And when I saw how my listeners reacted to it, I realized it’s not just an amusing story; it’s an important story. It says something about me and about how my clients value me. It points to possibilities—if that can happen to me, it can happen to you, too, when you own your expertise.

I had locked the story away for decades because it felt like bragging. I’ll bet you have a story vault of your own.

Isn’t it time to let those stories out?

Join me for my free webinar next Monday, “Say What You Want to Say: for women leaders who are ready to be heard.”

I designed this webinar to help you get past the stories you always tell and find the stories you should be telling. And I’ll give you some tips on how to tell them memorably.

Join me on November 20th at 10a.m. or 7p.m. Eastern. I run a very interactive webinar, so I’ll be leading it live in both time slots.

It’s priceless advice from an award-winning speechwriter. And on November 20th, it’s free.

Self-consciousness and self-awareness

I’m working to shove self-consciousness into an ever-shrinking corner of my life. At the moment, it’s living in an AirBnB room in the Willits’ garage. Bathroom’s in the main house; not a fun place to be when it snows. Self-awareness, on the other hand, knocks on my front door at the oddest times. I’m always glad to see it, but usually surprised, too.

“Apparently,” I said to the VA candidate during our Zoom interview, “I do more than the average person.” She looked down and tried to suppress a laugh. Gee, I found myself thinking, maybe I really do.

Running two writing courses simultaneously while planning two others—and an end-of-year retreat; feeding the last five pieces of content into a 52-week curriculum; working with my corporate writing clients.

self-awareness
Yogi Bear, “smarter than the average bear” By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use

Oh, right—and writing for at least 15 minutes every day. (Today’s day 555!) Oops—yep, and keeping in touch with the folks on my mailing list four or five times a quarter. While always looking for ways to find more folks to keep in touch with.

Surely someone like Sir Richard Branson does all this before breakfast. While kite-surfing around his island.

No?

Well, okay. I’m not going to stop doing what I do, but I will give myself credit for being more active than the average bear. That’s self-awareness.

Self-awareness requires company

Self-awareness doesn’t develop in isolation. You need people around you (or streaming to you over your WiFi) to hear your stories and mirror them back to you.

I went out to dinner with a randomly selected group at a retreat I attended last month. One of the icebreaker questions was something about “the most fun business event you’d ever attended.” I knew my story was cool—maybe I’ll write about it one of these days—but in telling it and seeing my dinner companions react, I realized for the first time that there was some “extraordinary” mixed in with the cool. I saw that it was a story about me as much as it was about the actual events. That’s self-awareness.

I can pick out a great story at 500 yards. With one arm tied behind my back. If it’s a story about someone else. Stories about me? I mean, I have a collection of client success stories, of course. But stories that demonstrate my own successes? The ways in which I shine? Oh hell no. I don’t tell those stories.

The event I talked about at dinner happened over 25 years ago; I think I’ve told it maybe once since then. And never to people I’d just met.

What’s your story?

That’s why I’ve created my end-of-year retreat, Write & Shine. We’ll spend a lot of time looking for those kinds of stories in ourselves. Everyone has them. And we’ll also look at telling other stories—because you can’t talk about yourself all the time. We don’t want self-awareness to morph into self-involvement, after all.

What stories are you not telling that you should be? Maybe it’s time to shine. And see your light reflected back through other people’s eyes.

So what’s the second sentence? — Frequent Questions

Q: I see you want me to write about how important issue X is. So what’s the second sentence?
A: […]?

I love my clients, I really do. But for a while there I had to trot that question out at pretty much every meeting I had with one of them. Until the day they started asking it themselves. (I was so proud.)

You see, they always wanted me to write about Issues of the Day. Usually, about how Important they were. And Good, very Good.

But it’s hard to make that a particularly interesting read:

Company X supports baseball and apple pie.

So I came up with that question:

“What’s the second sentence?”

It got ’em every time. But it started a conversation, and out of that conversation we’d usually find a story or two. And a point of view. On a good day for me, that point of view might even have an edge, something vaguely approaching conflict, if not controversy.

what's the second sentence?Because that’s what you need when you’re writing op-ed essays or other pieces designed to persuade. You need a point of view—preferably one different than someone else’s point of view.

So you can imagine my delight when I heard pretty much those same sentiments coming out of my car’s speakers today. One of my favorite podcast hosts, the always insightful Joan Garry, was interviewing master storyteller Alex Blumberg.

Another way to ask the second sentence question

Blumberg cut his teeth as a producer on the radio show This American Life and now runs podcast juggernaut Gimlet Media, so he knows from telling stories. He and Joan talked for a bit about how to frame stories about issues—Joan’s core audience members run nonprofits, so they always have issues to talk about.

Blumberg said that sometimes he’d have producers come to him and say things like, “I want to tell a story about poverty,” for instance. And he’d say:

“Okay. So what are your questions about poverty?”

You can see why I liked the guy.

Usually, they hadn’t thought that far. Just that poverty was Bad and they wanted to show that

But who doesn’t know that already? So if you want to talk about the issue, you have to find a fresh angle. You have to ask questions. You have to think about the second sentence.

As Blumberg said (I’m paraphrasing, I think):

One of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming that because they’re talking about an Important Issue, people will automatically pay attention.

So what’s the second sentence? Figure that out and you’ve got a shot at creating a memorable piece of writing.


Time to kick your writing skills up a level? Join me for my popular Writing Unbound program this October. The support and techniques you need to get your work into the world.

The challenge with Bible-writing

challenge of bible-writing“We want this to be the Bible for our [Insert Your Innovation Here].” When people say they want something to be “the Bible”—they mean they want it to be comprehensive, to contain anything a person would want to know on any aspect of the subject. But that’s the challenge with Bible-writing: How do you take a massive information download and create something people actually want to read?

Now, please understand—I mean no disrespect to people who turn to the actual Bible for religious inspiration. But it does break some pretty fundamental rules of story-telling. I mean, let’s be honest: do we really need all of those “begats”?

And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth: 4 And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:5 And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died. 6 And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos: 7 And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters.

And so it continues for the whole rest of Genesis, Chapter 5—and good luck remembering them all. Most of those folks never appear in the text again—violating a primary rule of writing a memorable story: don’t clutter it with extraneous information.

Bible-writing — is everything essential?

Does your corporate “bible” need that level of detail?

Bob got the idea for the new app while in a meeting with Jenny, who’s been with the firm since she got her engineering degree. And Jenny brought along Hal and Susie, the key members of her team. Bob invited people from his team as well…

Or even this level of detail?

First we tried X, yielding Y results. Then we moved to X+1, which brought us to…

That last sentence contains the seeds of something you want to include in your “bible”—but you need to plant those seeds in the fertile soil of a great story.

What challenges did you encounter with X that prompted your move to X+1? Start with the sticking point and let the reader see how you navigated around it.

Make your stories stick

If your “bible” documents a complex, multiyear process, make sure it contains lots and lots stories (as the original Bible does). But which stories?

Use the SUCCESs mnemonic from the Heath Brothers’ book Made to Stick and look for:

Simple
Unexpected
Concrete
Credible
Emotional
Stories

Think about the Bible stories you remember:

Abraham and the burning bush—God asks him to kill his son (unexpected); he nearly does it (emotional).

The birth of Jesus: homeless people seek shelter (simple); woman goes into labor (unexpected, concrete—parents of every generation understand what that entails); healthy baby born (emotional).

There’s a reason these stories have endured for millennia.

Find the stories like that in the work you’re documenting. Every corporate endeavor has inflection points where people wonder, try, and maybe even fail—before they eventually succeed enough to write a “bible” about it.

That’s the stuff that will get people reading—and remembering—all of the hard work you’re documenting. And, as regular readers have heard me ask before: If you don’t want to be remembered, then why are you bothering to write this stuff in the first place?


Time to kick your writing skills up a level? Join me for my popular Writing Unbound program this October. A serious commitment, for people serious about change.

Lillian Ross – “leave no fingerprints”

“The act of a pro is to make it look easy. Fred Astaire doesn’t grunt when he dances to let you know how hard it is. If you’re good at it, you leave no fingerprints.”

great writers leave no fingerprints
The opening of Lillian Ross’s article “The Yellow Bus,” from The New Yorker, August 20, 1960

Even if you never read a word Lillian Ross wrote in her long career at The New Yorker, that kicker quote in her obit in The New York Times tells you all you need to know about her cool, elegant approach to her craft.

I’m not talking about the “leave no fingerprints” part—though it’s the perfect metaphor for old-fashioned journalism. If the writer appears at all, it’s at a remove. “One wonders…” rather than “I wonder.” Or “an observer remarked that…”

No, I’m talking about “the act of a pro is to make it look easy.” And so it is.

The advice I always give is to write like you’re having a conversation with someone. Unless that someone is an academic, you don’t need to burn the midnight thesaurus, looking for $10 words to prove you’re smart.

No fingerprints: “The Yellow Bus”

Check out (part of) the opening paragraph of Ms. Ross’s 1960 piece about a group of high-schoolers from Indiana on a class trip to New York.

Notice the almost photographic detail: the lettering on the bus, the ennui of the students. And after she’s done (for now) lavishing attention on the travelers, she lets us know the citizens’ reaction:

“When they arrived, hundreds of thousands of the city’s eight million inhabitants were out of town. Those who were here were apparently minding their own business; certainly they were not handing out any big hellos to the visitors.”

It’s a perfectly New York reaction, captured by a perfectly New Yorker writer. Who made it look easy, and left no fingerprints.

Rest in Peace, Ms. Ross.


Have you ever wanted to understand the choices a great writer makes? That’s why I created The Weekly What. It’s a yearlong series of writing prompts, and every other week I analyze a great piece of writing for you—a speech, a magazine article, a podcast, an essay. Learn to write by learning from the best. Program starts October 10th.

“Significant objects”: How to make the usual unusual

We were talking in class about metaphor—it’s one of the toughest concepts to grasp, apparently. Not what a metaphor is—all of my writers have been through high school English class—but what a metaphor does. So I was searching for marketing pieces that use story and metaphor when I came across the Significant Objects project.

All of the best marketing uses stories, as the Heath Brothers have documented. Take toothpaste, for instance. A pretty mundane product.

You could market it with facts—People who brush their teeth regularly are X% less likely to get gum disease.

Or you could market it with a story.

An indirect story—People who use this toothpaste are X% less likely to develop gum disease.

A direct story: Use this toothpaste and you’ll have a dazzling smile.

An indirect story: People who use this toothpaste are X% more likely to die with all their original teeth.

If you’re really good, you can get consumers to tell themselves the story:

Ooh, I want a dazzling smile so I can be more attractive and get a date.

Whatever story you use, it’s still just toothpaste.

But the Significant Objects product used story in a different way. Writer Rob Walker and brand analyst Joshua Green bought inexpensive items at thrift stores and found fiction writers—some well-known and some not—to write a story about them. Then they took these knick-knacks and auctioned them on eBay.

Did the stories enhance the value of the objects? Not objectively. But they did enhance the perceived value: the average mark-up for some objects rose as high as 2700%. Yes, you read that right: 27x the original price. Retailers strive for a sale price of 3x cost.

Services as significant objects

If story can enhance the value of a souvenir ashtray, what can it do for something of real value—like the products and services we provide?

So I gave my writers an assignment: Write about your own business as if it’s a “Significant Object.”

Look, it’s never easy to write about your own business. If it were, there’d be a whole lot more marketing communications writers whipping up lattes and frappucinos. So I’m always on the lookout for ways we can write about our businesses indirectly, or at least from different angles.

So, “Write about your business as a Significant Object,” I said. A daunting assignment, but one that could yield valuable results. So I volunteered to do the assignment too.

Here’s what I came up with:

A new perspective

I was antiquing—that’s what one does on a rainy day on Cape Cod. Driving down the first “highway” in the United States—it’s little more than a country lane, but here and there you’ll find an old shack or cottage with an “Antiques” sign planted in the front yard, a strange species of native tree.

The quaintest of the shops lack sufficient parking, but those are the ones with the best finds. So I parked down a side street about a quarter mile away and hiked back.

Inside, in the only corner of the shop not covered in dust, I saw a woman sitting on a decidedly not-antique desk chair, reading a book. At first I thought she was the shop’s proprietor, but then I saw a small sticker affixed to her sweater, near her right collarbone: “$129.95.”

“Excuse me?” I hated to interrupt her reading, but I had to know what the joke was. She looked up. “You seem to have picked up a price tag by mistake.” I laughed. She didn’t.

“No mistake. One-twenty-nine-ninety-five. You’re not buying me—that’s been illegal in the U.S. for quite a while. But half an hour of my time, to talk.”

“What would we talk about?”

“Mostly people like to talk to me about writing,” she replied. “I’ve won awards for it. In fact, I teach it. But I like to come here on rainy Saturdays because you never know who you’ll run into. Would you care to buy a chat?”

“Actually, I was looking for a bargain I could resell at a profit. A hidden treasure,” I said. “Have you noticed anything like that in this shop?”

“Treasure? I assure you, young woman, that I am worth my weight in gold.”

I sized her up—yep at that rate, $129.95 would be a real bargain. So what could I do? I bought a full hour.

And we talked about things I’d never thought about before. And the things I had thought about before—well, she showed me different perspectives on them. The ideas seemed to glow, hanging between us like a crystal chandelier as we turned them this way and that.

When I left the shop, the rain had disappeared. The skies were bluer than I’d ever seen them, the air felt crisper. And so did my mind.

I turned around and bought another half-hour. For you.

What’s it worth?


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Look ahead — “old sayings” vs. clichés

“Don’t look back. (You’re not going that way.)” Or, to translate into the preferred language of the SEO gods: “look ahead.”

look ahead

Do you read that as wise counsel? As a New Age-y cliché? Or as the worst driving advice ever?

It’s undoubtedly the last. My father the insurance man always instructed us to check the rear view mirrors before turning on the ignition. To be fair, he’d be perfectly fine with “Look ahead” too. He spent his days looking at wrecked cars and deciding how little—er, how much his company ought to pay for them. He knew everything that could happen to you in a car. So look back, look forward, look to your left, to your right—he insisted on all of it.

But in a metaphorical sense, “Don’t look back”—is it wise or trite?

I think the answer is

Yes.

If all you do is toss it into your writing, then it has all the weight of a fortune cookie saying.

But if you use it to make a larger point, if you can connect it to emotion and story—then you’ve got the making of something powerful.

It’s like anything, right? You don’t just drop a quotation into the middle of your work and then never mention it again.

“No man is an island entire of itself.”—John Donne

Well, yes. And…? As your reader, why should I care about that? How does it relate to me?

Look ahead

“Don’t look back” resonates for me now because I’m packing. (Argh.) And looking back is pretty much 90% of the packing game, right?

Do I really need to keep my 1980s edition of Trivial Pursuit? What was trivial then is now, like, super-obscure and useless information now. But I remember buying it, carrying it home, being one of my first friends to own it. Nope, Goodwill that sucker.

The handmade ceramic tile with my two-week-old footprints on it—even more trivial than the Trivial Pursuit. Completely useless to every conceivable Goodwill shopper. But my baby footprints! Jury’s still out on that. Oh, I would drive Marie Kondo crazy.

“Don’t Look Back” could make a fine Story Safari for a company in the throes of change. (And when is a company not in the throes of change?) When do you honor the legacy processes? How do you implement new ones without alienating half your workforce? Well, don’t look back; you’re not going that way. So what’s next.

In that context, “Don’t look back”—or, pace, gods of SEO—”look ahead” isn’t a cliché at all. It’s a great hook for a story.

Now, excuse me. I’ve got more packing to do.


Time to kick your writing skills up a level? Join me for my popular Writing Unbound program this October. A serious commitment, for people serious about change.

I love podcasts — and you might too

I love podcasts — I love listening to them and I love being interviewed on them.

Regular readers have already heard me sing the praises of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History. Gladwell doesn’t just deliver a fascinating story each week, he also offers a subtle lesson in how to write well. Well? Brilliantly.

I talk a lot about the importance of reading good writing. Gladwell reminds me that it’s equally important—actually, maybe more so—to listen to good writing.

i love podcastsI should have mentioned Revisionist History when Pete Mockaitis, the host of the podcast How to Be Awesome at Your Job, asked me about good material to read. Guess I was in a literal mood that day. And while pretty much every episode of Revisionist History would make a damn fine book, it’s still a podcast.

I love Gladwell’s podcast so much that I included it in the “great writing” I analyze for the writers who subscribe to my Weekly What program. You’ll hear more about that tomorrow. But—seriously—when was the last time you heard a podcast put together with enough thought that it deserved a deep analysis? Yeah, I thought so. If you haven’t heard Revisionist History yet, start here at episode one. You’re welcome.

I love podcasts (lots of podcasts)

I also love more anarchic podcasts, like the ones from the Crooked Media stable. Actually,  Pod Save the World, Pod Save the People, and Friends Like These have too much structure to call them “anarchic.” Lovett or Leave It, Jon Lovett’s podcast, has been gradually acquiring more structure, although the lineup of guest comedians remains hit-or-miss. (This episode, however, shines.) But their flagship show, Pod Save America, feels like I’m eavesdropping on a conversation between some really smart friends.

Whatever the format, I listen because—well, because Lovett and Jon Favreau are speechwriters. Ya gotta support the tribe, right? And because I appreciate the insights of all of the “Crooked” podcast hosts in these baffling, frustrating, and scary times.

But there’s a qualitative difference between podcasts that capture free-flowing conversation and tightly scripted podcasts like Gladwell’s. It’s the difference between watching a baseball game and a baseball documentary. Both tell stories, but the stories may be a little harder to tease out from the live event. Unless a junior league outfielder falls over the fence in pursuit of a sure home run and catches the baseball. Now, that’s a story.

Anyway, you can catch up on all my podcasts here. Can you tell the difference between the ones I prepped for and the ones where I winged it? Whatever the format, I’m just happy to be contributing to this fabulous new medium. Because—I’m not sure if I mentioned this: I love podcasts.


Time to kick your writing skills up a level? Join me for my popular Writing Unbound program this October. A serious commitment, for people serious about change.

What’s with the Rule of Three? — Frequent Questions

Q: What’s with the Rule of Three?
A: Depends. Which one do you mean?

I know at least two Rules of Three. I’ve written about the one in comedy—jokes are funnier when you break a pattern with the third item. But a fellow participant in Seth Godin’s “The Marketing Seminar” just reminded me of a second Rule of Three. (There really ought to be a third one, don’t you think?)

Jared Dees has his own Rule of Three
Jared Dees, from “Jared Dees Teaches” Facebook page

Jared Dees—who’s branded himself as as “The Religion Teacher”—posted a video to remind his community that less is not more. (Watch it here on Facebook.) Leave aside all the religious stuff if you like; his message about great communication technique works as well for an audience of agnostics as it does for catechism teachers—and everyone in between. It’s simple, as it should be:

People retain more when you say less.

So plan your speech or presentation to deliver three ideas. Not four, not five. Just three.

I can hear you wailing: But I have so much to say! I know you do, dear. We all do. The question is, do you want your audience to remember what you have to say? If you do, you can’t stuff their heads full of facts—they need space to integrate all that content.

So Jared says you need to be “crystal clear” about what your three things are. And if you can’t state them all in one sentence, then maybe you’re not as clear about all of this as you’d like to think.

Rule of Three, with details

This is not about dumbing down a presentation; it’s about organizing it. If you’ve got lots of details you need to fill in about each of your three points, then by all means detail away. Let the Rule of Three give you a frame on which to hang those details: a Christmas tree, a coat rack, a hall chair (I don’t know about you but that’s where all my coats end up).

Make it easy for your audience to create their own story, using the details and facts you provide. Once they’ve done that, they’ll remember you—and your ideas.

By the way, Dees practices what he, um, preaches. A quick trip to his blog reveals posts like “3 Lessons I Learned from Reading Real Artists Don’t Starve and Creative Blocks: 3 ways to find great ideas (great suggestions, by the way). Yes, I’ve only listed two blog posts. Another way to play with the Rule of Three is to keep an audience waiting for the third…“How to Be a Writer: 3 Lessons I Learned from Jeff Cavins.” Enjoy.


Time to kick your writing skills up a level? Join me for my popular Writing Unbound program this October. A serious commitment, for people serious about change.

Anaik Alcasas: Eavesdropping to “wow” your reader

Anaik Alcasas
Anaik Alcasas

I met Anaik Alcasas through The Marketing Seminar, Seth Godin’s new vehicle for spreading his insights and provoking new ones. She describes her business as providing “brand strategies for remarkables.” Follow her juicy #100booksinayear journey on Instagram @anaik_ed.

Eavesdropping to “wow” your reader

by Anaik Alcasas

How in the world can this writer be connecting directly with me—my pain points, core desires, need for affirmation and inspiration, insight and encouragement?

These are the kinds of things you would have heard four years ago if you were eavesdropping on my inner dialogue in the bookshop down the road.

Three years of in-depth research later, using a unique color-coding approach, have revealed several recurring themes in the most engaging motivational and prescriptive non-fiction. In brief, the most engaging writers seem to connect consistently with their readers—or so the research has shown—by touching on elements of audacity, credibility, storification, vulnerability, affirmation, illumination, generosity and inclusion, among others.

So let’s take that step by step, testing this theory, eavesdropping on the inner dialogue of your reader—that reader you’re writing for and to. We’ll italicize these thoughts, to remind us that this is potentially the inner dialogue of that reader:

Audacity

If you’re saying what everyone else is saying, just with a few minor adjustments, I’m not interested. Challenging the status quo? Tell me more. Disrupting some big traditional gatekeepers with your proposition? Tell me more. Challenging the oppressive troll under the bridge (whatever that may be) who scares people away from crossing over into more freedom, more opportunity, more fruitfulness, more solutions, more vital growth, greater resources to make a positive dent in the universe? Yep, talk to me.

While you’re articulating your audacious proposition, don’t forget to articulate the opposition (my pain points) and the promised transformation (why I should keep reading). And feel free to cycle through those things all throughout our time together – proposition, opposition, promised transformation.

Credibility

You’re not just stringing together nice-sounding words that you think will “sell” people (we’ve all tasted the cream-puff positive-psychology bull-o). Your credibility involves having done the hard yards for yourself, demonstrating you’ve put in the years, garnered real-world experience, done the reading and the research. Show me your roots and show me your foundation.

Oh, and while you’re at it, make sure you answer my unspoken questions “Why you? Why this? Why now?”

Storification

I’m wired to read stories, so package your knowledge and wisdom into stories, anecdotes, metaphors and analogies. This is the great antidote to cut-and-dry advice. If I wanted the preachments I’d go talk to my outlaws or that know-it-all neighbour—you know the one—always ready to dole out insular “advice” with an overtone of judgmentalism and a side of “you should.”

Storify your wisdom and I’ll lap it up and ask for more.

Vulnerability

If you haven’t fallen far and hard, suffered loss, run head first into severe obstacles that banged you up–if you’re too perfect and you’re hiding the real parts of your journey in the hopes I’ll trust your “perfect” image more than the next guy who’s sharing about his stomach-lurching lows and dizzying highs, think again.

I, your reader, am a deeply flawed human being with a business that might fall into dire straits without some actionable solutions, and I need to know that your teaching works for deeply flawed human beings and flailing businesses.

Affirmation

My favorite word after my personal name is “you” (copywriters know this), so what’s the “you-quotient” of what you’re trying to teach me?

I know, I know, it’s hard work to distill your training, wisdom, knowledge, and solutions into insanely useful content. But I don’t really care about what you’re saying unless you can bring it back to me through your affirmations and applications. Bring it back to those pain points you already identified. Empathize with my reader’s doubt and answer it directly, point by point.

Illumination

You’ve presented your data, stories, case studies, examples, and affirmed to me that these are written for me, right now, and can move me forward into the promised transformation I long for.

Keep on going! Your illumination provides context so you’re not just giving me a data dump, but you’re stringing it all together, giving it relevance and meaning for those pain points we talked about, and helping me to get excited.

These are the “aha moments” in your content, the tweetables. If you’d said them before the credibility and storification and all the rest, they would have merely been pontifications–unproven claims. But I’m totally on your side now, and I’m nodding along. Illuminate away.

Generosity

If I’ve read this far, it means I’ve already found a sense of tribe, a sense of belonging, within your content. You’ve already joined the ranks of one of my virtual mentors. Guess what’ll tip it into the realm of lifelong loyalty, something that really wows me, something that makes me get even more engaged and possibly make the deeper changes necessary for genuine progress? Your generosity elements – the checklists, summaries, recaps, bonus downloadables, and insider goodies designed just for those who are most on board … your ideal target audience.

Inclusion

You won me over, I voluntarily enrolled, I made the significant time investment to read your book, or watch your free webinar, or work through your ten-day-email tips course. Are you content with a one-sided conversation or do you want to move this into the realm of two-sided? If so, invite me to join your tribe, to sign up for more generous tips and insights, invite me to join a Facebook group, or to email you with questions.

Inclusion can be done many ways, but this is one of the most significant opportunities, one of the biggest differentiating factors between books and content BIE and AIE (before internet era and after the start of the Internet Era).

***

What would any of us do if we could—just for one day—read the minds of our ideal target readers? Certainly, we might change the depth with which we attempt to engage, personalize, and empathize with them.

The theory is that, what the most engaging writers have done intuitively—thanks to long-time leadership experience and high emotional-IQ (EQ)—we can learn to do intentionally, by paying attention to and “hearing” those readers we most want to serve with our writing.

So now it’s your turn to let us eavesdrop … which one of those nine elements describes your inner thought processes when you pick up a nonfiction book? And which one would you most like to nail in your next piece of writing?


Time to kick your writing skills up a level? Join Elaine for her popular Writing Unbound program this October. A serious commitment, for people serious about change.