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Make Sure Your Brand Is Classy Not Assy

                  By Colleen Walsh Fong   Promoting is a big part of growing your business and using content for branding is one way to do it. Promoting yourself within a business is important for career advancement, too. The way you choose to promote your business and yourself says a lot about you.   Gloating Vs. Promoting   Do you have that one coworker who has to make everything about her? Or him, as the case may be? He’s the Michael Scott of your office, making coworkers’ weddings about how important the event is to him. Or the woman who snaps out a baby picture of her 23-year old “child” when coworkers gather round to see the one of an actual, current baby another office mate just brought into the world.   “You think that’s bad, wait until you hear what happened to me!” seems always to be on the tips of these people’s tongues. And they never seem to get that other people don’t like it when you steal their thunder. We all like to have our moments in the sun.   The amateur psychologist in me chalks this kind of behavior up to insecurity. It usually seems to come from people who feel unaccomplished or are so afraid that no one else will compliment their achievements that they have to bring them to everyone’s attention. The sad part is that people who constantly jump into the limelight create a vicious cycle in which their acts are overlooked. Others avoid mentioning their good deeds because they’re afraid they’ll have to listen to another round of bragging.   Most great and cool things will get noticed organically if the creator gives others a chance to bring them up. And the compliments made by others will have more credence than the ones people give to themselves. This is not to say that you should never engage in self-promotion. Most people in business must promote themselves to some degree. We just shouldn’t do it at another person’s expense, and should always leave room for other’s to have their times to shine.   Steve W. Martin, (not that Steve Martin) who teaches sales strategies at the University of Southern California, cites modesty/humility as being the number one trait of successful sales people in an article he wrote for the Harvard Business Review. It’s based upon several years of research. Before I even read the article I... read more

Remove the Hype From Your Type

                    By Colleen Walsh Fong   Inflation is rampant–in our language. Note how I amped up that sentence to get your attention. That’s a common tactic in writing content for branding and marketing. There’s so much noise to compete with that people are inserting hype because they think they must just to be heard. But I’ve found that those who speak quietly and precisely are more credible over the long haul because they possess track records of accuracy rather than hysteria.   My friend Sharon must be a sage because almost everything she does is wise by her own report. Today she told me that she was going to change out of her sweats before running some errands. “I think that would be wise,” she confided. “Don’t you?” I stifled the urge to ask if it was in fact really wise, or maybe just good, since according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, wise means:   a. marked by deep understanding, keen discernment, and a capacity for sound judgment; b. evidencing or hinting at the possession of inside information.   I didn’t think her action indicated either of those things but find it’s a good example of hyperbole, defined as “exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.”   She is also judicious, according to her. Or at least her actions are. As in when she told me she painted an entire room with one gallon of paint because she was judicious with her use of it. The definition staff of Merriam-Webster might beg to differ with her, as they define judicious this way:   “having or showing good judgment.”   In fact, they show it as a synonym of wise. The word that came to my mind during the paint report was “frugal,” mainly because I was trying not to be judgmental and use “cheap.” I’m not sure her frugal painting was either judicious or wise because she’ll probably have to paint the room again in a year or two when the thin coat begins to fade.   Sharon inflates her language unnecessarily and often incorrectly. Maybe she does it to sound intelligent, or maybe she uses words she hears all around her. But every time I talk with her I come away with the renewed conviction that we overuse, and sometimes incorrectly use, many words.   How about awesome? I hear that many times each day. “You’re awesome!”... read more

Master Current Acronyms

                  By Colleen Walsh Fong   What does CTA mean to you? Until recent years it meant two things to me: the transportation method I used to get to work each day, (Chicago Transit Authority,) and the 1970’s band of the same name. Today it has a new meaning in the world of writing and marketing: Call To Action. And it refers to a statement made in your writing and marketing materials, usually near or at the end, telling readers exactly what you want them to do such as “read more.”   As I ghostwrite for clients and communicate with them and through social media outlets, I’m bombarded with acronyms. They are everywhere and can be confusing when their meanings aren’t familiar to readers. Like when my accountant refers to EBITDA (Earnings before interests, taxes, depreciation, and amortization,) or a client asks me to ghostwrite an RFP (Request for proposal.)   Alphabet Soup   If you’re swimming in a pool of unfamiliar acronyms, peruse this list of commonly used business ones to help you get up to speed.   B2B – business to business B2C – business to consumer CTR – clickthrough rate, or the amount of clicks your published weblinks get. CX – customer experience, or how people feel after using your product or service. FPO – for placement only, used to hold space in a document until the final image is inserted. JPEG – a file extension for a compressed image file, usually a photo. PDF – a document format that turns a printed document into an electronic image for electronic storage and transmittal. CAD – computer aided design DOE – depending on experiment ERP – enterprise resource planning and software that companies use to store and manage data ESOP – employee stock ownership plan HTML – hypertext mark-up language, usually used to code web pages IPO – initial public offering, or the price of stock when it is first released to the market ISP – internet service provider KPI – key performance indicators NOI – net operating income R&D – research and development ROI – return on investment RRP – recommended retail price SEO – search engine optimization, or methods used to aid search engines in finding your online sites and documents VPN – virtual private network, or an encryption method used to secure access to a remote computer over the Internet.   Are You All Thumbs?   Texting... read more

Why Getting Senioritis Pays Off

                  By Colleen Walsh Fong   If you enjoyed the recently released movie, “The Intern,” starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, you may not have thought about it more deeply than its surface. But the movie can be instructive as well as amusing because it deals with an important business and life tool long touted by thought leaders, collaboration. “The Intern” portrays a form of that device too few employers use to their great advantage. Collaboration across today’s widest generation gap, retired Baby Boomers and Millennials, can yield powerful results. The film demonstrates how the fresh ideas, energy, and social-media savvy of the new guard can meld so winningly with the calm, life-experienced, and old-fashioned etiquette of seasoned, retired, business professionals.   There’s nothing like the optimism, enthusiasm, and zeal of youth to turn an industry on its head or blaze a new trail. But youthful visionaries can benefit from balancing their perspectives with ones whose owners have been in the trenches, climbed the corporate ladder, been knocked down a rung or two, and survived to climb again. There is simply no substitute for life experience, and the cellular-deep knowledge it brings that mistakes aren’t the end of one’s career, even those that result in termination of employment or the loss of a business.   One of my favorite bits in the movie is seeing Robert De Niro’s professional wardrobe choice transform him from a look of aimless emptiness to purposeful excitement. It exemplifies the old adage, “people hear what they see.” This is another way of saying dressing the part is half of the battle. We expect others to act the part they dress for. It didn’t take long after De Niro joined the staff before Millennial interns followed his lead and upped their dressing games in styles more suited to their generation.   Some years ago I knew a man who had accomplished many things in a professional career. In retirement he took a part time job as a courier for a large, international company. He did it simply to have a reason to get up each morning because, like De Niro’s character, he was a recent widower. He often chatted with the recipients of the deliveries along his route, and when his customers told him about problems they faced, he’d offer solutions that had worked for him. More often than not his suggestions were ignored, because after... read more

Electrify Your Audience

                  By Colleen Walsh Fong   If you’re not linking all of your content for branding you’re missing out on a lot of traffic.   By linking I mean inserting hyperlinks into text so that one click by readers will take them to the destination of your choice. Why would you want to do that? Because the point of your branding efforts should be to build your business, get more clients, and make more money, which is coincidentally the subtitle of my top-selling business-writing book, Write To Grow. Note the linked text that takes you to the place on Amazon where you can buy the book for $2.99.   Despite my not-so-subtle plug, the real reason I included the info about my book here, and linked it, is to demonstrate a simple way to get readers to follow your call to action. This should help you increase your profitability, and ultimately, the net worth of your business, too.   Linking your byline to your website and some of the content text to another place, such as to your book on a bookseller’s site, are just two of many ways to electrify your audience.   Hit The Links   Another way is to link some related content text to one of your other articles. And you can send the audience to another place besides your website to read it if you make it a multipurpose article and post it to several different platforms. I always recommend doing this to reach the maximum number of readers and potential clients. But you will make this method even more effective if you tweak the article slightly to fit the audience you publish it to. Doing so takes minimal effort and makes your piece most resonant with the target audience. It also improves your SEO rankings because it appears as fresh material to the search engines, rather than several repeats of the same thing.   When you place an article on an industry or trade platform be sure to adjust it to make your points relate to readers in that trade or business sector. Articles being posted on LinkedIn can be more general. When you send readers of an article posted on your website to one of your other articles on LinkedIn you stand to gain connections and endorsements there, too.     Think Inside The Box   If you want to get really clever and drive even... read more

Identifying Genuine Thought Leadership

                      By Colleen Walsh Fong   To paraphrase the immortal Saturday Night Live character, Emily Litella, “What’s all this fuss I keep hearing about ‘sought’ leaders?”   For those who are unfamiliar with Emily, watch this humorous sample of her evangelizing efforts.             I’ve plugged the term “sought leaders” into her classic catchphrase to contrast it with a major buzzword in business today, “thought leader.”   Sought is the simple past tense and past participle of the word “seek.” Something sought is something we have tried to find or discover by searching or questioning.   Most entrepreneurs, executives, and CEOs have been exposed to the ideas and expertise of “thought” leaders. Some think of them as the go-to people for knowledgeable opinions about significant matters. But more importantly thought leaders should be beacons of proven methodologies that light the path to success. In the business world so-called experts sprout up regularly and proclaim their thought leadership.   Some of them are genuine thought leaders. But most of the pack simply restate truisms or recycle old standard ideas with new titles causing astute business readers to question what truly makes a person a thought leader. I categorize these people in my Emily Litella-like term, “sought leaders,” because those who question, quote, and follow them are seeking answers these people may not have the goods to deliver.   Today the 24-hour news cycle and the explosion of content delivery channels produce an unprecedented need for expert opinions. Anyone who tunes in to the glut of viewpoints offered certainly has daily opportunities to question the bona fides of some of those who present themselves as authorities.   An expert is generally considered to be a person who possesses special skills or knowledge in a particular field. Yet a thought leader, by the definition of the two words making up the term, is a person who leads thought. Leading thought requires innovation. So an expert can be a thought leader, but will not necessarily be one. Experts, authorities, masters, virtuosos, and specialists are highly skilled and talented, but they may not have innovated things that others can use. One may be the best performer, or most knowledgeable, yet offer nothing novel, applicable, and teachable.     Key Characteristics of True Thought Leaders   Thought leaders are like snowflakes. They offer new solutions, methodologies, or ways of thinking. In... read more

3 Tips For Picking Your Best Topic

                          By Colleen Walsh Fong   If you’re planning to write a book you may have a title or topic in mind. Before you sit down to write it, though, be sure that the topic you’ve selected will accomplish your goal for the book.   Selecting the right topic is critical if you want your book to advance your business or your livelihood. Whether you’re a seasoned professional with a business in motion, at a professional crossroads, or a student about to embark upon a career, you need to know what end result you want from writing and publishing a book. People skilled in professional writing know that the place to start with your book is at the end.   The Best Beginnings Start at The End   Why?   Think of a book’s end point as being analogous to keying a destination into your GPS. The system needs your destination to show you the best route to it.   When picking your topic, start by visualizing where you want the book to take you.   Do you want more clients? Speaking engagements? Credentials for launching a new career or business? Knowing where you want to be is one of the key elements in determining your book topic. You must start at your desired destination and use your book to help you bridge the chasm over where you stand and where you want to be.   I wrote a top-selling book on writing to grow your business. It enhanced my credentials and drove clients to my business. But that isn’t the first book I ever wrote or published. I had to learn a lot about choosing the best topic before I wrote the right book for my business.   My first published book is a nifty little touchscreen cookbook, all linked up to visual resources. I used it to test out the self-publishing and marketing process. Even though I always wanted to write a cookbook to help busy people eat well, cooking is a hobby for me, not a vocation.   Since I had a cookbook and website with a blog I became a food blogger and was nationally syndicated for a time through the Patch.com and a few other platforms.   Great! Right? Not really because too much of my time was suddenly consumed with writing about one area–food, when I’m really a business writer and... read more

Get The Last Laugh With Good Content

                    By Colleen Walsh Fong   Two guys worked hard by the side of a city street that was designated as part of a beautification project. One dug a hole four feet deep and wide. Another followed him and filled the hole back up with dirt. A third man sat on a city bench waiting for his bus. He was puzzled by this foolish-looking behavior, so he walked over to the workers and asked them what they were up to. The digger said, “I dig the holes and my partner fills them up.” The observer asked why they were doing this. The digger said, “Well, we’re hired to plant those trees over there, but the guy who places them in the holes is out today.”   I’m not much of a joke teller but this one serves as a good example of what can happen when things change in our business niches. Here, the workers were unable to vary from their rigid routine because they lacked the skills to adapt to a new and unexpected circumstance. It’s easy for business owners to fall into this kind of trap, too. Especially when competition arrives in a space they’d previously occupied alone.   Be Serious About Keeping the Lead   Entrepreneurs and business owners are constantly confronted with the need to stand out from their competition. They must think outside the box to find clever ways to shine.   Take the storeowner featured in another joke I heard the other day. She arrived to open her doors one morning and saw a glaring sign on the building next to hers. It read, “Highest Quality.” To her horror, the shop carried merchandise similar to hers. Before she could recover from that shock, she  saw another large sign had appeared on the shop on the other side. It held goods like hers, too, and the sign read, “Best Prices!” Thinking fast, she had a huge sign created that read, “Main Entrance,” and she put it over her door.   That business owner clearly knew she needed to take drastic action so she wouldn’t lose her customers to the lofty claims of new competitors. Of course she lives in a joke where such a slight-of-hand solution will suffice. But those of us who live in the real world know it isn’t so easy to fend off new arrivals to our business niches.   The best way to put... read more

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