Blog Love

+1HF+IxhQeK7C4gUPIgMoA_thumb_31Writing blog posts is something clients pay me to do. And I absolutely love doing it. The downside? Completely neglecting my own blog.

So – I promised my business coach in July that I’d re-start my blog in September. It seemed like a reasonable amount of time to come up with an idea worthy of the moment.

Silly me. The “moment” arrives. I sit in front of the computer, open a blank Word doc, and – nothin’.

After taking a deep breath, I start scrolling through photos on my phone. I have a habit of snapping pics of signs with words or phrases that strike my fancy. Maybe inspiration lurks in someone else’s words?

It doesn’t have to be NEW to be AWESOME.

Taken outside a vintage clothing shop in Frenchtown, NJ, this pretty much paraphrases the best advice I’ve ever gotten about writing. No matter what idea we come up with, it’s already been written about. A gazillion times. But not from our perspective or experience. And certainly not in our voice.

A blog post doesn’t have to be original to be awesome. Ideas are everywhere, and any idea worth stealing is worth writing about. Just focus on telling the stories that only you can tell.

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Pocketbooks & Shoes

Why did this awning on Broad Street in Newark, NJ, catch my attention? I think it has to do with the word “pocketbooks.”

My mom called a handbag a pocketbook. The word evokes images of the closet where she kept her favorites {each with a tiny mirror and hankie tucked inside}. And on the occasion of buying me by first Coach bag, my dad saying, “If you’ve got a good pocketbook and good shoes, you’ll always be well dressed.”

Words have power. It’s why I’m such a pain in the ass when it comes to choosing the right ones to tell our stories.

Life is short. Buy the damn jewelry.

IMG_8348When I saw this sign inside a store in Southampton, NY, I wanted to tattoo the message on my forehead. It has nothing to do with spending irresponsibly. It’s about not waiting for the perfect occasion, or a better deal, or someone else, to give myself something that brings me joy. Or do something I’m passionate about.

Life is too short to wait for divine inspiration or the stars to align so we can write the perfect blog post. Before winning this year’s U.S. Open, Rafael Nadal was asked about his secret to being so successful over the 14 years since he won his first major tennis tournament. His reply: “It’s impossible to have a successful and long career if you don’t love what you do.”

I love words. I love what happens when they’re strung together. Let’s trust that if we love what we do, and write about THAT, the rest will take care of itself.

Give a Girl a Journal

Open Heart Creative Agency Content

 

 

 

 

 

I journal…

to remember

to forget

to journey inward

to let what’s inside out.

I journal…

to ground myself

to allow my dreams to take flight.

I journal it out.

I journal it in.

I journal…

when I want to

when I have to

when there seems to be no other way

when it’s clearly the only way.

I journal…

when I have nothing to say

when I can’t write fast enough to capture all I have to say

to discover what matters

to decide what doesn’t.

I journal…

my joy

and my heartache.

I journal to let go.

I journal to hold on.

I journal to reinforce the promises I make to myself.

I journal to release others from promises they’ve broken.

I journal to celebrate.

I journal to survive.

I believe that when you give a girl a journal – you unlock the door to her soul.

I am proud to support the Give a Girl a Journal initiative – and you can too! Find out how here.

 

 

Take Heart

Open Heart Creative Read BlogThe heart-shaped balloons and bedazzled boxes of candy started hitting shelves January 2nd.

I think buying chocolate a month and a half before gifting it to your sweetheart is a bit sketchy. But I do enjoy seeing hearts at every turn. They’re a daily reminder of the value of moving through the world with an open heart.

I’m often asked why I named my business Open Heart Creative. The questions range from, “So, what’s with the heart thing?” to “Oh, you mean, like, open heart surgery?”

Well, in a way, working with clients can feel a bit like open heart surgery.

And it took quite a bit of “heart” for me to launch a business based on a hunch that other business owners could benefit from strengthening their connection to the emotional center of their work. And putting their passion front and center in their marketing.

There was pushback {“Really? That’s a thing?”}

But I’m here to tell you – it totally is.

If we’ve worked together – or you run a heart-centered business – you know how hard it can be to trust that it’s okay to put the heart and soul of your work out there for the world to see.

To infuse your marketing with your true, authentic self in order to connect with your true, authentic audience.

It takes an immeasurable amount of courage for many of us to dip our toe into this roiling ocean – much less dive in. The world we travel doesn’t always embrace warmth, tenderness or honesty.

I’ll admit I’m pretty thin-skinned. The struggle to bring my hopes and dreams to light was monumental.

But I made the choice to put my heart {literally} on the line. To come from that deep down place of trust and intuition. And what has happened since has absolutely surpassed my wildest expectations.

In her book Everybody Writes, Ann Handley says, “At its heart, a compelling brand story is a kind of gift that gives your audience a way to connect with you as one person to another.”

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I invite you to show your clients some love by giving them the gift of more of who you are.

Give voice to your business stories fearlessly, proudly, and without apology. Communicating honestly and authentically with your prospects and customers is essential to building meaningful relationships with them.

And that’s the heART of successfully growing your business.

New Year, True You

pineheartIt’s practically impossible to resist the urge to make that “new year, new you” vow. You know the one: To look better, feel better, be better.

The world is awash in advice for making sure 2016 is our best. Year. Ever.

We should walk more, read more, sleep more, call more. And eat less, drink less, spend less, stress less. We’re encouraged to reorganize, prioritize and – for the love of God – put that phone away.

There have been some good reminders about the importance of releasing regrets and creating space for what’s next.

And how it’s smarter to set a few simple intentions than to make a long list of resolutions (since no one keeps them past January anyway.)

Come to think of it, so much has been said there’s no need for me to write this post at all.

Except…I read an email from yogini Adriene Mishler in which she said, “It is a new year – but perhaps instead of NEW you – we can aim to get to the TRUE you. “

And it struck a cord.

The New Year offers us a chance to reaffirm our vow to be our best selves by being our authentic selves.

To make a fresh commitment to putting thought, energy and care into being more of who we are – not killing ourselves to become someone else’s idea of who we should be.

You may still decide to hire a personal trainer or learn to meditate. Hike the Appalachian Trail or learn Chinese. Stick to a budget or buy a racing bike.

But you’ll choose to because it will bring you joy or fulfillment – not because someone says you should do it. You’ll make decisions based on whether they feel true for you – not because they’re the right things to do.

In the year since Open Heart Creative came into being, it’s become clear that – when it comes to building a heart-centered business – I’m not the only woman on the planet who gets that being authentic trumps pretending to be someone you’re not.

And so…being my true self in 2016 is about widening my circle – and opening my heart – to discover more chances to serve, learn and grow {and more partners in crime!}

It’s about feeling less guilt when I say “no” and more power in saying “yes.”

It’s about making a promise to look inward for guidance whenever there’s a question about what’s “good for me.”

And it’s about understanding that we don’t have to be new to be better.

In the wise words of Mara Glatzel, “it is about allowing more of yourself into your life and choosing to actively prioritize the things that make you feel really good each day.”

I’m poppin’ the cork on that bottle of bubbly.

Grateful Heart

grateful-heart

Grateful Heart

Lately I’ve been bemoaning the fact that I haven’t posted to this blog in months. Many months.

A minimum of once a month. That was the plan.

My last post is dated April 9. You do the math.

I’ve had a boatload of excuses: I was hiking in Peru, needed to catch up with my book club reading, was busy writing in other people’s voices. The water heater blew. Cat ate my homework.

While those reasons were {mostly} valid, I kept beating myself up for falling down on the job. And letting the guilt become yet another obstacle.

Then these words popped up as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed: What if today we were just grateful for everything?

Hmmnnnn. Why not run all this negativity through the Gratitude machine? And here’s what came out: Today I am grateful for my clients.

Instead of focusing on what I haven’t done, I’m thinking about how amazing the past few months have been. How lucky I’ve been to work with fabulous women who are running incredible businesses. Women who are willing to share their hopes, and dreams, and trust me with their stories.

I’m also thinking about the opportunities I’ve had to share my own story. To sit in circles of like-minded women and feel encouraged, and inspired, and empowered as they nodded their heads and said, “Me, too.”

Just because I didn’t invest my time writing here doesn’t mean I failed. Or shirked my responsibilities. I’ve been writing for my clients. The very women I dreamed of supporting when Open Heart Creative was taking shape. And I’ve seen – and experienced – the power of opening our hearts, claiming our voices and sharing our authentic selves. With our customers. And each other.

In Quiet Power Strategy, Tara Gentile encourages us create unique strategies for growing our business instead of trying to make others’ strategies work for our business. She writes: “Quiet Power Strategy asks you to focus on what you are driven to create and how best to connect with the people who will be served by that creation.”

So today, I’m grateful for the courage to not always practice what I {or someone else} preaches. For following my heart instead of {always} following the rules. For living my truth as a heart-centered business owner. And connecting with others who are doing the same.

Today I thank every woman who has given me her support, time, patience, guidance, faith and love.

What are you grateful for?

 

 

Finding Your Voice

find-your-voiceMy throat’s been really sore the past few days. The kind of sore that radiates into your chest, makes swallowing torture, and talking a last resort.

Whenever this happens I’m reminded of the healer who once told me I had a tendency towards imbalance in my throat chakra.

This wasn’t great news for someone whose livelihood revolves around communication, but it wasn’t a total surprise. The throat chakra is sort of like the Oval Office for creative self-expression: It‘s the energy center that allows us to communicate with clarity and confidence.

It also powers our voice: Our ability to speak our truth with conviction and compassion. To express our ideas, insights, desires, and feelings without worrying about being wrong. Without fear of being judged.

On any given day, finding my voice – speaking my truth – can be hard enough without throwing a blocked chakra into the mix.

And I know I’m not alone.

The struggle to communicate real thoughts and feelings is arguably the number one reason my clients hire me. When I tell someone I’m a business writer, they often say, “I have such a hard time writing about myself and what I do.”

In my heart I believe this is less about skill and more about the fear of giving voice to what it is we honestly want to say – about our products, our services, and ourselves.

“Voice” is one of the most important elements in any piece of writing. It conveys personality and character, attitude and style. It’s the thing that draws me in to a good story – and keeps me there until the last page.

For entrepreneurs and small business owners, it’s equally important to have a “brand voice.”

When this voice speaks your language – when it conveys your unique values and intentions with honesty and integrity – it resonates with those who speak it, too. And when you boil it all down, that’s the key to building a brand – and growing a business.

Author Neil Gaiman says, “Most of us find our own voices only after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people.” As a writer, that certainly has been my experience.

But many of us know what our voice sounds like. We use it when we believe in ourselves. When we’re comfortable with our ideas and opinions. When we’re sharing from our hearts.

Healing the throat chakra is about having the courage to use our voice even when it feels risky. It begins with having the confidence to own our story – and tell it as only we can.

The Blacklist

no-more-jargon-content-marketingIt’s kind of a love-hate thing. My feelings about The Blacklist, that is.

If you haven’t seen the NBC crime drama, the basic premise is a most-wanted criminal turns himself in to the FBI and offers to help them track down a “blacklist” of elusive criminals they have a mutual interest in eliminating.

What I love: James Spader. I’m a long-time fan and he’s done it again: Created an intriguing and unlikeable character who can’t be trusted – and who you can’t help rooting for.

What I hate: The over-the-top creepiness of the bad guys and gruesomeness of the crimes. (I’ve stopped watching the show near bedtime.)

I’ve got a similar love-hate thing with jargon. Business jargon, that is.

What I love: Jargon is like shorthand, perfect for those days when a project deadline looms and I’m feeling rushed or lazy.

What I hate: It’s as far from writing in an “authentic” voice as you can get.

If you’re not sure what I mean, here’s a good example from a Harvard Business Review post by Bryan A. Garner: “It’s mission-critical to be plain-spoken, whether you’re trying to be best-of-breed at outside-the-box thinking or simply incentivizing colleagues to achieve a paradigm shift in core-performance value-adds.”

Garner’s post includes a “Bizspeak Blacklist,” dozens of words and phrases that he says should “never find their way into print.” I cringed at how many of these have shown up in my work – and how phony they sound when pulled out of context. Other online lists included jargon I’ve never heard before, like “tiger team,” “swim lane,” and “over the wall.”

Writing like a person – not an institution – isn’t easy, especially if you or your clients work in an industry rife with buzzwords, clichés and acronyms. But effective communication is all about using clear, simple language to get to the point. Piling on the clichés can be confusing, pretentious, even meaningless. Instead of sounding smart, our writing ends up sounding like – well – a big pile of clichés.

So the next time you catch yourself writing, “Let’s take this offline”, try the far more real, “Let’s talk about this later.” And surely there are suitable replacements for the likes of “paradigm shift,” “core competency,” “buy-in,” “synergy,” “state-of-the-art,” and one of my personal pet peeves, “at the end of the day.”

James Spader wouldn’t be caught dead telling his FBI pals to “think outside the box.” He’d just tell them to think.

Listen to Your Heart

open heartIt’s February – and we all know what that means. We’re bombarded with messages about love and romance and (if we’re women) keeping our hearts healthy.

All this heart talk got me thinking about my relationships with the people and things I love. Which eventually led to the following question:

When was the last time you fell in love…with your business?

How long has it been since you scrolled through your company website? Read your marketing materials? Looked at your business card? Or thought about your mission statement? If you had to rate your relationship with your business on a scale of 1 to 10, what would you give it?

At Open Heart Creative, we know that, deep down, you love what you do – or you wouldn’t be doing it. But as with any long-term relationship, our passion for our work ebbs and flows, often overshadowed by the demands of – well – actually working.

So we’ve decided that February is the perfect month to show your business some love. To reconnect with the emotions and desires that drove you to start your venture – and keep you showing up day after day.

Why does it matter? Because your vision, your integrity, your values – your enthusiasm – resonate with others. They are the reasons your clients choose you.

I spent last weekend in Kennebunkport, Maine. Four feet of snow blanketed everything in sight, and navigating the sidewalks required the focus of an Olympic athlete. But it was my sweetheart’s birthday. He’s a Maine man. It made him happy. And that made me happy.

Of course, not everyone is eager to go to Maine in the dead of winter. So Kennebunkport has designated February as “Love KPT” month to promote its reputation as “New England’s Most Romantic Town.” An array of love-themed hotel packages and events are being offered to lure visitors. And everywhere we turned there were hearts.

Lots and lots of hearts.

Snapping pix for my Pinterest page, I was swept up in a wave of joy. The same joy I experienced months ago when I was choosing the name for my business. It was exciting to be plugged back in to the heart of what fuels my work. And I looked forward to getting back to the office.

I invite you to do the same. Step away from the Smartphone and the computer, and take a little time to listen to your heart. You might just remember why you fell in love with your business in the first place!

  • Take a break from the “To Do” list. Put aside the marketing plan and money worries, the vendor issues and client complaints, and ask yourself what you love most about your work. Bonus points: Translate the answer into words – and use those words as marketing tools.
  • If you’ve been in business for a while, think back to how you felt when you opened your first box of business cards. Launched your website. Got your first client. Allow those feelings to re-energize your interactions with colleagues, clients and prospects.
  • If your business is relatively new, reconnect regularly with the passion that’s driving you to take this professional leap. Take advantage of networking opportunities and speaking gigs where you can share your excitement with others. It’s contagious!
  • Make a date with a business mentor and have a heart-to-heart about the issues or challenges you’re facing. They can provide the fresh perspective and confidence boost you need to return to the job with renewed energy and commitment.

What’s the Magic Word?

word rocksI’m not sure where I first stumbled across the idea of choosing a word to guide the year. But as the calendar turned to January, I found myself doing it again – this time with surprising focus and dedication.

Why bother, you ask?

My friend Stacey says choosing a word reminds us “to live with intention and purpose.” I second that. Last year my word was “MOVE,” and boy, did I ever! From hiring a personal trainer to rebranding my business, it was a year of perpetual forward motion. For 2015, my word is ”EASE.” And since I could use a bit of a breather, I’m hoping lightening strikes twice.

Are you kidding, you ask? Do you really think a single word can have that much power?

Are you kidding? I’m a writer – of course it can!

Think about how powerful words are. They can make us look witty, sincere, capable, or trustworthy. They also make us sound foolish, cynical, shallow, and dull. Words can make us fall in love and shudder with fear. They can bore us to tears and keep us up half the night

If words can do all that, then a single word can certainly help us stay focused as we move through our day to day. My word grounds me in the story of my life. It shows me what I need – whether I like it or not. And as I (happily!) address the concerns of clients and offer support to friends and family, it gently reminds me to keep my personal intentions front and center.

Ali Edwards, creator of One Little Word®, says her words “have each become a part of my life in one way or another. They’ve helped me to breathe deeper, to see clearer, and to grow.”

What if one word had the power to help your business grow? To enable you to see your product or service with greater clarity and motivate you to not lose sight of your goals and objectives. Just thinking about it makes my heart beat a little faster.

Is there one word that defines your work? Your product? The unique gifts you offer to the world?

What’s that magic word?

The HeART of Blogging

Donna Gould Open Heart Creative 2As chief storyteller for Open Heart Creative, I just assumed I’d host a blog.

After all, blogging has its roots in storytelling. And a good blog post is a lot like a good short story: it’s entertaining and thought provoking and fairly economical in getting to the point.

Right?

Well, maybe not.

During a recent conversation about marketing with a colleague who is launching her own business, we chatted about her website. I said of course she’ll write a blog because it makes perfect sense given her personality and what she does for a living.

“Ugh!” she said so emphatically she nearly spilled her cup of tea. “Writing blog posts at my old job was the thing I hated most about marketing!” I asked why, and she mentioned things like impossibly long word counts, repetitious content, and the painstaking attention to keywords. “I know it’s important for SEO, but it’s so boring and such hard work,” she concluded.

“Boring” and “hard work” are two things that do not come to mind when I think about blogging.

The personal blog I started in 2009 was one long celebration of things that amazed, surprised and delighted me. I’ve followed many a blog – of the personal and business variety – that are interesting and informative and often inspiring. So how could something so enjoyable lose its raison d’être? Has the “business” of blogging been reduced to just another dreaded task on the To Do list?

I’m not naïve. I’m a card-carrying marketing professional and it’s my job to understand what a successful blog can do for business development. But I’m also a writer, and a voracious reader. I can’t help but feel disillusioned each time the corporate world commandeers a social media platform to help sell more toilet paper.

Blogs were not created to sell toilet paper. As I recall, back in the late 90s and early 2000s, they became popular as vehicles for sharing information. Trolling Google in search of confirmation, I found multiple definitions of the word “blog” that all boiled down to this:

A blog is basically an online journal.

In its Introduction to Blogging, WordPress, the self-described “largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world,” notes, “A blog features diary-type commentary and links to articles on other websites.” (Nowhere is there any mention of improving SEO.)

I don’t know about you, but for me the words “journal” and “diary” conjure images of swirling ideas and deep reflection. They are vessels where the seeds of invention, imagination and inspiration are planted – and nurtured. Spaces where hope springs eternal and dreams take flight.

So at its heART, then, a blog is a tech tool that enables us to share our thoughts and opinions – maybe even our hopes and dreams – with others who might find them meaningful, useful, or inspiring. If this results in more toilet paper sales, so be it. But that’s not the raison d’être.

Of course you’ll be smart about growing your blog. You’ll set goals and be clear about your core business strategy. And like it or not, you’ll keep a list of your top 10 or 12 keywords handy to satisfy those pesky but essential search engines.

But if your content isn’t compelling, if what you’re sharing doesn’t resonate with readers or offer them anything of value, if you don’t love what you’re writing about – then they’re not going to care about you, your website, or your business.

At the end of its list of blogging tips for newbies, WordPress offers these words of advice: “Have fun blogging and remember, there are no rules to what you post on your blog!”

Let this to be the raison d’être for my blog.