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.

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.

Write Less. {Really!}

Easy HardThe most important thing I learned at the Gotham Writer’s Workshop was how to write less and tell a better story.

I was an aspiring short story writer. Adam Sexton was a published author and a brilliant teacher. Each week he would review my drafts and, sentence by sentence, strip away every extraneous word.

I’m not going to lie – it was gut wrenching to read his critiques. But I fell in love with the spare, sensual voice that emerged from the space he helped me create. Each image was more evocative, each sentence more powerful.

The lessons Adam taught me twenty-some years ago are just as important today. Especially when it comes to business writing.

“No one reads,” I tell students in my PR Writing Workshop at FIT. “So keep it short and sweet or your message will never get through.”

Every writer knows this is easier said than done. It’s a never-ending challenge to write clear, compelling and compassionate content, using only the most essential words – and not sound like anyone else. Especially when you love words as much as I do.

My report cards from Paoli Pike Elementary School document my penchant for talking too much in class. Friends, family and colleagues will tell you I haven’t changed one bit. Words are my passion – whether I’m telling a story or writing one.

But I digress.

The point is, telling your brand story effectively is about choosing the right words – and using as few of them as possible. There are tons of tips on how to do this, but here are my three current favorites:

It’s not about you. It pains me to say it, but business writing is not about the writer – it’s about the reader. Yes, it’s your vintage jewelry line, your family counseling practice, your financial services team. But your audience needs to hear what you’re saying in order to buy what you’re selling. Before you write a word, put yourself in their shoes.

Keep it real. I don’t mean keep it conversational. As Richard Linklater, director of the movie “Boyhood” said in a recent Rolling Stone interview, “It’s always an insult when people think we improvised. Real talk would be horrible.” What I do mean is use language that’s authentic – less jargon and clichés, more straightforward simplicity. {Ann Handley has some great advice about this in her book, “Everyone Writes.”}

Banish useless words. This Writer’s Circle Facebook post identifies “useless words to erase forever” to improve our writing. It really got me thinking about how I really overuse words like “really.” And “very.” And who knows how many others.

So the girl who still talks too much is turning over a new leaf. Each month I’m going to pick a word to erase from my written vocabulary.

Really!

I think I’ll start with that one.