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?

 

 

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.

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.

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.