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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.

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.

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.

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.

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?