Purpose comes before content…

I had high hopes for the Article Marketing workshop I took last weekend.  I completed the pre-work…. have some ideas for articles, set some goals…. I am never at a loss for ideas.  I have journals of them. And, I’m definitely not a slacker. I wanted to publish five articles on ezine.com.

But, that did not happen. I got stuck trying to figure out how to tie the articles to my business. After all, it was a “marketing” class.  My ideas were around promoting others,  which is fine, if done strategically. While others in the group were jamming right along – one wrote a training course, another wrote eight articles. I felt scattered, frustrated and disappointed.

Understanding who your audience is, what their problems are and how you can help them is the foundation of any marketing plan. Blogging for business is Di certo è meno conosciuto rispetto a marchi del calibro di 888 o William Hill, ma ciò non vuol dire che NetBet Casino non sia un ottimo sito. much more than setting up the blog, Facebook and Twitter pages. Knowing the unique insight you or your company can bring others is essential before you can create content that connects and builds relationships.

Thanks to Lisbeth’s guidance, all hope was not lost. She is an accomplished writer, savvy marketer and a true leader. Sure, I learned how to write with repurposing in mind, extend content beyond the blog and build a following.  What I didn’t expect was generous, graceful guidance for business and life.  She assured me I was right where I needed to be and to trust that I’m getting from the course whatever I need.

For me, it ended up being more of a “Business Planning Weekend.”  I didn’t write five articles. But I did realize that the strategy I was trying so hard to figure out was already there. I used to encourage the building industry to create better places to live.  Now, I’m encouraging people to build better blogs.

Thank goodness that’s cleared up, now I can start on those articles.

What”s the purpose of your blog?

 

Healthier habits overcome blog overwhelm

After all of the social media webinars, summits, ebooks and white papers I’ve experienced, you’d think I’d have no problem getting my own blog off the ground. I know better.  I know it takes time. I’ve helped others do it. I do yoga. I should be able to breathe through this blogging thing and gracefully accept that it will unfold as it should.

But, I couldn’t get past trying to figure out what success will look like.  What ebooks will I write, what online course will I teach, what products will I sell, what is my call to action, who is my ideal reader, how can I help them?

Consumed in self-doubt, a challenge and two guides appeared: ProBlogger, Darren Rowse’s 31 Days to a Better Blog Challenge led by Lisbeth Tanz and Michelle Shaeffer

What do the wise prescribe as a cure for chaos? Go back to basics. Time-tested practices will cultivate habits that help us emerge healthier, stronger and wiser.  Darren’s guide is basically a master list of all the things every blogger should at least try. It’s not a list of must-do’s, it’s more a collection of suggestions.  The intention is not to do what he does, it’s for you to see what works for you.

I had bought the book months ago, but that wasn”t enough for me. I needed the guides and the group.  I saw bloggers of all levels struggling with something – casino online technical aspects, coming up with ideas for articles, consistency, clarity, commenting on other blogs… everyone had a different issue.

Lis and Michelle established a safe, supportive comraderie by actively participating themselves. They visited our blogs, left helpful comments and encouraged us to do the same.  Everyone received a different lesson.  This happened to be the one that stuck with me:

Getting into the routine of reaching out to other bloggers made it less about me and more about encouraging them.

Again, I knew this…it’s the essence of social media for goodness sake.  But I hadn’t been practicing it consistently. It’s now a habit. One I’ll keep because I thoroughly enjoyed encouraging other bloggers.  I still have an overwhelming list of things I want to do with my blog, but I now have some healthier habits and a much stronger mindset.

Rather than focusing on a specific outcome, I’m going to focus on balance. I’ll spend as much time reaching out as I do writing and I’ll encourage businesses to do the same.

I’m looking forward to watching it unfold.  How do you balance the two?

Studying, practicing and trying to escape blogging

They say you attract what you think about most.  Clearly, I’ve had blogging on the brain. Take a look at all the Moments spent on blogging in the last 10 days alone:

  • I completed the 31 Days Blog Challenge with Lisbeth Tanz and Michelle Shaeffer. It could have been called “31 Days to a Better Business Plan,”  because that’s what I finished with. More on this here.
  • I had such a good experience with the Challenge, I took Lisbeth’s  Article Marketing Success Weekend.  My goal was to have 5 articles ready to post on ezine.com by the end of the weekend.  That did not happen… yet it was incredibly productive.  More on this here.
  • I participated in the #LetsBlogOff challenge where we blogged about, “Are blogs as important as bloggers think they are?” Consensus was YES… Read the posts here.
  • When I need blogging inspiration, I’m going to read @Urbanverse ‘s post and watch the Seth Godin and Tom Peters video… Take 2 min, read & watch here.

 

 

 

via Cindy FrewenWuellner @Urbanverse

  • I signed up for Blog Camp. Designer, Tobi Fairley is famous for her Design Camps. Watching her business blossom from blogging, she’s bombarded with requests to share her blogging secrets.  I’m curious, so I’m flying from Arizona to Arkansas to spend December 10th with Tobi. I want to see how she teaches it, what she’s learned, how she juggles a thriving design firm and blogging.  More on that in December.

 

 

 

via Tobi Fairley

 

 

 

Rhodia's Hermes orange & soft feel lured me away from Moleskine...

  • I encouraged a friend writing a book to start a blog.
  • I encouraged a friend with a blog to write a book (and use her blog in the process.)
  • I bought a book from one of my favorite bloggers, “Super Natural Cooking” by Heidi Swanson of 101Cookbooks. If I could, I’d have you over for the Itsy, Bitsy Chocolate Chip  cookies and we’d talk about our blogs.

 

 

 

via 101Cookbooks

  • I took a break from blogging with my first knitting class. The teacher started with “the architecture of knitting,” dropped “purls” of wisdom like, “take it one stitch at a time,” and “it’s just sticks and strings, have a glass of wine, don’t worry about it.” I love her.  My homework was, “Read the knitting blog, Ravelry.” I guess I’m not meant to escape blogging.
  • I hopped on my bike and went for a ride.  I found a trail that takes me to the library and the coffee shop where I typically spend time blogging.

 

 

 

 

my bike at the coffee shop

Now I’m excited about blogging again. I can put all of this learning into action, help people build better blogs and take advantage of the efforts designers made to create a more bike-able, better place to live.

How many Moments do you spend thinking about blogging?

 

 

Are blogs important? Only if you’re in to glamour…

Or don’t have time for a business degree

Are blogs important?When I was writing a blog for architects, I asked them what skills they would tell young architects are most important today. While they mentioned sketching… they didn’t say anything about green building. They felt communication skills were essential and if they could do it over again, they’d get a business degree in addition to an architecture degree. Like doctors, the act of running a business is secondary to the dream of having your own practice. Besides, the finance and marketing can be outsourced, right?

One architect said he would tell them to pay attention to finances. He was too trusting when it came to asking for payment from big developers. When they were running short, unable to pay for the first phase of the project, he’d still start the second phase to move the project along. Then, when the market went south, he was stuck with the bill.

What does this have to do with blogs? Just as the financial market was crashing, a new web technology was emerging that enabled business owners to take marketing into their own hands.

While the practice of blogging can’t increase your financial savvy, it can do wonders for your marketing and communication skills.

Blogs provide a platform to creatively express to your clients, who you are, what you believe in, how you approach projects – basically, your key points of differentiation, the foundation of your marketing plan.

In my marketing business, I use designer-type blogs as examples of businesses expressing themselves in a non-salesy way. They seem to get that blogs are about balance – balancing personal style while staying on marketing message, balancing blog posts with reaching out to readers, other bloggers and other industries.

I think the design process itself has given designers the basis for being great bloggers and communicators. Design is a two-way conversation. It involves listening, clarifying needs, articulating creative desires – and sensing when it’s time to change direction because the client (or reader) is no longer interested in your message.

What if you can’t write like Bob Borson or aren’t as funny as Jody Brown?

That’s okay, because as clever as they are, what they do won’t work for you. What you do have in common with them is experience. You know your customer, their problems, and how you solve them. Blogs encourage finding your own voice and provide a platform to practice it until it’s natural and conversational (which can come in handy online or in front of a client.)

When done right, blogs are also creating all kinds of possibility. Just as the market crashed and new web technology emerged, consumers began craving real conversation. People who jumped on the blog bandwagon (in an authentic, genuine way) are now enjoying trips to New York Fashion Week, speaking engagements, book deals and magazine articles.

October’s Town & Country magazine has a story about interior designers transforming a tradition-bound industry,

“as they blog, tweet, and ratchet up their web sites into Zeitgeisty marketing tools, they’re transforming their names and faces into salable brands.”

Glamorous trips and book deals aside, blogs are important because Google says they’re important.

Having a blog makes it easier for your business to be found online. Search engines now consider off-page factors, such as the number of inbound links your site receives, when determining ranking. Reaching out through social media tools, bringing readers into your blog, increases your chance for receiving links back to your site. Recommendations like this tell the search engines your site has quality content.

Even if you don’t care about search engine rankings or never cultivate a following, a blog is a great place to send potential clients to get a feel for who you are and the experience you’ll provide. Chances are, they probably already Googled you after they found you in the yellow pages.

Hopefully your communication skills are charming enough in person to win their business and they haven’t already connected online with someone like Bob or Jody.  😉

Read more on this topic from designers and bloggers participating in the #LetsBlogOff challenge.  And, join us for the next round. Check here for details.

 

Not quite green yet? We love you anyway.

Suzanne Shelton, The Shelton GroupI wanted to hug Suzanne Shelton when I read her post on “Progress, Not Perfection” about companies hesitant to claim their green-ness for fear of not having it quite right.  I’ve experienced this resistance personally as a Public Relations and Communications Manager for corporations.

Thank you Suzanne, for pointing out that the real expectation is for companies to claim their human-ness, not necessarily their green-ness. As humans, we understand imperfection. We appreciate and rally around striving for perfection. But, we’re okay if you don’t reach it. We respect and admire the attempt.

Suzanne Shelton is the president and CEO of Shelton Group–one of the few ad agencies in the country that focuses on motivating mainstream consumers to make sustainable choices. Read her Progress, Not Perfection post here.

 

What laundry can say about your productivity

It’s a shame to let fear or guilt get in the way of greatness. Creative professionals need space to let ideas percolate – a process that can be confusing and frustrating for the ones closest to them.  It’s hard to explain the mindless staring, the need for alone time, a bike ride or a bag of M&M’s.  Sometimes these are exactly what we need to get the creative juices flowing and productivity rolling. Here, a writer, an idler and a wife of a crazy busy entrepreneur share secrets to cultivating and living with the creative process:

A professional writer under pressure to produce the next great novel:

Author, Elizabeth Gilbert tells a great TED story about nurturing creativity.  This was spurred by expectations for the novel that would follow the success of Eat, Pray, Love.  She did deliver…almost a year after her publisher’s deadline. I attended Gilbert’s talk and book signing for the new book, Committed.  She said she knew she wanted to write about marriage, but wasn’t happy with the results at the time of deadline.

She ended up telling her publisher she wasn’t happy with it, put the manuscript under her bed and took some time off.   A few months later, while gardening, the first line of the book came to her… only then was she able to write the book she had wanted to write.

A professional idler:

Tom Hodgekins, author of  The Idler, shows us that the greatest minds of our time were master idlers.  He takes a humorous look at the day in the life of an idler, but his message is deeper than that.  Here’s an excerpt from an  interview that I think catpures the deeper meaning of Hodgekins’ work:

“Part of individualism is you feel this pressure that you alone have to conquer the world, and if you don’t work all the hours God gives then you start feeling really guilty. If you can stop feeling guilty, then I think it’s easier to start doing what you want to do. The way to stop feeling guilty is to read stuff–I’m not saying my book, but works by Bertrand Russell or Oscar Wilde, people who weren’t losers but who didn’t believe in the work ethic, and argued this thing about guilt or wrote philosophy about idleness.”

The wife of a CEO/entrepreneur:

May’s Inc. magazine features an article written by the wife of a CEO/ entrepreneur who

gauges her husband’s stress level by the number of sports pants in the laundry hamper.  She’s learned to curb her anger when he says he’s going skiing after 10 days away on business.  She tells herself, “the more he sweats, the more he smiles.  This is good.  He needs this.”

Luv-filled shop uses shirts & social media to spread vision

Chances are, if you’re a girl and I’ve given you a gift in the past couple of years, it’s been from Its a Luv Thing.  This small, beachy shop in Leucadia, California has become my sure thing for thoughtful gifts.  Even though I’m a regular customer, I did not know the story behind the shop until I read the blog article posted on their Facebook page.

Now that I know it I feel more connected to Kami. (See how this works? It’s like I know the owner now).  I was so touched by her story that I’m writing about it and sharing it with my friends.

This is exactly how a business broadens its opportunities beyond its local community and deepens relationships within it. I’m happy to see her taking her business online and using social media to spread her vision and Luv story.

Kami started her career as a young men’s sportswear buyer for Nordstrom. She got to know the world of surf T-shirts pretty well.

After discovering her daughter had leukemia, she made a vow with God that she would do her best to spread love if her daughter was spared, and she was.

The store became Kami’s outlet to not only share her creative ideas, but also some of her spiritual ones.   The shop is known for t-shirts with inspiring messages, in unique styles that fit really well and are reasonably priced (most are under $50).

Check out Kami’s new collection of tees called 10 Tees to Change the World. I can’t think of a better place to start holiday shopping (they’ll be here before you know it.)

And while you’re there, here are some more any-occasion gift options:

Love and peace on your sleeve – I’ve bought this in different versions.  It has perfect, just a little too long sleeves, cozy fit and fabric.

My friend Lori and I gave each other the Karma bracelet. I wear it with my Moments bracelet and sandalwood mala beads almost everyday.

I just happened to be wearing the Camo Heart cap when I found her story. Sometimes Facebook diversions can be productive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I might have to check out the Motorcycle Twill Skinnies and her new knit bikinis.   Not for me necessarily but, now that I’ve taken up knitting, maybe it will inspire me to make them for my friends …  more exciting than socks, right?

 

 

P.S. If you happen to be in the area, she’s offering 15% off for bringing in a painted or heart shaped rock for her garden.  I know this because I found it on It’s a Luv Thing’s Facebook page. “Like” it and you’ll know stuff like this too.

 

 

So what’s the ROI on this blogging thing?

The next time someone asks me about ROI on blogging and social media in general, I’m going to send them two responses to the #LetsBlogOff challenge that prove the power of social media:

“Do social sites like Facebook connect or isolate?” by Paul Anater of Kitchen and Residential Design and  “Social Media Superhero” by Bob Borson of Life of an Architect

Bob Borson's post on "How to spot a Hippie" caught my eye... I wonder why?:)

These are “regular guys turned thought leaders” simply because they started a blog. They had no idea what was ahead of them. Once they started, they found their stories connecting with a few (and not usually the ones they thought would connect).  Bob Borson says his most read post is “How to spot a Hippie.” Not his most architecture-inspired content.

Stories like this are also great reminders that the only way all of this will happen is to be yourself, without an agenda, and to be open to the opportunities that present themselves. It might just be the unpredicted connections that provide the biggest ROI.

P.S. If you believe in blogging, but are struggling with what to say, read:What’s your message? Why not share it?” by Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Conformity. He challenges the conventional social media advice to promote others by saying,

“If you’re trying to build a platform you should talk about yourself more than others.” Chris is a writer/expert enterpreneur/world traveler who is currently touring the country promoting his just-released book. All because he started a blog.

Facebook is like college. In a door-opening, it’s up to you kinda way.

I started today”s #Let”sBlogOff challenge, “Does Facebook create community, or does it isolate?” tempted to make social media right or wrong. But, I didn”t like that approach.  I think social media tools are simply options. Kind of like college. No, they”re not necessary for success, but they do open a whole lot of doors that might not have opened without them.  Also like college, participation alone doesn”t guarantee success.  The experience you have is entirely up to you.

What I appreciate most about social media is its platform for creativity and individuality. Anything that thrives on authentic expression is okay in my book.  Catching a glimpse of what moves and motivates people (and business) encourages me to share what moves and motivates me.

It”s this opening up and encouragement of each other that facilitates connection and community.

And when I don”t like what I see… I realize it”s not my job to judge. My job is to cultivate relationships that enhance my life.  The beauty of social media is that I have the option to Friend, Like, Tweet and actually meet whomever I choose.  I appreciate the opportunity to cross paths with people I would never had met before these tools came along.  They”ve brightened my day, made me think bigger and want to strive to be better.

This presents powerful possibility for business.   We simply don”t trust business the way sultiplesbonus.org we used to. We”d rather get guidance from friends than brands. So, businesses that consider using social media to reach out, or at least embrace the call to have  a more candid, beyond-product dialogue with customers, now have the opportunity to develop stronger, longer-lasting relationships than ever before.

That”s just my opinion. Here are 7 reasons to ponder involvement in social media from expert futurist, Faith Popcorn… One of which is,

“In the past, you were what you owned, now you are what you share.”

And, here are 4 businesses I think are creating community and connections well beyond what they could have done before social media graced us with its presence:

Small town boutique launches 10 Tees to Change the World

 

All Things Jeep goes Topless and rallies fans around the world

Boot Barn turns Stinky Boots into a problem to be proud of

 

Why I Love my Hardie-Home contest.
Winner receives $9,000 from James Hardie building products

Join #LetsBlogOff, comment and check out posts from other participants here.

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What I learned while traveling with architects

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I have been lucky enough to accompany architects on design tours. My favorite part is watching their creative process. They ask a lot of questions. They take photos of strange things, at interesting angles.

They are constantly sketching. They see multiple uses for the simplest things. Take their journal for instance. It’s typically a Moleskine, or one they’ve been loyal to for years. They’ve likely accumulated so many that rows of them along their shelves have created a display that looks more beautiful than resourceful. I love the intention behind everything they do.

They can even pack efficiently and still be stylish.  Megan, an architect from Australia, traveled with only one smaller than normal carry-on for a two-week trip. That’s it, not even a tote bag. And, she always looked stylish – she had shoes for all occasions –  boots, sandals, heels, tennies (or “runners” as the Aussies call them). She had jackets for all weather conditions. I asked her how in the world she was pulling this off with only one small bag.  She, of course, sketched me her process, which I kept, photocopied for all my friends and still use as a packing guideline. I’ve never been able to achieve her level of efficiency but I give it my best shot.

I’m telling you, the visions in those sketchbooks could probably save the world – or at least make it a lighter, more efficient one.

P.S. If you’d like Megan’s packing list, let me know.

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