Writing, games and why I need your help with three simple words.

I love writing!

Writing helps me promote, help me organise my thoughts and let’s me share ideas, hear other perspectives and raise issues which are important to me.

The reality is…

Even if I didn’t get all these really valuable things from writing….I’d still continue to write consistently.

You see writing allows me to do one thing which is really valuable to me…

Create

The issue I’ve got is for most things creative I haven’t got the requisite skill set…

My last attempts at DIY involved me planning to build a chest of drawers and finding myself left with a bizarre wooden sculpture. Most abstract object than anything you could remotely describe as ‘furniture’.

My artistic flair stops and starts at stick figures.

and

The last time I played anything remotely tuneful was in my primary school and on a recorder.

Now whilst I could learn these skills with enough focus, effort and time (apart from DIY obviously – I’m too unintentionally dangerous with a toolbox) they wouldn’t help me scratch my current creative itch.

So to create I write.

When you first start to write it’s quite a solitary exercise however an interesting thing happens when you publish articles regularly and put these articles on the inter-web for all to see..

Writing becomes social!

For me this has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I’m regularly told that many enjoy my writing (although I’m not always convinced!) and even the ones who don’t and feel strongly enough to express this are usually polite enough to argue on the particular merits of the point I’m trying to express rather than making it personal.

So, the fact that people enjoy my writing is really good.

The fact that some feel they learn something new or have a fresh perspective on a particular subject is fantastic.

However the bit that’s great fun is when writing becomes a game! Let me explain…

If you’ve read any of my articles you usually know that I write in groups of three.

All my headlines are in threes.

Many of the points I try to make are split into three.

and

Contained within every article (and highlighted in the title) are three distinct words.

Now, I write in different ways…sometimes I start with an idea, sometimes I start with a point I’m trying to make and often I start with the words.

However on a few occasions in the last year or so I’ve let someone else choose the three words I base an article around….

You see I love the challenge of taking the words of someone and creating something new. I find that by taking three independent words sparks fresh ideas in my own and whilst I’m massively grateful for someone taking the time to help me by supplying three words they’re normally happy about having something written from their ideas….it’s a win win, erm, win.

So here’s the challenge…

Choose three words.

Choose any words you want (although, quick disclaimer –  in the interests of taste and decency I’ll be rejecting any I don’t think are appropriate)

and

Tweet me, email me or put a comment below with your words and my job is to write an article about them.

I get some fresh inspiration and you get a shout out, a massive thank you and the satisfaction you’ve helped me out.

Sound good? Good!

So, what three words do you want me to write about?

Audiences, Lessons Learned and the power of the content creator.

In a previous entry I started talking about some of the lessons we’ve learned as a business in the past few years (you can find the first part here) and how important building connections was initially (and continues to be).

However one challenge we always faced was proving to potentially partners in the early stages of our business relationship that we were right company to work in partnership with sooner rather than later especially if we only saw our potential business partners once a week, once a month or sometimes even less often than that?

We decided that, and after having a look at what the people we admired were doing, that the answer was clear. We needed to….

2. Create Content

Looking back it’s obvious however when we first started to ‘create content’ (and in content I mean blog entries, videos, podcasts and white papers) we weren’t convinced this would benefit our business!

We were even less convinced after a month. For our written blogs we had an average of 18 additional people visit our site per entry….and we almost gave up!

However I decided to continue creating content due to the following logic…

If I attended a networking meeting to promote my business my ‘audience’ might be 10 – 25 people. What I say will be short (let’s say 60 seconds) and what I say is likely to have a small impact to most of the audience (who often are worrying about what to say during their designated speaking slot).

That’s not to say that face to face networking doesn’t have genuine value (for many it’s worth going along to have those 1 or 2 more meaningful conversations which develop into longer term relationships) however if as a business that is looking to generate a larger audience, let people have a deeper insight into what that business does, the people involved and the way your business works as well as proving it’s expertise there’s nothing in my opinion better than creating meaningful content.

Nowadays I can be relatively confident that if we create a piece of content on one of our sites we get a few thousand people read it. There’s no way we would have had that level of reach by just attending networking events.

It’s also meant that people who are interested in our subject had access to our ‘stuff’. For example even though they aren’t the target audience we know that quite a few journalists read our articles which has gradually allowed us to have a growing prominence in some of the leading financially related mainstream and business publications.

There’s a great book which, in my opinion, should be on any business owners ‘must read’ or ‘have read’ list is Robert Cialdini’s “Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion”.

In this book he lists and explains the principles of gaining influence (influence is what you need to persuade someone to use your product or service).

The principles include Consistency (which can be shown by creating regular content), Authority (which can be provided if, like us, print or television media pick up on your content and either share it or ask you to write some for them) and Liking (creating content allows you to reflect and share your personality with a wider audience which if they like you extends your audience).

Therefore creating content gives you an opportunity to market your business and ensure you are well known, trusted and liked as well as busy with commercial opportunities.

However this creates an issue in itself…if you get so busy with new work due to your fantastic influence how do you manage this?

….and that’s something I want to cover in the next blog.

Saturday nights, Authenticity, and the mystery of my mum on Facebook.

Sometimes I’m not a very good friend.

I’m really busy learning as an individual, building a business and (most importantly) being a dad but all of this does mean that I don’t get to see my mates as often as I can.

So it was great to spend some time with two of my oldest pals on Saturday in a night reminiscent of one fifteen years ago (although with a few more ‘laughter lines’ and a lot less hair!) involving the pub, some great live music (another one of my mates, but one I definitely don’t get to see enough. plays in a band) and topping the night off with a curry.

One of the things we were chatting about was how prevalent “The Book of Face”, Twitter and all the other social networking sites have become such an intertwined part of our lives over the past couple of years.

Even my Mum loves Social Media.

You see, she seems to like the ability to find out what’s going on in others lives and loves the ability to share what “Bill who used to live down our road” or “Steve who is Sues cousins son” is up to now.

When I ask her where she found out, whether she’d bumped into Bill or Steve or Sue, or spoke to someone who’d told her the news the answer is nearly always the same (and an interesting commentary on how we all communicate is changing)….

“Nope. I read it on Facebook.”

Sorry, I wen’t off on a tangent there. Back to Saturday night….

One of my mates loves social networking. He’ll spend loads of time making comments, chatting with online friends and is often seen ‘checking in’, hashtagging and asking relevant questions.

The other mate I was out with is the ‘silent participant’ type. If you looked at any of his social media accounts you’d assume he doesn’t use any form of social media. But he’s there. listening, watching and learning what’s going on in other peoples lives.

I like to do something different online. I’m not as active as my first mate on getting involved (Intentionally as I find being really active can be, if you’re not careful, a bit of a time vacuum!) but I like creating content.

I spend a decent amount of time every week writing articles and blog entries (both for my websites, the press and a bunch of different other places).

Then I share my content on social media and keep my fingers crossed that someone might like it!

Luckily the feedback we receive is, on the whole, overwhelmingly positive and we get a fair few visits to our sites (not in the millions, but in the thousands) every month.

However on Saturday night my mate gave me some advice….

“You know what Chris, you should set up a business channel on Facebook and Twitter and promote your writing on there.”

But I felt that instantly and instinctively that was misguided advice. Now I’ve thought about it i’m pretty sure it’s advice I’m going to choose not to follow.

But it’s not my mates fault. It’s my fault.

You see he assumed that I write to promote my businesses.

Although the fact that I ‘write stuff’ seems to contribute to generating decent amounts of commercial interest it’s not why I do it…

I write to share ideas.

I write to unpick the thoughts in my brain into a dialogue which makes sense, not for anyone else, but to me.

If then these thoughts make sense to someone else I’m happy, or if someone disagrees and spends the time to share their opinion I’m happy too. Sometimes an alternative option confirms my thoughts, sometimes it changes my mind but I’m always grateful for someone to share what they think.

and (this is the main reason)

I write because it allows me to be authentic.

If you’re anything like me you’re life is a pretty busy one.

It’s easy to spend a lot our lives on ‘auto pilot’ using preconceived perceptions.

The interesting thing I’ve found about writing (and the fact that I share this publicly regardless of it being on my business or personal sites or regardless of whether anyone reads it or not!) is that, I’m not prepared on any terms to share an opinion on anything without it being genuine.

This means that I take time to truly think about what, how and why I believe what I believe and internally challenging the perceptions I’ve come to believe which actually don’t make sense to me anymore.

The upside about being genuinely authentic (I believe) is that it allows people to decide whether they like you or not.

This might mean they want to work with you, this might mean they just want to share an idea which will allow you to think differently, or (and this has happened to me on a few occasions) you might make a connection which started online but grows into a friendship.

As long as those people know, sometimes, I’m not a very good friend!

A blogging request, a shirtless man and the mystery of time well spent…

Although I love it for a wide range of reasons blogging, both personally (on this site) and professionally (on my business blog), for me can be a particularly lonely pursuit. Spending time focussed  on just your own thoughts and ideas and trying to work through these thoughts, whilst satisfying, isn’t the most social job in the world.

The weird thing about Blogging is that you never know what sort of audience you’ll build and what sort of reaction you’ll get when you write.

I’ve been lucky. I know from the numbers who regularly visit both this and my business site is we have a growing, loyal and consistent readership and whilst I appreciate that I’ve probably got individuals who read my personal and professional stuff and don’t like either the style, content or a combination of the two the majority of feedback I’ve received is overwhelmingly positive….

If you’re reading this and taken the time to let me know you’re enjoying my writing….thank you!

What I didn’t expect when I started writing is to start to get requests. I’ve had a few over the past few months. I’ve had emails, tweets and linkedin messages asking me to write something providing an insight into a particular financial related area, or my thoughts on an aspect of running a small business.

As much as I appreciate that people take the time to get in touch I usually decline to write about the suggested subject….for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, if there’s a subject which I don’t believe where I can’t add anything to I won’t write about it. Your time is precious and I don’t want you to waste it reading the same content slightly reformatted over and over again!

Secondly, if there is a subject where I don’t feel I have enough expertise to provide any form of insight I won’t write about it. I appreciate expertise is subjective but one thing I think it’s insulting to anyone taking time to read your articles is trying to pretend you thoroughly understand a particular niche when it’s obvious you’re not!

Lastly, whilst I started to write to promote my business (and this is one of the reasons I continue) I actually write more for fun than anything else. Therefore I’ve got a simple rule if I’m not going to enjoy the process of writing on a particular subject….I won’t!

However I received a facebook message from a really nice fella I went to school with. He pointed me in the direction of this You Tube Video:-


I liked the video and sent him a message back to thank him for taking the time to send it to me.

He then sent me a reply which made me think….

“No problem mate. I’ve been on a few managerial courses over the last few years. This 3 minute video made more sense than all of these courses put together!”

I reckon most of us have “been there” at some stage of our careers (especially if you, like me, have worked in a corporate environment).

I’ve spent way too much time in courses where it’s taken all day to explain a concept which could have been covered in a 3 minute meeting.

I’ve participated in meetings which are less about making meaningful change and taking meaningful action and more about an opportunity for individuals to hear the sound of their own voice.

I’ve donated too much of my life listening to and talking about subjects, numbers or topics which have no relevance in me, my families, my businesses or my clients lives.

I’m currently reading Tim Ferriss’s brilliant “4 hour work week”. It’s a great book which talks about a wide range of ways all of us can improve the quality of our lives.

Reading the book made me think.

How many hours have I previously spent in meetings with no point?

In meetings which were all about ego and not about productivity?

How much time do I spend in meetings like that even today?

How much time do I spend checking my email (or facebook or twitter) every five minutes?

Can I get more done by having “windows” where I conduct certain tasks?

Can I then use that time I save by doing stuff I REALLY LOVE to do?

and

What do I want to teach my children about the world of work?

How do I ensure my children understand that you should ‘do work’ which you feel is meaningful, enjoyable and something they can be truly proud of?

How do I ensure that as much as I’m trying to, they spend as much of their time as possible doing what they truly love both now and in the future?

The honest answer is that I’m not sure how I’m going to do this. However I’m hoping that by thinking about being more about this, making changes to truly ensure I’m spending time doing stuff that really truly matters.

What do you think?

 

Don’t write for ‘them’. Write for you.

A couple of years ago, when I started blogging to market my business, I had one main reason for wanting to do this.

I wanted to promote my business.

However the more and more writing I do (be it for any of my blogs, on a forum or for the press) the more I realise.  I don’t do it for you.  I do it for me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love the fact that I get mainly positive, constructive comments about what I write.  I love the fact that someone actually reads what I write and I love the fact that my writing has helped me achieve it’s initial aim of helping me to build my business over the last couple of years.

However that’s not why I continue to write.  Not any more.

I’ve found that I genuinely love to write.  It allows me to express my thoughts.  Actually it does more than that. It allows me to truly think about what I want, how I’m going to get there and what I really believe.

Writing seems to have a strange impact on me.  Instead of trotting out an opinion verbally and then forgetting about it, the impact of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) seems to make me think about a wide range of subjects in a deeper, more considered, more meaningful way.

Writing on a regular basis has also seemed to re-ignite my curiosity.  Since I’ve been writing on a regular basis I’ve read more books and articles, listened to more diverse opinions and asked more questions than ever before.

I know that when I write I’m probably breaking loads of rules when it comes to ‘marketing your business’, ‘building a brand’ or ‘writing copy that sells’.

I’m not too worried.  Whilst I want to ensure that anything I write to be of genuine value I also want my writing to be authentic, honest and not governed by too many writing conventions…

…and don’t forget, and I know I’m probably breaking a bunch of different ‘rules of marketing’.  I’m not writing for you.  I’m writing for me.

I know this might sound a bit selfish. I don’t believe it is

If I write for ‘you’, and especially when it comes to my business, I’m more likely I’ll give you a pitch.  The writing might be useful, but may be superficial in it’s content and not written with a particularly authentic voice.

If I write for ‘me’, and write something I’ve thought about and truly believe it might not motivate you to engage with me immediately.  However hopefully that sense of thoughtfulness, personality (I’ll let you be the judge of that) and authenticity will shine through and we can build a relationship.

I’m in the business of building relationships.  I want to be open, honest and authentic.

That’s why I write for me.

Also, if you put too many rules about the way you write there’s a possibility you’ll never get started at all.  It might be better to just start, make mistakes, find your voice the more you practice and continuously learn what works and what doesn’t.

So, if you consider writing for any reason, be it to market your business, start that novel you’ve always dreamed about or just wanted to share your thoughts in an online diary or blog.  Let me make a humble suggestion.

Write regularly, Write authentically and Write for them.  Write for you.  If you’re anything like me you’ll be surprised on how much you’ll benefit.