5 Great Questions to Orient Brand Storytellers

Like any devotee of content, I believe the value of a well-crafted question. That’s why I’ve held onto these 5 great questions perfect for orienting newly minted brand storytellers.

Orienting questions are useful whether crafting a pitch for a media influencer or writing a journalistic profile for news or magazine publication.  Without good questions, even the most caffeine inspired writer would be, well, left hanging.

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These questions are from Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Growth Conference” a few years back. The magazine’s editors allowed attendees to pitch their brand story in person in three minutes or less. The guidelines are crystal clear about the magazine’s audience and content strategy: “…we’re primarily looking for entrepreneurs whose stories illustrate lessons that other readers can learn from.”

Succinct as the clank of a spoon onto a saucer.

The provided questions have an evenly roasted sensibility that stands up well over time.  Lately, I’ve seen an increase in the number of requests I’ve gotten from clients about influencer marketing, without an understanding of the commitment it takes to create those coveted national level opportunities.

In short, influencer marketing is the direct outreach to influencers in media and the blogosphere to whom a media relations or public relations practitioner will pitch story ideas. Obviously, one pitches the client’s story to those influencers whose interests are most closely aligned with your own.

You can see why I continue to keep a file copy for reference, even though questions like these are second nature to journalism and public relations pros. I pulled these out today to share with a new writer on my team.

Here is the list:

  • What do you think is interesting or newsworthy about your company?
  • What key challenges or obstacles did you overcome while starting or growing your company?
  • Do you use any innovative or unusual marketing or sales strategies, financing strategies, or management techniques?
  • Have you developed an innovative product, service, or technology?
  • Is there a specific marketing/sales strategy, financing method, or management technique that has greatly helped your business’ growth?

The do-it-yourselfers in the entrepreneurial world may wish to answer these in response to their own business growth, marketing, or public relations strategies. My experience suggests that a brief answer to a good question is worth more than 1,000 words.

Similar questions could be the basis for a mighty fine Q&A magazine-style feature profiling an industry leader, innovator, or start-up business model.

Here are a few things I’ve pulled together to share in that regard.

When it’s time to ask the questions, writers today should record the interview for accuracy.  Be willing to call back and ask additional questions if needed. Whether crafting a pitch for influencer marketing efforts or writing an article for a magazine, the due diligence will be noticed.

 

The Baker’s Dozen Marketing Plan: 13 ways to build your business in only 12 months

When I was little, my mother would take me and my sister to the Amspachers’ bakery in downtown Waycross, Georgia. The glass cases which ringed the room were filled with beautiful cookies and pastries. My mother would order a dozen cookies in a variety of shapes and colors, and I particularly remember the two-toned ones, small green and brown leaves, and the cream horns. My mother would cut hers into tiny slices so we each could have some. Then we’d save one for my grandfather, so he could have one, too.

Mrs. Amspacher would lean in from the kitchen door watching from the hustle and bustle out front. Mr. Amspacher, in his black horn-rimmed glasses and white apron, was always smiling. When his wife wasn’t looking, he’d always slip a 13th cookie in the dozen. A baker’s dozen, my mother said.

“A little something extra” is a great marketing strategy, whether we’re onboarding a new client or appreciating an existing one. In 2018, there’s a clear baker’s dozen of actions entrepreneurs can take to make certain theirs is the best year yet.

  1. Send a regular ezine

Your email newsletter should go out no less than monthly. That way, you can consistently engage people who have asked to receive updates from you. I suggest munching macarons and sipping hot tea during this adventure.

  1. Update your blog monthly.

Make a list of the topics your clients are most interested in, and decide which aspects they’ll value most. These will make great blog topics. Once the blog is created and posted, grab the header, first couple of paragraphs, and a link to the original, and make this part of your ezine. Blogging goes beautifully with chocolate chip cookies and hot cocoa.

  1. Develop a distribution strategy.

These days, it’s difficult to get all those free shares and likes of yesteryear. Last week, Facebook announced a new algorithm which demotes any user which asks for a like or a share. Instagram is the favored pick of millennials, while other women prefer Pinterest. Twitter continues to be preferred by men – and their audience targeting differs significantly from that of other outlets. The key is to figure out where your people are on social and post there. At first, limit yourself to 3 platforms. From there, choose one distribution strategy to master at a time. That way, you’re maintaining a presence, focusing your energy and conserving resources. Sugar cookies and coffee help you power through.

  1. Make Your “Free Taste” Really Tasty

Take a good look at our pink spoon. Does it still attract the type of clients with whom you wish to work? If you’ve moved on from startups and on to content marketing, then your free taste needs to reflect that. Plus, the world is now flooded with online coaches. If you’re going to offer a pink spoon, it needs to be really, really good and offer inherent value.

If it’s a great threshold piece, and it whets the client’s appetite for more of the good stuff, then don’t be shy. Add a pop-up offer at about 10 seconds into the reader’s experience. For this one, let’s eat cake! Vanilla with vanilla frosting, yes? With a latte.

  1. Draft a marketing plan for the year

A program or package launch normally takes about 6 weeks, so I usually recommend one launch per quarter. A launch requires benchmarks be met, writing be complete, and that the online mechanisms for sign up be created and tested. So a 3 month window for planning and execution and kick-off series sessions is just about right for most entrepreneurs.

Your marketing plan should include this launch calendar. Then, frame your launches with your ezine, blog posts and other marketing outreach. This simple strategy will increase your likelihood of success. Nibble an Italian wedding cookie while you write. French press the coffee.

  1. Support Your Objectives with a Content Plan

Once you know what you’re selling in terms of programs or packages, then it’s time to flesh out your content plan. Where will you publish in addition to your blog? Whether you go with a video channel, online article placements, or a Linked In article, make certain the topic is absolutely right for the medium and audience. Nothing screams “amateur” quite so much as a LinkedIn article that really should have been a Facebook note.

I usually recommend publishing in one or two places in addition to the blog, for a total of 2-3 publications each month. Each article should showcase an aspect of your unique approach to solving clients’ problems. And each article should be leveraged with your distribution strategy. Why not sample those pecan filled thumbprint cookies your friend’s been raving about? And a chai.

  1. Insist on an integrated, inbound approach to social media

Your website is the hub of your online operations, and the job of your social presence is to get people to your website. If your web designer doesn’t understand how to create an integrated, inbound approach to social media – and doesn’t know how to track it – then you need to weave a new web. We recommend oatmeal cookies for web weaving. They go with everything.

  1. Enact a networking protocol

Mark 3 interesting networking opportunities on your calendar monthly. One of those might be a group of peers, but the others need to be places where you’re simply out meeting people. If the person could be an ideal client, reach out afterward with a personal note. Offer a resource. Mention your conversation, and ask if they’d like it to continue. These follow up conversations are bakery worthy. Ask them to meet you there – but buy your own if it’s a business meeting.

  1. Commit to a great discovery conversation

Whether someone chooses to move forward with your offer or not, commit to leave them with resources or understandings that improve their experience. You’ll want your awesome discovery session to lead them through the four stages of value: what they have now, what they want instead, what not having that thing is costing them, and how you can help. This is a gingerbread moment. Add lemon ginger tea for a lift.

  1. Closing strategy

Not everyone will be an immediate yes. However, the goal is for the person to say “yes” to their own heartfelt desire with the knowledge that you can help them get there. Your closing strategy should be crafted in a way that leads them to the yes. If it’s a stretch for them, but the commitment is there, you’ve already served them by modelling the possibility of growth and change. Sugar cookies cut into hearts with white icing trim should do it! Add an espresso for get up and go.

  1. Commit to a Calendar and Reminders

Whether you have a virtual assistant or not, you’ll want a system for client appointments, cancellations, reschedules, and reminders. Not having one will make you crazy. Go with a truffle for this task. Pause to enjoy it mindfully.

  1. Value Your Time as a Resource

Time is a non-renewable resource. Start your year by marking out the personal time you want for yourself and your family, then schedule your business goals around it. Once that’s done, commit to leverage your time in a way that maximizes the return on investment of your life force energy. Go for a walk, and burn off some of those cookie calories!

  1. Work with a Coach or Consultant

The right coach or consultant is a modest investment in the future of your business. Jumpstart 2018 by reaching out to individuals you think you would like to work with, and find out what they have in mind for the year. Plan now to create the income for the financial commitment you need to make to yourself and your business success. We like bachelor buttons dusted with powdered sugar for this step. Good old fashioned drip coffee with evaporated milk, sugar, and a splash of cinnamon is perfect and warm.

In 2018, this “baker’s dozen” suggests the actions you can take to make certain your business enjoys its best year yet. Let me know if you need help with the recipe?

Abundant blessings,

Sherri

Sherri L. McLendon, MA, is a presence-based business coach and lead content strategist with Professional Moneta International, www.professionalmoneta.com, a boutique marketing public relations consultancy helping exceptional entrepreneurs and executives grow their multi-platform brand influence locally and globally.

Ready for a Breakthough Decision? Do this!

A couple of days ago, I made a clear, conscious decision.

The decision itself was simple: to redirect my work that I might bring more joy and celebration to “business” this upcoming holiday season – for other women as well as myself. (Stay tuned for more about that!)

Following that decision, I chose an action. I would call a few wonderful women in my world and play catch up. That would bring me joy and a feeling of celebration as we share life events, and that would help set the tone for what I want to create. I made a couple of calls and left messages.

Then it happened.

Within minutes, wonderful, magical  – and completely unrelated – happenings began to occur, and I found that a bit amazing. One woman read an article I wrote online and reached out.  Another asked the universe for guidance, then realized I could help realize her vision and goals for an upcoming launch. And so forth and so on.

Don’t you love the way that works?

The power of decision is one of our most valuable assets as conscious women entrepreneurs. It’s not enough just to want something or to think about it. As Yoda would remind Princess Leia, “Try not do.” In other words, there’s only decision followed by aligned right action. Nothing else will do if you want the force to be with you.

But it’s hard to make a decision then follow through. Some of the decisions we too often put off until tomorrow include things like:

  1. Dealing with debt or tax burdens or collecting past due accounts
  2. Finding new clients so we have consistent cash flow
  3. Narrowing our focus so we can help more people and step into our bigger work
  4. Starting to put money into savings or investments or a college fund
  5. Taking the trip we’ve dreamed of for a lifetime or buying a home

Whether it’s one of these common issues or not, when it comes to having what you really need or want, you need a breakthrough decision.

Try this.

To find your breakthrough decision, drill past your wants to your NEEDS. Be specific, and place a monetary value on each item on your list. This action tells you what you MUST create in order to meet your base level survival needs. Make a decision to take action immediately to create in the present whatever meets those needs.

Next, make a list of your desires. What might it take for you to realize those?

This type of decision is different, because it requires a personal commitment to transform your way of being in the world. Because we don’t create a new reality with the same thoughts, habits, and behaviors that created our present one.

In order to have what you want in addition to fulfilling your basic needs, what is it that you must learn, know, or do differently? In other words, how do you act, choose or be in the world today?

When making decisions consistently as though the reality we desire is already within our grasp, it becomes possible to close the gap between our present situation and our future outcomes.

What decisions are you PAST ready to make?  Feel free to share your thoughts.

Abundantly,
Sherri

Sherri L. McLendon, MA, is a nationally published U.S. journalist and lead content strategist with Professional Moneta International, www.professionalmoneta.com, a boutique marketing public relations consultancy helping exceptional entrepreneurs and executives grow their multi-platform brand influence locally and globally.

Is Self Doubt Sabotaging Your ‘Infinite Potential?’

Years ago, I had a beautiful picture hanging on my wall, which I enjoyed throughout my pregnancy. It was called “Infinite Potential,” and it simply glowed with the unfolding of new life within the womb of the archetypal mother. 62c2d25ffc655deb43d309fbc7e921d8

At right is a photograph of Mara Friedman’s original as it appeared in Mountain Astrologer 2003.

Infinite potential is easy to see in a newborn, so close to spirit, so present in the now. But when we want to grow something new in our business, is’s more difficult to see the unlimited potential which lies before us. The spark of something new emerging from our creative centers can easily become overwhelmed by our life experience, our insecurities, our doubts, our fears. We allow these falsities to become limiters of our potential, settling for what we know over what we know we can do.

Together, let’s kick self-doubt to the curb with decisive action. Below, we’ll identify the top 3 serious, self-defeating doubts conscious women tell themselves when the going gets tough, and share “coachable moments” designed to move us on and through.

Self-Defeating Doubt #1: Taking Action is Too ‘Hard’

As a coach, I have a reputation for being able to get people to take calculated risks to grow, to accept on faith the small yet transformational actions which move them from where they are to where they’d like to do.

So I wasn’t prepared when I encountered the up and coming practitioner who said “yes,” but did not set a priority on taking the actions that would generate new business for her practice. Month after month, she kept finding excuses, placing her calling on hold, waiting. The commitment was “too hard.” When I checked in with her at the beginning of this year, 5 years after our first conversation, she was still saying “yes” while her choices were still saying otherwise.

The fact is, it’s hard to grow your business – if that’s what you believe. The economy is bad – if that’s what you believe. And clients are scarce – if that’s what you believe.

Coachable Moment #1: Renew Your Commitment. Move quickly toward realizing your infinite potential by committing fully, making decisions and following through with immediate action on specific tasks. Helping clear space for leaps of faith to occur within your self is one of the greatest gifts a coach can offer.

Self Defeating Doubt #2: Beliefs Cannot Be Changed

Of course, you can choose to change a belief which does not serve your highest and best expression of your life force. How do I know? I’ve done it. I’ve hit the absolute dregs of self doubt, and come back from less than zero in my self worth account.

Coachable Moment #2: ‘Be the Change You Wish to See.’ Here’s how: Write down the negative belief, then reverse it into an affirmation. Take on the affirmation as an opposing, equally true belief. Write or repeat it often. Then, act as though the belief is real to you as though it is already your truth. This effect is what is meant by the oft-paraphrased Dalai Lama statement, “Be the Change You Wish to See in the World.”

Self-Defeating Doubt #3:  I am “not enough”

My friend, Fatma Zaidi, says it well. “To lead is to be the active creative force of your own world so you can serve the larger world.” I couldn’t agree more. But many of us don’t realize that we are enough, just as we are. The key to infinite potential in one’s business as an expression of our higher self comes directly from the ability to reach out to others consistently and offer meaningful support for their journey. Being in service is not about you, it’s about humanity and honoring the humanity of your client. This one simple, heart-centered action of reaching out in support is the first rule of feminine leadership.

Coachable Moment #3: I already have everything I need. As a feminine leader, choose instead to reframe your entire situation and your response to it. By changing your mindset, moving your body, and addressing underlying beliefs and perceptions that are holding you back, you can grow your business, create new, sustain-able economy, and attract plenty of new clients. Sharing your experience to support the growth of others exemplifies the right relationship needed to create and manifest infinite potential through our business.

Thankfully, each of us gets to choose which beliefs we hold. May those you choose as your own serve the realization of your infinite potential.

So be it.

Sherri L. McLendon, MA, is a conscious business coach, magazine columnist, marketing public relations and content strategist with Professional Moneta International, http://www.professionalmoneta.com. (c)2016, Sherri L. McLendon, All Rights Reserved. Reprint with credit.

Bidsketch: An Honest Review for You

One of the things I do regularly – that makes my team a bit crazy – is test new online business solutions to see whether they do what they say. This month, I’ve spent a chunk of time reviewing Bidsketch, the online proposal software. If you’ve ever wished there was an easier way to crank out a proposal, this post is for you.

I ran across Bidsketch back in January when I was drafting an extensive content marketing proposal for a client. It gobbled up a ton of time and energy. I’m a fan of using the least amount of time and effort to produce the best result, so I decided the next time I needed to create a formal proposal, I’d give Bidsketch a try.

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The sign up was easy – and free – for a month. I jumped on and quickly reviewed the available proposal options. In my  business, I’m often asked to consult on branding, public relations, content marketing, copywriting, and web content. Everyone’s a “pro” these days, so those areas where earstwhile digital marketers are most likely to enter the entrepreneurial world are present here.

Happily, the proposal templates provided are well organized and value driven, easy to customize, and simple to replicate. It’s a little “old school” of me, but a tiny little voice inside my head says that people don’t actually have to know what they’re doing in order to whip out a nice proposal that looks like they do.

I squelch it as best I can. I know that by the time I get to the proposal and contract stage, both the client and I have had opportunity to engage and know whether we’re the mutual right fit. If I’ve done a good job of pre-selecting my clients, then the proposal and contract are a formality that ensures we’re both on the same page moving forward.

Decision makers in a business have a responsibility to evaluate whether or not the solution proposed will actually create the effect they wish to see. When they don’t, I tend to hear from them when they can’t figure out where they went wrong.

Back to Bidsketch. I reviewed the “consultant,” “content marketing,” and “branding” templates. Each section is “chunked” so the logic is easy to follow. As the constructor of the proposal, I have the ability to pick and choose what I add. So my sample “content marketing” proposal had additions drawn from “copywriting.” A bit of editing is needed to make things flow nicely, but all in all, the proposal springs fully formed from a stock of available choices. Each of the three resulting proposals I reviewed was reasonable, decisionable, and actionable. Dropping the extension of the copywriting tasks into the body of the “content marketing” proposal worked just fine.

The features I liked best were accessible from trusty blue, typed links for “advanced” choices. These allow the compiler to do things like customize the proposal date and add a limiter, or make changes to the fee structure which are earmarked for the current client version without altering the original content. Though I would prefer those options not be treated as asides, I like the capability to track the life cycle of the proposal and attach a number value to the fee structure so the close-to-propose ratio is easily monitored. However, I have a similar function on my social CRM software, Nimble, that tracks lead stages and deals, so I’m not terribly inclined to duplicate efforts here.

Additionally, I noted that the terms and conditions sections closely mirrored those in my existing contract, which I liked. However, my intellectual property agreement has more specificity. I also initiate a non-disclosure, non-compete agreement with a scope not covered within the Bidsketch proposal template. If I plan to use Bidsketch regularly, those would be elements I need to add to the proposal package.

The thing I miss most is a hyperlink option to send an email to someone or place a link on a spreadsheet or in the notes section on a kanban board. An option to quickly reference my proposals using a designated hyperlink would also allow me to anchor a quick link to the proposal onto the client’s card on my Nimble deals board. My only options, however, are to download the proposal as a pdf and save it to my hard drive, to a third location in the cloud, or to stay logged into Bidsketch.

The question of whether or not Bidsketch is “worth it” boils down to the (1) volume of proposals, (2) level of customization, and (3) how we assess the value of our time. If your time is worth more than the monthly fee, and you do a minimum of one proposal for month, then you’ll want to take a look.

Personally, I’d like to work with it a bit more. I sat down today to draft a public relations proposal with an emphasis on influencer/image marketing, and there was no PR template. My first impulse was to adapt a “branding” report to describe what it’s like to build image through pitching to journalists, raising the individual’s profile online, and similar tasks. The amount and substance of the editing would have dictated an even trade for the amount of time to create the proposal I actually needed. So the effort wouldn’t be worth it for a one-off type of proposal, but I certainly understand the benefit of creating it, loading it as a template, and refining it for future, repeated use.

Industry professionals who want to set themselves apart in a sea of pitches will want to customize or individuate proposals closely. Heaven forbid that two consultants turn in the same proposal with minimal changes; if that happens, the client’s decision doesn’t come down to value or finding the best match for its goals, it comes down to cheap, and that’s bad for business.

My final assessment: Bidsketch is a useful tool for sales and marketing professionals who are actively networking and engaged in regular, repeated lead generation activities. They are also unafraid of asking for the business. Money likes fast action, and with Bidsketch it’s possible to deliver proposals in about 1/3 to 1/2 the time of a traditional, built from scratch document. If your bottom line could increase proportionally to the time freed up by using Bidsketch, then checking out the trial version is a no brainer.

Sherri L. McLendon, MA, is a nationally published U.S. journalist and lead content strategist with Professional Moneta International, www.professionalmoneta.com, a boutique marketing public relations consultancy helping exceptional entrepreneurs and executives grow their multi-platform brand influence locally and globally.