A Story Works.

Story.StoryWorks _logo

It’s potent and personal prose. Tales of tribulation, trial and triumph.

Story composes and captivates us ―  engages and incites us.

Our stories help us communicate more effectively ― adding color, authenticity and heart to our transactions and texture to our lives.

But, what is your story?  

Are you telling . . . or showing?

Is it a report or an experience? Detached or intimate?

Intellectual or visceral?

It’s all in your mind.

The brain is a complex and intricate operating system that calculates, synthesizes and mystifies.  Though we may believe we are making logical, data-based decisions, neuroscientists are recognizing that emotions are truly the catalysts.  In fact, they drive most of our behavior.

Emotions bypass the maze of embedded neural patterns to generate the feelings that guide our actions, choices and behaviors.  In a sense, emotions are the biological lubricant for all our decisions.

Logic is the final step in the process ― delivering the conscious rationalization needed to justify an unconscious impulse.  That’s where mindfulness can play a key role.

Researchers confirm that more than 90% of our behavior is generated outside of consciousness. So, that means we act based on feelings of trust, confidence and connection ― while we actively seek the data necessary to support those feelings.

The challenge is to recognize this and leverage it ― with the power and purpose of story.

As your plot thickens, join me to learn more . . .

 

Making it Matter: The Results

Here is my third and final chapter in my series ― “Inspiring Response: 5 Ways Story Can Turbo-Charge Your Message.” Measure your success and impact ― for the organization, as well as the donor or partner.

wishing-wellThis is where you construct your narrative thread to communicate your relentless commitment to outcomes ― measurable, repeatable and impactful.  Romance and tout your results with authority and conviction. Celebrate the victory, because triumph is compelling. And let you story do the heavy lifting. Make it multisensory, multidimensional and visceral. Help the donor feel and even “be” the result.

What does it look like, feel like, taste like, smell like, sound like? Bring the obstacle, need, conflict and/or solution to life for the reader. Also, what does it mean for the donor and the mission as a whole? This is area the can also include strengthen a sense of connection to purpose and something bigger ― another key motivation for giving. But always, always, always include the prospect, friend, donor or evangelist in the equation ― whether you are able to deliver a “happy ending” or not.  Describe impact with laser intensity.

Make it matter by making it intimate.

Beatriz stood at barely 4 feet 8 inches.

But the petite, slender  widow was pulling the weight of someone twice her size as she stumbled barefoot across the dusty, scorching-hot remote rural road outside a small farm in Bolivia.  She was all alone ― struggling tirelessly to survive . . . a nearly impossible job without access to safe, clean, clear water. A small, hand-dug well was her only source of hydration.

Every day, she hoisted enough 30-pound buckets of water out of the dank, dingy well with a tattered rope to briefly sate her two cows, vegetable garden and her own perpetual thirst. Not only was the water contaminated, but the decaying interior walls were crumbling and collapsing into a thick pile of jagged rock and muck that reeked of rot.

But thanks to the compassion of friends like you, Beatriz is receiving a miracle ― CLEAN, HEALTHY WATER.

Today, her new well, lined with sturdy concrete rings, protects her precious, life-sustaining source from contagion, filth and debris. And a hand pump makes her water easier to retrieve and more hygienic. For Beatriz and others, your gift is quenching more than thirst. You and other generous friends are saving almost 8,000 fragile lives worldwide ― providing hope, health and possibility ― now and for years to come.

So, your captivating story is crafted. What’s next? Well, now you are ready to build the ecosystem to leverage its power ― across platforms, media and constituencies.

Develop a strategic marketing plan that orchestrates owned, paid, shared and earned media buckets. Urgency, calls to action, other testimonials/success stories, social engagement, and effective relationship management are some of the key components. But start with the story. Can’t wait to see how it ends . . .

If you’d like to learn more, reply below. To maximize your appeal, start with the story one.

The Rest of the Story

scrabble-wordsWhen I speak to groups or clients ― I like to describe myself as a translator of sorts.  I interpret a need or message for a specific audience. I help make that high-voltage connection that triggers the response or behavior desired.

In our first installment, we covered components one and two of the high-octane story or appeal:

  • The Pain
  • The Problem

And to review ― we structure the story intentionally to address all key information receptors/processors in the brain ― the emotional, logical and habitual brain circuitry. After all, we learned from Dr. Joe Dispenza in Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself that “our conscious minds comprise only about 5% of who we are. The other 95% is a composition of our subconscious minds ― our habits and behaviors that have been deeply programmed on our mental hard drives throughout our lives.”

Next, let’s tackle the elephant in the room. The Solution.

I always start with the questions. How are you changing or improving lives like the one featured in the appeal? How are you delivering differentiated value? How are you uniquely positioned to effectively deliver this solution and make a measurable impact? What will happen if you don’t act?

Begin with the specific and broaden to a vision of scalability that can happen only with the donor’s involvement. It’s not “we.” It’s “us.” Involve the donor or customer in the solution. As an example, here’s a story about an organization* that provides medications to isolated, under-served communities worldwide:

“Our mission of providing essential medicines to those in the remotest locations around the world is very personal to me,” says Sam Doe, president and CEO of [Organization Name]. “Born in Thailand, I contracted polio as a child and lived in an orphanage until I was adopted by a family from the U.S. at age eleven.” 

Now, Sam wakes up each morning in America and pulls on his full-length leg braces — a daily reminder that he did not receive the polio vaccine as a boy. “On the bright side,” Sam teases, “since my shoes are attached to the braces, I never have to look for them.”

Last year alone, [Organization Name] delivered enough medicines and supplies to treat more than 25 million girls and boys in desperate need around the world. More important to Doe, each treatment represents one face, one child and one life — one more son, daughter, sister or brother who is receiving healing, health and hope.

With your help, suffering cannot prevail.

[*Where appropriate, I have changed names to protect client confidentiality.]

So, we have set the stage with the possible. We’ve created the case. What’s next? Now, it’s time for the climax of our story.  As Samuel Goldwyn said, “We want a story that starts out with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax.”

OLG_visionThe Ask

This is Fundraising or Sales 101. The whole letter or email is moving toward this pinnacle ― building on the “Why you, why now, why here?”  And this is often the place we falter in writing these critical communications. We forget to ask ― and do so directly.  We paint the picture and talk about what we do ― but this is where we drive it home.

Web/Digital Example from the University of Dallas:

JOIN US ON OUR LADY’S JOURNEY

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a special space on the University of Dallas campus devoted to our Blessed Mother Mary. Conceived as a sanctuary for students, alumni, faculty, staff and the community, it serves as place to meditate, worship, reflect, breathe and be — amid the chaos and commotion of Dallas/Fort Worth, the fourth largest metropolitan area in the nation. 

Situated atop one of the highest observation points in the Metroplex, the Shrine also incorporates the ancient, treasured stone of Tepeyac ― positioning UD among the globe’s most significant sacred locations for the Catholic community. Inspired by Our Lady of Guadalupe’s story as patroness of the Americas, we look forward to finishing the permanent grotto, fulfilling the vision of the Class of 1997 ―and completing the campus’ miraculous spiritual destination.

SHARE THE STORY OF THE SHRINE AND UD <links>

  • Explore a Shrine and Synchronicity: Our Lady of Guadalupe and the University of Dallas
  • Experience the Creation of a Shrine: The Art of Faith: 
  • Marvel at the Miracles of the Madonna: The Science of Faith: 

Support the Shrine and Learn More<Link to info signup and giving.>

There will always be a place to pause— and a candle to light . . .


Only one final installment remains in the story of the story. Take a deep breath and stay tuned.

If you’d like to learn more, sign up on my website. I would be honored to review one of your appeals, as well.  It’s all about maximizing your appeal. It all starts with the story one.

Inspiring Response: 5 Ways Story Can Turbo-Charge Your Message

writeheart“Story is the DNA of all meaning.”  – Annette Simmons

Do your appeals have undeniable power? Do you enthrall, captivate, motivate ― and drive response?

With only weeks remaining in 2016, the cavalcade of carefully crafted requests will soon commence. For most of us, they will arrive from all points, directions and media ― email, snail mail, APPs, Facebook, texts and tweets. What will grab us? And more important, what will snag the  imaginations of our prospects? What will be deleted? Filed? Ignored? Dismissed? Or worse . . . unnoticed?

Some will be cloaked in gratitude. Others will lament the ubiquitous budget gap or unexpected organizational need. Still others are likely to promote a seductive donor challenge, captivating contest, new initiative, capital effort or recognition group.

But they should all have one thing in common ― a compelling story.

What’s the hook? And I’m not talking about a cheesy advertising gimmick or giveaway.  The power to resonate comes from the human, emotional connection.

Big, looming, seemingly logical organizational problems ― like deficits, shortfalls and even unmet needs are just that. The organization’s problems. As communicators, we must focus on the donor’s or prospect’s needs ― they are often triggered at an imperceptible, emotional and even subconscious level.

Though Marshall McLuhan might argue, the message is just as salient as the medium in this case ― especially given the media miasma engulfing us at every turn.  As I wrote in a prior post, I feel effective messaging must address the entire brain ― engaging the emotional, logical and habitual brain circuits.

Behavioral economist George Lowenstein confirms “our subconscious explains our consumer behavior better than our conscious.  Ninety percent of all purchasing decisions are not made consciously.”

Working as a writer, communicator and crafter of hundreds (maybe thousands) of appeals and calls to action throughout my career to to date, I have identified a few key elements that are absolutely essential.  [Where appropriate, I have changed names to protect client confidentiality

The Pain

This is probably the most important concept. And it’s personal.  What is the emotional state ― or discomfort your message can resolve for the prospect or donor?  According to brain theory, everything begins with an emotional nudge, which connects to the cerebral cortex or executive function of making a decision.  And the most important thing about framing a powerful request or appeal is articulating the pain in an intimate, relatable, visceral way. Compare these two.

        “I was deployed in Saudi Arabia on 9/11 . . . And I can still hear the screams . . .”             

         Corporal John Ray’s* battle-weary voice cracks and catches in his throat.

        “We were in combat overnight . . . and we weren’t prepared,” says the slight, sandy-haired U.S. Army veteran ― as he slowly brushes a single droplet of sweat from his brow. 

       “The nightmares never stop, but I just wish I had enough to eat . . . “

                                                                       (versus)

       “Veteran hunger is a growing problem in America . . . And their struggle is significant.”

The top copy is weaving a human story that’s drawing the reader into a specifically defined conflict ― not a daunting global cause that is difficult to quantify ― or feel. More to the point, one tells and one shows.

The  Problem

The next step is the core challenge or problem.  How does this pain manifest, and how does your organization or operation contextualize the issue you are addressing? Get granular. Explain why is your mission is significant, and why should we care? Again, it’s important to construct a very personal, human narrative. Here’s an excerpt form a letter:

It was January 2007. I was on a mission trip that rattled me to my very marrow ― and ultimately changed my life forever. We brought more than 285,000 nutritious meals for hungry, struggling children who were barely surviving in the war-torn squalor.

Shockingly, the meals ran out too soon. There were just too many suffering, vulnerable girls and boys like Maribel  . . . in such dire need.

 We simply did not have enough to go around . . . All  I could do was stand there and weep. So, I had to do  something. 

Are you hooked?  And better yet . . . are you wondering about the next three components? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned for these and other stories. It’s a real cliffhanger . . .

In addition to the five pillars of a great appeal, there are  many other components of your content concoction. Of course, we must artfully integrate urgency, all calls to action, testimonials/success stories, various digital platforms, and customer relationship management (CRM) interfaces. But start with this formula. Start with the IMPACT ― and you will definitely turbo-charge your results.

If you’d like to learn more, sign up below. Tell me about your project. Also, watch for the next installment.  Maximize your appeal. It all starts with the story of one. 

The Power of Influence: How People are Changing Social Media

handAttending Social Media Dallas’ 2016 Showcase  a couple of weeks ago, I was nonplussed ― but not for the reasons you might think.

I attended expecting to learn about the latest and greatest ― the slickest bells and whistles and the snap in the chat. Because I work clients who often use social media tactics, I am interested in staying abreast of the freshest online alchemies and digital wizardry. But what I learned was neither technical, nor expected. Everything old is new again. Or, coming full circle, again, anyway. The more we automate, schedule, trigger, track, integrate, regulate and calculate, the more we need two essential things:

  1. A novel, relevant and compelling creative strategy.
  2. Good, old-fashioned human communication.

Yes, all of these featured “showcase” programs started with clever, innovative, all-in thinking. That was pretty much a given. But the thing that surprised me was the human component. Though cynics mostly deride social media tools as anything but ― saying this brave new world alienates our souls and creates pariahs who prefer quality time with their phones to a human conversation, most of these campaigns attributed their success to “key influencers.” People.

Meaningful results did not arise solely from some artful mix of organic messages and social ad buys strewn across the e-verse. They required authentic, real-life relationships or champions ― on the ground and/or on the case to evangelize messages and carry them to the appropriate constituencies. I found this fascinating. The more we evolve technically, the more we stay the same ― the more we require human connection and relationship

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Here are some examples:

  • Harwood International needed the partnership of two very important Dallasites to drive the success of #HarwoodSummer. Two transplants from two coasts who have spent the last year immersing themselves in the culture & community of Dallas have become Dallasites. They provided the conduit to the culture and crowd. ( Lily Kramlich-Taylor and  Kara Shannon)
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise in Accelerating Beyond. The concept to link with the Star Trek film was genius, but the real magic came from deputizing the HP employees ― empowering the people with the traditional and digital communication tools they needed to engage and spread the word.
  • Stub Hub. Apparently, this one required literal hand-holding on a global scale― due to the “technical” nature of Snapchat. Social Media Delivered reported that the “brand ambassadors,” professional proselytizers on the scene, were indispensable players in the campaign’s logistics impact ― managing actual face-to-face conversations at festival booths and navigating the musical melee.

All of the honorees had some important human dimension ― and kudos for that!  Social is now social in the purest sense. So, what’s next?

We are still asking that question, and that’s part of the fun. In fact, some of us were feeling a bit nostalgic that Thursday eve a couple of weeks ago ― as Chris Vary, our emcee, recalled his first presentation to Social Media Dallas. I was there. In fact, in What’s the Next Layer on the Stack? ― my Nov.1, 2009 blog post, I referenced some of Chris’ predictions at that time, as well. (Check out his thoughts on Twitter.)

Watching the evolution. Stay tuned . . .

 

Make Content Marketing Matter: Put Your Story to Work

bigbangWhat is content marketing? 

It’s a transaction ― fueled by the powerful intention to grow and expand your business.  It’s serving up delicious, enticing, seductive information to your prospects (and suspects) in exchange for their glorious attention and response. You give away something of value to build a relationship that will ultimately lead to something meaningful ― engagement, trust, loyalty, revenue and product/service evangelism.

The concept is not new, but the media models have morphed and changed over the years. Heck, maybe it’s the oldest profession. But today, managing the whole process is a bit trickier. We are our own networks. It’s a potent concept when you stop and think about it.

We can produce our own universes, but there are challenges. We’re concerned with integration, relevance, distribution management and analytics.  The secret sauce is in your story ― communicating your value effectively and persuasively. And it all starts with your website.

It’s all about the Blog

This is your publisher. I know it takes care and feeding, but it’s worth the effort. The blog is still the easiest way to connect with your audience and establish thought leadership in your space.  Actually, it’s less about “thought leadership” these days ― and more about delivering content worth consuming ― content that teaches something new, entertains, and provides a compelling reason to act.  The media may vary, but the blog gives you the framework. Experiment with video, infographics, whitepapers and e-books. Test, test and test some more.  Orchestrate the primary elements:

  • Video
  • Landing Pages/Email
  • Social Media

And You Gotta Have a Plan . . .

  1.  Define your Decision Makers and Brand Personas

Who makes the buying decisions? Who gets involved and when? Where do they live online? You don’t have to get too targeted in creating specific content for each stakeholder, but clearly identify “product champions” ― and then guide them step by step through the consensus-creation process.

  1. Articulate Your Key Objectives: Start with the basics, build and quantify.

Objectives might include:

  • Generating interest in your products ― and qualified leads.
  • Establishing yourself as an expert and preferred solution provider in a given vertical market.
  • Generating sales. (online or direct)
  1. Set Specific Goals: What are your key metrics and priorities ― long and short-term?
  • Organic traffic
  • Newsletter sign-ups
  • Leads
  • Qualified leads
  • Donations
  • Sales
  1. Create Your Content Strategy

Build a formal six-month, integrated content calendar creating relevant messaging that cultivates each one of your priority vertical segment.

  • Case Studies and Success Stories ― Highlight solutions and wins using video, blog articles and press releases that can extend your stories even further to third-party websites.
  • Guides and Tutorials — Guides do not have to be 100-page e-books. Give tips or easy how-tos.
  • Webinars ― Attract decision makers who are interested in learning from other industry leaders. Then, create a case studies or white papers from the webinar ― extending the life of your content and providing more opportunities for engagement.
  •  E-books and Whitepapers ― This is where we can get meaty ― really dig into topics and establish your firm as the expert or solution. This can drive lead capture from download requests and provide insight into particular areas of interest.
  • Infographics creatively visualize facts and figures and are highly shareable online.  http://piktochart.com/ https://infogr.am/ are sites that help facilitate creation.
  1. Promote 
  • Grow Your Opt-In Email List ― Add a sign-up widget to your website. http://optinagent.com/ Put a sign up form at the bottom of each blog post.
  • Enhance Social Media Engagement ― Optimize social media where appropriate – integrating Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram, particularly for events — to drive engagement and enhance brand affinity with specific content deliverables.

Finally, connect the dots on all marketing initiatives (print, web, and multimedia) across owned, earned, paid and shared media streams ― to optimize conversions and KPIs. And build necessary resources to execute. Build relationships, not links. Make it matter. Make it count ― with rich, relevant, timely, thoughtful content. Early and often.

Are you ready to tell your story?

Communicating Consciously. Living Contently.

IMG_20151012_102228As we wrap up another year and set our sights on the possibilities and opportunities of 2016, I’m taking stock. Once again, I find myself looking back on this online chronicle.  I love reviewing all those posts sorting out the early days of optimizing social media for nonprofits and small businesses, as well as the personal reflections and epiphanies that seemed to sustain me through the enormous challenges of past the six or seven years.

 

Today, this quote from Caroline Myss is resonating for me:

“Just let go.  Let go of how you thought your life should be, and embrace the life that is trying to work its way into your consciousness.”

This awareness is informing all of my choices, my writing, my work, my relationships ― and a new, intentional acceptance of me.  What is my core content? Who am I, really? And what am I all about in the world? These may seem like lofty questions for a mid-century mom, but the wheels are turning! And this I know ― the answers to such questions must come from my own heart, truth and spirit― and not some external source or futile effort to remedy the tornadic trauma of an emotionally toxic relationship. They need to be authentic, peaceful, and healing for me and my boys―even as they pursue their own lives.

As Sherry Turkle says in her book, Alone Together, “We are all too busy communicating to really connect.” And this week’s startling statistics on teen media usage make this observation even more salient. “On any given day, teens in the United States spend about nine hours using media for their enjoyment,” says the report from Common Sense Media.  Seems to me that media is becoming more than a mode of communication. It is now a way of being.

That means we must actively, deliberately train our brains to be mindful in each and every moment ― in every relationship interaction.

For me, these are the questions: Am I conscious? Am I present? What am I feeling right now? Am I making a decision that is healthy and self-nurturing?

Life coach Martha Beck says, “Little miracles begin happening to you whenever you turn toward your right life – even if it’s in the middle of the muck and mire. Small miracles turn into big ones.”

We just need to pay attention.

So, are you communicating consciously?

 

 

 

Bedazzle Your Audience with the 5 Cs

“If you know your character’s thoughts, the proper vocal and bodily expressions will naturally follow.”  – Constantin Stanislavski

diamondSeveral years ago, I wrote about the 4 Cs of communication. Today, I am reposting the blog but adding a fifth important C― Consciousness. Remembering the 5 Cs can help us build a multi-dimensional clutter-cutting content communication plan.

Consciousness – Much has been written about the importance of staying present. This applies to your personal world and the message you are building.  In many cases, this involves hard work to find the clarity and sense of authenticity about who you are and what you really want to create ― without getting derailed by distraction and fear.  We are a culture of distractions.  From texting while driving to divorce, the evidence is irrefutable. Humans  have difficulty staying in the moment. Add to that the powerful concepts of quantum theory, and the challenge magnifies. Dr. Joe Dispenza states in his provocative book, “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself,” “In the present, all potentials exist simultaneously in the field. When we stay present, when we are ‘in the moment,’ we can move beyond space and time, and we can make any one of those potentials a reality.” When we are mired in the past, however, none of those new potentials exist.”  Now, that is some high-octane content!

Content – Share only the highest quality content. Whether email, website, blog, whitepaper or app, make it sizzle. Consider experimenting with video on your website.  Use your Smartphone. You do not need to be Steven Spielberg. Try mobile apps, webinars, or even a luscious, visual feast on Pinterest. Feature video testimonials from customers, employees, partners, or even vendors. Fundamentally, social media is about telling stories—those tantalizing tidbits of truth that trigger action.  But the real challenge is this: “The medium is (still) the message,” as Marshall McLuhan said more than a half century ago.   How we interact with content can be just as (if not more) meaningful than the content itself.  That is why we need to me crystal clear about who we are, what we stand for, and what we are communicating to our audiences.

Community – Social media gives you the power to spread information quickly. But the irony here is that you have to let go. “Let it be,” as a wise dude once said. You don’t have to vet and control ever single word or comment.  Granted, issuing calls to action online on social media platforms can spark viral campaigns rapidly, economically, and effectively– but it’s often serendipity.  And, how cool is that? As NYU new media professor Clay Shirky observes, “Now, many can talk to many, as opposed to one talking to one — or one talking to many.” The chain reaction that results can be potent and powerful. We need to pay attention.

Culture – Just as everyone in a healthy organization is a salesperson, everyone in your enterprise should exercise a social media voice.  Weave the behavior into the communications fabric and expectation of your operation. It’s all part of outrageously good customer service, anyway. Make engaging on Facebook about your products the norm – rather than the exception. Make promotions and projecting personality a priority – in your store, via text, online and everywhere.  Make it part of your customer banter and all your in-person relationships. Work from the inside out. Hey, put the social in social media, and watch the referrals flow. Coach your staff to manage your business’ presence in an authentic and personal way online. Employees are built-in ambassadors. Give them guidelines. Train them–and deploy them first!

Character – Finally, social media is your opportunity to put a face on your organization and to humanize your brand.  Optimize your own, unique corporate back story. Transparency is a powerful differentiator, my friend—in addition to being highly seductive in our post-modern, reality-TV-obsessed world.   Think about ways to make the private public. This is the new “intimacy of commerce” that will effectively distract, attract and embrace your audience. As Constantin Stanislavski, the great acting coach once said, “If you know your character’s thoughts, the proper vocal and bodily expressions will naturally follow.”

Ready for your close-up?

 

It’s All INREACH: Marketing Revisited

Inreach_sand“How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.”

― David Foster Wallace, The Pale King

I hear nonprofits use the word “outreach” frequently.  We are doing an “outreach.” This can refer to everything from mission-driven programming — to marketing to fundraising.  They may even have an “outreach” department.” And many have even made it a verb. “We are outreaching across the globe.” But this brings to mind a sort of broad, cast-the-net-style effort, as opposed to a more targeted, precise, systematic approach — focused on engagement, conversions and revenue generation.  It’s like using the term email “blast,” versus “campaign” or “appeal.”

Recently, when I was working with one of my “heart” projects, I had one of those light-bulb moments. I really think there might be a more useful way to think about marketing for nonprofits — specifically digital tactics. And, actually, I suspect this can be applied across the board to other enterprises.

Ending the Silence is an important and powerful new program designed to help begin the conversation with adolescents about mental health and diminish the stigma that is so often a barrier to treatment.   The National Alliance of Mental Illness of Dallas (NAMI Dallas) is launching this region’s program in high schools, community centers and churches with high-impact, resource-rich presentations on how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as bipolar disorder, depression, borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and others.

The dedicated volunteer team is passionate about creating a solid foundation for growth — and is recognizing the value of building a sophisticated digital lead-generation engine.  To underscore this importance, I proposed a mental flip.  “Let’s think about outreach as INREACH.”

In reality, when we use targeted marketing tools effectively, we are actually attracting suspects, prospects, and clients/donors based on their terms and interests.  We are simply opening the door— allowing the momentum of their needs to flow— satisfying their unquenched desires for life-changing experiences — inside. It’s just a different way of looking at the process.

Feeding the Beast

Consider SEO and SEM – the alchemy of Google — great examples of “inreach.” They are both cottage industries and sciences in their own right that intertwine.  Basically, Google is hungry beast; it’s favorite food is content — (and, of course, paid advertising.) But we as content producers want to create content Google craves — and that’s content that allows us to be FOUND when people search. SEO best practices (and white-hat tricks) help us do that.  Keywords give us the clues we need to tell us how our prospects are looking for us.  As digital marketers and humans, really, we would probably be better served if were more focused on “inreaching,” in general, as opposed to outreaching.   If we think more about how we can frame our missions in ways that satisfy the needs of our donors/partners/clients—instead of how that donor (or partner) will satisfy us, we will be much further down the success highway.

After all, when you think about it, we are all merely facilitators of desire . . .

What are you reaching for on the outside that has been inside — all along?

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with!”    — Dorothy

Are You Content?

let goIt’s hard to believe I started writing this blog  five years ago. Seems like five months in many ways—and yet, so much has changed and at breakneck speed.  The trailblazers along the social-media super highway—accelerators such as Chris Brogan, Brian Solis, Beth Kanter and Clay Shirky—continue to inspire and challenge my thinking as they constantly reinvent, re-calibrate and re-conceptualize their own approaches to social media, their audiences, the web and their own livelihoods. It is, indeed, an ever-changing frontier out there . . .well, out here, as well.

Where are we five years later? Where am I? Good question.

I suspect I am inordinately philosophical as I review the past five years today. Such monumental milestones. Such enormous challenges. Such “opportunities for growth.” “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” Kelly Clarkson? Well, I believe Friedrich Nietzsche said it first.

Having just returned from another day of waiting in the hospital to hear news about a gravely ill parent, I am considering the past five years even more pensively.  Just moments ago, I was straightening the few sparse gray hairs dancing across my emaciated father’s damp, ashen forehead as I watched him fight for every shallow breath.

The weight of the past few years as a single mom has been palpable —encompassing my mother’s death a year a half ago after complications from a massive stroke—as well as other daunting challenges.  Let’s just say, life has been messy. However, thank goodness, the learning has been rich and the clarity gleaming beyond the fog. Fortunately, I have been open to it. Not just about the social media stuff, mind you—but most everything, really— life, love, the way I tick, and  my relationship to all of it—media, circumstances, feelings, places, people . . . That’s the good part.

“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me

and 90% how I react to it.” 

― Charles R. Swindoll

This awareness is informing my writing, as well. Hence, I have arrived at this very blog post. In fact, I now think our relationship to our content is probably more important than the content itself.  In this new media, mega-sphere world, we have admittedly become obsessed with our gadgets—with the act of communicating. As Sherry Turkle says in Alone Together, we are too busy communicating to really connect.

Ironically, we began this social journey with rabid focus on the technology—the latest whiz-bang toy du jour. What will we do with Twitter? Instagram? Yada? Yada? Then, we moved to “content marketing.” We’re all about the content. The what. Serve it up in giant scoops of frothy, delicious digital goodness—early and often to satisfy Google’s ravenous, insatiable appetites. Businesses and thought leaders have been maniacal about producing “the right content” with the right words at the right time. SEO-yea!  Maximizing, masticating and matriculating . . .

But, now, I think it’s really and truly about relating.  Getting to the heart of the matter, right?  Who are we? What are we about?  Not another refill of the cloying Kool-Aid. After all, what does really matter?

Am I conscious? Am I present?  Am I paying attention? No more facade, thank you.

What does this mean to our marketing plans? Not sure. And more important, what does this mean to our relationships—whether they are with friends, romantic partners, business partners, parents, children, subordinates, siblings, superiors, colleagues, employees, customers, shareholders, vendors, service technicians, teachers, neighbors, customers, students, etc.  . . . or the person behind us in line at Target? Anyone.  You? It means being fully present, in the present—in the relationship.  (And I don’t mean with your phone, but that’s another post.) In fact, the truth is there will come time when . . .

The words don’t matter, because we cannot hear them.

The affectations, witty banter and posh color choices don’t matter, because we cannot see them.

And what matters is simply spirit—being there.

Life coach Martha Beck says, “Little miracles begin happening to you whenever you turn toward your right life – even if it’s in the middle of the muck and mire. Small miracles turn into big ones.” We just need to pay attention.

So, once again, I ask the question, are you content?