Writing with confidence | School Days

Writing with confidence is easier said than done. For some of you, a lack of confidence in your writing is holding you back. You’ve become paralysed. You might get as far as writing something. But you sit on it. You wait. Convince yourself that you’ll edit it later. But, you don’t hit ‘Publish’. I know, because that’s the way I was when I started out on this journey. In this first ‘Writing with Confidence’ video, I look at one of the mental barriers some people have to overcome – memories of being taught English at school.

 

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Hey and welcome to Episode #2 of The Story Edge. Today is all about something that’s really close to my heart. It’s all about confidence. I’ve discovered through working with a number of clients and friends, that confidence is often the thing that holds people back more than anything. They might use time as an excuse, they can use all sorts of excuses, but the underlying problem is that they fundamentally lack confidence in their own ability to write and tell their story.

What are the things that actually hold us back? What are the things that make us lack that confidence? Today I want to talk about one of them, one real specific one. Let me share a quote from one of my teachers at school. It’s the only quote I can remember from my entire school career.

Here it goes, “Kevin tries hard, however, I feel his talents must lie elsewhere.” Like me to repeat that? “Kevin tries hard, however, I feel his talents must lie elsewhere.” Now, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be looking at that and thinking, “Do you know what? That’s quite a passive aggressive way of saying, ‘Kevin’s a bit crap at art.'” Because that’s where it came from, my second year art teacher.

That was his way, on a report card, of informing me that I wasn’t very good at art. Now, I would like to deny that. I would like to say that that wasn’t the case, but it absolutely is. I am rubbish at drawing, painting, anything. It’s one of those things that I’ve tried so, so many times, but I just can’t do it. Here’s the thing, I spoke to a number of people who feel that way about writing.

They associate writing with English, okay, and they associate English with the subject at school. Therefore, the logic in their head goes something like this, “I didn’t enjoy English at school, I wasn’t very good at English at school, therefore, I can’t be a good writer. I just can’t write my story.” That’s wrong, it’s completely wrong.

It’s a barrier, an understandable one, to be fair, it’s understandable that you would feel that way, but I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. Forget about writing at school, this is a different thing, this is a different thing entirely. Here’s one of the ways to overcome this.

A lot of people try and write in a really formal structure. They write in a totally different way to which they talk, so the way they talk doesn’t sound at all like the way they write. To reverse engineer that, what you need to do is just write the stuff in your head like you’re having a conversation with somebody, like you’re writing a script for a conversation. Just start writing as you would talk to people.

Another approach is just to write what you need to write, and then re-visit it. Look at it again, and then read it out loud. Read it to yourself. Now, you may feel like a bit of an idiot, as I do sometimes speaking to a camera, but hey, just do it. Just speak the words that you have written out loud and you will catch the unnatural sounding sentences, tones, or phrase, you’ll catch yourself saying something that doesn’t sound natural at all. It’s a really simple exercise, but one that can be transformational for your writing.

Here’s what to do. Step one, just write down what you want to write down. Don’t edit it, don’t logically analyse it, just write it down. Then read it out loud to yourself, that’s step two. Read it out loud. Once you’ve read it out loud, you’ll identify bits of your writing that doesn’t sound natural, so just draw a line through it, score it out. Come back to it later on, edit it, and deliver it in a way that sounds like you’re just talking to someone.

That’s the most natural way to overcome this lack of confidence that you associate with your inability to write. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, that can all come later. Just get the words out of your head, down on paper, don’t over analyse them, don’t worry about them, just get them out, and then when you’re finished, just read it out loud.

You’ll naturally find the points in that conversation that just don’t work, that just don’t set naturally, and you can work on those. You can take those out. If it doesn’t sound right to you, it won’t sound right to your audience, so have the courage to just put a pen through things that don’t work, but to de-mystify the writing thing. What you’re taught at school in writing isn’t the way that you’re taught to communicate in real life, it’s not natural. Have confidence in yourself, deliver it in a way that’s authentically you, and have fun with writing.

I’ll be back again soon with Episode #3. Thanks for listening. (WATCHING even!)

Why you should write your own content

Write your own content. Four words that sum up my philosophy. Four words I want you to embrace. Park your doubts and fears. Have the confidence to write your own content. Become a natural teller of tales. Produce and share the words that will set you apart. You’ve lived your stories – so tell them. In Episode 1 of my new video series, I share my thoughts on why you should write your own content.

In future episodes I’ll help you overcome your fears, show you how be a more productive writer and help you master the craft of storytelling for your organisation.

But for now. Here’s Episode 1 of The Story Edge. 

Why you should write your own content

Hey. Welcome to The Story Edge, Episode number one. Wow. I’m doing it. I’m actually doing it. I’m doing a video series which I never thought I would actually do because I’m a writer and I write words. I don’t speak to camera. I’ve got a face for radio. Why would I bother speaking to camera? For me, this is an evolution of the business. This is a way of communicating more directly with people. It is also a way of moving me out of my comfort boundaries which I think for everyone is a good thing to do from time to time.

Let’s get right into it. This is episode number one and the focus is on answering a simple question. Why should you write your own content for your business or organisation? First of all, if you know me and you haven’t spoken to me in a while, you might be thinking, “Why is Kevin telling people to write their own content? Kev’s a copywriter.” Well, Kev was a copywriter and to a degree, I still am a copywriter but here’s the thing. I believe that nobody is best placed to write your content for your business than you.

I’ve written content for a lot of different businesses and I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s been quite lucrative and it’s been the main part of my business; but something didn’t feel right. Something philosophically – yes, that’s quite deep for episode one – but yes, philosophically. I honestly believe that if you’re in business for yourself or if you’re an owner of a small business, that you are the best person to write the content for your business.

What do I actually mean by writing the content? It could be blog posts, it could your web content, it could be emails, sales collateral. It could be whatever content you write. It could be video scripts. It could be podcast scripts or podcast outlines.

You are best placed to write that for yourself. A lot of people don’t want to do it because they don’t have the time. A lot of people don’t want to do it because they don’t have the confidence but through these videos and the content on my website, thestoryedge.co.uk, I’ll be sharing advice, guidelines as well as offering coaching and online courses to help you overcome your fears of writing your own content.

The real aim is to give you enough good free stuff to get you started. The aim is, that for a lot of you, you’ll never need to hire a writer again. You’ll never even need to work with me as a coach or as a consultant because you’ll be able to get on and do it yourself.

For a lot of people, it’s just simply the mindset. You need to shift it and it’s not easy. Let’s get into this episode. I’m just referring to a couple of notes here because I’m not that fluent with video talkie to camera type stuff but we’ll get there. We’ll get there. Here are the six reasons why you should write your own content.

One

Number one, you’ve lived your stories. You can tell them better than anyone. You can brief a writer, you can be interviewed by a writer, but ultimately, you’ve actually lived your stories so you can tell them better than anyone.

Two

You’re also authentic. You’re real, you’ve got personality, and you’re you. It’s your greatest asset and you really, really need to use it.

Three

Number three, nobody can replicate your tone of voice. The way that you want to say something will be different from the way that a writer that you hire would tell your story. The tone of voice would be different. Your tone of voice is like your DNA. It defines who you are and you need to use that consistently. It’s difficult to maintain that if you’re hiring out to different writers and they lack that consistent voice.

Four

Four, again your personality is your greatest asset. Don’t be scared of your personality.

So many people hold back. They write from here (Points to HEAD). They don’t write from here (Points to HEART). Let your personality come out and some people, people say to me, “You know what? How can I write like you? How can I have personality like you add to your writing?” The truth is you can’t, because you’re you, and I’m me.

You (need to) use your personality. You might not think you have a great personality but you do have a great personality. Get out there. Don’t be shy.

Five

The other thing is, if you write your own content and you do it consistently, you become a content marketing practitioner rather than a content marketing theorist.

You can read all the books from great people like Ann Handley, Mark Schaefer, Marcus Sheridan. You can get advice on vlogging from Amy Schmittauer and loads of other people but if you don’t actually put it into practice, you’ll never be able to become a proper content marketing practitioner so do it. Get out there and do it. If you write content for yourself, it’ll become easier. It will become more natural and you’ll become a skilled content marketer.

Six

Finally, probably one of the most important things, you build trust with your audience. If you’re speaking to your audience on a regular basis, with your own voice, with your own personality, with your own words, you will connect with more people. They will trust you over time the more you communicate with them. The more you communicate with them in a consistent way. The risk is if you outsource writing to different people, that tone of voice, that personality, that authenticity will be lost. People will be confused and you could lose that important element of trust.

Honestly, don’t be afraid. You are your best writer. You are the person to outsource the content writing to. Not me. Not to anybody else. Get writing. Write with confidence. Don’t be scared. I’ll be back again soon with another video that will share some practical tips, specifically around the issue of confidence and writing. Until then, thanks for watching episode number one of The Story Edge and I’ll see you in episode two. Happy writing, folks.

From Sales Lion to Lions Den – My #TCMA2016 Talk Time

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“Great. Now tell us the story without this.” Said Marcus as he took my iPad from me.

So I did. I went back to the beginning and told the real story. Marcus stopped me after a couple of minutes and turned to the other 25 people in the room and asked them “What was different this time?”

“It sounded more natural.” Said one.

Marcus said, “Yes, and?”

“He sounded more authentic.” Said another.

Marcus said, “Yes, and?”

“He used the words mental health.” Said someone else.

They were right. I had. I’d skirted around the phrase. I’d tell people ‘I hadn’t been very well.’ Or I’d say I was ‘suffering from anxiety’ – but the words ‘mental health’ weren’t used. I’d been open about my challenges, but, I had been reluctant to use the phrase ‘Mental Health’.

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It’s a bit like an elderly relative that finds it impossible to say the word ‘Lesbian’ without doing one of the following.

  1. Mouthing the word ‘Lesbian’ without saying it.
  2. Whisper the word ‘Lesbian’.
  3. Or, my personal favourite, ‘they sound like they’ve been swimming and their ears are blocked’ when uttering the word ‘Lesbian’.

That last one takes a bit of explaining – so to assist you I have recorded an audio sample.

 

Saying the words ‘mental health’ in a room of 25 people felt good. It felt liberating. So I made a decision.

I was due to give a ten-minute talk at the Content Marketing Academy Conference in Edinburgh. I’d prepared the presentation months ago. It was a good presentation. But, it wasn’t good enough. It didn’t tell a story. It didn’t tell my story.

A week before the conference, I started the process of creating an entirely new talk.

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I slept surprisingly well, but as I made my way to the venue, I felt I’d made a mistake. I thought my talk was now too self-indulgent. 8 of my 20 slides were about me. Was that too much? Maybe I’d missed the point entirely.

I got there early. A few kind people asked me how I was feeling. I told them honestly. I was excited and more than a little bit frightened. Here’s the thing. I’m a fan of Ann Handley and following her was intimidating.

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But, as a fan, I didn’t want to miss her powerful keynote. So, in a strange way, Ann’s very presence relaxed me. When she started speaking, my nerves evaporated. She was funny, engaging and her ‘Bigger, Bolder, Braver’ message gave me the confidence that the content of my little talk was fine. It felt like Ann Handley was giving me permission to be me.

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As I made my way up to the stage, the sight of so many faces I knew relaxed me. Something happened to me. It was weird. I wasn’t nervous in the slightest. I got into my flow, and I shared my story. The delivery was unlike anything I’d rehearsed. The first five slides were pretty intense, but then I shifted gears and shared, what can best be described as a witty anecdote.

Hearing people laugh was like a drug. I got into my flow. I ad-libbed more. I reacted and engaged more with the audience. There was even a classic ‘panto’ moment. And, yes, I swore. But I don’t believe I crossed the ‘Handley Line’ (™ Mark Schaefer).

I loved every minute on stage.

When I finished my talk, I turned and hugged Chris, who had joined me on stage. He said ‘Look at that Kev.’ and turned me to face my friends. They were standing up and clapping.

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It happened in that split second that I turned to face Chris. I missed the moment. I have never felt emotion like it. I thought I was going to cry. The genuine warmth was incredible. When I walked off stage, I was met by some great friends who were in tears. I didn’t expect that. I apologised. Naturally.

I’ve never been hugged so much in my life. The reception I received was beyond anything I could have hoped for.

I felt drained and emotional.

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The biggest lesson I learned was this – telling your authentic, filters-off story can change your life. That’s how significant that 10 minute stage time was for me. It has changed my life. And it will continue to change my life. I have the confidence to tell my story. And I have the desire to add a ‘Speaker’ page to my site as well.

There’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable. And there is nothing wrong with telling 120+ people that I have suffered from mental health issues. I am not alone.

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I wouldn’t have delivered that talk without a few key people. This isn’t meant to sound like an Oscars acceptance speech, but I support it does come across like that. But stick with me – this is important.

Firstly, I want to say thanks to Chris Marr for giving me the opportunity to tell my story. Chris, your ongoing support means so much to me.

I want to thank Marcus Sheridan for his amazing World Class Communication Workshop. Marcus, you gave me the confidence to tell my story my way.

Thanks to the Content Marketing Academy Community, who have been a massive support to me as I’ve gone through the process of figuring stuff out.

Thanks to the #TCMA2016 conference attendees, many who didn’t know me. Your warmth, support and, yes, hugs were so appreciated.

Thanks to Ann Handley for relaxing me and for her ‘Bigger, Bolder Braver’ message, Mark Schaefer, for his ‘Be More Human’ message and to Amy Schmittauer for her ‘You have to let people see you’ message. Incredibly powerful.

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Thanks to my family and my friends for you love and patience. I know it hasn’t been easy for you, but I couldn’t have got through the last couple of years without you.

And finally, thanks to Jamie. Sharing the stage with you was an honour. You were the star of the show. I love you.

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TCMA 2016 | One More Sleep + Critical Advice

Conference neck is a real condition. It’s one I’ve battled for years. It’s at its worst during breaks and lunch. Or, as they’re sometimes referred, ‘networking time’. At TCMA 2015, I largely used the breaks to speak to one or two people at my table. I didn’t mingle. In hindsight, that was a mistake. I was one of the newbies. I’d missed the first day. Personal relationships had already formed, and I felt like a bit of an outsider initially.

Don’t get me wrong; I met some great people, but my lack of confidence at the time held me back from meeting people who are now my friends. One of those friends illustrates ‘Conference Neck’ perfectly. In the photo, you can see Mr Andy Brown. I’d love to say that this is a trick of perspective and that actually, I’m very far away. For the avoidance of doubt. I am not. Andy is tall. I am not.

AndyAndMe

I think it’s important that we get that out in the open. I’m going to be meeting many ‘virtual friends’ (including Facebook stalkers) for the very first time. And, that includes a client. We’ve only had conversations over the phone or Skype. I want to avoid any awkwardness. I don’t want it to come as a surprise to you. I also don’t want you to miss me. And, I mean that in the literal sense. Picture the scene. You scan the horizon looking for me, but alas, I am lost in a sea of people. Horizon? I dream of breaking its axis.

A few people have told me that I need to stop drawing attention to my height. But my height draws attention to my height. It’s not a new thing. I don’t look back at pictures and reminisce about the halcyon days when I was 6” 3’. I have always been a short fella. I’ve got used to it. I’ve embraced it.

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If you’re coming to the conference and you’ve never met me, say hello. You can even hug me if you’re that way inclined. (#SayNoToWigwam – read yesterday’s blog for context). If you’re under 5” 7’ we should be fine. If you’re of ‘Andy Brown’ or ‘Patrick Johnson’ proportions (6” 5’+) things can get more than a little awkward. It looks clumsy and awkward. Occasionally it looks like I’m getting a hug from my ‘real’ dad, but more often than not – it looks a little bit freaky.

Embarrassing issues can be heightened (pun intended) if the subject of the hug is both tall and female. I don’t think I need to draw you a picture but the one I found below sums it up. And yes…. the gent does resemble me.

Tall woman and short man --- Image by © Tim Tadder/Corbis

On four separate occasions, I have almost suffocated. Not a bad way to go, granted but terrifying all the same. If there are any hug based concerns but you’re not averse to some form of human contact, can I suggest a handshake. Fist bumps or high fives are in my experience, fraught with danger. Wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve gone with a fist bump and my intended recipient has misread my intentions entirely and gone for a high five. The result? We end up playing a very public game of ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’. Trust me; this is bad. Very bad.

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All height based banter aside there is an important message I want you to remember. With any conference or event, you get as much out as you put in. Get involved. Introduce yourself to strangers. Engage in conversation. Learn from your fellow delegates. Don’t be a shrinking violet. I know, for some, that’s easier said than done. Some people find these gatherings difficult. And I am ‘some people’. That’s what I was like in September last year.

So with that in mind – please feel free to interrupt me at any time. You’ll probably be saving someone from one of my ‘witty anecdotes’ – they’ll be very grateful – trust me.

And if you are ridiculously tall, don’t draw attention to my stature by patting me on the head or, for the love of god, kneeling down. The exception to this rule – selfies. Crouching down to create the illusion that we are the same height is actively encouraged. But doing so to the extent that I look taller than you, is frowned upon.

I look forward to meeting lots of new people over the next three days. Safe travels to those making their way today, have a brilliant conference and beware of ‘Conference Neck’.

TCMA 2016 – Two more sleeps

Two more sleeps until The Content Marketing Academy annual conference starts. My thoughts are turning to logistics. What do I need to take? Where’s the hotel? Do I have enough of the local currency? And the biggest question of all – how many pairs of pants do I need for a three-night stay in Edinburgh? Important questions, I’m sure you’d agree.

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Yesterday, I visited TCMA towers to hand in my contribution to the TCMA 16 goody bag. It was another item checked off my lengthy pre-conference to-do list. I could have easily mailed it, but the truth was, I wanted to see Chris & Tammie ahead of the conference. I also wanted to see them in their natural habitat. To observe these remarkable creatures in the wild is a truly magical experience. And, I got a nice cup of tea as well.

The chat I had with them inspired yesterday’s post. Even though they both had tonnes to do, they had time for me. We talked about the conference, the speakers and I even got a sneak peek of one of the conference banners that includes my logo. I left TCMA HQ with complete confidence that this year’s event is going to be even more transformational than last year.

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I almost didn’t attend the conference last year. I wasn’t sure if I could afford it, both in financial terms AND in time. I compromised and went to the second day of the conference. I didn’t appreciate then, just how big a part TCMA was to play in my life. If you’re interested in reading my account of TCMA 2015 – you can read the blog I wrote on the train home – https://www.squaretreemarketing.co.uk/tcma2015/

Many of the people I met on that day are now close friends. The TCMA community is like no other. The content marketing advice I have at my fingertips: from far more seasoned practitioners than me, is incredible. But it’s more than that. I’ve had conversations with a collection of people that have helped shape the direction of my entire business. It can be a lonely life working for yourself, but knowing I have a pool of people I can turn to, helps me so much.

The thing Chris and The Content Marketing Academy has given me, more than anything, is confidence. The confidence to be me and the confidence to grow the right business.

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The final task before I leave for Edinburgh tomorrow is to email my talk to Chris and Tammie. I finished it last week, but I want to rehearse it a few more times before sending it. That’s today’s job.

It’s a Pecha Kucha-style talk, which means I’ll only be speaking for 7 minutes. But those are an important 7 minutes for me. I’ll be speaking after Ann Handley. She’s one of the keynote speakers and is someone I admire. Her book, Everybody Writes, is one of those that I return to again, and again.

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Ann Handley | My ‘warmup’ act

So, it’s a bit like me getting up to do a Karaoke version of Nothingman by Pearl Jam after the crowd has had the sheer pleasure of listening to Eddie Vedder perform the song himself.

But that’s a negative way to think. In reality, it’d be an honour to be on the same stage as Sir Eddie, and it’s an honour to share the stage with Ann Handley and all the other speakers. I’m not competing with anyone. I’m telling a story and sharing one key lesson that I’ve learned over the last two years.

NOT Ann Handley
NOT Ann Handley

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I’ll let you into a secret. The presentation I’ll be delivering is version 2.0. I’d completed the original version three months ago. Not going to lie, I felt quite smug. I was waayyyyy ahead of schedule. I was ALL over it. But when I read it back after the World Class Communications workshop from Marcus Sheridan, it didn’t feel right. It felt like I was trying too hard. So I binned it and started again.

I thought you’d like to read a version of that presentation. Here’s the abridged version.

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“Kevin tries hard; however, I feel his talents must lie elsewhere.” Those are the only words I remember from my school days. They were delivered by my 2nd-year art teacher in my report card. I’d like to say Mr Adams was wrong. But I can’t. I am no artist.

Some people I’ve worked with have a similar experience. But their educational hangover is writing. They remember English at school. Remember being judged. They hated English at school. Therefore, they can’t possibly write content for their business.

It sounds logical, but like so many assumptions, it’s wrong. You can, and should write your own content. I ‘gained’ a ‘C’ for my Higher English. And I’m now teaching people to write. Don’t let that hold you back. You’re a natural storyteller. Tell your story your way. You’re not being judged. It’s not a competition. There are no ‘grades’. Find your voice and let your personality come through in your writing.

And, Mr Adams, if you’re reading this. I forgive you. And do me a favour – let me know what you think of my self-portrait?

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NOT Ann Handley OR Eddie Vedder.

Now of course – I didn’t draw that, this was the work of a very talented artist and good friend of mine Paul Stephens.

This story would have worked for my 7 minutes of fame. But, it didn’t feel right. And, it’s also the perfect time to share my origin story.

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To those coming to the conference, I wish you a safe, and stress-free journey. I look forward to meeting new people, reacquainting myself with some remarkable friends and meeting ‘virtual’ friends, in person, for the first time. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

See you all soon.

P.S. The answer to the KEY question I posed in the first paragraph is 4. Obviously. Or is it? Thoughts, please?
P.P.S. I warn all attendees, I am a hugger. If you wish to remain unhugged, please use the safe word, which this week is – WIGWAM.


If you’ve not got your tickets, but still want to come – visit https://thecontentmarketingacademy.co.uk/2016/  – you won’t regret it! 

Living a lie | My content marketing journey

[thrive_headline_focus title=”TCMA 2016 | 3 More Sleeps” orientation=”left”]It’s three more sleeps until The Content Marketing Academy annual conference kicks off. Each day on the build up I’m going to be sharing my thoughts on my content marketing experience so far. On the days of the conference, I’ll be posting some short blog posts to share my thoughts on what I’ve learned. But for day 1, it’s time for me make a confession.

I have not lived content marketing as I should.

Yes, I’m a sponsor of the event, and I even have a wee speaking gig on Friday. I’m a member of the Content Marketing Academy community, and I am a fully signed up member of the Chris Marr fan club. Honestly, I am – I’ve even grown a beard JUST to be like him. And, as a writer, I can have absolutely NO excuses for being an unproductive content marketer. But that’s what I’ve been.

I’m not alone. I’m sure many people left last years TCMA conference in September full of good intentions, committed to changing their business forever, but for whatever reason – it’s not happened.

Don’t get me wrong – I have produced content, some of which I’m very proud of, but the consistency has been sadly lacking. Let me get my excuse out of the way first. I’ve been on a journey of discovery. Yes. I did just say that. And I’m a WRITER!!! But it’s true.

16 months in business has flown by. I’ve changed the direction, the focus and the company name. Each change has been necessary. Each course adjustment has taken me closer to what it is that I’m meant to do. That’s why I’ve failed to deliver content because I lacked the clarity of what I am. How can I share my content when I don’t have that fundamental nailed?

Me and Marcus Sheridan - we're an item now.
Me and Marcus Sheridan – we’re an item now.

Now, though, I have clarity. The essence of The Story Edge is this – I’m a storytelling coach. That’s it. That’s what I am, AND it’s what I want to do. I want to be known as someone who helps people write their stories with confidence. And confidence for me is the KEY thing. I’ve lacked confidence up until now because I was trying to do too much. I was trying to be all things to all men.

On this site, you’ll find free advice, as well as coaching programs and eventually online courses to help make you a better, more confident business writer and storyteller. I’ll continue to write content and be a copywriter for those organisations that need help, but here’s the philosophical shift I’ve made –

Nobody is better placed to write your content than you. In other words – write your own content. Be your own copywriter. You can tell your story better than anyone.

I know that writing content for your business isn’t easy. You get content marketing. You know it can make a difference to your business. You’re a believer. But for whatever reason – like me, you’ve failed to deliver content consistently. The most common excuse I get is the classic – ‘I don’t have the time.’ On a handful of occasions – this is genuine. But in the vast majority of cases – it’s a diversion; a way of hiding the truth.

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So what is the truth? In my opinion – it’s this; most people lack confidence. For some, it’s so paralysing that they don’t get out of the starting blocks. They don’t write.

For others – they have no problem writing; their issue is pressing the big ‘PUBLISH” button. The logic goes something like this – “If I don’t share what I’ve written, I won’t be judged.”

That’s who I want to help the most. That’s the basic premise I want to build my entire business and life around. I want to help people gain the confidence to be their own writer – to share their stories and to become better writers.

With that clarity, my content marketing journey will kick-start again. I get what it is that I’m meant to do. Took long enough, I know.

This site is dedicated to helping business owners, marketers and charitable organisations gain the confidence to tell their story.

[thrive_headline_focus title=”Fiction Focus” orientation=”left”]And, as many of you know, I love writing fiction stories as well. My passion for writing fiction and helping others do the same can’t be ignored. If that’s more your thing – you’ll find that content over at kevanderson.co.uk. That’s where I’ll help aspiring writers to start their fiction writing journey.

Two sites might not seem ideal, but it’s what feels right to me, so I’m going to run with it. The two sites will be united by two words – ‘writing confidence’. That’s what I want to give people, whether they are writing business content or fiction.

The Content Marketing Academy and the members of the community have helped me get to this stage. They’ve helped me make tough decisions, and they’ve been there for me when I’ve needed support. The influence on my business goes way beyond ‘content marketing’. Getting to spend two days with these wonderful people is going to be a lot of fun.

PS – It’s not too late to get a ticket. To be part of an amazing couple of days visit https://thecontentmarketingacademy.co.uk/2016/

End of Days for New Day

Some of you won’t have heard of New Day. It’s a UK newspaper that, get this, is written for non-newspaper buyers. You read that correctly. It’s a bit like creating a website targeted at people who don’t have internet access. And, speaking of websites – it made a decision not to have one.

Unsurprisingly, it’s been announced that after less than two months, the paper will cease publication.

Trinity Mirror were looking to reach daily sales of 200,000. It has settled at just 40,000. For a national daily newspaper in the UK – those are numbers that don’t work. To put that into some context, my local newspaper – The Courier sells over 45,000 copies a day.

[thrive_headline_focus title=”The New Day Concept” orientation=”left”]

From what I’ve read this is the New Day concept in a nutshell.

We are time poor. People don’t have time to read lengthy newspaper articles. They need short, snappy more direct content. They need digestible content. Content they can dip into and out of easily. Content that ‘reflects’ their busy lives. And they need a different tone.

I agree with a lot of this. There’s no doubt that we are time poor. It’s why I read short stories rather than novels. And it’s why people who don’t usually read fiction have been reading my Daily 100 Word Stories. They can’t, or don’t want to make a commitment to something bigger. But did they go out and search for those stories? Did they go into a book shop or hop online to Amazon and find a book that offered them very short stories? No – they didn’t.

They found my stories online, mostly through social media. I filled a need they didn’t even know they had. My audience is finding me.

[thrive_headline_focus title=”Consumer Insight Told Us…..” orientation=”left”]

The failure of New Day is hardly surprising. It was doomed from the start. I imagine they had tons of research and consumer insight. I’m guessing the research was manipulated or misinterpreted to tell them that it would work. In other words – they let the data tell them the story they wanted to hear. I’m sure the consumer insight told them the truth. It reinforced the fact that we are time poor. That’s not a difficult thing to do.

I worked a lot with research in my D.C. Thomson days and was heavily involved with some large consumer insight projects. The knowledge we gained was invaluable and helped inform strategy and tactics. But data always needs to be challenged. Assumptions need to be challenged. Because if you don’t – poor decisions will be made.

New Day is a spectacular example of poor decision making. They got the core facts right, but, crucially – they got the implementation wrong. A newspaper wasn’t right. Maybe a website or app delivering a new breed of journalism could have worked? Perhaps a bit like Medium. Possibly with a blend of traditional journalism and user generated content.

The World doesn’t need another newspaper. It does, though, need more creative and innovative journalism. And it needs more stories. If the likes of Trinity Mirror and the other newspaper publishers invested all the money they’ve pissed up the wall on projects like this on their CONTENT, JOURNALISM, PEOPLE, ADVERTISERS, and READERS – they’d be adding real value. They’d find their audience. They’d be relevant. Instead, though, they’re trapped in a mindset. Paralysed by the past. And they lack a connection with the realities of modern life.

I’ve worked recently on two projects that are insight based. I’ve enjoyed both of them because the organisations are committed to using data in the right way. In other words, they are using data to find the truth. That’s the takeaway from this somewhat rambling post – use the data you have to help you discover the truth. Use data to help you tell a better, more accurate story. Use data to understand your customers. Use data to learn. Use data to improve. And above all – interrogate your data AND your assumptions.

And for New Day – the truth was in the data. Unfortunately – it appears, they couldn’t handle the truth. They created a narrative around the data. And, they decided to take a gamble. A gamble that was never going to pay-off.

 

P.S. – Here’s a slightly more erudite article on the subject from Roy Greenslade at The Guardian. 

 

8 Step Curated Content Blog Formula

Maintaining an active blog isn’t easy. Trust me, I know. Have a look at any of my websites and you’ll see that I’m far from prolific. I can share a ton of excuses here, but I won’t. I’m a writer, so maintaining an active blog shouldn’t be a challenge. But, it is. I’m working on a new ‘editorial calendar’ at the moment. It’s not complete yet, but I know what I need to do.

I’ve been working with a client recently to help grow his blogging output and confidence. While working through some of his challenges, we identified different types of blog posts, which he could focus on. One of those was curated content. This is an opportunity to take other folks content or news-worthy items and include them in a new blog post of your own.

[thrive_headline_focus title=”Adding Value” orientation=”left”]

Simply sharing or, worse still, copying (a major legal, ethical and SEO no, no) someone else’s content is lazy, cheap and cheating. To properly curate content, you need to add value. You need to discover your inner journalist. If you can’t add value to a piece of content or a news item, what’s the point in sharing it at all? It makes no sense.

[thrive_headline_focus title=”Be The Aggregator” orientation=”left”]

The particular approach I’ve been working on with my client is to be an aggregator of the best stories in his sector. His inbox is full of industry newsletters. Add to that the dozens of articles he bookmarks every week, and it’s clear he has no end of source material to choose from. Here’s the simple formula that we’re using to get started.

[thrive_headline_focus title=”Example Curated Content Blog Formula” orientation=”left”]

  1. Intro (75 Words)
  2. Story 1 ‘In a nutshell’ (50 Words)
  3. Story 1 ‘Commentary’ (75 Words)
  4. Story 2 ‘In a nutshell’ (50 Words)
  5. Story 2 ‘Commentary’ (75 Words)
  6. Story 3 ‘In a nutshell’ (50 Words)
  7. Story 3 ‘Commentary’ (75 Words)
  8. Close + Call to Action (50 words)

The Story Edge | Curated Content Blog Formula

This approach will result in a blog post of around 500 words. Of course, if you want to change the number, the word count or anything else you are free to do so. This is just one suggestion. And, I know, that for some, a formula, like this, is viewed as ‘cheating.’ But for me, a simple blog structure like this can help increase your blogging output and confidence.

The most important thing to do is find a way that works for you. This will help my client as it removes one of the barriers to starting. He has the framework – now he just needs to add the content.

[thrive_headline_focus title=”Over to you” orientation=”left”]

I’ll be adding this approach to my long overdue editorial calendar! What about you?

Do you think a curated content blog structure could work for you? If you give it a try, I’d love to see how you approach it.

Or do you know someone who does an excellent job of curating content? It would be great to share some of the best examples out there.

Leave a link in the comments or email me kevin@thestoryedge.co.uk 

PS – for other great Curated Content ideas visit – https://www.thecontentmarketingacademy.co.uk/content-curation-the-right-way/ 

Platform No. 4 – A 100 Word Series

I like writing standalone 100 word stories, but every so often, I like to try something different. So here is a series. Still not sure how many episodes this will run to, but I’ll keep adding new episodes to this post.

[thrive_headline_focus title=”Episode 1″ orientation=”left”]

Gordon waited in his car outside the station. She was late. So typical. After five more minutes he called her. It went to voicemail.

“You’ve reached Dr. Abigail Watson….” He hung up.

Ten more minutes passed. He went into the station.

“Excuse me, is the Kings Cross train late?”

“No, it was on time.” Said the woman.

Gordon walked along the platform looking in each window. Then he saw it – Abi’s bag. He got on the train and opened it. There were two things in it; a mobile phone and post-it note.

The note read – “We’ll call tonight. Tell nobody.”

[thrive_headline_focus title=”Episode 2 ” orientation=”left”]

Gordon walked through the train, checking for any sign of Abi. There was none. He snapped a couple of pictures of the scene, such as it was. He picked up the bag and left the train.

He walked through the station, looking for anything out of the ordinary.

His new phone rang.

“I’m assuming this is Mr. Watson?”

“Who is this? Where’s my daughter?” Gordon tried to sound calm. He failed.

“I’m the chap that’s babysitting Abigail. The ‘where’ bit – is irrelevant.”

“What do you want?” Gordon asked.

“I want you to be a magician and make a problem disappear.”

[thrive_headline_focus title=”Episode 3″ orientation=”left”]

Gordon listened carefully.

“Abigail sent something to a friend. I need you to get it, and bring it to me.”

“What is it?” Asked Gordon.

“A memory stick.”

“What’s on it?”

“That’s not important. Just get it. Understand?”

“I understand.”

The phone went dead. Seconds later a text arrived. – ‘Douglas Walker – 22 Orchard Place, Inverness.’

It didn’t make sense. Why would Abi send anything to that cheating bastard? Gordon hadn’t seen Douglas in six months.

He knocked on the door. No answer. It had been a while, but he lifted the flower pot. Sure enough – the key was still there.

[thrive_headline_focus title=”Episode 4″ orientation=”left”]

Gordon searched for the package. He was interrupted when Kojak rubbed his leg.

“Christ – you trying to kill me?”

Kojak meowed.

“Right furry face, where would your idiot owner keep a memory stick?”

“I’m an idiot? I’m not the one talking to a bloody cat.”

Gordon wheeled round and came face-to-face with Douglas.

“Where is it?”

“I’ll ask the questions – why’d you break into my house?”

“Did you get a parcel from Abi?”

Douglas pulled a package from his bag.

“Give it to me.” Demanded Gordon.

“I can’t. She told me to keep it safe.”

“Douglas, someone’s got my daughter.”

[thrive_headline_focus title=”Episode 5″ orientation=”left”]

Douglas listened as Gordon told him the story.

“If that’s the case – why haven’t you gone to the police?” Asked Douglas.

Gordon hesitated. Truth was, he didn’t know.

“I was scared. OK. Scared of what they’d do. I just want to get my girl back.”

Douglas folded his arms.

“You don’t believe me?” Asked Gordon.

“Abi says ‘trust nobody’ in her letter. Why should I trust you?”

Gordon’s new phone rang. He put it on speaker.

“Have you got it yet Gordon?”

“Yes.” Answered Gordon.

Douglas nodded and handed the package to Gordon.

“I’ll text instructions.” The line went dead.

Could writing short fiction help your business writing?

Jamie was excited. And so was I. Christmas was a week away. We picked him up from school on the last day of term. He was weighed down by carefully crafted Christmas decorations. Add to that a gym kit bag and items from lost and found, that weren’t his, and he was transformed into a little pack mule.

Being the youngest of our brood (he’s six), Jamie was excited for Christmas Day. When his older brothers arrived home, they were just as excited. In their case, it was a mix of Christmas cheer and the prospect of being off school for a prolonged period. I’d made a commitment to Gill and the family that I was going to take time off and mirror the school holidays.

I was like Matthew and Lewis. Sure, I was excited about Christmas, but I needed the time to relax. But an odd thing happened. I missed the process of writing. In the week before the kids came off, I wrote a couple of short stories. It had been a long time. Too long, in fact. Without the client work to occupy my time, I threw myself into writing creatively. I decided to write stories that were exactly 100 words in length.

[thrive_headline_focus title=”My 100 Word Story Challenge” orientation=”left”]

A few days after Christmas, I committed to writing and sharing a 100-word story every day for the whole of 2016. Today, I’ll be writing story 123. It hasn’t always been easy, and yes, there have been times where I considered quitting. So why do I persist? Especially when I’m occasionally overstretched with client work? What it is that’s stopping me from stopping?

Firstly – I enjoy it. I love tapping into the creative part of my brain. But there was more to it than that. I’m a reflective sort of chap, which, sometimes isn’t a good thing. I worry too much about ‘stuff’ that will never happen. But, at times, being reflective gives me clarity.

[thrive_headline_focus title=”Becoming a better writer” orientation=”left”]

It’s difficult to qualify this, but it is a fact nonetheless – I am a better writer for the experience. Each of the 122 stories I’ve scribed this year has played a part in developing my writing chops. But where have I improved?


 

Brevity – Writing Shorter

It can be tough writing 100-word stories. There isn’t the scope to explain every detail. I’m forced to keep descriptions to a minimum and remove any words that don’t contribute to the story. If it doesn’t add value to the story – it shouldn’t be there.

Influence on my Business Writing

When I returned to ‘business writing’ I found that I was naturally writing much shorter sentences. Unnecessary adjectives and adverbs were far less frequent than they had been in the past. The result – my writing flowed better.


 

Becoming a Ruthless Self-Editor

Before Christmas, I didn’t enjoy the editing process. I was too wedded to my words. Editing them was cruel and unkind. It meant I was stubborn. It meant I was inefficient.

Influence on my Business Writing

Editing is now an enjoyable part of the process. I know I can’t afford to be sentimental. When words, sentences or paragraphs don’t work, I’m able to kill them callously. I’ve won back a ton of time on this alone.


 

Fuelling my creativity

Coming up with new 100 Word Story ideas every day is tough. I’ve got a few different methods I can turn to when I’m struggling for ideas. So far, they’ve not let me down.

Influence on my Business Writing

The same methods I use to come up with creative ideas for my fiction tales, also help me take a more creative approach to my client writing. I’m able to suggest different approaches, and I’m able to draw out their stories far more easily.


 

‘Storytelling First’ Approach

Writing stories every day has helped me identify who I am. Yes, I’m a writer (and a Pisces!), but I’m firstly a storyteller. It’s what comes naturally to me.

Influence on my Business Writing

With every writing project and every new client, the first thing I’m looking for is the story. What’s the story? How can we tell it? Where do we begin? And then – when I’ve got that first story nailed – I’m looking for more stories. Why – because leading with stories works.


 

[thrive_headline_focus title=”Could it work for you?” orientation=”left”]

I’ve shared the impact that writing fiction has had on my writing, and now, I want you to ask yourself a question – could it work for you? The truth is, you’ll not know until you try. It might not work for you. But then again, what if it did? What if writing the occasional piece of short fiction made you a better writer? What if it unlocked in you a new passion? What if you had fun?

Here’s what I want you to do. Below is a photo. I’ve got a simple question for you – what’s the story behind the image?

airport-351472_1280

You can create an outline of the story, or you can write a complete short story. You might like to try a 100 Word Story of your own – or you might like to write something shorter or longer. The truth is, at this stage – it doesn’t matter.

Have fun. Get creative. You might be surprised by the results.

PS – If you want to share – add your story to the comments OR email me at kevin@thestoryedge.co.uk (Please include ‘My Story’ in the subject line.)

PPS – Add me on Facebook if you’d prefer to follow the journey there. https://www.facebook.com/KevAnderson