Don’t Croak: Finding Your Ideal Writing Voice

You Clear Your Throat  Writing Voiceknow that “nails-on-chalkboard” association, the sound that makes us cringe and shrink away?  We all have our own version of it:  the shrill teacher, a droning relative, or a Seinfeld-worthy awkward guffaw.

Are you writing in that voice? 

If your content is loaded with distractions that make reading copy a chore, you are alienating your visitors just as if you were screaming or cackling.  Does your pop-up insisting on an email sign-up block my view of the article I was reading?

Match Your Voice to Your Audience’s Concerns

If you are seeking to project calm professionalism to convey trustworthiness, it makes sense to avoid too much informality or familiarity.  That said, it is equally off-putting to use language that cannot be understood.  Finding the right balance involves a clear notion of what your potential clients need to hear most, stating it honestly and plainly, and providing straightforward testimony about how you can solve their problems or add value.

A common error in “white-collar” content is using a lot of fluffy language that goes in a circle without really saying anything.  What you need is an identifiable problem statement, a concise description of how your service is relevant and helpful, and a clear call to action.

Know When to Be Quiet

In a painfully endless phone conversation, people have to stay on the line to avoid being rude.  Not so when they are looking at your website or reading your newsletter.  They can click on and off at will.  It’s vital that your content is concise enough to grab and hold attention without “over-staying its welcome.”  Unwillingness to trim content is a widespread problem.  An objective outsider can help keep things brief; choosing the most central concepts is a key distinction offered by a professional writer.

But Speak Up!

Again, a dose of attention to degree and tone is key.  Assuming you have engaged the reader and presented a compelling reason, don’t neglect the opportunity to ask for the next step!  You would be amazed how many websites fail to ask for the order or make it difficult for the reader to find contact information.

Use a Coach

Most people would squirm if asked to take a microphone and sing in front of hundreds of unknown people.  They would insist, at the very least, on careful preparation and guidance.  It’s amazing that people don’t hesitate to throw loud, inappropriate, unprofessional content out to the world.  Raise the bar…..get help!


Best Writing? It’s All About the Reader

Pouring over tweets, looking for inspiration to absorb and share, I found someone asking, “What’s the best writing tip you ever got?”  I reflected on college communication classes and feedback from editors and managers in the early years of my career.  Avoid passive voice?  Organize and use clear transitions?  Capture attention with great headlines?  What I ultimately determined was that none of the rules matter.

The way to be effective in reaching, inspiring, and motivating your readers is to fixate on them the entire time you are writing.

My work in corporate training taught me that you must always think like a learner.  Remember sitting in classes where the teacher was an expert in the field but was unclear or unable to convey the information in a compelling way?  Expertise is completely wasted if the communicator fails to remember what it was like not to know.  Writers – like teachers or corporate trainers – must set the stage, create context, and avoid making assumptions about what someone already understands.

Sure, it’s important to be clear and concise.  And it goes without saying that mechanics such as grammar, punctuation, and spelling need to be spot-on.  But for effective writing, there is no more critical factor than understanding and catering to your audience’s point of view.

SOPA: Why Business Owners And Content Sharers Should Care

It’s next to impossible to miss today’s biggest news if you go onlinestop SOPA at any point or see a newspaper; several of the web’s most prominent sites are “going dark” in protest of SOPA and PIPA, the proposed anti-online piracy legislation.

What is SOPA?

SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, is a bill that seeks to “crack down on copyright infringement by restricting access to sites that host pirated content,” according to a great report by CNN Money. These bills are supposedly aimed at websites – mainly overseas – known for their access to and promotion of illegal downloads of movies and other digital content.  While many agree that restrictions on privacy are needed, there are complicated consequences that reach much farther.  The proposed legislation would require U.S.-based search engines and other service provides to withhold or block services with sites that connect to these problematic sites, but many fear that the restrictions are the beginning of a slippery slope into censorship.

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Is Your Business Website Like an Old Cell Phone?

modern website featuresYou know who you are….the busy small business owner who threw up a website using a simple “drag and drop” template or one offered through an industry trade group.  Maybe you read a book- or even a blog! – that inspired you to create an online presence, but didn’t have much time or money to invest.

Just as advances in telecommunications have made clunky old cell phones obsolete, a static, poorly-designed website is a sign that you are not keeping up with the times.  In the case of your business site, however, the costs are greater than looking ridiculous; you are missing efficiencies and losing opportunities to attract fresh business.

How do you know if your website is old-school?

Shop around!  Act like your own potential customer.  Take 15 minutes and pretend you are seeking your services.

  1. Most importantly, determine whether you can be readily found online.  No fair typing in your business name; the idea is to assume the role of someone seeking out your product or services.  Try asking a friend what search terms they would use; you may be too enmeshed in your own “identity” to be completely objective about this.  Your awareness of how you rank in likely searches is an important reality check.
  2. Notice what your competitors’ sites look like and what features they include.  Are there social media share and follow buttons? How do they distinguish themselves?
  3. Identify the last time you updated your content; was it during the Bush administration?
  4. What must prospects do to reach you, either to buy something or to indicate their interest in your services?  Access to your contact information is key; after all, it’s an online “presence” you are seeking.  So be present.

What are the most important upgrades you can make that won’t cost you a fortune?

Effective, modern websites, aside from looking clean and uncluttered, must have some key features, including:

Fresh content

Google values new, original, high quality web content and rewards those who provide it with higher search engine listings. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by blogging, which ideally provides relevant, fresh, new, original, high quality web content added regularly.

Call(s) to Action

Your site should have at least one call-to-action on every page.

In addition, Small Business Marketing advises on some things to avoid to bring your site into the 21st century:

  1. Flash – Search engines cannot read Flash files and smartphones usually cannot display them.
  2. Text only in images – Search engines cannot ‘see’ images, so they appear blank.
  3. Cloaking/Hidden text – In simple terms, if you show one thing to human visitors and another to search engines, you are cloaking. This trick can backfire, damaging your search engine results or even resulting in having your website banned.
  4. Spamming/Keyword Stuffing – People unfamiliar with proper SEO writing try to game the system by using a particular word or phrase far more often than you would normally in an attempt to manipulate the search engines.

Your business website is far more than just an “electronic business card.”  Tap into its potential so you won’t convey an unprofessional, dated image to your prospects.