Recommending Recommended

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I told you about the website Recommended  a short time ago. In this time of shopping and searching for great service, I thought it was to talk about it again. This free site is a cross between LinkedIn and Facebook for businesses and freelancers. Like other sites, Recommended lets people set up a page with information about their business or services and then get recommended by their customers. But it goes a little deeper than that, they’re working to fill a gap between social media and business in a way that no one else is.getrecommended1graph

Full disclosure, I first learned about Recommended, and its founder Aaron Lee, when I did a little freelance user experience testing for them. I was very impressed with what I learned about the site during the testing, so much so that I joined the site and have been sharing it with friends and business contacts. Let me tell you why.

Websites like LinkedIn and Facebook are great and have their place in marketing, public relations, recruiting and brand awareness. LinkedIn is a great place to find contacts, that is what it was made to do, but it doesn’t do much to really give small business and freelancers to show off their skills. Facebook is a great way to market, but it doesn’t necessarily give people a full picture of the services someone offers, and how their clients feel about them. It’s these things that Recommended does best.

Recommended allows users to market and make connections, but it’s more about what the business does. It also does recommendations better than I’ve seen anywhere else. As a consumer looking for a business or service, you get a user friendly website that allows you to dive past the hype and glitter of marketing and look more closely at what the business or freelancer does. You get the opportunity to read recommendations and leave them in a way that feels more honest and real than other sites. As a freelancer or business owner you get a site that looks clean and professional and lets you get your message out without the clutter and advertising that are all over other sites.homepage-illus-large-real_people

Since I first mentioned the site, they’ve added new functionality, and have even more in the works. One of the new additions to the site is “Work” – a portfolio like  option that allows the business or freelancer to showcase some of their best work. For example, a software developer could provide information for the kind of work they specialize in and pictures of what they’ve done. They haven’t finished perfecting the Work pages yes, they’ll be expanding it to accept different file types to allow someone (like a freelance writer) to add different kinds of examples. You can check out examples of Work at work

These are still early days for Recommended. They’re adding new functionality all the time. As I’ve told everyone I’ve discussed Recommended with, I think that this has the potential to be huge. It could be a real game changer for small businesses and freelancers by giving them more freedom and options than are currently available.

I recommend Recommended wholeheartedly. I encourage you to get in on the ground floor and be part of this effort before it explodes. Take a look around, I think you’ll be impressed.

4 Ideas to Make Storytelling Easier

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I’ve gotten some questions recently about storytelling, and I thought I wold share some of the discussion with everyone. First, let me clarify what I mean about storytelling.

Old Typewriter

Tips for telling your story

To me, storytelling can be anytime you’re telling people something. That could be in the traditional sense like a novel or autobiography, or in a marketing sense like a marketing or social media campaign. Instructional design, script writing and video production as well as content development can all fall under storytelling – you’re trying to share information or persuade someone by telling someone something. I look at all these things as storytelling because it puts you more in the mind of getting your information out in a creative and/or interesting way that is more likely to hold interest and make an impact.

With that out of the way,  let’s look at 4 ideas (and a bonus tip) that will hopefully make storytelling easier for you.

  1. Who cares? I know, everyone should care about what you have to say. Unfortunately, that’s not actually true. So ask yourself, who am I telling this story to? Who is going to care from the first word, and who do I want to make care? Spend a few minutes thinking about the audience the piece is for and what you want them to take away from the story your telling.
    Old photo from New Your Times Newsroom of reporters working, on phone and reading

    These guys might care….

    I know that’s the first step in any kind of writing, but too often I see people trying to tell a story, market something or teach something taking a shotgun approach – spreading the information as thin as you can to try to reach as many people as possible. The majority of the time that only makes the story boring and too diluted to have the impact you want.

  2. Watch your language. It’s no secret that when people write for business they write more formally, it’s what we’ve all been taught. But, that’s not always the best option. You need to look at the audience and the story you’re telling. If you’re talking about profit and loss margins something more formal is probably the best choice. If you’re talking about a client’s theme park or telling people about the time you were having such a run of bad luck that your left shoe fell down a sewer grate and you never saw it again, you probably want to be a little more informal.

    What do I mean by informal? Using contractions for one. A lot of people seem to have issues using contractions in their writing, and that quickly makes everything more formal. Word choice is important too! Using slang can also be a big help in making what you’re writing more approachable. If your writing a young adult (YA) romance novel and say, “Would you like to go spend time at the local shopping complex?” versus, “Do you want to go hang out at the mall?” your reader is going to feel like they’re reading a text book – and chances are if they’re reading a YA romance novel they probably get enough of text books in their daily lives and won’t give your novel the time of day.

  3. Let your Medium guide you. I’m not talking about Madam Elaine, Psychic to the
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    Let your medium Guide you!

    Masses, I’m talking about the medium you’re using to tell the story. Are you telling your story verbally or in writing? Are you doing a slide show presentation or blog post? Consider the length of time or space you have to tell the story. Shorten or expand as necessary.

  4.  Say it out loud! One of the easiest and fastest ways to check on how your story sounds is to read it out loud to yourself. Listen to how it sounds. Does it sound too formal? Not formal enough? Is there a sentence that’s hard to understand when you hear it? Is it something that is easy to understand and hit the notes you’re looking to hit? The answers to questions like these will tell you a lot about the writing style you used for the piece (or your writing style in general) and the how others will hear it – even when they read to themselves most of your audience will be hearing their voice saying the words so in a way they are hearing it out loud.

    Bonus TIP! Reverse it! If you’re worried that your writing style or speaking style is too formal and you want to work on that, start verbally rather than in writing. This especially works well if you’re telling your life stories. Record yourself telling the story verbally before you start to write. Listen to it carefully. What do you notice about how you tell the story? Is your word choice different than when you write? Are your sentences shorter? Do you use a storytelling voice that is warm and approachable? Keep these things in mind when you start to write and see the difference it can make in the final product!

I would love to hear from you! Drop me a note and let me know what you think of the post and what tips or ideas you have to make storytelling easier!

Telling Your Organization’s Story – Find the Passion

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I’ve been telling a lot of stories lately, but let’s take a few minutes and talk about telling your organization’s story. You see, people don’t just have stories, businesses and other organizations like non-profits do too. And, being able to tell the story of your small business, or non-profit organization, can go a long way in helping it be successful.

Old fashioned typewriter

Who is telling your organization’s story?

Part of your business’ or organization’s story is tied to the person(s) who dreamed up the idea to start it in the first place, and that’s where its story starts. Just like the story of what makes you who you are has ups and downs, struggles and successes, so does your business or non-profit. But it has something that makes a huge difference when telling its story that other stories don’t. You.

Your passion, and if you’re willing to take the time and energy to start a business or be involved in a non-profit then you do feel passionately about it, is what really sets the story apart. It’s the passion you feel and bring to your organization’s story that makes the difference. No one can tell that story than you and the people in the trenches with you can.

Don’t worry if you’re not a “marketing” person. Or if you don’t know anything about social media. These things can be learned, and I hope in the coming weeks I’ll be able to help a little bit. What you can’t learn is the drive and the passion you feel for your business or non-profit. That fire begins and ends with you. That is the most important part of telling your organization’s story.

You are the storyteller! Are you ready to start telling your story?

Did I Ever Tell You About….My Strange Obsessions?

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I originally wrote this post a couple of years ago. As I was looking over my previous posts this one jumped out at me. Not because it’s no longer true (trust me it is still very much true); but with the influx of more obsessed Star War fans, and my daughters’ own geeky obsessions, I thought that it’s a good time to share this again.

The obsessions I discuss haven’t really changed much (the British version of Top Gear has fallen off the list completely and Antiques Road Show has started making its way on). I haven’t had the chance to watch a lot of television over the last year, so some of the active obsession has fallen off a bit. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just like something we thought we outgrew as a kid and we fall in love with again when we discover it as an adult, the obsession doesn’t stop, it just waits for us to find out way back.

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It’s difficult to admit. And every time I think I get one beat, I just end up slipping into another one. I can’t even remember where it started. Probably with Empire Strikes Back. But it’s included Star Trek (both the movies and the TV show), Star Trek: Next Generation, Star Trek: Enterprise (but surprisingly not the other shows in that universe), of course Star Wars (yes – I love both Trek and Wars!), NCIS, Bones, Top Gear (British Version on BBC America), Holmes on Homes, American Pickers, Bon Jovi (Not my fault, they stalked me first), Doctor Who, Sherlock (again the BBC version but the others are cool too), the list goes on and on, but my most recent  and current obsession is the TV show Supernatural

And I do mean….

Supernatural Season 10 Poster

Supernatural Season 10 Poster (You know I don’t own this right? If I did…well…never mind.)

obsession in the truest sense of the word. It usually starts with my husband or daughter introducing me to something and grows to the point where I’m annoying people in line at the amusement park with my theories on the impact of turning Demon!Dean back into just plain Dean (may or may not be a true example). It eventually gets to the point where my husband and daughter refuse to listen any more and basically just walk away when I start talking about the possible meaning behind the change in Sam’s hair length (may or may not have actually happened).

Mike Holmes

Mike Holmes, he makes things right. In Canada

I follow members of the cast and crew on just about every form of social media (not necessarily under my own name, I don’t want to look crazy). I watch videos of panels at conventions YouTube . I try to schedule meetings around talk show appearances. Please note, not all of these apply to all subjects of obsessions…l mean Mike Holmes is from Canada and rarely makes US talk show appearances…that is to say I have enough control to not actually do all of these things. All the time. As far as most people are aware.

In the old days it was easier to keep under control. There was Entertainment Tonight and fan magazines. If there was big news it made my small town newspaper and I could clip the article. Living in Pennsylvania with no way to get anywhere close to anywhere that any of the shows were made meant hoping for a form letter response was about as close to anything as I was going to get.

Supernatural's Chuck Shurley at the computer in a bathrobe.

Chuck, The Profit, writing strange & wonderful things in a slightly drunken stupor. (Again, I don’t own it)

Today it’s a 24 hours non-stop source of information for the mildly interested and a feeding frenzy of data for the obsessed. It’s all fandom, all the time. And it’s so easy to go down that rabbit hole to where the weird and wonderful lives…mostly on Tumblr…where there are “ships” and interpretations of character and episodes that even the writers would never have dreamed of in their worst drunken stupor.

It’s freeing to know you’re not the only one out there wondering who would win in a fight if two of your favorite characters, both known for their love of pie, somehow ended up in the same universe with the last piece of pecan. No, only me? Well alright. But you get the idea. With it being so much easier to find like-minded fans it’s easier to get even more wrapped up in a show. It’s like that big dark thing in the basement that starts feeding on it’s own darkness that no one wants to talk about and Sam and Dean will eventually have to come gank…still only me? Ok. Moving on.

I don’t think these obsessions are necessarily a bad thing. At the very core they are a means to escape every day life. They feel a void of some sort (need for excitement, need for creativity, need for control, need to be the hero, etc.) and give people something to look forward, something outside confines of their normal lives that is…special…exciting…supernatural (couldn’t resist).

The 11th Doctor talking on the telephone.

The has been known to get a little obsessed from time to time too, but even he talks to people (Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor – still don’t own a thing).

I think as long as we’re not running around claiming to be someone’s spouse, or that we run a network, or sending death threats for killing off a character, it’s ok. When you start tweeting actors and calling them nasty names because of something their on-screen persona did or accuse them of harboring ill feelings towards groups of people because the show doesn’t support the relationship you want their character to be in…it is way past time to step back. Push away from the keyboard. Go meet talk to people the old fashioned way, on the phone.

My obsessions have never gone that far, thank goodness. Some have been much shorter than others. There are a few that are still there, they’re just in hiatus waiting for the next opportunity to drive me just a little bit crazy. Honestly it’s kind of fun. And, of all the kinds of things out there I could be obsessed with in the grand scheme of things, mine aren’t so bad. Actually, I can’t wait to see what I get obsessed with next (neither can my family, but probably for totally different reasons).

I want to hear from you! Let me know in the comments below what TV shows you’re obsessed with now, and what new shows this fall may be making your obsession list.

Marketing, Strategy and Storytelling

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English: Quill pen

English: Quill pen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

It’s so easy to get bogged down in what we have to do every day that we can lose sight of the story we’re telling. I’m not talking about your social media strategy or your marketing strategy. Hopefully you’ve put that marketing plan in action and things are buzzing along. I’m talking about the thread that ties it all together.  I’m talking about the story you’re telling about your organization through your marketing.

 

Everything from your logo, to your letter head, to the voice you use when you tweet are part of the story you tell about your organization. When was the last time you sat back and looked at the story your telling? Does the story coming from your Twitter feed match the story being told by your website? Does it match the story being told by your brochures?

 

Everything doesn’t have to match perfectly, but they should seem like they’re being told by the same people. The stories should have the feeling of organization. Your stories should propel the messages from your marketing plan. They should help the audience feel like they know the organization no matter where they see it.

 

Take a moment for an objective look at the stories you’re telling. Make the most of the stories and you’ll be making the most of each of your outreach opportunities.

 

 

 

Friday 5 for 8/30/2013

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I thought I would try something new for the blog and share five things every Friday. Five (probably) random, (rarely) newsworthy and on (nearly every) occasion strange or unique. Hopefully it’ll be a chance to see something new and give you something to say when there’s awkward silence on your blind date this weekend.

English: Schultz house at Johnstown, PA in 188...

House in Johnstown, PA after 1889  Flood

Off we go…

1. Did you know that the first peacetime relief services of the American Red Cross were in 1889 in Johnstown, PA? Clara Barton and volunteers arrived in town just after the Great Johnstown Flood in May and stayed until October providing services to the devastated city.

2. All you Video Music Award fans out there can own a piece of history. Part the red carpet is up for sale on eBay with a starting bid of $500. You could always choose the buy it now option for $5000. The auction ends Monday so get your bids in before it’s too late!

3. A pot-bellied pig was picked up by the police. The irony was not missed by the officers in Grand Rapids.

Honey Badger self portrait

Honey Badger Selfie!

4. A shop owner in Japan transforms into a masked hero to aid people on the stairs at a subway station. He’s looking for volunteers to help him, no information in the article on where to do to sign up, or if it’s BYOC (Bring Your Own Costume).

5. Honey Badger don’t care, but he tweets!  I’m one of his followers and I have to say he takes some great selfies.

So there you have it, the first five Friday 5! (Try saying that 5 tines fast!) I don’t want to keep all this fun to myself, so if you see something that would be perfect for next week’s Friday 5 tweet me @LorieEGSinger or leave a message below!

Being Yourself and Your Brand

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I think that most of us trying to create a brand can become so focused on the image we’re trying to project that it become easy to lose focus on the person behind it. It’s pretty easy to find social media ninjas and marketing experts who are making a big effort to prove just how different they are, unfortunately most of them are going about it in similar fashions. Not that I’m knocking anyone, it’s just what happens.

Someone has a great new idea and then people adapt the idea, then people adapt that idea, and then someone adapts that idea…and suddenly the idea isn’t so great or new any more. It happened with slap bracelets in school back in the day. It happens with clever marketing ideas and internet memes today.

The sad part is that when people try to be part of what they think people want to see they tend to forget to be themselves. It’s like when you find yourself working at a big company with a distinct corporate culture, eventually most people start to dress, behave and generally conform to the corporate culture. It’s what’s expected if you want to get ahead. The same thing is happening online – people want to be one of the cool kids and style themselves after the gurus and ninjas that they think will help them make money, win contracts, get followers (or all the above) and the leave out the part that makes them unique.

Sometimes the best thing we have going for us is that we’re one of a kind, especially in a world where there are a thousand people who are online promoting themselves for doing the same thing. It’s what’s unique about us that sets us apart. That’s something to embrace, not hide!

It’s what I’m going to try to do a bit better. I realize, my loyal little band of readers, have expanded past the days when there were ones of you reading on a regular basis. I know you’re reading. You’re still not commenting but I do know you’re reading. But I do solemnly swear that I will try to remember to be uniquely me in the things I do.