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story

Does your business understand the power of a story?

story

It’s a Sunday afternoon and rain is lashing against your window. Inside your warm, cosy home, you’re curled up on the sofa. You’re lost in a story, a book that you simply cannot put down.

Or, you may be watching an amazing film which is so gripping that you just can’t pause it and put the kettle on.

Yesterday, a Danny Boyle film about a singer/songwriter who becomes one of a handful of people in the world who can remember the Beatles, connects with us because we understand his story of struggle and persistence, we all have the shared experience of knowing and loving the Beatles songs in the film, and we share a gasp-out-loud moment with the main character. (No spoilers here for those who haven’t seen it!)

Many of us went to the cinema and felt the hour and 57 minutes it took to screen it flew by.

We were totally engaged with the film.

You’re experiencing a story as if you’re inside it.

The best stories are those which resonate with our experience.

We identify with characters who persevere against the odds, with situations we’ve experienced ourselves, and with the hopes and dreams we share with those characters.

We react with empathy and look for connections.

The Harry Potter books and films have created generations of fans because of that emotional connection they feel to the main characters such as Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, and Hagrid.

They feel righteous anger when Hermione is tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange, fear for their heroes when they enter the Ministry of Magic in disguise, and they root for Harry in his battle with Voldemort.

We become lost in a magical world.

Have you ever listened to someone’s story intently and been captivated by it?

As you stand there in front of the storyteller, your brains are synching.

Neuroscientists have researched this phenomenon. They carried out MRIs on listener and storyteller and found their brains lit up in the same way.

Your brain is reacting as if you are experiencing that story yourself and you feel connected.

Think how often the best stand-up comedians such as Sarah Millican, Stewart Lee, Dave Allen, and Joan Rivers have used stories as the basis for their comedy.

Stories have power.

The empathy stories create helps businesses reach potential clients or customers.

It also helps clients along their decision-making process.

Most people don’t just buy using logic and data. They use emotions to make that purchasing decision, so it’s important to create an emotional connection.

How can I use stories to connect with my customers?

  1. Use your website’s About Us page – Telling your story as a business helps clients connect with your purpose. People often need to know why you do what you do before they will commit to spending money. Tell them about your story, your values, and your goals. Replicate it for print products such as brochures or flyers.
  2. Share case studies – How did you help a customer through a difficult situation? How did you ensure a successful outcome? What challenges did you face?
  3. Share reviews or testimonials – These can often act as mini-stories to show how you solved a client’s problem. They are most powerful when the people leaving reviews are willing to be identified and when reviews are left on independent sites.
  4. Your networking pitch – Use stories to connect with potential clients or collaborators in your networking pitches, from the usual 60-second pitch to the longer five or ten-minute presentation.
  5. Your business book – If you tell your story in your business book, your readers will connect with your insights.
  6. Get your employees on board – Make them the purveyors of your story, the best advocates and story-tellers you could have. Listen to Anita Roddick, the late, great founder of The Body Shop: “The lesson of preindustrial societies is storytelling. All our employees should be storytellers.”

Do you need help telling your story? Contact us for advice and support.

blog post

How do I find ideas for my next blog post?

 

blog post

You want to write a blog post but that cursor just keeps blinking on a blank screen…

Every idea you had an hour ago seems to have evaporated…We know the feeling!

You’re in a blog post panic and you don’t know where to turn.

Fear not! We have nine useful ideas for getting that all-important inspiration – and we’re sharing them with you.

Where can I get ideas for my blog post?

  1. Ask Dr Google….

Google’s auto-complete is a hugely useful way of finding the questions people are asking the search engine.

Why not start a question relevant to your sector and let Google complete it?

Then, you have a blog post title which is already being searched for, and an idea for subject matter which is relevant to the people you’d like to attract to your website.

  1. Catch up with the news

Read news websites and watch TV news and current affairs programmes for inspiration.

That will give you timely ideas for your posts.

For example, a law firm could look at the use of ‘gagging clauses’ in non-disclosure orders, a hot topic in the wake of the Me Too movement. A cyber security business could look at the use of gated forums and invitation-only online groups by cyber thieves.

  1. Use case studies

What are the problems your ideal clients face and how do you solve them?

How could you show that in a blog post?

The obvious way is to simply say it. They way in which you connect with your clients best is to SHOW it by telling the stories of your case studies.

That allows them to see first-hand what you can do for people like them or businesses like theirs.

  1. Do a little snooping…

What are your competitors talking about?

Compile a list of those subjects and approach them in your own way. Use those subjects a few months down the line.

Whatever you do, don’t simply copy the ideas and structure of your competitors’ blog posts.

Not only will it look obvious, it could land you with a costly copyright infringement.

  1. Use an online blog topic generator

Here are eight suggestions for generators to use. You type in a word relevant to your business and it comes up with ideas for you. Flesh those ideas out yourself and expand on them.

  1. Look at what’s trending on social media

You can use online tools such as Buzzsumo, or do your own research on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

If you sign up for our monthly updates (no spam, we hate it!), you’ll get our free guide to the best 7 online social listening tools. Sign up here.

  1. Draw up a content calendar

Using seasons, holidays, awareness days, and major cultural and sporting events can help you get inspired.

If you run a restaurant, how about 7 of our meals to show your dad some love this Father’s Day?

Or, What’s the best way to fill up before watching the Rugby World Cup?

  1. Ask your clients

Ask them what they’d like to see on your blog. You can do this in an email, on social media, or by creating an online poll.

  1. Call in a professional

We would say that, wouldn’t we? However, it’s a great way to get your blog fizzing with creativity and outsourcing your content creation is a great option to save you time along with getting two heads, rather than one!

Need more advice? You can get in touch here. We love talking content, writing, coffee, and vintage typewriters!

 

bake

GP’s business bakes up special help for people in chronic pain

bake

A class at the School of Breads

The long drive home after a French skiing holiday was the inspiration for GP Rachael Watson to change her life – and set up a school teaching people to bake bread.

Having worked as a GP in surgeries since 2001, including practices in Abergavenny, Eywas Harold, and Blaenavon, and now in Ebbw Vale, Rachael became inspired by the couple she met in the bed and breakfast where she and her husband stayed.

They had given up hectic lives as a singer and singing teacher in Paris to follow their dream and buy and run the B&B.

Bake

Rachael Watson (left) teaching a student

“I thought how happy they were because they had made that decision and I knew I wanted to do something as well as being a GP,” Rachael, who lives in Abergavenny, said.

She and her husband joked about opening a health spa.

Then, she said: “I thought how wonderful it would be to teach people how to bake bread.

“I had 830 miles on the drive home to think it through. I thought about what I would need to do to run it from home – organise the kitchen, for example.

“Then, I took a course in Cardiff.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

How the School of Breads was born

Rachael held her first class on October 9, 2015, and the word soon spread on Facebook and among local groups in Abergavenny to make her artisan bread baking school a success.

People who visited the town for the food festival began booking in for classes at the Abergavenny Baker School of Artisan Breads, including visitors from as far afield as Australia.

She has now taught hundreds of people the art of making breads from around the world, from sourdough to ciabatta or focaccia.

Rachael shares her knowledge of the chemistry of breadmaking, tips on kneading, shaping, and baking fresh bread.

Her students can choose from classes in the popular Italian breads, Middle Eastern, Continental, and Great British breads. There are also seasonal classes baking breads for Christmas and Easter.

Teaching people with chronic pain to bake bread

bake

Now, the GP is combining her medical background with classes aimed at helping people in chronic pain.

She said: “The aim is to help people talk about managing their pain in a far more relaxed way than at a GP surgery. There, the doctor will have only 10 minutes for an appointment.

“The process of making bread is something which helps people take in information. It is something physical and there are smells of the ingredients and the breads which are associated with the information. It also takes place on a non-threatening environment.

“There is a primeval safety message about making and sharing food which helps our nervous system to relax.

“I use my knowledge and experience to explain the nerve pathways and risk factors for developing chronic pain. I also explain the skills and practices people can use to feel less pain and enjoy life more.”

The sessions will help people with conditions such as fibromyalgia or arthritis.

The first open session for people living with chronic pain is on May 24. Read more about the baking school here.

Find out more about us.

outsource your blog

Looking to outsource your blog? Here are 5 effective tips

When you decide to outsource your blog, you do it for very good reasons.

outsource your blog

Tips to help you outsource your blog…

You outsource your blog and bring in an expert writer who can craft your posts because they have both the time and experience to do so. That frees up your time to work on other areas of the business.

Finding a great professional blogger is a major boost for your marketing campaign. A good blogger will be able to understand your company, know the style in which you’d like them to write, and do their research about your ideal customers.

They can write you social media headlines to maximise your SEO when sharing your posts, and emails to help you share your new post with your database.

If you’ve never used a professional blogger before, here are some tips to get the most from that relationship:

Be specific.

If you want something done a certain way, be as specific as possible with your blogger. They want to give you content you’ll love, and which gives you a great return on investment. The more detail you give them the better.

Embrace their creativity.

If you’re not sure what to do with a post, ask your blogger as they may have tried and tested ways of delivering something great which you hadn’t thought about. A good blogger will be able to come to you with ideas, and you can agree with them what you’d like them to work on.

Copy them in on your calendar.

That helps them spark off ideas for new posts around events you’re attending, sales, product launches, or new directions you’re taking in the business. Blogging calendars will also contain major events like film launches and holidays such as Easter and Christmas, but the more relevant the blogger can make it to your individual business, the better.

Let them mix it up when it comes to length.

Statistically, posts which are between 1,200 and 1,700 words get the best engagement but shorter posts are also excellent ways of getting information across quickly. The best way forward when you outsource your blog could be having a longer read every month or two.

Images are important.

Most bloggers have good sources of stock images and the best ones have good contacts with freelance photographers. Most social media platforms have far better engagement when pictures or video is used, so take any opportunity you can to embed them into your blog.

Here’s to a fruitful relationship between you and your pro blogger!

blogging for business

How can I write a killer blog headline?

Want to know the secret? Write your blog headline like the media industry headline writers…

blogging for business

Take a lesson from the media…

News media headline writing is an art, something taught to sub-editors over many years. A great headline makes you smile, think, stop in your tracks. Your blog headline will be shared on social media, so if you get it right it could be the reason thousands of people read on.

The reason news media do headlines so well is simple: they write it at the end of the process, not at the beginning. They know the story.

In the same vein, never write your blog headline until you have typed the last full stop on your post.

Here are the basic blog headline rules:

Use short, active words – A punchy headline grabs the attention. Cut out unnecessary words, especially adverbs.

It must contain a verb – Making the headline active means using a verb, even if that verb’s ‘is’.

Use figures – Don’t write them out as words. Studies have also shown that using figures in a headline makes it more attractive to the reader. Round monetary figures up, or down.

Make it accurate – Don’t write a sensational but inaccurate headline to suck readers into the post. They’ll feel cheated.

Reflect your content – Throwing in a celebrity name to the headline, for example, without backing that up in the post will backfire on you.

Don’t use tortuous puns – No matter how tempted you feel, just don’t do it. This isn’t about showing how cleverly you can write, it’s about communicating with your target audience.

Don’t over-use exclamation marks – They are called ‘screamers’ in newsrooms because they are often over-used to scream out content.

Read it aloud – If it sounds convoluted, or ridiculous, delete and start again. If you can’t say it easily, they won’t read it easily.

Will it appeal to your target audience? – Ask yourself how, and why they would read on. Think about their problems, how they like to spend their time when you’re making this decision.

Blog writing for SEO

Get the right keywords for your business…

Don’t forget SEO: Search engine optimisation is still very important in blog headlines and your keyword research should help you. Which words appeal to your ideal customers and how can you incorporate them in an organic way?

Some headline power words: There are some words which people find innately attractive. “Discover”, “Find”, and “Secrets” arouse our curiosity and make us want to find out more.

“Powerful”, “effective”, and “hacks” make us feel the content we’re about to read is hitting our usefulness sweet spot and so does the word “useful”.

Too busy to blog yourself? Drop me an email on maria@wordsyoucanuse.co.uk.