Some of my favourite non-fiction reads…

Some of my favourite non-fiction reads…

Each December for the past two years, as the summer holidays approach, I start getting messages that become increasingly pushier from people wanting my latest best reads list to plan out their summer reading. In 2016, I started publishing a list of my favourite reads from the year before, and if the antsy messages in my inbox and my analytics are correct, it’s a post that is well-received, and so I’ve continued the tradition. Who doesn’t love a good read? If you don’t, then back away slowly. There’s no place for you here at Blue51 HQ. If you do, here’s a link to 2016’s list, and 2017’s and 2018’s for your reading pleasure.

In mid 2015 I wrote a note to myself during my quarterly review and planning session- ‘For the next 12 weeks read solely for pleasure ie read absolutely nothing business related.’ You see, I had relaunched my business as Blue51 the year prior, and threw myself back into the world of small business, reading and devouring anything and everything. The problem is, a lot of business literature can’t really call itself literature. I wanted to read with no other outcome than pure feeling and enjoyment rather than a list of action items. I have over the past few years found a few pearls in the piles of blah, but I found myself really craving some bloody good writing.

The best thing about good writing? It makes you a much, much better writer.

I discovered that first hand in 2007 when I commenced my dream course of study- Master of Professional Writing and Literature. This was the university program I promised myself when I made the ‘smart choice’ in Year 12 when I selected a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree over an Arts degree and I was so incredibly excited to immerse myself in words and language. One of the subjects I selected was Non-Fiction Writing, thinking it would be beneficial to my career, even if I didn’t think it would put stars in my eyes like poetry. Ten minutes into the first lecture and I realised just how wrong I was- I was as inspired and thrilled and enthralled by the non-fiction writing as I was with poetry. Good non-fiction writing uses the techniques of fiction- plot, pacing, characterisation- and it’s one of my favourite genres. Here, for your enjoyment, are some of the best non-fiction reads that have made my lists for the past two years:

Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner

Oh, Gawd, Helen Garner could write a shopping list and I’d be gushing over it. She’s my favourite writer, and if I ever met her I’d probably wet myself, forget my name or mutter incoherently, or all three. I love Helen’s non-fiction- it’s creative, literary and beyond all that her insights into the minutiae of day to day life- as well as her deconstructions of the big things in life- make my heart sing.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

This book fell into my hands at the library, and was bloody hilarious. I’d seen and read a lot of Anna’s interviews and love her self-deprecation, her smarts and her refusal to buy into the BS of the world she inhabits. This is the sort of book I’d give to my daughters to read when they’re teenagers as she’s a great role model for working hard and staying cool.

What happened? by Hillary Rodham Clinton

This book was incredible- not just the best book of my year, but right up there with the best books I’ve ever read. It was bloody hard to read in terms of the sheer frustration of the content, and it put me in a bad mood for a good two weeks. It was beautifully written, insightful, scathing and so, so clever. I gave my mum a copy and I’ll be giving my daughters their own copies as well to read and be inspired by. At the same time I was reading What Happened?  I saw one of those nauseating Instagram hustle posts that said something like ‘If you’re not working for yourself, you’re making money for someone else.’ I wrote a snarky comment asking what about teachers, health workers, policy makers, people dedicated to serving the broader community, and then hit unfollow. What Happened? is not just a memoir of a truly horrid time in history but it’s a call to action for all of us to focus on something bigger than ourselves. Loved it.

On Life: My Mother’s Story by Kate Grenville

Disclaimer: I love Kate Grenville and everything she writes, and this book was no exception. It’s Kate’s homage to her mother, examining from a daughter’s perspective her mother’s life and its seasons. Love, love, loved it!

Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis

A memoir similar to Wild by Cheryl Strayed (in my top 10 in 2015), Girl in the Woods is another tale of a woman solo tackling the Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to out-walk her demons and craft herself a new life. I read this in one night, sitting up way past idiot-o’clock, willing this young woman on her journey. It was sad and exhilarating and so evocatively written. I just wanted to hug Aspen; instead, I recommend you read her book.

Bill Bryson– anything and everything

I read a Bill Bryson book in my late 20s, and now in my early 40s am making my way through his books. They’re funny, insightful and more than once I’ve startled a small child snuggled next to me by laugh-snorting.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl quite clearly has lived our worst nightmare- written after the sudden death of her husband, this is a book that weaves her personal story with theory about facing adversity and building resilience and the steps she takes to support her family to find joy in the aftermath of such heartbreak. Sheryl is a fantastic writer and after reading Option B, I reread Lean In, another freaking good read from a few years ago which is filled with amazing one-liners that can keep a Word Nerd’s social media strategy fed for years, as well as inspire and confirm my business and life philosophy.

Land’s Edge by Tim Winton

I’m a water baby, and I grew up on a farm on the coast, where I went to sleep to the sound of king tides. When I moved to the city at 18, I used to pretend that the traffic white noise was the surf. This beautiful memoir not only makes me want to walk on the beach after a storm, it is writing that is pure perfection that makes me adore language and simple, sparse prose. Bliss…

Butterfly on a Pin by Alannah Hill

This was such a surprise to me. Alannah Hill is an incredible writer, first of all, and secondly, she completely busted any preconceptions I had about her. I knew her reputation as quirky and driven but I had no idea that her business success was underpinned by a lifetime of abuse. It was raw, it was sad, it was funny in places, but man, the strength it must have taken her just to put one foot in front of the other some days. It shows you that ‘success’ can be all smoke and mirrors, especially in the business world which can be pretty much built on illusion.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Gosh, my non-fiction writing lecturer in my Master of Arts and Literature suggested this book to me over a decade ago as an example of creative non-fiction- using the techniques of fiction and storytelling (pace, prose, character, setting, plot etc) to write a piece based on fact. I can’t believe it took me so long to get it off my ‘To Read’ list and onto my ‘OMFG That Was Good’ list. Far from giving my adventurous spirit the kick up the bum to go venturing in the wild, the sadness, the desolation, the isolation was so evocative I’m never likely to set foot solo in a Kathmandu store, let alone go off track in the bush.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

This book made me laugh so hard that my older cherub nearly called an ambulance when she saw me on all fours, choking with laughter and sucking in oxygen. It’s basically a hilarious account of the writer’s fight with depression. Read this for no other reason than for Jenny’s description of Japanese toilets.

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

This memoir was recommended to me by someone in one of my Writer’s Toolkit Workshops earlier this year after I told my story about how I moved from Registered Nurse to Word Nerd (thanks Jen!). Thankfully, nothing I came across in my nursing career was like the scenarios played out in this book which I read in less than 24 hours. It was harrowing, distressing, gobsmacking and in many ways inspiring. How can you fail to be inspired by someone who is raised violence, neglect and poverty, who has a gender reassignment in a time when it wasn’t even really a ‘thing’ (not my words), who moved from prostitute to trophy wife, then launches a wildly successful business cleaning trauma scenes and hoarders’ homes? Sarah, the author, shares Sandra’s story in such a beautiful way- she actually won the Premier’s Literary Award for this piece, amongst other awards. It’s a tricky read, though, just from the descriptions of the scenes of the homes to be cleaned, so if you’re slightly squeamish, give it a miss. The violence is distressing too.

Tell me, do you love a good read? Are you non-fiction leaning or strictly fiction all the way?

My Top 10 Go-To Writing Prompts

This is a post in my Holly’s Story blog category. Each month, I share some insights, thoughts and behind the scenes shenanigans from my communications and writing for business adventures. If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help, or address it in an upcoming blog post or on my social media platforms.

Do you attach goals to your communications?

Do you attach goals to your communications?

Communications are essential to a successful, sustainable business. Actually, scrap that- good communications are what’s required.

How do you know if they’re good?

Sometimes, when I’m working with a new communications client, they’re quite unclear about their communications performance. Often, they know what worked, whilst they think other activities or tactics were a waste of time and effort. However, without some hard, unambiguous data against a baseline, it’s really hard to make a call on which activities should be repeated and which should be flung into the bin. Unfortunately, ‘gut feel’ doesn’t cut it. Seeing changes and improvements, backed by stats and rsults, makes it really easy to prove (or disprove) ROI and value on your activities. 

Communications, at the core, is about getting your business message in front of those who need to hear it. But for what purpose? Well, my pretty, that’s where communications goals come in!

Communications goals are intrinsically linked to your broader business goals and your overarching vision. Any and every communications goal needs to have that bigger picture in mind, and the tactics to meet that goal must be moving the business towards their vision. 

Communications goals provide a clear focus. Intentions are unambiguous and keep you aligned to a broader business vision. They guide how you set priorities and resources and the act of creating communications goals demand focus- what do you actually want to happen from each communications activity? Why?

Let’s say your business goals for the next twelve months are to double your sales of your favourite service, or to fill out your 1:1 services, or to consistently sell out events to cement your positioning as a thought leader, or to increase your overall sales by 10% to make you the market leader in your industry. 

Your communications goals are going to be focussed on tactics that help you achieve these broader goals. 

For example, increased social media followers on a specific platform (communications goal) will build awareness (business goal). An improved client experience (communications goal) will increase your client retention rate (business goal). A website update with an extensive FAQ page (communications goal) will reduce admin time (business goal). An article published in a women’s health magazine (communications goal) will increase access and exposure to your target audience of fit women (business goal) 

Want some more examples?

Increase your brand awareness (so your audience knows who you are and wants a coveted 1:1 session with you), grow your mailing list (so your audience wants to come to one of your sold out events), build your personal profile by appearing in a national daily (to position yourself as the go-to expert in your field). 

Communications goals are a way to confirm and clarify the response you want from your communications and how you want your brand and business reflected. There’s an art and a science to writing goals, and everyone (and their grandmother) is familiar with the SMART process, but just to recap:

Write your goals in a way that is:

S-specific

M- measurable

A- attainable

R- relevant

T- time-based

I recently came across another acronym which is a bit more fun and passion-driven.

HARD goals:

H- heartfelt (tell me what you want, what you really, really want)

A- animated (can you clearly visualise what achieving this goal looks like)

R- required (includes steps that must be achieved to keep momentum and progression) 

D- difficult (complex enough to keep you sweating and engaged, rather than bored)

Regardless of whether your communications goals are SMART or HARD, bottom line- write them down and measure them!

Tell me, have you set beautifully clear goals for your business communications? If you’d like some specialist support with this, please get in touch. I’d love to work with you!

Hey from Holly

Tell your story - Get gorgeous communications direct to your inbox.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a post in my Communications Toolkit series. Each month, I share insights, hints and tips from my communications bag of tricks. I’ll show you how to rock communications, tactics to communications glory and how to use communications and PR to solve your business marketing problems. If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help, or address it in an upcoming blog post or on my social media platforms.

Tell Your Story- Denise from Gosh & Co

The Proust Questionnaire Denise Gosh&Co

It’s my favourite time of my blog schedule, when one of my gorgeous clients takes my revised version of The Proust Questionnaire! Say hello to beautiful Denise from Gosh and Co. Denise owns a multi-award winning salon in Mount Waverley and manages a team of dedicated and caring hair professionals. I love working with Denise on her communications and was utterly, completely thrilled when she took out the Corporate Responsibility category of the Monash Business Awards. She’s a good egg and not only is Denise my client, I’m also hers. I’m forever grateful to Denise and her team for introducing me to keratin; without which I look like an extra from the Lion King.

The Proust Questionnaire by Denise Maddaford, Gosh & Co

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To see the beauty in all things, and to be grateful grateful in the good and bad times.

What is your greatest extravagance?

My car, even though it’s now old. I still love it!!!

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Huh!!! No just kidding!!! It’s all good 🎈

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My team and the environment we have created together. Also my marriage, I love how we work together to get to the goal.

What is your most treasured possession?

My faith 💗 because all things are possible through him who strengthens me.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Oooh, my ability to see /understand other people’s point of view.

Who is your hero of fiction?

Mary Poppins

Who are your heroes in real life?

Joel Osteen for his teachings. He’s helped me to change the way I see life. People who bring out the best in others.

What is your motto?

Team Work makes the Dream Work!

Find out more about Denise at Gosh and Co

This is a post in my Tell Your Story blog series. Each month, I shine the spotlight on some of my clients and colleagues. If you’d like to know more about my work, or would like the full 35 questions from the Questionnaire, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll respond in a jiffy. 

Write a better business bio

Write a better business bio

So, it’s no secret that the power of words is at the heart of what I do as a communications specialist. I love writing in all guises, and in terms of writing for business, about pages have a special place in my cold, dark Word Nerd heart. About pages are an opportunity to turn someone’s CV into a story. I take their skills, experience and expertise and craft them into a narrative. A bio is the perfect extension (or is it contraction? 🤔) of this, and given the multitude of places it’s used, it’s the perfect place to slap a ton of personality into what can often be a bland piece of business writing. 

Like any other element of your business writing, your bio is a communications tactic that enforces and enhances your brand. It’s a way for people to fall in love with you at best, or relate to you at least. It’s a quick and easy way to establish trust and it can make the much bigger story of your CV more accessible. It frames a conversation, sets a tone, and when well-written, entices and compels.

A bio should tell a story.

Specifically:

  • Who you are
  • How you can help me
  • Your backstory 
  • Your professional journey
  • Why I should trust you
  • What we have in common. 

I find that most people need a few different variations of their bio to meet different purposes. Case in point- your Facebook bio will be different to your LinkedIn profile summary. There should be tree specific bios at a minimum for your communications toolkit:

1- basic first person, elevator-pitch 

2- first or third person paragraph (5-10 lines) for guest blog posts, speaking notes or other introductions

3- long form bio with extra detail and a call to action. 

All three need the principles of story to create a connection. Some beautifully-applied writerly glitter will turn your bio into a story without adding buzzwords (bleugh) and with clarity and concision. The voice (first or third person) will depend on the audience and the purpose of the bio so is interchangeable. 

Here’s some of my favourite bios:

Yours and Mine online

The Great Burger Caper

My Beautiful Abode

Arrow Group

Conquer Finance

Yours Truly

I love how all of these share a blend of personal and business information to paint a picture of the person in 3d. The writer of these bios is pretty damn awesome, even if I do say so myself. 

Tell me, does your bio tell a story? 

Hey from Holly

Tell your story - Get gorgeous communications direct to your inbox.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a post in my Writing for Business blog series. Each month, I share insights, hints and tips from my writing bag of tricks gained after almost twenty years of experience (oh Gawd) and my two Masters. I’ll show you how to rock writing a range of products, tactics to online communications glory and how to use communications and PR to solve your business marketing problems.  If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help, or address it in an upcoming blog post or on my social media platforms.

 

The road to living a life on my own terms

living life on my own terms

AKA turning my back on the hustle

Did you know that at Blue51HQ Monday = HollyDay? It’s an offical thing, decreed in blue texta on an A4 sheet of paper. A new one, in fact, not even a recycled one that I usually reserve for scribbles. That’s how important it is to me. 

Maybe it’s because I’m Italian, and la dolce vita and siestas are part of my DNA, but I’ve never subscribed to the concept of living to work. Nope, I work to live.  That’s not to say I don’t love my work- I wholeheartedly do. I live and breath writing, words, literature and communications. Life and family takes precedence over work for me, any day of the week.I’m in business for the flexibility- there, I said it. I built a business to support my lifestyle, otherwise I’d have a job.

Blue51 Communications was launched in January 2014 after a two-ish year work break for me, although I was writing in that time #cantstopwontstop in some form or another. I launched with one client and threw myself headfirst into small business life. I had been self-employed before, so it wasn’t new to me, but gone were the days where I could be up til 4am writing, fuelled only by blue cheese and crackers and a bowl of peanut M&Ms. Now on relaunch, I had to blend and balance my family life with a work life. 

About eighteen  months into my business journey, the balance was out. I simultaneously felt like a crappy mother and a crappy communications specialist. I limped to the end of the year, and spent the summer break putting in some boundaries around my business to get the balance back. I limited my work hours against a simple rule: no juggling attention between work and cherubs. Not working whilst offspring were around meant no more taking phone calls before 8.45am or after 3.15pm. No more writing emails between 4pm and 8pm whilst concurrently supervising homework, cooking dinner and referring battles between the offspring. I added a rule for no client facing work or meetings on Mondays or Fridays unless absolutely necessary to create some space and bookend the working week and create some availability for the full range of school commitments that seem to fall on those days. 

Still, even with these ‘rules’ in place, the balance was still out. I had clear definitions between work time and family time,  but with weekends now completely consumed with cherub sport, there was very little life admin time (you know, those shitty things we have to do like have food in the house) and bugger all Holly-time other than my early morning gym sessions. Whilst I am an early bird, getting up at 5.30am Every. Single. Day just to be alone gets old, real quick. Speaking of old, at 45 years of age, my knees ain’t what they used to be, so running is no longer a sustainable option for me and burpees stop being fun midway through the first.

My me-time was less zen and more akin to self-inflicted flagellation. 

In the early 00’s work/life balance was a massive corporate buzzword. I know the concept of work/life balance is now sneered or frowned upon. I’ve heard people (gurus, if you will, but I won’t) are advocating work/life alignment, whatever TF that means. Me; I like work/life balance. It suggests a scale, something measurable. I’m someone who likes well-defined compartments. They suit my borderline control freak personality. I believe that with some boundaries and a couple of decent checklists not only is a balance between life and work attractive, it’s highly attainable. 

 The problem arises when the boundaries between life and work blur and cancel each other out. When you have your own business there is a real danger in being constantly on. You see, I’m not only CEO of my business, but I’m CEO of my family life, and when my days tilt towards one over the other, balance is out, mistakes happen and I’m a frazzled mess. Me no likey being a frazzled mess.

I know the adage ‘a Sunday well spent brings a week of content’ but I think people using that concept in the context of doing all their life and work admin have completely misunderstood it. I have no desire to spend my Sundays shopping and batch cooking for the week ahead, or prepping for the week’s meetings and deadlines. It’s hard to tell your kids to get outside and get some fresh air and free play, all whilst tied to a to-do list. That’s work!

Weekends, especially Sundays, are a time for hanging out with my family and my friends. They’re a circuit breaker before rushing headlong into another packed week, and stuff spending down time doing ‘stuff’ for the future. What about living for the present? I couldn’t see a way out until one day I had a bit of a bloody obvious realisation- have a business day a week off! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! Except it wasn’t.

For two years, I had been trying to work towards having Fridays work-free, but as anyone with a business, or a pulse, really, knows, Fridays are very easily hijacked. 

Mid-last year, on one God-awful rainy Monday morning, I dropped my cherubs off to school only to discover that the youngest had an excursion scheduled and was in the wrong uniform. She cried, and after I calmed her down and left her in the care of her teacher, I drove home to a house with no fresh fruit and veggies and I cried too. As a naturally organised person, I don’t like feeling out of control, like I’m lurching from one thing to the next without a buffer. That’s when I took out that fresh piece of blank paper and wrote Monday=Holly Day.

I don’t schedule anything work-related for Mondays. It’s my day to reset and refocus. I do all my life admin: fruit and veggie and grocery shopping and appointments and the like. I walk my dog for longer than a quick bolt around the block. I cook, which is something I love to do when unharried, I write, and write about absolutely nothing to do with business or communications. I have coffees with friends or solo with absolutely none of the mum-guilt and biz-guilt that can stupidly come with a herbal tea in the sunshine at a gorgeous cafe. I can also very easily imagine a float tank, a facial, a hike and a mani-pedi in the near future. I return to my desk refreshed, recharged, energised and balanced, with a house full of food. 

‘The goal isn’t money. The goal is living life on your terms.’ 

On my noticeboard, amongst all the photos of things I love and my notes to self, I have this quote by Chris Brogan. Living life on my terms is one of my core values, and the financial aspects of that are secondary. I work hard every day to create a work environment that I love, but one that doesn’t impact on other areas of my life. I live by my boundaries and expect others to respect them too. 

Here’s my trusim- I work to live, not live to work.

I was influenced by this mantra in my late teens when I had a university placement for my Bachelor of Applied Science in Nursing at a palliative care centre. One of the nurse leaders shared a book with us, Regrets of the Dying, and excerpts from it have stayed with me over the years. Whilst I’m a hard worker, I’m committed to playing equally hard and have always made an effort to prioritise my life away from my work. 

I believe it’s important not to work 80 hours a week. I run my business, not the other way around. However, I’m running my business in an environment that celebrates never-ending hustle. The hustle never sleeps, and nor should you! To being a slave to your business I say, well, f#ck that! Sorry I can’t be more eloquent, but that’s basically what it comes down to. The whole hustle, hustle, hustle concept is unsustainable, unattainable and quite frankly, super unattractive. Do I have work/life balance now that I have given myself a day a week off? Of course not, but man, my life is so much better aligned to my values. That, my friend, is living life on my terms. 

Tell me, do you aim for work/life balance? Does the hustle concept bore you to tears too?

Hey from Holly

Tell your story - Get gorgeous communications direct to your inbox.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a post in my Holly’s Story blog category. Each month, I share some insights, thoughts and behind the scenes shenanigans from my communications and writing for business adventures. If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help, or address it in an upcoming blog post or on my social media platforms.

Who are you talking to?

target audience avatar

Ugh, surely not another small biz blog post about writing a target audience avatar? Hells, no! As they say in the classics, and on my Facebook feed about a gazillion times a day, ‘aint nobody got time for that!’

Look, I can’t deny that I do a happy dance when a new writing client has an extensive understanding of the niche they work in, but a 10 page dossier defining their audience’s favourite muppet character? Yeah, nah. That level of detail really isn’t necessary in effective communications. All you need, really, is just the basics and the facts, ma’am; just the facts. 

Psst- want my one page comms quicky? Here ’tis!

Get my Communications Planning 1 Pager Quicky

I often have clients who are highly aware that their communications lacks focus, and yes, that’s a problem because it means if a mark hasn’t been defined, then how do you hit it? Sometimes, people in service-based businesses (who I primarily work with) seem to fall into business with a client falling in their lap without a lot of marketing work before hand, and then the power of word of mouth and referrals keeps their business ticking along nicely. However, most of us want more from our businesses than ‘nicely’, and that’s where powerful, strategic communications come in. But first, we need a defined audience to communicate to. If you’re not talking to a specific someone, then who the hell are you talking to?

The more clear you are about your audience, the more targeted (and clear) your messages will be.

Some clients are concerned that if they niche too tightly, that if they write to that niche too deliberately, they’ll exclude potential clients. For example, I work with a fabulous executive coach who has the main audience of women in middle to senior management who want to take their career to new heights. That said, she does work with men with the same aspirations, but she doesn’t specifically market to men. My experience, and I’ve been doing this shiz for quite some time now (#ohsoold) is that the message will reach clients outside your niche almost by default whilst hitting your intended recipient fair square.

I’m no life coach, but I do know the feeling that comes with a lack of alignment between work and purpose, and it ain’t fun. Many of us in small business start off accepting clients because we need to pay the bills and grow our business. Are they the right client though? Does the work fill you with dread, or with joy? Defining your target audience is a fantastic way to redesign your business and get you to a position where you work with people and businesses that fill, not deplete your cup. 

The best (and quickest!) way to define your audience is to look at who you are already currently working with on your client list. What do these clients have in common? Where did they come from? Which/whom do you prefer working with? The clients you love will become your avatar of your target audience. 

Another approach is to look at your services- specifically the nitty-gritty about the benefits they bring to your clients. Now, who is in most need of that benefit? If you are a professional organiser, for example, and your time management brings a sense of calm and control to busy professional working mothers of school aged children, then boom- you’ve just found your audience. 

Of course, demographics are important- if your services come with a big ticket price tag, then there’s not a lot of point wasting communications efforts targeting budget shoppers, to put it rather crudely. My point is not to lose hours of your working day creating a dossier of an imaginary client. More important is a grasp of their motivations as this will dictate your messaging, while an understanding of who they are- ie who you are talking to- will inform your voice. 

Tell me, do you have a clear understanding of who you’re talking too? If you’d like a Word Nerd extraordinaire to bounce around your messaging against your audience, please get in touch. I’d love to work with you!

This is a post in my Communications Toolkit series. Each month, I share insights, hints and tips from my communications bag of tricks. I’ll show you how to rock communications, tactics to communications glory and how to use communications and PR to solve your business marketing problems. If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help, or address it in an upcoming blog post or on my social media platforms.

Blue51 Show and Tell- time for a website makeover

Blue51 Show and Tell- time for a website makeover

As a business grows and evolves, the initial website that showcased a new business can often become outdated and no longer reflective of the business and the audience. Put simply, it needs a makeover! Today’s Blue51 Show and Tell shows how I took a website that had, in the client’s words, ‘multiple spare rooms’ into a website that reflects the business accurately, professionally and compellingly. 

The project:

Writing a beautiful website that conveys the true essence of a business, setting it apart from competitors.

The client:

Arrow Group is a boutique recruitment and HR Consultancy that is unique- because their clients and candidates are. 

When I first met Arrow Group’s Director, Jen Waldron, she told me that she knows that many people have the sense that dealing with a recruitment agency would be right up there with a root canal. She set about to create an agency that was a complete turnaround from any other recruitment agency, one that clients and candidates alike would be supported by and taken care of. 

The client’s target audience:

Arrow Group is unique- not just in their business offering but in that they have two distinct audiences. Their target audience is clients (ie businesses and organisations that employ staff) and candidates (job seekers).

The approach: 

As per above, the Arrow Group project required a slightly different approach than I’d ordinarily use due to the two audience types. Language and copy needed to be accessible to both groups. There was a ton of existing content, and after meeting with Jen and Julie (key staff) at our initial briefing, I was inspired to create copy that clearly highlighted both their business values and their passion for their work, which quite frankly, was unlike any that I’d come across from a professional service before. I really wanted to convey the difference in not just what Arrow Group do (ie pair job seekers with employers) but how they do it. Seriously, how many recruitment agencies do you know that turn up to a workplace with cupcakes to celebrate milestones?

The results:

Arrow Group now has a beautiful new website that clearly articulates their professionalism, their passion and their ability to simply get a client and a candidate.  It was my absolute pleasure to take their ideas, business values and recruitment philosophy and transform them into a logical, extensive website aligned to their broader business goals. 

Tell me, does your website accurately convey who you are and what you do?

Website Essentials Checklist

Please get in touch– I’d love to help out.

This is a post in my Blue51 Show and Tell blog series . Each month, I share some of the projects I’m working on for my fabulous clients. I can’t wait to show you both the work we’re producing, as well as the amazing results they’re achieving in their businesses. 

There’s more unabashed bragging on my Facebook and Instagram feeds. If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help.

Apostrophe 101

how to use an apostrophe

How to use an apostrophe? Let me count the ways…

As a communications specialist, writer for business, and a person completely besotted with the english language, aka Word Nerd, nothing quite does my head in like seeing marketing materials littered with incorrect spelling, bad grammar and wayward apostrophes. If I’m wandering down the street, thoughts of sugary, decadent indulgence in my mind, cherub-free (so I don’t have to share), and I see a cafe with a chalkboard proclaiming ‘Our donut’s are the best,’ I don’t care if those donuts are injected with my body weight in nutella, rolled in persian fairy floss and served on the abs of Channing Tatum himself; I’m not buying those stupid donuts. In my younger, devil-may-care days it wasn’t unusual for me to pull out a pen and mark up cafe menus- yep, I was wild, I tell you. These days I resist the urge to defile public documents such as advertising flyers, although it’s not always easy. Instead, I’ll try a different approach to improving the world’s marketing materials, one apostrophe at a time, and give a very quick guide to using an apostrophe. Consider it a community service if you will. 

I know some people get all angsty and uptight about using apostrophes, so to avoid it they write phrases like ‘the results of my client,’ rather than the grammatically correct ‘my client’s results.’   The positive in this circumstance is I can understand what they’re expressing, and can fix it through editing, however the sentences become clunky and lose their flow (and thus the reader’s attention) very quickly.

Here’s the rule:

Use apostrophes only to show possession or to indicate missing letters (contractions).

Here’s how to implement the rule:

Write the word that owns something, add an apostrophe, then add an s.

Don’t use apostrophes in:

•possessive forms of pronouns- its, hers, ours, yours, whose.

•on inananimate objects- the price of wool, NOT the wool’s price

•in Australian place names- Kings Cross

•in Australian organisation titles- Workers Federation of Australia.

How’s that? Clear as mud? You don’t have to face the gut-wrenching of punctuation alone- I’m tertiary qualified in this quagmire and I’ll help you stop shoving apostrophes where they’re not wanted or needed. Give me a buzz and I’ll sort out your apostrophes quick smart.

Hey from Holly

Tell your story - Get gorgeous communications direct to your inbox.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Tell me, do you know how to wield an apostrophe?

This is a post in my Writing for Business blog series. Each month, I share insights, hints and tips from my writing bag of tricks gained after almost twenty years of experience (oh Gawd) and my two Masters. I’ll show you how to rock writing a range of products, tactics to online communications glory and how to use communications and PR to solve your business marketing problems.  If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help, or address it in an upcoming blog post or on my social media platforms.

My five favourite business books- well, kinda…

five favourite business books

Those of you playing along at home will know that each year, for the past three years, I publish a list of the best reads I’ve enjoyed. Some of the books are new, some are new to me, some are those I reread every couple of years because I just love them so, so much.

Here’s a link to 2016’s list, and 2017’s and 2018’s for your reading pleasure. 

You’ll see that only a small percentage of books that have a business focus make my list each year and that’s usually because many of the business books that cross my desk are incredibly unengaging. My criteria for a business book is that it must be well written (or at least, not overly awful) and that it leaves me with at least three actionable, specific things I can take away and implement within my own business and broader life. 

Criteria outlined; let’s get stuck in, in no particular order:

One Red Paperclip: or how an ordinary man achieved his dream with the help of a simple office supply by Kyle Macdonald

This was a funny read that gave me the feels, but also showed the power of PR, bloody well written descriptions and captions and a good news story. Journos would have been jumping out of their skins for this story, and it shows how a bit of creativity in pitching could have fantastic results.

 

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

This book had a great impact on my business by highlighting the power that can be gained by saying ‘no’ and by refusing to allow others to hijack your workload. There’s not many feelings at work that are less desirable than feeling busy and yet unproductive, and more than anything else, this is a read that celebrates focus as a gift to productivity. Whilst not amazingly well-written, it’s a quick and easy read with clear take-aways.

 

The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

This is one of those business bibles that is artfully included in almost every ‘take a tour of my office’ instagram post, positioned in a jaunty angle next to a fiddle-leaf frigging fig or some such greenery. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I could call myself a woman in biz (#girlboss! #eww) without reading it. There’s some really good, practical, commonsense and easy to apply practices that Ferriss recommends. Do I now have a 4 hour work week whilst raking in the cash Scrooge Mc-Duck style? No, but I have limited checking my email to three times a day, so that’s a win.

 

The Miracle Morning by Hal Enrod

Spoiler alert- this book prescribes waking up early which is nothing new for me. I do get up early, 5.30am in fact, but my morning routine has basically involved looking at my phone whilst putting on my sneakers to be at the gym at 6am. The Miracle Morning prescribes a little bit more love and care to the routine to up level your day, your business and your life. It’s six steps that are easy to implement, but may require a wake up time of 5am, which I’m not 100% on board with. I’m still thinking about actioning some of Hal’s steps, but can I see myself repeating affirmations at 5am? Computer says no… it’s a fun, easy read, though- go for it!

 

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris

OK, so this read hasn’t actually made it to one of my yearly booklists because I received it for Christmas last year, but it’s already earned itself a place in my 2019 list thanks to the page upon page of to-do items that I wrote as I read it. This is a massive book- would be a fantastic doorstop, in fact- but there is simply slabs of gold within the pages. There’s also some dubious ‘tools’- psychedelics, for example- but I think barely a chapter passed without me making a note for myself give a tool a try. I think that’s what I like most about it- every tool is offered up as a possibility. There’s no draconian must-dos. The content is delivered in an expression and invitation of gentle suck it and see. 

Hey from Holly

Tell your story - Get gorgeous communications direct to your inbox.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Tell me, what’s your favourite business book?

This is a post in my Holly’s Story blog category. Each month, I share some insights, thoughts and behind the scenes shenanigans from my communications and writing for business adventures. If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help, or address it in an upcoming blog post or on my social media platforms.

Are your business values aligned to your communications?

There was a specific brand that permeated my adolescence and early twenties that was cooler than cool.  It’s not a stretch to say that it played a big part in informing my career choice of communications, all while keeping my skin well moisturised without using products tested on animals. The brand was headed up by a formidable, pure dynamo of a woman that all the girls in my Year 12 cohort wanted to be when we grew up. They used marketing campaigns that compelled us to protect the planet, support community fair trade, defend human rights, support rights for women and remove blackheads. Can I get a hell yeah?

A decade or two passed, and imagine my dismay when walking past one of their stores with my cherubs to see an image bigger than my house of a naked man hiding his bits with a bar of (glycerine cruelty-free) soap. There can be no denying the model was sporting an admirable set of abs, but explicit exploitation, sexualised images and objectification were a considerable disconnect from the brand’s former, long term focus on unshakable ethics. 

Sex sells; there’s nothing new about that. But it doesn’t have to, and for the vast majority of brands and businesses, it’s inappropriate, unnecessary and unacceptable to buy in to the increasing overexposure of sexual advertising.

Business values and brand personality lie at the core of communications. It’s one of the first questions I ask clients at the start of a new project and the two inform each other. If a business values are grace and discipline and temperance then it’s highly unlikely (and molto difficult to implement) to have a brand personality that is cheeky and irreverent. 

As a communications specialist, one of my major goals whilst working with clients is to ensure their communications reflect their values. 

I look objectively at clients’ communications, specifically how they look from the outside. I assess everything against the values of the business, from event promotion, blog posts, websites, email campaigns and social media. Are the messages confusing? Do they align to the business vision? Do they inspire or offend the business target audiences?

Health and fitness businesses are often (unfortunately, and no doubt unintentionally) great examples of a disconnect between values and branding. Health and fitness often have the values of empowerment, motivation, strength and community. Let’s add welcoming, professional and inclusivity into the values mix. Step into the physical space of the business, and no doubt those values are on display via the staff, the equipment and the programming. However, take a peek at their Facebook page, or the posts on their website. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that the content is at best male-centric, and at worst blatantly sexist. A lot of content I see is demeaning and irritating, and I’m not impartial to sending a quiet PM to businesses to clean up their posts and stop offending their broader audience.

Communications messages can either enhance or detract. They can support or demolish a brand, and I love the part of my work that ensures communications efforts stay bang on brand whilst hitting the right targets, confirming that the way a business looks on the outside matches its goals and values. I work with businesses to ensure their branding remains unambiguous and their communications methods reflect the nuances and ethos of the business. We use targeted communications tactics to make sure their marketing efforts hit the right people with the right messages, and we work hard to avoid the negative stereotypes, branding and messaging that some businesses simply can’t seem to escape.

If you’d like an objective set of eyes to look over your communications, get in touch. I’ll help you cover up those rippling abdominals.

Tell me, are your communications bang on brand?

Get my Communications Planning 1 Pager Quicky

This is a post in my Communications Toolkit series. Each month, I share insights, hints and tips from my communications bag of tricks. I’ll show you how to rock communications, tactics to communications glory and how to use communications and PR to solve your business marketing problems. If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help, or address it in an upcoming blog post or on my social media platforms.