My Top 10 Reads for 2017

Holly Cardamone Top 10 Reads for 2017

Each month, when I stroll my way around my Google Analytics, one of the highest performing posts is last year’s reading round up. Seems everyone loves a good book recommendation, and Lord knows I love sharing an opinion, solicited or otherwise.  Of course, as per last year, these books aren’t necessarily new books, but they’re new reads for me.

Here’s the thing- writers read. You want to improve your writing? Read. It’s as simple as that. Reading gives me so much joy and pleasure, but it strengthens my writing and my creativity like nothing else. This year’s list is pretty light on in terms of books about business, but any piece of work that makes me rethink my sentence structure, or try a new opening or spark my mojo will obviously only benefit my business writing projects.

Let’s get reading, shall we?

1- Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin

OK, I’m 98% sure this series is the reason my book total is down by 15 this year, BUT each of these books weighed more than a newborn. My husband gave me the series for Christmas last year, and I absolutely devoured them. They’re a fantastic read whether you’ve seen the series or not, although I was a bit over all the pillaging and raping by halfway through the series.  I wish I’d read them first because they lay out who’s who in the zoo much more clearly than is possible with the TV series.

2- The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

I freaking loved this book. It reminded me of The Handmaids Tale (which I also reread this year alongside watching the incredible series and loved it as much as when I was a wee thing in my Year 12 uniform)  in terms of the dystopian-ish, all-too-could-be-true narrative. I read it in one sitting, and then felt sick about the way the world (and this country) views women.

3- Mr Wigg by Inga Simpson

A beautiful, sad and melancholy read, this one. The old man with shaking hands image had me teary, and so did his divine connection with his grandchildren. A gorgeous, gentle novel with divine prose.

4- 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.

5- Once/Now/After/Soon series by Morris Gleitzman

My older cherub and I started a mini book club with this series. It was her first intro to fiction about the holocaust, and of course was horrifying, evocative and really quite difficult to read and explain in terms of the subject matter. Morris Gleitzman does such a beautiful job of conveying something so horrific and incomprehensible via characters and language that connects to a young (and old- aka me) audience.

6- The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy 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.

7- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

It seems the older I get, the more I connect with cantankerous old farts. Ironic, really. I hinted on Instagram that this one might in fact make my top 10 reads for the year, and look, here it is.  It’s funny and slightly heartbreaking, and the writing is really beautiful.

8- Life in Half a Second by Matthew Micalewicz

This is a business-ish book about goal setting, with nothing particularly groundbreaking or new, but one which I found really well-written and which gave me a boost of motivation, hence it’s inclusion in my top 10, because I’m really short on good biz books in this year’s reading list AKA this is no War and Peace but I know people will be reading looking for a biz book recommendation or two. That said, yes, it got me fired up, so it has earned it’s place on this list. OK? Sheesh!

9- Black Rock White City by AS Patric

I really liked this novel- it’s set in Sandringham in Melbourne’s bayside, and I recognised so many landmarks. The language is clean and sparse and so bloody evocative. It has a real sense of malevolence and creepy drama that was unsettling and so, so good.

10- Second Half First by Drusilla Modjeska

I love Drusilla’s writing, and when I think about who I want to be when I grow up, it’s a close tie between her and Helen Garner. Some parts of this book were pure writing perfection, others were a bit plodding, with not the quite same of oh-my-freaking-god-this-is-incredible-ness of Poppy and The Orchard, but I did love, love, love it and highly recommend.

That’s it- my favourite books of the 60 I’ve read, as of today, 15 December 2017. I’d love your thoughts, your recommendations, your reactions.

Happy reading!

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Blue51 Show and Tell: My Top 10 Projects for 2017

2017 Blue51 top 10 projects writing and communications

Gosh, I’ve worked on some fabulous projects this year!

I’ve kicked around strategies for social media, for launches, for events and for writing projects. I’ve written websites, about pages, sales campaigns and even the odd carefully crafted text message.

Here, for your reading pleasure, is some of my favourite projects for the past year:

  1. SciDoc Solutions is a terrific speciality business that embraced a rebrand, complete with a brand spanking new website.
  2. Vibrance Clinics launched in 2017 and I absolutely loved bringing their brand communications, website and social media to life.
  3. It’s no secret that writing makes me feel as though the Gods are smiling upon me, and I was utterly in my zone of bliss when Louise from Style with Substance asked me to add my writerly glitter to her website about and services pages.
  4. Bouncing around communications strategies to generate a buzz is always a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours, so I loved working with The Independent Mum as she launched into NZ.
  5. Have a sales funnel that needs filling? Whilst my background in nursing means I can’t write ‘fill a funnel’ without sniggering (don’t ask because the visual I’ll give you won’t be pretty) in terms of communications gorgeousness, I have a crapton (lol, funnel, crap, lol) of word nerd ideas- just ask The Relationship Workshop.
  6. Collaborating with industry colleagues is a fantastic communications strategy with enormous win/win potential, and this year, Western Special Needs Dentistry absolutely nailed it, with support from yours truly.
  7. OK, so this one’s a bit cheeky, because it’s not a client project, but mine! I was completely chuffed to be nominated for a business award this year.
  8. Following on from my nomination was the communications strategy I managed for my beautiful client Gosh Hair‘s nomination for a Corporate Responsibility Business Award. Spoiler alert- we won!!!
  9. Ten years in business is an achievement worth celebrating, and celebrate Kinderballet did!
  10. Something very special popped up in my communications arsenal this year- my new logo! I teamed it up with a new website, and have had such an amazing response.

Thank you to all my wonderful clients- I absolutely love my work, and feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to help you tell your story and grow your businesses using beautiful communications.

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Lessons from NANOWRIMO for content marketing

Lessons from NANOWRIMO for content marketing

Ah, November, that most magical time of the year for word nerds around the globe. Why? It’s the annual 30 days of insanity that is NANOWRIMO.

It’s a strange acronym, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. The basic premise is to write 1666 words a day, every day, for thirty days, resulting in a novel of 50,000 words. I first discovered NANO when I was doing my Masters- Writing and Literature- and fell in love with the concept straight away.

Psst- feeling a little blocked? Here’s a sweet little freeby to get your writing muse working overtime:

My Top 10 Go-To Writing Prompts

Here’s what I love about NANO in the context of content marketing and writing for business:

  • It involves goal setting that is crystal clear, achievable and just a little bit nuts so as to involve growth and development
  • The concept is wholly focused on creating before consuming- it’s easy enough to get stuck into ‘research’ with writing projects, but the only way to get something written is to write. #funnythat
  • You can’t edit a blank page, so bang out the daily word count and then go back and edit- this stops the over-analysing and uber-judgement. Don’t tweak and fiddle- just keep moving forward.
  • It pushes you firmly out of your comfort zone. Let be be clear- writing 1666 words a day isn’t easy. Some days, the words flow (my record is just over 11,000, but I don’t recommend it because my fingers swelled like sausages), but other days the words just don’t come, which of course means hitting the word count is really difficult. Once a day or so is missed, the word count becomes pretty daunting, really quickly.
  • It is extreme, but it is doable, even if you stretch your goal by 12 weeks to decrease the word count to 500 words per day.
  • The approach can be applied to any project within a business.

NANO is basically productivity on steroids. I love that the urgency created with a 30 day goal makes me incredibly focused and moving forward towards the end game.

Tell me, do you like challenges?

 

This is a post in my Writing for Business blog series. Each month, I share insights, hints and tips from my social media and digital marketing bag of tricks. I’ll show you how to rock online communications and how to use digital marketing 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.

Farewell Facebook, hello mailing list

Time to gently move people away from social media and on to your mailing list

Don’t listen to anyone who says email is dead. Email campaigns still have massive conversions. Best of all? Email isn’t a slave to a reach algorithm- your message lands directly in someone’s inbox, not hidden away in a feed.

Here’s the thing- social media is a non-negotiable, must-have communications strategy for 98.9% of businesses, no doubt about it. However, there’s no escaping the fact that the lack of control of a channel is problematic. So many people I know (including me) have fought the urge to shed tears of pure frustration because of the impact on the latest algorithm on engagement. Put simply, it’s not a great idea to have social media as a sole channel of communicating with a target audience, and needs to be implemented alongside broader, complementary strategies. It’s a good idea to gently shepherd people off Facebook and onto your mailing list.

Clients are sometimes reluctant to add ‘create, develop and nurture the bejesus out of a mailing list’ to their overflowing list of things to do in their business. Strategically managed, a list will drive people back to your website, help you remain front of mind for your zone of genius, and engage your target audience in a personal, meaningful way.

The people on your mailing list (gained legally and with no icky practices like signing people up without their consent) have shown a genuine interest in your business. It makes absolute sense to stay in regular contact with them. Of course, you don’t have to go it alone. Get in touch with your favourite word nerd for a spot of support. Spoiler alert- it’s me.

Tell me, do you have a campaign to put your followers to work for you?

Pick Your Perfect Social Media Platform

This is a post in my Digital Marketing blog series. Each month, I share insights, hints and tips from my social media and digital marketing bag of tricks. I’ll show you how to rock online communications and how to use digital marketing 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 brand story- it’s the core of effective communications

Tell your brand story- it’s the core of effective communications

As either a long term Blue51 aficionado or a new visitor arriving via Google, social media or because your friend said ‘you have to check out Holly’ *waves hello* you may not know that ‘tell your story’ is my tagline. Yep, that’s it.  More than a tagline, it’s the core of my brand story, the essence of what I do through my communications, writing for business and social media services. It guides everything I do in terms of the services I offer and my communications and marketing.

A good brand story will share how and why your business was established, your motivations, drivers, criteria for success- both yours and the people you serve. Basically, they provide an insight into your work and the people involved, both as providers and recipients, and the relationship between the two, in the context of the benefits your work provides others.

I love writing brand stories for clients, and I think they’re incredibly important to use in your communications toolkit. They enhance and facilitate connection and engagement which are essential to building relationships. It’s an articulation of your values, the core of your work, and so it’s not a set and forget task to tick off. You’ll use iterations of your brand story across all of your business communications, from your website (not just your about page!), your social media posts, your marketing and sales funnels, your client work process, in fact your entire client experience journey should emulate your brand story.

OK, so this sounds quite wishy-washy, which is soooo not me. I’m all about the practical and action based, so here’s some examples and tips for sharing your brand story:

  • Write out your brand story (the who, the what, the why) in the first person wherever possible. First person point of view resonates and is engaging.
  • Turn this into a blog post, or copy for your about page after giving it a decent edit.
  • Write a set of at least five key messages that fall out of your brand story and align these to the different services/arms of your business and what you do. These will become prompts for your social media strategy, or your captions, to be more specific.
  • Include elements of your brand story in your client touchpoints including proposal documents, invoices, website contact page and emails.
  • Weave your brand story into your bio and elevator pitch. The why is almost always more interesting than the what, and together they’re a pretty compelling combo.

Tell me, do you have a clear and well articulated brand story for your business?

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This is a post in my Communications Toolkit series. Each month, I share insights, hints and tips from my communications and copywriting bag of tricks. I’ll show you how to rock copywriting a range of products, 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.

How to create fabulous brand touchpoints for your business

How to create fantastic brand touchpoints for your business

We have contact!

There are multiple ways a person comes into contact with your brand and your business, and a huge part of my communications advising work with my fabulous clients is ensuring their business has consistent, accurate and compelling communications across almost all touchpoints.

Look, there’s a gazillion ways you can market your business, but rather than try everything to see what sticks, pick a number of essential tactics or strategies that are aligned to touchpoints, ie that make sense to the way typically somebody comes across your business, and do them well. I usually advice on five touchpoints to focus on, and the five will complement each other and are manageable in the day to day of running a business.

Your five touchpoints could be:

  • Your website and SEO
  • Your social media- of course, pick the platform that’s best aligned to your business goals.*
  • Your mailing list
  • Your branding- particularly important for businesses with a physical location
  • Your event schedule including external events such as networking and conferences.

It’s believed that someone will need to see a message around five to ten times before they make a purchasing decision, so the more contact they have with your business across different channels, the better.

Now, here’s the kicker:

Ensure that there’s consistency in communications across all of your touchpoints. What does this mean exactly? The voice that’s on your website should be the voice that you use in your social media captions, and when someone meets you at a networking event there’s no disconnect between your online persona and the real life experience of speaking with you. The pitch you deliver verbally about your work and your services should echo the information that you’ve included in your website copy.

Tell me, do you have consistency in communications across your touchpoints?

*Here’s a little freeby checklist to help you be on the right track in terms of choosing a platform.

Pick Your Perfect Social Media Platform

This is a post in my Communications Toolkit series. Each month, I share insights, hints and tips from my communications and copywriting bag of tricks. I’ll show you how to rock copywriting a range of products, 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: A bright, shiny new website

writing a new website

Gosh, what a fabulous feeling it is to set a beautiful new website live in the world! A website is a business’ online home, so it’s important that it reflects that business accurately, professionally and effectively. Today’s Blue51 Show and Tell does exactly that.

The project:

Copywriting a beautiful new website.

The client:

SciDoc Solutions works with companies and organisations providing R&D, manufacturing, quality assurance and clinical research project management and documentation solutions for life sciences industries and organisations.

The client’s target audience:

SciDoc Solutions target audience are start ups in Biotech, medtech, manufacturers, clinical research organisations and medical associations.

The approach:

Dr Esther Apos, Founder of SciDoc Solutions, wanted a website that clearly articulated her diverse services across a range of somewhat diverse health science industries. Dr Esther had already developed a strong visual identity and branding elements, and I was thrilled when my gorgeous web developer extraordinaire, Felicity from Metrix Operations, acted as matchmaker between Dr Esther and myself to get her website copy written in a way that reflects her extensive experience and skills.

The results:

SciDoc Solutions now has a beautiful new website, and Dr Esther has a website that she’s proud to tell people to visit, one that articulates her professionalism, her attention to detail and her ability to get the job done, all of which she is so well known for within her industry.

Tell me, does your website accurately convey who you are and what you do? Please get in touch– I’d love to help out.

Website Essentials Checklist

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.

Blue51 Show and Tell: My Five Favourite Business Tools

my five favourite business tools

One of the best things I believe about working for oneself is the ability to trial different processes and strategies. When I worked for others, I was locked in to their systems and software, many of which were fabulous (and fabulously expensive) but when you’re someone who wears almost all of the hats within a business, some flexibility and creativity in terms of approaches makes for a much more productive, efficient and effective workflow.

I have a number of tools that make my working life easier, and here’s my top five*:

Yoast SEO

OK, so SEO is a bit of a dark art, and there is a TON of information, courses and programs out there about getting your website ranking well, as well as a TON of super-dodgy businesses selling SEO packages for a gazillion dollars a month to manage your SEO. I manage my SEO with this super easy plugin. A traffic light sits below every page of my website including blog posts, and by filling in the blanks, each page becomes optimised for my chosen keywords, and I get a red, orange or green indicator telling me how well I’ve optimised.

ASANA

Here’s the thing- I’m a bit of a control freak. I know, right? I live and and work by routines, checklists and processes, and Asana is a way to have them all in one place. My processes allow me to work efficiently and to banish the fluff, and I have a checklist for almost every action within my business, from onboarding a new client, to closing off a project, to managing meetings, to invoicing processes (paired up with my accounting software) and following up networking events. It took a lot of work initially setting everything up, but the end result is an effortless, consistent approach to everything I do in my business.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a tool I use both within my business and in for my social media management clients. It’s a tool with a simple, beautiful interface for scheduling social media posts, for managing engagement and for content creation.

Canva

I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that I use Canva at least three times a week, either for myself or for clients. I love that it gives a complete design-phobic like me the ability to quickly come up with beautiful graphics for social media and for blog posts that are on brand. That said, I have no hesitation in sending off anything that needs more care and attention to a professional- it’s good, but it’s not a graphic designer.

Cookidoo

OK, so this one isn’t strictly a business tool, but let me tell you that this freaking genius piece of software makes my life easier Every. Single. Day. It gives me access to around 11,000+ recipes from around the world, it allows me to spend less than 7 minutes deciding what the family is going to eat for the day/week/month, and it emails me a shopping list based on this straight to my phone, so I don’t have to fluff around the stupid-market for a second longer than I need to. It even syncs to my Thermomix  so when feeding the family (why do they have to eat every day?! Why?) I don’t even have to have a recipe out on the iPad or in an actual book. I just have to hit ‘next’ when told to. The mental load it decreases is sig-nif-ic-ant, and I’m someone who actually enjoys cooking. If you hate cooking, then this is life changing.

That’s it! My favourite tools that keep my business and broader life ticking along beautifully. None of these tools are affiliate links- I just really love them!

Tell me, do you have some business tools that have become your go-to?

*These are my top 5 for now– I’m always open to trying something new with the goal of making my life better.

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You’re on record- quick tips for interview gold

 

You’re on record- quick tips for interviewing gold

Did you know that almost all of my clients complete a questionnaire as part of my onboarding process? It’s basically a way for me to get to know a client’s business, goals and plans in order for me to provide the best possible communications advice, writing services or social media support. The questionnaire is a written document that I send, and one which guides my research before we get together to bash out a project. It’s a process I’ve adapted from my younger, high-heeled days when I blended my communications roles with life as a freelance writer, and is based on the process I learnt as part of my Master of Writing and Literature, and used to interview people for magazines, newspapers and journals.

Whilst the days of freelance writing for publications are behind me, THANK GOODNESS, I still use the skills of interviewing almost every day in my business. The process of interviewing is a fantastic way to collect information that’s part of a bigger and broader story. If content marketing is part of your communications toolkit, then you will love, love, love my quick tips for interviewing someone:

Get to the point

Know the focus you want the interview to have, otherwise it will end up as a bit of a rambling mess. Do some research of the industry of the person you’re interviewing as part of your preparation so you can develop an informed line of questions that support your predefined focus.

Do your research

To support your question development get some background information to guide their creation. Knock up a list of questions with a mix of open and closed questions that are informed, intelligent, respectful and relevant. You might like to include presumptive questions in your mix- questions that assume your interviewee feels a certain way about a certain topic. These can be fantastic to fire up an interviewee to get them away from the company line and be more spontaneous in their response.

Be prepared for the unprepared

Not easy for us Type-A people, but don’t be afraid to veer away from your prepared questions. Being spontaneous and asking questions in response to what your interviewee says will open up the conversation and give them an opportunity to expand on a concept you hadn’t previously considered.

Tell me, do you interview people as part of your content marketing?

Psst… feeling stuck for writing ideas? Check out this bad boy:

My Top 10 Go-To Writing Prompts

This is a post in my Writing for Business blog series. Each month, I share insights, hints and tips from my social media and digital marketing bag of tricks. I’ll show you how to rock online communications and how to use digital marketing 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.

Put your followers to work

Put your followers to work User Generated Content campaign

When it comes to social media and children you shouldn’t play favourites. That said, Instagram, you’re my favourite. I think Facebook is an essential tool for business, and LinkedIn has it’s strengths (but not a lot of personality), but Instagram for me is such a powerful, often overlocked tool.

Oops-

Let me just interrupt myself here with a gentle reminder- the most essential social media platform for your business is the one that’s where your ideal client is hanging out. Here’s a sneaky little freeby to help you determine exactly that:

Pick Your Perfect Social Media Platform

One of the things I love best about Instagram is how bloody simple it makes creating user generated content campaigns- aka putting your followers to work. There’s some fabulous examples of businesses doing really, really well at this:

Frank Bod

De Lorenzo Haircare

Globe West

and my absolute favourite

Forman Art and Framing *

There’s a number of ways to create user generated content campaigns:

An Instagram photo contest is fun and (relatively) easy. You can team up with another business for your competition, with a prize that’s attractive to both of your audience, which is a fabulous way to gain followers and brand exposure in tandem with another business.  Have a clear call to action that confirms the process of entering the competition. For example, it might be an image of your product, tagging your business and using your specified hashtag.

Tag to win competitions are popular because they ask very little of followers and they can rapidly increase followers and brand awareness. The call to action in these types of posts are to tag a friend or two (or three or four, although my preference is just one, because more than that is just annoying), and a condition of entry is each entrant must be a follower of your feed.

On conditions of entry:

Instagram has a set of rules about competitions, but it’s also important to state the rules within your post, and it doesn’t hurt to have a specific page on your website that includes rules and conditions of entry for competitions. Include start and end dates, and a comment about how many times someone can enter.

Here’s an example of a competition caption I wrote for a client:

Want to win a free {insert service} ? Here’s the deal-

Tag two friends between 8am and 8pm Melbourne time. If you get picked out of our hat you and your friends will get a {insert service} on us. We’ll DM the winners.

To enter, you must be followers of {insert account name}. Winner will be drawn on {insert date and time} and must be able to get to our {insert business name and location}. This competition is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by Instagram.

Tell me, do you have a campaign to put your followers to work for you?

*Disclaimer: Kara is a client but I do declare that I learn more from her than vice versa! The girl is on fire…

This is a post in my Digital Marketing blog series. Each month, I share insights, hints and tips from my social media and digital marketing bag of tricks. I’ll show you how to rock online communications and how to use digital marketing 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.