Don’t drown in creation- try some curation!

curating content

Content marketing is a massive time suck. There, I said it. Blogging, social media captions and email marketing aren’t a quick and easy process- well, not if they’re quality. Writing is really the quick part- there’s researching, publishing, sharing, repurposing, lions, tigers, bears, oh my!

What if there was a way you could have a robust, comprehensive, kick-arse content strategy that doesn’t involve you writing each and every part of it? The answer, my pretty, is content curation, and it’s a little somethin’ somethin’ that always brings a sparkle to the eye of my communications clients. 

Here’s the thing- not everything you share in your content marketing strategy has to be yours. Nor should it be. Now, isn’t that liberating?

Curation is a concept that Interior Designers use All. The. Time to create a cohesive, well-resolved interior (taken straight from my client My Beautiful Abode’s beautifully written website). A curated space is one where not everything and anything is out on display. Rather, a thoughtful, considered and careful approach is applied. Content curation follows the same philosophy. 

Curating content gives your audience access to a variety of voices- not just yours. Sharing content from other sources shows a level of generosity and that you value difference. It’s a wholistic approach to your content strategy and from another perspective is one that relieves hours upon hours from your workload. It’s a value-add for your audience that is relatively simple to implement from your end. 

Curating content can position you as an expert in your space, as it gives you the opportunity to add your own perspective and position and viewpoint to what you’re sharing in your caption. Pose questions, challenge assumptions and have a conversation with your audience in that context, particularly on LinkedIn which has the core purpose of being a forum for professional exchange rather than general chit-chat.

Like all communications, the key to getting the most milage out of your content curation strategy is a keen and clear understanding of your target audience. The content you share needs to be aligned to both your business purpose and message and to your audience’s needs and interests. If you’ve worked with me on a content strategy, you’ll know I favour content pillars as a way to structure your message. So too with content curation and so create some categories that your audience will appreciate and resonate with, and that are a natural fit for your business and your branding. For example, my audience is primarily people with their own service-based business. The topics of interest to them (and me) inform the basis of my content curation pillars, so I share a lot of content about productivity, good (business) reads, writing tips and tricks and communications. 

After defining your topics, find the sources of content that follow that topic. I find my best content from three main sources; Flipboard, Medium and my clients and colleagues who are experts in their respective fields. I also share content from blogs of businesses and brands that I admire. I only share content that I myself would consume, or that I’m almost completely convinced would be of interest to my audience. 

Tools for sharing curated content are plentiful but I like to keep things super simple. I have two curated content spaces per week my content schedule in both Facebook and in LinkedIn, with rotating 4 topics. In my notes app I have separate pages for each topic, and as I find content (via the sources above), I add the URL and some notes to aid my caption writing in the relevant notes page. Then on my social media scheduling day it’s a simple copy and paste. Boom!

Curated content is helpful marketing at its very best, with your audience’s core needs (inspirational, informational, educational, motivational) at the heart of your strategy. But one last comment- do it properly! Attribute, don’t steal, and link back directly to the original source.  

Tell me, does content curation factor in your strategy? 

Holly Cardamone bio

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 projects to solve your business writing ills. p  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.

Hey from Holly

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

What’s your brand’s pronoun?

What’s your brand’s pronoun?

In communications, brand voice is critical to connection. Voice is a reflection of brand personality and persona and influences the way a brand connects with an audience and vice versa. When working with a client on their communications, their voice is one of the first things I audit, and as a writer, pronouns are essential to voice.

I know not everyone is grammar-obsessed like moi (but oh, what a magical world that would be), so here’s a quick refresh on a pronoun, straight from the workbook from my Writer’s Toolkit Workshop:

Pronoun: Words that stand in for nouns. 

In terms of business communications and a brand pronoun, it relates to whether a brand (company x) calls itself ‘we’ or ‘I’ within in a sentence. It’s a question that comes up all the time in my communications advising sessions with people who are sole-traders and there’s really no absolute right answer. 

My experience is a lot of businesses of one use the ‘we’ pronoun to be seen bigger than they actual are and because they feel it adds an element of professionalism to their message. Personally, when I rebranded and launched Blue51 Communications I used a ‘we’ pronoun for that reason, as I’d worked as in-house communications director and had worked with agencies who were firmly in the ‘we’ category. I felt like it was a necessity. With hindsight, I know (firsthand!) that the ‘we’s’ were very much ‘I’s’. 

Very few of us, despite what our ABN classification says, work in isolation. I’m a sole trader, but I work closely with other sole traders and companies (ie web developers, graphic designers, bookkeepers and accountants, virtual assistants). I’m a one woman show, but strictly speaking, I don’t run my show completely solo. Even so, it felt incredibly ingenuine and phoney to refer to my team, and more than a little pretentious. 

I stuck with the ‘we’ pronoun for almost a year, but I discovered fairly quickly that the ‘we’ pronoun wasn’t working in my favour. Firstly, everything I wrote (everything) felt arduous, difficult and inauthentic- largely because it felt misrepresentative and inauthentic. Secondly, my clients were coming largely via word of mouth and recommendation, and people wanted to work with me, Holly Cardamone, and not the business. The ‘we’ had to go. As soon as I shifted my message from ‘we’ to ‘I’, everything shifted. My writing flowed, my messaging was clear and I felt a much less tenuous connection to my audience. 

Psstt- does using ‘I’ feel a little too close to self-promotion for you? I have a sweet ‘lil freebie to help with that ick. You’ll find it at the end of this post.

 

Really, at the core, audience should define the pronoun. Have a quick think about your audience, the people you want to work with. Do they need or want to identify personally with the person behind the brand? Do their needs (and your value proposition that meets those needs) require a personal, authentic connection and relatablity? Do they need to know, like and trust a brand as a person? Is your professional relationship with them based on personal connection? 

I’m not big on acronyms other than WFT, which I tend to use on the daily, but it’s worth thinking about your connection with your clients. Is it B2C? B2B? Even in the category of B2B, it can be further tightened to P2P- person to person. When you’re one person speaking to another person, the pronoun can either make or break that connection. Using ‘we’ implies a group of people from your business is talking at that person. Using ‘I’ implies you personally speaking directly to and with a person. Back to my experience- personal connection was key to my ideal audience relating to me and my work and taking that next step to investing in their communications with me as their Word Nerd. It also was (and is) a way to screen potential clients to unearth the good eggs I really want to work with and exclude those that I wouldn’t be a good fit for. 

If your business is focussed on the personal, and you very much want to be a face behind your brand, but you have a team, you’re not completely restricted to the ‘I’ pronoun. Honesty and authenticity is important to brand reputation and it’s obvious when someone isn’t being forthcoming with how much they actually do in their business. Do you think Oprah does everything in her empire herself? Use messages such as ‘my team and I’, or ‘I love what my team has created for…’ or ‘my team has been …’ This is still first person but indicates you’re not a solo operation/superhuman. 

Your broader vision for your business also influences your pronoun. If you have plans to scale and expand and potentially sell your business then the ‘we’ pronoun is completely appropriate. I have a number of clients who are currently solo but have plans to expand, and so we’ve created a strong brand persona to enhance their personal feel and sense of connection and relatability in their messaging. We use (see?) language such as ‘all of us at Company x are excited for’ , or ‘the team caught up recently to talk about our …’ and the brand voice is fun and friendly to bring the audience along for the ride. 

If you’ve been battling along in the world of ‘we’ but want to move across to ‘I’, a good way forward to to do a really strong introduction post on your social media platforms, or perhaps a blog post, saying this is who I am. That draws a line in your communications sands, and frees you to move forward in the world of ‘I’. 

Tell me, what’s your business pronoun*? If your pronoun doesn’t sit right, it may be time for a communications over coffee with me to bounce around some ways to tweak your messaging. Give me a buzz! 

*I have a confession- I really wanted to title this blog post ‘Are you down with your brand’s pronoun?’ but do my tweens really need another opportunity to eye roll at their dear old mum?

Self-Promotion Minus the Ick

Holly Cardamone bio

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.

Why Blue51? The story behind my business name

It’s interesting- at least once a month I’m asked about the story behind my business name, Blue51 Communications. I’m a sucker for a good brand story myself- or any story, really- hence my business tagline- tell your story.

Before we can deep dive into the why, let’s do a quick skate over the what.

 

Blue51 Communications is a sweet ‘lil boutique communications consultancy with one core focus- the power of story. I wholeheartedly, emphatically believe that words are at the heart of good communications. The whole crux of my business, inclusive of all of my services (communications advising, strategy and writing for business) is helping my clients communicate better with their audience. Bottom line: I help people in business say something (ie their story) and have that message heard by their intended recipient. 

I’ve been working as a communications specialist and a professional writer for over 25 years now (sheesh!). In fact, my business, Blue51 Communications, started life as Holly Cardamone Communications and Freelance Writing.  In this capacity, I wrote freelance pieces for magazines, journals and newspapers whilst balancing contract and project roles with large organisations, mostly government agencies. Before that, and in between launching as Blue51 Communications, I worked as communications manager and as director for a number of different organisations. I also brought a couple of cherubs into the world as well (no mean feat).

It’s those two said cherubs that largely influenced my why and my brand story.

 

Here’s the thing- the working mama juggle ain’t always a big bucket of champagne. Work/life balance makes an appearance on a lot of company profiles- I should know, I write them 😜- but in reality, I know that it can be an illusion. I’m not suggesting that there’s no such workplace as one that has true flexibility, I’m sure there are plenty, but I also know from my experience and that of my working mama friends, that they are a rare and much coveted breed. If my cherub is up for a student of the week award and I want to go witness that moment of seeing her eyes light up, then damn it, I’m not running that by anyone.

When I rebranded Blue51 Communications, a huge part of my why was walking the tightrope between my work and my family commitments, however, it’s not the main why, the why why, if you will. 

I wasn’t particularly familiar with the world of small business (other than other freelancers such as graphic designers and web developers) until my last in-house communications role. I managed communications for a not-for-profit membership organisation, where a lot of that client base were people with small businesses. When word got out that I was leaving, a number of members contacted me for outsourced communications and writing support for their own small businesses. These were people who had seen how I had turned around that organisation’s communications and wanted to see what magic I could work on their business. I caught a glimpse of a need requiring fulfilment. 

When I looked around to see what communications services were around to help people like this, I was really quite shocked to discover a big, fat gaping hole in the market. Well, honestly, it was a mix of shock and delight- I’d uncovered a fabulous opportunity for my work life. It really struck me that there was a need for no BS communications and writing services that cut to the core of what a business needs, and excluded all the crap that they didn’t (highway overpass advertising, I’m looking at you). Businesses need to tell their story in a way that connects to their audience. I love little else other than telling a story. Add growing a business with beautiful communications and I’m one happy Word Nerd. 

But who to offer my skills and expertise to? The diversity of a client mix appealed to me greatly opposed to the relative static environment of in-house communications. People who were approaching me had fantastic business offerings, but lacked effective messaging to get their ideal client to take notice of them and see their value. There’s a lot of people who lack the skillset in communications to showcase their business effectively, but rather than work with just anyone, I wanted to be considerate and deliberate about who I worked with. A couple of key clients cemented this- I only wanted (and still am committed to this) to work with people who are doing good stuff out in the world in their special zone of bliss. It’s very Jerry McGuire-esque, but more than anything, I wanted to be inspired in my work life.  Ooh, do I spy a who? Why yes, indeed!

Boom- my why and my who and my what clarified! Now, what to call this mofo and close off this brand story?

 

I wanted some distance between myself and my business (work/life balance, y’all). I bid farewell to Holly Cardamone Communications and got out a big sheet of blank paper and some coloured textas, which is where all the good stuff happens. 

I was on holiday on a beautiful tropical South Pacific island, reflective and serene, when the word ‘blue’ kept rising to the forefront. Blue water, blue skies, blue cocktails. Blue is calming and ordered yet makes an indisputable impact. Think of a splash of blue against a white backdrop, or the slash of a white cloud on a blue sky. Packs a punch, yes?

Without getting too esoteric or woo-woo (soooo not me!), blue is the colour of water, the sea and the sky with all the associated symbolic references of calm, peace, stability, security and loyalty. It’s associated with depth and stability, symbolising trust, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth and integrity. Whilst in my communications I make sure cliches are avoided like the plague (get it, get it, see what I did there?), they often have a basis in an elemental truth. Blue skies are emblematic of optimism, creativity and opportunity and are full of positive meaning in almost every culture- after all, we live on the blue planet. It was decided- the word blue had to be front and centre of my refreshed business name.

As for the meaning of 51, I wish I could give you a symbolic reference to the deeper intention of numerology, but alas. They’re a pair of numbers that were the respective favourites of two Blue51 cherubs I know.

So Blue51 Communications is my business name; my tagline is ‘tell your story’. Why? Because nothing connects like a good story, and as a Word Nerd, story is at the heart of all my communications. 

Tell me, does your business have a compelling brand story? If you’d like help telling yours, please contact me. It’s my second favourite thing to do. 

Holly Cardamone bio

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.

The anatomy of a gorgeous landing page

The anatomy of a gorgeous landing page

A landing page (or three) is essential for an effective list building strategy. Actually, they’re essential for many communications and online marketing tactics because they’re specifically created for an action- often to sign up to a list. 

Some people use their home page as a landing page. This isn’t ideal as a strategy because it’s just a smidge to open ended. Home page is your front door; a landing page is the servant’s entry where you want the baker to deliver the bread. You don’t want the baker wandering all through your house dropping crumbs everywhere, do you? Basically, a landing page controls how people land on your site and the action they take once they’re in your online ‘hood and require very clear and direct messages with very little ambiguity- actually, make that none at all. In fact, banish all hints of ambiguity to the pits of hell, ploise!

A landing page isn’t the place for a War and Peace-esque rumination.

All you need is:

  • A headline
  • A subhead or tagline with a hint of suggestion
  • A brief description- so brief it could be worn by an ‘influencer’ 
  • An image
  • Maybe (and only maybe) some social proof by way of testimonial. 

There’s a trend ATM for massive, long form landing pages which I know is based on a US online marketing tactic. I’ve been asked to quote on landing pages where an outline of inclusions would make the copy in excess of 5000 words. I can write these, and do, but my question to clients is always based on the audience. Will their audience of time-poor working mothers sit and read 5000 words? If yes, I’ll happily write; if not, let’s cut the waffle and get straight to the good stuff. 

Some people also like to include a video within landing pages- I’m personally not a fan, but again, the specified audience is the driver behind content like this. If they’ll watch it, go ahead and include it! But keep in mind the goal of a landing page which is usually to solicit a response. Let’s make that an easy solicitation, shall we?

Tell me, do you use landing pages to support your online communications?

Holly Cardamone Bio

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.

Tell your story- Jen from Arrow Group

Tell your story- Jen from Arrow Group

My goodness, I love sharing my clients’ stories via The Proust Questionnaire! Today we have gorgeous Jen from Arrow Group. Arrow Group is a boutique recruitment and HR business in Melbourne’s beautiful East. 

The Proust Questionnaire by Jen Ramage, Arrow Group

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To enjoy good health and be able to do something with my life that not only earns me a living but also makes a contribution back to the community.

What is your greatest extravagance?

A couple of years ago I headed overseas, as part of a girls’ trip to celebrate my best friend’s 50th birthday.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“I was just thinking”

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Apart from my gorgeous children, I consider taking the risk and starting my own business as being my greatest achievement.

What is your most treasured possession?

My Thermomix because I love to cook.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Tenacity

Who is your hero of fiction?

I don’t have a particular hero of fiction however; I am thoroughly enjoying Michelle Obama’s autobiography “Becoming”. An intelligent woman who was a  key force in the success of the Obama Presidency.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Olivia Newton-John: because she is talented and passionate about creating a holistic approach to health care.

What is your story?

I have enjoyed a successful career in sales including the recruitment and labour hire industries. Frustrated with the lack of  commitment and care, I felt the industry could do better. Enter: Arrow Group a niche business which focuses on providing a fully personalised service to both clients and candidates. We never take our position for granted and are continually striving to be better in ourselves so that we can make other people’s dreams a reality.

What is your motto?

Live for today, tomorrow has already gone and the future will unveil itself in due course

Find out more about Jen and Arrow Group here. 

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. 

Track and measure; track and measure!

Track and measure; track and measure!

Track and measure; measure and track. It’s something I bang on about All. The. Time. Seriously, I bore myself, but tracking and measurement is so essential to my communications that I feel more than slightly jittery when clients tell me that they’ve never looked at their Google Analytics. *shudders involuntarily then vomits into a handbag, not necessarily her own.*

I get it; the measuring is so much less fun than the doing and the getting it done.

By the time the measurement stage in a project comes around, we’re already over it and onto the next thing. Sometimes it involves spreadsheets. *she vomits again*  Tactic measurement and evaluation was a huge focus in one of my early communications roles, when I used to totter around in skyscraper heels and my knees didn’t make a peep. My communications director at the time used to say (ie basically yell) in every campaign planning meeting ‘if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.’ 

It’s true; if you’re not tracking a response then how do you know if something is worth repeating, if it’s working against your objective? How do you know if what you’re putting out in the world is hitting it’s mark? Is blogging really worth your while? You’ve done the creative, Word Nerd part; now it’s time for your inner Numbers Nerd to shine. Release the numbers! Track and measure, my pretty, and make the process easy by jumping into your Google Analytics dashboard. 

I’m creative. I love writing, and numbers give me the heebie-geebies. Weirdly, though, I love tracking. It confirms my speculated understandings about audiences and their behaviour. I use it to measure the impact of social media or email campaigns, to keep on top of search behaviour and to align my (or client’s) target audience information against online communications. Google Analytics lets me drill right down to the detail of visitors- right down to their town or their city. 

However, the information is overwhelming, particularly for a Word Nerd like me who has a reverse-Pavlovian response to charts and spreadsheets.

There are so many tracking options but my advice is to pick a few strategic statistics that relate directly to your business goals and measure how your website is contributing (or not) to this:

  • Number of visitors
  • How they found you which relates in turn your marketing and communications efforts
  • Where they are located
  • The most popular pages of your website.

One of the things I most love about online communications is it’s fluidity. It’s not like spending $12k for a billboard campaign and crossing your fingers your ideal client happens to be driving along that highway at the right time. Every piece of content can be manipulated, tweaked, edited, added to and improved upon. Look at your results and then adjust your activities. Easy!

Tell me, do you track and measure?

If your ROI isn’t fantastic, it may be time for a communications over coffee with me- some simple tweaks and adjustments to your online communications could make all the difference. Give me a buzz! 

Holly Cardamone bio writer communications specialist

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.

Blue51 Show and Tell- Content Clarity

do you have too many content ideas

So many ideas; so little time! Blogging is such a fantastic way to tell your story and grow your business. Like any communications tactic, blogging and content marketing is most effective when delivered within a strategy, and not just for the sake of it. 

Today’s Blue51 Show and Tell is an overview of working with a business who needed to take control over their content to share strategically and effectively. 

The project:

A Content Blast with Julie Cliff, Professional Organiser at Space and Time. 

The client:

Space and Time provides help for professional working mums who need to find more time, are drowning in clutter or simply need help getting their time and their space organised.

The client’s target audience:

Space and Time works with professional working mums who may be struggling with overwhelm as they juggle all the pressing demands in their lives. 

The approach: 

Julie from Space and Time is a beautiful writer and enjoys the process. However, she found she her writing process was quite sporadic and unstructured- which for a professional organiser, wasn’t a great feeling! Julie had a ton of ideas but they felt a bit fractured and she didn’t have a strong sense of how to evaluate an idea in the context of her audience.

Enter my Content Blast!

I sent Julie my client questionnaire to complete, and then Julie and I got cracking on creating a content plan that would put a sparkle in her eye, a spring in her step and, most importantly, a ton of clients in her work schedule. We worked together over the course of a massive three hour session fuelled by carbs and coffee and accompanied by approximately 50,924 post it notes.  We started our session together with a discussion of Julie’s business and communications goals, as well as the ins and outs of her target audience, using her questionnaire as our foundation. The next part of our session was generating ideas. No idea was too silly (actually, a few were, weren’t they, Julie!). Then we got stuck in curating the ideas and as we did so, they fell into a natural structure of four themes which became her content pillars. Boom!

Julie wanted to blog weekly as it is something she enjoys, but was also in a situation where it was taking her far too long to actually draft her blog posts. I shared an outlining tactic with Julie that I use to write my content that Julie now uses to write a blog post in less than an hour. 

The results:

At the end of our session together, Julie had a content plan against four pillars with just under 60 potential blog posts. Her content now goes out to her audience strategically and is aligned to her broader business goals. She has a clear understanding and a structure to follow which provides the what, how, when and why for sharing her insights. Her content writing is now a joy, not a source of strength, which makes me one very happy Word Nerd. 

Tell me:

do you have a sneaky suspicion that that you’re not expressing yourself the way you’d like to in your content marketing, and thus not selling your business effectively? Is writing your blog a source of constant blah? Want a guiding hand and some fresh, practical ideas for your content? Yes, yes and hell yes? Please get in touch– I’d love to help out.

Holly Cardamone bio writer communications specialist

 

Psst- need some content ideas?

My Top 10 Go-To Writing Prompts

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 love sharing 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.

Why I love a good old fashioned copy deck

why use a copy deck

Have you ever worked with a copy deck? I do, all the time, and haven’t really thought much about it as a process. It’s just what I do. Recently, I handed over a writing project to a client and her response was less about the content (it was fantastic, naturally 😉 ) but she really, really liked the structure of how I presented her project- ie the copy deck. She’d never encountered the structure before, which initially I found surprising. When I thought about it, however, it made perfect sense. Why should she be familiar with a process specific to my profession, any more than I should be familiar with one of hers?

The first time I encountered a copy deck was when working on a MASSIVE writing project almost 20 years ago now (fark… how did that happen? Did I join the corporate sector at 6 years of age?) and the Director of the Corporate Communications Unit implemented their use as a non-negotiable. Control freak moi fell in love with them. Basically, it’s a template or a structure to keep every person involved in a project absolutely clear on its end structure, everyone from graphic designer, to writer, to developer and everyone in between. They’re a tool that most agencies use, and one that I continue to use today for all projects, from big, multi-page and multifaceted websites and even the smallest such as proposed SM captions and email campaigns. 

They’re slightly different for each project, but basically hold all the necessary information on one simple document.

My copy decks always include:

  • Client
  • Project
  • Date

Then, depending on the project, I have a variation of the following:

  • Header or Subject Line  (Page header for websites)
  • Intro copy
  • Body copy- within the body there may be elements that need to be bolded or highlighted which I label
  • Call to Action copy
  • SEO/Keywords (where appropriate)

Some writers put notes/commentary to their clients and colleagues within the copy, but I personally find that really distracting and disruptive to the flow. Rather than clog up the copy deck with my scintillating bits and bobs, I use the comments feature. This means my explanations of word choices, my suggestions for backlinks and my questions to the client about specifics within the copy are included but don’t take away from the sheer brilliance of my words. Ahem…

Clients love copy decks because it is easy for them to visualise how the end project will look, read and flow, and it’s an easy copy and paste for them to use the copy for projects they can implement themselves. Colleagues (designers and developers) love them because there is clarity about the project, and what goes where. 

Tell me, do you love yourself a good structure? Or are you more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pantster?

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.

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.