I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Your message needs to be clear, not vibrating!

I came across this image today and was annoyed by the incorrect use of ‘your’!

I did try to be gracious and look past the poor grammar,  and actually see the message but random the capital letters and poor grammar was too much.

And a message like this needs all the additional credibility it can get really – not everyone will accept the concept of vibrations and auras impacting your life and finances, and even if you do believe in those things, there are so many quacks in those fields it is hard to trust a new source of these ideas.

So unless this message was deliberately done to exclude more discriminating people and attract more gullible people, the message would have been more effective (ie easier to read) as:

Corrected quote about money struggles

The image above (ie not my corrected version) came from Money Habits where they were questioning the wisdom of the message and encouraging people to pay attention to their financial concerns in order to find solutions. I don’t know the original source of the quote so can’t say if it went on to explain their meaning or give ideas on how to improve their vibration – without additional content, this quote is fairly pointless as it doesn’t give guidance to someone.

If you send out a message to engage people about their concern, you have to follow it up with some information or a means to get answers. Just stating the problem isn’t helping anyone.

In summary, this message failed because

  1. they used ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’ and it was distracting
  2. random capital letter use was distracting
  3. it just stated a problem without providing resources
  4. all the above removed any credibility it may otherwise have had


Tell others about you

There are two main reasons people visit a website – they want information on a topic or they want information about the business behind the site.

So why do some sites avoid sharing anything about themselves?

Add an about us page to your website and blog

About us page Word ConstructionsAs Chris Lake wrote, an about us page “is surely one of the only true rules of doing business online. I can think of no good reason why you wouldn’t have one.”

An about us page can be very simple but it can make a huge difference to people thinking of doing business with you.

For a stand alone blog, it lets readers know who is writing the posts – for instance, is it a business or an individual, is it by an expert or someone learning the topic, or is the blog focussed on a specific topic or just a collection of ideas.

For a business website, it can build enough credibility for me to do business with you – or not.

How ‘about us’ can build credibility

  1. you are being open and transparent compared to making me wonder why you are hiding things – no name on a website instantly makes me suspicious
  2. providing history shows the business is more than a fly-by-night – if you’ve been in business for a few years, you must have done something right!
  3. explaining how the business began or the passion behind the business will certainly give me a believe in the intent of the business and its owners
  4. introducing team members can give me an idea of what skills are available for me as a potential client
  5. listing values or just writing a personal story can show the company culture

I have an about us page on my website and as part of my blog, even though they are on the same domain, so it is easy for people to read about me and my business. I wonder if I’m brave enough to ask if you have read either of them!

How important is an about us page when you are assessing a potential supplier or service provider?

Check your titles

I saw some You Tube videos this morning with my son and one stood out for all the wrong reasons.

As the video started, a title screen showed “Here’s are friend”. After rereading it, I decided it was meant to be “Here’s our friend” and the lyrics within the following video confirmed my assumption.

The associated description included some more gems, such as “go’es” and “cellerbrate” and “there” instead of “their”.

In this case, it was not a business and professionalism probably wasn’t a major concern for the video poster. However, if you are going to the trouble to make a video and put it online for people to view, surely it’s worth the time to get the title correct?

Errors in content are not desirable but major errors in a title destroy credibility and may prevent anyone moving beyond the title so having good grammar and spelling in a title is important.

Have you seen poorly written titles that stopped you using that resource (document, video, etc)?

Building your blog

Presumably, if you have a blog you want to build it with content and readers. It isn’t always easy to do, especially over time, so it takes dedication to truly build a blog into something you can be proud of.

Finding ideas to write about, maximising your topics, building trust, attention grabbing titles, dealing with negative or poorly written comments, and ending your blog posts are all important parts of a successful blog.

Recently, Raivyn gave some advice for anyone wanting to make money from a blog (or blogs) – some of that advice applies to all blogs whether their aim is to make money, share ideas, promote a business or anything else.

The points I most liked (rewritten into my own words and comments) were:

  • keep writing – even if uninspired, you need to write to build the habit and experience
  • find your own blog rules – some blogs have very short posts, some have long posts and some find a combination or middle ground works best. Instead of writing to a formula number of words, find what works for you and your readers. And apply the same logic to frequency, style, running carnivals, inviting guest bloggers, and so on.
  • keep your credibility – recommend products/services/etc that you truly think are worthwhile, not just those paying a commission or giving you a reciprocal link.
  • write for your readers – this may not be so important for a personal blog, but to make money (directly or indirectly) you need to write what potential customers want to read about in a way they find interesting and useful. Knowing your audience is a key part of any good writing

Good luck with building your successful blog!

Blogs and trust

A few days I wrote about the Edelman Trust Barometer and the reduced trust in Australian business.

One statement made by Edelman that I didn’t mention was “Digital communication such as blogs and social networking sites are not trusted sources of information. ” I left it for a separate post as I think it is worth more discussion.

I think that statement is simplistic, especially as it is not backed up with statsitics or specifics. For instance, are no blogs trusted or just those run by big companies? Does the style of blog or age of the respondent make any difference to their answer?

Instead of writing an essay on this topic, here are just a few of my thoughts, but I’d love to hear your thoughts, too:

  •  reading a blog gives you insights into the person behind the business, making it more personal and therefore more trustworthy
  • blogs doing things like overusing keywords, be ads trather than information, ignoring comments (especially negative comments) and not providing meaningful links are not going to build trust – but many others avoid these behaviours
  • blogs and social media are very different – and the perception is probably bigger for those who don’t use tweeter, FaceBook, and so on
  • regular blog posts show a commitment to the business and clients – much more than a website or promotional materials that are only updated once a year or less
  • blogs are a quick, easy way to communicate information quickly. I have a client whose customers requested more updates on the business and industry, and their web stats show the blog is attracting a lot more traffic. I believe it is building their trust as they know about changes well in advance of an annual report or quarterly newsletter

Do you trust blogs in general? Do they help you trust the busienss providing the blog ?

Can you justify what you write/say?

To develop sufficient trust in you, people have to have a sense of your integrity and credibility. Obviously, you have to be honest in order to show integrity.

Yet so many people claim things as part of their marketing and headings – things that sound great and attract attention. But if those things are not completely true, people lose faith in you when they find out.

Is your product/business really the biggest, fastest, easiest, most popular, smallest, most colourful or best value? If you aren’t sure or can’t justify it, think about how people will view it when they discover your claims were wrong?

How do you feel when you buy the “longest lasting torch” and it fails the first night you go camping?

The ones that really annoy me are “We’re Australia’s number 1” and similar. Who judged them to be number one? I also wonder what criteria goes with number one or the best at (number one in the list of businesses owned by them? number one of that service provider in their suburb?)

Of course, if you are listed as number one by some independent way, say so! For example, you’ll see big companies use a big heading “we’re number one at service*” and in smaller print define “as ranked by XYZ” or “according to ABC.”

So next time you think of making a great claim, or a marketing person suggests it, think about your credibility and repeat business. If it is a justifiable claim, great! If it may be questioned, perhaps add the justification to your ad or to your site/blog. If it is inaccurate, think twice about it.

Use your words wisely!

Using events to promote your business

Yesterday, I described an email where past events were advertised – and suggested it was not a great idea!

Yet running or being involved in events such as seminars can be a very effective marketing tool. Assuming the event is well run and provides useful information, the event shows you as an expert, professional, helpful and possibly generous with your knowledge.

Obviously, in the lead up to an event you need to promote it to attract people to the event itself – not much of an event if no one turns up because they didn’t know about it!

However, you can also promote an event to market your business as well as the event – and this marketing can follow the event as well as lead up to it. Worst case, people know you run seminars and may be able to attend your next one; best case, people give you more respect and trust in you, and are more aware of your business.

Some ways you can use an event afterwards to promote your business and credibility are:

  • talk about how much you enjoyed the event afterwards – and how much you learned. That may even include mention of things that didn’t work that you have learnt from. Talk about it in your blog and newsletter, as well as on forums, at networking sessions and with colleagues
  • gather testimonials from people who were at the event. You can put these on your website (especially near the details for the next event), in a portfolio/resume, quoted in marketing materials, in your blog and newsletter, and in media releases for future events
  • ask attendees at the event to review the event – written reviews can be added to your site/blog/newsletter, or even better, to theirs! If they do review or mention your event in their blog, make sure you leave a comment thanking them for their perspective and perhaps adding something useful as a thank you
  • give attendees something that is branded for your event – this probably only applies to bigger events like a conference or full day event. If they wear a tee-shirt, carry a bag, mark a place in a book , drink from a water bottle, add a button to their website, use  USB key or write with a pen branded for your event, people may ask them about it and they will remember it for longer themselves.
  • mention the event, as appropriate, in future media contacts, articles, blog posts, newsletters and so on, although don’t do it all the time as that would just be boring and counter-productive!
  • set up surveys asking for feedback to help you improve the next event – invite people from the last event and others to complete it. This gives you market insight whilst also drawing attention to the fact you have an event coming up!

What other ways have you used or seen used for promoting events after they have happened?

Links in emails

Email marketing is a valuable tool for any modern business, but it can backfire if you don’t use it carefully.

I recently saw an email that was very short, started with my name and included unsubscribe details – all of which are good points in an email. But it also included three links to a web page they were promoting – not three pages, but three links to one page!

In a short email, I am quite capable of finding the link even if I have read further on – it will stand out!

Over do something like providing links, and I begin to wonder why you are pushing it so hard and  I get suspicious. Finish with “This isn’t hype” to convince me this is hype and not substance.

Add in a comment like “Seriously, this puppy is sick” and the email has no credibility – I deleted it without clicking on any of the three links!

So the lessons from this email are:

  • treat your readers with respect – they can find links in short emails
  • avoid unnecessary repetition – it is boring and raises questions as to why you need to repeat it
  • avoid statements that are cool or trendy – not everyone will agree with you and they age your message quickly. What is cool today is sick tomorrow and wicked the day after, and so on
  • if your content isn’t something (e.g. hype, spam,viral) then you don’t need to write that fact – it is more likely to raise suspicions than allay them

Use your words (and links!) wisely!

It’s still one point

When writing a list of ideas or tips, it is worth making sure each one has enough value to be in the list – it is better to read a short list of valuable ideas than a long list of mostly junk surrounding a few good ideas.

Even if you’re calling your list something like “top ten tips” or “101 things to do with cheese”, don’t get tempted to make the list longer just so the title seems more impressive. Your credibility will suffer if the list doesn’t provide the help or interest people were looking for.

What I find even more annoying is a list of say 20 things which actually turns out to be a list of 10 or 15 things. I’m not sure if these writers are deliberately trying to plump out a short list or don’t realise how repetitive they are being, but either way it wastes my time and I don’t like it.

Here are the common ways I’ve seen people repeat list items…

  • giving the same point in different terms. For example, “use good spelling and grammar” and “don’t misspell words or use bad grammar” as two separate points – obviously, they mean exactly the same thing!
  • making the same point in different words so it almost seems a different point. For instance “remember to market your existing customers as well as potential customers” is really the same as “don’t neglect your current customers in word of mouth campaigns” in a list of ideas for treating customers well
  • breaking one point into two points – neither point fully makes sense alone, but if they are long enough they can look acceptable

Are there are other common repetitions or problems with lists that you have come across? What has been your reaction to these annoyances?

Happy writing!

What is a review?

Looking through some blogs recently, I have discovered some unusual interpretations of what a review is…

The online Oxford Dictionarydefines it as a formal assessment of something; a critical appraisal of a work; or a report after the event.

It seems simple – a review is a report about a book, course, website, blog or whatever to help others decide if the work is of potential use/interest/value to them. A review is not an ad (“this product has these features and is available only from us”) or a list of facts (“this website has 10 pages about getting fit”).

If you are writing a review, the following points may help:

  • include all relevant details so someone can find the item easily if they want to. This includes the author and publisher for a book, product name and supplier/manufacturer for a product,  name and URL for a website or blog, and so on
  • give a summary of the item so the reader understands what you are reviewing, but don’t try to include everything – remember, no one wants to hear the punchline before the joke.
  • be honest – that doesn’t mean only list bad things or be nasty, but don’t say it is wonderful if it has some faults or problems. If I write a negative review, I always try to include something positive as well
  • give an assessment, such as ‘thoroughly recommend this book’, ‘great value for money’ or ‘not as good as their previous model’. This helps the reader decide whether they want to know more or not.
  • qualify the work if required. For instance, a book or movie review may state ‘entertaining for the under 10s but tedious for adults’ or ‘thought-provoking but not suitable for teenagers’ so parents can choose not to allow children to read/see it
  • be impartial or upfront about any connections as this builds trust and your credibility – a rave review about something you profit from may damage your reputation

Reviews are a great way to give value to others, but only if people can trust you to give honest, genuine reviews.

Happy writing!