Messaging and Storytelling for Greater Influence

dreamstime_s_49594866One of Four Leaf’s signature services is helping organizations refresh and update their messaging and storytelling abilities. I often hear, “well, messaging and storytelling are kind of the same thing, right?” No, not at all.

To over simplify, a message is a specific idea you’re trying to get across. Storytelling is a way to get your ideas across.

In coming weeks, this blog will be dedicated to positioning, messaging and storytelling–what it is, how to use it for greater influence, and simple exercises you can do to refresh or heighten how you communicate.

Some thing we’ll go over:

  • Defining positioning and the three main components for a strong communications position in the marketplace.
  • The top three exercises every company should go through annually to ensure their language is relevant, powerful and effective.
  • Storytelling techniques that go beyond Mother Goose and make business communications head-and-shoulders above the competition.
  • The top mistakes made in business communications around messaging and storytelling–and how to avoid them.
  • The biggest changes in communications today and how to use them to your advantage.

Check back often, or better yet, subscribe to our RSS feed to bring these posts to you.

To learn more about Four Leaf Public Relations’ positioning, messaging and storytelling work, click here.

The Most Overlooked Part of a Powerful Message

Nouns. I lead with the punch line.

Far too many companies and organizations lead with the benefits, the adjectives, and the scintillating catch phrases, forgetting to do one simple thing: tell your audience who you are and what you do using simple-to-understand nouns.

How many times have you read: We bring unparalleled results to your most thorny problems instead of We can fix your computer?

Unless your brand is Apple or Dell or Google, no one can actually hear what you are saying (or read what you are writing) if they don’t hear a noun.

Your organization is an airline, a computer technology company, a retail store, a nonprofit association that represents lawn mower manufacturers or something entirely different. But, it is something. Say it. And, say it early.

The Most Overlooked Part of a Powerful Message

Nouns. I lead with the punch line.

Far too many companies and organizations lead with the benefits, the adjectives, and the scintillating catch phrases. They forget to do one simple thing: tell an audience who they are and what they do using simple-to-understand nouns.

How many times have you read: We bring unparalleled results to your most thorny problems instead of We can fix your computer?

Unless your brand is Apple or Dell or Google, no one can actually hear what you are saying (or read what you are writing) if they don’t hear a noun.

Your organization is an airline, a computer technology company, a retail store, a nonprofit association that represents lawn mower manufacturers or something entirely different. But, it is something. Say it. And, say it early.

Breaking Through Writing Fatigue, Blocks and Seemingly Cursed Moments

I had the esteemed pleasure of leading a creative writing session at a conference last week to a group of established bloggers. Oh, the joys of blog writing. It’s important. It’s personal. It’s influential. And, it’s relentless.

Blogs are one of the most unrelenting communication channels, requiring constant care and feeding. Whether you are blogging for personal or professional reasons, there also usually comes a time when fatigue develops, writer’s block rears its ugly head, and an overall lack of passion and creativity sets in.

What’s a writer to do?

If you are tasked with contributing to a blog, whether or not by your own accord or by your job, anyone can break through these barriers with a few proven strategies. Below are just some ideas to help move blog writing from the nagging to-do list back to the joy list.

First:
• Identify your “best time of day” to write. Honor it.
• Identify your best structure. (Do you need an editorial calendar to stay on track? Or just have one day that you knock out all blog posts?) Work it.
• Keep an idea file, which could include just great titles, topics or other ideas for future posts.
• Write blog drafts when you need to, but build in room to revisit them. Come back to it a day or two later. You will hone your editing skills this way.
• Become a great editor. Don’t expect to write a brilliant post the first time you put your hands on the keyboard. Write. Then, edit and polish.
• Read…a lot! Read other bloggers, books, magazines, newspapers, online papers to glean ideas, keep your eyes on good writing (so you’ll know the difference), and keep you motivated.

Feeling tired?
• Develop an outline. Don’t bother to write paragraphs. Just get down fragments of ideas in a skeleton framework.
• Identify what you want to say, bottom line. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you get there? Know what idea you are trying to get across.
• Write as if you were speaking. This is harder than it looks. Read your writing out loud. Does it sound stiff or natural? Just write down what you want to say, as if you were really saying it.

Have writer’s block?
• Start talking. Call someone up and express your idea, verbally.
• See number one above: create an outline of one idea (any idea).
• Change the font, color or look of your screen.
• Write what you feel like writing (even if it has nothing to do with your blog’s focus).
• Review your past writing.
• Do a visual mind map of something you know a great deal about, such as your specific job expertise or a hobby.
• Visit Pinterest and write a story about the picture that catches your eye the most.
• Do a writing exercise of which there are hundreds. (More on those below.)
• Just do more research. Have a topic you need to write about? See what others are saying about it.
• Change locations. Go to a coffee shop, get outside, work at home.
• Get moving. This advice is not new. But, it is amazing how taking a walk really does clear one’s head.
• Read something else, such as other bloggers’ writing. You may find you have a different perspective on what another blogger wrote, and Voila! a new blog post is born.
• “Work” another social media channel, such as posting on Facebook or Twitter for a while to see what conversation perks people’s interest.

Lack of creativity, passion or just not feeling you are writing as well as you can? Try these exercises:
• The 5 Senses. Take your idea and write up one sentence about it related to each sense: smell, touch, taste, sound, and sight.
• Free writing. Take 5 minutes to just write anything, even if it’s just “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write.”
• Rewrite a really famous story. Choose your favorite story, such as Romeo and Juliet or Star Wars and change the ending.
• Your favorite/least favorite childhood memory. Write it up.
• Favorite actors. Write a scene for your favorite celebrity crush.
• Coffee house backstory. Go to a coffee house, pick a table where you can’t hear the conversation and write up what you think they are saying.
• Ideal life. Dream a little and write 4 paragraphs about what your ideal life looks like. (It works. Really.)
• Image imagination. Visit Pinterest, Tumblr or your favorite photography site. Choose a visual and write up a description of what is happening, what it means or who it belongs to.
• Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monomyth. Write up an (any) idea in the Hero’s Journey template.

What have you found that works well to break through writing obstacles?

Suzanne Henry Lends Her Creative Writing Expertise to Blogville 2012

April 25, 2012 – Charlottesville, VA – Suzanne E. Henry, an award-winning communications consultant, today shared her tips, tricks and secrets to overcoming writer’s block and fatigue to a gathering of local bloggers at the 2012 Blogville annual event, hosted by Cville Sheblogs, a Charlottesville-based blogging community group.

“As someone who needs to produce content daily, I have had my share of ‘hitting the wall’ when writing,” said Suzanne Henry, who has been a professional communicator and writer for 27 years. “But, any writer can find themselves with a case of writer’s block, whether they are someone who has to write for business or pleasure.”  She added, “blog writing is special, too. It’s relentless.”

Suzanne shared many of her favorite exercises collected from her many years of studying with writing masters, from her university days as an English and mass communications student to Grammy-award winning Rosanne Cash and screenwriting master Robert McKee.