Want to Write and Market Better? Start by turning the television off!

Authentic Marketing and Authentic Writing (aka Self-Expression) are very closely linked for me. Basic Marketing Intelligence affirms (through plenty of research) that people will buy for one of two main motivations: Pain or Pleasure.  To market via a voice and strategy that amplifies the pains in life gets my attention–long enough to turn me off.

While on a short business trip to Southern California (as in as I write this post) I am reminded of why I will not ever again have a television (large, small, flat or HD) or for that matter watch (and more importantly) why I do not watch/consume regular programming. And yes, I know I am putting a provocative stake in the ground for there are plenty of good reasons to “watch” television–selectively.

Let’s start with a look at “the perpetually available newsfeed.”

There is a lot of fear and pain and sadness and tragedy in most news that is reported. For every happy story reported there are many more shocking and upsetting stories to process.

It happens that the highly evolved Precor treadmill I am using in the fitness center has a small media screen as part of its design and it’s got CNN on. I set the timer for an hour and plan to walk four miles in place at an incline that challenges me and take in the news of the hour for a moment. Several things strike me “in blazing technicolor” as I increase my heart rate, break a sweat and engage in active watching and listening.

Lots of bad news to take in…Lots of vapid news to take in…Lots of shocking news to take in…depressing stats on the waning Super Power that the US is according to Pat Buchanan, who has recently authored “Suicide of a Super Power.” Is he still acting also as minister and man of God or is he all pomp and politician now?

And then there is the striking difference in presentation of women and men reporting the news. The women are simply overdone with eye makeup and lipstick and hair that is perfectly coiffed and wavers not. I find myself wondering what do they really look like before “the mask” is applied to accentuate lashes and cheek bones and lips and what exactly is done to control their hairstyle regardless of how they may move (but then they don’t move much.)

The men are clean cut and shaved and sharply dressed in suits and crisp shirts and smart ties and have great postures as the talking heads behind the dark shiny desks, and it is notable too that they do have flawless looking skin.

My experience of how both genders report the news is essentially the same: they are equally affected and inauthentic. They are reading the cues and teleprompter well and keeping eye contact and looking good and holding the best position they can. No unattractive side will be seen by the viewer. Ever.

And then there are the commercials. (Another blogpost entirely…) The only ones that make me smile are the two V8 commercials I see BECAUSE Jackie Chan, one of my favorite actors/director/celebrities DOES HIS OWN STUNTS and is a real person to me based on reading his biography and following his films and life since 1991. And I know that there are outtakes to those commercials too that show him slipping, falling, and brushing himself off as he laughs it off as well. His cinema “signature” of showing the outtakes has endeared me to him and his movies for years. That he shows his imperfections is symbolic to me.

I remain disenchanted with this technology called TV that is one of the great barometers of what is popular and what matters and what people want. For me, popular TV for the most part represents the lower common denominator and as one watches, their creativity and intelligence is put to sleep, not encouraged. And I do not want to “fall asleep” while I live in the world. I want to participate in it and create good stuff “from scratch.”  Most of all, I want to feel fully engaged in living and the choices I make.

So there is very little News or Comedy or Drama or Disney (my daughter’s drug of choice…LOL) or ABC Family or Reality TV that I can handle being in proximity to–let alone sit long enough to watch fully attentive. And it is less and less all the time. And I find that the less I watch, the more I think and create from a space of intelligence in myself that is Creative, Positively Provocative, Effective, High Impact, and Love-based.

So if you must address the Pain Factor, I suggest doing a really good job of digging in deep, writing up the worst scenarios and pain statements you can make yourself pen, and then with authenticity turn them on their head.

What you may create for a marketing campaign and website copy will be emotionally charged copy GROUNDED in your sincere desire to be a solution.

When it comes to writing and marketing ourselves in print or online or in person, to grow our business, it is experienced by me as a “cheap shot” when someone appeals strongly to my weak points (and who among us has but one Achilles Heel?)

So consider this fundamental philosophy for conducting any and all business activities: Champion the Nobler Goal with Compassion and Creatively So.  I propose it will make you more positively memorable and while it may take a little longer for business to develop, the positive results will be greater over time, the loyalty factor in clients naturally higher and the benefits experienced by both sides in transactions absolutely amplified and soul-satisfying.

And to think this rant was triggered by watching TV? Huh! I guess I best expose myself to popular media just enough to remind me of what NOT to do, so that I can refresh my sense of what is BEST to pursue (smile).

P.S. I dedicate this post to the marketing and writing clients (I may have or may have in the future) in search of their WHY and HOW and WHAT. You know you want to be a force of goodness in the world and I believe you can. If you are not in touch with that voice in you that would champion the positive approach to attracting ideal clients, I welcome being a guide to discovering that voice in you.

Authentic Writing Starts with…Listening: Our Most Used Communication Skill

Most of us are poor listeners.
It’s a challenge to be a good listener.
Good listeners though get big rewards.

And some wonder why they can’t write with ease? The writer that I am LOVES THIS ARTICLE originally authored 1993 that remains as pertinent as ever. Read on and listen for your response and above all enjoy.

Ever notice how much babies and toddlers who aren’t talking are watching and taking in the environment all around them?

Some of my best writing emerges after periods of listening and seeking to understand what I am seeing, hearing, feeling, and observing in myself and outside me.

In practicing listening to others we can also learn how to better listen to ourselves.

Remember: Beyond practicing listening to others, listening to yourself allows you to capture your writing voice in glorious, graphic technicolor. When you find you have more than one voice wanting to express itself LISTEN for the distinctions and recognize what is at the CORE of both your “dialects.”

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Listening is the communication skill most of us use the most frequently.

Various studies stress the importance of listening as a communication skill. A typical study points out that many of us spend 70 to 80 percent of our waking hours in some form of communication. Of that time, we spend about 9 percent writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent speaking, and 45 percent listening. Studies also confirm that most of us are poor and inefficient listeners.

Why? Several reasons are likely.

Listening training unavailable: Even though listening is the communication skill we use most frequently, it is also the skill in which we’ve had the least training. From personal experience, we know we’ve had much more formal training in other major communication skills — writing, reading, speaking. In fact, very few persons have had any extended formal training in listening.

The same is true of informal training. It’s not difficult to find workshops and conferences that provide opportunities to improve our writing and speaking skills. But it is difficult to find similar training programs to sharpen listening skills.

Thought speed greater than speaking speed: Another reason for poor listening skills is that you and I can think faster than someone else can speak. Most of us speak at the rate of about 125 words per minute. However, we have the mental capacity to understand someone speaking at 400 words per minute (if that were possible).

This difference between speaking speed and thought speed means that when we listen to the average speaker, we’re using only 25 percent of our mental capacity. We still have 75 percent to do something else with. So, our minds will wander.

This means we need to make a real effort to listen carefully and concentrate more of our mental capacity on the listening act. If we don’t concentrate, we soon find that our minds have turned to other ideas.

We are inefficient listeners: Numerous tests confirm that we are inefficient listeners. Studies have shown that immediately after listening to a 10-minute oral presentation, the average listener has heard, understood and retained 50 percent of what was said.

Within 48 hours, that drops off another 50 percent to a final level of 25 percent efficiency.

In other words, we often comprehend and retain only one fourth of what we hear. We all want to be more than 25 percent efficient. It’s not difficult to see the many problems inefficient listeners can create for themselves and others. Poor listening causes us many personal and professional problems.

Listening skill suffers with age: Other studies indicate that our listening skill suffers as we get older. Ralph G. Nichols, long-time professor of rhetoric at the University of Minnesota (now retired), says in his bookAre You Listening? that “if we define the good listener as one giving full attention to the speaker, first-grade children are the best listeners of all.”

Nichols describes an experiment conducted with the cooperation of Minneapolis teachers from first grade through high school. Each teacher involved was asked to interrupt classes and suddenly ask pupils “what were you thinking about?” or “what was I talking about?”

Results were discouraging but informative. The answers of first and second graders showed that more than 90 percent were listening. Percentages dropped in higher grades. In junior high school classes, only 44 percent of the students were listening. In high school classes, the average dropped to 28 percent.

Listening is hard work: Another likely reason for inefficient listening is that it’s hard work to listen intently. Have you been forced to listen intently for an extended period of time? Try to remember your feelings. You were probably physically and mentally tired after such a period of concentration.

Ten worst listening habits: Nichols has described in speeches and articles the “10 worst listening habits of American people.” He says that listening training is primarily eliminating bad habits and replacing them with good listening habits and skills.

Here are the 10 bad listening habits. You’ll recognize some that you have and that you can make an effort to correct.

1. Call the subject matter uninteresting

You go to a meeting, the chairman announces the topic or you see it on a program, and say to yourself, “Gee, how dull can it get anyhow? You’d think they could get a decent speaker on a decent subject.”

So you’ve convinced yourself the topic is uninteresting and you turn to the many other thoughts and concerns you’ve stored up in your mind for just such an occasion — you start using that unoccupied 75 percent of your mental capacity.

A good listener, on the other hand, might start at the same point but arrives at a different conclusion. The good listener says, “Gee, that sounds like a dull subject and I don’t see how it could help me in my work. But I’m here, so I guess I’ll pay attention and see what the speaker has to say. Maybe there will be something I can use.”

2. Criticize the delivery or appearance of the speaker

Many of us do this on a regular basis. We tend to mentally criticize the speaker for not speaking distinctly, for talking too softly, for reading, for not looking the audience in the eye. We often do the same thing with the speaker’s appearance. If speakers aren’t dressed as we think they should be, we probably tend not to listen closely or we may immediately classify the speaker as a liberal or conservative, a hippie or a square.

But if we concentrate on what the speaker is saying, we may begin to get the message and we may even get interested. Remember, the message is more important than the form in which it is delivered.

3. Become too stimulated

We may hear a speaker say something with which we disagree. Then we can get so concerned that our train of thought causes us to spend more time developing counter arguments so that we no longer listen to the speaker’s additional comments. We are busy formulating questions in our mind to ask the speaker, or we may be thinking of arguments that can be used to rebut the speaker. In cases like this, our listening efficiency drops to nearly zero because of over-stimulation. So, hear the speaker out before you judge him or her.

4. Listen only for facts

Too many of us listen for facts and, while we may recall some isolated facts, we miss the primary thrust or idea the speaker is trying to make. Be sure that your concern for facts doesn’t prevent you from hearing the speaker’s primary points.

5. Try to outline everything that is being said

Many speakers are so unorganized that their comments really can’t be outlined in any logical manner. It’s better to listen, in such a case, for the main point. A good listener has many systems of taking notes and selects the best one to fit a speaker.

6. Fake attention

This is probably one of the more common bad listening habits. If you’re speaking to a group and suddenly you become aware that most of your audience is sitting with chin in hand staring at you, that is a good signal that attention is being faked. Their eyes are on you but their minds are miles away. We probably have developed our own faking skills to a high point. Let’s recognize what we’re doing and eliminate faking as a poor listening habit.

7. Tolerate or create distractions

People who whisper in an audience of listeners fall into this category. Some distractions can be corrected (closing a door, turning a radio off) to improve the listening atmosphere.

8. Evade the difficult

We tend to listen to things that are easy to comprehend and avoid things that are more difficult. The principle of least effort will operate in listening if we allow it to do so.

9. Submit to emotional words

We’re all aware of the emotional impact of some words. Democrat and Republican are emotional words for some people. So are northern and southern for others. There are hundreds of examples. Don’t let emotional words get in the way of hearing what a speaker is really saying.

10. Waste thought power

Nichol’s 10th bad listening habit is the one he feels is most important. It is wasting the differential between thought speed and the speed at which most people speak.

Three ways to improve listening skill

Nichols says there are three things that you can do to help yourself stop wasting thought power and become a better listener.

One is to anticipate the speaker’s next point

If you anticipate correctly, learning has been reinforced. If you anticipate incorrectly, you wonder why and this too helps to increase attention.

Another is to identify the supporting elements a speaker uses in building points. By and large, we use only three ways to build points: We explain the point, we get emotional and harangue the point, or we illustrate the point with a factual illustration. A sophisticated listener knows this. He or she spends a little of the differential between thought speed and speaking speed to identify what is being used as point-supporting material. This becomes highly profitable in terms of listening efficiency.

A third way to improve yourself as a listener is to periodically make mental summaries as you listen. A good listener takes advantage of short pauses to summarize mentally what has been said. These periodic summaries reinforce learning tremendously.

In summary, most of us are poor listeners for a variety of reasons. We have had little training and few training opportunities exist. We think faster than others speak. Listening is hard work.

We’ve listed some ways to improve skills to concentrate, to summarize, to avoid faking, and others. Just as important are your attitudes — be positive, concerned, sincere.

It’s a challenge to be a good listener. But good listeners get big rewards.

CM150, reviewed October 1993

University of Missouri Extension

CM150, Reviewed October 1993

Listening: Our Most Used Communication Skill

Dick Lee and Delmar Hatesohl

Extension and Agricultural Information


Does Your Marketing and Writing Pass The Four-Way Test?

From the earliest days of the organization, Rotarians were concerned with promoting high ethical standards in their professional lives. One of the world’s most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics is The Four-Way Test, which was created in 1932 by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor (who later served as RI president) when he was asked to take charge of a company that was facing bankruptcy.

This 24-word test for employees to follow in their business and professional lives became the guide for sales, production, advertising, and all relations with dealers and customers, and the survival of the company is credited to this simple philosophy. Adopted by Rotary in 1943, The Four-Way Test has been translated into more than a hundred languages and published in thousands of ways. It asks the following four questions:

“Of the things we think, say or do:

1. Is it the TRUTH?

2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?

3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?

4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?”

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Redmond Rousers Rotary members and it was special for it was my inaugural Rotary speaking engagement (with opportunity #2 coming soon!). It was exciting to be the program speaker and it was simply a lot of fun. The members were good sports as I took control of the literal “classroom” we occupied and they “winged it” in a writing prompt I customized for the evening (smile).

A fine curry was served for dinner and my “non-speech” went off without a hitch and we accomplished good stuff in 20 minutes. Keeping the content simple and the conversation flowing worked like a charm. Yes, I easily stayed within the time limit and facilitated a rousing dialogue. (Communicating with heart and simplicity works pretty much all the time too!) Turns out the Rousers each have a favorite story to blog about in the future and I look forward to seeing the Rouser’s Blog feature many more contributors and perspectives. (Keep me posted Kelly!)

I had been invited to speak two months back by Kelly Kyle, current President of the Rousers, who is an enthusiastic leader of a now growing chapter. Kelly has done a lot of PR in the last 18 months that has boosted awareness of the Service Projects of this Rotary Chapter via blogging and writing and social media marketing.

The most recent fundraiser, the Coupe de Cascades, (a 425 mile bike ride in a single day) even attracted the attention of Race Across America and may soon be an official qualifying race that occurs in Washington State. Here again Authentic, Heartfelt and Savvy Social Media Marketing and yes, blogging and writing, helped raised the level of awareness on what one local chapter of Rotary is up to.

How did the Rousers get so “SMART?” I happen to know this story because it was more than a year ago, Kelly also started coming (when her busy schedule allowed) to the weekly Writers/Bloggers Support group I host. I remember the day that Kelly shared how the Rousers had invested and wisely so into learning how to use blogging and social media practices to genuinely attract new members AND community support for their events.

The Rousers as a chapter agreed to “invest” in something significant. Kelly received excellent coaching and support and training from Blaine Millet of Word of Mouth on Steroids. What Blaine suggested and trained Kelly on intensively (at first) is what I suggest all my marketing and writing clients embrace as well. Some do and some don’t and frankly, “It’s Simply A Smart Marketing Strategy.” (And if your hurdle is authentic self-expression, well there is a solution for that…close at hand) Writing (for Marketing YOU) is best done with a truly authentic voice (yours~not someone who writes for you) that can also pass the Four Way Test. Yes, I know  that last statement is my strongly held opinion.

Developing that “voice” may not happen overnight but working to discover yours and refine it is worth the effort. Then with thoughtful timing of social media efforts and all other marketing, you will see positive results. And like all great relationships, it takes time to develop and may seem like a whole lot of work at first ~ and it’s worth it!

Over the next year plus, Kelly got into a writing and PR rhythm and beneficial things began to happen that were good for the recipients of the Rouser’s support and good for the chapter’s membership base.Guess what grew? (Imagine, your business and you experiencing the same kind of growth and good will!)

I’d like to make a suggestion that I hope you dear readers take to heart and put to work post haste.

Please take a lesson from the principles of 1.) the Four Way Test and 2.) the application of it through Social Media and specifically blogging about the wonderful activities supported by the Rousers of Redmond. If Kelly can do it with the right support, so can you!

Why not let the Four Way Test be a litmus test each time you consider the writing and promotions you will be publishing in the name of growing your business and creating and supporting your online presence and reputation? And let being social while marketing with bold truth and colorful story and authentic intentions be your guiding tenets.

Being Real Inspires. Telling Stories Captivates. Paying It Forward Feels Great.

May you feel comfortable in sharing YOU in your marketing message and writing and know where to go for a champion if support and a push is needed.

P.S. (Funny thing, I’ve been hoping to meet Blaine ever since I heard that story from Kelly the first day I met her and “rumor” has it we are having a cup of coffee sometime soon…I’m counting the days!)