Archive for January, 2013

(don’t) lie to me

photo - Library of Congress

Library of Congress photo

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

- George Orwell

 

If I could summarize my new ebook in three words, they would be “tell the truth.”

Truth-telling requires courage. It also demands clarity. Strangely enough, most of us have trouble with the small truths, not the big, life-altering stuff. We struggle to write and communicate honestly. So, let’s explore some truthful content in action.

Airbnb.com

Airbnb is a disruptive, paradigm-shifting online service that enables travelers to book private accommodations or list their own spaces for paying guests. It’s secure and surprisingly addictive.

The company makes short videos to explain the service, and in a section called “Airbnb Life,” real hosts (not actors) describe why they open their homes to strangers with credit cards.

Airbnb could have stuck with scripted platitudes, such as, “I love meeting new people,” or “I want to show off my beautiful city.” Those videos exist, and there are certainly people who share these motives, but the company wisely included hosts who also say that Airbnb pays the mortgage, fills in wage gaps, or funds their renovations.

Traditional business wisdom would advise against sharing these less-than-altruistic intentions and stick to selling rainbows and sunshine. Real people, however, have all kinds of reasons for renting out their homes – and if the space is clean, safe, comfortable and accurately presented, do those reasons really matter?

Yes and no.

If you’re deciding whether to book a room from a global hotel chain or an unemployed mother of three who rents her charming upstairs apartment, which will you pick? Well, that’s up to you. It depends what you want and what you need. The apartment is a “messier” transaction, to be sure, because it’s unpredictable, with all the potential joys and pitfalls of human interaction. But, you also know exactly where your money is going. The truth is something to embrace, not to hide.

Airbnb understands the power of truthful content. It’s compelling and it creates emotional connections. Being honest also sets the tone for the company’s online community – and when you’re renting a stranger’s home, halfway around the world, trust and honesty rate pretty damn high on the list of must-haves.

Learn more about truth and storytelling in my new ebook, Create Awesome Content.

CreateAwesomeContent

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posted 30 Jan 13 in: business, design, inspiration, media. This post currently has one response.

create awesome content

I have a fun announcement to make today.

My first e-book, Create Awesome Content: Simple content strategy, writing and collaboration advice, is out of hair and makeup. All 101 pages are fully polished, primped and ready for their close-up.

Create Awesome Content is a straightforward guide to engaging your audience – whether you’re an entrepreneur, artisan, freelancer, consultant, small business owner or employee. You’ll learn how to develop a simple content strategy, write brilliant copy, and how to work with a writer if you start sweating when you face the blank screen (no judgment).

I wanted to demystify all the stuff that trips up smart people – from online storytelling to the difference between active and passive voice. In today’s noisy digital world, everyone needs awesome content to stand out from the crowd. This book collects all my best advice into a practical and entertaining package.

Buy it now

Download a free sample chapter

The book emerged from a conversation with my friend Paul Jarvis, who is a wildly-in-demand web designer (he built this blog and my professional site). Paul was writing his own e-book called Be Awesome at Online Business and suggested that I write a companion content guide. I filed the idea away in my massive mental “maybe” list (you know the one) and carried on with my day. A couple weeks later, Paul mentioned it again and I decided to start writing.

The book covers the most important lessons  I’ve learned in nearly 15 years of working as a freelance journalist and copywriter. It’s fast-paced, informal and blends strategic advice about developing multi-platform content (including social media, newsletters, websites and articles) with a hands-on writing workshop.

Developing exceptional content is the single best way for creative people to connect with their  audience. It’s part marketing, part storytelling, and part self-expression. It’s worth doing well.

So thank you for reading – and let me know what you think of the book!

Create Awesome Content

Buy Create Awesome Content + Be Awesome at Online Business by Paul Jarvis

posted 22 Jan 13 in: books, business, inspiration, media, retail. This post currently has no responses.

obsessions

Surfers at Venice Beach – December 2012

We’ve been completing a little office renovation around here, and I’ve realized how impatient I am with tasks like painting, gluing, and sanding. The tape measure is not my friend. I am imprecise and irritable.

I’ve also been finishing a new e-book and editing another one for my friend, Paul Jarvis.

I’ve done at least 10 full edits on each book – yet every time I start back at the cover page, I’m happy to read the same words over and over again. I enjoy hunting for errors and ideas that need clarification. I love smoothing out clumsy spots that disrupt the flow – and I actually relish the fresh eyes that come with each read-through. The work can be (mentally) tiring, but it’s never a chore.

When I consider the day-to-day activities of my friends who are photographers, architects, web and graphic designers, I can’t imagine filling their shoes. Sure, it’s easy to daydream about location scouting or sketching a brilliant design before breakfast, but I know there’s also serious minutiae involved that would send me into meltdown.  Every industry, even the most iconically creative ones, have dull tasks that require focus and slogging. No way around it.

But when you find yourself deep in obsessive territory, not caring that an hour passed while you re-worked a single paragraph, that’s the real creative destination. That’s where you’re supposed to be. Loving the tedious moments (at least most of them) is also essential to completing projects that challenge your mind and stretch your skills. I guess it’s also how we rack up those 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell measured so eloquently.

So embrace your unique obsessions. Track them and use them to nudge you ever closer to success. The real achievement, however, is the daily sense of contentment that will sit quietly on the sidelines, watching you do the work.

posted 14 Jan 13 in: art, business, design, fashion, inspiration, music. This post currently has no responses.

desert sun

Happy New Year!

I was lucky to spend a good chunk of the holidays in California and Arizona. If you’ve never been to Vancouver, you should know that Seattle is our climatic twin. That means from November through February, we live under a drizzly grey canopy for weeks on end. Is the sun still up there? Sometimes, it’s hard to know for sure.

But the desert… Oh, the desert. The morning sunshine was a shade of golden white that I haven’t seen in months. And emerging from the dream-haze on my first day of vacation, I actually wondered if there was a fire outside the front door. The light was dazzling — and totally rejuvenating.

Sometimes, nothing is better than a change of scenery, and based on my recent experience, a change of light. I’ve got new ideas, fresh plans in the works and hopefully, a little more vitamin D in my veins.

Stay tuned for more interviews and creative content. I also wrote a new book! I’ll share more details soon.

Wishing you all the best for 2013.

posted 7 Jan 13 in: Uncategorized. This post currently has no responses.