Is Your Creative Content Getting Seen and Heard?

One of the most frustrating parts of this pandemic is saying something quite brilliant during a Zoom meeting only to discover that you’re still on mute. “Click the button at the bottom left,” everyone on the call will willingly tell you.

So now you have a choice to either: 1) click the button at the bottom left, or 2) question the judgement of everyone else. Will you ask, “How do I know if that approach is right for me? What if I’m just not a ‘click the icon at the bottom left’ kind of person?” Or will you heed the advice: “Wait, this button?”

Content marketing can be like that too – in that prescribed theories don’t always feel as if they’re working. Plus, a lot of people are quick to tell you how to get your content strategies right, although it can still feel as if you aren’t being seen or heard.

Here are some suggestions for improving content creation and connections:

Provide inspiration. Most people could use a little dose of hope. Share it if you’ve got it.

Solve a problem. Think back to your own experience. If something was a problem for you, it’s probably a problem for someone else.

Be concise. Attention spans are short. A lot of your readers want to scan quickly.

Analyze results. If you’re not getting the results you want, is it the audience, the message, the tone, the timing, the consistency, the takeaway, the platform, the brand? At different times, I’ve dealt with all of these issues with content I write. In general, though, look for where you see energy and where you see stagnation, then go toward the energy.

Learn from the leaders. What organization or person similar to your brand is achieving content marketing success? I’m tempted to say follow that leader, but maybe I’m just not a “click the icon at bottom left” kind of person. So I’ll just say, learn from that leader, and then …

Play your own game. Content marketing is not one-size-fits-all. You can actually create your own goals, rules and measures for content success – and play to win based on your own values and strategies.

Minnie Lamberth is a full-time content writer focused on marketing, leadership and communications projects, as well as an inspirational author and creative encourager.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

When to Cut Your First Sentence

I realized in hindsight that I didn’t have to include the word “podcast” in my podcast title.

Sometimes people adapting to a new format use their first moments to announce that they are adapting to a new format. I heard this yesterday as I listened to someone use his podcast introduction to basically say, “I’m recording a podcast.”

Earlier in the pandemic, I clicked to view a video of a gentleman who began his video by announcing that he was recording a video.

You can also figure out someone is new to web technology (or hasn’t updated website content in a few years) when you land on a page that says “This is our website.”

Our first sentences in any writing project are often about how we are trying to figure out what we want to say – or how we’re adapting to a new way of sharing this message.

So, yes, go ahead and work that out for yourself in your rough draft. But be willing to delete those first few sentences before you record, post or send. People can figure out on their own which format you’re using. Focus in on your message.


Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Learning New Marketing Technology for Writing Projects

Is your learning curve accelerating? Mine sure is. Especially since I decided to launch a podcast and publish a book as part of content marketing strategies for a writing business.

This need to move quickly in and around digital platforms is probably best represented by the fact that I now have a Venmo account. Five days ago, I did not have such an account.  Then a request came in for a signed copy of my new novella … with the follow-up question, “Do you have Venmo?”

Within just a few minutes, I opened a Venmo account and responded, “Yes, I have Venmo.”

Over the last couple of weeks, I worked through the various issues of hosting a podcast … after I’d worked through issues of recording and editing a podcast. Prior to that, I figured out how to publish a book via Amazon KDP. So, yes, I’ve learned a lot.

But here’s the thing that hasn’t changed. Every time I come face to face with a new digital marketing platform or technological process, I feel overwhelmed. I enter with fear, uncertainty and confusion wrapped up in a big box of “How will this ever work?”

Yet here’s the other thing that hasn’t changed: I get to the other side of that question one step at a time.

A well-known book by Dr. Robert Maurer, One Small Step Can Change Your Life, is based on principles of Kaizen, a philosophy used by Japanese businesses to make improvements. The Kaizen method involves making an improvement by taking a small step – often the smallest possible – which reroutes the circuits in your brain that cause you to feel overwhelmed.

The Kaizen method is an effective way to approach learning something new – such as publishing a book or recording a podcast. Yet it’s also a useful approach for overcoming your resistance to doing something you already know how to do.

For example, you already know how to make up your bed, but you don’t feel like it. So you tell yourself, “I will put a pillow back in place.” That small step gives you the momentum to take the next one, and you end up making up the bed.

Obviously in your business life you might want to apply that process to a more profitable outcome. For example, the need to send a follow-up email to a prospect is pressing on you. You already know how to send an email, but you don’t feel like it. What’s the smallest step you can take to get started? Take that step, then move on to your next one.



What I Learned from the Library

Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash

When I return books to the library, I would prefer to bring them inside and hand them to a staff member.

In doing so, I’m trying to be … I don’t know … polite or helpful or faster in getting them back on the shelves for someone else. This is opposed to dropping them in the large container outside where it says “return books here.”

I’ve done it my way a few times, but a couple of times when I checked out later, my account was flagged for not returning a book.

This was a concern. I knew quite well that I had returned the book – and I denied not returning it. But you can’t argue with a record, and the record said I hadn’t returned the book.

So … what to do, what to do, what to do?

Well, I had a thought. I went to the shelves and looked for what I could see. And sure enough, I found the book in question right where it needed to be. I brought it to the staff member who’d alerted me to the flag and said, “See? I did return the book. Here it is.”

This happened twice before I understood what was probably going on. I was operating outside procedures and expecting someone else to do the same.

It makes sense, when you think about it.

When all the books are retrieved from “return books here,” there is a set procedure for checking them back in and returning them to the shelves. If a book is set on a counter, though, the person at the desk may get busy with the next patron, and the check-in step gets overlooked. Later, when the staff member turns his/her attention back to the book that’s still sitting there, it’s returned to the shelf without the official check-in.

So I don’t take the returned books inside anymore. I drop them outside where it says “return books here.”

One of the morals of this story is: don’t get mad at human nature when any of us could make the same mistake.

The other moral is: most of us operate better when we have set procedures, checklists, guidelines. And if you’re a solopreneur, the nice thing is, you can invent your own.

I like the procedures I’ve established for tending to my tasks, staying in front of my market, and moving forward on my goals. Structure frees me to get the things done that I’d like to do.

Minnie Lamberth is an author, content writer and creativity coach.

Is There Something Different about You?

What’s the one thing people think of when they think of your business? Is it consistent with how you see yourself?

I’m a writer for hire, and the fact that I’m a writer is fairly well established in my network of contacts (my referral pipeline). While I do want people to think of me as a writer when they have a project, having writing skills is not enough of a distinction.

In the world of marketing and communications where I’ve spent my career, most of my colleagues have writing skills. Many entered their fields with journalism or communications degrees. Plus, the designers I work with often write their own copy – and are pretty clear about how they want their messages crafted.

If I proclaim to the universe “I’m a writer,” I can almost hear an echo from everyone in my network: “So am I.”

Therefore, there must be something different about me. And this is it: In my client work, I make things easier for others to get their work done. These “others” are the ones under pressure to fill their member magazines, produce their newsletters, retool their websites, prepare their press releases, publish their books. They’ve got bosses, members or clients to please, and they’ve only got so much time to get their work done. When they’re overwhelmed, I make it easier for them to move forward.

This sense of ease isn’t an end product, however. It needs to run through everything I do. It’s easy to get in touch with me. I am easy to talk to about projects. The other side is that I’m not going to create hardships by missing a deadline or doing shoddy work or in any way embarrassing my contact related to his/her decision to hire me.

I didn’t know any of this when I started out. I thought (and believed) people would hire me because I’m a writer. I was wrong – not about my writing skills but about the reasons people hire others. I have never once convinced someone to hire me because I’m a writer. I have only been able to persuade those who have a problem to solve that I am an easy solution to the pressure they are under. Thus, understanding my unique selling position came from better understanding my clients.

So, what’s different about you? What is your identity as an entrepreneur that goes beyond your skill sets? What is the sweet spot, the secret ingredient, the illuminating benefit that separates you from your competitors and solves a client’s problem? Or what if this “competitor” is not another provider of the same service but the client’s reluctance? As I mentioned, my clients could do their own writing projects. Often my competitor is not another writer sneaking into my territory – but a client saying “I’ll just do it myself.”

Minnie Lamberth is a copywriter, content creator and creativity coach.

Taking a Break to Volunteer

Yesterday I took a break from my copywriting to volunteer with the Respite Ministry at First United Methodist Church. Other community-centered companies give their employees volunteer hours, so I figure I can give myself the same, even as a solopreneur.

For one of the activities, we set up four long church tables, pulling them together to form a much larger rectangle. We then covered them with long cloths and set up stacks of empty soft drink cans. The participants rolled (or threw) tennis balls to knock down the cans, and volunteers set them back up again.

I thought about calling the game “Tin Can Alley.” But then I thought maybe “Can ‘n Ball.” I could sort of see a logo and packaging. This was my writer’s mind meandering while engaged in other pursuits.

Volunteering is a chance to do something fun and helpful while it also gives a your brain a break, and I love how creative ideas come (even ones I’ll never use) when I’m not doing what I usually do.

Remembering a Hero

There are always heroes among us … the ones who do the small things you almost don’t notice or the big things you can’t miss or the middle-size things that’d show up if you made a list.

I remember my friend Pat one time saved me a glass of iced tea. She had hidden it on the counter during a luncheon event where I was volunteering. She’d heard me say I hoped there’d be some tea left by the time the workers ate. So she set a full glass behind some other stuff. When it was time, she pulled it out and said, “Here’s your tea. I saved it for you.”

That was a small thing, but I was grateful … not as much for the glass of tea, which could have been replaced with another type of beverage, but for the fact that she saved one for me.

Others have done big things and those middle-size things … or regular things over and over and over.

It’s nice to think about all the people who make a difference — the heroes among us — and to realize we can be those people too. Hope you’ll have a good week doing small things, big things or middle-size things that people appreciate and remember.

Introvert Entreprenuers

“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” We’ve heard the cliché and recognize that there’s a certain truth to the importance of starting off on the right foot. But that’s not always easy or natural, especially for creative entrepreneurs on the introvert side of the scale.

I remember earlier in my career recognizing that I’m not really a “first impression” sort of person.

I was a new hire and felt a pressure to demonstrate my value to my workplace right away. Yet the question I was asking myself was, “How could I tell my new boss that, years from now, she will be glad she gave me this chance? Is that even possible? Or do I have to wait years from now to say, ‘See, I told you that you would like me?’”

I sensed that my true skill set was being a long-term person. I’m a day-in, day-out kind of worker. That first handshake isn’t going to be the strong grip with the striking eye contact accompanied by a memorable elevator-pitch greeting. Over time, however, clients will find that I am consistent, reliable, accurate and helpful – and I do quality work.

So how does an entrepreneurial introvert move from “first glance” to the “over time” part? How do you demonstrate long-term reliability in your first impression?

First, start with your digital footprint. Keep your website content and social feeds updated. In today’s world, if you last posted six months ago or – even more ancient, back in 2016 – it almost looks like you’re out of business.

Yes, it can be hard to keep feeding the feeds, but create a system of repurposing content and make it happen. Through your social media feeds and website content, demonstrate that you’re active in your work and your professional community.

My projects comes through personal contacts, many of whom are Facebook friends. This smallish social world is a productive place for me to stay active, and I post something almost every day, often mentioning my work. In doing so, I am simply reminding people that I’m a writer for hire.

Second, concentrate on your second impression. In those immediate days after you get your opportunity, keep your promises. Show up. Be responsive. Return the call (or email or text).

My biggest mistake in self-employment occurred in the first three months out on my own. I had contacted a potential client. He agreed to a meeting. We discussed a project. I prepared and sent a proposal. He called me, leaving a voice mail to say the proposal looked good.

Here’s where things went wrong. In that voice mail he also said something to the effect, “I will call you in a couple of weeks to get started.” I took him at his word: he will call me in a couple of weeks. I was relieved, frankly. As an introvert, I had already pushed myself into the initial contact and the meeting. Having taken those steps, I was glad that it was my turn to wait for him to initiate.

Guess what? He didn’t call. After a long wait, I eventually followed up. By then, he had lost interest. We never worked together.

I was a lot younger and a lot greener then, but I did learn the lesson. In the digital space, that’s called onboarding. Back then it was called “follow up.” And that’s where your second impression takes place. Begin your long-term relationship by following through. Then stick with it day after day.

Minnie Lamberth is a marketing copywriter and creativity coach in Montgomery, Alabama.

Where Will You Walk Today?

“A motto favored by the ancients was solvitur ambulando: It is solved by walking.” – Kathleen Rooney in Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

I have been walking for 30 years. I wonder where I’d be now if this walking had been done in a straight line instead of in a route that always took me back to the beginning. Most always in the mornings.

I started as a young adult when I lived in the Cloverdale community of Montgomery. I walked the neighborhoods and enjoyed seeing the beautiful and interesting homes.

Keeping a schedule was essential. I had to walk, dress, get to work. I was disciplined – no hesitation or variation. At a turn on Thorn Place, I would pass a couple almost every morning. We exchanged a friendly greeting. Later I found out that they knew a friend of mine. When he made the connection, he told me, “They can always tell if they’re running late by where they run into you.”

You could have set a watch by me.

When I moved to east Montgomery, I tried my own neighborhood, but it wasn’t good for walking. One time a dog, a pit bull I think, was at his front door with his owner. The owner had stepped inside at the moment the dog spotted me and tore down the street barking ferociously.

I stopped and stood still as he ran nearer and nearer. With no protection except my instincts, I started calling him, “Here, girl, here, boy (I didn’t know which), come on, come on.” I clapped my hands in friendly encouragement. He stopped bearing down with ferocity. He bent over and started a wag that moved through his whole body. He could see that I wasn’t a threat to him; I was a friend.

By then his owner stepped back outside and called the dog home. It was a good lesson: greet your threats with friendliness. But I didn’t walk that way again.

Back then, they said it was safe to walk in the malls. You could be a “mall miler” in an enclosed, weather-protected, climate-controlled space. I gave it a try, still on a tight schedule to get to work by 8.

When I signed up, no one told me, “This may be a free place to walk, but it’s also a social gathering of retirees. They’re going to expect you to maintain a certain ‘friendliness’ standard. Believe me, they will try to score points on you if you fail to meet this standard.”

I soon found out that, as a much younger member, I had stepped into some mores and customs I did not expect. I figured out which lady was in charge of the social environment when I could see that she had purposefully doubled back to greet me head on: “My, you sure take you’re walking seriously, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do,” I said, surprised. I did sense, though, that this was like a line of dialogue in a film noir, and I suspected I was headed for trouble. This question represented a conversation she had been having with “the others.” I was about to fail a test.

One morning an older couple was walking along the length of the mall behind me as I turned down one of the alcoves. Instead of following me down the alcove, the husband motioned to his wife to walk straight so that they would be exactly where I was as I completed the alcove. His wife laughed as they joined me at the alcove’s end. Her laughter was the tell. They were making a point. They didn’t talk to me. They weren’t friendly. They just forced this situation where I would have to walk beside them through the rest of the mall. He had scored points, and now he and his wife had an enjoyable story to tell the others. I conceded defeat.

It’s been many, many years, and I’ve walked many, many miles in different places. Yet I am always saddened when I think of how that man made his point – showing off for his friends, creating discomfort for me, and hearing his wife’s laughter as he did. So unnecessary. I didn’t go back, though I did wonder if they ever felt regret.

We don’t always know what it’s taken someone to get where they are. We don’t always know what problems they’re trying to solve by walking. Kindness isn’t that hard. Besides, it’d be a shame if the people who met us today said to themselves, “In retrospect, the pit bull was nicer.”