Storytelling from Gary Vaynerchuck
Feb 08

Storytelling – Share your stories and Change your business

By Kevin Anderson | Case Study Writing , Storytelling

Storytelling is everywhere. We tell stories every day of our lives. And of course – we hear them every day as well. Countless stories. Some complete. Some mere fragments. Stories that friends share to make us laugh. Stories we hear that make us cry. Stories that help us understand the complex. Stories that help us connect.

Stories have the power to change entire organisations. If you share your stories, your business will change. I’m not talking about creating stories for the sake of creating stories. I’m talking about weaving stories into the very fabric of your organisation.

Storytelling isn’t a tactic – it’s a philosophy.

Storytelling in business isn’t a new concept. The art of telling a great story is part of the broader Content Marketing movement – a movement I believe in. I’m heavily involved with Chris Marr at The Content Marketing Academy (CMA). He’s developed an incredible community that I’ve learned so much from.

The CMA community are using stories to grow their businesses. Whether they’re a hairdresser, shed builder, independent shop owner, IT consultant or accountant – they’ve made a commitment to share their stories.

Here’s Gary Vaynerchuk’s perspective on Storytelling. (Contains swearing.)

The Stories

Those stories have to be real. Those stories have to be well written. Those stories need to have a purpose. The stories also need to be more about ‘them’ and less about ‘you’. Rather than TELL someone about your service, share a story about how that service helped someone else. Someone like them.

That makes your content relatable. People project themselves into the story because the subject of the story sounds just like them. Sharing these authentic stories builds trust – a critical element of building any organisation.

The Story Hunter

Your job is to be a story hunter. Be tuned in at all times to the opportunities to tell a great tale. Don’t let them slip through your fingers and don’t trust your memory. Note them down as quickly as you can. Create a file and make sure you dedicate the time to write and share them.

If you’ve got a team, engage them and create a story hunting culture. This isn’t the job for one person, so get everyone involved.

Starting with Case Studies

A Case Study is the perfect place to start your storytelling journey.

So what is a case study?

Here’s a definition from Wikipedia

A particular instance of something used or analysed in order to illustrate a thesis or principle.

Here’s my definition

A Case Study is a framework for telling a ‘problem – solution’ story about any given subject.

I think of case studies as testimonials on steroids. Testimonials are great, but most of them lack the elements of a story. They don’t have the context. They’re missing something.

If you’ve got any testimonials – they’re a great place to start. They can be the foundation for a full case study. I’ll be sharing more posts on this subject over the next few weeks.

Case Studies are just part of the story of story, but they’re a perfect and practical place to start.

Over to you

Have you got any case studies on your site? If you do, please share them in the comments – I think everyone would get value from seeing some real-world, practical examples.

PS – I’ve created a free email 5 Week email course called – ‘The Case Study Code’. By the end of the 5 weeks, you’ll have a complete framework to produce compelling and authentic case studies. Simply enter your first name and email address in the form below to sign-up.

PPS – I’m a sponsor at for the next Content Marketing Academy conference in June 2016. It would be great to see you there. If you’ve got any questions about it, please just ask me.

Jan 14

Is your writing in need of a trim?

By Kevin Anderson | Content Writing

There was more fat than bacon. A lot more. It was my fault of course. The boys did as instructed. They went to the village shop. They got rolls. They got bacon. They fulfilled their contractual obligation to me. I wasn’t having bacon, so I didn’t care. But I couldn’t serve bacon like that to my kids. So I trimmed it while introducing them to the concept of ‘bacon selection.’

Trimming the fat is a consistent theme for me at the moment. I’m trying to lose weight. No sorry, I’m trying to ‘change my lifestyle’. It’s fair to say, I have a fair bit of fat to trim. But the area where I’m trimming fat the most, is in my writing.

100 Word Story Challenge

Not satisfied with losing weight and growing the business, I’ve set myself a personal writing challenge. Every day for 2016, I’ll write and share a 100-word story. It’s harder than it sounds. The 100-word restriction forces me to keep to the point and master the art of brevity. In a 100-word story, trimming the fat is an absolute requirement.

I started this project during the festive break. It was a toss up between writing fiction and taking up knitting. I wouldn’t want to steal my mums thunder, so fiction won out.

I wrote a dozen or so 100-word stories during December. I loved the process, so I committed to the daily challenge. So why am I telling you this? It’s got nothing to do with Copywriting? I disagree, it has everything to do with it!

The Realisation

When my writing focus returned to copywriting, I noticed something immediately. Some of the content I’ve written before is a little bit tubby. In four blog posts I reviewed, each suffered from a degree of bloat. The result; some sentences and paragraphs were hard to read.

When I started writing new content, I found that I was producing shorter, punchier sentences. And when it came to the editing process, my eye would be drawn to ‘wordy’ sentences.

The Lesson

I’ve found two types of bloat in my writing, and the writing of others.

Too many words.

On many occasions, the issue is simply too many unnecessary words. Those words might be pointless adjectives or adverbs that add no real value. Don’t get me wrong, adjectives and adverbs have their place, just don’t abuse them. If the point you’re trying to make stands without an adjective, leave it out.

Too much detail.

It’s all too easy to lose the focus in any piece of writing. That usually happens when you add too much detail. Stick to the point. Help your readers understand your content by giving them the right level of detail. There’s a balance to be struck. But don’t lose the impact of the message you want to deliver. Stick to the point.

Sizzle.

Cutting the fat will make your writing sizzle. Short sentences will add punch. And you’ll create easily digestible content that your readers will relish.

Your Turn

Have a look at the last thing you wrote. Can you spot any fat? Are there some sentences you could have trimmed? If you prefer, have a look at another blog. Take a look and assume the role of editor. What do you notice? Are there sentences that are clunky? Are there adjectives that aren’t required?

And finally, allow me to be a little self-indulgent. Matthew and Lewis, I love you, but for future reference – always get smoked bacon.

PS – You can read my 100-Word Stories at www.100wordstory.co.uk or sign-up to get the daily story emailed to you.

blog series Netflix image
Dec 15

Could a blog series help repurpose your content?

By Kevin Anderson | Uncategorized

Netflix is trying to destroy my life. They keep releasing amazing TV series that grab my attention. And of course, their model is slightly different. Instead of the traditional drip feed of shows – they release entire series in one go. No longer do I have to wait a week. Days revert to the standard ‘Monday, Tuesday, etc., etc.’ rather than ’24 Day’, ‘Mad Men Day’ or ‘Narcos Day’.

For some, it’s a step too far, but for me, I love being in control and being able to watch, what I want, when I want. The episodic nature of the most compelling TV shows has been adopted by others, including podcasters.

They create a sense of anticipation by releasing a series of shows that are focus on one topic, and like Netflix, they will often release them at the same time.

Blog Series

Most of the blogs I’ve written are one-offs. They stand alone. They might be categorised alongside similar content, and they might even reference other blog content – but they are singular in nature.

I’m writing a 6-part series at the moment for a podcaster. He creates podcast series at the moment, so we decided that it might be fun to follow the same approach for his blog posts.

It’s been great to write these, and it’s opened my eyes to using this approach for my content, and for client projects.

Re-Purposeful

The beauty of this approach is that it can help you tell a bigger story by breaking the content down into bite-sized chunks. There’s evidence that long form blog posts of over 3,000 work well, but for me, I prefer shorter blog content.

Think of your blog series as a book, where each episode acts as an individual chapter. The series can be as short or as long as it needs to be, but a range of 3 to 8 is what I’m going to experiment with.

And the beauty of this approach is that you can repurpose that content more easily.

Your perfectly structured blog series could become –

  • A Kindle Book for sale.
  • A PDF book for lead generation.
  • A Slideshare Presentation.
  • An email course.
  • A webinar.
  • A Podcast script/outline.
  • A YouTube video.
  • A Periscope broadcast.

You get the idea.

I can hear some of you now – “It’s hard enough writing ONE blog post, let alone an entire SERIES!” That’s a fair comment – but I look at it another way. If I’m going to invest my valuable time writing, I might as well maximise that writing time by creating it with reuse in mind.

Creating your first series

The single subject blog post still works. I’m not advocating that EVERYTHING you write has to be in a series form, but from time-to-time, it might be nice to mix things up and create a series of blog posts.

So what could you do?

Have a think about your own business and blog. Is there a subject you’ve been considering writing about that was just too big? Could that be broken down into episodes? Or is there something that is just a bit more complex that you’d like to simplify by talking about one element at a time?

I recommend you start by outlining the series. Just create some bullet points and see where it takes you. My personal approach is to use Mindmaps. Here’s the first draft of the outline for my first series that I’ll be working on over the next few weeks.

Blog Series Example

My First Blog Series Outline

Got any ideas for your own blog series?

So, over to you. Do you think a series approach could work for you? If so – share your ideas in the comments section. Be interested to hear about some of the exciting content you’ve got planned.

I’d love to stay and chat, but the last three episodes of Narcos aren’t going to watch themselves are they?

Outsource your blog writing image.
Dec 10

Three Top Tips to Successfully Outsource Your Blog Writing

By Kevin Anderson | Blog Editing

The decision to outsource your blog writing isn’t one to take lightly. I know that for some it’s a question of trust while, for others, it’s a question of cash. And for many – they’d rather write their own content. I’m a big advocate of that approach, and I’ve said before, that if you have the time and the inclination – you shoud ‘Write it Yourself’.

But if you have made the decision to outsource your blog writing, here’s three simple tips to do it more successfully.

Outsource Your Blog Writing Tip 1

View it as a writing partnership

You’re paying the writer, so the temptation can be to absolve yourself of any and all responsibility. Trust me, though, it’s far better to be part of the process. Take control and think about the piece you want to outsource. Simply providing a title and asking the writer to just ‘crack on’ is a recipe for disaster.

Be involved and engaged to get the best possible blog for your site.

Outsource Your Blog Writing Tip 2

It’s good to talk | Context is everything

I hate filling in forms; they’re impersonal, at times tedious and far too structured for my liking. And I don’t believe simply filling in an online form is a basis for outsourcing your writing.

Talking in person, over the phone or via Skype is a great way to start your blog writing outsourcing journey. You’ll get a gauge of the writers personality, and you’ll be able to provide her/him with the information they need to represent you.

Before you talk about your specific writing project, give your writer a gift. It’s a simple gift, but one that’s a game changer. Give your writer CONTEXT.

Tell them about your business, its values and vision. Share the ‘why’ you do what you do. Get personal – give your writer all three course – not just the main meal.

Any copywriter or content writer you outsource your writing to will able to weave a better story when they have the big picture.

Outsource Your Blog Writing Tip 3

Outlining | Managing Expectations

I can talk on good authority on this one. In my early blog writing days, I made the mistake of doing what I mentioned in Tip 1. I took a title and merrily penned the blog post as I saw fit.

On one occasion the client liked what I’d written, but they’d since had some other ideas that they’d like me to include. Sometimes, this is easier said than done because the flow of the blog might not suit the new content they want to include. In some cases I have rewritten the blog post entirely.

It’s inefficient for the writer and you.

An outline of your blog post will solve the problem. You might already have an outline in your mind. If so – share it, remember this is a writing partnership. But don’t worry, sometimes you’ll not have a clue where to begin.

In those cases, share as much as you can with your blog writer and, ask them to provide an outline before they start writing your blog. This gives you the opportunity to see the flow of the blog.

If the outline doesn’t look right, have that discussion with your blog writer. Tweak it as necessary. This way, you know what to expect, and your writer can start writing your blog with confidence as they’ll have a clear roadmap to follow.

Every Copywriter Is Different

Some copywriters might not agree with these tips, but I think you’ll benefit hugely by following the advice I’ve shared. As you develop your understanding of blog writing, you’ll likely have the confidence to go to your writer with outlines you’ve mapped out.

Here’s the process I recommend you follow when you outsource your blog writing

  1. Share your big picture (Context)
  2. Share your blog idea
  3. Share an outline OR ask your copywriter to create one for you
  4. Review & amend the outline
  5. Sign-Off the Outline
  6. Review & request changes to the first draft
  7. Sign-Off the Blog Post
  8. Publish

The Trust Builder

Do this and you and your blog writer of choice will have an enjoyable, engaging and productive partnership. Expectations will be managed from both sides, and you’ll get fresh, relevant blog content that will drive your business forward.

Outsourcing your blog writing will only ever work though if there is genuine trust between you and the copywriter. That trust will build over time, but having the concept of a writing partnership in your head will help get you and your partner off to a flying start.

Nov 09

Should I consider local newspaper advertising to grow my business?

By Kevin Anderson | Uncategorized

I had an interesting situation this week. My new job and old job collided. One of my newest writing clients asked for my advice on whether they should advertise in a local newspaper. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked that question, and it won’t be the last.

Local newspaper advertising

For those that don’t know me, although I make my living as a content writer and copywriter, for the majority of my career I’ve worked in the publishing and advertising industry. Most recently I was part of the management team within the advertising department of a local publishing company.

It’s an industry I’m all too familiar with, and I’ll be honest, my advice when asked ‘should I advertise in a local newspaper?’ is usually ‘no’. But it’s always ‘no’ for a reason.

When I WOULD consider local newspaper advertising

Here’re the circumstances I’d consider taking out a local newspaper advert

  • You have something to sell
  • You have a time limited event or offer OR
  • You have a stock/service limited event or offer
  • Selling 1 to 3 of your items will cover the cost of your advertising and take you into profit
  • You’re committed to a minimum of 3 adverts
  • You can afford to lose your investment

I know that local newspaper advertising can work. How do I know? Well, part of my job in my ‘employed’ days was to compile and use the testimonials that our advertisers shared with us. And I’ve spoken to advertisers who have enjoyed hugely successful advertising campaigns.

But it only works in very specific circumstances. Most buyers of local media view their advertising as a straight-up punt. A gamble. A toss of a coin. It might work. It might not. For them, it’s just part of the game – a cost of doing business.

Local Newspaper Advertising - A Gamble?

No advertising sales rep will ever guarantee you results. Because they can’t. But some media buyers use that as an excuse to put no thought whatsoever into their advertising. That’s a massive mistake.

Ultimately you have to make up your own mind about whether you advertise in a local newspaper.

If You DO advertise, DO this.

If either the set of circumstances are right for your business, OR you are in the mood of a PUNT, please, please – do the following. End the cycle of taking a succession of uncalculated gambles. Put in place a unique mechanism to make your adverts truly accountable. No excuses.

The beauty of Facebook, Google Adwords, your email newsletter and your site is that they are accountable. You can get real-time feedback on what’s working and what isn’t. You have the ultimate flexibility to stop something or change it. You can pause a campaign when you want and start it again when it suits.

Now don’t get me wrong – online and social media advertising isn’t perfect. It’s certainly not without its flaws. It’s also fair to say that there are a huge number of people wasting just as much money on digital advertising as they do on traditional media.

But you can make a local newspaper advert accountable. Here’s how you do it. You share a single offer or a single product in the advert. An exclusive offer. A unique price. It has to be something that you don’t share elsewhere.

This might seem counterintuitive. After all conventional, accepted wisdom is that you need to have a mix of media and a blend of channels. But if you want to stop your advertising being a punt and start looking at it as a genuine investment you need a means to measure what works. A way to isolate and focus on one single media that you’d like to test.

Local Newspaper Advertising - Does it work

Stop wasting your money.

But I think you can have a broader campaign and still measure the effectiveness of a single channel. What you could do, and if your margins allow – you could offer an additional discount that you don’t share elsewhere. You can take a coupon approach or use a specific voucher code.

You need to factor this into your financial model. In other words, you need to make sure that you’ve built enough margin in to be profitable.

It’s simple and obvious advice, and the small margin that you give away in the short term could save you a fortune in wasted, unproductive advertising in the future.

If nobody redeems your exclusive local newspaper offer, then you’ll have your answer. Don’t be fooled into trying again. Don’t convince yourself that ‘maybe the copy was wrong’ or ‘maybe it was in on the wrong day’. Satisfy yourself that it didn’t work for you. Move on. Don’t repeat the error by trying again.

And what if it does work? If it works – do it again. Consider increasing the frequency or even the size of the advert.

Ultimately the message I want you to take away from this blog post is this – local newspaper advertising should be viewed as an investment and not a gamble.

Take Responsibility

You’ve got to take responsibility, though – so here are my Top Tips for those considering launching a local newspaper advertising campaign.

  1. Let the publisher design the advert for you. (this is usually a free service.)
  2. Ask the sales rep specific questions about their ability to deliver a relevant audience.
  3. Do your homework – search JicReg database for free to get some insights into the circulation and readership of the local newspaper you’re considering advertising in.
  4. Do your homework – check the audited circulation (ABC) figures for the newspapers sales figures.
  5. Focus more on copies sold rather than the number of readers. Copies sold is a guaranteed, audited and reliable figure. Readership data is modelled – in other words, they are an estimate only.
  6. When offered a price – ask how this relates to their published rate card. Your job, as a savvy media buyer, should be to maximise the discount you receive off the rate-card.
  7. Any advertising should be ‘Direct Response’ based (make sales) rather than ‘Brand Building’.

I don’t offer local newspaper advertising related services personally, but if you have a question, or would like some free, impartial advice. Drop me an email and I’ll try to help.

The decision my colleague made was, on this occasion, not to advertise in the local newspaper. That decision was made on financial logic. The sums just didn’t add up and that brought the campaign into the realms of a gamble, rather than investment.

Nov 06

Could a daily writing goal change your writing fortunes?

By Kevin Anderson | Uncategorized

As someone who writes words for a living, you’d think I’d have my writing process pretty much nailed down. You’d be wrong. Spectacularly so. I’m certainly better than I was, but I’m continually tweaking and refining the way I work.

Daily Writing Word Count Image

I talked about this with a friend of mine recently. When I told him of my goal of becoming a ‘more efficient writer’ he accused me of being a ‘capitalist pig dog’. He’s right of course – the more I can write, the more money I can make. But it’s more significant than that.

Being an efficient writer, will make me a happier one. And being a happier writer will make me a better one.

Time Blocking

Up until now I’ve measured my writing output by how long I spend writing. I’ve tried to ring fence time purely for writing, going as far as creating different writing time blocks in my calendar. Invariably though this approach doesn’t work. I end up getting frustrated at myself, particularly in the days where I don’t write.

Seems odd, but the nature of my business means that there are days where I don’t write anything. I might have back-to-back meetings with clients, or I might be working on a non-writing task – like fixing an issue with my website.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog (hi mum!), then you’ll be well just to my love of writing. What I haven’t shared though is this – I get quite grumpy if I have a day without writing.

The Daily Word Count

So I’m changing my focus. Time will no longer be the measure of success. Word count will be my new master. This isn’t a new idea. The concept of focussing on word count has been around for a long time. The wonderful Ann Handley talks about it in her fantastic book – ‘Everybody Writes’.

The principle is fairly straightforward you commit to writing a minimum number of words every day. The idea being that having a target and sticking to it develops a writing habit.

To give you an idea, here are the daily writing goals set by some well-known writers.

  • Arthur Conan Doyle   (3,000 words)
  • Ernest Hemingway   (500 words)
  • Fredrick Forsyth   (3,000 words)
  • Lee Child   (1,800 words)
  • Mark Twain   (1,400 words)
  • Maya Angelou  (2,500 words)
  • Michael Crichton  (10,000 words)
  • Sophie Kinsella   (1,000 words)
  • Stephen King  (2,000 words)

My Daily Word Count Goal COMMITMENT

You’ll notice that I scored out ‘Goal’.

For me, as a professional writer it shouldn’t be a goal – it needs to be more than that – it needs to be a commitment.

So my commitment from this day forth is that I, Kevin James Anderson, being of sound (ish) mind does hereby declare that I will definitely (ish) produce on pain of death the following number of words EVERY DAY.

0
words a day

Why 1,800?

Well, that’s the equivalent of roughly three blog posts a day for me. It’s stretching, but achievable. That’s the number until the end of the year. I’ll review in January. To keep me honest and accountable I’ll make a note of my daily number and report back at the end of the month.

Your Daily Writing Goal?

If you write blog posts or newsletter content – why don’t you consider setting a daily word count commitment? Start modestly – even 150 words a day would be a great way to start your writing habit.

Try it and see how you get on.

Having a daily word count commitment, isn’t the end of my writing process ‘tinkering’ but it will get me focussed on writing every day, and that has to be a good thing.


 

PS – Found this wonderful quote from Maya Angelou while researching this post.

May Angelou Quote | Daily Writing Goal

Nov 03

5 Steps to 500 Words – A Simple Blog Formula For Stress Free Writing

By Kevin Anderson | Blog Writing

Does the prospect of writing three blog posts a week stress you out? If it does, you’re not alone. I know that being a committed content marketer is hard enough, but being a productive one can seem impossible.

I’ve had a number of conversations recently with colleagues who have, not for the time, been inspired by the words of Marcus Sheridan. In a recent blog post, Marcus advocates that to be a successful content marketer – you should be producing 2-3 blog posts every week.

One approach I shared with a colleague who was overwhelmed by the prospect of content creation is to focus on producing shorter blog posts of around 500 words. I’ll share with you the blog formula I suggested she trialled.

5 Steps to 500 Words Blog Formula

The Intro (125 Words)

After the title of your post, the first paragraph is the second more important element of your post. You might get away with a weak headline, but if the first paragraph fails to draw in your reader, you can be fairly sure that they’ll not continue reading. The first paragraph is your hook and should between 25-50 words.

The rest of the introduction should be to provide context to the opening paragraph and to lead the reader seamlessly into the body content of your blog post. This gives your introduction a natural and steady flow.

Main Points (300 Words)

For a 500-word blog post, I recommend having 300 words broken down into three main points of 100 words each. This creates a classic win-win situation.

As the writer, you win, because psychologically it’s less intimidating to write three 100 word elements than it is to write 300 words. And more importantly the reader wins as you’ve created a structure that is simple, scannable and easy to read.

The three points could be –

  • 3 Steps to BLANK success.
  • 3 Epic BLANK fails.
  • 3 reasons why BLANK is BLANK.
  • 3 top tips to a perfect BLANK

The Strong Close (75 Words)

In a 500-word blog post, the closing point shouldn’t take the classic writing advice of summarising the points you’ve raised in your post. With short paragraphs, doing so would feel repetitive.

Instead, create a rounded and strong close to your blog post by referring to your introduction. If you can, link your last sentence directly to your opening paragraph.

Depending on the type of content you’re writing and your audience, it’s also a nice to add a touch of personality by adding something inspirational. For example, a simple ‘you can do this’ message can have power.

Is three the magic number?

Everyone is different and for some, three blog posts per week can feel intimidating, especially if you’re an inexperienced blogger. For now, though, don’t get hung up on that. Instead just write one blog post. Take this formula and put it to the test.

My hope is that by breaking your writing into bite-sized chunks you can produce great content, enjoy the process and do so without any stress.

Oct 28

A Gift From Grandad – How I discovered my writing passion

By Kevin Anderson | About Kev

I’ve got an awful lot to thank my grandad for. He was, and still is, my hero. He gave me so much in his lifetime; a love of golf, a thirst for knowledge and passion for books. But the greatest gift, the legacy he left, is the one he delivered the day he died.

He’d been suffering from a form of dementia for a few years. I’d tried to convince myself that it wasn’t that bad, that he was just getting Jim Andersonforgetful. That denial left me the day he didn’t recognise his great-grandchildren. It’s a day I’ll never forget. It crushed me.

Not long after that, my grandad went into a care home. I never visited him and didn’t see him during the last six months of his life. I didn’t want to see the shadow of my hero. I wanted full-fat grandad, not grandad light. It’s the most selfish thing I’ve done. It’s a source of shame. And it’s without question my biggest personal regret.

Sage advice at such times is to cling to a happy memory. You know – the whole, remember the good times thing. What I came up with surprised me.

A nicotine stained mint.

The surprises continued as I penned a poem. Yes, a poem.

It’s a simple rhyming couplets poem, and as far as ‘real’ poetry goes, it’s pretty bad. But it worked for me. It helped me capture a single moment of utter joy. (You can read The Nicotine Mint over at my personal blog.)

It made my family smile.

It made me smile.

And it still makes me smile.

That was November 2009, and that’s when my writing started. It’s like a light was cliched on.

I wrote more poetry, mostly pretty bad if I’m honest. Then I started writing short stories, before discovering a passion for writing personal stories. I shared these true tales of various embarrassing ‘highlights’ of my life on my personal blog. The feedback was positive. Driven by my attention seeking nature, I wrote more and more. I discovered two things. I loved writing, and I was quite good at it.

I’d been writing marketing content since I was 19 years old, but this was different. This was writing for writing’s sake. This was writing to entertain my friends and family. This was writing for me. It helped me make sense of ’stuff’.

By day, I was a Senior Marketing Manager by night I was a writer. It was my hobby. My escape. My passion.

In January 2013, my grandad and I formed a formidable writing partnership. He’d kept a journal of his life, particularly his war years. He’d approached a few publishers in the late 90’s, but they felt his account lacked broader appeal. This really upset him.

I approached my friend Phil Smith, editor of The Scots Magazine, and he agreed that the story of Jim Anderson’s escape from Singapore would be of interest to The Scots Mag readership. I edited the relevant section of his manuscript and added some additional content to give it some context.

What made this so special, was this – my grandad loved the Scots Mag. Seeing his photo and reading his words mixed with my own in a magazine he hugely respected, was a proud moment for me. A cross-generational, beyond the grave, Anderson mash-up.

EscapeFromSingapore

I’m proud of the remarkable man my grandad was, and while I’ll always regret my failure to visit him during his last six months, I have, over the last six years stopped crucifying myself for my selfishness.

Now eight months into this writing adventure I appreciate more than ever my grandad’s legacy. Without him, I genuinely don’t believe I’d be making my living as a writer. He unwittingly set me on a course that I’ll never deviate from. I’m a writer.

It’s what I do.

It’s who I am.

It’s what I love.

Thanks Grandad.

Oct 26

What else could you outsource? | What my 2nd Year Art Teacher REALLY taught me

By Kevin Anderson | Outsourcing

“Kevin tries hard. However, I feel his talents must lie elsewhere.” There was a passive-aggressive tone to the only report card comment that I can remember. That was 27 years ago. I’m sure there are some positive report card comments hidden in the dark recesses of my brain, but no, that’s the only one I can remember. The subject in question was Art.

What Else Could You Outsource? Love Heart Image

Mr. Adam wasn’t wrong. My art skills were somewhat limited. OK, I’m being kind. For whatever reason, the artistic part of my brain is missing. I can’t draw even the most rudimentary of pictures. When your 6-year-old son is a better artist than you, you know it’s time to give up.

It’s surprising given the fact that my sister and both my parents are accomplished artists. When I see the work they produce, my initial envy is replaced with the only natural conclusion I can ‘draw’ – I’m clearly adopted!

Every few years I pick up sketch book and pencil and try again, deluded in the notion that my latent art talent will finally reveal itself. It never does.

When I launched Square Tree Marketing, I forgot Mr. Adam’s subtle advice. I tried designing my marketing materials, including my logo. How hard could it be? Well actually very hard. I wasted so much time, and the result was awful. So I did what I should have done from the start – outsourced my design work to a professional graphic designer.

Why I Outsource?

I learned a valuable lesson. I needed to stop trying to do everything myself. If it can be done better by someone else and save me valuable time, then I outsource it. I make my living by writing content. If I waste my time doing tasks I’m simply not cut out for it reduces my writing capacity – which in turn limits my earning potential.

Outsourcing for me is a commercial necessity.

What Could You Outsource or Insource?

If you’re a business owner, ask yourself what else could you directly outsource? What are the tasks that would free up more of your time? What could you do with that time?

If you’ve got a team, you might consider Insourcing, which essentially means outsourcing a task to one of your own team. This can be a great use of your resources, but only if it is something they have a genuine aptitude for.

Using my artistic example, you might be as bad a graphic designer as me. (If you are, maybe we can form some sort of Self-Help Group? FAA Frustrated Artists Anonymous?) You could ‘insource’ to someone on your team who is slightly more artistic than you. But can they create the graphics that will do your business justice? Remember, sometimes, good enough, simply isn’t.

Insourcing only works if the person completing the task can do it to a standard you’d be proud of. There should be no compromise. But even if they can produce the work to a high enough standard, is it the most profitable use of their time? By being your go-to graphic design person, what work CAN’T they complete? Ultimately, something has to give.

A recommendation – The Mr. Adam Test

Here’s what I’d recommend you do. Identify all the tasks that you don’t enjoy doing, aren’t good at or typically take you longer than planned. And simply ask yourself with brutal honesty the following question –

“Do my talents lie elsewhere?”


 

P.S. –  If you use a Task Management Tool, I recommend you create a new list labeled ‘Elsewhere’ for the tasks you need to outsource or insource.
P.P.S. – My tool of choice is the incredibly powerful and flexible AllThings. You can take it for a 14-day free test run. It’s now my business dashboard. (If you want me to take you through how I use it, please get in touch.)

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Oct 13

Should You Write A Script for Your Next Presentation?

By Kevin Anderson | All Posts , Blog Writing , Script Writing

Fake a seizure! Fake a seizure! My inner voice screamed at me. Imploring me to do something. To do anything. All I could muster was a feeble fake cough. All my hard work and preparation had been for nothing. I’d written a script. I’d rehearsed it countless times. But now, when it mattered, when it was showtime when the CEO and entire executive team of NCR were my audience – I was dying a humiliating death in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Untitled design (1)

In hindsight, the outcome was to be expected. I was presenting something that I had little knowledge of and decided the best solution was to write a script.

My mistake was thinking I could memorise it.

I couldn’t.

As the 15 strong executive team left the neighbouring demonstration and made their way towards me, my heartbeat quickened, while everything else went into ‘Super Slow-mo.’

Then the music started.

The iconic opening title music from Reservoir Dogs, no less.

Reservoir Dogs

Mr. Pink, Mr. Brown and the gang were pussycats compared to Mr. CEO, Mr. President of Marketing and a collection of expensive suits.

My strategy was simple. Delivering my opening line perfectly would give me confidence. Then the magic would happen. By the laws of association and the power of the human brain, my entire carefully prepared script would magically come alive.

This would be my ‘I have a dream’ moment.

What I didn’t consider is this – what happens if I DIDN’T remember that first line?

I found that out the hard way.

The lesson I took from this is an important one, and it’s never left me.

When it comes to delivering a presentation, a demonstration or any form of public speaking, there are only two options.

  • You can read from a script OR
  • You deliver it off the cuff.

Writing a script, then attempting to memorise it, word for word, simply doesn’t work.

I now mix up my approach. Sometimes I read from a script, and sometimes I just go with the flow. Either way you need to do what makes you the most comfortable version of yourself.

I died in Las Vegas – So You Don’t Have To

So why am I sharing what might seem like obvious advice?

Yesterday I delivered a presentation coaching session for one of my clients. It’s not a service I offer, but he asked, and I answered.

He’s delivering a 20-minute presentation later in the year and initially, he wanted me to write the script for him. After I’d offered him some tips and advice, he asked if I’d coach him on how to deliver it.

I thought I’d share my process with you.

The Process

Source Material

What came first the blog or the script?

I’d ghostwritten two blog articles related to the event for my client and recommended that we use those as the source material for the script.

A blog post is one of the most personal forms of writing, and I think they can serve as a solid foundation for a script.

But this isn’t a copy and paste job. Writing for the page and writing to be narrated isn’t the same. The blog post gave me the structure, but with the exception of a few key phrases, it was entirely rewritten.

Say it loud and proud

Once I’d completed the first draft of the script, I read it out to check the initial flow. If I tripped up on any phrases or identified elements that sounded robotic, I made a mental note to correct it in the next stage – but I pressed on to establish the initial timings.

Paragraph by Paragraph

Next I read each paragraph out loud, this time though I stopped to correct phrases that didn’t work. If I couldn’t decide on how to fix the issue, I made a note and moved on to the next paragraph.

The Recording Artist

2nd draft crafted, it was time to try a slightly different review process. This time, I’d become a recording artist. I used the ‘Recorder’ app on my iPhone and this time delivered the script as if I was delivering it for real.

A bonus piece of advice – if your kids are on holiday, and you work from home, be prepared for interruptions. “Daddy, I need toilet roll!” can clearly be heard on the first draft!

Reviewing the recording with pen in hand is a great way to identify more areas for improvement.

The Coaching

I recommended to the client that we meet at the venue to have a run through. To help break the ice, I decided to show, rather than tell. I jumped up onto the stage (OK I clambered!) and delivered the presentation.

We discussed some changes and then I offered some fairly rudimentary presentation advice, demonstrating each step as I did.

Next it was his turn.

He did really well.

With each run through, he gained more confidence. I scribbled notes to make further changes to improve the script.

By the final run through he was combining reading from the script with the occasional ad-lib. He took my advice and slowed down his speech and varied the tone – the difference from ‘Take 1’ and ‘Take 4’ was dramatic.

He told me afterwards that it had been a really valuable experience and that he was now far more confident about delivering a powerful presentation.

And of course, I saved my best advice for last.

If things go wrong – just fake a seizure.

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