Create Content Marketing That Sells — Tell a Good Story.

Stories are the glue that make ideas, memories, choices, motivations and decisions stick in your mind. Stories are the reason that instantaneous images pop into your head and direct your actions. Stories are timeless and reiterated from one generation to another.

But what makes a story so powerful?

Humans process information better when it is in the form of a story. We remember stories. We’re less likely to recall a dry delivery of facts. So, how do we tell a good story?

For starters, you need a main character or protagonist. This emotionally engages your reader. Secondly, you need an antagonist. This someone or something adds conflict. This is the enemy of your main character and the goals they set out to achieve.

Next is the struggle — preferably an active struggle in which protagonist and antagonist are determined to be the victor.

Okay. So what does this mean to your content marketing message? How can I use a great story to make my content marketing message motivating, even inspiring to my audience?

Here’s a story about Rupert, a fairly successful umbrella salesman.

Rain or shine, Rupert had been selling umbrellas on the corner of Main and Elm Street for 11 years. He had umbrellas in every color and for any occasion. Rupert’s customers came from all over town because they knew he had the best quality umbrellas money could buy.

One day in early October, the start of the rainy season, Rupert noticed another umbrella salesman named Sloane just one block away. His competitor had set up a booth with a red canvas awning, selling umbrellas at half the cost!

Three weeks later Rupert noticed his business was slow because many of his customers were buying from Sloane. The rainy season was fast approaching and this was usually Rupert’s most lucrative time of the year. Then as if things were not bad enough, he noticed that Sloane was printing “Sloane’s Umbrellas are #1” on his products.

Rupert became very depressed and decided to stay home one very rain day. Feeling blue as he sat in his overstuffed chair and petted his cat, Tilly, Rupert heard a knock at the door. To his surprise, it was one of his best customers, Mr. Biggs, who asked if he could buy 10 umbrellas.

It seemed as if Mr. Biggs had purchased several umbrellas from Sloane to give to family members as gifts. When the umbrellas started to fall apart during a heavy downpour, his family began to complain. All he wanted was to replace the poor quality umbrellas with Rupert’s fine quality umbrellas. That would surely make things right.

Inspired by this event, Rupert happily got his umbrella cart and headed down to Main and Elm – after selling Mr. Biggs 10 new umbrellas of course. That day and days following, Rupert enjoyed record sales and lots of smiling happy customers.

Left with little or no business, Sloane soon closed his booth and moved away.

The moral of this story is “Make sure you have a quality product to back up your pitch.” Successful content marketing pros know this. After all, your customers are really the ones who decide if you’re #1.

Now, get your content together and go tell your story.


Creativity, Ideation

You Want What?!

Have you ever been asked to work on a project where your response was: “You want what?!”

I have. That’s my favorite kind of work.

It’s not enough to be simply challenged by a writing project request. It’s far more satisfying to defy the odds of logic and gravity and give my brain a good marathon workout.

Too often people think that what they are asking for will only be satisfied by some so-called expert who has jumped through similar, innumerable hoops, making them far more skilled on that particular topic.

Not necessarily so.

The one ingredient that easily overrides such erroneous assumptions is creativity. A little imagination goes a long way. A lot of imagination goes… (you get my drift).

But if you choose to believe that success can only be guaranteed by some cookie-cutter, boxed formula that makes you feel more secure metrics-wise, then fine. You might, however, miss out getting a fresh, illuminating result.

If on the other hand you want originality that shines, dances, then floats cloud-like into the sky exploding in rainbow colors of wit and meaningful impact — then contact me.

Ask me the question so I can (with great delight) exclaim: “You want what?!”

Then we can get on with creating it — whatever it is.


Workplace issues

Losing through Intimidation

Apparently some people who read Robert J. Ringer’s popular book in the 70s, “Winning through Intimidation” didn’t come away with the same message as I did. While the title put some people off, the real content of his message was more about how to be prepared to deal with intimidation when faced with it, not to use it as a “How To” guide to get what you want.

I know, firsthand, that intimidation is alive and well, having recently spent several months on the receiving end of it. Not that I didn’t recognize it.  I just didn’t have the luxury of  ‘gaming’ when keeping  my job took a front seat to a quashed ego and marginalized skills.

Yes, I know, companies have people who are supposed to handle that sort of thing — the ‘people-people’, if you will, better known as HR. But depending on the political environment you’re in, it’s not always an easy call to make.

So, what would prompt a reasonably intelligent person into a reign of intimidation? How about the new person they just hired doing the job too well? If you do your job too well, (maybe better than the person who hired you), then they look bad, or they think they do.  That’s a no-no (nothing is good unless they say so). Or maybe you make friends easily and know how to work with difficult clients. (Even when you-know-who warned you in advance about them). You work faster than your manager. (Slow down or, again , the manager might lose points).

And so it goes.

I have to say, it amazes me the extent to which some people will go to have their way.  They’re like bulldozers, flattening everything in their path.  It is a bit frustrating for the ‘intimidators’ when the ‘intimidatee’ offers little or no combative response.   The bully must then find new ways to push the ‘react’ button, which keeps them out of your hair temporarily.

Bottom line, I don’t recommend anyone enduring this for extended months, but it is best to understand the game.  Try as they will, these masterminds of intimidation, to drive you to distraction,  they are the real losers.  They miss out on the wealth of resources that you were trying to contribute, if only they had stepped out of the way, had a little more self-confidence, performed as a supportive manager not a micro-managing-moron, and let you do what you do well — get the job done, on target, on time and on budget.

Maybe intimidators just enjoy the game more than they do getting the job done.  Personally, I would rather work.


railroad travel

How Trains Changed Travel in America

If you wanted to travel across the country before the advent of the railroad, the wagon train was your fastest, safest way to go.  Never mind it took years to get to your destination and you were most certainly at the mercy of inclement weather and marauding renegades.

The first railroad was constructed in 1763 in Lewiston, New York and was part of the main “portage” for good and services around Niagra Falls. But it wasn’t until 1870 that construction was completed on the first ever transcontinental railroad linking the east to the west. Now travelers could travel East Coast to West Coast in a matter of weeks not years, and do so in relative comfort.  The railroad also provided more efficient mail delivery like never before.  Communication was accelerated. People could stay in touch with family and friends more often and businesses could run more efficiently with faster shipments of goods and services. Suddenly towns, farms and communities sprang up across the country where once there were only prairies and wilderness.

Even with all of its obvious benefits, the railroad presented obstacles to some. There was the noise to contend with and the chaos of collisions and derailments. Strong resistance was encountered  in many cities where bringing the railroad through town was considered much too disruptive.  Often people were not willing to sell their land.  Yet the benefits seemed to outweigh the detriments over the years, as people enjoyed the swiftness of travel, the pleasures of touring the country and the ease and affordability of shipping things of all sizes.

Today many people believe that trains are the transportation of the future as they are more fuel efficient than other means of transportation. With Japan’s high speed train powered by magnetic force, and France’s high speed electric train, the expectations seem positive for future generations, as trains continue to wind their way through our lives and our imagainations.


Editing that edifies

Editing with a Vengeance

If you have never had your work subjected to the wiles of a vengeful editor, then maybe you’ve been lucky. Over the years I have edited numerous kinds of documents for a variety of people.  One precept I have tried to maintain is to respect the other person’s work. When you’re wearing an editor’s hat, you’re in a position to guide the writer to become even better.  Shredding their work for the power trip is unethical and not at all helpful.

Give the writer the benefit of the doubt, but naturally point out the most obvious snags such as syntax, grammar, spelling and voice. We all get better with every written piece we craft. Try to avoid getting carried away with all of those editing marks. If you like to scribble, take up an art class.  That may be your true calling after all.



Teachers Who Influenced My Life

Thinking back to my early education, I realize that some of my life choices have been largely influenced by a few notable teachers.

Sixth grade was rife with growing pains for me, accented by the usual social woes that befall kids that age. I was no different from most kids, not ugly, fairly smart and sweet-natured; however, many of my peers saw me as the teacher’s pet and not nearly roguish enough to be in their clique. I started wearing glasses at age four to straighten a ‘lazy eye’, which never fully corrected itself, hence I got the moniker of ‘cross-eyed bat’ compliments of ‘the clique.’ But in spite of this, I had someone in my corner — a mentor named Mrs. Yount. She was tough but fair-minded and deemed such slurs simply unacceptable. She instilled in me a sense of courage and self-worth that prepared me for even fiercer battles to come. She taught me to stand up to indignation and be myself no matter what. I also think she was largely responsible for my being chosen as one of two recipients of The American Legion award for good citizenship that year.

Thank you, Mrs. Yount.

Middle School ushered in the angst and growing pains of the teens, yet for all the ‘fitting in’ we attempt at this age, the lingering questions remain of who our true friends really are. When I was in Mr. Thompson’s science class, it didn’t matter. My mind was instantly distracted by the wonder of science, the chemistry of life and higher, more cerebral pursuits. Mr. Thompson had a way of making even the most difficult assignment seem amusing and fun. He was an adept storyteller and engaged our minds in unrelated tales of life and discovery while in the midst of learning how to separate and store agar plates or control your Bunsen burner. A bit of levity made the hard stuff much easier to digest. Teen worries were set aside for the hour we spent in Mr. Thompson’s science class and we adventured into the other-worldliness of science, the universe and most importantly, our imaginations.

Thank you, Mr. Thompson

My senior year in high school made up for many of the challenges I had in earlier years.
I was co-editor of our yearbook, head cheerleader, a member of student council, a member of the special singing ensemble, “The Mellotones”, and a solid “B+” student. Oh, yes, I even won the crowning glory of being selected “Miss Warrior” in a beauty/talent pageant patterned after the Miss America event.

But, alas, nothing is without its price. Some of my fellow cheerleaders fought me at every turn, envious of my leadership and making it difficult to be a cohesive ‘team’. We did okay but could have been much better. When the new principal (whom few liked) declared ‘no pep rally’ against our biggest arch rival in football, I led a peaceful protest of about 50 or so students, standing in the street out front of his home singing the school alma mater. This got some attention and some of the teachers joined forces to get the matter resolved to our satisfaction. There were three teachers who helped to shape the ‘future me’ that year: Miss Moss, Mrs. Hendrix and Ms. Tosh.

Miss Moss was widely respected and had been a teacher most of her life; she was a small, hunch-backed lady, not even as tall as most of her students, who had learned to endure ridicule early in life and win. Oh, but how she knew English literature. She also supervised the yearbook staff, and she was tough when it came to getting it right. But you wanted to get it right because you knew she was pushing you to be your best. She upset me as many times as she instructed me, but thankfully so much of what she taught me actually stuck. I learned perseverance and courage from her in a big way, not to mention some key points about good journalism.

Thank you, Miss Moss.

English has always been a favorite subject of mine and having Mrs. Hendrix as an English composition teacher was a blessing of major proportions. She made gerunds, infinitives and dangling participles fun, if you can believe that. Diagramming sentences was more pleasure than pain for me, and she always had time for a raised hand in the classroom. Mellow, confident, caring and intelligent best describe the qualities Mrs. Hendrix exuded. And the fact that one of her daughters, Lynnette, was a good friend and singing buddy of mine had little to do with Mrs. Hendrix being one of my favorite teachers. She earned that all on her own with qualities that are innate to a truly fine teacher and mentor. I think of her often and feel fortunate to have been one of her students.

Thank you, Mrs. Hendrix

Music has forever been a major force in my life. My parents started me on piano lessons at age four, a bit too young in hindsight, although my music teacher (Mrs. Murphy) said I had natural ability. I still love the piano, singing, dancing and generally exploring different kinds of musical expression. Acoustic guitar is a listening pleasure, but I don’t play. My music teacher in high school was Miss Tosh — a rotund woman with a dazzlingly beautiful face and coal black (dyed) hair. When she smiled the room lit up. When she was unhappy with your work or the class in general, it rained daggers. Often out of breath due to her size, she would forge ahead through the daily scales and vocal exercises that were sure to make us all stars one day. When I was chosen to be one of the three sopranos in the special singing group, “The Mellotones”, I felt so important and honored. A bit nervous and unsure, at first, we worked through our self-doubts and became a solid musical unit, working together as one voice, and participating in concerts and competitions.

Miss Tosh helped me to realize my vocal skills in such a capacity I might otherwise never have developed the confidence to perform. Because of this, I was in several high school musical productions, plays, school events and won the title of “Miss Warrior” with my musical adaptation of “It’s a Big, Wide Wonderful World”, as performed by Raggedy Ann in full costume. I went on to participate in the women’s chorale in college, and won the “Miss Caddo County” title that sent me to the “Miss Oklahoma” pageant in Tulsa. Competition was stiff and I had a health issue (ovarian cyst), so that was the end of my beauty pageant days. But music will always be a passion and a motivator in my life and one brilliant teacher in particular paved the way for my discovery.

Thank you, Miss Tosh.


Writing skills

5 Things to Look for in an Exceptional Writer


1. Good Listener – Attentive and focused, able to ‘hear and feel between the lines’

2. Asks Smart Questions – Related or unrelated to the project, both are relevant

3. Risk Taker – Confidence to go beyond accepted norms with respect, pliancy and caring

4. Speaks Up – Cuts to the chase on difficult issues to save time, money and energy

5. Passion and Respect for Writing Well – Words with life, purpose and longevity


On cats

Everything Worth Knowing I’ve Learned From Cats

Cats are more than just mystical creatures. They seem to understand the moment–the now. Dignity, I think, was invented by cats. And they teach you important life lessons without your knowing it, as if by osmosis. Just being in their presence makes you wiser somehow.

I’ve been privileged to know about 29 cats in my life, so far. And each one planted a memory seed that will remain intact as long as my gray cells hold out. Funny, because as a child, I had allergies, especially to cats. At least that’s what I was told. But as an adult, I have always been drawn to cats, as though I might secretly be one of them. They can sit and stare, seemingly into space, for the longest time, causing you to try without success to zero in on the subject of their focus. And, why, without discussion, does a cat suddenly decide that sleeping in this chair or that corner is better than the other one. And a sudden burst of speed that unsettles the household is never quite clear, but sometimes seems tied to a trip from the litter box.

And what remarkable trainers cats are. You know the moment she saunters into the room, just when you’re at the best part of your book that you might as well drop what you’re doing and follow her. After all, she may need a treat, or a brush, or maybe just your undivided attention.

Being the well-trained cat owner you are, you know exactly what to do — follow like a good cat slave. A phone call prompts any member of the feline household to spring into action, even if they’re sound asleep when it rings. Like perpetual two-year-olds, they’re committed to disrupting your phone conversation. And don’t they do it well?

Multiple cat households are definitely a challenge, but well worth it if you know how to be the ‘bigger’ cat. That’s right. You must get that across to them; otherwise, you totally lose control. There should be a slight element of fear when a certain tone is spoken, or a stance taken. Cats understand this. The alternative to doing nothing is to let them rule. And I’m not sure that any of us are ready to give up all of our humanness.

It’s a beautiful relationship between humans and cats once the ground rules are clear. And it takes a commitment from pet owners to make mutually beneficial choices. It really is worth taking the time to do it right. Believe me. Some of my best friends are felines.


Do It All. Do It Now. And Do It Well.

A commentary on multitasking.

We were doing it before we even had a name for it. We just thought staying busy 99% of the time –at work, at home, on business, on vacation, wherever – was normal! Little did we imagine such behavior would one day have a name, albeit a somewhat clumsy one: what is this thing called multitasking?

Somewhat new to the dictionary as of ten or so years ago, multitasking (acceptable with or without the hyphen), is a process not only necessary to survive, but actually expected of us. Our employers, our families, our friends, even ourselves and most everyone we encounter on a day-to-day basis (except perhaps the anonymous stranger on the street or the subway) expects us to be many people, wearing different hats, dispensing knowledge and/or service as conveniently as a vending machine.

Are we okay with that?

Well, no and yes. No, often we resent the pressure of having such expectations imposed upon us, especially at work; however, staying gainfully employed is preferred to the alternative and in today’s crazy economy, overachievers are flourishing. And then there are our nearest and dearest who sometimes are the most unthinking in what they expect from us.

It’s true that most of us have adapted and learned this skill in order to compete, even to survive. If you manage a family there’s little doubt that you can avoid multitasking. In fact, women, especially mothers are probably the best (MTs) mulitaskers around.  That’s not to say that men are eliminated from the challenge. There are plenty of dads who understand, especially when they’re going it alone.

Is multitasking healthy? Decide for yourself.

The Pros

Employers love multitaskers for obvious reasons — more bang for the buck, so to speak. Let’s say an employer runs an ad with an agency and hires an account executive that can write, is quick with a new idea, and has a great eye for art direction. Well you have hired one person capable of filling at least three roles. If this person is organized, has good people skills, and understands deadlines, they can become the epitome of the ‘exemplary employee’ with ‘value-added’ characteristics. Smart employers seek this kind of talent, and relish the fact that a multitasker brings intrinsic value to the company.

The Cons

MTs more easily run the risk of burnout. Often they suffer from Wonder Woman or Super Man syndrome, attempting to be all things to all people, at all times. Not exactly the best way to build a career, even if you can bend steel or fly. MTs often expect other people to be multitaskers, too, so anyone doing less than 16 jobs at once might be perceived as a slacker to an MT.

A Multitasker by any other name…

Maybe multitaskers have been among us for generations, and we recognized them by different names. For instance, over-achiever, Type A personality and workaholic are a few more familiar names. However, the word multitasker seems to signify a more well-rounded, organized approach, while the others imply a tendency toward obsession. Regardless of the name, the concept is here to stay. If you don’t believe it, take a look at a job description within any number of industries. If the word itself isn’t in the job requirements, the definition of it sure is. Some employers simply choose not to bandy the word about. After all, they want to fill the position first.

The Balancing Act

Let’s say we more or less agree that multitasking is here to stay and that we have been doing it for a long time, whether we realize it or not. The question is: How do we use the positive elements and make it work for us, still holding to some vestige of balance between the work/play/life scenario?

Priorities Predominate

Once you’ve established what your priorities are, you must then assign a reasonable amount of time for each. You may have a dozen projects in the pipeline at work, then there’s the family – school, vacation, anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and so on – and personal pursuits such as hobbies, sports, classes, friends and more. All of these are important and deserve a fair share of your time.

Sadly, what commonly occurs is that we spend too much time in one area while the other parts of our lives go wanting. A tried and true MT will find balance – and, that being a challenge in itself, appeals to the MT.

Whichever way you look at it, this hybrid force of nature seems to have burrowed into our modern day lives, and germinated deep roots. A motivator to some. Often mistaken for sure. And to many people, simply as routine as a morning cup of coffee.


Cat friends

Cats are People, Too!

If you’re not a ‘cat person’ then don’t bother to read this.  On the other hand, maybe you should read it and possibly understand furry felines a little better.

Cats have been part of my world for most of my adult life, and they have rewarded me with companionship (when they wish), learning the art of compromise, understanding a different language and confirming the psychic connection to name a few.

A cat can sit and stare at you or something outside a window or at each other for countless minutes. One can only imagine what they are thinking or planning.

A cat will cuddle up to you when they feel safe and all of the their needs are met. It matters little that you might be trying to nibble away at a meal while watching your favorite movie.  After all, you only need one hand to feed your face, right?  Why not brush the cat with the other hand?  Perfectly reasonable (to any cat).

If a cat doesn’t like the food you present to them, they will often turn their back and sit there waiting to see if you can do better. One trick I learned after years of opening many different cans of food:  outwait them.  If that’s all they’re going to get, somehow it’s not so bad after all.

A cat will come and tell you to ‘change the litterbox’.  If you are off schedule — yes, cat’s are very much about schedules — they will let you know.

And cat owners can attest to merely thinking of something cat-related, and suddenly a cat appears (or disappears, depending on circumstances).

Possibly a cat’s most human-like trait is waiting until you’re on the telephone, then raising a full roof-raising ruckus!  If that isn’t reminiscent of a two-year old child’s behavior, nothing is!  In fact, sometimes I think of cats as perpetual two-year old children, regardless of their feline age.  It’s all about me, me, me, and they do know how to say no, no, no, even if it is spoken in feline.

But regardless of their wiles and woes, we love them. We love them because they are a lot like humans. Independent, stubborn, unpredictable, yet lovable enough to make us keep on caring.  Those are some of the same reasons some people prefer dogs.  Ah, but that’s another story altogether.