July 29, 2017

Do You Need an Editorial Calendar?


An editorial calendar makes it easy for people to work together, helping them follow a plan.

What if there's only you in your business? Does it make sense to create an editorial calendar? Absolutely, but for different reasons.

If your plan is in your head, writing it out will reduce stress - now you don't have to remember it. Handwriting activates the creative part of your brain and your memory. More importantly, having a plan will prep your brain to be on the lookout for appropriate content.

You can use fancy spreadsheets, or find a detailed editorial calendar online. You can use coloured file cards, sheets of paper, or a whiteboard. The most important thing is that it works for y-o-u. It doesn't have to be like anyone else's editorial calendar.

Of course, before you create an editorial calendar, you need to generate a bunch of content ideas.

If you are like me, your content ideas may not be well organized. Creating an editorial calendar forces you to create organization among the chaos (another benefit).

Here are three suggestions for creating your editorial calendar. These are simple and easily customized (even combined) to work for any small business owner who doesn't need a super fancy system for managing content plans.

#1. Big Picture View (whiteboard)

This is my preferred planning tool. It's very fast and keeps my plan top of mind as it's propped by my desk. I use two sheets of white corrugated plastic (backs of old transit signs). One is my active editorial calendar, reaching out for 6 months. The second becomes my active calendar as time goes on and plans change.

#2. Monthly or Weekly View (paper)

Another simple method - you already have everything you need at your desk. Use sheets of (coloured) paper, one for each month or week, as you prefer to plan. Transfer your content ideas from your idea catcher to your sheets on a regular schedule, perhaps once a week. Keep these sheets in a folder on your desk, or pinned up side-by-side near your desk. The more in-your-face, the better.

#3. Flexible View (file cards)

If you've read any of Sue Grafton's mysteries, you know her private investigator Kinsey Millhone uses file cards to organize clues and generate new leads. Put all your content ideas on separate (coloured) file cards; this makes it easy to add inspiration as it comes to you. To organize your ideas, grab some (coloured) envelopes and label them by month/week, or whatever works for you. Sort your file cards into the envelopes, or use elastic bands and tags. As a bonus, these cards are mobile-friendly; throw them in your briefcase and review while waiting for your first coffee meeting. Carry around a few blanks for those ideas that hit you on the fly. To change your perspective, shuffle the cards as Kinsey does.

The only way to make an editorial calendar work best for you is to try it, and revise. Start somewhere. Make sure it is easily accessed, visual and tactile. Use stickers and highlighting to spark inspiration!

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter July 27, 2017

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July 24, 2017

Storage for Great Ideas - Back of Book (BOB)


Do you often flip to the back page of your notebook to jot down content ideas? If not, start!

When I'm teaching small business classes about online marketing, I insist they start a page in the back of their notebooks for jotting down ideas for blog or social media posts. This page will extend beyond one, but it's the start of something great. BOB (for back of book) becomes a new friend... your idea catcher.

When you are looking for something to write about or post, check your BOB for ideas.

July 18, 2017

Quick Prep for Business Phone Calls


Imagine this happened to you earlier today...

You chatted on the phone for two hours with one of your favourite customers. You both laughed a lot and enjoyed catching up. It had been a while since you had a relaxed conversation with her. You're smiling as you hang up the phone.

Then reality strikes. A quick check of the time and your to-do list confirms you've lost control of your day. Your smile fades. You aren't feeling as cheery as you did a few minutes before. Now you'll have to hustle and compromise the rest of the day.

And that's not the worst impact. Your favourite customer is in exactly the same situation. She hung up smiling, too, but quickly realized the impact on her day. (I suspect this story may ring true for some of my customers.)

Here are a couple of things I try to remember to do so a friendly chat doesn't go too far off track:

  1. Jot down on paper a short list of points to cover during the call. I can use it as a reminder to bring the focus back to business.
  2. Ask up front how much time is available. Does the other person have time to chat, or should we get right down to business?

No doubt about it, I love to chat. That's why it's important to remember how it can impact my own and others' time. Please share more tips in the comments.

(Yes, Mary Jane, I'm sharing a phone tip!)

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July 13, 2017

One Little Word Can Go A Long Way


It's 2pm on a Thursday afternoon. I've been out all morning and discover urgent requests from two different customers as soon as I'm back at my desk. I already have a full plate for the afternoon and immediately realize I'm not going to be able to help both customers. I have to pick one over the other. Who do I pick?

The one who always says "Thanks!" It's a no-brainer.

Manners and respect will never go out of style. And they absolutely give you a one-up over those lacking... in business and in life.

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July 8, 2017

How to Get People to Open Your Emails


How long did you think about the subject line of that email you just sent to your brand new client? Will they be interested or excited to open it? Or will they leave it sitting unopened, floating closer to the bottom of their inbox?

I've discovered a little quirk. In fact, it feels more like a secret I shouldn't acknowledge, maybe even a tad manipulative. It didn't start out that way but now I know what I know... well, I can't un-know it.

Here it is. If I send an email to any of my work friends with the words 'no rush' in the subject line, it's likely to get opened faster than any other email I send them.

Of course, this may not work any longer once my friends read this article. But let me be clear, I've never used that knowledge to manipulate. And that's why it works. When I send an email with 'no rush' in the subject line, I really mean there's nothing inside requiring their attention soon. Usually it's a business idea in some form or other, thoughts that percolated while I worked.

From their perspective, perhaps something that's not a rush sounds more interesting than something that is. Putting the potential for reverse psychology aside, there's more than one lesson here.

First, it seems that over time I've figured out an effective way to communicate ideas to my confederates.

Second, and much more important, we can all do this with every email we send. I'm not talking about manipulating people. This is about building (dare I say) best practices over time that work efficiently for us and the people we communicate with most.

In the example above, I used the words 'no rush' in my subject line to make a distinction about the content of the email. Words aren't our only tool. We have all used urgent or privacy flags in email. And even formatting options, like ALL CAPS or exclamation marks - but discerningly!

We can all make our subject lines more useful. And we have easy tools to help us do that. This will mean less time spent in our inboxes and less of the accompanying stress. I'm going to more actively step up to the challenge starting now. Join me?

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