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Storytelling Tip: Actions speak louder than words

 

Storytelling Tip: Actions speak louder than words

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Actions Speak Louder Than WordsTelling your story well can do you more harm than good if you don’t live up to your words. Because actions speak louder than words.

A highly successful publicist once told me that his knack for getting getting lots of publicity for his clients and their products was a two-edged sword.

“Getting a lot of attention for a good product is powerful,” he said. “But getting a lot of attention for what turns out to be a bad product can be devastating because we put it into the spotlight.”

It doesn’t matter how well you tell your story if you don’t live up to what you say.

In fact, not living up to what you say makes it harder to get believed the next time you have something to say. And the more attention you get for words you don’t live up, the harder it’ll be for you to be believable the next time around.

So, pay attention to your words when telling your story. But pay even more attention to what you do to live up to them.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered.
Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Writing tip: Cliches can be your friend. Or your enemy.

 

Writing tip: Cliches can be your friend. Or your enemy.

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Inside the boxCliches can be your friend. Or your enemy.

Cliches have a bad reputation. But I’m here to defend them.

We all use them. And certain phrases become cliches because they work. So, they get used. Over. And over. And over.

I didn’t learn to write in school. I learned to write in newsrooms during the 20 years I spent committing journalism. Deadlines looming. And a limited number of words allowed.

Under those circumstances, cliches were often my friend. Why? Because they make a point or paint an image that we all get in just a few words without a lot of explanation needed.

But they don’t always work. If you use cliches to avoid saying anything worth hearing, your audience is likely to get bored and tune you out.

And many of us have our pet peeves when it comes to cliches. At least I do. One of mine: Think outside the box. When I hear someone say that, I know they almost always are not thinking outside the box. They’re using a cliche to make a point about thinking and doing things differently.

In fact, there’s a case to be made for thinking inside the box when telling your story.

What’s the one thing you want the rest of us to hear, understand and remember? In other words, what’s your message?

Make that message the box containing your story. And make everything else you say to tell your story fit inside that box. Your story will be clearer. The way that was explained to me as a young reporter was to write a lead that told readers the guts of what happened. And then use the rest of the story to fill in the details.

So, when should you use cliches? And when should you avoid them?

I think those are the wrong questions. The real questions: Have you told your story in a way that gives the rest of us a reason to care? Have you made it simple to understand? And have you told the truth to the best of your ability?

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Writing tip: Make your story about me

 

Writing tip: Make your story about me

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Writing tip: Make your story about me“Great stories happen to those who can tell them.” So says Ira Glass, host of the public radio show This American Life and one of the great story tellers of our time.

If other people aren’t interested in your story, it’s boring. It doesn’t matter how good you think it is. In fact, your story may be interesting to one audinece and not to another. The audience that counts is the one you’re trying to reach.

I sometimes tell people I’m boring as a stump. But I have the good fortune to be surrounded by interesting people. So, that makes my life interesting. That usually comes across as a joke line. But there’s more truth to it than I like to admit sometimes.

What does that have to do with telling a great story? If your story is boring — which is to say your audience isn’t interested in what you have to say — chances are you’re making the common mistake of making your story about you.

Why is that a mistake? Because everyone’s favorite subject is me. Not you. Me.

So make your story about me, the audience. Not about you, the storyteller.

Why should we care about what you have to say? Figure out the answer to that question and focus on it as you tell your story.

Your story will be be a lot more interesting to the people you’re trying to reach. And if you give us a really good reason to care about what you have to say, you’ll tell a great story.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Writing is a blood sport

 

Writing is a blood sport

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Writing is a blood sportWriting is a blood sport. Who would have guessed?

For example, the late journalist, playwright and author Gene Flower once said, “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

Or, as Ernest Hemingway put it: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Poet and story writer Dorothy Parker once said: “I hate writing, I love having written.” My sentiments exactly.

“Easy reading is damn hard writing,” said Nathanial Hawthorne.

Sometimes getting started is the hardest part. “If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all,” said novelist Anne Tyler.

“The scariest moment is always just before you start,” said Stephen King. Coming from him, that’s saying something.

“It’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins,” said novelist and film writer Neil Gaiman.

Writing comes easy for you? Beware. Some of the worst writers I’ve known are people who claimed writing is easy. Words just poured out of them. But they usually weren’t all that good.

Or, as novelist Thomas Mann put it: “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

Perhaps my favorite quote about writing, which I have framed and hanging on a wall, is from Moliere: “Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it. Then you do it for a few friends. Finally, you do it for money.”

I try to do it for money as often as possible. In return, I help the people I work with keep their foreheads dry.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Business Storytelling: Adventures First

 

Business Storytelling: Adventures First

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Business Storytelling: Adventures First“Adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”

That was the storytelling advice of Lewis Carroll, who wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

It’s good advice for when you step into your role as a business storyteller. Because the “dreadful time” it takes for explanations is when people get bored and tune you out.

So, don’t make the common mistake of getting bogged down in detail when telling your story.

Business storytelling usually is about persuading the rest of us to buy what you’re selling.

Want to persuade me? Give me a reason to believe you’ll solve a problem for me or create an opportunity for me.

Facts don’t persuade until you’ve given us a reason to believe you can help us. What do we get – or what problem do we avoid – by buying what you’re selling? That’s how to get our attention.

Once you’ve got us interested, then provide whatever facts we need to make a decision. How do you know which facts to include? Listen to the questions we ask. We’ll tell you what we want to know.

Don’t start with the explanation. Start with the adventure. Save the explanation for those of us interested enough to want more details.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: The more you leave out

 

Storytelling Tip: The more you leave out

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: The more you leave out“The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.”

I’d like to claim credit for that thought. But it’s a quote from an English novelist named Henry Green. I didn’t know who he was, either. You can Google him.

Many, perhaps most, of us have a tendency to say more than we need to. Those extra words don’t make your message stronger. They make it flabby. Like those extra inches around my waistline.

That’s why editing is an essential part of writing. Done properly, it turns so-so writing into good or even great writing.

Good editing is ruthless when it needs to be. And hands off when it needs to be. But it’s an essential step if you want to tell your story well.

Or, as Michelangelo once said: “Carving is easy. You just go down to the skin and stop.” It’s the same with telling your story. Say what’s essential and stop.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: The 30-second story

 

Storytelling Tip: The 30-second story

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: The 30-second storyIf I offered you 30 seconds on national television to tell your story, could you do it?

Or would you need more time?

Thousands of companies bet millions of dollars every day that they can earn a good return on their investments by telling their stories in 30 seconds on television and radio. It’s called advertising.

During last weekend’s Super Bowl, as you probably already know, dozens of companies spent an average of $4.5 million (plus productions costs) for 30 seconds of air time to tell their stories to an audience distracted by a football game, partying with friends and consuming food and alcohol.

It was a good investment for some of them. But not all. How many of those ads do you remember? Did any of them convince you to spend money on what the company was selling?

In business, most of the time we’re telling our stories to lure prospects into buying what we’re selling. Actually, most of the time we’re telling our stories to grab the attention of prospective customers interested enough to ask for more information.

So take 30 seconds – or less – to grab the attention of the folks who are actually interested in hearing what you have to say. Then take as much time as they want to tell them more.

If you can’t grab our attention in 30 seconds or less, most us have already switched our attention to something else.

Those 30-second commercials on TV either hit their mark with you or not. But when was the last time you said to yourself: “I wish that commercial had been longer. I wanted them to say more.” Okay, you may have wanted it to be longer if you needed a bathroom break or wanted to grab a snack or a drink. But you wanted more time to be away from the TV, not more time to listen to the sales pitch.

Your story is just one more of the thousands of marketing messages the rest of us will see or hear on any given day. Get to the point. Make it clear. And keep repeating it. Most of us missed it the first time you said it.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Writing tip: Get rid of euphemisms

 

Writing tip: Get rid of euphemisms

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Writing tip: Get rid of euphemismsPutting euphemisms in your writing is like dragging the cutting edge of a knife across a rough surface. Both dull the sharp edges.

A knife with a dull blade doesn’t cut as well as a sharp one. And writing full of euphemisms doesn’t have the impact of just saying what you mean.

I’m old. But you can’t call me that, apparently. I’m a senior citizen. Or “older.” Isn’t “older” older than “old” — as in old, older, oldest? Not in the world of euphemisms and political correctness. And it’s not even polite, apparently, to notice that someone’s old enough to be called a senior citizen. Or old enough to be eligible for a senior discount. Being old isn’t something to be ashamed of. Unless you’re also old, I got here by living longer than you have so far. I hope you make it to where I am now and beyond. You’ll be old, too, if you do.

I’m old. And I’ll be old until I die. Then I’ll be dead. There are no value judgments in any of those words.

In the world of euphemisms, people don’t die. They pass away. Or just pass. And they’re not dead. They’ve left us.

People who can’t see are blind. Calling them visually impaired doesn’t improve their eyesight. People who can’t hear are deaf. Calling them hearing impaired doesn’t improve their hearing.

Used cars are now previously owned vehicles. Why?

Some companies refer to employees as associates or partners or team members. And some of them consider the word “employee” to be an insult. Really? What’s insulting about being an employee?

You get the idea, I hope. Maybe I’ve offended some of you. I hope not. I haven’t used any foul or derogatory language.

I’m not suggesting you go around insulting people by using derogatory labels to describe them. But I am suggesting you skip the euphemisms and just say what you mean. You’re writing (or speaking) will have more impact.

And, if you’re a fan of George Carlin, here’s a funny monologue about euphemisms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuEQixrBKCc.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: Getting Down to One Idea

 

Storytelling Tip: Getting Down to One Idea

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Getting Down to One IdeaWhat’s the one thing you want your audience to hear, understand and remember?

If you’re like me, getting down to a single message can be hard.  You’re not sure which one your audience will find most interesting. So, you want to throw in a few others for good measure.

The problem is that throwing too many messages at your audience is confusing. They don’t know what you’re trying to tell them. You’ll be helping them understand what you want them to hear if you choose just one. And one message is easier to understand and remember than several.

The NFL playoffs are in full swing. They offer a good model for choosing your one message.

As I write this, eight teams are entering the weekend as playoff contenders. Only four will be left when the weekend is over. Only two of the four will be left after next weekend. And only one will emerge as the Super Bowl champion.

You can do the same thing.

List all the messages you’d like to consider for your story.

Then eliminate half of them. Pick the ones you’re willing to let go of first. Then keep going.

Once you’ve cut the list in half, do it again. And keep doing it until you’re down to one.

That’s your winner. That’s your one message for your story.

That doesn’t mean the other messages are gone forever. It just means they didn’t make the cut for the story you’re telling today.

And if you’re rooting for a team in the playoffs, I hope it wins — unless, of course, you’re rooting against my team.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Six resolutions to improve your writing

 

Six resolutions to improve your writing

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com
Six resolutions to improve your writing

What’s the point of a new year without resolutions? So, here are six resolutions you can make to improve your writing:

  1. Know what you want to say. You need a clear message. If you don’t know what it is, the rest of us won’t know what it is. What’s the one thing you want us to hear, understand and remember? Make that clear as you put your story into writing.
  2. Know why you want to say it. People often tell their story with only a vague idea – or no idea – of why they’re telling it; i.e., what they want to happen because they told it. Have a clear objective before you start writing.
  3. Know who you want to say it to. You have a lot better chance of reaching your audience if you know who they are. Why are they interested in your story? What do you need to do to increase the chances of them seeing it, reading (or hearing) it and remembering it?
  4. Use shorter sentences. Shorter sentences mean better comprehension by your audience. Dramatically better in many cases. Look for opportunities to turn commas into periods. Or to turn long, complicated sentences into short, simple ones.
  5. Use shorter words. Skip the highfalutin words. Use short, simple words instead. Shorter words, like shorter sentences, increase the readability of what you write.
  6. Use fewer words. Getting rid of extra words, sentences and paragraphs will make your writing crisper. Give it more impact. And increase the chances the rest of us will find it interesting.

Happy New Year.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

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