When you’re in business, it’s always a juggling act between keeping costs low and ensuring you’ve got the best people and resources on board to make your business as successful as possible. Communications are one of the first things to get put off when you’re trapped in the black hole that is ‘business as usual’, so at what point should you bring on an external communications expert or get some help with your content?
When you’re just not a writer
Let’s face it, most people start businesses so that they can do what they love and are good at. What they might not be quite so good at is everything ELSE involved with business, whether that’s doing strategy, sorting the accounts, or actually communicating what makes them so great at what they do. Sure, you might have thrown some content up on your website but, once you grow a bit, communications become even more necessary to keep demonstrating what makes you special and why people should work with you. If you find it hard to get the words out that sum up what makes you awesome, it might be time for some help.
When time runs out too quickly
There are only so many hours in the day. And when your whole team is run ragged doing what they’re hired to do, getting a blog written each week (or even each month) can seem rather challenging! Bringing in someone else can make the difference when it comes to enabling you to get your comms out regularly. Usually all it takes is a once a month catch up over the phone or in person, and a good writer should be able to put together content for your various communications channels – on time and on brand – without you having to spend lots of time briefing them.
When you need some fresh eyes
Businesses who are growing are also changing, which means that they need to communicate differently as well. Yet so often we end up getting caught in cycles of saying the same things because that’s what we’re comfy with. When your business is changing, or you’re having trouble changing how you communicate with your customers and prospective customers, bringing in fresh eyes can help you gain a new perspective on where you’re at now, and how you should best be showing your customers that.
When your customers don’t get what makes you awesome
We hear it SO often – “my customers just don’t get what makes us different!” Many business owners get frustrated when they feel that they’re doing amazing work, but people are opting for a lower cost option instead of the best option. That all comes down to how you communicate your point of difference. Take Apple for example – sure, they might sell computers and phones. But it’s HOW they sell computers and phones that makes them successful – they tell a story about what makes them better (and how their customers will be better with their products) instead of selling on price or specs alone.
Unfortunately, when you’re close to your product or service, it can sometimes be hard to see past just what you do and uncover what makes you great (and no – great service and high quality are not selling points; everyone claims those!) Bringing in an external communications provider helps uncover just what makes you different and can help you get that across to your audience in the most effective way possible.
If you need some help getting your customers to understand just what makes you special, get in touch! We’d love to have a chat about how you could tell your story in an even more compelling way!
Last Thursday afternoon Intelligent Inker Emma ventured out of the office to attend Professionelle’s interactive, half day “Self-Insight for Success” workshop. In this intensive workshop they delved deeply into how Self-insight plays a huge role in career success. At Professionelle they believe self-insight is the secret sauce of many successful women’s lives, positively impacting relationships, general health and wellbeing and of course careers. In this workshop Galia BarHava-Monteith (Executive coach and Founding Trustee of Professionelle) and Emily Turnbull (Professionelle Trustee and creative force behind some of Professionelle’s events) delved into how to unlock the best possible version of yourself and how to harness it on a daily basis. They covered topics such as positive psychology, signature strengths, psychometric testing (understanding yourself and how others relate to you), tangible approaches, techniques to enhance your own self-insight on a daily basis and how to help others achieve greater self-insight. Emma found this intimate and highly reflective workshop to be both informative and enlightening. It was a valuable workshop catered to professionals at all stages of their careers. It was particularly valuable for Emma as she is a graduate fresh out of university who is just in the developing stages of her career.
A lot of content was covered in that afternoon of learning but here are some nuggets of wisdom. For instance all professional women should reflect and look inwards, as much as they look outwards on others. The best metaphor for self-insight is that it is like an iceberg because on the surface you have your conscious self that is known to yourselves and others. But then there is your unconscious self that lies deep beneath the surface. Often what lies beneath the surface is much bigger and complex than you realise. It is largely what defines you and makes you unique. What lies beneath the surface is also what commonly causes personality clashes with other people. However, such complexity and difference isn’t always a bad thing.
Although many people find it scary to delve into the layers of themselves, we are in the end social animals, and it is important to understand ourselves in order for others to understand us. It is particularly common for professional New Zealand women to not want to over emphasis their strengths. But we can develop an understanding of ourselves through the use of assessment tools. One valuable assessment tool is writing out one’s strengths, values and motivations. Simply writing things down can help to find clarity during bad times and understanding during good times. Once you do this then you can reflect on whether you overuse one strength over the others. If you do then you should make a personal goal to utilise more of your other strengths. It’s also important to understand the difference between your strengths and your values, as they are very different things. Then you should consider how they affect each other. It is good practice to reflect positively and constructively on your strengths because you will become the story you tell yourself.
Another important thing to consider, as a professional, is that everyone has a different path to success. No two people’s journey to success are the same, one person’s route to success may not be right for another because of their differing strengths, values and motivations. It’s also important to set boundaries at work to protect yourself from work-life conflict. Also you should always be kind to yourself and remember that your own wellbeing is a priority. It’s common for professional women, especially working mums, to forget to make themselves a priority. When really you shouldn’t feel bad for saying no every once in a while. You’re not super woman and it is not healthy to always feel tired. As human beings sometimes we forget that we don’t live to work, we work to live. Although we can’t always control our situation, we can change ourselves and our reactions to our situations. Following on, make sure you understand what your values are and set boundaries to protect them. But in all situations listen to your gut. If something feels wrong, it’s probably right.
In 2016, Forbes referred to storytelling as the new strategic imperative of business. Here at Intelligent Ink, however, we don’t think it’s new at all. Ever since our inception we’ve known the absolute importance of telling stories. Just in case you’re still not convinced though, we’ve unpacked why we believe storytelling is so vitally important.
It’s all about connection
People care about organisations and brands that they feel connected to; it’s that simple. But how do you create connection? Think about how you make a friend… You sit down with someone and you share things about yourself. You enable them to get a feel for what you’re about – what drives you, what you like and dislike, what you value – the stuff that makes you uniquely ‘you’. We do that through telling them stories. The narratives we tell each other provide insights and allow us to connect. From there, a relationship is formed.
Well, at least, that’s how it worked in “the old days”. In our age of artificial connectivity, true connections are harder to come by. Storytelling may be somewhat old fashioned, but that’s exactly why it works to forge genuine connections. And it’s that that people are looking for. True connections, supported by real and authentic storytelling, are what is needed to cut through the ‘noise’ and the overwhelming excess that we have as consumers. Social media has made us more comfortable about the idea of conversing with businesses and brands, so there is a real opportunity to craft and share compelling stories.
The research says so
American researchers, based out of John Hopkins University, conducted a two year analysis of Super Bowl commercials in order to determine the specific strategies that most successfully sell products. While cute animals or sexy celebs may be one way to go, they found that plot development – the structure of the content, regardless of the content itself – was the biggest predictor of success. “People are attracted to stories because we’re social creatures and we relate to other people,” Keith Quesenberry, one of the researchers, explains.
Science says so too
Other researchers believe this to be the case because storytelling evokes a strong neurological response too. Imagine this scenario: you’re watching or reading something that is set up as a narrative. You see the trials and tribulations of the characters and are along on the journey with them to reach a resolution. Now consider the science in our brains and bodies that goes along with that… Firstly, we produce the stress hormone, cortisol, during tense moments in the story; we’re focused, on edge and keen for a resolution. Then, when the happy ending comes, our limbic system – the brain’s reward centre – releases a seductive surge of dopamine, which lets us know that a resolution has been reached and makes us feel much better.
Not coincidentally, dopamine is the pleasurable ‘reward-driven’ substance in our brains that signals a success. It’s also the happy little brain chemical that makes us feel infatuation and this is where its presence is important for brands. If you want to win people over, you need to get them to release dopamine in your presence. And how can you do that? With the resolution of a happy story.
Stories incite action
There’s no shortage of stories and, in the deluge of content, it’s the compelling stuff that really makes us feel something that is going to actually make us do something. We think Harrison Monarth, author of The Confident Speaker, put it best when he said: “A story can go where quantitative analysis is denied admission: our hearts. Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act; to do that, you need to wrap your vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul.”
Stories make ideas stick. Stats and facts are all well and good, but it’s stories that will help us retain those points, when the data has faded from our memory. Further to that though, stories have the ability to inspire and motivate. Consider this prime example, as sourced from Hubspot:
In 2012, a pale woman with crazy eyebrows and a keytar strapped to her back made a video of herself, wearing a kimono and holding up hand-Sharpied signs on a street in Melbourne. One by one, the signs flipped, explaining that the woman had spent the last 4 years writing songs. She was a musician, and had parted ways with her record label, which had said the cost of her next album would be a whopping $500,000. She and her band mates were very happy to no longer be with the label, and had worked hard to create some great new music and art. But they couldn’t finish producing the record on their own. She needed people’s help to get it off the ground and to make what was now her business — independent music — work. “This is the future of music,” one of her signs read. Another, “I love you.”
She then posted the video on Kickstarter. In 30 days, it raised $1.2million. 24,883 people pre-ordered the album, bought artwork, or simply donated money. The album and tour became a huge success, and the artist turned her music into a real, profitable busin
ess. The woman in the kimono – if you haven’t heard this story already – was Amanda Palmer, who changed the game for independent musicians with that campaign. She did it, not by simply asking for money, but by telling her story.
So how do you tell a great story?
In our opinion, the best stories surprise and delight. They’re real and authentic and honest. They provide a true insight into a brand, a business, or a person. They have compelling characters. They make us remember – sticking in our minds in a way that other bits of information don’t. The best stories keep it simple, focusing around one single important idea, theme or message.
Most importantly though (and the key to any great story) – they make us think and they make us feel. When you can get people to feel, you can get people to act. And THAT’S why storytelling is vital to business.
Everyone has a story to tell – why not tell yours? For help crafting a compelling story and connecting with your customers, just get in touch.
A copywriter is the ultimate salesperson, responsible for guiding a customer through their journey to purchase. However, compared to their chatty counterparts, they face an interesting challenge… Rather than being able to answer a customer’s questions in real time, they must anticipate what enquiries will arise – and then squelch any concerns with limited word count. They only have one chance to hold the reader’s attention – through a concise, yet persuasive, pitch.
Define the problem and anticipate their needs.
This wordsmith salesperson needs to get into the head of the customer. A copywriter must be “on both sides of the counter” – not just an advocate for the product or service they’re peddling, but an advocate for the shopper too. Know what problem your customer is trying to solve and present the ways your solution will enrich their lives.
Show them – don’t tell them.
Copywriters must be engaging. Rather than ticking off hard facts, appeal to the potential buyer’s emotions and thirst for valuable content. Help them visualise how their situation will be infinitely better once they’ve not only completed the purchase, but put the product to use.
Cut to the chase, but don’t jump the gun.
Effective copy doesn’t waste the reader’s time. It doesn’t rush the shopper straight to the sale, but rather slowly builds momentum to a final call to action. It takes readers by the hand and leads them to a point of decision. Even if they don’t complete a sale directly after reading, they feel they have a better understanding of the product and know where to go should they want to take that next step.
While the written content of a single ad is permanent, it’s not the end of the sales cycle. Like any proper salesperson, a copywriter has the opportunity to nurture the relationship and slowly gain the buyer’s trust. While copywriting always has a call to action, it can be used in many points of the sales process, for many different purposes. Maybe its aim is to set up your company’s CEO as a subject matter expert through a knockout bylined article. Or a cleverly wordsmithed social media post may encourage followers to participate in a contest, building your brand awareness and engagement.
These are perfect examples of how copy can transform a previously unengaged being into a tuned-in potential buyer. A sales cycle is often lengthy – a continuous education process that requires multiple touchpoints before conversion. It’s telling your brand’s story, and why it matters, instead of rushing anyone and everyone into a sale.
Intelligent Ink can help tell your story. We take the time to understand what makes your brand unique, and find the perfect channels for the written articulation of your objectives. Drop us a line, and we can get chatting about how we can walk your customers down the path to purchase through stellar copy.
Our fearless leader, Christina, discovered this year that starting a business has nothing on becoming a mum when it comes to life-changing events! While she’s been out of the office quite a bit more, she’s still been learning lots – and instead of telling other people’s stories, we’ve made her tell her own this time. Here are a few of the things she learned over the last year:
I can do anything, but not everything
2016 saw me take on my most important role yet – that of becoming a mother. I thought I was prepared – I had the nursery set up and the bits I needed ready – but nothing could prepare me for the adjustment that followed.
As a perfectionist with excessively high expectations, the addition of this unpredictable little being to my life was a shock. From being someone who takes great pride in what she can achieve each day, I have had to get used to the fact that time is limited. I’m also learning that it’s pretty precious too! It’s not about ‘work life’ and ‘Mum life’ – it’s all just life. The latter half of this year has been spent creating my own unique brand of motherhood – one that suits our family and lifestyle, but also comes with the acceptance that not everything is going to get done today.
No power without passion
We all say that motherhood won’t change us, and then it happens and you wonder where the hell the old you went?! A part of emerging from the fog of the first few months is reconnecting with yourself again. And what have I learnt in doing this? I may have another little thing to love, but the other things I loved before are still there now. At the heart of that is writing. I’m still ridiculously excited to be a part of telling people’s untold stories and doing clever things with words towards a positive purpose.
What I’ve also learnt though is that there’s not enough time for the stuff you don’t love. Although I, myself, haven’t fundamentally changed, my sense of time has. I’ve learnt that it’s ok to be a bit choosy, and to say no to things that don’t light my fire. I’ve never been one who was any good at half-arsing things, but now the decision of what is worth it has taken on another dimension. As I navigate into 2017, I’ll be continuing to edit my life – keeping the positive, beautiful and worthwhile and moving away from the rest.
It takes a village
This saying is often thrown around when it comes to parenting but the same is also true when it comes to keeping a business running. I couldn’t have taken the time that I’ve been able to spend getting to know my tiny human – and still had somewhere to go back to – without Verity, my right hand. She’s done an exceptional job in keeping the train on the tracks this year, despite all the challenges that have been thrown at her.
Likewise, I couldn’t have managed with any semblance of my sanity intact if it weren’t for the support of my family and friends… A non-judgemental ear, a desperately needed cup of tea, taking Levi for a walk for me, or just gently reminding me to breathe and that the world is unlikely to end… It’s all made such a huge difference and I thank you all – you know who you are!
Here’s to a happy and successful 2017 – whatever that looks like for you!
As the longest standing Inker (aside from Christina, obviously), Verity took on a new challenge this year as General Manager. It’s proven a pretty interesting (and busy!) year, so she put together a few learnings for all aspects of life:
Whoever said you should say yes to everything was a crazy person
I’ve always been bad at saying no to things – mostly because I get excited pretty easily, and once I’m excited about something it’s very difficult to think about not doing it. However, the first half of this year had me running Intelligent Ink, starting up another business with two friends (insert shout out to Honeypot Registry here), studying part-time, starting an alumni committee for the Glee Club I used to run and doing all the marketing for a new theatre company and the first show we put on. Plus of course socialising and spending time with family.
Just a little mental.
As the year went on, I realised that my sanity was at stake. It was relying on me to (at least) cut back on some things. And although I’m still doing rather a lot, I’ve gotten much better at saying no to things that don’t get me really passionate, or will take up too much of my time.
Things can always get more challenging – but problems are just learning opportunities in disguise
It’s been a tough year at times – every time I thought we finally had everything under control, something else would happen (often out of nowhere) and derail all our well-laid plans. I’ve learned to accept things as they happen (after a few venting sessions and probably the odd cry), but also know that whatever happens, I can always cope – especially with such an awesome group of family, friends and colleagues around me. I’d still much rather not have to deal with issues – but at least I’ve learned to look at them as awesome learning opportunities, and have figured out how to make the most of the challenges.
It’s the people that matter
2016’s been a pretty cool year when it comes to the people around me really – falling in love with an amazing man, welcoming some fantastic and hilarious people to the Intelligent Ink family (including a little Ink blot), meeting some awesome new clients, going on kick-ass trips away with friends, and enjoying family time – especially with my two year old nephew deciding that Les Miserables was his favourite music and proceeding to constantly sing Look Down wherever possible, despite it being completely inappropriate for a child. So proud.
When it comes down to it, what we do each day doesn’t really matter – it’s who we do it with that counts. 2016 has just re-confirmed that for me!
Finally, always dance like no-one’s watching
Seriously. Dancing like a crazy person is how I unexpectedly ended up at the American Music Awards. I don’t feel like I actually needed to learn this lesson, as I’ve always danced like a crazy person, but I felt I should share it with the world so that you, too, can enjoy the benefits of having no shame in 2017.
Jamie’s been with us in the lead-up to Christmas, helping us get through the silly season and bringing her expert PR and writing skills to the table. She’s been a fab addition to the team – and has a pretty unique take on 2016, given that she moved halfway across the world this year! Here’s what the move from the US has taught her:
2016 was certainly a year of change. An international move, leaving a job of 3.5 years, and finding a new one… or two. But after plenty of soul searching, emotion, and stress – at the end of the year, I’m happy with the decisions I made and thankful for the lessons along the way.
At the beginning of the year, living in New Zealand was just a pipe dream. An idea my husband and I tossed around, but had no real expectation of coming to fruition. But by mid-year, we were making plans for the big move. The couple of months of visa applications, selling all our furniture, storing a few prized possessions, and saying goodbyes were difficult, but the result was worth it. As we close out the year, we’re completely settled in the most beautiful country.
Here’s what I’ve learned from the big move:
What jandals, togs and chilly bins are.
And that you take all these items to the beach…on Christmas. While the culture shock was very minimal, I still got to add a few new phrases and words to my vocabulary. Christmas decorations in the summertime may always feel out of place, but having two summers in one year isn’t too shabby!
How to deal with FOMO.
Living across the world from your closest friends and family is hard. I’ve conceded to the fact that I’ll miss family Christmas celebrations, eight (yes, eight!) weddings in one year, and those silly impromptu phone calls with friends (#timezoneproblems). FOMO is a real thing, and I had it bad.
But when I take a step back and realise I have pristine beaches, volcano hikes, and arguably the world’s best coffee at your fingertips, I feel that, actually, it’s everyone else back home missing out. My new mission is to convince them all to visit. I know I’ll still feel lonely and left out from time to time, but I’ll just have to suck it up and distract myself with an amazing hike in the Waitakeres or a perfectly brewed long macchiato.
It’s okay to hit the reset button and take a break.
I loved working for my last company, and am very thankful for the opportunity to carve out my own career path. But at the same time, deep down I knew it wasn’t the road I wanted to continue down long term. When life is comfortable and convenient, sometimes you need a big push to reevaluate.
Moving to New Zealand forced me to step away from my role – and think about what I’d ideally be doing in a new one. While I felt guilty being unemployed for a couple of months, I had the luxury of being choosy and not settling for something that didn’t serve my future goals. I’m feeling refreshed and refocused after some much-needed time off. I’m so happy to have found Intelligent Ink – an outlet to combine my PR background with a love for storytelling.
Emily joined the team in May, and she’s been kicking butt and taking names ever since. As our resident Projects, PR & People Person, she’s been working on innumerable projects, doing amazing things for all kinds of clients. Here’s what 2016 has taught her (as well as a snap of her on our AbFab day!):
Own who you are and embrace your team.
There is no point trying to be the best at everything, especially if you have a good and supportive team around you. Own your skills, be aware of your flaws and embrace who you are. At Intelligent Ink, I have been very lucky to have been surrounded by some amazing women who all have something slightly different to contribute, which has made being me a whole lot easier and has meant that when I am struggling with something, one of the others has always been able to help.
If you’re upset or struggling with something, talk about what is going on. People can’t help if they don’t know what’s happening. And often, if you talk about a problem it can seem like a whole lot less of a problem than if you let it stew. Often you will find that people also like to be asked for their opinion.
Remember to breathe
It’s easy to get wrapped up in what’s happening each day. Between work, home and everything else in between life can get chaotic and can often hit a point where it feels like the to do list never ceases to shrink. This year I’ve learnt that sometimes things are completely out of my control and while there may be numerous ways to try and get them back on track, some things are better left where they are. And the only way to let go, without feeling guilty about leaving things is to take a deep breath and walk away.
We live in the future!
We live in a world now where we are so used to having things in the space of a day; where we can order a present online and it arrives overnight, or have a question and with the click of a button it’s answered. We longer have to wait for the post to arrive to tell us what has been happening with our friends and loved ones. In some respects, technology has made us impatient; we think everything can be done now, or should have been done yesterday. But it’s not always true.
Recently I have tried to leave my phone behind at least once every couple of weeks when I go out to just detach myself from the stress that comes with constantly being switched on or plugged in. Instead of using Google maps to direct me during these times, I’ve had to pick up a map book – you would be surprised the number of people who look at me incredulously when I tell them that. Detaching myself from technology has taught me so much but it has also given me such a sense of freedom. I am at no one’s beck and call and I have nothing to do but enjoy the moment!
Our intern Brittany only had a brief time with us, but she found the time to pop together some thoughts about what she’s learned this year. So we thought we’d kick off this year’s ‘What I’ve Learned In…’ series with Brittany’s learnings!
It’s totally ok to say no (stop overcommitting yourself!)
No is a word I don’t use very often, especially when it comes to working. I’ve always been afraid to say no, whether it be because I didn’t want to let anyone down or I didn’t want to miss out on any opportunities. As a fresh a graduate, I felt everything that came my way from events to working extra hours I just couldn’t (and didn’t) say no. I did everything that was expected of me and more.
However, I quickly realised there weren’t enough hours in a day to finish everything I had committed myself to. To keep things going, I learned that it’s more than okay to say no. Once this realisation kicked in, I instantly felt happier. Spreading yourself way too thin does more harm than good. Now I give myself a commitment limit!
Handwritten lists are still golden
This year I learned very quickly that although I rely on my iPhone and laptop way more than I should, handwritten lists are still as helpful as ever. I know programmes have come out to make organising your daily tasks simpler and easier but I enjoy nothing more than writing down everything I need to do using a pretty pen and cute note pad. A pink pen and cute notepad from Typo, to be exact! My notepad doesn’t run out of battery when I urgently need to find out where my next meeting is, and it definitely doesn’t overheat and explode. It’s actually the only time of the day I realised I wasn’t on some sort of technological device, which now too often consumes most of our days!
PR is a difficult job to explain to your parents
Throughout my time at university my parents never quite understood what PR was. And it didn’t quite help that when I was asked what the job consisted of I couldn’t give them a definition that they understood. As the year progressed and people started to do some crazy stuff in the media I was finally able to show my parents some practical examples of what PR is. Although I am a graduate and have not had my fair share of experience in the PR industry just yet, I was able to show my parents what PR practitioners should (and shouldn’t do) when it comes to crisis management. Whether it be helping a rugby team get out of a stripper crisis or doing unnecessary things in a public toilet, my family was finally convinced that PR is an important and much needed profession!
We, like so many people in business, are eagerly awaiting the Christmas break – not because we don’t love being at work but because after a long year, we’re excited for a much needed refresh!
The summer holidays are the perfect time to reboot your brain and body and get yourself thinking creatively again. While we very much recommend taking a good break from thinking about work in any way, we do have a few tips for making the most of your summer holidays.
There is nothing worse than worrying about work while you’re on holiday – so make sure you’ve prepared yourself for a real break. Let your customers know when you’re heading off, pop on a good out of office, schedule social media posts, tidy up your desk and finish off those tasks that you’ve been putting off all year. Having a clear mind when you finish up for the year is one of the most valuable things you can do.
It’s amazing what can inspire new ideas for your business and communications. Don’t be afraid to visit a new part of the country – following those brown signs up and down the country can lead to some pretty cool places, that you never would have found otherwise. While visiting new places or trying out new things, grab photos or videos to use for social media fodder throughout the holidays or on your return. It can help people connect to you and might even inspire their own adventures!
It’s funny how, when you relax, you suddenly start thinking of better and more creative ideas than when you’re busy and stressed. However, we’ve all had that “damn, I thought of something awesome last night and now I can’t remember it” feeling. The solution? Keep a notebook on hand wherever you are – a little one will fit nicely into your beach bag, glovebox or on your bedside table – and you never know what you might come up with.
My favourite example of this is an uncle who wrote down his dreams and discovered that the cure to world hunger might just be photocopying biscuits, but I digress.
Use the time you’ve got to think about what you’d love to do over the coming year, personally and professionally. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but thinking about what you want to achieve and what your dreams are when you’re relaxed is so much easier than when you’re back into the swing of things with no spare time to hand. Having a clear vision for the year ahead helps you stay focused on what’s really important, whether in your personal life, professionally, or more specifically, in how you want to communicate with the world.
So that’s it really – make sure you can take a break, stay open to new experiences and ideas, and let yourself dream about the year ahead. Here at Intelligent Ink, we’ll be off from the 22nd of December and are likely to be back on board fully on the 16th of Jan. We’ll see you then!