10 questions to ask before setting up a small business

how to set up a successful small businessA friend recently asked me for some advice on setting up a small business from scratch. Let’s call her April. She had a few ideas; and simply needed someone to help her frame her thoughts. In a bid to make her life – and yours – a little easier I cobbled together 10 questions to help steer April to shore.

Telling your personal story

1        How did you get to where you are now?

2        What’s inspiring you to go in this new direction?

3        What values and beliefs are important to you (and what you want to offer people)?

4        What have been your key successes so far?

Telling people what you’re offering – the benefits

5        Imagine you’re in a non-work situation and someone asks you what you do for a living, how would you describe your (fledgling) business?

6        What benefit(s) are you giving to your clients that your competitors aren’t?

7        One of your dreams has come true: you have a room full of hand-picked clients, who would they be?

Getting into the digital mind-set – finish off these sentences

 8    People know me because I know about . . . .

9     People like me because I have these values and beliefs . . .

10   People follow me because I can help people . . .

Some useful things to do if you’re thinking of setting up a new venture.

Attend one of Daniel Priestley’s strategy workshops. Very helpful!

Take a peek at The Rooted Guide and Penny Power’s book Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me. Full of inspiration and creative thinking.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this. I’d love to hear your ideas about what you’d like me to write about. Perhaps there’s a burning communication, campaign or lobbying issue that you’d like a bit of help on? Or perhaps you’d like to share one of your public relations successes? Please do drop me a line at sofija@creativepublicaffairs.com or @businesses4good. Happy Days!

How to create powerful key messages

how to create powerful key messagesKey messages capture the essence of something that you want to communicate. They’re bits of information that people/organisations want their target audiences to know. They articulate what you do, what you believe in and how your work benefits people’s lives, the planet. . .

Here’s a couple of key messages to chew on:

“The melting Arctic is under threat from oil drilling, industrial fishing and conflict. You can Save The Arctic.” Greenpeace 

“Speaking openly about our mental health is an essential element in breaking down the stigma surrounding it.” Rethink 

Key messages are normally sprinkled into communications – website pages, newspaper articles, press releases, presentations, media interviews, MP meetings etc.

When creating strong key messages for your public affairs and media work remember the 10 steps:

  1. Short and simple – no more than a couple of sentences.
  2. Easy to understand.
  3. Conversational and is easy to say aloud.
  4. Jargon and acronym free.
  5. Has emotional punch.
  6. Captures the spirit of what you want to achieve.
  7. Uses a tone that will connect with your audience.
  8. Expresses your brand.
  9. Focuses on one broad idea.
  10. Is easy for people to remember.

So time to get out there. As Amelia Earhart once said: “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” 

If you liked this blog then you might find these helpful too:

Key message development 

How to make your key messages interesting 

Good luck with your messaging. If you need any help just give us a call on 07966 369579 or contact me @businesses4 good or sofija@ creative public affairs.

Helping people say what they want to say: listening to articulate

claritySomeone’s trying to tell you something and it’s as fuzzy as a bear. Here’s four simple steps to help people find their own clarity.

One: Focus on them. Ask some good, well-pitched questions that get to the heart of their issues, needs and wants. One that’s always worked well for me with potential clients is: what’s your biggest challenge in the year ahead?

Two: Listen really carefully. What stories, phrases or words seem to keep cropping up? You’re picking up on their sub-conscious here.

Three: Reflect back to them and check your understanding.

Four: Be honest. It helps foster healthy relationships. If they ask you a question be honest.

The posh phrase for this process is “listening to articulate”. It’s a useful technique to have in your communication tool-box. It works by helping people bring to the surface what’s stuck in their sub-conscious.  It’s a powerful first step in influencing because it can change what’s in people’s heads.

You know you’re doing it right when people say things like: “how did that happen? I didn’t know that was there.”

Why not give the listening to articulate technique a try. I’d love to hear how you got on. Good luck!

Please do follow me @businesses4good.

Other people’s ideas you might like

Articulate listening 

Planting ideas 

8 ways to promote your cause using people’s stories

story 2Use stories:they’re a great way of connecting with people emotionally. Stories can be used many ways to help you promote your cause, for instance to:

  • Fund-raise effectively: Making things personal for potential donors adds the emotional wow factor by showing how you’ve helped someone or how you want to help someone.
  • Promote policy positions: Using case studies in consultation responses captures people’s attention.
  • Catch media attention:  Journalists are in the business of storytelling. So why not give them some fresh success stories.
  • Get an MP involved: With a face, a name and a story you can help politicians see how they can help someone in their constituency.
  • Engage with your local community: Stories are a great way of ensuring that people know what you’re up to.
  • Keep supporters happy: Success stories are a great way of keeping supporters happy.
  • Build alliances: Personal stories can help build stronger alliances by showcasing your expertise and promoting your strengths.
  • Increase volunteering: Promoting success profiles of current volunteers helps people get a grip on the benefits to them – as well as others – of volunteering.

One of my passions is re-cycling. Recently re-cycled an old Singer sewing machine with treddle; and a pair of 1980s glasses (you know the big, black rimmed ones) through Tools for Self Reliance and Vision Aid Overseas.

These two stories definitely helped me make my decision to donate to them:

Janet (trained to repair sewing machines) 

Phillipe (a tailor and father to six) 

If you want to get more communication, campaigning and lobbying tips why not follow me on twitter @businesses4good.

People’s stories: passion lives here

yellow brick roadOne of the key tasks of a public affairs professional is to create content which is then communicated to engage people with what organisations do and what they believe in. We do this by:

  • Commissioning new research

  • Identifying an interesting statistic

  • Developing some key messages

  • Enlisting a “celebrity” or an “expert” and

  • Composing case studies/human stories

Stories can be collected in a structured or unstructured way. With the first you’re collecting information from a prescribed list of questions. For instance, you might be collecting case studies to support an awareness campaign so you want the story to speak to that campaign.

With unstructured story collection you’ve chucked the questions out of the window. You’re open to what might emerge. One benefit of this approach is that it enables people to talk to their story. It can also produce some helpful insights and shape a story that – perhaps – you never knew existed.

If you want to know more about how to tell a great story why not click here. Includes a video by Isobel Allende’s (activist, feminist, writer).

I hope you found this post helpful. Please do leave a comment or question; and follow me @businesses4good if you want tips on how to communicate, campaign and lobby more effectively.

In pursuit of virtue: value-based campaigning

tree image1“Once upon a time there was a small girl who gazed at the last tree in the world . . . “ It’s a short-story exercise an inspirational primary school teacher set me back in the early 1970s. I remember seeing that beautiful tree in my mind’s eye, how we all needed it, how good it felt to be next to it. I was that kind of kid. I wanted the tree to live and then more .

 

What I didn’t know then is that the love of the tree connected with some of my deepest intrinsic values: protecting the environment and promoting well-being. There’s loads of other intrinsic values that people share such as caring for the community and each other and social justice. 20 years of public policy making and campaigning has taught me: you can bombard people with statistics and tactics; but what’s going to stick and create lasting change is appealing to the intrinsic values people hold dear.  Yes, money is tight. But here’s an idea: perhaps obsessing about money to sell solutions merely helped  create the lone tree in the first place.

 

If you want to know more about the empirical evidence in support of a value-based approach to campaigning please visit: WWF’s Strategies for Change project 

I hope you enjoyed this post. If it has touched you in any way then please do add a comment. If you want to know more about effective communication and creating social good then please do follow me on twitter @businesses4good.

When maybe means no

maybe2“What do they mean?” How many times have you been asked this question by a friend who needs to get a handle on what someone’s trying to say to them? Part of what I do is helping people read in between the lines. People who have crossed continents or have a disability that impacts on their “inter-personal” communication skills and in turn their business.

Putting it in a nutshell, the bit of information they usually need when they ask me this question – even though they don’t know it yet (because you can’t possibly know what you don’t know) – is: the person you’re communicating with is an indirect communicator. The e-mails are confusing you because you’re a direct communicator. You take words at face value. To you maybe means maybe. To the indirect communicator maybe generally means no. Indirect communicators don’t want to say no directly because that can lead to embarrassment and conflict.  Honesty is important to them as is harmony. Like any skill communicating in a non-direct style can be learnt.

If you want to know more about

The impact of direct and indirect communication

Whether you’re a direct or indirect communicator?

A future post will follow shortly on how to become a better indirect communicator. If you have any thoughts or ideas on this, I’d love to hear from you. Please do add a comment and perhaps I’ll use it in a future post.

Effective e-mails: 6 useful tips

email meContacting influential people – whether they’re newspaper editors or MPs – can be a little like walking a tightrope. You know they’re busy people so you don’t want to hassle them unnecessarily; but you  really want to engage them with your latest news, ideas, campaign . . .

Here’s some strategies that have worked for me:

  • Do your research. Do you know someone who knows them? Perhaps they can give you an insight into the editor’s future scheduling; or an issue that’s keeping the MP awake at night.
  • Keep the e-mail short, simple and straight to the point. 
  • Have these three key sentences ready: an introduction proving that you know something about the person; why you’re contacting them; and what your idea, offer or question is.
  • Include your URL in signature. Make it easy for people to contact you.
  • Be realistic and generous. Thank them in advance for any help they can offer. If you don’t get a response, don’t take it personally. Follow-up though.
  • Write short, descriptive subject lines that give the reader a reason to open up. So you really need to know your audience. What’s important to them at the moment?

If you want to know more:

How to email important people

Best practice in writing email subject lines

Perfect subject lines

Do you have an email tip to share? Please do add a comment; and why not follow me on twitter @businesses4good.

 

Blue heaven: 8 effective communication tips

tree image“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

George Bernard Shaw

 This quote speaks to me at the moment. Over the last month people who need communication help have been coming forward to get a bit of advice and support. Here’s 8 business4good tweets from last week all aimed at promoting effective communication:

If you’re interested in becoming a more effective communicator or perhaps you think your organisation could do with a quick communication audit why not give me a ring on 07966 369579. Always interested in good communication tips. Why not add one.

Please do follow me on twitter @businesses4good.

6 tips: how to build your media contacts

trustA local charity asked for help around how they could set up long-term, viable relationships with key journalists. The advice was simple:

Tip 1: Make their lives easier. Media professionals need up-to-date, concise and accurate facts and statistics. They can’t keep up-to-date on every issue, so they tend to depend on a handful of people/organisations that they can turn to and trust. Make sure you’re one of them. Recognise the value of the statistics that you collect; and pin down your expertise (what issues do you know alot about?)

Tip 2: Keep up-to-speed on the day’s news.

Tip 3: Respond to journalist queries quickly.

Tip 4: Journalists need stories. Any alert charity or lobbying group would have people available who’d be willing and eager to tell their story. Don’t under-estimate the importance of an up-to-date case study database.

Tip 5: Make sure you’re not over-reliant on websites and social media to get out your facts, thoughts and opinions on the politics of the moment. A sharp press officer is worth as much if not more.

Tip 6: Don’t waste your efforts on useless press releases and e-mails etc. with no news value. There’s no simple way of saying this: it will harm your organisation’s reputation.

Other blogs that might interest you:

making press release statistics sing

simply stylish: 11 journalism tips 

Do you have a media or public affairs problem you’d like solved? Why not leave a comment; or get directly in contact with me on 07966 369579.