I’ve come across loads of people who are helping others find their purpose, their story, their passion, the work they were meant to do or born to do, and so on.
There’s clearly a great hunger for it.
Old stories are breaking down. The world is not the way they told us when we were kids. The tracks we let ourselves be convinced to travel in have become too small. Communication networks tell us of wider perspectives and new adventures. Social straitjackets have loosened.
More and more people feel that calling to reconnect with the fire inside and bring it out to make a difference.
What happens then? You’ve been on a journey and got help along the way and found a bright new framework for your next chapter. You come out the end with a plonk ready to bring your gifts to the world.
How do you do that?
Communicating your message
There are loads of channels you can use these days. Ebooks, downloads, social media, podcasting, webinars… I tend to say most about websites, for two reasons: pretty much everybody has one as their online hub (or intends to), and writing and design can come together powerfully.
It can be hard. It’s especially hard if you don’t have a background in messages and communication and techy stuff and writing and design and stop!
A lot of people get stressed out and just do the bare minimum they can to tick the dratted thing off their list and get back to the bits they like. The problem with that is the results probably won’t be very good, so you’ll end up putting in more time and head-scratching to try to fix it.
But actually, I’ll let you in on a secret. Websites aren’t much about techy stuff at all. Somebody has to do some of that along the way. But what makes the result fab or drab is about communicating with people.
Communication is founded on what people think and how they respond, so doing it well means understanding what goes on in there.
Very little of it is about them having conversations with themselves and making conscious decisions. Much of it happens at a subconscious level without them even realising it.
You’ll notice in the title for this post I didn’t say ‘how do you tell it?’, I said ‘how do you show it?’.
Show, not tell is stone-tablet advice for fiction writers. It means let the character’s behaviour be the cue to what’s happening inside them, because readers have the equipment to pick up on that and be moved by it.
Your readers will pick up on your message too. Even if you haven’t thought about it, you’re showing them something.
Here are some quick people principles.
Walking past quickly
Think of your audience as walking down a street, looking in shop windows.
They are interested in finding things they want. But they feel like their time and attention are limited, while the shop windows are abundant.
So each window only gets a quick glance. If it looks like it has what they want, and will be pleasant and genuine, they’ll come in and look around. But if they’re not sure, or it looks dodgy or difficult to get around, they’ll keep walking.
They don’t think like you
Your audience are complex individuals in their own right, with rich backgrounds that might be quite different from your own. Age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, occupation, interests…
They might not respond to ideas and wording the same way you would. That means you need to watch out for where you’re making assumptions and using habits. Make your writing as universally accessible as you can (without losing your distinctive voice).
It also means that they don’t give importance to things in the same way you do. In particular, if you’ve put a lot of effort into a resource, event, etc it’s easy to assume people will value it – but you have to tell them why they should.
When we meet someone face to face, we’re scanning for clues about what kind of person they are and whether we should trust them. This happens with other forms of communication too.
We pick up on the style and voice of your writing, the layout and colour scheme of your site, the way your photos look and what you tell us about yourself. (And if you don’t tell us anything about yourself, it creates wariness and uncertainty.)
It all gets combined into a ‘feel’. Do I like and trust this person? Are they genuine, or just saying things they don’t mean?
Showing up and being your brand
If you’ve learned more about yourself and that’s led to a new vision of what you were born to do, you have to show that in your messages and the way you communicate them.
That means getting clear on what you want people to know about you – your ‘personal brand’ – and using the practical tools of writing and design to frame and support those things.
There’s no point having a brilliant website if the messages it gives off are wrong for you.
There’s also not much point if you don’t show up. Visitors need to see your presence and get a good sense of who you are. You can’t share a message powerfully with a little voice from under the table!
Getting it across
Like spoken communication, written communication is made up of what you say, how you say it and how you present it.
Most people pay attention to the first part and not the others. I talk a lot about them – because the most insightful article in the world is useless if nobody sticks around long enough to read it.
Sorry, but you do need to get the spelling and grammar right! If you don’t, readers may feel that you don’t respect them enough to do a good job – which is not helpful when you’re trying to build a connection.
You also need to hit the right style. Long, wordy sentences and paragraphs are no good on the web. They’re not really much good full stop, but you’ll definitely put people off here. Maybe it’s time to unlearn some habits! Work towards a clear, dynamic, friendly style.
You can grab a free pdf in the sidebar to read more about writing for the web.
Visual design is like the body language of written communication. The reader processes it really quickly, and it forms a framework for interpreting the other elements.
Is the colour scheme harmonious? What mood does it evoke? Does that fit what this person claims to be saying? (If a relaxation coach has a bright red website, are you inclined to trust them?)
Do the font choices and layout work together? Is it going to be a pleasant read with an easy feel, or is it all cramped up or all over the place?
A lot of people don’t have a sense for design because they haven’t thought about it. If you say presentation matters, they’re inclined to fend it off because they don’t want more things to think about.
But the advertising industry spends millions of pounds on this stuff. And you’ve probably had the experience of arriving at a page where the way it looks and is laid out drove you away again.
It’s worth at least getting the basics right so visitors stick around to read what you have to say.
To follow up on these ideas in more detail, take a look at Website foundations for stories in action. It’s a pdf e-course covering your message and how you get it across, and a good gateway to more detailed learning on writing and design.
If you’d like in-person help from me on these topics, check out the Working together page.