Communication rule one

Is there one principle, above all others, that you can take on board to gain the foundation of better communication? I think there is, and this is the most boiled-down version I’ve come up with:


It’s about realising that you have a responsibility to meet your audience at least halfway. You can’t just throw some words down that you would understand yourself, presented in a way that you would find pleasant and digestible. Because they ain’t you.

Message Bottle image(You could make various parallel rule versions, like, “Their life is not your life”, or even, “Their computer is not your computer”. But I think the above sums it up pretty well.)

In Yorkshire, where I grew up, we sometimes said “so-and-so can’t see beyond their own nose end” – meaning that all a person thought about was themselves and their own picture of the world. Someone like that can never be a great communicator. They can only appeal to people like themselves, and get frustrated when they come up against barriers.

Getting good at this requires qualities like empathy and adaptability – the ability to step outside your own worldview and habits – alongside skills in use of language and presenting information.   Read more »


What is branding? It’s not ink and cardboard

speech bubble climber image

A lot of people think branding is logos and business cards. But those are just channels and products that reflect your branding.

The oft-repeated quote when people talk about personal branding for small businesses comes, ironically, from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

To put it another way: when people call you to mind, what impressions come along with that?

I often talk about foreground and background messages. Foreground messages are what you tell people explicitly, like an introduction/pitch at a networking event or points you make in a blog post. Background messages are impressions people pick up about you, often with little or no conscious awareness they’re doing it – for instance from the colour scheme and layout of your website, or your writing’s tone of voice.

So branding is the process of getting clearer about what messages you want to attach to yourself in people’s minds, then using tools and channels to implement that.  Read more »

Your message matters

Fingers with faces

The shape of the world around us isn’t great at the moment. A lot of things that should be right are wrong.

That shape comes from how people act, and that comes from how they think, and that comes from their worldview – from deep attitudes to information they just picked up. And that comes from the messages that swirl around them. It’s like the atmosphere for our brains. We breathe it in and out without realising.

There’s a lot of pollution in that atmosphere. A lot of outdated attitudes, fear-driven behaviour and self-interested spin. A lot of people have got caught up in those things, and then they try to spread them and defend them to make themselves right.

We need fresh air to counter that. Messages of compassion, empathy, insight, inspiration, collaboration. Telling us that there really are better possibilities, for ourselves and our fellow humans and our world, and that we really can head that way.  Read more »

Why is it so hard to say what you do?

Hands connecting jigsaw pieces

The introduction or ‘elevator pitch’. Those one or two sentences you prepare for opening networking conversations or adding to your website or materials. On the face of it such a simple thing, but the cause of massive frustration and soul-searching.

I’m on a course at the moment about selling (in an authentic non-pushy way). So many of the people there are really wrestling with their intro. Including me!

I think it’s harder for ‘heart-centred’ businesses, and those where you’re not delivering a well-known function, like plumber or accountant: you’re delivering you, and your individual jigsaw of passion, experience and skill.   Read more »

4 alarm signals that drive website visitors away (video)

Hi folks. This one’s a video I shot spontaneously the other day, prompted by the bees flitting between flowers in my garden.

It made me think of web users flitting between sites. We’re all quite skittish and protective of our time and attention, so if your site gives us alarm signals we won’t hang around. I’ve written about this in one of my products. Here’s a condensed version of what those alarm signals are.

(I’m still very much a video learner. So apologies for not zooming in on the bees, and for the muffled sound quality in the first minute.)



How to get nice spacing round images in WordPress

When you add images to a post or page using ‘Add Media’, WordPress jams them pretty tight up to the text.

image spacing graphicYou can tell it to align the image left, right or centre, but you can’t control the spacing. You can see how that ends up in the image opposite.

I don’t like that as a piece of visual design, and it’s not the best experience for the reader.

So I’ve adopted a standard operating procedure of setting the spacing manually for each image. Read on to find out how.

Quick notes

Note 1. If you’re comfortable with the idea of going into the files for your theme and altering stylesheets, you can set your own default options for WordPress to use. (Info here if that’s you.) But for most people that’s too hard to work out, and there’s a risk of messing things up. I’ve never been motivated to do it myself.

Note 2. Do try it the standard way without fiddling first, especially if you’re using a purchased theme. It may be that the folks who designed your theme have improved the standard spacing.

Note 3. If you want a text caption displayed with your image, eg for a photo, you might find this technique makes it go a bit weird and it’s easier to rely on default formatting.

Putting on the style

First, add your image via ‘Add Media’ and get it in basically the right place. Then we’ll tweak it so it ends up like the version here, which I hope you can see has more breathing space.

image spacing graphicIn the window where you write your post or page, there are two tabs at the top right: ‘Visual’ and ‘Text’. You’ve probably been working in Visual, which shows an approximation of what the page will look like. For this we need to go into Text.

Text mode shows you the guts of your page. Most of it is the text you’ve typed, but you’ll also see formatting instructions in <angle brackets>. Those are a blend of HTML, which tells the reader’s browser software what things go where, and CSS, which tells it the styles to use when it displays those things – size, colour, alignment and so on.   Read more »

The upward path – new site

Sunlit urban pathJust a quick note for anyone flicking through the blog.

I’ve now set up another site at The Upward Path as an experiment to blog about making a finer world, including interconnection, psychology, story, personal development, etc.

Please do check it out, especially if you like my writing.

Posts so far:

It means this site is probably going to have more practical posts but not so often. The resources will still be here though! (And I just added a new guide: How to write a blog post – from ideas to sharing.)


You can’t find the perfect title for a mystery project

Every so often I see a post: “Can you guys help me choose the best blog name/post title/domain name/book title/book cover?”

People at computerBecause I’m a helpful sort of person, and my skills often enable me to unlock this sort of thing, I sometimes try to engage with these.

And often I end up frustrated because the person prevents me from giving the help they’re asking for.

For instance, they give a list of four titles and ask people to pick the one they like best. But the titles sound like they’re referring to four different pieces of work. So I ask, can you tell us a bit about what your project is so we know what we’re aiming for?

Most often, that doesn’t get answered.   Read more »

A struggler’s guide to getting visible

Person in spotlight image
If you build it, they will come. Well, maybe.

I’m increasingly sensitive to ‘experts’ giving the impression that if you show up – through a website, social media, ebook, networking event or whatever – an audience will appear as if by magic and bear you along on the wings of success.

It could happen. But for most of us, the alchemy isn’t that simple. And that can leave us wondering what we’ve done wrong.

Most of us need a way to close the gap and create a powerful enough spark to jump across it. We need to create interest and connection in a world full of competition for those things. We need to create fans who like our work so much they promote it on our behalf.

I’ve been trying to get more visible and build an audience for quite a while now, and I clearly don’t know how to do it. More accurately and less self-beaty-up: there are some bits I’m good at and some big holes that I didn’t see until I got up close.

But do you know that saying, “Do as I say, not as I do”? There are things I’ve picked up along the way that would have been useful to my earlier self. So I’ve collected them here in the hope that they’ll help you.   Read more »

You’ve found your purpose – now how do you show it to people?

Hole in the wall graphic

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?   Read more »