The encouragement network – be part of one

8 September

The Do Lectures offers encouragement to entrepreneurs

A business tagline yelled at me in a friendly way today. It got me thinking about the successful business owners I train. But if we forget the job titles and business structures – what do humans need most of all? From my experience, entrepreneurs need encouragement.

This is a short post to plant an idea in your head. Who regularly encourages you to push and succeed? Have you an accountability coach or a mentor you respect? And how often do you encourage others? We never know how our words can impact other people.

The Do Lectures is a Welsh company that runs an unconference The aim – to invite exciting Doers to share their stories and inspire others.

We do it for the look on someone’s face when a speaker’s words hit them. Right between the eyes. And their focus alters, just enough to show them the path they’re supposed to follow from that point on.

There’s another benefit to encouragement. We get an outside-in view of where we are right now. Someone offer insights we would never see ourselves. It’s a form of collaboration that we can offer and receive! It’s a life skill worth practicing.

Read more about The Do Lectures
And watch some of their great talks

Let me know if you need some help communicating your ideas publicly or getting clear before you start. I am a very encouraging trainer!

 

Appreciative Inquiry – What does your business do really well?

11 April

There’s a worrying trend in online business advice right now – whatever you’re doing is not enough.

What does your business do well today?

As a trainer and mentor, I see the effect that this has on business owners. There is an exhausting stream of ‘how to’ advice. While there’s invaluable content out there, some trainers focus on fear mongering; ‘if you’re not on social media, your business doesn’t exist’, ‘if you’re not posting regular content, you are losing out to competitors. Are you a business owner? If so, I’d love to hear how this approach makes you feel. What opposite approach might work better for you?

What if you focussed on what your business does really well?

I recently did some consultation work with Think Visual. I discovered that they are huge fans of a technique called ‘Appreciative Inquiry‘ which was created in the 80s. Simply put, this technique focuses us on the positive and uses this to ‘correct’ the negative. It’s the opposite of problem-solving. Often, if we turn an idea on it’s head, we get remarkable new solutions!

“The traditional approach to change is to look for the problem, do a diagnosis, and find a solution. The primary focus is on what is wrong or broken; since we look for problems, we find them. By paying attention to problems, we emphasize and amplify them. …Appreciative Inquiry suggests that we look for what works in an organisation. The tangible result of the inquiry process is a series of statements that describe where the organization wants to be, based on the high moments of where they have been. Because the statements are grounded in real experience and history, people know how to repeat their success.”

Hammond, Sue. The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry, 1998.

So, What is Appreciative Inquiry and how might it help you and your business?

Appreciative inquiry asks you to explore what is already working well.

If we continue to search for problems, we will continue to find problems. If we look for what is best and learn from it, we can magnify our success.

The technique is based on asking powerful questions. These questions are:

    • Thought provoking and invite you to reflect
    • Question your assumptions
    • Stimulate your curiosity and creativity
    • Help move you forward

 

I know that this mental shift has a huge impact on business and the people who run them. Knowing what you and your team do best is essential. It’s the reason you are in business. If you value ‘the best of what is’, it opens the way to continually dream and design a better business.

 

I’ve been using some of these techniques in training before coming across Appreciative Inquiry. I train business owners to humanise their brand on the web – I can help you communicate your story in a number of ways. If you’d like to find out more – let’s have a chat.

 

Suggested reading
You might also enjoy my post – Invest in Mattering.

Image credit:
Image by Burak Kebapci via Pexel

Stress free ways to value and share your great ideas

11 March

This is a ‘what if’ post.

What if you valued and owned your ideas and shared them with more people?

What if you found a way to share your ideas that felt easier and more fun?

Last week I gave a talk at the Limerick Women’s Networking Event – the topic was ‘How to humanise your business with a blog’. We talked about the fears and concerns that most business owners have around using social media. Here are my suggestions to help you share your great ideas.

Simple ways to value and share your ideas

For some, the idea of starting a blog is overwhelming. Here are three ways to help you get comfortable with voicing your opinion on the web. Think of them as an in-between step to blogging – a practice run!

LinkedIn Posts

LinkedIn now allows you to write articles or posts which are posted on your profile page and seen by your connections.

LinkedIn articles

I freely admit that it’s taken me years to warm to LinkedIn. I’m still finding my way around it and discovering new ways to improve my profile. Recently though, I started sharing some of my blog posts as LinkeIn articles. The response has been great. It’s simple to format and upload an article and share it with your connections.

The benefits: You get to share your passion and expertise and build your reputation. You can post as frequently as you like without any posting schedule pressure. It can help you to attract more of the type of work you love to do. It’s a great way of re-purposing content to share with a new audience.

‘Medium’ articles

Medium.com describes themselves as a community of readers and writers offering unique perspectives on ideas large and small.

Medium

I subscribe to Medium and have yet to write an article. But I love the format and concept. Medium is a web-based service that lets anyone publish articles online; Wikipedia calls it a “blog publishing platform”. It’s also a form of social journalism. Once you open an account, you can publish articles on any topic you like. Entries can then be recommended and shared by other people, in a similar manner to Twitter.

The benefits: Medium shares all the benefits of writing a LinkedIn post. In addition, there is the potential to connect and collaborate with a eclectic mix of people. It is possible to remain anonymous if you wish.

Instagram articles

Some people describe Instagram as a micro-blogging platform. There is much more to Instagram than image and video curation and I have discovered brands who are being very innovative. There is the option to include text underneath your visual. Most people include a short description and a dizzying list of hashtags. There is another option:

Instagram allows you to include a supporting piece of text which adds meaning to the image. I’m excited by the possibilities here. You can stand out by doing something different. I believe that Instagram is a great place to experiment with sharing ideas.

The benefits: It’s a really easy to set up an account and post content. You can start off with a private account until you get the hang of it. Use it to share short form articles or sound-bites. Explore your writing style and learn from watching others. Great for discovering new ways to tell your business story. Here are some people who do this well:

Humans of New York – HONY

Humans of new York share portraits and stories about people. Sometimes they are intensely sad, other times hilarious. We are offered a supporting story to add meaning to the portrait. We feel like we understand the subject when we can empathise with their world.

Humans of New York


A M Fitness – Always Move

Andy Myers is the founder of Ireland’s Original Movement Studio. He regularly writes about his passion and process and shares stories about customer progress. As a result he gets great engagement on his Instagram account. Below he describes Reg, who is in his over 60’s class. This business is obviously more than a job for Andy. It’s through the written stories that we sense this.Always Move

This article on Instagram as a writing platform might interest you too
Can Wired make Instagram journalism mainstream?
 

This post is designed to give you simple ways to practice your idea-sharing muscles! It’s so tempting to share other people’s content – that’s what the digital world encourages us to do. I want you to develop a new habit – to own, value and share your great ideas. I’d love to hear your feedback on this one. Soon, I’ll be offering a workshop on how to use Instagram for business. Let me know if you’re interested in hearing more.

 
Featured links
My LinkedIn posts – Aisling Nelson on LinkedIn
Medium – Medium.com
Instagram – Instagram.com
Humans of New York – Instagram account
Always Move Fitness Studio – Andy Myers

Surprise me – words that wake us up

23 February

This morning an election flyer popped through the door. I lazily scanned it over breakfast. I looked past the jaded layout and connected with the message. Liam turned a familiar concept on its head while still being respectful to his audience; Me.

The magic ingredient was surprise.

How does the element of surprise help us connect with our customers?

This political manifesto has an unexpected twist! Only yesterday, I read a business vision which contained phrases like ‘best practice’ and ‘fit for purpose’. What do we mean when we use jargon words like that? What are we hiding behind? Liam takes an every day word that he’s hearing from constituents and helps us re-frame it in a positive way. This might sound like simple word play but the result is powerful. It helps us to see an alternative reality.

People focussed political candidate flyer

Liam asks us to imagine a better future

Sure, this is a familiar political cry. But we’re being asked to take some responsibility for making a better world to live in. I’m willing to give head space to this idea.

Every day I hear the word ‘if’IF I get sick, will there be a bed for me? IF I can’t afford childcare, how do I go back to work? How will I retire IF I can’t live on my pension?

I believe that in a republic, the word ‘if’ should signal our hopes and not our fears…What if we could build this republic together? Let’s not live in fear, let’s live in hope.

Asking your audience ‘What if?’ is a great way to start an interesting conversation.

Another group who are effectively rallying change with the word ‘if’ are The Irish Architecture Foundation – inspiringly named ‘What If Dublin‘ on Twitter. Here is another community building group using the word ‘if’ to get us to question our beliefs.

These use their twitter account to debate ‘simple and not so simple ideas of how we can improve Dublin City’.

“We truly believe that architecture transforms lives. It influences our everyday experience, from the interiors of our houses to our landscape, our cities and our towns. We believe that the impact of our awareness and education initiatives will create a better-built environment, and we do everything within our power to make that happen.”

Read the rest of this entry »

What might your customer be secretly hoping for?

3 February

What might your customer be secretly hoping for?

I absolutely love when I read a sentence that jolts me. This one popped off my screen yesterday. The article was about business innovation and creativity and it threw up 4 questions that can generate ‘fruitful thinking’.

I’m isolating this question and throwing it out to you.
Have you ever thought thought about what your customers might be secretly hoping for?

If you’re a photographer, your client might be secretly hoping that you’ll capture their true essence. If you’re a language teacher, your client might be secretly hoping that they’ll reinvent themselves and settle in Sicily. We never ‘just’ buy products or services. We buy how we imagine they’ll make us feel.

No matter what your business is, your customer has secret hopes. Maybe it’s a simple as making someone feel calmer.

I challenge you to sit with this idea over your lunch break. Better still, take it on a walk! Look beyond your business descriptions and climb into your customers’ shoes. I know that you’ll get some exciting insights!

I recommend you read the full articleInnovation and Creativity via The Book of Life.

The best of 2015 – the ideas I learned and shared this year

13 January

Three Thought Bubbles popular blog posts 2015

I write this blog to help you and to help myself.
I tease out ideas, I share knowledge and skills and I play with words.
I reach out to new people who excite me (mostly Tweeters!) and we have blind dates over strong coffee. There is electric energy in many of these conversations. Ideas collide and grow new limbs! Unexpected collaborations and strong friendships have developed too.

If you are in business, you must emotionally connect with people. This is something I can help you with. This blog post introduces you to the skills and values that underpin my training.

Here are the most popular posts from 2015 – they all focus on authentic ways for you to market what you do.

I tell my clients that a blog becomes a living business plan. Over time, it reveals the ideas, people and values that matter to you. It’s your choice to invest in mattering or write for SEO robots.

In 2015, I wrote about self confidence in business, telling your story and the art of writing, human marketing, visual storytelling, living your brand and face to face networking with people who excite you. What drives me most is finding ways to make business more human. Of course we need to market what we do but there are authentic and meaningful ways to do this.

Learning new skills – how to be kind to yourself

As business owners, we can be very tough on ourselves. I find this is especially true when people are learning new social media skills. My advice is to take baby steps and be kind to yourself! These posts might help you with this:

How to set ‘sane, humane and reasonable goals!
How to give yourself a break. It’s all about taking small, achievable steps.

Blogging – how do you feel about learning a new skill?
Do you expect to master new skills in an instant? Could you change that mind-set?

How minimalism can help you simplify your life and your business

I’ve discovered that less works best – less words, less goals, less obsessively reading online content!

Writing tips

When did you learn to write? Probably at school or college. Now it’s time to lose some of the formal structure and learn to write like you speak. This takes time and commitment but it’s an enjoyable journey. Here are some tips on writing skills and styles:

Chop your words; the skill of editing
Language is an art – how to be selective in your word choice and word count.

Why blogging is not about finding your voice
It’s in the doing; the magic happens as you learn.

Is the feeling of having to ‘create content’ killing your creativity?
Are you writing for SEO robots or because you have something interesting to say?

Human Marketing

When I first heard this phrase, it rang true with me. Sometimes, perceived opposites can work harmoniously together. The reason I set up Three Thought Bubbles was because I believe there are authentic ways to market a business. The second reason is that I know this technique is proven to be effective. People buy from people they like and trust. That is what human marketing is all about; understanding what people want help with. These posts will get you out of your own head and into the mind of your ideal customers:

Brand tone; what do your customers really hear?
Your brand is the conversation that your customers have when you leave the room! How do people ‘experience’ your brand?

Invest in mattering…
What if you focused on how what you do matters to other people? Would it change how you approach your business?

Stop, think, post – how to do social media with intention
Stop and ask yourself ‘what is my intention?’

Tips on how to tell your business story visually

Humans make sense of the world through images and stories. Images are powerful for reinforcing your written ideas. There are lots of ways for you to tell visual business stories:

How to use Instagram to tell your business story
Instagram is a powerful micro blogging platform – see how other businesses are effectively using it.

Visual tips to bring your business stories alive
Simple tips to tell powerful visual stories.

How can you ‘Live our brand’?

We might fight it but each of us is a brand. We’re selling ourselves on a daily basis! We now have the chance to create our online identity:

How much thought do you give to your personal brand?
What do you find when you Google your name? It’s time to own and develop your online reputation.

Connect with people on and off the web

And finally, I encourage you to connect with others and always ask for help!
Find interesting people on the web and invite them out for coffee. See what happens next!

The reason we are in business is to connect with people on an emotional level. Most of us never learned how to do this is in a business context. I can help you by offering you training, support and strategies. Give me a call on 087 635 5655 if you’d like to discuss some options.

Aisling

Mince pies and magic

24 December

It’s time to pause and eat some mince pies! But first, I want to thank all of the people I have worked with this year; both colleagues and clients and readers of my blog. I also want to leave you with a bouncy thought for the coming year…

Do you share your ideas with others? If you’re thinking about starting a blog in 2016 – or writing posts on LinkedIn – or even commenting on industry forums; this post is for you.

You probably don’t see the world like everyone else – that would be boring! This magical video made me question how I see the world. We all see magic that other people overlook. Your view-point and ideas can help other people. Is it time for you to make a dent in the world? Or build your reputation as an expert in your field?

I’m encouraging you to be brave and share your ideas and creativity with others. Start some exciting conversations n 2016! I can help you plan or create that content. Let me know if you’d like some help.

Three Thought Bubbles will re-open on 11th January. I wish you all a relaxing holiday with plenty of digital detoxing!

Is the feeling of having to ‘create content’ killing your creativity?

25 November

Is the feeling of having to ‘create content’ for your business stressing you out? Does it feel like a chore? I know that this is a real issue for many business owners. And yet you have valuable ideas to share. Today, I’m suggesting a technique to help you inject some fun into this important area of your business. It starts with taking a content creation sabbatical.

Creating content

Here’s the thing – Much of what we read online is not new to us.
Some of it bores us. Or it’s interesting but there’s too much throat clearing. Think of an article that you did enjoy reading – I bet that the person brought the idea to life because they looked at it in a new way.

Content creation sabbatical

The purpose of this post is to plant a new seed in your head! Creating exciting content involves practising your creativity muscle. Treat yourself to a two week writing sabbatical and try something different –

Scribble
, type or record some ideas that interest you. Carry a notebook in your pocket. Question what excites you. Stand on your head or look down from a height. What other ways can you interpret this idea? Forget about the general viewpoint. Feck Perfunction. Maybe it’s time to take yourself less seriously?

Dominic Wilcox

Variations on normal

Dominic Wilcox is an illustrator and inventor who looks at his everyday world in hilarious ways. This video called ‘Variations on normal’ encouraged me to question how I view the world. It made me question what I believe to be true. I think that this is essential skill for innovative content creators.

My tips

Question your beliefs. See new possibilities. Laugh more. Now, share your ideas and get some feedback. You’re not writing for validation; you’re writing because you believe you have something worth sharing.

This is a topic I write about frequently – these posts might give you some more ideas:

  • How much thought do you give to your personal brand?
    In this post I ask you to consider what you would like to be known for? Every piece of content that you share online says something about you. Only talk and write about things that genuinely interest you. This is particularly true for blogging. Value your time and ideas!

  • How to set yourself sane, humane and reasonable goals.
    This one idea from Alexandra Franzen had a huge impact on how I work. Let’s start by being kinder to ourselves.

  • Why blogging is not about finding your voice
    It’s about discovering that voice.

  • Sometimes we need to unplug
    Finally, it is perfectly OK to disengage from the web sometimes Give yourself a break, give your ideas space to grow and develop. Chill out. You’ll come back full of ideas!

    Writers block or writers weariness strikes me too, but I got some great advice from a colleague recently; value and own your ideas and put them out there into the world. In addition I’d suggest looking at the world like Dominic Wilcox sometimes!
    I offer a range of writing classes – let me know if you’d like some help.

     

  • Brand tone; what do your customers really hear?

    9 September

    Brand language is the language your brand uses.
    It is spoken and printed word, both on and off web.
    The words you choose matter but have you thought about your brand tone?

    I help businesses to be more human on the web. Most businesses need some help with this. That’s because speaking seems to come more naturally to us than writing. We don’t usually talk about ‘speakers block’… unless we’ve been invited to give a stand up presentation! Seriously though, have you thought about how your business comes across on the web? What do your customers really hear?

    What is your brand tone?

    When we read content online, we literally hear a voice in our head! We interpret the message and imagine that we are having a conversation with the person. So, it’s important for you to decide what tone and language support your business brand. How can you communicate the story of what you do in a way that is meaningful and effective?

    Most of us hugely underestimate how people interpret what we say! Message misalignment is very common on the web. Communicating face-to-face involves the use of non-verbal tools like: intonation, gestures, facial expressions, and body language. We interpret most of this on a subconscious level. That is why we rely so heavily on our choice of language and use of emoji (or text emotion symbols) to help us to convey emotions. Emotion helps us to make sense of the world.

    This is the first of a four part article on social media Brand Voice. The four key elements are tone, language, personality and purpose. Let’s start with your business tone of voice. Once you know the tone you want to use, it is much easier to choose effective words.

    Today I’m going to share examples of businesses who have different brand tones. It’s much easier to understand when you can see live examples.

    Personal tone

    A business that uses a personal tone is keen to understand their customer needs. When someone arrives on the website or blog, they immediately feel like they are understood. The business outlines and understands their ‘problems’ and presents them with clear actionable solutions. A surprising example I found is Keyhouse, who develop, build and support specialised software for law firms.

    Keyhouse take a refreshing approach by using simple english to speak to their target audience. Law firms are notorious for their use of stuffy and incomprehensible phrases. (My research threw up an excellent post from the blog ‘A lawyer’s guide to writing’, titled ‘Avoid stuffy language and use real words instead’.) Well done Marie Buckley!

    Keyhouse

    This copy is highlights the personal tone that Keyhouse use to communicate their value –

    “Before we tell you what a Keyhouse solution can do for your practice, we like to learn about your business. Tell us what you do best, how you do it and where you are feeling pain. Then we can take you through how our specialised software can transform your firm, making it more organised, efficient and profitable.”

    Understanding and supportive tone

    A business whose brand values are about caring and supporting people are very conscious of community. The language is inclusive and caring. A great example of this type of business is the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. Alzheimer.ie is a dimentia specific service provider in Ireland. Their brand tone supports their brand vision which is quoted below;

    “Our vision is an Ireland where no one goes through dementia alone and where policies and services respond appropriately to the person with dementia and their carers, at the times they need support.”

    Alzheimer.ie

    Honest and direct tone

    Honest and direct is not always about being a people pleaser! The Middle Finger Project is a niche business with a very specific audience. Ashley Ambirge provides “frank advice on surviving as a business owner, for people with a f*cking sense of humour”. Like the most successful companies, it actively repels certain customers. Ashley Ambirge doesn’t have an edit button – she is certainly not afraid to be herself. I’m not necessarily a fan of her business but I do admire her bold, direct approach.

    Here Ashley tells us why she chose the name ‘The Middle Finger Project’ –
    “Because we’re in the business of shunning cliché, overused language, business practices and lifestyle choices, in favour of originality, happiness and doing what feels right for you”

    The Middle Finger Project

    Tone is so crucial in the online world – what tone suits your business brand? I hope these examples help you to be more conscious when you are creating both verbal and written communication. My next post will inspire you to choose your words wisely too!

    Think about your favourite brands and see if you can describe their tone – I bet that  you have already subconsciously done it! Feel free to share your revelations below or over on Facebook.

    Referenced links to explore:
    Keyhouse
    The Alzheimer Society of Ireland
    The Middle Finger Project
    A lawyer’s guide to writing’

    Related post – Why blogging is not about finding your voice

     

    What three things would you like people to believe about your business?

    31 August

    My business card asks a thought provoking question; what are the three things you would like people to believe about your business?’ It’s a simple but crucial idea – if you don’t know exactly what you do, how can you expect your customers to know either? Knowing the answer to this question will give you clarity in so many situations, from meeting people at networking events or creating website copy to chatting on social platforms. Ultimately it boils down to one thing – what do you want to be known for?

    Three Thought Bubbles

    We start with this question when I train business owners how to communicate what they do on the web. What seems like an obvious question can be a tricky one for many people to answer.

    I often begin by sharing my own ‘three things’. Over the last seventeen years, I have owned two businesses. Each offered very different services but I’ve always been very clear on communicating how I can help people. Real examples are useful in training, so today I’m going to share the three things I’d like you to know and believe about Three Thought Bubbles, as well as for my previous business Rangoli.

    Three Thought Bubbles human business branding

    At Three Thought Bubbles – I offer training and mentoring in the area of online business communication with an emphasis on clarity and human connection. The three things I would like people to believe about my business are:

    1.I believe that human business works and that it is essential to emotionally connect with your customers on the web. People do business with people they trust.
    2. I understand your world. Having run two businesses, I know what it’s like to juggle all aspects of a business, including sales and marketing.
    3. I want to inspire you and give you the confidence to tell your business story. I will provide you with new tools, skills and support.

    In my previous business Rangoli, I designed bespoke bridal jewellery and headpieces. My skills were much wider than that of a jewellery designer. I listened, reassured and interpreted clients ideas, offered advice on styling and involved clients in the design process. Here are the three things that I wanted my clients to know and believe:

    Rangoli Jewellery website

    1. I will listen to you from the first email or telephone enquiry, right through to a face to face meeting,
    2. I will offer honest and expert advice
    3. I will involve you in the design process to create a piece of jewellery that you will cherish wearing for years to come.

    I hope these two examples are helpful for you! Ask yourself this question and see how clearly you can tell yourself what you do and who you help. Take your time and keep editing your ideas and words until they reflect your core business values.

    In a future post, I’ll show you how you can create content and start conversations that support this business ethos. That’s what social media for business is all about. Do you need some help with that? I offer a range of training and would love to have a chat with you about humanising your business on and off the web!

    Please share your own ‘three thought bubbles’ in the comments below or over on Facebook. Go on, be brave 🙂