Three Thought Bubbles hits the stop button

23 December

I’m hitting the stop button on Three Thought Bubbles. It’s time for me to stretch upwards. I’ve committed to learning new skills. One of the triggers for this move is a business trend that worries me today; we want to distill everything down to a 5 step process. Social media obliges and rehashes the formulas daily. I want to do some deep learning which involves messy exploration with no set objectives. I want to learn through doing the work myself.

A video posted by Min Liu (@bloodydairy) on

 

I’m taking six months out to do some deep learning in a distraction free zone!

I continue to be open to collaborations and side projects. One of these is ARTzheimer’s – a social enterprise that uses art to provoke bold and honest conversations about Alzheimer’s. My work here is as a written and visual brand storyteller.

I stand by the two reasons I set up Three Thought Bubbles; to help businesses to be more human on the web and to help them to communicate with meaning and clarity. I still believe that human and marketing are two words that can co-exist – if we choose to communicate with intention.

This creative learning break was greatly inspired by Stefan Sagmeister. One day he questioned how we spend our lives learning, working and dreaming about retirement –

Right now we spend about the first 25 years of our lives learning, then there is another 40 years that’s really reserved for working. And then tacked on at the end of it are about 15 years for retirement. And I thought it might be helpful to basically cut off five of those retirement years and intersperse them in between those working years. That’s clearly enjoyable for myself. But probably even more important is that the work that comes out of these years flows back into the company and into society at large, rather than just benefiting a grandchild or two.

Here are some of my articles about key ideas I learned as a mentor and trainer over the last three years:

  • The concept and results of doing micro work are powerful.
  • Best Practice’ is a jargon phrase used by lazy people who want to follow formulas and not exercise their brains.
  • “We’re on social media.” Really? What is your intention?
  • Learn to chop your words – the power of editing.
  • Ultimately, what do you want to be known for?
  • Why blogging is not about finding your voice.
  • I encourage you to be part of an encouragement network.Develop your brand voice

    That’s it for now – no trumpet fanfares or lengthy speeches. I have thoroughly enjoyed working in this field. I trained a diverse group of clients and got to collaborate with inspiring colleagues. Two colleagues I’d like to mention in particular are Siodhna McGowan from Inspired Thinking and Gillian Horan from The Pudding Brand. Like myself, they strive to make marketing human and meaningful.

    Who knows what the next chapter will hold! I’d love to stay in touch with you – Twitter is my platform of choice.

    .

Animated GIF credit:
Min Liu Animator NYC / Taiwan
Website: min-liu.com
Instagram: @bloodydairy

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Blah blah ‘business storytelling’… “how can it help me?”

12 December

When it comes to blogging – most of you panic about the writing part! And I totally get that. Today I have some tips that will help you to write (and think about writing!) in a conversational way. That’s what storytelling is about.

Here’s something that struck me recently – no-one has taught us how to write like we speak. In school or college, we learned how to write in a formal way. Now we need to LEARN how to write conversationally. Here’s why – people make decisions about your business online before they get to meet you in person, So, chatting like a human makes good business sense! It’s how you act in person….so why should you be different on the web? The most natural way to do this is through sharing real stories. Let’s look at the difference between a story and a narrative first…

Business storytelling versus narrative

Story-telling has become a hot trend and you may be sick of hearing about it! But why is this idea so relevant now? I believe it’s because our super-connected web world leaves us cold at times. We’re fed up with businesses who talk ‘at’ us, rather than ‘to’ us. We’ve always told each other stories – it’s how we make sense of the world but many businesses continue to use old marketing techniques to shout at their customers.
Does this drive you crazy too?

Good stories make us feel something – it’s a simple as that!

  • They are selective – the teller knows what is important to their audience.
  • They have some embellishment – a good story is memorable.
  • And they leave room for the imagination – they don’t tell us everything.

Here’s my favourite part – The teller of the story gets to tailor the story to suit the audience.
…..when I first heard this idea, it made me feel like a fake marketer. That’s until I got this part; there is a big difference here between tailoring and making things up! If you know exactly who you are telling the story to, you can edit it so it speaks to them. In contrast, a narrative is just a boring string of events or things told in a particular order. A narrative is devoid of emotion. That’s why it’s easy to ignore. Many businesses use narrative to describe what they do and why they are great. We are all consuming content online and we’re fed up with this style of writing. It’s time to write like we speak.

Watch this short talk by Brian Reed – he’s a producer at This American Life. He’ll get you excited (+ make you laugh) about the important elements we need to be able to craft a good story.

In This American Life, he and his colleagues focus on three things: action, reflection and stakes. Put together, these become really powerful. Brian tells us how we also need to think about motion when telling a story, as this will pull people forward and make them actually listen.

I’m a huge fan of audio content at the moment – we literally hear the information in different ways when we use our eyes!
And it gives our eyes a break from reading too. I hope you enjoy watching and listening to Brian!


So my advice for you is really simple – get over your fear of writing by simply starting. Practice writing your ideas in a conversational style as if you were speaking to a good friend. Experiment with a dictaphone app on your phone and record yourself talking. And tailor your story so that it speaks to the people who are reading it.

Would you like help and support while you learn to blog for your business? I’m now accepting clients for 2015 – let’s talk and see what you need help with most. You can do this – I’ll show you how!

Bottling Christmas…

29 November

The fact that I don’t love Christmas is irrelevant to this post. I do love real Christmas trees that grow outdoors and I’m a big fan of a US company called Juniper Ridge. They have a brilliant marketing story. When I say marketing story I don’t mean ‘made  up’ story. The best business stories are real ones that tell people why you do what you do.

Juniper Ridge are the world’s only wild fragrance company. They bottle and sell natural scents found in nature.

According to the ‘About’ page, ‘Juniper Ridge was founded in 1998 by hiker, mushroom-forager, and wilderness enthusiast Hall Newbegin‘. What makes this company so different is their obvious passion for being out in nature. All employees are trekkers and hill walkers. Producing scents and perfumes came as a result of wanting to share the outdoor experience with other nature lovers.

juniper ridge christmas in a bottle

We are the world’s only wild fragrance company. We’re hikers and backpackers, not fashion or luxury-industry types. We distill colognes and perfumes from real plants, bark, moss, mushrooms, and tree trimmings found hiking the backcountry. A hundred years ago, all perfumes were made this way. Today we’re the only ones who handle every step of the process ourselves, from beginning to end.

Juniper Ridge happen to have a very visual product and they use imagery to tell their story. It’s interesting to compare the different platforms that businesses choose to tell their story. Have a look at the Juniper Ridge facebook page, Instagram account and blog. They have almost 28,000 followers on Instagram, so they’re obviously doing something right! There’s definitely an element of ‘armchair travelling’ when you follow these trekkers online.

juniper ridge
 

In my coming posts, I plan to feature businesses who don’t have a very visual product or service. What different ways are there to tell a story, other than with plain text? I’ve already written about using audio effectively. I’m really interested in business videos at the moment. Short video content is the next big thing. We’re going to have to learn how to be comfortable in front of the camera! I’m going to research companies that are either making or using video content. Let me know if you find any great examples. Drop me a line if you’re too shy to comment!

A shorts story – Patagonia

10 June

What emotions do your customers feel when they buy from you? I’m not suggesting that you manipulate these emotions! I want you to think about how they align with your passion for what you do. Your passion is what your customers want to know about. And your blog is the perfect place to share it.

Patagonia are a long-established outdoor clothing and equipment company. The emotions I associate with their products are adventure and a love of the outdoors. The clothes you wear are tied in with your memories of events. That’s one of the reasons Patagonia have such loyal customers.
 

worn wear patagonia

When your customers start telling stories about how much they love your brand, you know you’re on to a good thing! Surfing couple Keith and Lauren Malloy set up a Tumblr site called Worn Wear: True Stories of People and Their Patagonia Gear. These two were inspired by the years of use they were getting from their surf gear, so they decided to start a blog where people could share stories about their favorite piece of Patagonia clothing.

Here’s one of my favourites from Melissa from Vermont;

patagonia worn wear

“Dear Patagonia,

I bought these blue Stand-Ups in 1988, in Connecticut, right before I took one of my first extended road trips around the country. That summer I traveled with a friend, cutting a kind of figure-eight through the United States. Since then the shorts have been with me to every state except Hawaii. Over the course of 25 years they have climbed mountains in New York, Colorado, Alaska, Vermont, Montana, Wyoming. They have visited the desert and the sea. They’ve sat quietly in the car across Texas and the Dakotas; they’ve seen small shacks in Louisiana, ancient Indian dwellings in New Mexico, vast fields of corn in Iowa and thirty Dead shows. The stand-ups have never, ever let me down. Each spring, they’re the first item of clothing I take out of storage. I slip them on to make sure not too much damage was done over the winter (to me, not the shorts), and then I get lost in the dream of the road, of the kind of adventure that is waiting for us all the time, and of this trusty pair of shorts that have been with me everywhere.”

-Melissa

People choose to buy for a number of reasons; mostly it’s to do with how the product or service makes them feel. So it makes sense to be aware of what these emotions are, right? I teach business owners like you how to confidently tell your business story online. In order to do that, I help you understand who your customers are and what they need help with.

I offer one day workshops to small groups as well as one-to-one sessions. I successfully blog for my business and can help you do the same. I am easy to contact and would love to hear your ideas! My next workshop is on Sunday 7th July. Early bird tickets are available until 21st June.

Credits and links:
Image via The Wornwear blog
Pataginia blog : The Cleanest Line
Patagonia on Tumblr
 

Time to blow some bubbles

23 April

Today is a special day for me; nerve-wrecking and exciting in equal measure!

In my mind I am rewinding 18 months. The idea for Three Thought Bubbles was inspired by a quote I read; what are the three things that you would like people to believe about your business? It got me thinking and my answers inspired me to talk differently to my customers.

why do you do what you do 2

Today I am launching Three Thought Bubbles; fun workshops, teaching business owners how to blog with heart.

I’m thoroughly bored of websites, although I know they serve a purpose. Most of them are static and full of corporate talk. Is there a human in there? Really?! I believe that we need to start communicating online in a much more human way.

Using social media has made me more social! Made someone with a fear of networking events start connecting with other business owners. The difference is that I have found a way to talk about what I do in a way that feels comfortable to me. Firstly, via blogs and Twitter and then in the ‘real world’! These 3d meetings have led to great collaborations as well as mutual support in business. And most importantly, my customers get a sense for how I do business before they meet me in person.

I’ve decided to teach my workshops for two reasons; I want show other businesses how blogging can help them on a business and personal level. And I’m driven by a passion to share these skills and collaborate with other creative people.

I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me in launching this business. A special thanks goes to the loyal group of new friends and allies that I have met on-line. Photographer Aine Teahon is one of them and I’m so grateful for the photos she took of my workshops. Designer Karen Seery created my branding and website and interpreted my ideas perfectly. She was a dream to work with. Next up are my endlessly creative friends and family. And finally, my favourite husband Ben!

So, have I got you thinking about how you tell your story? Would you like to learn a new skill in a relaxed environment? I’d love to meet you at one of my workshops! My next class is on Sunday 26th May. If you can’t make this one, be sure to sign up for my mailing list.

Why do you do what you do? Learn how to write your business story.

11 March

Colin Harmon from 3FE coffee shop, Dublin.

Hell yeah – what a statement from Colin Harmon, from 3FE coffee shop, Dublin! If I was to ask you why you do what you do, would you be able to answer? There are lots of reasons why I do what I do. And once I launched this second business, I realised that my values or ‘whys’ overlap between my two skills. First off, I like to be creative but the main kick I get from what I do, is helping other people. So whether that is designing or teaching; it’s all about connecting with others.

When I first launched my jewellery business in 1998, I supplied galleries and shops around Ireland. But the downside of that was that I never got to meet the people I was designing for. So, there was no feedback and no chance to design something specially for someone. I had to find a new way of doing business so I could get to know my clients and involve them in the designing! Now I only design to order.

I’m watching with amazement how quickly online ways of communication are changing. If we want to connect with readers, we have to be open and human. It makes sense right? People buy from people they like or can relate to. And so, your  business story is the core of your business. Colin Harmon from 3FE coffee shop certainly knows how to tell his story! He takes us on his crazy adventure from the world of finance and investment to barista champion and coffee shop owner. He describes his whole journey and his passion for coffee and coffee culture. He tells his story in a conversational way, including short film clips and photos. He held my attention right to the end! But most of all, he really made me want to try his coffee…

3fe coffee shop Dublin Colin Harmon, 3FE coffee shop, Dublin

Lucky for me, 3FE is around the corner from my studio in The Design Tower. Tomorrow’s cuppa might be a Bolivian Finca Loayza – complex, biscuit sweetness, keylime pie, dark chocolate finish. I hope I get to meet Colin.

*Edited to say that I just had a tasty, double-shot, Guatemalan latte and am fully charged for the rest of the day! I didn’t get to meet Colin but I’ll catch him next time I drop by.

3FE coffee shop, Dublin

Learning how to write your business story is a key part of my workshops. Class numbers are limited to 6 which allows for lots of creative interaction! Get in touch if you’d like to find out more. I’d love to hear from you.

What’s the story?

20 December

It intrigues me more and more these days! And it has become a bit of an obsession. I’m on the cusp of something new and it feels great.

All of my blogging has got me thinking about why I do what I do. And that in turn leads to further mad questions about what I’ll be doing in another few years. Here’s the thing; I am addicted to the why of what other people do too… even more so than the what. You may have read my post on the rather cool father and daughter business called Herriett Grace. What they produce and do is great but how it all came about is the seller for me. I get a sense of who they are and that is what draws me into their world.

In order to get others excited about blogging and teaching people in my blogging workshops, I need to show examples of people who are doing this well. The world may be a tiny virtual place but I’m particularly keen to showcase Irish-based businesses who blog. It seems that many people are still reluctant to buy on-line (although this is changing) so a successful blog can lead to that face-to-face sale. Of course, it depends on the product completely. I’m speaking from personal experience here.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I discovered Makers & Brothers; Irish brothers who run a shop and on-line business selling a range of Irish design and craft. They’ve also had a series of pop-up shops from Dublin and London to New York.

Makers and brothers Makers & Brothers – Jonathan and Mark Legge

Makers and Brothers is a project developed by two brothers Jonathan and Mark Legge. It is an online retail venture founded on simple things; the handmade, objects of integrity, contemporary vernaculars, a curation of everyday design and craft. We define craft as a process, a production by hand or machine.

We are an international destination with an Irish foundation and will at all times endeavour to sell objects of use; the simple, beautiful and sometimes nicely odd.

I have yet to meet the guys and visit their shop in Blackrock – but I’m intrigued by their philosophy and obvious passion for promoting good design. They are not just selling products here. They have carefully curated a collection of unique and beautifully crafted pieces. And they are equally interested in the skills and stories behind them. Their blog is filled with inspiring finds – from videos to product releases. My favourite part of the site are the ‘Maker stories‘. In this series, Jonathan and Mark visit the studios of the designers who supply them with art objects. Rather than an interview format, snippets of warm conversations are combined with candid pics of studios, materials, work in progress, people and their pets!

Makers & Brothers Makers & Brothers – Meet our makers

The interviews are unedited chats with makers about how and why they do what they do. Here’s a snippet from an interview with Gearoid from Superfolk:

We went for a drive with Superfolk. We were heading off to see the production of  new mugs that are being sold exclusively through Makers and Brothers.

The text with the image above reads:

We drove home as it started to get dark.
Jonathan and Mark: “What is essential in your work?”
Gearóid: “Honesty, integrity, ease of use and sustainability, the story, the making.”Makers & Brothers

I can’t wait to visit Makers & Brothers and will be back with more posts – I’m hoping to interview them for my Blogger Spotlight series too. Check out their website and blog as well as an interview with Jonathan over on 189.com

The Makers and Brothers shop is open by appointment: The Shed, Abbey Court, Abbey Road, Blackrock, Co. Dublin.

Business stories – Herriott Grace

20 December

How about this for the first line of an ‘About’ page? “Lance and Nikole Herriott live 3400 kilometers apart: his workshop is in Victoria, British Columbia, and her studio is in Toronto, Ontario. When she first made her home more than halfway across the country, they started to send packages back and forth.”

Everyone is speaking about the age of ‘overload’ now; we’re bombarded with choice when it comes to web content. So if something is going to hold our attention, we need to make an emotional connection with it. And the natural way to connect is to tell meaningful stories. The story of family run business Herriott Grace‘ sounds something like this:

Nikole and her Dad now live 3400km apart. He is a wood turner. He often sent Nikole gifts of hand carved spoons in the post which she treasured and loved receiving. Each piece was a one-off and made from salvaged, chemical-free wood. One day Nikole had an idea. She asked her Dad if he would like to share his work with others. His ‘yes’ led to the launch of a family business called ‘Herriott Grace’. The precious packages continue to be posted from Victoria to Toronto, where Nikole styles and photographs them for their on-line shop.

Herriott Grace Herriott Grace

Lance and Nikole educate us about how beautiful things can be made from salvaged materials, how much care and attention is involved in the process and how each piece is a one-off. They also reveal who they are and why they love doing what they do. If I buy something from them, I feel like I’m getting much more than a carved spoon or platter.

So what inspires these two? We’re inspired by homesteads and farms and early morning light. By travel, via train and old world hotels. By well-worn tables and the meals around them. But most of all, by tradition, by trees and by things made by hand.

Have I got you thinking about your business story yet? You don’t need to be a ‘maker’ in order to have a story. I’m totally up for teaching an accountant or personal trainer how to write a blog! I’ll be featuring all kinds of businesses here. See if my workshops are suitable for you or say hello.

Your business story

6 December

What stops you in your tracks when you’re browsing online? Are you a 5 second flicker like me? While waiting for a slow page or link to open, I’m already looking at another open tab. It could be more interesting!

I’ve been reading a lot about what holds our attention and what ‘speaks’ to us in our online world. And once I discovered what it is, it made complete sense! We want to connect with the person or people behind the business and see if we like them. What are they about? Do they think like I do? Do they ‘get’ me? We want to make a basic human connection.

Would it surprise you to know that your ‘about’ page is one of the most visited pages on your site? Readers want to know why you do what you do and how you came to be doing it. And most importantly, how can you help them solve a problem. A ‘problem’ is a loose term for any purchase decision that they are thinking about!

This is the first in a series of posts about great ‘About’ pages. First up is Jane from Sugru. Sugru is a self-setting rubber that can be formed by hand and can be used to repair or adapt everyday objects. Jane tells the story of how her business was formed, through a scrolling time-line of polaroid pictures. Her heading for this page is ” A partial visual history of Sugru; from ‘hmm’ to ‘yay’ via ‘eureka’ and ‘wow’. Here is a section of this wonderful visual story; it makes me want to try out their product and read lots more about it!

The pictures scroll down, bringing us from February 2003 right up to September 2012. It’s an ongoing story which makes it so engaging! It also gives a feel for how much time and effort has gone into creating this product and business. The latest post tells us that Jane has just won the London Design Festival ‘Design Entrepreneur’ award. So well deserved! Check out the Sugru website for inspiration.

Who or what grabs your attention online? I’d love to hear from you. This will be an ongoing series and I want to share really diverse content! Leave me a comment or drop me a line; I’d love to hear from you.

Business stories – Oliver Jeffers

29 November

This is the first post in a series about business stories. Blogging is all about telling your business story. Why do you do what you do and what are you passionate about? I’m addicted to these stories and bookmark my favourites. Now I’m going to share my favourites with you!

Some of them will be written word, others audio clips or short film. Each have different qualities. What they have in common is that they tell us about people and what makes them tick.

First up is this quirky film by Irish illustrator Oliver Jeffers. Among other things, Jeffers is an author and book illustrator of children’s books. This film captures everything from his studio workspace to his process and inspiration. Most of all, you get a feel for what he is like as a person!

Oliver Jeffers from mac premo on Vimeo.

I’m thinking about, thinking about, making a short video about my workshops! I just need to watch a few more for research. Have you come across any great stories online? Please leave me a comment or drop me an email. I’d love to hear what inspires you or what you think about Oliver’s short film.

Have a gander at Oliver’s website – it’s a totally creative space!