How to Mobilize People Through Powerful Writing

“Darkest Hour,” a 2017 war drama film, devotes its narrative to the early days of British prime minister Winston Churchill, who rallied a nation against the merciless Nazi onslaught of World War II.

The film chronicles Churchill’s authentic, soul-stirring speeches and the Shakespearean gusto with which he delivered words like these: “Let us, therefore, brace ourselves to our duty, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”

Though the world still heralds Churchill’s heroic statements, few people knew that Churchill overcame a lisp in his childhood by practicing his enunciation. Churchill understood the power of words early in life, and historians estimated that he spent one hour working on each individual minute of a speech he gave! Churchill sought to portray England’s struggle in a larger historical context: good outlasting evil, hope to overshadow the impossible, and perseverance overcoming persecution.

The result?

The entire fate of world history shifted through the hearts and hands of the people he inspired. President John F. Kennedy summed up Churchill’s influence like this: “In the dark days and darker nights when England stood alone — and most men… despaired of England’s life — he mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”

Writing: The Building Block of Success

What can we learn from Winston Churchill?

While not all of us have oratory giftings, be encouraged that Churchill was also a student of language, and he overcame his limitations with study, practice, and passion!

Would you like to be more successful in your personal and professional impact?

Writing is the foundation of modern education and fundamental to all business success. Whether you’re penning a quarterly report, crafting an in-house memo, giving a congratulatory speech, or even dashing a quick e-mail, here are some tips for writing in a professional, persuasive manner:

1. Grab them early.
Great writing doesn’t allow readers to look away! Use punchy headlines, riveting stories, or gripping questions to draw them in immediately.

2. Get to the point.
After you use that “luring” intro, don’t let them linger! Get to the point quickly and efficiently, without “burying the lead” too deep in the text. Eliminate unnecessary words and use language that is clear and efficient. An energetic, fast-paced tone will assure them that reading to the end is worth their time.

3. Be convincing but not too clever. Persuade your readers with clarity but also with logic and facts. Providing evidence (or examples) for your premise will build momentum and increase authority. As you write, keep a personal tone that is warm but convincing. Ask yourself, “would this make sense if I was sharing it with a friend over coffee?” Phrases with an awkward, artificial ring should probably get the ax!

4. Keep it moving. As you lead readers toward a closing statement or action step, take a broad glance at the entire piece. Does it flow smoothly with a directional movement that builds toward a thoughtful climax? Does it read well on the page with adequate breaks and subheadings? Consider adding skim layers or reducing the size of a document if you sense people will be bogged down in your thoughts.

5. Add depth and dimension. As you seek to add that extravagant bow to your smartly wrapped package, review your piece and look for ways you can really make it “sing.” Consider colorful vocabulary, punchy alliteration, or rich rhythms as you vary the length of your paragraphs. As French writer Charles Baudelaire once said, “always be a poet, even in prose.”

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Magnets Remind Customers You Care

Keeping your business top of mind for your customers requires creativity and constant reminders that your goods and services are available.

If you’ve exhausted your ideas, why not try something that’s worked great for pizza and fast food restaurants for years? Sheila M., a local car dealership office manager, decided to leverage printed magnets to drive interest in her business.

Focus on Community

Keeping the public’s interest when there are lots of other businesses attempting to gain attention as well is difficult, to say the least.

Local car dealerships are always looking for a tactic that will place them above the competition in the view of the public. When you show that you care about your audience, you will subconsciously encourage people who view your marketing and advertising to think about your brand in a positive light. As part of her job as office manager, Sheila received a lot of questions about car seats and found herself often helping new parents understand the specific requirements in her state.

Sheila’s Light Bulb Moment

When her sales manager asked Sheila for suggestions on what type of promotional product would be good to help promote their business, she immediately thought about the way so many customers asked her about car seat safety.

She would print off the car seat rules from the internet and send them home with families with young children, and she decided this was a great opportunity to expand that relationship into the community. Sheila visited her local print shop and worked with them to design a refrigerator magnet that included quick tips on car seat safety, such as the legal age for moving from rear-facing car seats to forward-facing car seats. Sheila also included the local number for the Sheriff’s department in case parents had any questions. Once she added her car dealership’s branding and contact information, she knew she had a winner!

Immediate Results

Passing out these refrigerator magnets in the community had an immediate impact on sales.

Sheila and her sales manager decided to do a wider mailing within their zip code and a few surrounding areas once they realized that the magnets were incredibly well-received. The dealership received calls thanking them for caring about the community, and several new customers came in the first week mentioning the magnets.

When you are ready to promote your business in a way that will resonate with your key audiences, give us a call! We will work closely with you to define the ideal printed items that will support your business goals.

Why Aesop Would Have Been More Successful Than Bill Gates Today

An ancient Greek storyteller and fabulist, Aesop is thought to have been a slave who eventually acquired his freedom by reciting clever moral fables involving animals with human characteristics.

Insightful and astonishingly original even today, Aesop’s fables continue to delight and educate us with their startling observations of human failings and strengths.

We all know who Bill Gates is–only one of the wealthiest people in the world and founder of Microsoft.

Although Gates is the epitome of the successful businessman, Aesop would have given him a run for his money, so to speak. Aesop’s keen intuitiveness into the human psyche would have made him the ultimate inspirational and motivational manager or employee. In fact, Gates may have chosen to work for Aesop instead of running his own business!

Check out these three fables from Aesop and how you can apply their moral teachings to your own business:

The Donkey and the Mule

The owner of both a mule and a donkey loaded them with supplies before making a long and arduous journey. When they reached the hilly country, the donkey begged for help by asking the mule to take some of his load. The mule said no. “I’m carrying too much now as it is. You’ll just have to deal with it.”

Within days, the donkey stumbled from weariness and died. The owner had no choice but to put the donkey’s load on the mule’s back. Now the mule had to carry double the load he was once carrying.

What was Aesop trying to say with this fable?

When you help others, you are helping yourself.

In a real-world setting, this fable is about teamwork. Although we all have encountered problems when trying to accomplish projects as a team, trying to do something by yourself means you are stuck with only your skill sets, your ideas, and your extremely subjective perception of how satisfactory the project really is. Ultimately, refusing to help others limits your ability to help yourself.

The Cat and the Mice

An extended family of mice needed to develop a good plan to protect themselves from a devious cat. One of the younger mice spoke up and said: “I think we should tie a bell around the cat’s neck. That way, we’ll know when our enemy, the cat, is coming for us.”

An older, wiser mouse asked: “That is a great idea, but who is going to undertake the dangerous task of belling the cat?”

The mice fell silent, realizing this plan would not work.

Moral of this Aesop fable:

Successful ideas are ideas that can be fully implemented.

While it’s great to throw around ideas, only realistic, sound, and sustainable ideas are the ones that provide satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, and financial benefits. The next time you are involved in a strategy meeting, remember the importance of challenging everybody, but keep in mind Aesop’s catalyst for true achievements: can anybody bell the cat?

The Lion and the Oxen

A lion took to prowling a field where several oxen were grazing. The lion tried to attack the oxen many times but they always positioned themselves in a way that protected their vulnerable bodies. They met the lion with their horns instead of their tails. Eventually, the oxen started fighting with each other and went to separate areas of the field. Without the protection of their fellow oxen, each ox died a horrible death as the lion attacked them one by one.

Try this one on your own. How could you apply the moral of this story to your own business?

Make a Big Impact with Foldable Printed Mailers

Creating a printed mailer is one of the best ways to get your message across to a wide variety of individuals, but how can you be sure that your message isn’t lost among the raft of bills and magazines that tend to litter every mailbox in America?

Creating a unique design is great for a traditional message or a sale. Foldable printed mailers are a fun way to get your creative message out into the marketplace by designing something unexpected that will surprise and delight your audience.

Here are a few ways that you can create wonder and excitement with your next printed promotional mailing.

3D Folded Materials

Are you sending an open house announcement to a select few individuals and including the media?

Influencers such as bloggers and media personalities are a great way to get free promotion for your brand, but these people are also inundated with others who are also trying to recruit them.

An interactive 3D folded mailer can catch the eye of the most jaded recipient, encouraging them to open and play with your delivery. Don’t think simply about a tri-fold brochure — today’s 3D mailers can be created in nearly any size, shape or design — these are limited only by your imagination.

Creating Your Designs

You may already have an idea in mind, but if not, let us work with you to share some of the innovative new designs that are available.

You can start with a concept of what you’re trying to accomplish. Perhaps you’re launching a new product, introducing a sale on high-end goods and services or opening a new store. These are all ideal opportunities to create buzz and excitement in your audience with new textures, bright colors, and interesting shapes. Sketch out your ideas and see how we can partner with you to bring them to life in full, living three-dimensional color!

Creative Idea Starters

Looking for a creative way to package a sample product?

Three-dimensional folded mailers can be created and frame your product to allow it the impact that you need when the package is opened by your recipient. Nestle a business card or discount card within a mailer, or add an aura of intrigue by requiring the receiver to unwrap the “package” before discovering what is hiding within.

Foldable mailers can be made into the shape of your product, too, so you’re essentially creating a 3D replica of your product with paper. Mailers can be printed with foil accents for added luster and shine, printed in single colors, or even printed in full color for a “living” design that will really make an impression.

Box it Up

Boxes in different shapes and sizes are another popular way to print and fold your message. Blank cardboard boxes with included materials are a waste of prime advertising real estate. When you use a box of an unusual shape or size, you intrigue the recipient and encourage them to take the few moments necessary to open the package. Then, the materials you’ve placed inside have a better chance of catching their eye and causing them to take action!

Foldable printed and three-dimensional mailers can be as simple or as complicated as you need them to be. When you work with us, you’ll find the creativity and suggestions that you need to create the perfect promotional vehicle for your message!

5 Ways to Skillfully Handle Criticism With a Smile Instead of a Frown

“This work is sloppy and does not meet the needs of the company. You’ll have to completely rework it.”

“Is this all you’ve gotten done for today? You’re going to have to step up your pace.”

“Why didn’t you follow the instructions I gave you? This is terrible work.”

“I liked your old hairstyle better.”

Criticism, no matter how delicately someone gives it to you, hurts.

Being criticized makes us feel worthless, painfully vulnerable to our own negative thoughts and unsure of our abilities. Some inexperienced managers think criticizing their employees will incentivize them to work faster and harder but, of course, we know this tactic is the absolutely wrong way to motivate employees.

Scientists speculate there is something instinctual, or innate, about our adverse reaction to even mild criticism. Just like the human body is hard-wired to instantly move into a “fight or flight” state when confronted by danger, our psychological self (psyche) reacts to criticism defensively. In other words, being physically struck closely parallels being verbally “struck.” Our heart and breathing rate increases and we may start perspiring as our internal temperature rises. Depending on the type and level of criticism we hear about ourselves, some people tremble, feel extremely anxious, and may even start crying.

How to Give Criticism Positively

Before you criticize a family member, friend or fellow worker, stop and think about how you could rephrase what you are going to say to sound more like constructive criticism.

Examples of constructive criticism include:

  • (When someone fails to complete a project on time): Next time we have a project to work on, we’ll make sure there are enough resources and time for you to finish it as planned. In fact, perhaps we can schedule the project in advance so you are not inundated with work?
  • (When someone has been “slacking” in their work): You’ve done a great job reaching several goals lately. Nobody can achieve every goal they set for themselves so don’t let this affect your sense of accomplishment. Maybe your goals are a little too aggressive?
  • (When someone isn’t contributing to a group effort): I’ve noticed you haven’t wanted to take an initiative lately. I would really like to see you take a leadership position because I think you have the talent and skills to be successful.

5 Ways to Handle Criticism Positively

1. Objectify Yourself

As soon as you realize you are being criticized unconstructively, step away from your emotions by imagining yourself as a life-size cardboard cutout.

Wait until the person criticizing you leaves before allowing yourself to think about what they said. Consider who criticized, what they criticized you about, and whether it was actually warranted. Remember that people who are criticized are usually doing something new, different, and possibly daring.

2. Don’t Cross Your Arms

Adopting a defensive posture may provoke the criticizer into extending their critique of you.

Simply stand with your arms at your sides, nod, and show that you are listening.

3. Learn from Criticism

Is there a grain of truth in the criticism you received?

Don’t let strong emotions cloud your ability to judge truths about yourself. Many of us say or do things that are not in our best interest but fail to realize our error.

4. Get Feedback from a Friend

Tell a trusted friend about the criticism you received.

Getting another opinion can help mitigate the negative feelings you experience from a criticism.

5. You Control Your Emotions and Thoughts

Nobody is in control of what you think or feel.

The way you think and feel about criticism is all up to you, not the person who criticized you.

“Criticism is something you can avoid by saying nothing,
being nothing, and doing nothing.”
~Aristotle

How to Chart Your New Future (Part 2)

Looking to grow personally or professionally, but not sure where to start?

Last week we examined the incredible benefits of lifelong learning. Increased cognitive function increases the health of the entire body, and continued education sparks social engagement (as we learn from and WITH others) that brings confidence and delight. Research suggests that people with strong social connections tend to be happier and live longer.

Whether you feel supported by your employer or not, here are four simple avenues that will enrich your life and help you grow:

1. Stretch Yourself.

The first step in continued growth is to assess your buy-in.

Check out last week’s article for more detail on jump-starting your own motivation.

2. Ask Others to Stretch You.

Baseball legend Yogi Berra commented, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.”

Perhaps one of our greatest obstacles is our lack of perspective. In the daily grind, it can be hard to identify or address our weaknesses and our virtues. Consider a coach or mentor to help you assess where you’re at and chart intentional steps toward positive change.

Can you find someone in your company who might have coffee with you on a monthly or quarterly basis? Is there someone in your field or professional network (even LinkedIn) who might fill this strategic role? Is it worth contracting a life or career coach (or even an organizational consultant) to help you maximize potential? Surgeon Atul Gawande makes this compelling argument:

“Élite performers, researchers say, must engage in ‘deliberate practice’—sustained, mindful efforts to develop the full range of abilities that success requires. You have to work at what you’re not good at. In theory, people can do this themselves. But most people do not know where to start or how to proceed. Expertise, as the formula goes, requires going from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence and finally to unconscious competence. The coach provides the outside eyes and ears and makes you aware of where you’re falling short. This is tricky. Human beings resist exposure and critique; our brains are well defended. So, coaches use a variety of approaches—showing what other, respected colleagues do, for instance, or reviewing videos of the subject’s performance. The most common, however, is just conversation.”

3. Read.

Reading is one of life’s simple pleasures and a commonly overlooked asset.

Reading broadens perspective, improves memory, and dramatically reduces stress. Make a point to read professional development articles, books on business topics, or personal development pieces that will sharpen your skills or spark curiosity. An energized mind is a productive mind, so dedicate time each week to read or listen to audio books (maybe as you sit in traffic) and you won’t regret it!

4. Pursue Life-Giving Conversations. Most people are experiential learners, growing confidence and skills as they participate rather than passively consuming.

One way to proactively engage your mind is through conversations, like book clubs, professional networks, or even loose business collaborations. Where are you connected or how could you grow in this area? Surround yourself with like-minded peers through opportunities like 1 Million Cups, TED Talks, MeetUp groups, and more. If nothing else, look for volunteer opportunities and connect with people on a casual level. Make friends, spark ideas, and find financial and professional support in areas you may never have considered.

Ready to shake off that slump or add spring to your step today? Let these adjustments chart a new course for growth in your career and future. Every moment is valuable and so is your potential. Steward it well and keep growing for life!

How to Chart Your New Future (Part 1)

Irene Obera is an 84-year-old southern California native who loves bowling, tennis, and educating others.

She also happens to be the fastest woman on earth for her age. Irene has been breaking records in Masters athletics for forty years, and her aging philosophies are captured in her own words:

“If you don’t move it, you lose it.”

And:

“A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits – and I want to be a winner.”

Irene is one of many “superagers,” a term for people in their 70s and 80s who have the mental or physical capability of their decades-younger counterparts. Irene serves as an inspiration, not only for the power of dedication but the promise of possibility when we harness our full potential. Living well is a goal we all desire and living fully alive is the essence of life. No matter what our strengths or sphere of influence, each of us has the potential for success and impact. This potential is a treasure that should be uncovered, protected, and stewarded!

Shake Off That Slump

Then what do you do when you’ve hit a slump? When complacency has settled like fog, or when you want to grow but feel stifled professionally (or personally) at almost every turn?

Maybe you’re satisfied, but not feeling sufficiently challenged in your daily tasks. What should you do?

Here’s the truth: small adjustments DO make an impact. But we tend to enjoy comfort and resist change, making it harder and harder to change gears.

So, how can we move forward in a positive way that will impact us for years to come?

It Starts with Education

An easy place to start is where many of us began: with education. Education is a gift! The opportunity to learn can unlock our potential, grow our social circle, reap financial rewards, and energize our mind, careers, and health! Consider this statistic:

The Rush Memory and Aging Project, conducted in 2012 in Chicago with more than 1,200 elders participating, showed that increased cognitive activity in older adults slowed their decline in cognitive function and decreased their risk of mild cognitive impairment. The study showed that cognitively active seniors, whose average age was 80, were 2.6 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than seniors with less cognitive activity. Studies also show that educated people tend to enjoy better mental health, increased emotional well-being, and expanded opportunities.

Add Spring to Your Step

Whether you desire personal or professional development, growth of any kind has the potential to chart a new course for your future.

Ready to increase your mental capacity, improve your quality of life, and enrich your emotional health? In this two-part series, we’ll look at four avenues for gaining ground that will enrich your life and expand your opportunities.

1. Stretch Yourself.

The first step in continued growth is your own buy-in.

Take ownership over your desire to develop and look for new challenges, side projects, or free professional development opportunities offered in or outside your company. Seek out webinars and podcasts on a weekly basis or consider short online courses. Be curious about aspects of the workplace that don’t directly affect your job. Ask questions and get involved where you might not otherwise. When you show others that you are interested in learning, it communicates a proactive spirit and opens invisible doors to future opportunities.

Living fully engaged brings richness and reward. Join us for part two of this series, as we look at four more avenues for personal and professional development that can bring impact for decades to come!