My Process: Preparation is Key

Mario Ybarra, Jr. delivering keynote. Image courtesy The Iris/The Getty

Visionary Writing Techniques #006

by John Onorato

Diving in and just talking about a subject is a great strategy when you already know a lot about the subject.

If you happen to not, though, preparation is key.

Even if you already know a lot, though …

Everyone benefits from some behind-the-scenes preparation. This is how coaches seem seasoned; this is how we look well put together and on top of things.

We prepare before we go public.

“Opportunity does not waste time with those who are unprepared.”

― Idowu Koyenikan

As y’all know, I’m a professional freelance writer. I frequently write about subjects I know a lot about — self-development, disability, the craft of writing, editorials and the like.

Just as often, though, and especially for clients, I write on things I don’t know that much about. So I thought y’all might like to hear about the process I use to write articles.

It works for me. And I hope it works for you as well. I’d love to hear about how you’ve adapted my process for yourselves!

The steps of the process are:

  1. Get the Idea
  2. Research
  3. Write Freestyle
  4. Reread What you Wrote
  5. Pull Out the High Points
  6. Flesh out Those Points
  7. Edit & Clean Up
  8. Publish!

The rest of this article will talk about each of these steps in a little more detail.


Get The Idea

Here’s the easy part. Just decide on what you want to write about.

For these assignments, Kirk will hand you a topic to write about. Let’s say it’s Ego. You may also decide to write about something on your own.

I recommend and encourage this latter course of action!


Research

Here’s where you get all of your mallards (ducks) in a line.

I might read a few articles about Ego, maybe watch a few YouTube videos. I won’t choke down everything about the subject, though. Rather, I’ll focus on areas of the topic that interest me.

If you already know a lot about the topic, then use this step to consider a few sub-topics you might write about.

If you want to make a mind-map about the subject, now is the time to do it. Sometimes I’ll make one, sometimes I won’t.

Within the topic of Ego, I want to know how to downplay its role in my life. I don’t like it when my Ego ‘takes over,’ or when I ‘get on my train’ and listen only to my own counsel.


Freestyle!

Here’s where it gets fun. Before all that good research leaks out your ears, write about it.

Write freestyle! Write for fun! Write for yourself! Don’t worry about grammar or correctness; you aren’t going to be sharing this pre-first-draft with anyone.

This is only to start getting your thoughts (and your final article) in order.

For me, this part of the process works best if I write at least 1,000 words. It also works even better if I write by hand, in one of several notebooks I keep for just that purpose.

(Writing by hand is similar to writing on a computer, but the process is very different. I’ll talk about those differences in a later piece.)


What’s Important?

Now, re-read your freewriting. Make note of the most important parts. You can circle them, or write them on a separate piece of paper.

These points will be the bones of your finished piece.

Arrange them in a way that makes sense to you. Order them so they tell a story!


You Betta WORK!

Your next step is to put some meat on those bones in front of you.

Write a line or two by way of introduction.

Flesh out the points you pulled out in the step above.

Be sure each idea connects to the next.

Write a line or two for conclusion. Bonus points for providing your reader with a takeaway or Call To Action (CTA)!

Phew! Now take a break. You’ve been busy!


Edit & Clean-Up

This step works best if you put some time in between it and the one above. A couple of hours works fine, but a day or two is even better.

Go back through what you’ve written above. Tighten it up, remove extraneous words, fix any spelling or grammar mistakes.

This is a great time to read your piece aloud, like I suggested in VWT #004.

promise your piece will be more effective if you edit.

So.
Much.
Better!


Publish!

Now it’s time to pull the trigger. Drop your piece in the Visionary group, or push it to its final destination.

And pat yourself on the back! You’ve done some great work here.


In Closing

I’ve used this process for quite a long time. Although some forms of writing (like correspondence) don’t require this much prep, it works great for almost any occasion you’ve got to present something to others.

In fact, this process works so well for me, I’ve got a Post-It note near my monitor to remind me.

Now get out there and wake up the world!

Posted by John Onorato in Visionary, 0 comments

Concrete Examples

Image Courtesy Wylie Communications

Visionary Writing Techniques #005

by John Onorato

It’s easy to write about physical objects.

It’s not difficult to describe the weight, feel, and roughness of a brick in your hand. It’s not hard to talk about the smoothness of your cat’s fur in a way that will make your reader understand.

But here in the Visionary group, we talk about a lot of high-falutin’ concepts. Although it’s easy to make general statements about these concepts, this is the hallmark of a beginning writer.

It is more effective, and thus arguably “better,” to focus on specifics. It’s a good idea to provide concrete examples. When you do so, your writing becomes stronger.

Introduce With an Example

Read the following for an example of what I’m talking about.

“Mediterranean and Baltic are the principal avenues of the ghetto. Dogs are everywhere. A pack of seven passes me. Block after block, there are three-story brick houses. Whole segments of them are abandoned, a thousand broken windows. Some parts are intact, occupied. A mattress lies in the street, soaking in a pool of water. Wet stuffing is coming out of the mattress. A postman is having a rye and a beer in the Plantation Bar at nine-fifteen in the morning. I ask him idly if he knows where Marvin Gardens is. He does not.”
— from “The Search for Marvin Gardens,” by John McPhee


Now, without looking back at the passage, try and recall some of the images.

Do you recall the dogs? The windows? The mattress? The postman?
Why do you think you remembered those things?

You were able to recall them because they were memorable images. You can see them in your mind’s eye. Although the specifics of our internal images will differ from person to person, we’ve all seen dogs. We all know what windows look like. We each have more-or-less a common base of experience around mattresses and postmen.

The good writer knows this. The good writer draws on this. The good writer uses concrete imagery to tie the images in their head to the same images (or similar ones) in their readers’ heads.

And Now for the Opposite

What if the author above had written the passage differently? What if he had said “The ghetto is a poor neighborhood. There are lots of stray dogs, abandoned houses, broken windows, and a mattress on the sidewalk.”

Why is that passage not as effective as the first one?

It’s not as effective because it states a general fact. It then offers a few details, but no concrete specifics are mentioned. You might end up with a hazy rendition of a poor neighborhood in your mind, but it is not likely to be a clear picture.

The Lesson Here

As writers, our implicit goal is to have readers see what we see. We want them to understand what we say.

One of the better strategies to do this is to illustrate your ideas with specific examples. Concrete objects are ideal.

A concrete object is just that: Something you can drop on your foot. You can drop a brick on your foot. So too with a wet mattress or a window. You can even drop a stray dog on your foot. The postman might strenuously object, but you could still drop him on your foot. Theoretically speaking, of course.

Concrete objects convey ideas and concepts more effectively than abstractions such as poverty.

The more you write about actual things — objects you can touch — the more readers will enjoy and understand your writing.

Of course, here in the Visionary program, we talk about abstract concepts such as Love, Compassion, Integrity and Coachability. I realize it’s hard to “drop those on your foot.”

So the trick here is to use examples from your own life. Those can be just as concrete as a brick or a postman.

Tell us about that time you showed Love to the stranger. Talk about the time you chose to remain in Integrity with yourself, even though it meant pissing a friend off. Remind us about the Compassion you felt when you visited the hospital.

Or whatever it might be.

Illustrate your words with examples from your own life. That’s the trick to having your words remembered.

Posted by John Onorato in Visionary, 0 comments

Read Your Own Writing

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Visionary Writing Techniques #004

by John Onorato

As you all know, I’m a professional writer.  World-class, even!  

Today I’m going to let you in on another little secret that improved my writing from the first time I used it.  

I’m completely serious.  There’s no hyperbole in there at all.  We’ll get into hyperbole later, but for now, just know that hyperbole is the greatest and most amazing invention since sliced bananas.  

(and that’s what hyperbole is:  Massive exaggerations that aren’t meant to be taken literally.)

So here’s that little trade secret.  Yeah, most pro writers know about it, and most amateurs don’t.

That secret is this:
Once you’ve gotten to a place where you think “I’m done, now I can drop this in the Visionary group and get back to my regularly-scheduled life,” go back over your work.  

Re-read your work.  
And not only that, but read it aloud.  

That’s right. Speak it. Give life to your words, through your voice!

Reading your work aloud is the best way I have discovered to find out how my writing really sounds.  Which is another way of saying “How good my writing is.”

There are lots of benefits to be had by reading your work out loud.

First off, reading aloud is a great proofreading technique.  It helps you catch errors in spelling and punctuation; it also helps you choose different (and hopefully better) words than what you used in your first draft.  It also makes certain things painfully obvious, like missing punctuation and awkward word placement.  It  also becomes obvious when you’ve repeated words a few too many times.  

Reading aloud helps with grammar.  When someone reads aloud, you pause where you would naturally.  And when you pause, you need punctuation — usually a comma or period.  You might also notice when you haven’t taken a breath in a while.  This is frequently indicative of a run-on sentence that needs to be broken up.

Reading your work out loud reveals holes in your thought process.  It shows us places we haven’t been clear enough, and helps us remember information we might have left out.  It shows us where we might have missed some important points.  When reading aloud, it’s much easier to detect flaws in your logic.  You will quickly know when you need to tidy up your argument, or where you need to research more, or when you might need to not mention a point you can’t really support.

Reading out loud enables us to make better word choices.  Words convey meaning, and we have lots of words with similar meanings because words also convey nuance.  This is that distinction of connotation/denotation I was talking about earlier.  Hearing your words out loud helps convey nuance in a way seeing it on a screen might not.

Finally, reading aloud reveals peculiar rhythm and pacing.  In a symphony orchestra, musicians work together to create something greater than any of them could do alone.  When you’re writing a story or article, words work together in the same fashion.  Each of them has its own small task, and when taken together they form a cohesive unit that is larger than the sum of its parts.  

Want to hear how well your orchestra is performing?  Read it out loud.  One short, choppy sentence, or several in a row, serves well when you want to underline an important point.  But use too many of these in a row, and you’ll sound robotic.  Conversely, long, complex sentences are sometimes required — yet they are also best used sparingly, like exclamation points or F-bombs.

You’ll never know unless you re-read your work.  You won’t be aware of these things if you don’t read your words out loud.

Ever played with a tape recorder?  Then you know your recorded voice will sound different to your ears.  It’s not the same voice you hear in your head, through your bones.  In a similar fashion, your words will sound different when you read them.  Words sound differently to our ears than they do in our minds, when we read them on the page.

Sure, your writing might be great already, all by itself.  Just as your “real” voice is the voice others hear, though, your writing is only as good as others think it is.

Posted by John Onorato in Visionary, 2 comments

Alliteration and Assonance

Image Courtesy Writing Forward

Visionary Writing Techniques #003 

by John Onorato


Want to write words which are memorable?

Then alliteration and assonance are your friends.  

I’m sure you want examples.  Those first two sentences represent alliteration.  The word refers to the repetition of the first consonants in nearby words.

An aside from the Department of Just-In-Case:  We all remember what vowels are:  A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y.  Consonants are every other letter in the alphabet:  B, C, D, F, G, and so on.

Tongue twisters also show us alliteration:  “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.  A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.”

If you can say that ten times fast, you’ll be a master of alliteration!  And you’ll be way further along than I:  That was even hard for me to type in one go.

Assonance is a similar and related concept.  It refers to the repetition of vowel sounds in nearby words.  

Dr Seuss was a master of assonance:    

“Today you are you    
and that is truer than true.    
There is no one alive    
who is youer than you.”

Alliteration and assonance can lend a lyrical, sing-song quality to your writing.  When used consciously, they can set or change the mood in a written piece.  

They also allow the writer to highlight particular connotations of words.  

Well, that’s great!  But what are connotations?  The second edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains over 171,000 unique words.  Each of these words has a denotation — the literal, or primary meaning.  Also known as the dictionary definition.  

Many words in the English language have connotations as well.  The word “connotation” refers to the feelings and ideas that word suggests.

For instance, take the word DISCIPLINE.  Per Google, its second definition is “a branch of knowledge, typically one studied in higher education.”  Yet in certain circles, many of them quite common, the word “discipline” carries with it the ideas of repression and punishment.

The takeaway here, therefore, is to be careful when and where you use certain words.  A long time ago, in a high school essay, I used the word “ilk” to describe a group of people.  My English teacher called me out, saying the word carried with it connotations of a dismissive or disparaging manner.  Given the the essay as a whole, where I was speaking favorably about these people, “ilk” wasn’t a great fit.

According to its dictionary definition, I could have used “crony” just as well.  Once again, though, this word has certain negative connotations.  Taken literally, a “crony” is simply a sidekick or pal.  But the connotations of the word suggest you and your pal are up to no good together.  It also suggests “cronyism,” or the practice of unfairly giving friends promotions they’re not qualified for.

So that’s a lot right there.  We started by talking about the sounds of words, and ended up with the meanings of those words.  Given how many words there are in English, there are literally quadrillions of combinations those words can be in.  Thus it’s crucial to understand how these words work together so you can use them to their maximum benefit.

Posted by John Onorato in Visionary, 0 comments

How to Reach More Readers

Image Courtesy Fine Art America

Visionary Writing Techniques #002

by John Onorato

Out on the Net today, there are a lot of words.

Sadly, many of these words are inaccessible to readers.

Why is that?

Much of the wisdom offered on the Internet is completely out-of-reach because it’s buried under a wall of text.

I don’t know about you, but I find big blocks of words difficult to get through.

Sure, you can read the first few lines just fine.  But then you might sneeze!  Someone might interrupt you!  The laundry might finish before you’re done reading!  When that happens, odds are you’ll lose your place.  Just because you blinked your eyes.  

If I lose my place while reading, and I can’t easily get back to where I was — it’s Pretty Damn Likely I’ll give up on that piece.

There’s a solution, though, and it’s super easy.  

Paragraphs!  Paragraphs make anything better.  Well, nearly anything.

So what’s a paragraph?  

A paragraph is a unit of writing.  We start with words, and we make sentences out of them.  Then we make paragraphs out of sentences.  And we make stories out of a collection of paragraphs:  Stories, articles, essays, press releases, novels, whatever … they’re all made up of paragraphs.

Paragraphs provide structure.  A little bit of structure enables your reader to identify and follow your thoughts as they develop.  

Each of your paragraphs should address one idea.  This main idea for the paragraph is expressed in the “topic sentence,” and is usually (but not always) the first sentence of the paragraph.  You know you’re using paragraphs effectively when you can get a basic overview of your material by reading each of your first sentences.

It’s important to be clear on what the main idea for each paragraph is.  Then deal with that idea as much as you need to suit your purpose.  At the same time, be alert to irrelevancies and digression.

There’s one basic rule to using paragraphs:  Limit each one to a single idea.  Include that idea in your topic sentence, and provide bits of evidence to support that topic sentence.  

Can you have several ideas in one paragraph?  Sure you can.  Just be sure they each relate to the topic sentence.  When you transition to a different idea, that’s a good sign to start a new section.  

Sometimes you’ll have an idea that’s too big for one paragraph.  Simply use a new paragraph for each sub-point within that larger idea.

You can also use paragraphs to give your readers a small pause.  As discussed above, paragraphs make your writing more readable.  And more readable means more accessible to a larger audience.  

Paragraphs can also be used to provide emphasis.  This is a good technique to use when you want certain words to have special impact.  Professional copywriters are well aware of this, and tend to overuse the single-sentence section

All.
The.
Time.

Finally, use a separate segment for your introduction and your conclusion.  Of course, depending on the length of your material, these sections may well contain several of their own paragraphs.

And if all else fails, just use line breaks.  Just hit <ENTER> every so often (or <CTRL> + <ENTER> if you’re composing in a Facebook text entry box), and it’s all good.

Posted by John Onorato in Visionary, 0 comments

Start By Shattering the Earth

Image Courtesy Printwand

Visionary Writing Techniques #001

by John Onorato

I’m going to start by sharing a tidbit about writing that positively rocked my world.  I learned this at the beginning of my freelance writing career, in 2013.
  
I’d been writing for years before that, but my words weren’t that effective.  Sure, I had a certain facility, but wasn’t everyone taught how to write in school?  Was I really that different than everyone else?

Turns out, I was.  

It would be fairly accurate to say that “Writing is my life.”  And if you were to say that to my face, I’d follow it up with “And my life is writing.”  

But when I learned this one thing, my writing changed forever.  It became immeasurably better.

What is that wisdom, you ask?

It’s super simple.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.  

That’s it.  Just know your audience.

Are you writing for yourself?  Great!  Let it all hang out.  Do what you’re gonna do and don’t think too much about it.  You can always re-read your work later and pull it into a piece meant for public consumption.

Are you writing for clients?  Then use their language.  Use the same words you hear them using.  So doing gets you inside their heads.

Are you writing to share knowledge or wisdom?  Then make your best guess as to what language will be most effective.  Use words and phrases that will be accessible to the largest segment of your intended audience.  

Avoid using “jargon,” or language that’s used by smaller segments of the population.  If you feel that’s the best way of getting your message across, then explain your use of the terms.

Here’s another tip, closely related to that one:  Know your subject matter (as much as you can, anyway).  Do your research.  

Writing about anything positions you as an “expert” on that thing.  But you don’t have to actually possess expertise in that subject — you have to know just a little more than your audience.

In other words, don’t “wing it.”  If you do that, your reader will figure it out.  It might be super subtle, but it’s easily seen by a person who knows about the subject.  

It’s the same as when my daughter was 14, and I tried to “be cool.”  I would use terms I didn’t fully know the meaning of, and I looked a fool to her friends.  

So that’s about it for today.  Just to let you know, I’m planning on releasing these short pieces about writing periodically.  I’m envisioning 2-3 times a week.  I’ll keep the pieces short, for easy digestion.  

But I want to front-load this process with the tip that moved the needle the most for me.

Know your audience.

That’s all.  Just know your audience.

As you write here, in the Visionary Group, your audience is a lot like you.  But when you start messaging for clients, when you start writing for others with the intent to be read … that’s when you really have to know your audience.

Stay tuned to this bat-channel for more tips and tricks!

Posted by John Onorato in Visionary, 0 comments

Freelance Writer for Hire


Let’s have a conversation!

Schedule with button in the bottom right


closeup of typewriter with text "the right to write"
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Do you struggle with creating superior content for your business?

Are you too busy changing the world, and don’t have time to write?

Does your current copy not convert well enough?

I’m your writer. I can help.


I am also willing to create content on a per-word or per-hour basis. This information is found after the packages 👇🏼


Bite-Sized Offer

One (1) blog post, essay or article,
750-1300 words
$149

If you’d like to see what I can do without making too much of a commitment, this is the package for you. I’ll write a blog post for you, an article or an essay, nearly anything your heart might desire.

All you have to do is contact me, and we’ll get the ball rolling.


Premium Package

12,000 words of content, delivered any way you choose$2,450

Don’t know what kind of content you need? I’ve got you covered.

12,000 words is forty pages. That’s a lot of content for a great price!

I’ll write press releases, blog posts, biographies, technical articles, Frequently Asked Questions, listicles, comparisons, anything you might need.

Let’s get started! All you have to do is contact me.


Blogger’s Delight

Ten 1000-word blog posts$1,950

My blog posts are guaranteed to boost your standing in Google search results.

I love writing about conscious business practices and technical subjects. I want to improve your business by writing about what you need!

Getting started is dead simple. You only have to contact me!


On-Call or Retainer Services

2000 – 6000 words of content, delivered monthly$variable

Need content, but don’t know how much? I got your back.

For a monthly retainer fee, I am at your beck and call.

We will first have a conversation about what you need, then we’ll see how I can serve that need.

Let’s talk! Just contact me to get started.


Per-Word and Per-Hour

Don’t want to engage with the packages above?

No problem!

Per Word$0.15 / word
Per Hour$60 / hour

Editing

The only thing I love doing more than writing is editing.

Seriously.

I love making other people look great in writing. I love polishing and honing words until they shine so bright, they might pierce the sun.

My rates for editing are as follows:

Basic Copyediting$40 / hour5-10 pages / hour
Heavy Copyediting$50 / hour2-5 pages / hour

Please note: “Heavy” copyediting is more involved and detailed than “Basic” copyediting.


Nota Bene (note well)

  1. In order for me to start a project, I ask that my clients put 50% of our total agreed-upon price down. The rest will be due on completion.
  2. I invoice through Wave, which enables you to make payments with credit card or bank transfer. I’m also happy to accept PayPal.
  3. It is customary for projects under $500 to be paid upfront.
  4. I want you to be happy with the work I perform for you. If you are not, please let me know and I will revise the work to your specifications.
  5. Revisions should not include new instructions.

Other Stuff

Don’t see a package that strikes your fancy?

Let’s have a conversation about how I can help your business!

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The Magic of Ghostwriting

The Magic of Ghostwriting

Part 1, By John Onorato

Do you need content created for your website?  ✅

Do you yearn to be an author?

Do you seek to make your content relatable and understandable? 😍

We can all write, sure.  It doesn’t take any special training to help others understand our thoughts and feelings.  Words are available to everyone!

We can all create a “first draft” of material we want to communicate.  Some of us can do that faster than the next person.  

Here’s the thing, though.  If a person doesn’t have a real affinity for writing, if they don’t really enjoy it, then they’ll rush their work.  They won’t take their time with it.  They won’t read it out loud just to see how it sounds, and how it comes across.  

And in circumstances like these, quality suffers.  

When writing quality suffers, your message suffers as well.  

Let that sink in.  In fact, let me say it again:  When writing quality is poor, your message suffers.

Tell me, what is the point of having content on your site, with your name on it, that people can’t understand?  Or even relate to?

Perhaps more meaningfully, what does poor writing like that say about a company?  What does that say about a leader’s thought process?

Clearly, it’s best to leave writing — especially mission-critical writing — to the professionals.  👍

Ghostwriters to the Rescue!

If you want to write a book, but don’t have the time …

If you want content on your website, but only have a few ideas …

If you want to improve the way you or your company is perceived …

If you want quality communications coming from your office …

Then you are not alone!  More and more business owners, entrepreneurs, and industry professionals want to write books and put quality content on their websites, just like you do.

Ghostwriter logo designed by calicoowl

This is where the ghostwriter comes in.

But what is a ghostwriter, anyway?

A “byline” is the attribution given to a written work.  Typically, it names the author of the book, article, or other piece of writing.  This article was written by me, so I put my byline under the title.  

A ghostwriter is simply someone that writes under someone else’s byline.  

That is, the ghostwriter creates the piece, and someone else gets credit for it. 

Many famous books have been written by ghostwriters.  To name a few:

  • Many of the popular Goosebumps books (by R.L. Stine) were ghostwritten after the series got too popular to keep up with demand
  • The Jason Bourne series, started by Robert Ludlum, was continued by Eric von Lustbader after Ludlum’s death in 2001 
  • Ian Fleming started the series, yet many of the James Bond books were ghostwritten

Politicians also use ghostwriters.  Hillary Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump’s books were created this way.

And industry leaders use ghostwriters.  Billionaire Richard Branson wrote a book this way, as did Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.

In fact, many of the books I read and treasured as a child, I am only now discovering were ghostwritten!

Photograph by Hugh Kretchmer
  • My father read me the Hardy Boys detective series, by Franklin W. Dixon.  Ghostwritten!
  • The Nancy Drew series was written by Carolyn Keene, yet that name is a nom de plume (pen name) for a larger collective of writers
  • Even Victor Appleton didn’t write all the “Tom Swift, Boy Inventor” books that I loved so much!

If so many famous people benefitted from employing a ghostwriter … shouldn’t you do that as well?

Yes, But Why Would You Do This?

Sure, ghostwriters create famous books.  They also write blog entries, white papers, social media posts, magazine advertorials, and even newspaper articles.

Ghostwriters are often part of a corporate team.  They create lots of content using the byline of an executive, or maybe under no name at all.  Alternatively, a ghostwriter may work freelance, working on only one or two projects at a time.

Many people want the acclaim and accolades that come with being a published author.  Having a book or two under your belt makes you seem credible, trustworthy and reliable.

It’s also worth mentioning that books and blog posts can grow your business.  Especially if you’ve got a personal brand, a well-written book attributed to you is worth a lot of street cred.  

And a freelance ghostwriter like myself can create content for your small business, helping you get more customers and driving more traffic to your website.  Or even to your fancy new brick-and-mortar store!  (Or your old store. We don’t discriminate 😁 ) 

Isn’t it better to focus on growing your business?  

Isn’t it better to concentrate on what you already know, rather than trying to master yet another new skill?

People who are busy changing the world don’t have time to write.  People who don’t have the skill or the time to write quality content have an alternative:  They hire ghostwriters.

Conclusion

Ghostwriters are an incredible resource to tap into.  They can position you and your business well — creating content, managing blogs, and generally making it seem like you are superhuman.  

I can see your readers now:  “They’re changing the world and they have time to write this fabulous content?  Wow! I wanna know more!”

In my next post, I’ll talk about how to hire a ghostwriter.  (Hint: it’s as easy as clicking the Contact link above!  😁 ❤ 🙏 ) And we’ll talk about some things to consider when hiring a ghostwriter, as well as how to prepare for hiring one.

Hiring a ghostwriter might not be the first thing you think of.  But when you do, the results can be downright mystical.  

Mystical, get it?  Because ghosts. 👻 (Did I mention I’m a father?  I sure do love me some dad jokes.)

Posted by John Onorato in Blog, Portfolio, 0 comments
How to Make Your Business Even More Successful with Blogging

How to Make Your Business Even More Successful with Blogging

by John Onorato

Are you a life coach?  

A conscious business leader? 

Are you the owner of a business whose aim is not only to earn money, but to do good?  For other humans, for animals or for the environment?

You are?  Awesome! Keep reading, then 😃

So  … how do you get your message out?  

One of the best ways to market your business is through blogging.  Blogging is a great way to build awareness of your brand.  Blogging also makes it super-easy to serve your customers by providing content that’s both relevant and useful.

There are several more reasons blogging is good for your business.  

  • It drives traffic to your website or store
  • It enhances your other inbound marketing efforts
  • It attracts more potential customers
  • It makes your search rankings better (SEO/SERP)
  • It can help position your brand as an industry leader
  • It helps you develop better relationships with your customers

In fact, according to HubSpot, businesses that make blogging a priority are up to thirteen times more likely (13x) to see a positive return on their investment.

Let’s talk a little more about these benefits!

More Traffic, Better Traffic

Blogging gives you a chance to provide relevant content for your customers.  It is a very effective way to drive traffic to your website or your storefront.

It doesn’t matter if your main presence is on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or even StumbleUpon (are they still around?).  With little to no investment up front, you can start a blog. Then you’ll send notifications to these services, linked to your articles.

Doing this makes it easy to make your blog the basis of all your social media activity!

All you have to do is provide a reason for your followers to click through to your website.  Your content provides this reason.

Better Search Rankings

Who wants to improve their Google search rankings?

You do, of course!  😃

Blogging will help you do just that.  Fresh and original content is still the best way to beat your competitors on the search engine results page.  

Liberal use of keywords is a great way to do this.  Make a list of the topics, categories and keywords you want your business to be known for.  When writing your posts, use these and other related words frequently.

Even if you can’t figure out how to wedge those keywords in there, a regularly maintained blog about your product, business or industry will naturally improve your search rankings.  This is because Google favors original content.

Of course, being intentional about keywords will only improve your results.

Usage of keywords on your website is a great way to tell Google that your site is a good place to find information about those topics.

Once a Leader, Always a Leader

Want to position yourself as an industry leader?

Write a blog!

Want to show off your knowledge and resonate with your market?

Write a blog!

Have something to say?  

Write a blog!  😁

Well written blog posts position you as an industry leader.  When you post about topics that impact your market and demonstrate your knowledge, people recognize you as an authority in your field.

If you have a physical product, write about how it improves the lives of your customers.  If you have a service, write about how happy people are after experiencing it. Your customers will grow to understand that you are the source for knowledge about the things they are interested in.

Blogging builds trust as well.  The more relevant knowledge you demonstrate, the more your customers will trust you to provide what they need.

Not only that, but your readers will benefit from the value you provide them!

Improving Customer Relationships 

A good blog deepens the relationship you have with your customers.  By providing information directly on your website, you maintain control over what they know about your offering.

An informed client is a happy client.  And they will appreciate the fact that you are the one talking to them — they are not having to dig up some third-party information that may or may not be true.

Additionally, your patrons want to be seen as people, not as numbers.  Or, heaven forbid, as dollar signs.  Who is your ideal customer? Customizing your blog for that person will attract that kind of person.

Regular blogging not only improves the relationship you have with your customers, it boosts customer retention as well.  People want to buy from other real people, and a blog proves there are real people on the other end of that transaction.

The Next Step

So yes, blogs are great.  There are many ways to make them happen.

Yet you can’t just snap your fingers and expect to have an effective blog.

Or can you? 🤔

ThreeOwl Media specializes in writing blogs.  The information provided above comes from direct experience with the thousands of blog posts that we have written.  

Maybe you already have a blog.  That’s okay! ThreeOwl Media can make it better.  We guarantee it.

See, I am a freelance writer. I do it full-time. I love the act of stringing words into sentences and paragraphs.  

And I love serving people.  I love making people look their best.  I love helping people shine.

So if you don’t have time to write, let me do it for you!

If it’s not convenient for you to write, let me do that for you.

If you have more of a numbers brain, and not so much a word brain, let me write for you.

I’ve been writing ever since I could push crayons around a piece of paper.  And I’ve been writing professionally since 2013.  

To say that writing is my passion is to understate it completely.

Yes, writing is my passion. But it’s also my life. That’s how my brain works. That’s how I process feelings. That’s how I express myself. That’s how I relate to the world.

So let my expertise help you!

With your marketing efforts, with your manuals and documentation, with your correspondence, with your video scripts … whatever! Anything you need written, I am happy to write it for you.

And if you already have written material, I guarantee I can improve it.

Contact me to arrange a call or meeting!  Use the Contact Me link, found under About Me.

I look forward to helping you with your writing projects!

Posted by John Onorato in Blog, Portfolio, 2 comments
Empathy and Chatbots:  Not So Exclusive

Empathy and Chatbots: Not So Exclusive

by John Onorato

I have a friend who is a salesman in a high-end clothing store.  

I recently asked him how he does it so well.  “Think of it like a sixth sense,” he replied. “I can tell how a person is feeling right when they walk in.  In five seconds or less (usually less), I can tell if a customer is happy, stressed, or sad.”

How does he do it, though?

“I watch the way they walk.  I look at their eyes.  I can tell if they came in to browse, if they have something in mind, or if they want to talk.  And I know just how to respond so I can make my commission.”

Compare this with an experience I had recently with a chatbot created for a national florist.  A different friend had a good experience with it, and encouraged me to try it out.  It took me through my order and was quite efficient about it.  As I was taking out my credit card, it said “Have a colorful, fantastic day!”

Ordinarily this would be considered friendly and perhaps even pleasing.  Of course, I had just spent the better part of the last hour looking through floral arrangements … for a funeral.

Sure, this came from a chatbot hosted on Facebook Messenger.  (edit:  Since this writing, the company has taken funeral arrangements off of the chatbot interface.  I did not contact them, so I do not think there is any causal relationship there.)  It had no idea what actions I might have taken on the company’s website. 

Chatbots are extremely popular right now, though, and more are coming.  Facebook released the chatbot API in April 2016; in June there were over 11,000 chatbots on that platform alone.  As of September there were over 30,000. 

These bots are supposed to represent artificial intelligence.  They don’t.  Right now they offer scripted, highly structured experiences. 

Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate for the florist’s chatbot to wish me condolences, after watching my shopping habits?  This should be a no-brainer for ecommerce folks.  It ought to be easy for a bot to see what I’m doing and respond accordingly.

Of course this still wouldn’t be actual artificial intelligence.  The easiest way to make this happen would be through a script.  But still.  When chatbots actually do get intelligent, things are going to get awfully interesting.

What happens when a bot can examine a user’s actions, derive their most likely mindset, and be able to respond accordingly?

Perhaps more importantly, what will happen when they can empathize with us?

Understanding the Users

The term “digital body language” refers to a person’s combined digital activity.  My digital body language with the florist chatbot should have prompted an offering of condolences, as opposed to the cheery thanks it did offer.  It’s hugely important to understand what users do online, and not just record what they say.

So why should digital body language be so important to ecommerce vendors and chatbot developers? 

Because digital interactions are based in large part on nonverbal communication, just like the real-world interactions we have every day. 

When interacting with people in the physical world, we continually assess and process thousands of nonverbal cues.  Just a few examples include eye contact, gestures, tone of voice, and facial expressions.  As anyone who has gotten into an argument over text knows, it’s impossible to know what an interaction truly means unless we have access to these signals. 

In the burgeoning age of AI and chatbots, it’s just as important for a website — or a chatbot — to be able to interpret these signals.

Sadly, even as important as digital body language is, it is still underutilized by ecommerce.  For the most part, it remains an umbrella phrase, covering profile-based personalization and after-the-fact analysis.  Chatbot vendors have attempted to humanize their products, and they’ve as yet to succeed. 

To date they have failed to assess, examine and fully parse the aspect of human communication that’s most powerful and meaningful:  The unspoken.

This is soon to change, however.  Utilizing and exploiting the power of digital body language is hardly science fiction.

Using digital body language

So what’s the breakthrough?  It might sound like it’s science fiction, but it’s not.  In the same way as we infer another’s nonverbal signals when we are in the offline world, we can use innovative customer experience technology that can infer the mindset of a customer.  In real time.

With the help of these advanced solutions, it is possible to keep track of real-time digital activities, such as hesitation, click-through rates, scrolling speed, browsing behavior, navigation use, and more.  This allows retailers to stay ahead of the curve and stop using behavioral models based solely on past behavior.  Instead they can capture, utilize and respond to actual current digital behavior.  They can quickly zoom in on the psychological needs of each shopper, in order to be more effective when assisting them with the decision-making and buying process.

Machine learning makes it possible to develop models which are able to assess and categorize the mindset each customer has when they visit the site.  As they assess this per shopper data, these algorithms would be able to categorize a user’s intent.  To do this, they would simply look at the user’s actions.  Then using this knowledge, a brand can alter their offerings. 

Where do chatbots come in?

The answer is simple.  If we can look at a user’s behavior on a website, if we can quantify their mindset — and if we can then offer the user customization based on that data, if we can then personalize their experience — then we can code a chatbot that will do the same thing.

Looking at the example with the florist, their chatbot would determine that it should offer me condolences, based on the fact I was looking at funeral arrangements.  Not only that, but it would also assess the actions I took on the website — what page I visited, the movements of my mouse, which pages I looked at, which I passed over, which images I lingered on.  It would use this data to infer my mindset as I browse. 

A savvy chatbot would be able to see that I was simply looking at all the choices on the site, and offer to assist me by narrowing down my options.  It would also be able to tell if a more focused user came to the site, ready to buy.  It would then engage a subroutine to help guide them through the process as fast as possible.  It may also be able to tell if a user would be open to suggestions on an order:  For instance, if I might be willing to go with a wreath versus a more traditional arrangement.  Either way, it would then suggest some popular options.

Simply put, a well-coded chatbot would be able to do what my salesperson friend can do with his customers.  It would sense my mindset and be able to react to it.  It would behave in an empathic manner, even if it is not able to empathize in the human sense. 

My friend was not happy to hear about the information in this article.  “Next thing you know,” he said, “chatbots will be able to tell your waist size, just by looking at you.”

That’s just science fiction, though.  For now.

Posted by John Onorato in Blog, Technology, 0 comments