Monday, July 20, 2009

What's Gettting in the Way of Your Success? Part 1

What's Gettting in the Way of Your Success? Part 1

I regularly attend a business development/networking meeting called the Mastermind Roundtable that is anything but regular. The meetings are hosted by my friend and mentor, David Hepburn, who consistently challenges the members to think differently – that is, to leave behind the preconditioned thoughts we all carry with us into adulthood.

As children, we are fearless – even the improbable is possible. But somehow, as we move into our professional lives, romantic partnerships, parenthood – and all their attendant trappings – we step off that path of promise and potential, instead wending our way onto the road of resistance and rejection. We become like that frog in the slowly boiling water and set ourselves up as Sisyphus, continually pushing the rock of life back up the hill, day after day.

In a recent Mastermind Roundtable session, the conversation focused around the subject of success – more specifically, what the obstacles are that seem to keep us from achieving the success we’re capable of and know we deserve. The answers varied – but underneath them all was one unifying concept: self-worth.

Everyone – even the most successful person on the planet – at one time or another struggles with self-doubt. The successful, though, have figured out a way to acknowledge the doubts and move on. They do not let that little voice in their head talk them out of the next sale, client, promotion, interview, job, vacation, date, or anything else they want and deserve.

In considering this topic, I was reminded of an audio series I recently listened to by Mike Davison, a clinical psychologist, consultant, and coach. In his program, 7 Insights for Creating Your Life’s Purpose, Davison starts off by identifying 17 roadblocks that often keep us from defining our life’s purpose. And you know what? They are the same 17 things that keep us from achieving any level of true success – and happiness – in our lives! Here are Davison's 17 roadblocks, and my commentaries about their effect on our personal and professional success.

1. Believing that successful people never experience roadblocks. Just like self-doubt, everybody experiences roadblocks. The difference between those who achieve their full potential and those who sit on the sidelines lies in how we perceive the roadblocks. Do you let the roadblock become an impasse, or do you learn something and figure out how to do things differently (i.e., better) next time?

2. Not knowing your purpose. This is a big one, especially when it comes to career success. Think about the reason you got into real estate in the first place. Was it because you thought you’d make a lot of money (and did, up until just a couple short years ago)? Someone told you you’d be good at it? You inherited the business? You already had your license, so figured you might as well? Your spouse, best friend, sister, or mom asked you to go into business with them? None of these is a bad reason – as long as the reason that supersedes these is that you LOVE what you do. It’s pretty hard to be successful doing anything you aren’t absolutely passionate about.

3. Belief in the security trap. As Davison says, this is also sometimes described in the corporate world as “golden handcuffs.” Security is a myth – as many with their life savings tied to the stock market found out in the last year or so. Companies fail. Jobs go away. Housing markets skid to a stop. Security is a mindset. If you love what you do, are committed to your clients, cultivate your network, and remain connected in an authentic way, you will be OK, regardless of what the economy or housing market does.

4. Feeling too scattered. Take a sheet of paper. Tear it up into a dozen or more pieces. Now close them in your palm and throw them at the wastebasket. What happens? They scatter and fly everywhere. Now, take another sheet of paper. Without tearing it, crumple it into a ball and throw it at the same wastebasket. What happens? You either hit your target, or you come very close. The same is true with the focus on your business. There are many marketing avenues you can take – but you can’t do all of them at once if you want to do any of them well. Make a plan that works for you and then take action accordingly.

5. Fear of failure. Gee, I sense a recurring theme here, but as we said about self-doubt and roadblocks, everyone experiences the fear of failure. The successful shake off the fear and move forward. Two quotes come to mind:

“Face the fear and do it anyway.” – A LOT of people (I first heard this from Ellen Kreidman)

"You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take." – Wayne Gretzky

6. Fear of the unknown. What’s going to happen tomorrow? What’s going to happen a year from now? What’s going to happen 10 years from now? I don’t really know. I have a plan for what I’d like to have happen – but since my crystal ball went missing, I honestly do not know for sure what will happen.

What I know to be true, though, is that if I spend all of my time worrying about what might or might not happen tomorrow, I miss out on the only sure thing in life: what’s happening right now. Will the client buy from you? Maybe. You’ve got a lot more say in the matter than you realize, if you simply learn to expect to succeed. But whether or not they buy from you, your self-worth is not affected. Just as it doesn’t make you a better person if the client says yes, it doesn’t make you a bad person if they say no. Let go of what might be and focus on what is.

7. Procrastination. My personal trainer once pointed out to me the word play involved in the word “procrastination.” Move just a couple letters around, and you wind up with “pro castration,” which, if you think about it, is exactly what procrastinating does to you. It renders you impotent – to think, to make decisions, to be effective, to achieve your goals, to succeed. It’s also been said that we never procrastinate the things that really matter to us – and I believe this is true. Look at the things you are getting done and the things on that to-do list that keep getting carried forward from one day to the next. Maybe it’s time to start delegating/outsourcing the stuff you simply do not want to do – and rethinking the “have to’s” that still are not getting done. For one thing, why do you have to?

John Strasser, a man I first met at the Mastermind Roundtable about 5 years ago, taught the group a neat strategy. Draw a grid with four quadrants – or make 4 columns on a sheet of paper. Label each quadrant/column with the following questions:

• What will happen if I _______________________?

• What will happen if I don’t _______________________?

• What won’t happen if I _______________________?

• What won’t happen if I don’t _______________________?
The answers to these questions might be very revelatory when it comes to determining why you’re procrastinating and reprioritizing the things you think you “have to do.”

8. Perfectionism. If you’re a perfectionist, I have three words for you. Make that four: Cut it out, NOW! Realize one thing: there’s no such thing as perfect. If you’re striving for perfection, you are setting yourself up to fail. Period. Perfectionism is also another form of procrastination, isn’t it? If I can’t make the project perfect, why begin at all? Some people see perfectionism as a positive quality. Please do not fall into that trap. Perfectionism is defeatist, self-destructive, and one of the fastest ways to ensure you’ll never get what you want in life.

Think of Bill Gates and all the various Microsoft products you have “beta-tested” for the company. They didn’t wait till something was perfect to release it. They sent it out and let the consumers discover and tell them about the bugs.
As a fully recovered perfectionist, I’ll share my new mantra with you: "Done is better than perfect." Feel free to pass it on.

For help with any aspect of writing, editing, marketing, or design, e-mail Laura or visit Write | Market
Design: specializing in teaching our clients to think like marketers!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Share a Compelling Story in Your News Releases

Share a Compelling Story in Your News Releases

Have you ever sent a news release and had no response? Zero. Zip. Nada. It happens a lot - and for a variety of reasons.

Things like:
  • The media release is boring.
  • There's no hook in the headline, so the reporter/editor/producer tosses it before he finds out you landed a Sarah Palin as the MC for your charity event. (She's out of work right now - might not be such a difficult thing to do, now that I think of it.)
  • You spelled their name wrong.
  • You sent it to the wrong reporter/editor/producer.
  • You forgot to include your contact information. (Yes, this really happens - a LOT!)
  • Your release is single-spaced, in 9 point type, and goes on for 3 pages.
But it's that first one that is probably the biggest reason releases get tossed into the recycle bin. If the release is boring, you are not giving the reporter/editor/producer anything creative to work with. It's your JOB to paint a word picture that inspires them to see the newsworthiness of your story.

I had a marvelous testimonial from a guy who took this advice to heart - and scored stories in SEVEN local newspapers.

I was privileged to attend a class at a networking event where Laura taught us how to do a News Release. I was new in my field and had only a few clients at the time, but one of them had a very moving story. I wrote out the story and Laura assisted me with editing and coached me in techniques that would make it more attractive to the print media and readers. After that, she provided me a list of contacts and I sent the News Release to them. I was amazed that 7 local publications returned my calls and e-mails and asked permission to print the story! Laura's talent as an editor and coach really paid off!
- Doug Hibbard, Mortgage Broker with Great Southwest Mortgage
So do I share this story with you to show off? Well, it is always nice to have people validate that what you're teaching them really works. But no, that's not the point here. The point is that this man who was new to his industry and had NEVER written a media release before was able to get SEVEN local publications to pick up his story. This was back before the housing market collapsed - the story was about a couple with a sick child who were having a hard time qualifying for a home. Doug's patient persistence paid off and they were able to move into a home near their child's treatment center.

Is it the most newsworthy story ever? No. But it's a good human interest story, and we were able to give it the precise tone to entice these reporters to cover it.

If Doug can do it, so can you! Start by finding the heart of your story. What's "real" about it? What will make the readers/viewers form an emotional attachment to your subject? Make it personal without making it about you. Don't get discouraged if your first news release is not picked up. Keep trying. But look for the stories that move you. Reporters/editors/producers are people ... if the story moves you, it might also move them.

For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write |
Market | Design, where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

Monday, July 6, 2009

20 Tips for Crafting a Successful Media Release

20 Tips for Crafting a Successful Media Release

1. Use the term "media release" or "news release" instead of "press release." There are many forms of media now (e.g. radio, TV, magazine, newspaper, Internet), and the term "press" is passe. Some editors are touchy about this - so there's no reason to get on their bad side. Just learn to adapt your language.

2. Make sure you are submitting a news release about something newsworthy!

3. Be sure to use the 5 C's of strong writing by making your language: clear, compelling, concise, consistent, and correct.

4. Be judicious about your use of jargon and acronyms in your media release. The only time this might be appropriate is for a release you send to a trade magazine, but even then, use discretion. You don't want your otherwise-effective release tossed in the trash because the first person to read it does not have a clue what you are talking about.

5. Write in third person, even if you're writing about yourself.

6. Use a quotation from someone connected to the subject you are promoting in your relase, even if it's your own quote.

7. Double-space the release and keep it short - 300 to 500 words MAX.

8. Put your CONTACT INFO on your release. This seems like a no-brainer, but you would not believe the number of news releases that might actually have generated stories, if only the person submitting had remembered to put their name, phone number, and e-mail address on the release.

9. Find out how the media outlet(s) you're approaching prefers to receive their releases: in the body of e-mail, as e-mail attachments, or via fax (yes, some people still prefer this method!).

10. If you do send an e-mail, be specific in your Subject Line - perhaps using the headline from your release. You've got perhaps 10 seconds to make an impression. The subject line must have a strong hook.

11. Get your release to the proper editor or producer (i.e., don't send a story about your satin slipper business to the sports editor).

12. Allow enough lead time (generally 2 to 4 weeks - but it's up to you to research this for the particular media outlet you are contacting).

13. Do NOT call to "check whether they got your release." This is virtually guaranteed to get your release tossed in the trash.

14. You may, however, call back to add further details to your release. All you've actually done is held back some bit of important info from the original release, but when you call, you present it as though it is an added development. IF the added info is important enough, and IF you handle it correctly, this quite often will move your release to the top of the pile, or you will be asked to re-send it.

15. If you're absolutely convinced you have something the media will want to report on but they're not calling you back, pick up the phone and call them about your story. It's very likely that you will get voice mail, but be prepared to speak to a live person anyway. Rehearse what you will say ahead of time, and get straight to the point (whether it's voice mail or a person). Reporters are busy, so even if they pick up the phone, you still have only a tiny window in which to convince them how newsworthy your story is.

16. When you send a news release, send it with the confidence that the media will want to act on it and write or cover your topic. This is basic Law of Attraction at work. If you send the release fearful or thinking, "They'll never cover my story," you will likely see exactly that happen. But if you think and tell yourself, "This is a great story! They will be jumping through hoops to cover it!" that will more likely be your exprience.

17. Be ready when a reporter, editor, or photographer calls to follow up! When they call, you jump on that opportunity, because if you don't, they'll be on to the next story faster than they can say, "Next!" Make sure the contact person is available, not skiing in Tibet (yes, I actually know somoene who sent a release the day they went on vacation, so they were unable to answer the reporter's call. Would have gotten a great feature in a Sunday magazine, had they been avalable when the editor called.

18. Don't get discouraged if your story is not picked up on your first try - but keep on trying! There are so many outlets, and they all need copy! You can provide that with a well-written release about something newsworthy.

19. Try online sites like and These are Internet sites for posting media releases and articles that generate great visibility. There's a fee involved, but their fabulous rankings on the major search engines make it well worth the money!

20. Hire a pro to help you craft the perfect media release.

For answers to your questions about writing a news release that will get picked up, e-mail Laura or visit Write | Market | Design, where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!