Book Review: “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World” by Michael Hyatt

Platform, by Michael Hyatt
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 I have moved my blog, media and entries to my new domain at http://www.hartmancreativedesign.com. I will continue to post copies of entries here for another two weeks. After that, ALL posting will be done via my new website. You can subscribe to my blog there–same content, same writer, same everything. Just new home. Thank you!

Platform, by Michael HyattIf you are a blogger, want to be a blogger, or want to launch your own business on the Internet, then this book is your Bible. Michael Hyatt is a renowned public speaker and blogger in the world of leadership and business, and his personal blog, michaelhyatt.com has over 300,000 subscribers.

In the book, he walks the reader through the step-by-step process of platform building and online marketing. I’ve referenced his work before in earlier posts, but having finally gotten my hands on his book and read through it, I figured it was worth revisiting. It’s written like a manual, but in common terms and with a conversational tone. If I were to sit down one-on-one with the author for a coaching session, I feel like this is the type of conversation we would have.

That’s “Platform”‘s strongest asset. It’s your personal platform coach. The book explains everything from developing your product, building your blog, writing the blog, how to beat the “resistance” (that roadblock in the middle of  project we all feel at one point or another), and other life-hacks for productivity. He provides screenshots and copies of parts of his own blog as examples and formulas to follow as outlines.

Perhaps the one criticism I have is the over-use of numbered lists and bullet points. If you’ve read Hyatt’s blog or listened to his Podcast This is Your Life, you’ll know that’s just his style. It’s effective for dipping in and out of chapters looking for specific material, but if you try to read it cover-to-cover, it can get tiring. It almost feels like he took a shortcut to avoid having to produce good writing.

On the whole, though, this is definitely a must-read, must-have for anyone trying to launch a platform, blog or Web site. You don’t have to be super tech or Web savvy to understand it. I have used several of his formulas and guides to build this Web site, and it’s the first resource I go to when I’m stuck on something.

I also recommend Hyatt’s ebook, “Creating Your Personal Life Plan,” and his online screencast for those who want to set up a self-hosted WordPress account. Both are excellent resources for platform building and guides for success.

Storyboarding (via www.hartmancreativedesign.com)

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 I have moved my blog, media and entries to my new domain at http://www.hartmancreativedesign.com. I will continue to post copies of entries here for another two weeks. After that, ALL posting will be done via my new website. You can subscribe to my blog there–same content, same writer, same everything. Just new home. Thank you!

 
Image galleries are one of the most versatile storytelling tools WordPress provides its users. It’s a simple feature, basically used for displaying several pictures together either as a slideshow or in a grid. This is a great way to add content and make your site more interesting. Nobody likes a Website that’s all text. Text is boring. Images add flavor and personality.

Beyond displaying your images, however, galleries have the potential to act as storyboards for events, products and people.  Choose images that have something in common; the subject, the theme, the style, and then arrange them so that they tell a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Look at the pictures in the gallery below (from my portfolio page):

These were taken in the autumn of 2013 at an apple cider-making party I went to with some friends from my church. In my case, this gallery is meant to display my photography and digital art work, but you can follow the story of the apple’s journey to become cider by the way the pictures are chosen and arranged. The first image sets the scene, the second shows the apple in it’s original form, and each image following is another step in the process to rendering (yummy) cider.

They are like a storyboard, showing the major steps in sequential order to tell a story. Of course some of the smaller steps and details are left out–you want a storyboard, not a manga book–but the gist is there. This method of storytelling can have a multitude of uses on a business Website. Use it to show an event or fundraiser, take a tour of your shop/factory/restaurant, explain a process or share a personal journey.

The human brain can process images infinitely faster than text or written language. Effective use of image galleries can not only increase the dynamic of your site, it can also tell your story in ways unattainable with words alone.

What do you use galleries for on your site? How do you use them for creative storytelling?

New Home!

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Hello everyone! It has been a while since I have posted any new items, and that is because I have been working on my new location. I have moved my blog, media and entries to my new domain at http://www.hartmancreativedesign.com. There you will find all of my previous entries, and it is also where I will be posting from now on. There are new features, a new look, and a new subscribe feature so that you can receive all future entries via email. I hope that you will all join me there! The pages are still largely under construction, but soon the site will be fully operational for blogging, design tips, Web building services and discussion.

 

Thanks for sticking with me! See you at my new home!

So Think You’re Not Creative?

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Whenever I tell people I’m creative, they immediately think I’m an artist; that I paint or write poetry or something. Nobody ever associates a “creative type” with business. Business is for numbers-crunchers and type-A personalities and extroverts. Right?

I beg to differ. There’s plenty of room in business for creativity. In fact, I would argue that creativity is essential for successful business. Whether you’re developing a new product, solving a problem, or marketing new media, your creativity is what will drive your every move. It’s where ideas come from.

Our imagination is God’s greatest gift to mankind. The problem is, we are often afraid of it. Afraid of failure. Afraid of shame. Afraid of how others judge our ideas. The thing we are most afraid of, though, is success. What if we succeed? What if all of our ideas come to fruition the way we imagined them? What then? The uncertainty of success is somehow scarier than the certainty of failure.

We live in a time where we are so used to having our ideas fail; our creativity squashed. We are content to stay at our desk job rather than pursue a dream, because we are certain that we’re going to fail. We give up on our budding small business because there’s no way our crazy product idea would work. There’s no new ways to market a product, no new niches to fill.

I challenge you to accept your creativity. What if you were to succeed? What could you create if you didn’t fear its success?

Book Review: “V is for Vulnerable” by Seth Godin

Photo courtesy of iTunes
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Inspiration. It’s something we all thrive on, and yet much of the time it’s like a unicorn–elusive, mythology, or just plain non-existent.

Other times, inspiration hits you in the face like a well-aimed brick.

The latter happened to me the other day when I headed to my usual haunt to try and scrounge up a topic for a blog post. That’s when I ran into V is for Vulnerable, by Seth Godin. A pithy, light-hearted, and violently purple little book, it’s reminiscent of a cartoon-ish ABC children’s book, with the classic “A- is for…” with words of inspiration, encouragement and humor.

Knowing Godin’s past work to be a source of drive and inspiration for me, I thought this would be a good warm-up to get started, so I grabbed the book and my beverage and sat down, hoping to glean a bit of creativity for this post.

The book was FANTASTIC, and completely hijacked this post from my original topic. V is for Vulnerable took me less than ten minutes to read. It’s a refreshing change of pace, harkening back to the days of reading Dr. Seuss’ life lessons. The book is delightful in its simplicity, almost innocent in the way it looks at art, success, creativity and limitations. In 26 pages, Godin speaks to all of our inner fears, insecurities, sufferings, dreams, desires and success. Whether you’re an artist, entrepreneur, parent, writer, leader, marketer, or whatever, this book speaks to everyone who creates.

And we all create, in one way or another.

This book spoke to me in ways that absolutely shocked me. I almost felt like the author knew all of my soft spots and called me out on them in the pages of his book. Not in a hurtful way, but in a way in which I could examine these qualities in myself and use them to create joy and success in my life. Godin understands the inner struggle with shame (S-is for Shame), anxiety (A-is for anxiety) and of course, vulnerability (you get the idea) for people trying to create a product, service or art.

I highly recommend this to EVERYONE who struggles with vulnerability, and even those who think they don’t. It speaks to all of our inner demons, our fears that come with sharing our creations with others. This is a book for grown-ups everywhere to inspire their work with creativity, success and sense of fulfillment.

Ride the Wave

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Have you ever gone boogie boarding? It’s like surfing, except you ride the board on your belly instead of standing on it.  I love boogie boarding. As a child, I would spend hours in the costal Maine ocean, feet aching with the cold, and ride wave after wave after wave.

You have to catch it just right. Move in right before the crest, feel the swell, lean in and launch just at the break…

And then you’re flying. The world crashes wondrously around you and carries you on its wings. It’s an unspeakably joyful experience.

I find that writing is very much the same way, whether you’re writing a blog post, an article, or content for a Website. The environment is the same; the icy, glaring tidal wave of whitespace that is the blank page. Your thoughts push and pull and try to drag you under. You struggle to gain your footing in the constants of life bombarding you, holding close the one thing that can keep you from sinking into the depths.

The difficulty is in the starting paragraph, the first sentence. It takes time. Sometimes you have to let three or four waves pass by before you find the right one—the right approach to get the most out of where it takes you. Then you have to take the risk and put yourself out there to either succeed or fail.  You may start a piece get halfway through it and realize that the narrative isn’t going anywhere. The wave just isn’t going to break. It fizzles out and you’re back where you started.

But once you’re on top of it, the words start flowing, the momentum picks up and the journey then becomes almost effortless. You’re looking ahead to your destination instead of behind. When you finally come to the end you can roll over, sit back and look at how far you’ve come.

Just because you’re writing nonfiction, technical writing and marketing material doesn’t mean there isn’t room for creativity. The first step is to dive in.

What’s your writing journey?

Heading Woes

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I was working on a client Website the other day and I was reviewing some of the content they’d written for a particular page. At the top of the page they had a heading that said something like, “What are the patterns that cause your underlying pain?”

This particular client deals in massage therapy, so the following paragraphs went on to describe the massage services and the benefits of massage therapy.  It was very well-written content, but it didn’t answer the question. The question asks about the cause of pain, the paragraph talked about massage. The stories don’t match up. There’s a gap there that, if left unfilled, disconnects the rest of the content from the title of the page. Certainly the jump in topic isn’t an unreasonable one, but it does highlight the importance of the parent-child relationship of the content on your page.

Bridging that gap can be simple. You don’t have to re-write the whole entire page unless the connection is so far removed it will take a number of written tangents to bring readers back around. In that case I would suggest changing your heading all together. However, the connection can likely be made with a few changes. A simple bridging formula for the example above might look like this:

“A,B and C can cause this type of pain. D, E and F are ways that massage therapy can help.”

Done. Now everything on the page tells a single story. Sometimes all it takes is a single, well-written, well-placed sentence to connect every element of a page.  If you find yourself chasing different topics and struggling to tie them together on a page, you may be better served to relocate some of the content or create a separate page for it entirely.

This type of error is not uncommon, especially when you put a lot of time into the work. You get close to it, you start to take for granted the meaning of some of the words you’ve put on the page. Your eyes pass over the heading because you know what it is, what it says and that it’s in its place at the top of the page. It’s easy to forget what it actually says and means. In our heads, we have the connection and it makes sense. Our job is to just make sure that it translates properly onto the page, and sometimes that means taking a step back and a second look.