Let me begin by saying that this isn’t a political article. The truth is I’m not a very political person.
But I am passionate about communication. That’s why I make it a habit to observe the techniques of the Presidents of the United States. No other position faces the monumental challenge of rallying the support of an entire nation. So when they do something that works, I pay attention. You might remember my 2016 post about Obama’s speechwriter that examined his use of emotion in stirring people to action.
The title lets readers know right away this contract is for “the American voter.” Identify your audience to help you stick to content that matters most to them – and to become instantly relevant to your ideal clients.
Be clear on your unique value proposition.
Honesty, accountability, and change within 100 days – this is the overarching promise that Trump makes to American voters. Be upfront with your audience on where you’re heading, how you’ll get there, and what results they can expect. What statement are you willing to boldly promise in writing to your clients?
Organize material into bite-sized portions.
Subheadings and bulleted lists provide an instant face lift to content. That’s because they take the burden off the reader by serving as a mini-directory of topics. Now your readers can skim and jump to their favorite parts rather than sludge through a wall of words. By grouping your material, you’re also adding white space and eye appeal. Just be sure your readers understand your intent even when they skip parts of your material.
Make it personal.
Trump’s signature and a space that invites “your” signature adds a personal touch indicating that this contract is between the President and you, a single voter.
Keep it simple.
Because the material is so direct and weighty, the formatting is kept simple. The content is outlined in two pages using just a few colors, one image, a simple page border, and a website to learn more.
As you write and design your business materials, keep these five tips in mind for the most effective business communication!
Ella Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a business communications and book publishing team that brings clarity, quality, and integrity to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies. Connect with her on LinkedInor Facebook, or check out the websitefor more information.
The staff at River Oaks Bookstore knows about book signings. Since their doors opened in Houston 45 years ago, the booksellers have handled more than 3,000 book events for authors. That’s why their feedback on Bill Herrington’s book event last week mattered.
Their unanimous response? “It was one of the best events we’ve had,” they all said. In fact, book sales tripled their expectations.
It’s no wonder. Nearly 60 friends, family, and colleagues had streamed into the cozy shop to celebrate Contraflow, Herrington’s memoir about the leaders who provided hope to New Orleanians in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The evening was a culmination of years dedicated to shaping his eyewitness experience into a compelling tale.
So how can you ensure the same positive experience for your own book signing event? We teamed up with the author to share some pointers.
Tip #1: Align yourself with a publisher who is an advocate for you.
An advocate will provide the accountability and encouragement to see your project to the end. “From my endorsements to my book event,” said Bill, “Ella has pushed me to go further than I thought possible. I was initially hesitant to host an event, but my philosophy became, ‘Go big or go home.’”
Tip #2: Define your goals and expectations.
Book events typically result in few sales, so don’t make the mistake of measuring your success solely by numbers. Set realistic expectations by shaping the event around your original goals. What were your reasons for writing the book in the first place? Whether you sell more or less books than you hope, this is an opportunity to bring these goals to life beyond what was accomplished in the pages of your book.
“In my case, my primary goals were to share my story with family and friends and to honor Houston leaders,” said Bill. “These two goals were even more important to me than making sales. So we based every detail of my book event on these two goals.”
Tip #3: Plan your format.
Decide whether you prefer a casual signing or a more structured format that designates a time to share a formal reading and in-depth thoughts. Be sure to mention the plan in your invitations so guests know what to expect.
Bill said, “I decided that my two-hour signing would be a come-and-go event on a weeknight. I liked that people stopped by at different times after work to grab a book, say hello, and mingle. However, there were some downsides, like the fact that some were pressed for time and had to leave before my speech that was given midway through the evening. So you really have to think about what you want.”
Tip #4: Choose a fitting location.
Consider a venue that maximizes your ability to accomplish your goals as well as your guests’ ability to attend. A bookstore is a solid pick because it has ample space and staff experience to accommodate a book event – and it’s usually in a recognizable location. Most stores keep a portion of the book sales in exchange for handling logistics like tables and chairs, book purchases, parking, and refreshments.
River Oaks Bookstore in Houston, Texas
For Bill’s signing, we chose River Oaks Bookstore because it provides a charming atmosphere in the heart of Houston. Bill said, “I visited the shop before the event to introduce myself, ask questions, and scope out the space. I like that a small shop can make even a small event feel well attended. If you prefer to not share a percentage of book sales with a store, another idea is to host your event at a spacious home.”
Tip #5: Arrive early to arrange your materials.
Bring plenty of books, a display stand, and several fine-tipped black Sharpies for easy signing. Set out business cards and a stack of press releases that can be left with the bookstore as promotional materials. Name tags and Sharpies are useful if you’re welcoming people from different social and business circles. Finally, keep a water bottle on hand to keep your throat clear.
Bill said, “Colleagues sent flowers, which turned out to be a nice touch as a table centerpiece.”
If you want to get creative, you can also display photographs, a slideshow, or other materials related to your book. Some authors choose to have their book cover, author portrait, book title, and name enlarged on a standing poster board. This might be worthwhile if you plan to host future signings.
Tip #6: Plan your message.
When it comes to your written message, choose the page of the book on which you’ll sign, which might differ in your paperback and hardcover formats. Be ready to ask for names and spellings, try to personalize the message, and sign your name legibly. If you don’t know a guest well enough to write a personalized message, consider a signature phrase, such as “Much appreciation” or “In gratitude.”
The author signs a copy of Contraflow for Elizabeth White-Olsen, founder of Houston writing center WriteSpace
This is also a great time to express verbal thanks for your endorsers, family, and community members who contributed in some way. Guests attend these events because they want a personal connection with you as the author, so think about how you can take this deeper than what they can read in the book on their own. Consider telling about how you made your choices on content or cover design, or explain your emotional journey in making your book. Aim to keep it short – no more than 15 minutes. Bill said, “You’ve got to practice and rehearse what you’re going to say. The only thing I wish I’d had was a podium to glance down and remember everything I wanted to say and everyone I wanted to recognize.”
Tip #7: Recruit others.
Before the event, ask friends and family to mention the book event online to drum up curiosity and potential sales. Then ask them to arrive a little early at the event to help welcome guests and make them feel comfortable. Designate a friend or two to take photographs at the event. Afterwards, offer to sign some copies to leave at the bookstore as an incentive for them to sell.
Most importantly, pay attention to your guest list. “I didn’t send an Evite to everyone I know,” said Bill. “I invited people whom I trusted would bring a positive, supportive energy for an enjoyable evening.”
Bill offered a few more tips on inviting guests. “You need to spread the word yourself. The only people who will come to your event are those you bring,” he said. “So invite the centers of influence. Invite people from your circles far and wide. Invite them even if they already own your book because they may want their book signed or may want to buy more as gifts. Like any party, you’ll want to invite more than you think will come because about 20 percent won’t show up. And don’t be afraid to send a reminder – people have good intentions but might forget because they’re so busy.”
Tip #8: Make it fun and interesting.
Showcase another guest of honor or a product that you think would interest your guests. Because Bill’s book was about paying tribute to city leaders, he invited former Houston mayor Bill White to share a few words about his role in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Not only was Mr. White relevant to the evening – he added credibility to the book.
We also coordinated with Mr. White to display his own book, America’s Fiscal Constitution,along with a bowl to collect names for one complimentary copy. This added an element of fun for guests but also brought attention to Mr. White’s book as a gesture of thanks.
The former Houston mayor shared his perspective
L-R: Bill White and Bill Herrington
After a long journey to publication, you don’t want to miss out on the satisfaction of a successful book event. So follow these eight tips and then – in Bill’s words – “Go big or go home!”
Ella Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a business communications and book publishing team that delivers quality, integrity, and reliability to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies. Connect with her on LinkedInor Facebook, or check out the website for more information.
As a corporate banker in New Orleans for 20 years, Bill Herrington actively supported community education alongside his wife Frances, a teacher. In Contraflow,he uses his unique perspective of the extraordinary leadership witnessed after Hurricane Katrina to raise funds to support the education of youth impacted by natural disasters or family tragedies.
It happens in almost every conversation with a client. And when it does, the moment is palpable.
A CEO burrows his brow in uncomfortable silence. A new business owner laughs weakly, shifting awkwardly in her chair. An author wipes away tears, apologizing for the unexpected emotions.
These were all real moments with clients. And although each reacted differently, their reason was the same.
They felt exposed.
You see, what people don’t know about working with an editor is that it’s a pretty intimate process. And if it’s done well, you’ll almost always be found out.
What I mean is that an editor – a good editor – is trained to find your gaps, your blind spots. And she’ll poke and prod those areas to make them better for you. She knows that the only way to make your good stuff better is to dig deeper than you – to dive in to the places where you aren’t so sure about yourself.
And a client – a good client – has the humility to respond, revealing what is beneath the surface. He might admit a flaw. He may confess a doubt. He’ll likely hear feedback. And he’ll certainly feel vulnerable.
No doubt, this process takes some guts. But here’s the thing: It’s worth it.
Your corporate brand, your personal story – they’re both about who you are and what you want to share with the world. Hiring an editor means that you want to share it with authenticity and meaning – and that you’re willing to experience some discomfort to get there.
And so, with a little prodding, the CEO realizes that he hasn’t articulated his vision to himself yet, much less to his people. The new business owner admits that she isn’t confident in her process yet, even on the eve of her website launch. The budding author acknowledges that a memory is painful to write about, but agrees to go there.
And your editor? She’s smiling gently inside, thinking, “Now we’re getting somewhere. . . .”
Ella Hearrean Ritchie is the owner of Stellar Communications Houston, a business communications and book publishing team that delivers quality, integrity, and reliability to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out the website for more information.
“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night telling itself stories.” – Jonathan Gottschall
We love stories. They grab our attention, inspire us, influence our worldview, and teach us new things. Best of all, everyone has a different and interesting story to tell.
That’s why we’ve added nonfiction publishing to our services this year. Our team can’t resist the way books bring out the best in our clients and the people around them.
Is there a story that you have been waiting to tell? Here are four reasons that 2016 is the year for YOU to publish your book.
#1 Share your story
Have you overcome any personal or professional obstacles? Have you followed a unique and exciting career path? Share your personal legacy with people on a similar journey who are hungry for your insight and wisdom. Plus, you can then cross “write a memoir” off your bucket list!
#2 Expand your business and influence
Everyone from YouTubers to actors to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are writing books. That’s because it’s an impressive way to build your brand and create name recognition. It’s become the Holy Grail of business cards – and it establishes your industry expertise far better than a traditional business card ever could. Today, with the development of assisted publishing, the Holy Grail is actually attainable.
#3 Create awareness for your cause
Are you struggling to build support and momentum for your non-profit organization? Writing a book about a cause or an idea that you are passionate about can help inspire and spur others to action as well. Your stories and statistics will educate and move your readers to take compassionate action.
#4 Showcase your professional accomplishments
Maybe you’re not ready to publish a book but do want to improve the image of your company. Consider smaller forms of publications like case studies, fresh website content, updated business cards, improved operation manuals, or brochures and reports with graphic design.
The possibilities – and the rewards – are limitless. Books can widen your influence, grow your business, share your passions, and polish your professional image.
Get out there and tell your story!
Kristen Sauer is a writer and editor for Stellar Communications, a Houston-based publishing company that provides business communications and book publishing services for nonfiction authors, businesses, nonprofit organizations and other publishers.Follow us on LinkedIn or visit our website for more information.
That’s what Cody Keenan told the Today show this morning. He said that communication comes down to simply creating emotion. And as President Obama’s speechwriter, he should know.
Keenan is the one who stirred laughter in the 2009 White House Correspondents’ Dinner remarks — and then stirred sobering respect in Ted Kennedy’s eulogy. He was the one who called for national unity in Tucson in 2011 when Gabby Giffords was shot.
And he is the one who stayed up this morning until the wee hours, putting the finishing touches on the State of the Union address that Obama will deliver tonight. Keenan has been applauded for creating the right emotion for each circumstance, and he’s worked hard with Obama in hopes that they’ve created it again for the nation.
So what does this mean for business leaders?
As you face 2016, consider the primary emotion that you want to inspire in your people. Peace, security, clarity, gratitude . . . . Think about the one thing they need most from you this year.
With this emotion in mind, rethink the ways you communicate in your personal and professional life. What’s working? What can be changed to create this emotion?
Here are just a few ways you can change your communication to inspire change in others:
Create peace by boldly talking about the elephant in the room, forming and documenting a resolution plan, and regularly checking progress.
Create security by keeping promises, regularly updating clients on projects, accepting ultimate accountability, and requesting online endorsements to prove your track record.
Create clarity by forming a mission statement, writing clear job descriptions and expectations, posting answers to FAQs, and providing a clear plan of action.
Create gratitude by steadily expressing appreciation for others in every situation.
When you focus on emotion, every form of communication becomes an opportunity to motivate and inspire others.
What emotion will drive your communication in 2016?
Ella Hearrean Ritchie is the owner of Stellar Communications, a Houston-based publishing company that delivers quality editing, writing, and publishing services on time to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies. Connect with her on LinkedInor check out her website for more information.
1. Get clear on your purpose. What value are you uniquely qualified to provide to the world?
2. Know how you want your story to end. Without vision, you’re just rambling.
3. Create an outline. Give some structure to your plan by splitting up and prioritizing your work into smaller tasks.
4. Know your audience. Appeal to your ideal customer.
5. Put it all on paper. Give it all you’ve got. The best stories are risky.
6. Expect writer’s block. Accept your limitations but don’t let them stop you for long. Tap into resources to push through obstacles.
7. Check your tone. Attitude is everything.
8. Create margins. Give yourself a little breathing room to rest, exercise, and have a little fun.
9. Expect mistakes. The first draft is usually rough.
10. Seek feedback. Surround yourself with people you trust who are wiling to say the hard things.
11. Reflect. Give yourself time to take another look tomorrow with fresh eyes.
12. Edit. Prune out the clutter that distracts you from your purpose.
13. Meet your deadline. Stay accountable. Honor your commitment to yourself and others.
14. Sign your name. Own your brand. Share the successes and take responsibility for the failures.
15. Get published. Accept that you’ll never reach perfection. Put yourself out there and be vulnerable.
16. Keep reading. Learn from others’ style and techniques. Stay humble.
17. Celebrate each step of the process. You’re never totally done, so recognize your milestones along the way!
Ella Ritchie is the owner of Stellar Communications, a Houston-based editing and writing company that delivers quality content on time to business leaders, publishers, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies. Connect with her on LinkedInor check out her website for more information.