Of all of my skills and talents, proofing text is not one of them. In fact, if there were an award for the most consistent practice of missing those grammar gaffes, those punctuation oversights, or the spelling snafus, I’m sure I’d be a finalist.
I’m okay with this because I know I have many other valuable skills that these grammar gurus and spelling bee society members don’t possess.
I know these shortcomings drive my journalism-minded, editing buddies nuts. I’m okay with this, too. I do respect the English language. I understand that errors and bad writing reflect poorly on one’s professional image, and that’s not good brand-building.
Therefore, while I’m not convinced that the use of my time to master these skills is a good one, I do support tapping people and products that do proof well or can aid me in the process of just cleaning up my work. This is a worthy investment.
With good intentions, I still sometimes put out work with typos because even when I hire people with better proofing skills than me, they sometimes miss stuff, too. Then I get brutally scolded by the Monday morning quarterback proofers, and I pledge to do better.
As a serial bad speller and typo-misser, I do have private moments of joy when I see The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other credible news sources miss typographic errors, too, especially on the front page.
A new tool.
The other day, I got an e-mail from a company that requested I blog about their proofing product for some compensation, a $100 Amazon gift card. The only requirement is that I include a specific line of copy as the front of my blog post. They requested I insert this line of copy at the beginning of my blog.
“I use Grammarly for proofreading because . . . and fill in the blank with something funny.”
Sure, I can do that. See the first line of my post today*.
They also gave me a two-week trial of this Grammarly service, so, today, I’m trying it out, and I’m reporting to you my opinion about the offering.
Wait a minute.
If I’m getting a kickback, how can I be honest? I thought about that, too, so here’s what I’ve come up with. I’m inviting you, my readers, to share your most egregious typo nightmare on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Brandingdiva?ref=hl.
For an example: When I owned a PR firm in Houston, we once printed 2,500 brochures and misspelled Public Relations. Instead, we called it Pubic Relations, which is an entirely different service.
Win a $100 Amazon gift card.
This means you need to post on my Facebook page a typo you saw or let slip by. The most shocking, embarrassing, or just plain funny submission will get the $100 Amazon gift card Grammarly gave me. If it’s not transferable, I’ll buy you $100 of what you want on Amazon. The contest ends on November 1st, so don’t miss out.
My take on Grammarly.
I ran this blog through their proofing app. The service can cost between $11.00 and $26.00 a month based on the length of your commitment.
It was an interesting experience. It’s easy to use, and the app caught a bunch of mistakes. Before they start reading your document, you are asked what style of work your document is, an academic paper, a creative work, or a casual communication etc.
Your paper earns a score from 0 to 100. Each mistake they pick up on, you get an explanation and an example of a similar situation with the corrected grammar, spelling, or punctuation.
On my document, they did flag some spelling errors that, in fact, were not errors but either slang or made-up names, two being their own product names.
They do point out that their app should be used as a second set of eyes and should not replace a human proofreader.
This service was helpful. But for me, it does not cure my lame grammar and spelling disease.
Proofit, another service they offer.
Okay, then, if you are someone like me who is a high producer of grammar and spelling errors, they provide another safety net or extra layer of checking. This service is called Proofit.
I also used the Proofit service to check this blog after I ran it through the Grammarly app. Proofit has a pay-for-mistakes pricing model. The worse your writing is, the more you pay, and the fees scale is based on your required turnaround time.
Instant turnaround: 2 US dollars per mistake
3-hour turnaround: 1 US dollar per mistake
24-hour turnaround: 0.50 cents per mistake
Charges are assessed only for changes made to your document. Their professional proofreaders review documents and correct only writing, spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. They don’t read for content credibility or validity. The interface is easy to use. They work around-the-clock. They provide a quote before they begin the project, and they guarantee their work.
In less than one hour, I had my document back. They corrected all of the mistakes in the tracking mode of Microsoft Word. My document, this blog had 51 mistakes in it after it went through the first online proofing app. Since they had quoted me a fee of no more than $38.00, they billed my credit card $38.00.
After I received the proofed document, I reran it through the proofing app and my score was 100!
I like what this company is doing and recommend checking them out. They provide a couple of quality, low-cost, and around-the-clock proofing services for people like me.
Being stumped is an essential part of the creative process. Step beyond discouragement.
For the past 6 months, I’ve been thinking about my next book. I want to travel more globally, and I want to expand my speaking topics from pure branding to a message of motivation, self responsibility and personal empowerment.
As a keynote speaker and consultant a published book can open lot of new doors, generate new streams of income and be a platform for a plethora of media interviews that can help me meet my new goals.
This past week I believed I came up with my next big idea and title, something that I could sell to an international publisher. I drafted a 2 page summary that I had planned on sharing with my last publisher who has the first publishing rights on my next book.
I ran the idea by an editor, a former acquisition editor for Simon & Schuster, I’ve worked with on my last two books, Brain Tattoos and Brand Turnaround. She liked my idea and did a search on the premise and not much showed up with other published books. I was feeling really good about my idea, and I was anxious to start writing my proposal and get this puppy going.
As I was reading my draft summary one more time before I hit send, I tried a few more different key words and phrases similar to my topic and Holy Crap!, three books showed up. How could that be? I researched this topic several times and nothing showed up and now I see three, by credible authors on my big idea.
My balloon felt deflated. My big idea shrunk to a tiny crumb. I was so bummed. For a couple of days, I wallowed in my disappointment. Then a light went off in my head. I’ve been reading a really good book on creativity by Jonah Lehrer called Imagine. The book uncovers how big ideas get hatched, how innovation happens and how creators come up with killer stuff. Lehrer contends being stumped is an essential part of the creative process. And this state of hitting a wall helps lube creativity. He cites many cases of before the “brilliant next big thing” was a dark hole that seemed too deep to get out of.
I convinced myself his concept had merit. I also revisited the New York Times best seller list of books, and there was the proof. Nothing is new. Nothing is original. The winning horse prevails because they find a new way to spin an idea. They present it from a different perceptive. And they are resilient and don’t give up. For every best selling book on success, leadership and happiness, there are thousands of equally as qualifies works that never even get printed because those authors gave up.
I’m not going to give up. I’m going to go back to the drawing board, research the three similar books I found and find a way to present this idea in a compelling, different and better way.
If you are working on a project and got a little push back too, join me and leverage that temporary setback and invite your creative will to find a way to keep moving forward. I’ll keep you posted on my journey.
In a world with seemingly less time and so much more to consume I’ve identified three tighter, smaller and concise was of getting three important things done in my world.
1) Read theSkimm.com.
This daily feed of the top 3-4 news stories keep you informed even when your day does not allow any news reading, TV watching or much dialogue with your well-informed friends.
2) Weight train in 30 minute chunks.
For years I’ve tried, and then soon blown off, the hour-long weight training sessions with a personal trainer. I got bored. Most days after an hour, I was so sore, I never wanted to come back and the cost, in my mind, seemed excessive. A shorter 30-minute session is fun. I’m seeing the same results and I rationalize the expense as no different from a nice dinner out, but helps to reduces my waist line, not increase it. If you are in Tampa and need kick in the butt, and an inspiring trainer, I highly recommend Sasha Townsend.
3) Write shorter blogs.
Yes, in the beginning this will not seem like less of anything, because it is often a tougher task to get to the point with few words. Trust me, once you master the shorter, sweeter blog post style, it will mean you are a more effective writer and it is very likely, more people will enjoy your opinions, ideas and talents. I know I’ve been guilty. However, I am going to recommit to work this change into my blog writing. Sure, every now and then a “how to” branding subject or marketing issue will need or deserve a bit more detail, story or blah, blah, blah. That’s cool, but for now, I’m signing up to brief is better blog.
Got to go!
I have read two contentious and highly critical book reviews in the Wall Street Journal from the past 30 days.
The first review is about a book by an author who is a great friend of mine.
As an author who knows the kind of blood sweat and tears that goes into writing a book, my first thought was extreme sympathy and a big felt ouch!!! As I’m sure both book authors were feeling the sting of a public scolding as millions of readers and potential book buyers were exposed to this one reviewer’s negative opinion.
Granted these reviewers have earned an elite spot as book critics for an international media venue like the WSJ, congrats to them, but does their opinion really matter? Does it hurt or help the book and author? and what should the receiver of such a public work product beating do next?
I suppose it’s no different than a movie review. I’ve read many scathing movie reviews and then I went anyway and totally loved the movie.
I’ve got a new book coming out in a couple of weeks, Brand Turnaround and I hope my book is not added to this list of WSJ bad reviews, but if that’s in the cards, it’s not going to kill me if every single person doesn’t love my book as much as I do.
My views on not so nice reviews
Criticism comes with success, accept this.
- This goes for brands too. The more famous your brand is the more you will get shot at from both legitimate, credible critics and plain old grumpy, angry people.
- I believe at least 50% of all critics have not earned expert stature to be a credible reviewer. With the Internet, anyone can post opinions about a book or product with not an ounce of relevant expertise.
- Even bad reviews draw new attention to a product and can generate sales. After I read the bad review on The Secret thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young, E.d. D.
- I bought the book and really liked it. I’ve also recommended it to several friends.
- You can never please everyone.
- Take politicos who taste victory with a land slide win and 49% of the voters didn’t like them.
- If you give your work your all, do your homework and use your best creative thinking, that’s really all you can do.
- Sometimes as the creator of the work under fire, you can actually pick up a few gems of good insight that will make you even better, and that’s always a good thing.
And should that big bird drop a lump of poop on your parade, whether you are an author, singer, film producer or you gave a presentation and got some bad reviews, shake it off, shower it off, feel proud that you finished something and know that it’s very likely the cranky reviewer has never even started a piece of work and never will.
How a little comedy can help content creation and communication captivation
We all struggle with developing killer content that not only communicates but captivates audiences. Let me share some insight from two recent comedy outings and why you should routinely schedule such humorous adventures in your career journeys to master the art of theater and comedy in your messaging.
Last month, when I was in New York City I saw Love, Loss and What I Wore, an off Broadway show about women and life or to better describe it as the New York Times Review states, two hours of matters of the heart and matters of the closet. It was entertaining, thought provoking and triggered some deep emotions and memories.
The performance did not include any high tech scenes, fancy costumes or flying actors. It was so simple, yet so powerful. Five women in black dresses, who stood in place for the entire show spouting off smart dialogue that left a lasting impression.
This past weekend I was in Chicago and went to Second City. Second City is a comedy institution (with theaters in Chicago and Toronto) dating back fifty years and spawning such great talent as Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd and many noted Saturday Night Live stars. They usually have a couple of performance options, this weekend I saw South Side of Heaven.
Most of what I saw there were character-driven improv style, laugh so hard it hurts shows. I’ve never been disappointed and always learn so much.
I love comedy, and due to my very tight time and limited schedule I always try to do things when I’m traveling that are fun and I can learn too. Here are some of my take-a-ways and I how I manage idea generation while I’m hanging out with friends and often drinking wine.
1) Always carry a good idea pad or use your phone notes app. After two glasses of wine, a great idea can easily exit your brain.
Spot what works.
2) Pay attention to what topics the audience laughs at.
3) Listen for simple words that are called something goofy but seem to roll off the tongue and sound extra funny. For example, the word ‘Acne’ is okay, ‘Big Fat Zit’ has a lot more word punch.
Mimic good story structures.
4) Story telling is a craft. Stories that really work usually follow a simple architecture. Here’s a structure you’ll see often: Set scene, introduce characters, identify problem, present solution, use of a shocking result or a question asked.
All of these comedy gems can aid in delivering more meaningful and memorable presentations, writing content or making a strong point in a text message .
If you need more help with story telling or comedy, check out two of my favorite advisers: Doug Stevenson, who puts on story telling workshops around the world and offers coaching and my super funny buddy David Glickman, who also coaches and can punch up material.
For more creative problem solving, view:
18 steps towards stress-free, fast-lane, more fun and darn good writing.
I’m very fortunate to have an awesome social media team supporting my message and assisting our client’s in reaching their goals. Allow me to introduce the “A” social team to you as they contribute to branding content, SEO solutions and marketing outreach on the front line and behind the scenes.
Pictured above from left to right is Lauren Angrick, Chief Problem Solver for all my companies and to the right of me is Jess English our newest social media team member who is Community Manager for Restaurant Branding Roadmap, our soon to launch DIY self small business branding program for restaurants. Both are super bright, dedicated and are hard core social media-savvy professionals. Raining from the University of Tampa, their studies and expertise range from marketing, public relations and entrepreneurial matters.
This photo was shot last week at the first annual Splash Bash to End “High Tech Homelessness” in Tampa Bay sponsored by Tampa Bay Wave. Which was a blast! Tampa Bay Wave is an organization that I support. Their goal is to build a strong community of web tech entrepreneurs across Tampa Bay. If you are in Tampa you should check them out and other supporting web-based businesses, if you are outside Tampa finding a local organization like this is a worthy move.
To learn more about my companies, click here.
If you just joined in, yesterday I shared my journey of getting two book deals with major publishers. Brain Tattoos and Brand Turnaround my new title that will be out later this year. I covered what it takes, the process and outcome. In future blogs I’ll address other publishing details, but for now here are 5 big lessons straight from the author’s keyboard or pen, I use both.
Lesson #1- It’s never too late to find the writer in you and author a book.
Go figure, I owned a successful ad agency for almost 20 years and never really wrote anything. How in the heck did I do that?
I produced good creative work, developed new business, crafted and found solutions and spit out ideas like a machine, and most importantly I knew how to hire people to do things that I did not want to or didn’t know how to.
Lesson #2- Most books will not make you cash rich.
Like I mentioned in Part I, the book advance is not as important as the doors your book can open. While my current book earned me double my first book advance, I will invest at least four times that on research, editing and promotion in addition to what the publisher provides. Certainly there are unique situations like if you are a very high profile personality, or have an enormous following or are like one cool wine dude like Gary Vaynerchuk who bagged a 10 book, 7 figure deal with Harper Collins. I’ll drink to that Gary!
Lesson #3- Writing a book is a lot of work and a huge investment by most authors.
To date on my current book, Brand Turnaround, I’ve logged over 1,200 hours – from proposal writing, research, book writing, promotion and therapy. So if I earn between an average of $175 an hour, which is on the low end, do the math. I’ve already invested over $200,000 in other opportunity costs (because if I was not writing the book, I could generating other income) even before hard expenses. Expenses to promote the book can run another $50,000 for PR, web costs, bookmarks, blah, blah, blah.
Lesson #4-Writing a book takes a strong emotional skin.
Can you say rejection, rejection, rejection and then two scoops of criticism on top of that? Welcome to publishing. Seth Godin was rejected over 900 times, Adrianna Huffington at least 36, even Alex Haley The Roots author wrote every day for 8 years before finding success. And then sometimes when even great work is published, grumpy, mean people will publicly criticize your work too. And when your writing and researching at least 50 people will never return your calls. So if writing is a goal, put your big girl or boy pants on.
Lesson #5-Writing a book is a wonderfully rewarding experience.
Like MC Hammer said so well, “Can’t touch this.” Book writing is a mirific journey. It’s scary, ludic, and exuberating. You’ll learn stuff about you and other people. You’ll meet many grateful fans that will beg for your autograph and a handful of jerks that will try to rattle your soul. In the end, it is all worth it. The prize is indescribable.
Here are some excellent resources too.
The Creative Penn is an excellent blog filled with book writing and marketing tips
Chris Brogan writes a solid blog packed with insight. He recently wrote several great posts on his book writing experience.
Read. Write and have fun!
I’m sure I did not make much more than a “C” grade in any English class that I survived.
Other than writing my dad’s eulogy, I never wrote much more than a paragraph until I was 39 years old.
So how did I score my first book deal Brain Tattoos with (AMACOM) American Management Association in 2004 and a second book deal, Brand Turnaround, with one of the most respected publishers in the world, McGraw-Hill, this past year?
Here are a few of the “must have” ingredients.
o An understanding of “the find a publisher” process, standards, fruit
o Good ideas that a market will buy
o A platform and voice to sell books
o Investing the time and money to hit this goal
In 2000, after recovering from a start up meltdown, I needed to reinvent myself. As a veteran ad gal/CEO, I knew marketing and branding was my calling, but after 20 years of running a company, I wanted freedom, more creating and less managing people. So I ventured off to Tampa with my new dream and business plan to become a branding speaker and consultant. Early on, I joined my industry trade association, NSA, and through networking I connected with people that opened doors and gave me guidance. I first gave boatloads of free speeches, then starting getting the business of speaking down and soon started earning some bucks. After one of my presentations, a client said they had a newsletter and wondered if I would contribute an article. I said sure. So basically I summarized my talk and it sounded pretty good. Of course it was full of minor grammar goofs, so I found an editor to clean it up. The client was thrilled, in fact they said, “Karen, you are a great writer”. To my surprise, they were right. The odd thing was, it took learning the art of speech crafting to develop my writing skills. A part of my early years hesitation was because I was insecure, while I didn’t remember much from my English class, I did recall the times my parents were not happy with “C”s.
Fast-forward, those articles that I wrote (my ideas and stories) with the polish and help of an editor was my path to my first book proposal. And thanks to my long-time friends and mentors—Jill Griffin, a loyalty author and expert and Alexis Gutzman another business writer, who I connected with online, by complimenting her work—they were the golden door openers for me. They opened the confidence door, the book agent door and the publisher door. And those doors are very important because publishers get thousands of worthy book proposals every week.
I elected to get my book published by a major publisher rather than self-publishing. Both venues have different benefits and challenges, depending on your goals.
For me as a speaker and consultant, having a major publisher adds significant credibility, distribution and additional marketing fuel. The down side of a major publisher deal is the timeline can be 12-24 months from idea to book in the stores.
So if you have an idea for a book, then your next step is to write a proposal. If you go to any reputable publisher’s site there is a basic template to follow. This 25-30 page document should include: the big idea or book concept, who the market is, an analysis of the competitive landscape, why your book will sell, your marketing platform, the table of contents and brief snapshot of each chapter, a complete sample chapter and about the author information.
From here, you can start pitching to publishers. You build your list by finding similar titles, styles or topics that they have published. But, unless you have relationships with top editors there, or you are very high profile, it’s tough to get noticed in the stack of many.
For both of my books, Brand Turnaround and Brain Tattoos, I first pitched my proposal to a literary agent. You can find literary agents on the Internet, but again relationships and referrals from them are gold. If an agent likes your idea, they do the pitching and the contract negotiations. Terms can include a cash advance, royalty commissions on books and book rights sold, (my first book was printed in the US and Korea) and promotional considerations. My advance and royalties almost doubled on my second book, and it will be printed in hard back.
My first book was a huge spring board for my speaking career, my fees tripled, it also became my best marketing tool for consulting contracts and was the vehicle that made me appealing and credible to broadcast and print media like the CBS’s Early Show, New York Times, New York Post, Fast Company to name a few, which have all been great fun and an awesome adventure.
So this blog post doesn’t become a book on line, (it’s getting kind of long) I’m going to sign off and post the 5 lessons tomorrow.
I hate to break this news to you, but I’m breaking a promise. A few months back I told you I would blog every day in at least one of my three blogs, marketing/branding, entrepreneur or free biz finds. I’ve given it my best and believe I’ve pumped out some good and useful content since then. It’s not easy to write every day, but then again when you follow the tips I’ve learned to make blogging easier, it can be done with joy and without much pain.
Then came being an entrepreneur, running a small business and life, and my noble commitment became a big challenge for me. One that was causing a high degree of stress and maybe this over demand place I signed up for was even jeopardizing my health.
This past month has been monumental. I traveled to Saudi and made history, spent a week in New York City, got inspired, did my thing for the local economy, was featured in the New York Times and then went to Nigeria where I was a guest lecturer to an audience of 500 marketing and leadership professionals. All while blogging daily, servicing my consulting clients, managing my team of support personnel, writing a new book for McGraw-Hill called Brand Turnaround and playing 15 matches of tennis.
Then, just as I got unpacked, I signed up for a week-long comedy school that included a five minute bit, complete with memorized new and hopefully funny material. The class was in Tampa, produced by Jeff Lawrence of the Laughing Buddha Comedy School, who preforms around the country and is based in NYC.
I attended the first class on Tues., it was fun, saw many of buddies Frank Robertson, (a broadcast and media consultant) and Scott Farrell, (a proud stay at home dad) and met some great new friends too, Susan Guidi, another entrepreneur who runs Advanced Ultrasound Services in Tampa. All in all, it was everything I wanted it to be. I’ve done comedy school before, so I knew the basics going in. And I knew there would be homework.
That night, I couldn’t sleep, I tossed and turned about all my commitments and now this one with a short deadline. Then I experienced a major anxiety attack, where you feel like you are going to have a heart attack and really die!!! YIKES!@#%!!!!
After about an hour of this agony, I got up, rubbed my big, happy, crystal Buddha’s belly on my dresser and had an important epiphany.
This is freakin, self-inflicted stress and pain and you, Karen Post, can stop it. I pulled out my writing pad and made a list of my: “had to do, must do” responsibilities. Comedy class was not on the list.
What was on my list: finish my book, take care of my clients that I am under contract with, and take care of me. The rest will have to wait and I know it will take care of itself.
My brain has a certain amount of brand-width, there are so many hours in day and I do not want to do anything that is not my best work. PERIOD.
The moral to this story and the 3 entrepreneurial essentials.
Know your band-width and respect it.
1) Don’t kill yourself, know your limits, and say no to things that are not in the top priority zone, especially if they can impact your true goals and dreams.
Exercise your rights as an entrepreneur.
2) As an entrepreneur, you get to control a lot, so don’t fail to use this privilege and power.
Change your mind and alter your plan, if you need to. And don’t beat yourself up for it.
3) It’s OK to opt-out and change your mind and that’s what I’m doing. This is different than dropping someone in the grease with no back up options. This was not my case, no one was going to be disappointed if I didn’t take the comedy class at that time. I called my comedy instructor and told him my situation, my plate is over-floweth, I have to deliver my best stuff, my book, my clients, my team and right now just can’t do the class. He understood.
My game plan forward.
I’m taking an official break from daily blogging. For the next 4 weeks, my head is immersed in client service and completing my book and taking care of me (tennis, massages and a trip to Aruba to write and recharge).
You may see some random blog posts during my hiatus, but not making any commitments, as I’m islanding it in Aruba island for a week, I’m speaking at the Southeast Entrepreneurial Conference in Tampa on April 1 and I’m addressing Pizza Hut’s Annual Franchise Convention in San Antonio.
In my absence, my fabulous assistant, Lauren, will be spot writing on Internet marketing. Lauren has been with me for almost 7 months now and I believe she is the 8th wonder of the world. She’s an Internet and social media whiz and teaches me a lot everyday. I know she will bring some great articles and tips to the blog. Jocelyn one of the co-founders of Oddpodz may kick in a post too. She’s in Savannah, building her consulting, research and branding practice and helping other entrepreneurs succeed too.
So until next time . . .
I love metaphors. Here’s a few I use often.
Some times I pole vault to conclusions.
Because they aid in any communication mission at hand. Metaphors are like little elves that break tough concepts into small bites of stuff folks get. Turns out, researchers at Stanford agree too. The Wall Street Journal included this find over the weekend in Metaphors Matter. When metaphors were added into a report, in the beginning that is, the context is framed, and it changes opinions on the subject. When they appear at the end they disappear like bunnies.
Next time you need to change someone’s mind, sell a concept or even get them to buy into your cause, a metaphor can make the difference.
Want to learn more about metaphors and marketing? Check this book out. Marketing Metaphoria: What Deep Metaphors Reveal About the Minds of Consumers by Gerald and Lindsay Zaltman.