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Content Strategy

“Whoa,” I wrote to my friends inside a private Facebook group.

“Back from hiatus and TOTALLY BLOCKED when it comes to blogging. WTF to write about?”

Photo of a cafe patio“Your hiatus, natch,” replied Angela.

I got up from my computer and left the room, huffing. Nobody wants to read about the same old things, I thought. I don’t want to add another “I Took a Social Media Hiatus & Here’s What I Learned” post to the internet pile. After all, I’d already written that post here.

The truth is, I took my (short lived) social media hiatus last week because blah-blah-blah-struggling-with-comparison-yadda-yadda-yadda-clearing-mental-space-blah-blah-blah-entering-a-season-of-heightened-creative-production. All true. All great reasons to go off of social media for an undetermined length of time. But blog post-worthy? Mmmmm. Maybe not. Maybe I’m not the only person who’s tired of my SAME OLD THEMES.

And then lightning struck.

(Thank you, Angela.)

THE SAME OLD THEMES. We’ve all got them.

You know them when you see them. The latest post from your favorite blogger lands in your inbox and before you’ve even read through the first paragraph, you know where this is going.

Be a rebel. Call bull*it on what irks you. F*ck the status quo. [High Audacity value talking.]

Become real. Let the true you shine through. Show up as you. [High Transparency value talking.]

Overcome obstacles. Push through. Champion yourself. [High Power value talking.]

Now, granted, these sentiments don’t have to be rendered in cliches for them to feel familiar. (In fact, they shouldn’t be.)

“Voice is the embodiment in language of the contents of your unconscious.” — Robert Olen Butler

We use language unconsciously, we reach for metaphors unthinkingly, and the ones we choose reflect what we believe to be important about the world. (This is why my Voice Values paradigm for branding and copywriting is mapped not only to personality types but to the Enneagram, to astrology, and to buyer types. And, to your personal choice about how to steer your brand in any given moment.)

As writer Pamela Druckerman puts it, “More about you is universal than not universal. My unscientific assessment is that we are 95 percent cohort, 5 percent unique. Knowing this is a bit of a disappointment, and a bit of a relief.”

Those same old themes you’re tired of hearing yourself wax on about are the very themes your Right People yearn to hear from you.

When I want to feel wrapped in beauty and in touch with what’s realest about myself and my point of view and creatively stimulated, I look to Susannah Conway.

When I want to feel challenged and (righteously) disillusioned and cheered on in getting back to the basics in a creative process, I read Paul Jarvis.

When I want to feel resourceful and delighted and visually gratified, I read Design Sponge.

When I’m craving depth and intellectual rigor and cultural analysis, I look to Justine Musk.

Your same old themes are wanted, anticipated, and hugely helpful to your Right People. And there are a million ways you can repackage and repurpose your best-beloved ideas to fit new modes.

So this is in favor of revisiting your same old themes, as often as you need to. Your people don’t get tired of them — they depend on them.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

What are YOUR same old themes? What topics and issues do you keep returning to again and again?

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This is the Introduction to The Voice Bureau’s blog post series on Writing Your Smart, Empathetic Website. This series is written with active and aspiring brand creators in mind — those of you who know that your website should be your business’s hardest working “salesperson” — and want to make that more of a reality. As brand voice specialists, we know you need doable, clear cut strategies for planning and writing web copy that will help you achieve your goals. We also know you value head (intelligence) and heart (empathy) in equal measures; that point of view is part of what makes your approach to business so well rounded. This is OUR approach to business copywriting for the web: smart and empathetic. This series teaches you to write your website in a way that will inspire your Right People to visit often, to share your work with others like them, and ultimately, to do business with your brand.

Let’s set the scene:

Writing a smart, empathetic website is a lot like carefully constructing a physical structure for people to hang out in.I live near the campus of an ivy-covered, red brick college. A campus with a creek running through it. Although this particular highly-ranked liberal arts college isn’t known for wildly raucous college house parties, living just off-campus often brings to mind my own college days. We all can conjure up the image in our mind of just that kind of wildly raucous college house party. (I should know. I graduated from a large, state university known for such things, besides being known for its stellar academic programs – ahem.)

In case you’ve never had the experience of attending a wildly raucous college house party, allow me to paint the picture: sensory overload. Loud music. Damp, humid air with suddenly drafty corners where someone has broken out a window. Bad lighting. Sticky floors and kitchen countertops. Upholstered furniture nobody (sober) really wants to sit on.

Anyone and anything goes at a party like this. The “guest list” is suspect, people are sneaking in their (often underage) friends, and you never know what those two hooligans standing near the porch are planning to get up to. Social norms are ambiguous, and the insider parlance is always in flux, and never entirely straightforward. It’s a strange milieu, one very few people actually feel comfortable in, if they’re in their right mind.

And what are most people there to do at a college house party?

Hook up. Numb out. Blow off stream.

Time to hop out of this metaphor.

Your website — and the community you welcome there — should NOT a college house party resemble.

Is that really what you want your website visitors doing on your site on a metaphorical level?

Hooking up? Okay, maybe yes to that, depending on what kind of a business you are.

Numbing out? Not unless you’re a social media interface designed to foster addictive use in exchange for an influx of advertising dollars. [AhemFacebookahem.]

Blowing off steam? That sounds potentially . . . fraught.

Blueprints for business owners

At The Voice Bureau, we have a strong point of view on what sort of place a business website should be.

We think your website should be a thoughtful, gorgeously appointed structure built to appeal to your exact Right People readers and potential buyers.

There’s a fundamental structure to every solid small business website, one without a lot of bells and whistles.

Once you learn this structure, you are free to adapt and iterate it to suit your brand conversation, your business goals and objectives.

There’s a framework for understanding how certain pages connect to certain next pages (in a progression of emotional logic), and why a certain type of Call To Action works better on one particular page than on another.

Once you learn this framework, you can strategically intuit what will work best for your Right People.

Smart and empathetic?

In this blog post series, we’ll teach you how to write (or rewrite) a smart, empathetic website for your business brand — one that feels like just the kind of place in the world you’d like to invite your Right People to come hang out.

When we say “smart,” we mean, let’s assume that both you, as brand creator, and your Right Person site visitor, are equally intelligent. No talking down to them. No flicking at their pain points. No irresponsible, puffy-sticker promises of something you can’t actually guarantee (because no human being could). No histrionic adjective-spangled prose that no sane person can actually live up to in delivery.

When we say “empathetic,” we mean, you, as brand creator, make the choice to step out of your own well-worn shoes and into the shoes of another — namely, of the person most likely to engage with your brand (read: read, share, or buy).

Only you can decide exactly what kind of place you want your website to be. But we can give you a framework to help you do that. Throughout this series, we’ll share loads of cues, clues, and insights with you based on our own Voice Values methodology, which draws on well-documented marketing frameworks, the universal empathetic approach to stepping into the shoes of another person (seeing the value of what you do through someone else’s eyes), and the world’s most renowned personality typing systems.

Your website might end up feeling like a luxe lounge, or a boho treehouse. It might feel like a minimalist meditation space, or like a vintage-industrial warehouse workshop. It might feel like a grand, welcoming, well-appointed manor, or like a slick penthouse office overlooking an impressive view.

The vibe is yours to create.

Here’s the rundown of what we’ll be sharing in this series over the next couple months.

(As we publish each post, we’ll update this list with links.)

To accompany this blog post series, we’re offering a limited time opportunity to get in on our copywriting services at a lower-than-usual rate.

→Our Limited-Time Offer

Your Smart, Empathetic 4-Pack

Save 20% off our standard copywriting rates when you book a 4-pack of key website pages/pieces by the end of October 2013.

Choose ANY FOUR pages/pieces from this list to make your Smart, Empathetic 4-Pack:

  • Home Page
  • About Page
  • Work With Me/Services/Products Landing Page
  • Presentation-Style Sales Page
  • Conversational-Style Sales Page
  • Is This You/Ideal Client Page
  • Subscriber Opt-In Page
  • Manifesto/Statement of Belief
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Page
  • Contact Page
  • E-Newsletter Opt-In Email Course (5-piece)

Click here to view our descriptions of each of these types of pages/pieces, plus our standard rates — on which you’ll save 20% when you book your 4-Pack by the end of October 2013. Be sure to mention the 4-Pack Priority Rate when you contact us through the above-linked page. 

In the comments, we’d love to hear:

Do you ever visualize your website looking like a physical place? If so, what does it look like? Paint the picture for us. And — where could you use help translating that vision into your website and content plan?

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This article was written in collaboration with The Voice Bureau Empathy Marketing Co-Creator & Strategist, Tami Smith.

Right People (AKA ideal clients or site visitors). Every brand has them.

This is true whether you’ve launched a product yet, have revenues of $500/month or $10,000/month, and despite whether you blog 2x a week likeyouknowwe’reallsupposedto or not.

4 Buyer TypesIt’s easy, in a frustrated state, to feel that your Right Person — the person most inclined to hire you, to buy your products and services, to read your articles and social media posts, and to become a brand advocate for you — is a needle in a haystack. Where, in the big bad internet, is this elusive one-in-a-million (billion?) individual, who is supposedly “hanging out” somewhere online with scores of other People Just Like Them who are waiting, wallets poised, to snatch up your latest creation, because you, to them, are like the entrepreneurial Second Coming?

This, as I’m sure you’ve gleaned from my sarcasm, is not exactly the way getting better qualified site traffic and better conversions (i.e. more opt-ins or sales) works.

There’s no secret place on the internet where all of your Right People are hanging out hoping to meet someone just like you.

But Right People? They’re real. Ideal clients? Not a myth. (Although there are many myths about how to size them up.) [link]

How do we know? Let’s take a look.

In the whole world over, there are a finite number of ‘types’ of people.

While we’re all individuals and our needs and desires vary from person to person, if you study universal human nature (and psychological-behavioral patterns), you’ll find that people tend to fall into 4 basic types: we call these types Humanistic, Spontaneous, Competitive, and Methodical.

  • HUMANISTIC TYPES are attuned to the interconnectedess of all people and things. They’re wired to be helpful. They dislike conflict and prefer to focus on beauty, harmony, and solitude. They seek unity.

  • SPONTANEOUS TYPES are attuned to freedom, flexibliity, and possibilities. They’re wired to be enthusiastic. They dislike rules and restrictions, and they’re turned on by big vision, adventure, and a sense of community. They seek approval from others.

  • COMPETITIVE TYPES are attuned to winning and achieving. They’re wired to be powerful. They dislike weakness, inefficiency, and people who slow down action by getting mired in feelings or wishy-washy deliberations. They love order and strength, and they desire to be the best — sometimes their personal best, sometimes best in class. They seek control.

  • METHODICAL TYPES are attuned to the search for pure, irrefutable truth. They’re wired to be deep. They dislike brashness, things that can’t be proven, and sloppiness. They’re attuned to details, measurements, and proof. They seek certainty.

While the Four Buyer Types are a well-known, well-documented marketing framework — a part of the methodology we employ at The Voice Bureau to guide our copywriting client projects and more — this perspective doesn’t apply to business alone.

Four different types run through our world in many ways.

There are The Four Seasons. The Four Temperaments. The 12 Signs of the Zodiac, which can be grouped into 4 Elements (Earth, Air, Water, Fire). The Four Blood Groups (A, B, AB, O).

Of course, there are blends, too: there are Spontaneous buyers with a Competitive edge, and Methodical buyers with a Humanistic edge. In terms of Blood Types, you can be O+ or O-, etc. All of us have access to all four types (we human beings have great range), and sometimes we switch from one type to another based on context, or our needs in the moment. But essentially, we’re wired to be motivated like ONE primary type, consistently over time.

The bigger the brand and the larger their marketing budget, the less precise the company can afford to be about marketing to one primary type. This is why car manufacturers, credit card companies, pharmaceuticals, and major food brands can design for all Four Buyer Types in each social channel, while keeping their brand voice distinct. They have whole teams of people and millions (billions?) of dollars to help them pull this off.

But solo and small businesses? We’re obliged to specialize.

Solo and small business owners — like The Voice Bureau, and like our clients — have limited resources (time, money, interest, human power). In order to be most effective (and usually, most profitable), it’s necessary to design a brand conversation and an offer for a particular type of person — someone most likely to buy.

Our Empathy Marketing method helps business owners define their Brand Proposition and describe their ideal reader and buyer, someone inclined to derive the most value from what the brand has to offer. Our foundational approach helps clients create the baseline for building and running a values-based, profit-driven business with an empathetic model.

Our new Content Strategy DIY Beta picks up where our foundational course leaves off.

Starting in September 2013, Tami and I are guiding 20 business owners through an empathetic approach to content creation. Our goal is to help our clients design a content strategy that will excite, engage, and most importantly, eventually convert their Right People from readers to clienst/customers and loyal brand advocates.

An important note: The Content Strategy DIY approach caters to businesses who actually want to sell something. We are NOT the best-fitting approach for a personality brand (someone who wants to build an audience with no monetized goal), for someone who is ambivalent about selling, or for someone who is unclear on the value they can deliver through an offer.

Want in? We’d love for you to join in the Content Strategy DIY. As of the hour we’re publishing this post, there are 8 seats (out of 20) still open.

Meanwhile, here are some general tips for moving closer to designing a strong Content Strategy.

  • Understand your Brand Voice and how it meets the needs of your Right Person buyer.

  • Consider building yourself a Brand Language Bank — a branded lexicon of words, phrases, and “handles” — that engage your Right Person buyer and make your conversation fresh (without being convolutedly cutesy or abstract).

  • Step into the shoes of your Right Person buyer and ask yourself, “Why would this be important to her? Why would this solution work for her?”

Here are some beginning tips for engaging your specific primary Right Person “type” through your content, using our Empathetic model:

  • If your Right People are HUMANISTIC, engage with warmth, intimacy, even love, and show them you’re a real person who genuinely cares about people, planet, and profits. The Humanistic buyer appreciates a peek behind the scenes of your business, as they want to believe that you are who you say you are. Create content that will present all sides of the picture with equanimity (big picture thinking). Keep your tone and your calls to action harmonious and conflict-free. They’ll get value out of content that helps them to move forward toward their goals, without risking overwhelm. Focus on presenting small slices of your brand conversation that feel positive, encouraging, uplifting, and promote a peaceful approach to life, work, and business.

  • If your Right People are SPONTANEOUS, engage their possibility orientation by using visionary language. Design offers and experiences that keep them at the center of attention. It’s about them, not about you (although the Spontaneous buyer is drawn toward a charismatic personality who opens doors for them to experience something new, fresh, and exciting). The Spontaneous buyer grooves on community, sisterhood/brotherhood, feeling like they belong, and having opportunities to self-express. Keep your tone and your calls to action clear, easy, playful, and positive. They’ll get value out of content that connects them to their unique potential and ability to have an impact. Avoid overcomplicated explanations, lots of hoops to jump through, or dry navel-gazing philosophy. Focus on presenting visually-oriented content that feels cutting edge while activating their love for lifelong learning.

  • If your Right People are COMPETITIVE, engage their drive to “get it done now” by being direct, straightforward, and competent. Demonstrate your credibility and assume that your Right Person will choose to do business with you because they see you as the best option. Match their high Excellence value with your own, and redeem all opportunities to demonstrate your wins. Position yourself at eye level with your high-achieving buyer. The Competitive buyer is relentlessly focused on activating ideas and being in control, which creates security. Through your content, show them how they are the hero/ine, how they can rise to challenges, and conquer obstacles. Avoid asking them to go against their nature, which includes slowing down, seeing things in grayscale, and admitting they have been wrong. Note that your Competitor buyer may be oriented to compete with himself or herself, just as much or more than with others.

  • If your Right People are METHODICAL, tap into their desire to know why things are the way they are, through understanding all the nuances and seeing the big picture as well as the fine details. Validate their passion for solving problems, pointing out what isn’t working (i.e. being a contrarian), and finding the next layer down. Provide them with research, resources, systems, tools, frameworks, and visual data to balance their overactive brain. Frequent content is less important for the Methodical buyer, just so long as your content is deep, thorough, and consistent. Methodicals care less about the personal details of a brand creator’s life; rather, they’re obsessively interested in the brand’s reasoning for doing what it does, the way it does.

If you understand your buyer, you’re closer to understanding what content they need/want to see from you in order to make a purchasing decision.

In the comments, we’d love to know:

In your perspective, have you already been using this Buyer Type approach intuitively, without quite knowing why? If so, how did you come to “know” that you wanted to talk to this type of person? What have you noticed? How does it feel? We’d love to hear about your process and experiences.

(Image credit.)

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Content Strategy is one of those phrases that gives me goosebumps.

But I know not everyone feels that way. You might not at this point.

Especially if it feels like you’ve been blogging forever but have yet to see the ROI (Return on Investment).

When new brand voice development and copywriting clients come to work with us at The Voice Bureau, some of the questions we usually hear are: You’re going to tell me to blog more, aren’t you? and I think I need a content strategy but how will I have time to like, do my actual business, too? and What if my Right People don’t use social media?

There are answers to all of these questions, and while the answers lie in the nuances, here’s the big thing we always point our clients back to: You have to know your Right People. Understanding them tells you what you need to know to design content for them.

For us, content strategy is the truly exciting work of building out your brand conversation in the world. Helping you design an effective content strategy for your business helps you get answers to these questions:

And most of the time, we hear from you that you want to know where YOU can and should come into your content strategy. You want to understand your own fine line between total authenticity in your content and showing up like an expert, a teacher, or an advisor (especially if you don’t always feel like one). 

Let’s get you straight to the matter with three mini case studies of (fictional, yet based on actual) clients who’d be great candidates to learn to design content strategy. These values-based business owners are all of the mind to meet the needs of their Right People, their business goals, and their brand objectives.

Elena, a retired professional ballet dancer, owns a classical ballet studio. It’s a rigorous training environment for students ages 5-18, and high school age students must audition yearly to keep their places in the pre-professional training company.

Example of a ballet school owner who wants to design a content strategy to meet her business goalsThe school and its performances are partially funded by student tuition (which is necessarily steep) and partially funded by a huge grant from a wealthy benefactor. The benefactor’s grant, which she’s been drawing from for the past 12 years, is dwindling, and the town where the ballet school is based is mostly working class and has been hit hard by the economy. Her students don’t come from wealthy families whose parents can pad the coffers. And government grants are few and far between and only stretch so far. Elena needs a content strategy and a social media presence that will increase her performing company’s visibility in the eyes of potential supporters; ardent art supporters who will help spread the good work, or cultured people with money to donate who’d be willing to drive in from the mid-sized city 45 minutes away for performances. Her dancers are good — among the best in the region by far — and her reputation is competitive. She knows that if more people saw them perform, she could raise better donations. She wants a content strategy that will allow her to stretch her marketing dollars, represent the school’s good name well, and generate interest (and donations) in the work she and students do.

Harriet is a money-and-chakra coach who works virtually. Her small but devoted clientele lives everywhere — from the northernmost reaches of Canada to Hong Kong to the South of France and back to Kansas, U.S.A. She met most of her first loyal clients in person — that 20% who consistently pay her bills each month — when she attended a big name, popular conference in the States that pulls in business owners from many industries. It was a great starting ground for her to drum up initial business, but referrals have not been particularly strong (all of her clients say they think of her as their “secret weapon” or “silent partner”) and she needs to branch out and get herself and her point of view in front of some new eyeballs. Harriet is ready to start sharing with more people what she knows about money and the chakra system, but isn’t sure what “somebody out there” would want to know. She’s especially not sure what would make anyone hire her after never having met her in person. (She’s a big believer in intuition and resonance and fears that the internet can’t replicate what happens in person.) And the idea of using Twitter every day makes her feel anxious around her heart center. She has a niece who’s pretty tech-y who’d be willing to help her blog, but she’s just not sure how blogging fits into the big picture of earning a great living — which is most certainly her goal. After all, it’s part of what she teaches her clients!

Jessi makes screened tee shirts. She hand-draws the designs — which are of woodland animals (rabbits, bears, foxes, squirrels, owls) performing unlikely activities (making an omelet, sketching next to the Seine, getting fitted for a brassiere). Her ex-boyfriend’s screenprinting company puts them on high quality, organic, ring-spun cotton tees in a variety of on-trend colors, including basic black, white, and gray. Her sizes range from juniors to plus size and most of the artwork is unisex, although she offers a variety of modern cuts that she’s found to be universally flattering. Each style is named after one of her friends, i.e. the Lexa, the Grace, the Evie. She loves her work and even scored a small write-up with a photo once in Glamour magazine, after which she had a rush of business to her site for the next two months and a steady thrum for the four months following that. Then business settled back into its normal rhythm of slightly profitable but not really life-changing. She knows people dig her stuff, but she can’t figure out how to use the internet to keep her stuff top of mind. She dreams of getting enough business to her online boutique so that she can finally out-earn what she makes at her day job (a marketing person at an arts non-profit in a major U.S. city) and go full-time self-employed. She currently sells her tees wholesale to three independently owned shops and would like to expand to more resellers, without having to set up booths at pricey trade shows, which she knows can be expensive, time-consuming, and often disappointing (especially for first-time vendors). She’s no social media newb; she has a blog and a halfhearted presence on Facebook, Pinterest, and InstaGram, but she really wants to figure out what to blog and post about besides “hey, look at this new design I’m working on!” She’s tired of feeling like she’s competing for sales with fly-by-night Etsy sellers and major brands like J.Crew, Old Navy, and Abercrombie for market share. (And is she actually competing with them at all? She has no idea how that works and how her potential buyers stack her up against other options.) She’s more than happy to be active in her online presence if she could determine the ROI.

Do you recognize yourself in one of these scenarios?

If so, it may be time for some Content Strategy therapy. At The Voice Bureau, we love helping clients design a workable, smart, yet non-grueling content strategy with their Right People at the center. Using an empathetic approach that considers your Voice Values, we figure out how YOU can position yourself to be an expert, a go-to person, and a sought-after conversationalist around the issues and topics that are important to you and your business.

Having a strong Content Strategy means more than blogging twice a week, ad infinitum (Spoiler: it can often be less!) and haunting Twitter 24/7 (because we don’t think that’s often a trait of a healthy, well-balanced person). You’ll learn how to decide which social media channels work best with your Right People’s consumption tendencies, and highlight your strengths as a content creator. You’ll learn how to consider what message you want to bring to the table, and how it aligns with a convo your Right People are already having (or want to have). And — yep — you’ll learn techniques for finding your Right People are online. (You know how everyone says, “Figure out where your ideal client is online and go hang out there”? Yeah. We’ll teach you how to figure it out, so you can be a fly on the wall if you want to be. Spoiler #2: There’s not a giant pool of your Right People just all hanging out somewhere online together, waiting for you to pop up and start regaling them with your genius. That’s a myth.)

Our new DIY Content Strategy course is open for registration, and we’d love to see you in there. Our beta group of 20 participants will receive ample support from Tami and me via weekly Office Hours in our private community, as well as on weekly calls that will keep right on going even after the beta is over. Plus you get lifetime access to the content as it’s continually iterated and improved, and as one of our original beta participants, you get to influence how DIY course content is delivered to future buyers.

Want more info? Check out The Voice Bureau’s Content Strategy DIY Beta here.

In the comments, we’d love to know:

What part of Content Strategy boggles your mind the most? What would you like to learn when it comes to designing a brand conversation that meets the needs of your Right People, and feeds your enthusiasm, as well?

[Image credit.]

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The Voice Bureau ♥s Pinterest.

Full confession: I was NOT an immediate Pinhead. I did NOT jump on the Pinterest bandwagon back when everyone else did. I was NOT an early adopter. In fact, when Pinterest first came around, my feelings for Pinterest ran more along these lines.

Abby Kerr of The Voice Bureau on PinterestWhat the actual eff? I’d privately muse as my peers and colleagues merrily filled up my Facebook home feed and Tweetstream with images too lovely to be snapshots of somebody’s real life. I figured this new social media channel was little more than a fantasy bastion for what I think of as The Cupcake-Making Ladies, the teastain-everything-and-then-stamp-it-with-a-vintage-French-crown set, and, well, this chick (whose storytelling ability is actually quite brilliant).

Thank goodness for Tami Smith, my collaborative partner, who clued me in on how Pinterest could not only be incredibly useful as part of a content strategy, but FUN.

This is NOT a How To Use Pinterest for Business post. Nor is it a step-by-step post on how you can work Pinterest into your brand’s content strategy. Rather, it’s a look at how we’re doing it at The Voice Bureau, which is a service-based creative business. If you’re a coach, a consultant, a writer, a designer, or another type of creative who renders services just as often (or more than) products, you’ll want to keep reading and see how YOU can adapt what we’ve found to work for your own purposes.

It’s easy to see how a product-based business can use Pinterest to heighten potential customer’s desire for their products. Check out how Canadian tile art designer Sid Dickens curates pins that showcase their products and inspirations. Jayson Home, in Chicago, does a beautiful job of highlighting their own finds and furnishings, along with other moody inspirations. And boutique eyeglass retailer Warby Parker kills it with not only product shots, but on-location photo shoots, scenes from their doing-good Class Trip Visits, and related lifestyle boards.

But how about service-based creative businesses?

How can we use such an image-heavy channel to tell a story about what, how, and why we do what we do, and most importantly, who we do it for.

When I first forayed into Pinterest, I started by finding my visual footing.

I set up boards — as many as I wanted — that told stories about my personal tastes and aesthetics. These boards are all public, and give you a chance to get to know the personal ‘who’ behind my brand (that’s me, for the most part).

Here are a few of my favorite personal boards:

  • Home Enthused — or, what my house might look like had I unlimited funds
  • I’d So Wear It — a peek inside my fantasy closet
  • Writerly — inspiration for keeping the pen moving across the page
  • Vegan & Vegetarian — as a self-identified Pesco-Vegetarian with Vegan Tendencies Who Also Eats Ethically Raised Eggs, I get a lot of culinary mileage from this board

My personal pinboards taught me how to use Pinterest. I quickly realized that stuff I’d pinned in my early days of use didn’t seem quite as irresistible 100 pins later — and so I could delete it without missing it.

Essentially, personal pinning taught me how to tell cohesive stories through each board — and that’s what Pinterest is more or less about, no matter whether you’re using it for business or for personal stuff.

You don’t have to know what story you’re telling before you start pinning. Unless you want to. Remember: there are no hard and fast rules here. Just what works best for you and your Right People.

After I found my rhythm and my pinning ‘style,’ I turned my attention to how I could use the wild world of Pinterest to support The Voice Bureau’s brand conversation.

For starters, I looked at our core methodology — the tools we invent and invest in that help us deliver the results we do.

For us, that’s my Voice Values paradigm for branding.

I wanted to show our audience visually what the Voice Values look like in action. And so I created a pinboard for each of the 16 Voice Values. Here are a few of them, to get you started. You can view all 16 Voice Values pinboards at once by visiting the landing page for our profile.

Beyond our methodology, I wanted to use Pinterest to curate resources from around the web that could support our Right People in the work they’re doing with branding, copywriting, and building out sustainable, values-based businesses. I love the idea of curating some especially great resources right on a sub-page on a website, but even more than that, I love using the interconnected web of Pinterest to do it. Here are some boards we made to support you in your extra-branding, business-building efforts:

Finally, we use Pinterest to support our 2-to-1 and group work with clients.

We create mood boards for the Right Person of our clients working through our Empathy Marketing methodology.

You can take a look at some of them here. Note how very different are the vibes and styles respective to each board. Each one paints a strong and cohesive portrait of the worldviews, interests, aesthetic inclinations, core needs, and developmental desires of a particular Buyer Type and a singular Right Person.

So that’s how The Voice Bureau gets it done on Pinterest. How about you?

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

How are you using Pinterest to support your business and brand conversation? Anything working really well for you? Anything you’re going to try after reading this piece? Let me know!

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