Category Archives: creative non-fiction

the content whisperer

Magazines were the original social networks. They filled a void for otherwise isolated individuals and the content transported them outside their community.   Brands promoted their products through this early network with static advertising placement that shouted “LOOK AT ME.  BUY ME.  LOVE ME.”

Early television formats featured someone standing motionless at a microphone telling stories.  Much like the technology evolution from radio to television, this print to digital content evolution has left folks standing around delivering static content in a dynamic environment.  Technology changes faster than corporate mindset.

Thankfully, the gap is starting to close and we’re seeing Brands and marketers leading with diversity in content innovation.

Social networks are about sharing.  It’s important to understand the distinction between sharing, and being shared with.  Value, not persuasion, is the core of the social sharing ecosystem.  Content must be dynamic not static—put the microphone down and put on your dancing shoes.

As a brand, providing value in content is about storytelling.  Storytelling is a long-standing tradition at the heart of all families, communities and cultures.  Effective and dynamic story-telling develops deeper, emotional connections that allow readers to be a big part of the experience.

So, how do you tell an effective story?

Imagine your brand as a big book of stories.  Each story must have your brands corporate message baked in (not obvious posturing), it must be relevant, timely, provide value, allow for consumer interaction, and be engaging.  You want your audience to turn the page and read the next story, don’t you?

With that in mind, let’s use Coca-Cola’s 70/20/10 content rule.  70% of your stories should be the low-risk, solid useful content your audience expects—appealing to all audiences.  20% of your stories should be higher-risk, solid useful content that is directed to specific segments of your audience—your loyal consumers.  The last 10% of your stories are where you can set your hair on fire.  It’s the content that reaches out to the edges, or comes at your idea in an entirely new way. Your audience might not be there yet or they might be right there with you.  It’s the crazy, never-been-done-before-and-might-fail ideas.  This is high-risk, but it has the potential to achieve the highest share rate and is also where your future 70-20% will come from.

Ultimately, content innovation is driven by the combination of old ideas and new configurations.  Readers don’t want to be told information in a static one-way drop.  They want to have a conversation about the information, be swept away into the information, they want to be affected and share that information within their own social circles.

Brand stories should be a distribution of creativity with a content excellence that would make a ruthless editor weep tears of joy.  You want to be dramatically different—not just noise in the digital airwaves.  But how many different ways can you do it?  The possibilities are endless!

A good example of a Brand leading their story through innovation is the grocery retail chain, Longo’s.   They are telling you their brand story—quite literally.   They are exercising their 10% and pioneering into new content configuration frontiers.  They are bringing journalistic blogging together with traditional publishing techniques for a compelling story that is fun, engaging, and worth the attention of their audience.

And hey, it can even be plopped into my e-reader with RSS.

This is an idea of brand storytelling through actual storytelling.  Check out Longo’s creative non-fiction brand story here.

1 Comment

Filed under creative non-fiction, Social Media, social strategist, social writer

“But now the LORD opened the mouth of the ass…”

Believe what you want.  Just don’t bring it to my door on a Sunday morning — unless you were invited — or come bearing gifts.  And just to be clear — a sampling of scriptures in ‘The Watchtower’ magazine you leave with me is not considered a gift.

Jamie is Jehovah’s Witness — not that there is anything wrong with that.  He has been visiting me on and off for about 5 years now.  He blows in like the wind — always with a friend — dressed to the nines in his black suit and tie.  Under his arm he keeps his good book.  His bible.  His truth.  I have never invited Jamie in — we seem to have a front porch understanding.

We have talked — at length — about his beliefs, as well as mine, and never could two people be more different.  He believes he has the truth.  If he doesn’t spread the message of GOD — as he believes it — then he has failed.  He’s doomed.  I believe religion is personal — that all paths lead to the same destination.    I do admire his tenacity though.  His relentless willingness to convert me — to instill me with “the truth”.  We’ve adopted a sort of fair-weather friendship and sometimes I miss chatting with him when he hasn’t been around. 

This past Sunday he came to me with his ‘book’ and quoted to me from the Book of Numbers — an obscure bible passage about a talking donkey.  I didn’t quite understand his point but his conviction amused me — so I obliged him with wide-eyed interest.  And then it happened.  He came to the passage where he quoted, “Why have you beaten your ass these three times?”, and the child in me giggled uncontrollably with a “you said beat-your-ass” maturity.   Jamie kept reading — although the veins in his forehead pulsed with his frustration and disapproval.

I’m not certain what keeps him coming back.   Am I the ass whose mouth the LORD has opened?  Perhaps.  I have always thought of myself as a Jack-of-all-trades — the truth may be that I’m the Jack-of-all-asses.

~uberscribbler

Leave a comment

Filed under creative non-fiction, non-fiction

If you can’t live without me… why aren’t you dead yet?

Punctuation gets a bad rap these days.  There is little concern for the art and mastery of grammar in an acronym-texting world.  We don’t even realize how much we are missing.  There are some of us who break out in the sweats when we see a sign in a storefront with incorrect grammar or a wayward apostrophe dangling dangerously off a newspaper headline.  There are even those of us — in that select group — who sneak about at night with permanent marker stained on our fingertips, creeping through the city restoring the balance of commas everywhere.  Proper punctuation is just good manners and truly good manners are invisible.  As Lynne Truss wrote so freely, they ease the way for others, without drawing the attention to themselves.  How many friendships and relationships have been broken due to fundamental flaws in correct punctuation? Take this letter for example — written to Jack — from Jill, with an obvious loving message.

Dear John, I want a man who knows what love is all about.  You are generous, kind, thoughtful.  People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.  You have ruined me for other men.  I yearn for you.  I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart.  I can be forever happy — will you let me be yours? Jill

Now, read the letter again littered with marvellously mispunctuated abuse.

Dear Jack, I want a man who knows what love is.  All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you.  Admit to being useless and inferior.  You have ruined me.  For other men I yearn!  For you I have no feelings whatsoever.  When we’re apart I can be forever happy.  Will you let me be? Yours, Jill

Jack is certainly getting an earful.  Things could have ended quite differently for Jill, if she hadn’t been an indifferent and ignorant punctuation sinner.  To be fair, there are many people who are interested in the way punctuation can alter the sense of a string of words — although they, much like Jill, likely couldn’t punctuate their way out of a paper bag.

So, what has happened to punctuation?  Why is it so disregarded?  I implore you to re-connect with your inner grammar stickler and make the effort to be more sensible with your semicolon.  When you blink in horror at a badly punctuated sign and are unable to move or regain any sense of perspective after you have been blindsided by an abused apostrophe, take a deep breath, and look around.  Do you see others feeling the same panic and isolation?  Are they rocking on the spot and whispering in a petrified sixth-sense tone that they see dead punctuation?  Be brave.  Reach into your pocket and pull out your black — and well used — Sharpie.  Give in to the righteous urge and restore the assaulted sensibilities of the grammatically forlorn. 

Save yourself.  Save us all.

~uberscribbler

Leave a comment

Filed under creative non-fiction, non-fiction

Grief, it’s about me — not you.

When we are not courageous enough to adhere to the convictions of our faith and beliefs, grief allows us the out — to wallow in our own smallness.  It is an accepted voice in our head.   When we grieve a loss of life, we grieve for ourselves.  We feel the loneliness that their absence has given us, and we pity ourselves for that loss.  It is easy to be consumed with grief.  To allow every adversity and loss to seep in and control who we are.  We are born of the earth and understand from very early on that physical life is not forever.  It is a cycle.  It is not for us to decide the nature or timing of the death of that physical life.  It is, after all, only a fleeting blink of a life.   Yet, still — we mourn.

 So, what happens to us when our great faith falters?  When we know our loved ones no longer suffer, and that their energy can never die?  It is our own utter misfortune that consumes us.  It blindsides our faith and pushes us back in the direction of our selfish and limited minds.  It is the inevitability of being human.

 Grief is about ego.  It’s about losing sight of the bigger picture.  It’s about the selfish nature of our existence.  What do we grieve for?  We grieve for ourselves.  The dead are not dead — energy cannot be destroyed.  The spirit of the soul — of the one you love — is pure energy.  Even in their physical absence, those that have moved on reach out to teach us this understanding.  They speak to our souls to campaign for the strength of our faith.    

 “Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow; I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain; I am the fields of ripening grain
I am in the morning hush; I am in the graceful rush.
Of beautiful birds in circling flight, I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom, I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing, I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry, I am not there.  I do not die.”
                                                            ~Mary Elizabeth Frye

~Uberscribbler

Leave a comment

Filed under creative non-fiction, non-fiction

Pet Peeve #1

I’ve never been one for keeping lists, however, in lieu of the frustration and anger that eats away at me after experiencing impolite encounters with strangers, I’ve decided to document a list in order to cleanse myself in a purposeful vent.

SO… It’s a daring and wanton Saturday night and I had decided to walk to the corner store to treat myself to a soda before I nestle down in my pyjamas to watch a movie.  It’s busy at the store and I stand in line waiting for my turn to pay for it.  The man behind the counter is quite friendly and he asks me how I’m doing while he rings in my single purchase.  Before I can respond,  the woman behind me reaches PAST me to place her purchases on the counter.  Now it’s a small space, not like the large belt of a grocery store where the empty black vastness of it stretches out behind you just begging to have things put on them, I’m talking very little maneuvering room, so her soda and candy bar are staring me in the face and I have to reach around them, quite literally, to pass the friendly man the money to pay for my soda.  Not only is her stuff in my way, but she has taken up position beside me at the counter, squeezing her generous frame into a very uncomfortable personal space issue for me.  When I turned to look at her, she is staring me dead in the face with her arm draped over the debit machine as if to say “come on lady, git er done”.  I mean it’s one soda I’m buying –  not one of everything in the store!  Is she kidding me breathing down my neck with her impatience?

I look back to the friendly man at the counter, he raises his eyebrows and shrugs to me acknowledging the ignorance of the hillbilly behemoth apparently loose in our neighbourhood.  So I  say to him, as politely as I can muster, “well it looks like she is in a bit of a hurry” which seems to me to be an innocent observation, and definately much kinder than what the younger me would have said.   The friendly man nods and gives me a smile while Gargantua remains oblivious  – still boring holes into the side of my head with her jelly donut glazed eyes.

I’m not sure if she really was in a hurry to get someplace, or she just could not wait to cram that KitKat between her bloated lips.  I was trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. (Hooray for me.)

But if you’re reading this… you oversized, ignorant and mannerless barbarian… mind my personal space.  Wait in line for your own turn like the rest of us, and keep your disrespectful nose OUT of my turn.  You are not better than me, you are not more important than me, your time is not more valuable than mine.   It’s basic variety store etiquette you Neanderthal.  Evolve already.

Leave a comment

Filed under creative non-fiction, non-fiction

Extreme Spirit

I’m a thirty-something, a later-on-down-the-road thirty-something, but a thirty-something nonetheless.   OK, so I used to be a thirty-something, now I’m a forty-something AND a liar.

Much like you, I’m a very busy person.  I am pulled in a plethora of directions by a multitude of people each and every day that I get out of bed.  Which, incidentally, is when it all begins.  A single day has a month’s worth of activity packed into it and lasts, seemingly, about 20 minutes.   I pass strangers on the road, in the coffee shop, and while I’m about my usual business and occasionally I will see one that seems to be … smiling.  How is it possible that they have time for smiling?  And what are they smiling about?  I’m confused, haunted and tormented by their smiles.  But ultimately, I want what they have.  It’s some sort of ‘oomph’ that sets them apart from the struggling, the downtrodden and the doomed.  

Perhaps I just need to rearrange my furniture to be in line with my “chi”, or maybe its much more, like I should be seeing a new age herbalist that will begin with concocting special ‘smiling’ recipes for me that contain eye of Newt and molecules from the Dea Sea, and then I’ll be wrapped from head to toe with spirit blessed rice parchment that will have been painlessly pieced together by nearly extinct rain forest pixies, who will then squeeze their magic tears into my eye sockets each night before I fall into deep slumber.

I may look into that, I believe meeting a pixie would make me slightly giddy, and I haven’t been giddy since I was a twenty-something.  However, I believe the truth behind these smiles is less about fairytale elixirs and more about their resolve.  Their spirits are uncrushable.  Each day is an adventure and their curious minds leave nothing undiscovered.  They are life enthusiasts and their grit for adventure extends far beyond the norm.  Their passion and vigor can be very contagious and after a little more than a brief encounter with one you find yourself on their mailing lists for dog sledding in Alaska and mountain hiking on Mt. Kilimanjaro.  You know these people.

Maybe we should strive to live our lives with just a flicker or a hint of that ‘oomph’.  I, for one, am going to stop scowling at the smiling people and instead remind myself to find the adventure for myself that seems to have found them.  Something fun, something extraordinary, something good for my health and spirit, and something that will make strangers scowl at me.

I’m not much of a team player, I have problems with sharing, control and authority… and I lie, so traditional team sports are out.  I’m far too buff as it is <cough> for free weights, and I bore easily with mindless repetition. 

But… I do know a guy who could set me up for a week in a yurt with a magical chanting goat (I’m on his mailing list) and he claims you just haven’t lived until you’ve sung with a Bovidae.

Look, I’m smiling already.

 

-uberscribbler

Leave a comment

Filed under creative non-fiction, non-fiction

The Conquering Ego

egoWhen the chips are down, asking for help can be risky business.  There are some folks, however, who are all too comfortable leaning on others; they are altogether an entirely different story.  For must of us though, asking for help is like making a deal with the devil.  It means admitting that we are not the rugged, problem solving individuals that society expects us to be.  Once we ask for it, we surrender our control; we become weak, needy and incompetent.  We have a tendency to act as though it’s a complete and total character deficiency, as if we are letting our guards down to somehow invite hurt and embarrassment in.  God forbid our request for help is used against us.  We worry about what will be expected of us in return.  What price must we pay for this help since modern civilization has adopted a reciprocal relationship system (tit-for-tat) so that we don’t feel indebted to those who answered our call?  There is also the fear that we may present our request to the wrong individual and then suffer with a lifelong hovering and patronizing relationship. 

Help me.  How can two little words (three if you’re polite about it) have so much drama attached to it?  And where did the drama come from?  Deep down inside us – in one of our special places – lies an insidious beast that operates solely and inconspicuously on preventing our humility from being nurtured.  This beast is Egocentricity.   This egocentric thinking keeps us wrapped up in our own definition of a thing, even if it may be false.   Most individuals, especially those that genuinely love us, want to help us and more importantly have a need to help us.  They derive a pleasure, a personal satisfaction, and a (perhaps fleeting) sense of purpose to something outside themselves – when helping others.  

People ask me for help all the time, and I give it… freely.  I also know that I don’t judge those that ask me for help, nor do I condemn them to my egocentric thinking.  On the contrary, I credit their strength and courage to recognize their limits as well as their willingness to stretch outside themselves to push past what they know – into what they don’t know.  And sometimes this means requesting help.  How can I consider this to be a strength in others and yet a weakness in myself?

In order for me to even the playing field, I need to let my ego know that I can not be identified on the basis of my achievements – or lack thereof.  It should also learn that I have no need to always be right, (even though I do really like to be) and that I am superior only to my former self.  I will not concern myself with what others think of me, even if their opinions are valued and loved.  Life is not a game to be won, nor to divide it’s participants into groups of winners and losers based on our own egocentrically driven ideals.

Trust, not control, will determine my course.  Faith in another, not certainty of outcome, will be my guide.  We can’t always know/be/do everything, sometimes we will need help, even if it is just a safe place to express that we can’t always know/be/do everything.  I will apply this understanding to myself and I will be better at asking for help, more direct in my approach and with less consideration to my unfaultering ego. 

The choice is mine.  Now it’s time for a chat with my pride…

2 Comments

Filed under creative non-fiction, non-fiction