My five-year-old daughter Julia (pictured below with her bro Grant) is the 'star student' of her class this week, which is a BIG deal when you're in kindergarten, let me tell you. She gets to lead the class through the halls when they walk in a line, retrieve her lunch first from her cubby, and sit in a special chair all week. Exciting stuff, right?
She also had to complete a questionnaire about herself, to share with the class. It included details like her favourite colour (turquoise - just like her Mum!), food (noodles), and sport (gymnastics). The last fill-in-the blank was for her favourite thing to do after school - her answer nearly turned me into a puddle.
See my Mummy is what she said.
It caught me completely off-guard, in the best possible way. Partly because she could have said any number of things she loves (playdates, crafts, riding her bike) but mostly because it pretty much completely validated every career-related choice I've made in relation to my personal WHY.
I've learned since becoming an entrepreneur that, in life (as well as in communications - but we'll get to that in a sec), it's so important to understand your WHY. Which is, essentially, your deep-seeded motivation for doing something.
For me, leaving the corporate world and starting my business was primarily driven by my desire to be there with, and for, my kids while they're young - and I've built my whole business around this WHY of mine. There are many secondary WHYs at play in what I do - the strongest being a calling to help, and support other women entrepreneurs. All of them make me excited to get out of bed in the morning, but my primary WHY is king - I'll never make a career decision that doesn't align with it.
WHYs can vary greatly - for some it's to make buckets of money. For others, it's to change the world in some way. Whatever yours happens to be, it's important to understand it, so you can tap into it for motivation to go after what you want. (There are some online tools out there to help you discover your WHY, if you're stumped.)
It's a great feeling when you feel in complete alignment with your WHY - and that's what came over me when Julia told me her favourite thing to do was hang with her old ma. If I had made different decisions, I wouldn't be there after school. That one little answer of hers was validation that I'm on the right track (for me), and that the choices I've made to be there are making a difference for her (and her brother, hopefully). Mission. Accomplished.
Why am I telling you all this? Aside from allowing me a little mama-bear brag, it's because it absolutely relates to communications. Just like you should have, and understand, the WHYs that drive your life choices, so should you for all the communications you write.
Far (FAR!) too often, well-meaning people write things for their businesses - brochures, website pages, blog posts, you name it - because they feel they should, or because everyone else is doing it. But that's not a good enough reason.
Before putting pen to paper - or finger to keyboard - define the following:
Understanding these fundamental drivers will help you narrow your message and stay on-point. And it'll be much easier to measure your success. DID people click/call/buy/sign-up? If not, you're missing the mark in your messaging somehow and some tweaking is in order.
Janet Nielsen is a communicator with a passion for helping small businesses succeed.