How to use the first twenty minutes back at your desk to tell a better story

9th September 2021

Sharon Tanton

Sharon is Content Director at Cohesive, and co-author of Valuable Content Marketing | Fascinated by the power of stories in making change | Loves gardening | Lives in Bristol

January might be the start of the new year, but it’s September that’s the time for new beginnings. Back to school, starting University, or just heading back into work after a break, September is a time of change.

Maybe you’ve been left holding the fort, watching the OOO replies come bouncing back for the last month or so. Or maybe you have been away, and now you’re struggling to sink back into your old routine. For lots of us it’s been the longest break from the office we’ve ever had. Heading back into work feels strange.

But whether it was a short break, or a longer one, what you’ve got now is a fantastic opportunity to improve one of your key marketing assets. When it comes to telling your own story, it’s often very hard to see the wood for the trees. Your temporary outsider perspective can help you to do it. For a short while you’ve got that mental distance that it’s hard to access when you’re right in the thick of it. 

Remember, your content is how your business gets found online. The story that you tell on your website, and the blogs, social media updates, guides, podcasts, videos that you share online are the way people find you and experience you.

Content is a way to connect, start relationships, and turn interest into clients.

So before you get swept back into the day-to-day business of catching up with emails and responding to clients, (or at least before the day is out) take twenty minutes to check in with the way you’re communicating with the world.

Here’s a short but powerful to-do list to help you sharpen up your messaging and connect with more people.

5 quick ways to use your outsider perspective to improve your story

1. Scan your website home page

Look at the home page on your website. It’s probably been a while, and it’s easy to forget about it when you’re busy, but it is the first place that potential new clients or collaborators will look when they’re checking you out.  

Ask yourself:

  • Is it clear who we are?
  • Is it clear what problem we solve, and for whom?
  • Is it clear what we want people to do now?

If the answer to any of the above is ‘no’, then quickly jot down what you think it should say. Don’t think too much about it. Just scribble down the bones of your story.  Who are you for? What’s the challenge you help with? What’s the ‘happy ever after’ of working with you?

You may well find some good straightforward words jump to mind that explain things more clearly. Losing the veil of business speak is useful, so grab the opportunity before the window closes again. 

Remember when it comes to your website copy, simple is good. 

2. Run your eye over your blog

Look at your blog and ask yourself the same questions. Your blog should be amplifying the story that you tell on your website and bringing it to life. 

Are the last five blogs illustrating the story you want to tell? If not, what’s missing? 

Sometimes we get so involved in the details that we forget the obvious subjects. Or the curse of knowledge stops us from writing content that our clients would find really useful. It just feels too basic, so we don’t consider writing it.  Are there aspects of your client’s challenges that you’ve yet to explore? What would your best client find most helpful? 

Your temporary ‘outside in’ perspective can help you spot the gaps in your blog library, and give you some useful content ideas.

3. Do a quick social audit

Look at how your business is showing up on social media. What impression are your posts and updates giving? How does the voice sound? Are people connecting with what you say? 

If it’s not feeling quite right, then what needs to change? Think about frequency of posts, as well as messaging. What kind of posts get the most engagement? 

Write yourself a ‘do more of this’ and ‘do less of this’ list. 

4. Record your holiday moments of inspiration

Stepping away from your desk and routine can sometimes be just what you need to spark your creativity. Even if you don’t want to think about work and clients while you’re on the beach, sometimes you’ll find ideas that bubble up and just won’t go away. And while it can be annoying at the time, these ideas are often braver and bolder than the ones you have at work.

Of course, not all holiday ideas are good ones. (Remember Theresa May’s ill-fated decision to call an election while on a walking holiday?)  But they’re worth exploring, so write them down and see what they look like. 

5. Set a ‘before Christmas’ goal

January is traditionally the time for goal setting, when you have a whole year unfurling ahead of you. But set one goal for your content now – when the day’s are shortening and there’s less time for procrastination – and you’ll be more likely to succeed. 

Do one thing well.

What to do now

The key is to move quickly if you’d like to seize the post-holiday opportunity to improve your story. 

It doesn’t take long for emails and meetings and project deadlines to swarm in, clouding your perspective again. 

So carve out twenty minutes, run through the list, and make a start. 

Action your ideas and get some accountability around making it happen. It might be a call to your web designer, or your social media team, or some ideas to take to your next content planning meeting, or some slots carved out in your calendar in the month ahead to write some new focused content. 

Seize the valuable window of opportunity and start writing the next chapter!

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