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9 important lessons from working in crisis communications

From 2009 until 2012 I worked for a major telecommunications company. BlackBerry, maybe you've heard of them? 

Even though most of us are wielding iPhones now… you know from the other fruit company (not me though, Android all the way because Apple was the enemy back in those BlueBerry days.)

Back in 2009 though, BlackBerry was in its heyday. My first job interviews them was the day after their private Van Halen concert. Well, sh*t, this company sounds pretty cool.

I landed the job shortly after getting laid off for the first time from a Chicago-based management consulting company. I am grateful for everything the company did… like relocated our family of three at the time from Chicago to the Greater Toronto Area and made sure everything was smooth as almond butter. 

This was my first formal communications job. Sure, I had written tons up until this point. Proposals worth millions of dollars, emails worth even more, but they had rules and process, and it was there that I really started paying attention to word choice.

The experiences I had at BlackBerry still serve me today. When you mess up and send the wrong thing to the wrong client or when poo flies sideways and you need to make it right.

While I was working there, anytime the BlackBerry service would go down, for any wireless carrier in the world; it was my team's job to talk to the engineers, find out what happened, and turn around a perfectly polished statement. It had to happen usually within a day, and if it didn’t, it could cost the company money.

 

Here are 9 things I learned from my crisis communication days that could help your business:

1. Use language of possibility. For example, instead of saying, “Customers couldn’t surf the internet.” You’d say, “Customer might not have been able to use the internet.” Do you see the difference?

2. Focus on the positive. What did you learn from screwing up? In systems speak, we’d say something like, “Now that we’ve identified this, we’re working to add additional system components to make it stronger to avoid it happening in the future.”

3. Don’t use the F-word. That would be failure. Ack! How dirty is the word failure? Use this word enough, such as calling yourself the F-word,  or saying you feel like one. Keep saying that out loud enough, and people will start to believe it.

4. Keep the blame. Sometimes BlackBerry service would go down, but it was a problem on a carrier’s end. We wouldn’t say, “It’s your fault bucko—piss off.” Incorporating language of possibility and keeping it positive, we’d say something like, “Users might have experienced problem using this feature for 10 minutes and we haven't determined the source of the problem.”

5. When you don’t know something, say so. Never make something up. It’s okay just to say you don’t know.

6. Be specific. Details matter. Don’t say, “I’m a screw-up” say, “I screwed up on that response.” Put the focus on the thing, NOT on you.

7. Don’t apologize. This is a tricky one, and if you’ve truly messed up, don’t be an asshat—just say, “I’m sorry.” Instead, turn it around to be positive. Like, if you missed a deadline or something is taking longer to deliver than you promised, or you’ve taken two weeks to answer an email, try, “Thank you for your patience.” See the difference? Repeat after me, “Thank. You. For. Your. Patience.” Instead of placing focus on the F-up that you made, focus on them while you’re complimenting them for their patience.

8. Keep it short. Brevity is the key to my heart. When it comes to communicating a crisis, if you drone on and on, you’re just going to make people angrier. Keep it simple, edit out extra words ruthlessly.

9. Proofread, proofread, proofread. When you’re communicating a craptastic situation, it needs to be correct. I like to call this flawless execution. It’s one of the handful of times in my life being a perfectionist really serves me well. Print it out, have a friend review it. At BlackBerry, at least five people touched each statement. An engineer to make sure we weren’t talking out of our ass and to make sure we weren’t sharing proprietary information, a peer, and two senior folks. It had to be on time, and it had to be right. 

Words always matter. They matter even more when poo is on the ceiling. 

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Make this simple and powerful tweak to your website copy today

In some of the free copy review’s I’ve been doing with people and in the work I do with my clients, the top mistake I notice everyone is making.

Focusing on themselves.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, hang with me here for a second.

 

Imagine reading this on a landing page:

We have the power to transform your brand. At Fancy Company, we use a strategic design approach, which centers around people. We design brands and experiences that create personal connections and value for a wide array of innovative Fortune 500s, world-renowned universities, and growth-oriented businesses.

Count the number of times you see the word, “we.” Do you really care about this company?

 

Your website visitors don’t care.

They don’t care because people are selfish. This isn’t bad or wrong. People like feeling heard and feeling like they’re important. There’s a super simple shift you could make to make this speak directly to their audience.
 

Let’s take that same landing page copy and write it in a way that focuses on the website readers and less on how brilliant the company is:

Transform your brand. With your new branding, you get a strategic design focused on your business. Your brand experience will create personal connections and grow your business.

I’m not going to touch on the jargon in here. I’m guessing the last time you were thinking about a branding update, you didn’t tell someone, “I want to transform my brand.” Well, maybe you did, and you’re weird. We’ll chat about jargon another time.

Do you see the simple shift with the rewrite? It’s still not a compelling piece of copy, but at least the “We’s” are gone. It’s written directly to your people, like you were standing next to them at a party, talking about what they get when they work with you.

 

The simplest way to check if you’re using a voice that’s focused on your readers

Count how many times “We” or “I” appears on any given page of your website. Then, see if you can rewrite that same sentence without the "We" or "I" and write it like you're speaking directly to one person.

The only place on your website where you’ll find it all about the business is on the About Page. There’s a strategy to writing About Pages that I use with all my clients that focuses first on the reader and then on the business, and we do it in a way that feels totally clean. No salesy or spammy tactics required.

 

Want me to peek at your website copy? Grab a no-obligation, no sales pitch, no-BS 30-minute chat with me and you’ll get some super specific tips for updating your copy.


 

Don't make this deadly mistake when writing for your prospects

When I start working with a new client on their website copy, a blog, and especially a sales page, one of the first things I ask is,

“What are the problems your clients come to you with?”

Sometimes my copywriting clients give me answers that sound very professional and polished. They've definitely done some homework.

To which I usually respond,

“Good. Now tell me, are those the EXACT words your clients use?”

Silence.

Most often they’re silent after I ask this. They need to think about it. Like any habit, listening for and using your target client’s language is something that takes practice. And it’s totally understandable that if you haven’t thought about your copy in this way that it feels totally foreign to you.

Sometimes my clients give me a piece of copy that they say they really like and they want to work something similar into their copy.

Almost always, that copy came from an industry peer, another expert. Which brings me to my most important question for you.

“Are you writing for your target clients or are you writing to impress your peers?”

Record scratch.

Oh shit.

This happens ALL. THE. TIME. If this is you, don’t worry, you're not alone. Most of my clients come to me speaking to their peers and not their prospects. The good news is that it's an easy shift to go from jargon to clear client-loving language.

Business owners are often nervous to stop writing for their peers and start writing for their prospects. They worry they’re not going to sound professional or smart or like the expert that they are.

Your prospects won’t understand you if you’re speaking a foreign language.

Your industry peers aren’t going to fill your client roster, so for the love of all things small-batch Kentucky straight bourbon, stop talking to your peers in your website copy!

If you’re ready to stop talking to your associates and start speaking directly to your prospects, here are some easy ways to do it. I promise it’s easier than learning a second language:

  1. Talk to your prospects. Ask them to tell you what they need, what they’re struggling with, and what makes them angry. Encourage them not to censor themselves or try to get it “right.” Write down what they say and use these words in every client-facing thing you write.
  2. Talk to your clients. These people already like you so they’ll probably want to help you. Think about things they’ve said to you when they first came to you with their problems and ask them to chat for 10 minutes about how you’ve made their lives infinitely better. Write down what they say and use these words.
  3. Stalk people online. In a non-creepy way. Lurk in Facebook groups, on Twitter, and in blog post comments. Listen to those online conversations for the problems they’re experiencing that you can help with. Use their words in your copy.

Do you notice a trend here? Research, write down what your prospects say, and put it in your copy.

Then test it out, and tweak it. You can use all the industry jargon in the world but if your clients don't understand you, they're going to disappear. 

 

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My 3-Glasses Of Wine Honest Review of Make It Work Online

(because would you expect anything else from me?)

 

I’m not a typical graduate of Make It Work Online (MIWO). I happened upon MIWO as one happens upon, perhaps a dream job. Stay with me here.

In 2017, I was 13 or so years into my management consulting job. I had self-published a book and was growing my copywriting business on the side. Early in 2017, I had some amazing copywriting clients and decided to (finally) leave my corporate job and dive face first into writing and fully embrace the work from home, be my own boss life.

As luck and fate would have it, at the same time I was stepping away from my 9-to-5, Make It Work Online was kicking off. I had applied to be a copywriting coach for the program, not really knowing what to expect. I happy danced til Tuesday when I got accepted, and not just because I got to help people write better. As a copywriter for the program, I got access to all the program content.

If I was going to be coaching these online entrepreneurs on their writing, I sure as heck was going to follow along so I could feel what they were feeling. Also, I was in the same spot as most of the ladies in the program were—trying to figure it all out with an online business.

Now, the clients who take the course get the real advantage. They get weekly coaching calls, support from a small, intimate group, plus, all the help and high-fives they need from the bigger group. I didn’t get this benefit. I DIY-ed my way through the course on my own, and let me just tell you, if it weren't for MIWO, I wouldn’t have had the unexpected success I had in my first several months of solopreneurship.

For this, I’m forever grateful. So, I’ll share what MIWO is, who I think will get the most out of the program, and how to know if it’s the right investment for you.

 

Make it Work Online - What it is:

Make It Work Online is a 3-month coaching intensive that’s part business training, part coaching, part copywriting workshop, part mastermind, and part online community focused on tons of action-taking that’s run by business coach Jenny Shih and a team of business and copywriting coaches.

This isn't a buy-now-do-later program. It's a join-now-do-now with support every step of the way. Every client is assigned their own copywriter, someone I hand-picked and trained in the MIWO process who personally helps the client clarify their message, craft a killer offer, update their web copy, and put their best foot forward online.

The key here is ACTION. Clients take action constantly. When you take action is where you find clarity. I learned this in my business big time this year.

It is not a DIY build your business online course. Make It Work Online is much more personalized, with customized, 1-on-1 attention from Jenny and her team—it's business coaching in a group setting but specific to you and your business, not one-size-fits-all information.

MIWO helps women who run a service-based business land a steady stream of clients by focusing on the online business-building essentials—clear communication, compelling offers, and consistent, strategic action. It’s designed to give you the info and support you need, so you can step up and do what it takes to make your online businesses work.

 

My 3-Glasses of Wine Honest Review of Make it Work Online

Make it Work Online took me at one of the scariest and most exciting points of my life—having just left my corporate job after 13 years with a goal of making my corporate income by the end of the year—a full-time six-figure income. If I didn’t make it work, I was afraid I’d have to go find another “job.” (Oh, hell no!) When I joined as a copywriting coach and enrolled in early 2017, I had a website, I’d worked with a handful of copywriting clients and started building my email list but I had a pretty basic idea (mostly assumptions) of what to do when it came to marketing, sales pages, and even copy.

Yes, as a copywriter, I write some damn good copy, but MIWO gives you the time-tested, online business owner reviewed and approved formulas to website copy, offer copy, consults, follow-ups, and more. It upped my writing game which helped me serve my clients better in return.

Make it Work Online helped me tighten my message, put together my first real offer and start making real progress in my business. I went from making between 0-$1000/month to $5,000/month then $10,000, within NINE months of me starting the program. This is all as a direct result of the work and coaching in the program.

MIWO’s strategic, step-by-step online business building plan, the support of the other women in the program and the personalized guidance to set realistic goals and take consistent action was exactly what I needed to make my new venture thrive.

Is MIWO for you? It depends.

How Make it Work Online works

Almost every week for the 12 weeks of the program, you get a new lesson that teaches an essential business-building concept. You get access to the lesson and then complete a very targeted, no fluff assignment.

Next, you meet with a mini-mastermind of 3-4 other ladies, called your Power Group, to help you work on the assignment. As a writing coach, I didn’t have the Power Group experience (but I STILL got results), but others tell me the group is worth its weight in gold and they still meet a year after the program wrapped.

Then, you submit your assignment to get personalized feedback from one of the copywriting pros (someone like me!) so you can be confident you’re putting your best foot forward online.

Here are some assignments you can expect:

  • Crafting your summary statement/elevator pitch so you can finally explain what you do in plain English with confidence

  • Writing copy for an offer that will sell itself

  • Writing your About page (the hardest page on your website to write!)

  • Writing your home page, other pages on your website so your ideal client can’t wait to hire you

  • Creating an opt-in offer, copy, and squeeze page to build your email list while you drink lattes

Most weeks there’s a group coaching call where Jenny personally answers questions you have about your assignment or your business.

In MIWO you learn, take action, get feedback, get coaching, and keep moving forward.

The action part is what makes MIWO different from any other business building course--I’ve taken a few and this is the ONLY one I recommend.

Every day of the program, Monday through Friday, you’ll find Jenny, the coaching team, and the copywriting team in the private online forum every day, so you never have to stay stuck.

 

Make it Work Online is perfect for you if:

  • You have an online, service-based business

  • You’re struggling to find the right people and convert them into paying clients.

  • You have a pretty good idea of what you want to do and have a published website (even if it’s bare bones right now

  • You have a bunch of unfinished online courses, free PDFs you’ve never even looked at, and your calendar is filled with free webinars—but still aren’t seeing results

  • You’ve been itching to quit your 9-to-5 and just need a plan before you can make it happen

Make it Work Online is NOT for you if:

  • You’re not sure what kind of business you want and have way too many ideas in your head

  • You’re not ready to dedicate time every single week. I’ve seen some of the successful clients block off three hours each week to learn and do the work

  • Want a magic bullet. But you already know the magic bullets are hanging out with the unicorns.


Know this: Make it Work Online is not a secret sauce, magic bullet, or get rich quick scheme or the only program, course or coaching you’ll ever need in your business.

A successful business isn’t built overnight. You’ll be A LOT further along after 3 months in Make it Work Online (and set up with a 6-month plan to follow after that!) but you can’t expect to go from 0 to 6 figures in 6 weeks.

Once you’ve nailed the fundamentals Jenny teaches you in Make it Work Online, you’ll be ready to move on to more advanced business growth strategies.

And this is exactly why I’m offering a special Blog & Website Content bundle to anyone who enrolls in Make it Work Online through my MIWO affiliate link.

 

Frequently Asked Questions about Make it Work Online

Here are a few of the most frequent questions I get about Make it Work Online. If you don’t see yours or are still wondering about your unique situation, email me at hi@jacquelinefisch.com and I’ll respond with my honest thoughts within a day or two.

When does enrollment open?

Applications for the spring 2018 class of Make it Work Online open Thursday, January 25 and close Monday, February 1.

Why do I have to apply to MIWO?

Jenny and her team personally review each application to make sure you’re a perfect fit and will get results from the program.

What’s the investment?

Make It Work Online is $3500 if paid in full. There are also 5- and 10-month payment plans available.

What’s the difference between B-School and MIWO?

Make it Work Online isn't like ANY of the online courses I've taken (B-School included) because it's so much more personalized and with real, 1-on-1 attention from Jenny and her team—it's business coaching in a group setting but specific to you and your business.

I took B-School back in 2013. While it was the first time I had made a big investment in myself, and I made the money back within a few months, it was self-paced and not tailored to my business. I took B-School when I had a food-related business, so I totally switched gears.

I loved B-School and made some business BFFs I still talk to today, but when I signed up I had no business-building background, a website in a totally different industry, and several other ideas for businesses. B-School gave me the basic business knowledge I needed and the connection to an inspiring community of other women just like me (that I definitely did not have in my life AND had no idea even existed).

B-School set the stage and gave me a solid foundation, and MIWO helped me build on the foundation with ridiculous amounts of action.

Clearly, I’m a raving fan of Make it Work Online because it had a huge impact on my business at a time when I NEEDED it to work or I’d have to go back to get just another job.

In Make it Work Online, you’ll finally dig into your ideal client, their language, what offerings they’ll line up to buy from you and how to get paying clients in the door.

Having the MIWO team there to support you personally for 3 months will change your business and your life.

I wouldn't change my decision to take B-School because it was the first time I made a big investment in myself, but MIWO gave me much bigger results for my business.

How can I get a bonus when I enroll in Make it Work Online?

I’m not only a copywriter in the Make it Work Online program, and a graduate, but I’m also a program affiliate. That means I get a commission for every person who enrolls with my referral. I'd shout from the rooftops about how Make it Work Online changed my business regardless (and have!) but my affiliation doesn’t increase the cost of the program AND it allows me to offer you a thank you bonus!

JACQ’S MAKE IT WORK ONLINE BONUS

JACQ’ED: THE COMPLETE COPYWRITING & BLOGGING BUNDLE ($750 value!)

Learn more here!

If you've already applied, you can still receive my bonuses for enrolling if you email info@jennyshih.com and let me them know you wanted to enroll through my link.

5 super practical steps to growing a side business this year that feels good

If this is the year you've decided to go all-in on growing your business on the side and (finally) leave your day job, then congratulations! 

It's a scary move, but for me, the idea of staying where I was was even scarier. I made the move after working in the corporate world for more than 13 years, and here's my best advice on how to do it so that it feels good— like really good.

 

1 | Track Time

I’ve been tracking my time for work since 2004. As a management consultant who used to work with the Federal Government and other big clients, they needed to know how many hours I worked down to 15-minute increments so my company could bill them appropriately.

This habit stuck with me, and even though I’ve stepped away from the corporate world, I track every minute. I’m tracking the time to write this blog post to you. The biggest point in tracking your time is knowing where it’s going. If you say building your side hustle is the most important thing to you, then you should be spending time dedicated to exactly that.

It’s also an excellent way to avoid spending your time scrolling Facebook or belly-button gazing.

2 | Boundaries

Setting up clear boundaries in your business early on will pay off in the early months of running your business full time.

Start with boundaries in your full-time job first. This might mean blocking an hour for lunch each day, and the last hour of the day so you can tie up loose ends and run out of there at the end of the day.

In your growing business, you likely can’t focus on your side hustle work while you’re at your day job. This means you’ll dedicate specific hours to grow your business outside of day job hours. Maybe it’s 5-6am every weekday or just on weekends.

Also, consider how much effort you’ll put into your day job. If you plan to resign in six months, this isn’t the time to volunteer for extra projects. You should be doing what Tim Ferriss calls, the Minimum Effective Dose (MED)—the minimum amount of work you need to do to keep your job and feel good about yourself to sleep well at night.

3 | Save the extra money

If you come to count on any money you’re bringing in while you’re working your full-time job, it’s going to make it even harder to step away. Consider any money you bring in on top of your day job as a bonus and stow it away. It will give you a little cushion and piece of mind when you go out on your own. It could even become your emergency savings fund.

4 | Tell people

Plant seeds with anyone who will listen if it won’t jeopardize your full-time job. Let people know what you’re building, take friends up on their offers to help you grow and spread the word. In my situation, this also meant telling the kids what was going on. I told them, “Mommy is going to be working a lot at night and on the weekend lately, but I’m doing it so that I can be my own boss and be able to hang out with you guys next summer.”

5 | Gratitude

This one is tough; I get it. If you’re in a soul-sucking job where the hours suck, the work sucks, and your boss is the pits, you might very well have feelings of Sunday dread and hate your life. But here’s the thing (and this is hard, but listen up) you have to find ways to be grateful for your corporate job.

Because the energy you put into the job you want to leave will spill over into the job, you want to have. If you can find aspects of your job to be grateful for, this will make you feel good, which in turn will bring good feelings to your side business.

In my case, I found tons of things to be grateful for. I was thankful for a steady paycheck (an obvious one) that was going to help finance my dream while not compromising on my standard of living. It provided me with the skills I’d need to be an entrepreneur—communications, sales, writing, presentations, and being an all-around trustworthy human being. And lastly, the connections—in 13 years some old contacts from 10 years ago became clients, and not because I had to “sell” them on anything. I love keeping in touch with cool people. I want to know about what they’re doing and where they’re headed. And because we keep in touch, telling people what I’ve been up to in building my business felt totally natural.

 

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