This past Friday, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend the first TEDx event held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. One of my favorite speakers at the event was Adam Braun, founder of Pencils of Promise, an award-winning organization that has built more than 150 schools across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

TEDx - 520x520While Braun has many great things to say (“You change your words to change your worth” being one of them), my favorite part of his talk was about being purpose-driven. Instead of calling Pencils of Promise a nonprofit organization, he instead calls it a “for-purpose” organization. After explaining this term he’s coined (he doesn’t do charity work; he solves problems), he applied it to nonprofits and businesses alike.

“If you’re not building a business based on purpose … your business will erode,” he said.

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Every once in a while we get a few orders from agency clients. These agencies serve as intermediaries, taking a cut for finding clients and then sending them our way with prefilled forms that include instructions on what the client wants. It’s a great win-win, as we get to flex our brains by writing about myriad topics which we otherwise might not have encountered, the agency gets its share of the revenue, and the client gets top-notch content. But there’s one issue I keep bumping into that’s resulted in my being one the phone with the agency a few times: a demand to stick within a single narrative voice throughout an entire document that’s going to be used for marketing purposes.

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Ah, April Fools’ Day. The day those of us with trickster co-workers have to be on guard from the moment we grab our morning coffee until the time we clock out and go home. There’s one in every office: the trickster who gets a rise out of crossing office phone lines, changing your computer’s system language, or using the copier as a weapon of sweet workplace revenge (what, you didn’t think of those?). No one wants to look foolish, especially in the workplace.

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I serve on the media advisory committee for a local magnet school, Northwest Career and Technical Academy. This morning the school hosted a mock interview session, where local members of the media (including related fields like marketing and public relations) dedicated a few hours to pretending to interview students for a job or internship. We then had to grade the students on markers such as attire, eye contact, responses to questions, résumé/portfolio, etc.

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Should have used a different font!

A couple years ago, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) made the largest discovery in the field that had been seen in over 40 years. Physicists proved the existence of the Higgs boson particle—more commonly called the God particle—that pretty much explains the entire universe. Exciting, right? Something this huge, you’d think that #godparticle would have been the biggest Twitter trend since #slicedbread. Instead, the Twittersphere swarmed with complaints over the font used by the CERN folk in their live webcast presentation: the dreaded Comic Sans.

In most cases, solving the mysteries of the known universe shouldn’t pale in comparison to which font you choose for your website or project, but the level of vitriol over Comic Sans in particular shows that isn’t always the case. What makes typography such a big deal, anyway?

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Dave's Killer Bread the story 723x485When I mention Dave’s Killer Bread, few people know what company I’m talking about, but those who do respond with an almost cult-like affection. If you’re not familiar with it, Dave’s Killer Bread is the reincarnation of a decades-old family bakery out of Portland that has seen a meteoric rise in profits, fame and opportunity, mostly thanks to the introduction of Dave Dahl.

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Branding wordSometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day tasks of running a business that you forget to take a step back and view it all with a critical eye. Do my customers see what I think they see? What do complete strangers think when they come across my website? Are my employees in line with my vision for the company? Do they even know what my vision is? Depending on the answers to these questions, you may have some work in store for you to improve your company’s image. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

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Keep Calm and Free of JargonWhile editing a stack of documents a few months back, I ran across the phrase “top of mind.”

“Ugh, awkward,” I thought, and changed it. But then it popped up again a few docs later from a different writer, and then again while researching. Amid my growing suspicions, I managed to Google it with slightly shaky hands.

To my horror, I found that “top of mind” was a thing — an actual accepted phrase used in business every day by who knows how many people, and this despite its ungainly cadence and oh-so-wrongness. And top of mind is far from the only culprit. We also have nuggets like “vertical market” and leverage used as a verb in the wrong way. Also, nuggets.

Companies now have robust offerings instead of choices and they leverage solutions instead of selling stuff. And business jargon itself is

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03 Jan 2014

Sowing 2014’s Seeds

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If you’re like me, a new year often means looking back at the previous year and comparing it to what’s about to come. For some, this can be a downright depressing process, with most of the focus on past failures. For others, however, it’s full of excitement, with much to look forward to in the coming year. To which camp do you belong?

Seed growing - progression 723x485

I won’t patronize you by extolling the virtues of positive thinking and seeing mistakes and failures as simply blueprints for what success is meant to look like. Rather, I want to point out that regardless of your natural attitudinal tendencies, planning and preparation play a big role in what you reap down the line. I’m a strong believer in that, and I’ve found that if we have a blockbuster of a month, all I have to do is

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Email mistakes frustrate clientsNear the end of each school semester, I receive an email from my favorite college professor asking me to speak at one of her career classes. Because she was my favorite professor, and because those students will soon be a part of our local work force, I always say yes.

One of my favorite questions I’ve been asked during these sessions is, “What did you learn in ‘the real world’ that you wish you’d learned in school?” My answer to that is: emailing for business.

Emailing for business is an oft-overlooked skill that, when done correctly, can really enhance your business’ and your personal brand. If the subject is one of which you haven’t given much thought, don’t worry! It’s never too late to give it a little consideration. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Avoid life stories

These days, people can receive hundreds of emails each day. If you want them to read – rather than dread – yours, make an effort to get to the point quickly.

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