We were in middle-of-nowhere Utah…
Soon, our archaeology buddies would emerge from the canyon, wrapping up their 5-day backpacking trip. As arranged, Mike, Paul, and I were picking up Laurie and Terry’s sizable SUV at their starting point. Our mission was to transport the truck and rendezvous at their exit point: Peekaboo Camp.
I climbed into the massive vehicle and slid the key into the ignition. That’s when I saw a note on the seat, scribbled on an old envelope:
Mike and Patrice,
The road to Peekaboo Camp is actually a creek, running high right now.
The ranger said to drive on the right size of the creek – the left side is QUICKSAND.
See you at Peekaboo!
L & T
Drive up a flowing creek? Avoid the quicksand?
This roadtrip encompassed all the adventure I love: high-adrenaline four-wheel driving, scrambling on cliffs to hunt for ancient rock art (petroglyphs and pictographs), dramatic Southwestern vistas, and lots of camaraderie, to boot.
Outdoor adventures – big and small, near and far – light my brain on fire and make my heart sing!
For me, ADVENTURE is a “Big Why?”
While creating my 2016 business plan, I listed multiple drivers. Front and center is ADVENTURE. I realized this is one of my answers to the question: Why build your own business?
- I love guiding business owners to clarify their brand. I believe clarity is the rocket fuel to promote and grow your business.
- I love that my business gives me the independence, empowerment, and success I simply could not achieve in the corporate world.
- And I love that Mike and I continue to carve out a life that is invigorating, fulfilling, and adventurous.
What is YOUR “Big Why?”
Did you know 2016 is a leap year? Metaphorically, this could be an important LEAP YEAR for you and your business. At the heart of it all is knowing your “Big Why?”
Here are 3 questions to clarify your “Big Why?”
- Regarding quality of life: What is the lifestyle you want to live? What does it look like? Take a few moments to draw a picture, create a vision board, or jot down a list of activities that, together, create a healthy, fulfilling, well-rounded life for you and your family.
- Regarding servicing your clients: What is the unique expertise you deliver to your clients (and audience members if you’re a speaker)? As a business owner, you are an expert – you bring a distinctive combination of experience, expertise, and new ideas to the table. Write down the unique expertise you deliver. (Hint: Clarity on this point helps to clarify your brand.)
- Regarding building your business: What is the “fire in your belly”? Every morning you get up, ready to fight the good fight. What energizes you? Is it serving clients in need? Earning more money? Creating a better life for your family? Sharing your expertise and growing your reputation? Write down the fire in your belly:
In a few words, can you express your “Big Why?”
Clarity is the rocket fuel to promote and grow your business – and to create the quality of life you desire.
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Pictures at Peekaboo Camp
“Murder your darlings.”
It’s not a Halloween joke. It’s a century-old, highly respected writing tip!
Who said it?
According to Forrest Wickman’s research, Arthur Quiller-Couch offered this insightful advice in his widely reprinted 1913-1914 Cambridge lectures “On the Art of Writing”:
“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”
What does it mean?
Sometimes while writing, we create a sentence or paragraph that is particularly energetic. It flows! It sparkles! It may be brilliant!
But if that sentence or paragraph does not support your message, you need to kill it. You need to whip out your red pen or hit the delete key.
It breaks your heart, but it must be done.
I believe every word, every sentence must support the message. “Murder your darlings” reminds us to be objective when writing and editing our content.
We are servants of the message we seek to communicate. We cannot fall in love with a passage that does not serve our message.
I’ve been writing professionally for 30+ years, and I know it’s tough to “murder your darlings.” My advice? Take a breath. Buck up. Do it.
The more you “murder your darlings,” the easier it becomes. Your message is clear. Your writing improves. Everyone wins – except that “darling.” :>
In search of rock art and rattlesnakes! View House on Fire and other highlights of our archaeological field trip
I love prowling around the canyons of southeastern Utah, searching for signs of ancient people – and rattlesnakes!
Recently, Mike and I joined other members of the Colorado Archaeological Society to explore a corner of the Four Corners region. One of our destinations, House on Fire, has become fairly well known. Another destination featuring petroglyph-covered boulders is TOP SECRET.
House on Fire: Built perhaps 1,000 years ago by the Anasazi (now called Ancient Puebloans), this dwelling is renowned for its “flames”: spectacular colorations on the sandstone overhang of this pretty, little alcove. As the mid-morning sun crept into the canyon, we were fortunate to witness House on Fire “catch fire.”
Petroglyphs: As noted, the rock art location is TOP SECRET. A wide variety of petroglyphs are pecked into large sandstone boulders. That’s all I can say before the Men in Black take me away.
And the rattlesnakes? Here’s my theory: When you see (or hear) a rattlesnake, you know you’re having an adventure!
There were no sightings this trip. However, I’m positive future field trips will yield a rattlesnake spotting. And who knows? Maybe there will be more than one. That’s when you know you are having a REAL ADVENTURE. :>
Enjoy this quick slideshow!
Highlights of our archaeological field trip by Patrice Rhoades-Baum – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Business Innovators magazine.
Our discussion topics included:
- Why branding is challenging, particularly for solopreneurs (professional speakers, business coaches, life coaches, authors). Spoiler alert: Gaining objectivity and perspective on your business – and the unique value you add – can be quite challenging!
- Why it’s important to clarify your brand. Spoiler alert: I believe a clear brand is rocket fuel for your business – your clear brand quickly communicates Who you are, What you do, and What they get (the benefits and results your clients receive).
- The fast-‘n’-efficient Nail Your Brand™ process I have created, which guides solopreneurs and small business owners to quickly clarify their brand.
- The Brand Elements™ I’ve identified, and how these are used to create an on-target, clear, and consistent marketing toolkit including your websites, speaker one-sheet, business card, and social media profiles. Spoiler alert: Some of the Brand Elements™ include your name (with credentials), title, tagline (aka promise statement), and logo. For solopreneurs, your photo is also an important Brand Element™, since you ARE your brand!
What the heck does it mean to “eat the big frog first” – and what does it have to do with writing?
First, let’s look at this cryptic and confusing phrase!
Mark Twain said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Over the past 100 years, this phrase has shifted to “eat the big frog first.” In other words, tackle the most challenging or dislikeable task first – or a big task that will produce your greatest results.
Now, let’s look at how you can “eat the big frog first” when writing articles, blog posts, or website content.
In this context, “eating the big frog first” means tackling the most difficult aspect of your writing project, right off the bat.
For example, if you’re creating all new content for your website, you would tackle the Home page copy first. This challenging chunk of copywriting can be difficult and daunting. Why?
Website Home page copy must:
- Convey your brand in a nutshell.
- Communicate your key benefit message.
- Be brief.
- Be on target (for your target market).
- Inspire the website visitor to keep reading, then contact you!
What if you don’t want to eat the big frog first?
Truth be told, I rarely eat the big frog first! I’ve been a professional copywriter for 30+ years. Often, I’ll start by writing smaller chunks of content. Editing a pile of testimonials. Compiling relevant notes to the project designer or developer. Later – when the creative juices are flowing – I’ll eat the big frog.
You can “nibble the little tadpoles first!”
Thanks to 2 recent conversations on this topic – with my client Debra and with my friend and marketing colleague Susan – we collectively coined the phrase, “nibble the little tadpoles first!”
Some people want to tackle the challenge right off the bat. These brave souls eat the big frog first. Meanwhile, some of us prefer to first nibble on little tadpoles to get the creative juices flowing.
Which approach is right for you?
There’s no right or wrong approach. As a professional copywriter, I encourage you to sink your teeth into your writing project and start by either eating big frogs or nibbling tadpoles.
One way or another, get started – and get that writing project done!
The Big Island is a nature lover’s paradise!
If you like geckos and lizards, exotic birds, and other critters, you’ll love the Big Island of Hawaii. Just to spice things up, add plunging waterfalls, vibrant botanic gardens, ancient petroglyphs, and an active volcano!
My mother and I visited the Big Island of Hawaii in September, with a quick jaunt to Oahu to see Pearl Harbor.
Take a moment to revel in the wonder and beauty of this tropical paradise.
Aloha! Nature highlights of Hawaii (the Big Island) by Patrice Rhoades-Baum – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires
We knew we would be in condor country…
Biologists sometimes release captive-bred California condors at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument — a sweeping, impressive desert landscape in a remote stretch of northern Arizona.
Prior to our June roadtrip to AZ/UT to celebrate our 30th anniversary, I learned everything I could about this huge bird, which hovers close to extinction. I read biology notes and watched wildlife videos. And I got my hopes up.
- This critically endangered species is the largest bird in North America, with a wingspan of up to 9 1/2 feet!
- In 1982, only 22 California Condors were left in the world. Thanks to captive-breeding programs, they now number over 400. Approximately 200 are flying free in the wild throughout the Southwest.
- They can travel hundreds of miles in a day.
- They live up to 50 years.
Despite the odds, I hoped to see this rare raptor.
Only 77 California condors are free-flying in northern Arizona and Southern Utah. According to a March 2015 update by The Peregrine Fund, only 8 of these birds are wild-hatched.
I got my wish and saw a condor — she is one of the few born in the wild!
Condors have been seen at Navajo Bridge, which
spans the Colorado River at
Marble Canyon (downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam and upstream from Grand Canyon). Mike and I stopped for lunch at the small visitor center there. We planned to find shade. We hoped to see a big bird.
Just as I stepped out of the car, a shadow swept over me. “It’s a condor!”
I grabbed my camera: click, click, click. So majestic! So thrilling!
Later, we searched the tag number and, according to The Peregrine Fund, “my” condor is a 2-year-old female that was born in Marble Canyon, right where we saw her.
In all, we saw THREE condors!
The next day, we bumped along a gravel road to the release site at the base of the Vermilion Cliffs and waited … and waited. Finally a condor soared over us, high above our heads, then disappeared to the east. A moment later, another condor came into view from the west, spiraling on an updraft. It was high overhead, but the markings were unmistakable.
If you’re planning a roadtrip to northern Arizona/southern Utah, keep your eyes peeled…
With only 77 condors in the wild in this part of the country, you don’t want to miss seeing this majestic, rare raptor. And give me a call. I’m happy to share trip notes and directions to our lucky condor-viewing sites!
During the May NSA/Colorado celebration, President Chandra Hall surprised me with the 2015 President’s Award for service to the chapter.
I am extremely honored and humbled. As I noted when receiving the award, “Where else can you fly with the eagles?”
Hats off to an AMAZING group of fearless entrepreneurs!
On an entirely different note, I received 2nd place in the Pikes Peak Chapter/Colorado Archaeological Society photo contest.
I took this photo in Monument Valley last year, while Mike and I explored the 4WD back road at Monument Valley … the road less traveled. :> In a previous year, I won 1st place for this image (below) of an Eastern collared lizard, which graciously posed for me at Hovenweep National Monument.
Use this checklist to ensure a successful launch for your new (or updated) website!
Over the years, I’ve reviewed hundreds of business websites to ensure they were polished, professional, and working properly.
Before a website goes live – and immediately after – I thoroughly review the website. Top to bottom. Using my systematic approach.
Use this checklist to thoroughly review YOUR new or updated website. The goal, of course, is to successfully launch your new, polished, professional website, so you can happily share it with the world!
Here’s my 12-point checklist. Use it to review your new or updated website before it goes live AND after it goes live.
- Test all links – Click the across-the-top navigation to ensure every web page is linked appropriately. Next, scroll down to the footer and click all text links to ensure they’re set up correctly, including social media icons. And don’t forget the site map: open the site map web page and check every link. Next, systematically move from web page to web page testing every link: any text links in the body copy, videos, audios, PDF speaker one-sheet, PDF resume, and all graphical elements (e.g., logos). If the blog has categories and a FeedBurner type of email subscription, check these links as well. Finally, on the interior pages, try clicking on the company logo in the banner – this should take you back to the Home page.
- Complete all forms to ensure they work – Complete all opt-in boxes and contact forms. Put on the “customer hat” and experience the process from the website visitor’s point of view. If there’s a PDF giveaway on the Thank-You-For-Subscribing page (from the opt-in box), click the link. It’s shocking how often this is overlooked! In fact, thoroughly review these behind-the-scenes thank-you pages (developers call these “success pages”). Also, critically look at any Captcha-type spam-control plugin the developer may have added to your contact form. Personally, I find reCAPTCHA beyond frustrating. If you and your website developer decide your website needs a spam-control plugin, select a version that your target market can easily use. Imagine a qualified prospect taking the time to thoroughly complete your contact form, then throwing in the towel due to a frustrating experience, right when they’re ready to hit Submit – you won’t get that lead.
- Now try to BREAK all forms! – What happens if you don’t complete a required field, then hit Submit? Is the “error” dialog box helpful? Or is it cryptic and confusing? On the contact form, can you input a long European phone number in the phone field or does it only allow 10 characters for US and Canadian phone numbers? Spend time trying to “break” every opt-in box and contact form. If there are any issues, it’s best for YOU to find them, not your customers.
- Purchase your product – Whip out your credit card and purchase your book or downloadable product. Check to ensure all pricing and shipping information is correct. Put on the customer hat to experience the purchase from the website visitor’s point of view. Is the purchase and downloadable process easy? Did it work properly? Are all directions throughout the process clear and easy to understand? Jot down any errors – and possible points of confusion – and discuss these with your developer.
- Test all email addresses – Is the main email address on the website Info@ABCcompany.com? Are there other email addresses? Ensure all are properly set up. If they don’t work, you may lose email messages from qualified prospects.
- Test all other features/functionality – Does your website have a search function? Test it. Any other features or functionality? Test these thoroughly, wearing the customer hat.
- Proof every word – Typos slip in … it’s a fact of life. Weirdly, typos seem to “hide out” best in 24-point headlines! Here are my favorite tips to flush out lurking typos and sneaky grammar and punctuation errors. This is an important step to ensure your website meets your high standards of professionalism.
(A) Print every page and proof the old-fashioned way – on paper. This simple trick offers a surprising level of objectivity and is much more effective than proofing at the monitor.
(B) Ask a family member, friend, or colleague to proof your website copy for you. Choose someone who has this skillset.
(C) Hire a professional proofreader.
- Critically examine stock photos – If the developer used stock photos in your new website, are the images fresh or trite? Do the images support your message? Ask pointed questions of your developer to ensure you have purchased the rights to use all stock photos and clipart. Finally, you’ll want to ensure photos with people present a mix of male/female, various ethnicities and, depending on your target market, different age groups.
- Check all redirects – For example, if your website address is ParagonConsulting.com and you requested that your developer redirect ParagonCoaching.com, then you’ll want to ensure this is set up.
- Ensure your developer has implemented basic SEO strategies – Like a well, this is a deep subject, given the plethora of SEO strategies and philosophies. At minimum, ensure your developer added a unique meta title and meta description for each web page and incorporated important organic keywords.
- Review using different browsers and multiple mobile devices (both Apple and Android) – Yikes, this is the bane of every website developer – and reviewers! This task can be time-consuming, and many developers do not conduct a thorough review. However, it’s YOUR website so, ultimately, it’s YOUR responsibility. At the time of this writing, there are 5 major browsers: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Opera. Download each browser onto your computer and test the key features and functionality of your website on every browser (especially email and contact form). Yes, it’s a pain, but this is vitally important. And take time to review your new website on a variety of mobile devices – both Apple and Android. I recently found a significant issue when reviewing a client’s new website on my Android smartphone – an issue he didn’t encounter on his iPhone.
SIDE NOTE: As of December 2014, W3Schools.com listed the most popular browsers (in terms of market share) as:
- Google Chrome: 61.36%
- Mozilla Firefox: 23.6%
- Internet Explorer: 8.0%
- Safari: 3.7%
- Opera: 1.6%
- What’s missing? – I’ve done a ton of professional editing in my career. Long ago, this realization popped into my head regarding the difference between a proofreader and an editor: The proofreader looks at what IS there; the editor also looks at what is NOT there. Step up to the 10,000-foot level and ask yourself: “Is anything missing? Are all photos, videos, and other assets represented in my new website, as planned? Is the contact form robust, so it serves as a hardworking inquiry form? Have we overlooked anything?”
If you have thoroughly reviewed your new or updated website – using this checklist and a systematic approach – then you’re ready to go live. Congratulations!
To celebrate our 30th anniversary in June, Mike and I are taking a 2-week roadtrip through remote stretches of northern Arizona and southern Utah.
Highlights will include:
- Boating on the Colorado River
- Camping at Grand Canyon North Rim
- Hopeful sightings of California condors at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
- Hiking and investigating Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park
- Conquering Zion National Park’s most extreme hike!
Join the adventure! Watch my Facebook page to get a front-row seat of this Southwest tour.
Let’s be Facebook friends! I plan to post regularly on Facebook – pix and videos – so you can travel along. You’ll get a front-row seat, plus you can rest assured that any scorpions or rattlesnakes we find will be at a safe distance. :>