Your Why: The Cornerstone of Your Content

In my last blog post, I showed you how to create a character sketch for your customers to help you understand them better. better. This week, I’ll show you how to create a character sketch for yourself so you can understand yourself better, what inspires you in your business. For this character sketch, you’ll ask yourself four questions. We’ll deal with the who, what and how questions in the next blog post, but we’ll start with why.

This is a picture of the cover of the book Start With Why. The words Start With Why are written in bright red uppercase letters on a white background. Copyright, Simon Sinek

This is a picture of the cover of Start With Why, a well known business book that inspires you to find your motivation.

Start With Why is actually the name of a well-known business book by Simon Sinek, who argues that knowing why you’re in business is the foundation for your success. It’s the spark of inspiration that gets you up in the morning and keeps you going on grey days when nothing is happening. It’s your purpose. It’s what gives you meaning in your life. It’s the reason you’re doing all this hard work in the first place.

Resonating With Customers

There are two powerful aspects to your why that will resonate with your customers – the good you do for the world and the good you do for yourself. It’s true that we set up in business to make money, but truly successful businesses do good for the world. It doesn’t have to be world peace. You can make people’s lives better in all kinds of small but valuable ways.

This week, I heard a presentation from a solicitor. The role of a solicitor is seen as a traditional one, one that follows well established practices. And most solicitors will offer similar services. But this solicitor electrified the group – because of her why. Maria O’Donovan is a family law solicitor who puts empathy for her clients at the heart of her practise.

Maria’s mission is to lighten the emotional burden that clients feel when they’re in difficult family situations, so that they’re ready for the legal battles that lie ahead. That’s a powerful why. She even keeps a list of counsellors at hand that she can refer her clients to if they need it, which shows that she’s breaking the mould.

If you want to create a compelling why statement yourself, you can sign up to my content training course.

What Motivates You

It may seem a little selfish to talk about the good you’re doing for yourself, but your customers will be interested in the human being behind your products. You can share the passion that led you to set up your business or your interest in coming up with innovative solutions to people. Maria O’Donovan chose to specialise in family law because personal experiences in her own life gave her a unique understanding of what her clients faced. That will resonate with people who need to find solutions to complex family issues. They’ll identify with her and trust that she can help them through their difficulties.

So, what do you do with this why when you’ve identified it? You turn it into a mission statement for your business. In that mission statement, you set out the goals you want to achieve for your customers and the values that you want to live by. The values are the things that give your life meaning and purpose. When your mission comes from your heart, it will truly resonate with customers and they’ll be drawn not just to your brand, but to the person behind the brand.

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How Storytelling Can Help You Understand Your Customers

How well do you know your customers? You may have some idea – you know the demographic you’re looking to reach or where they life. But do you really know them on an intimate? In this week’s blog, I’m going to show you how authors develop their characters, and how you can be inspired by their techniques to create content that really speaks to those customers.

Authors know everything about their characters. They don’t include all those details in their stories, but they know about every aspects of their characters’ lives. That’s what helps them create a character that’s realistic and believable as a human being. They create a character sketch of their characters. It’s like a profile, a life story of a character created using various headings.

For you as a business owner, a character sketch is a great way to get to know your customers. You’d create a character sketch based on a particular customer who represents your target market. They could be a real person or someone you’d make up. The idea is that you can visualise this customer every time you write content and you can write your content for them. This allows you to create content with a friendly, intimate tone, helping your customers to feel like you’re a wise friend who understands your problems and can help them improve their lives.

So, how do you create a character sketch?

Basic Character Details

Let’s start with the basics. Give them a name and age. You can just choose a random name, but giving your customer a name makes it easier for you to imagine them as a person. Knowing their age is very useful. It helps you imagine them as a person. You can call them by that name when you’re writing your content and that’ll help you imagine you’re addressing what you say to them.

Here’s Maurice Murgatroyd, the star of my content creation course. I ask participants to practise their character creation skills on him. The results are interesting.




This is a charcoal type sketch of an old, grumpy looking mad with a pointy beard and a long face. He’s bald with spots on his head.

Another good way of visualising your customer is to find a profile picture of a person that represents your customer. You can download a stock picture from the internet and stick that photo up on a wall so you can see the customer in your mind when you’re writing your content. Or you can add a picture to the written details on your customer profile.

Life Details

This section of the character sketch is about a customer’s life circumstances. These are the circumstances that help shape their purchasing behaviour. Knowing their educational background and job will give you an idea of the income they have available to spend. Their family circumstances will determine what products and services they’ll buy. People with children will want to buy family-friendly products, while single people may want to buy high-end products to treat themselves with. Even a customer’s hobbies will shape their buying habits, as they’ll need to buy products that help them take part in their hobby.

Buying Habits

There are a few ingredients that will differentiate your character sketch from an author’s one. Where authors will identify their character’s secret power, or secret from their past, you’re identifying their purchasing power, or the ways they decide to purchase. One of the ways that people decide on their purchases is through the media. Increasingly, this means social media. If you know what media your target audience consumes, you can follow them onto those media platforms and communicate with them there. If you know where they shop, you know what types of shops they favour and what they buy when they’re in those shops. You can then appeal to customers whose consumer habits match the types of offerings you have.

Solving Their Problems

Your customers are coming to you because they have a problem they hope you can solve. This needn’t be a big problem. It could just be something they’re missing, a need that isn’t being met. The most important part of your character sketch is the section about the problem your customer would like solved. If you know what that problem is, you can create content that shows them how you solve that problem. They’ll then trust you to solve that problem, and they’ll buy from you.

How Character Sketches Help You Reach Your Customers

So, what’s the benefit of doing this character sketch? The isn’t a tangible result as such, but there is a result just the same. The character sketch helps you keep focused on your customers’ needs when you’re creating your content. When customers are reading your content, you want them to feel that they’re sitting across the table, having a coffee with you, and you understand where they’re coming from. And with that content, you can show them that they can trust you to help them improve their lives.

If you like the idea of character-driven content and you’d like me to help you create some, please give me (Derbhile) a call on 0876959799.

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Three Storytelling Techniques for Standout Content

I’m sure you’ve been told a million times that content is king, that it boosts your visibility, that it helps you stand out. The trouble is, the Internet is saturated with content, and this creates a headache for entrepreneurs like you who are looking to spread the word about their business with brilliant marketing content. How are you to stand out if everyone else is writing content too?

The good news is, there is a way you can stand out if you’re willing to be a little bit creative. Marketing gurus talk about telling the story of your business. So, who better to turn to for inspiration but master storytellers – bestselling authors. I’m going to share with you some storytelling techniques that bestselling authors use. These storytelling techniques are simple to use and they’ve worked since the beginning of time. We’ll start with…

Character Creation

All authors base their stories on a central character, what they do and how they feel. And they know these characters inside out. In a business context, you can treat your customer as a character, and get to know them the way authors do – with a character sketch, which is a profile of a character. You take a typical customer from your demographic group, and do a character profile of them, exploring their interests, what media they consume and what problems they’d need solve.

This is a picture of an old man with a long, wrinkled face and a forked beard. He has a thin, knobbly neck poking out of his shirt collar.

You can also do a character sketch for yourself. Take the time to explore why you do what you do, what you want to achieve for your customers and how you achieve that goal. You can then use that knowledge, of yourself and your customers, to create content that appeals to them, that shows you understand them and can make their lives better with your products and services.

Next up, we have…

Plotting Techniques

For a story to be a story, something has to happen. That central event in a story is a plot. An author will create a plot that’s full of tension, leaving you wondering what’s happening next. But as a business owner, you’re more about resolving conflict than creating it. So, you create a problem-solving plot. And you do this using a plot structure that has existed since stories began and still works brilliant. That is the three-act structure, a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.

For the beginning, you lay out the problem; you set the scene. You ask the customer if they have an issue that needs to be solved. For example, I might ask: are you struggling to figure out what to say? Then you move to the middle of the story and talk about the process you use to solve the customer’s problem, the system you put in place. You finish up the story by explaining how you ultimately solved the problem for your customer and how you made your customer feel. Following this plotline when describing your products will build trust among your customers that you understand them and can resolve any difficulties they have.

Finally, we come to …

Setting and the Senses

These techniques are linked to each other and both aim to bring readers into the world of a story. They also help authors create vivid descriptions. Setting is about the time and place where a story happens, and with the senses, you describe what you experience using all five of your senses, not just sight. How you will use this technique will depend on what type of business you own.

If you have a physical product or a beautiful venue, you’re in luck. You can describe your place of business or the wonderful products you create. Talk about the aromatic scents released by your products, the delicious rich tastes, the views on offer, and even the harmonious sounds you may hear when you visit a venue or use certain products. But if you have a service, you can still draw on the senses to describe what you offer. You can think of an object that symbolises your business and use it as a metaphor for what you offer. For example, a coach may use a candle as a symbol and talk about guiding people from darkness into light.

I’ll be blogging lots more about these techniques and how to apply them to your marketing content. And I can also teach you how to use these techniques with my new content training course. You can find out more about it here. Or give me a call on 0876959799.

Pandemic Prose: Heroes

In this week’s piece of pandemic prose, I turn my attention to the healthcare workers. We quite rightly call them heroes for their tireless work on the frontlines during those first frightening weeks of the pandemic – and the work they continue to do. But I do wonder how helpful that label was for them. By calling them heroes, have we inadvertently blocked them from being able to express their feelings?

Healthcare workers tend to be selfless, uncomplaining types, and I can’t presume to know whether they found the term ‘hero’ a burden. But I do feel it’s important to give them the space to be human as well as heroic, to drop anchor a little. This week’s piece explores that idea.

If you’re a healthcare worker, or you know someone who is, I hope this video will bring you comfort. Have a look at it here.

Pandemic Prose: The Figures

In this week’s YouTube video, I trace the rise and fall and rise of the COVID-19 figures since lockdown began, and explore the impact on me and on other people. I also share the reason why naught is a figure I long to see.

I’d be delighted if you’d take a couple of minutes to sample the video.

Pandemic Prose: The Closing

Here’s the second of my ten pandemic prose poems. It also featured in the lineup of the Modwordsfest spoken word festival on 11-12 July – thanks to Anna Jordan for that. I don’t think any of us will ever forget where we were when we heard that we were locking down. It’ll be a ‘where were you’ conversation for years to come. I was in a school, and my piece aims to capture the strange joy of that moment.

If you have a spare two minutes, I’d love you to take a look. Many thanks.

Here’s a video of my latest piece of pandemic prose, The Closing.

Words Are All I Have: Some Pandemic Writing

I’ve written ten prose poems inspired, if you want to call it that, by the COVID crisis. I’ll be posting them up as videos over the next ten weeks and sharing them on this blog.

This first one, Words Are All I Have, was a response to how helpless I felt as the crisis began to unfold. It was published on the Pendemic website, and also featured as part of the Modwordsfest spoken word festival in Waterford on 11-12 July.

If you’d like to hear Words Are All I have, you’ll find it here.

Announcing the WriteWords Online Children’s Writing Course

Every summer, I run a creative writing course for children. And I don’t see why this summer should be any different. Last week, I told you about my online writing courses for adults. Now, I’m going to do an the same for children. I’m going to run an online children’s writing course for children aged between seven and ten.

Inspiration for Writing Course

It was actually two boys I know who inspired me to take my writing courses online. Their mother asked me to give them some writing classes over WhatsApp during the height of lockdown, and they went really well. At first, it was strange speaking into a screen, but the boys took it in their stride, and given that I wasn’t in the room with them, they concentrated really well.

I’m going to run five one-hour sessions. The first four sessions will each cover a different creative writing skill. The final day will be a feast for the senses, as we let ourselves be inspired by what we hear, what we see and what we taste. The sessions will be highly interactive, with lots of laughter and chat, and they will feel like real-world writing classes.

What Will Happen During the Camp

On the first day, we’ll concentrate on language. The children will make up their own words, play with the alphabet and write about summer without using the word summer. The second day will be all about creating characters, both real and imagined.

On the third day, the children will create worlds. This is always a popular session. They create their own countries, name them and draw a map of them. They’ll also travel back in time, to imagine what their house might have looked like in the 1920s. This class will teach them about the value of setting, the place and time in which a story takes place.

Photo illustrates that the online children’s writing course will be just as enriching as a real-world course

Children writing at a big table during one of my previous writing courses. The walls behind them are white and there are paintings on them.

The fourth day is all about what happens in stories: in other words, the plot. The children will devise their own newspaper, filled with exciting stories. On the final day, as the children explore their senses, they’ll create their own disgusting recipes and list and make their favourite sounds.

If I’ve managed to whet your appetite, my online children’s writing course will run from 13-17 July, from 10-11am each day. The price of the camp will be €40 per child, with concessions for two children or more.

If you’d like to book a place for your child, call me on 087 6959799 or email derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie.