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Katie Mehas is Doyenne of Operations at The Voice Bureau
For the past week, we’ve been casually dropping a pretty major evolutionary fact about our own business on social media.

We did it here. And here. And here.

And now it’s time for the official announcement.

The news? The Voice Bureau has a new Creative Director: Katie Mehas. If you’ve been a regular Voice Bureau reader or a client of ours over the past 4 years, you’ve probably heard Katie’s name and/or had quite a bit of interaction with her via email and docs.

What? You might be saying. Abby, you’re handing over the Creative Directorship of your own business?

Yes, I’m telling you. Yes, I am.

Here’s why:

Over the past 10 years of self-employment, my vision for what it means to own a business has evolved. While once it was a way to fulfill my own creative growth while doing work I truly love, I’ve added to THAT an awareness that this business, The Voice Bureau, is very much an ENTITY outside of myself. And I like it better that way. It doesn’t NEED to be an extension of me, personally, to thrive and serve people very well in the context of what we do. It doesn’t NEED to have my fingerprint all over everything in order to be respected and sought after. (Ego, much? Yeah, I’ve been getting that in check.)

What it NEEDS is to stand confidently in its own point of view, to show up consistently, and to make the most of what it’s got, all in service of its Right People.

A well-run business takes on a life and an identity of its own. It has its own fingerprint. It has its own VOICE. And that is what I’ve actually always wanted out of business ownership — to build something bigger than just me.

What I’ve learned over the past, well, year, especially, is that I CANNOT. DO THIS. ALONE.

Trust me, I’ve tried. Not in the last four years, but before that.

And I’ve learned that doing it with at least one other person, and often more (a VA and our coterie of writers), is eminently preferable to me. Not because I’m the most naturally collaborative person on the planet. Because I truly CAN’T do it alone and serve clients well. What’s more, I don’t want to.

Over the past four years, I’ve had the immense pleasure of being partnered in this business by the amazing Katie, and of sharing leadership with her.

As I’ve already said, her presence in this business has allowed it to stay in business (through my seasons of burnout), has allowed it to grow (as I’ve been able to create new courses and offers because she was managing our client onboarding, our workflows, and our writers), and has allowed me to take a more panoramic view of what we’re really doing here.

Katie’s creative, strategic, and organizational gifts have been a HUGE gift to me, personally, and a HUGE asset to this business. Our clients adore her and say she’s the best they’ve ever seen or dealt with at what she does. And I agree.

This week, she stepped officially into the next natural evolution of her role at The Voice Bureau — Creative Director.

Me, I’m assuming the title of Founder & Brand Voice Specialist. It feels like just the right fit for this season of my life, for where I want to be today, and for where I want to go from here. I will continue to be involved in the business on a pretty intimate level on a daily (well, week-daily) basis, but I will be able to focus on the bigger picture and on more, shall we say, involved new offerings than we’ve ever attempted before.

I will also remain the voice of probably 90% of our free content, including blog posts, e-letters, and social media updates.

I want you to get to know and love Katie as much as I do. We decided to start this intro off (which will, you know, unfold over the course of howeverlong) with some written Q&A. Here we go.

Katie, welcome to your Creative Directorship! What are you most excited about in the next year of TVB?

Katie Mehas Voice Bureau Creative DirectorKATIE: I’m really excited about reconnecting with our readers and clients. Last year was a very internally focused year for us, realigning our direction, figuring out where we want to go as a business, and 2016 is the year for us to get back out there and share that. And I really think people will love seeing what we’ve been planning!

What’s your weird and special pleasure within the work we do for our clients? Any favorite parts we would probably be surprised to find out about?

KATIE: I love helping our clients find clarity in their business and their messaging. I think one of the things that makes The Voicery such a great service — and so useful to the clients we’ve served — is that we find a way to holistically look at everything they’re doing and want to be doing and boil that down into something simple and straightforward, and yet really nuanced. I have a deeply nerdy passion for great systems, which I think can get a bad rap in a time when people say they want to be more fluid and flexible. Creating a framework — whether that’s establishing ongoing categories of blog posts or developing a brand voice to use throughout your business’s copy — gives you a huge amount of freedom to create because you’re not forced to reinvent the wheel every time you sit down. I love helping clients come up with a content strategy so they can spend their time focusing on the parts of the business they really love.

I’m not sure that any of that is particularly surprising…but I also really love getting caught up in the left-brain stuff, too — spreadsheets, HTML, scheduling. It may stem from living in a small house with a toddler and a slew of pets (and another baby on the way). I love getting some order where I can find it!

What growth areas do you see for TVB in the next year? How are you uniquely qualified to take them on?

KATIE: We have so many great ideas floating around, I think we sometimes get caught up in wanting to implement ALL THE THINGS, all at once. I see a lot of opportunity for us to reconnect with our readers, to share some of those ideas — in anything from blog posts to guided courses — but also to polish what we’ve already created.

Abby, you and I recently had a conversation about our complementary styles — how you’re a “starter” and I’m a “finisher.” [Abby’s Note: Yep. I’ve become even more starter-ish as the company has grown through the years, I think because I don’t technically have to finish ALL THE THINGS on my own anymore.] I think some of that stems from my background as a magazine editor, where an idea for a story could take months to turn into something tangible, but then there’s the focus at the end when it’s down to double-checking every line break and photo caption before going to press. I think you have great ideas but may be ready to move onto the next idea by the time we get to the final details of implementation, whereas it’s in that final push that I really hit my stride. And, together, we work really well, because you’ve created such a strong foundation with the Voice Values and the learning products you’ve created, and I can take that to the next level by giving it all some structure. I speak fluent “creative,” but my native language is “left-brain.”

Describe the experience we provide for our clients in 3 to 5 words.

KATIE: Nuanced, thoughtful, actionable. Structured-but-personal.

(That may be cheating, but I’m going with it.)

Explain to our readers, potential clients, and clients what’s going to be different about their experience of The Voice Bureau with you at the helm.

KATIE: Well, anyone who’s worked with us one-on-one in the past almost-four years has already “met” me, and I think they should have a good feel for how I work — structured, but with a personal touch. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel just because I’m at the helm now. We’ve done great work with fantastic clients, and if we kept doing things pretty much the same way and getting those same results, I’d be happy. When you regularly get feedback that a client is in tears reading their copy or consulting package because they feel like we truly “get” them and their business, you want to keep that up. Overall, I don’t think there’s going to be a dramatic change in the feel of The Voice Bureau just because my role is changing.

I know that you (Abby) and I have naturally different styles of communicating: you tend to be more freeform, whereas I live for structure. I’m a little more indigo to your mauve. (We meet in the middle on saffron.) I’m sure some of that will make it into our everyday, but I wouldn’t expect us as a business to suddenly have a different feel. I suspect it would come out in other ways — more regular schedules for sharing content, maybe, or a little more of the structure that I’ve brought to our copywriting process bleeding into our business plan. But really, everything we do at The Voice Bureau is based on the foundation that you’ve created — that we’ve worked on together these past four years — and that’s not going to change. It’s the same heart, just a different face. (That makes it sound a little creepy. A different jacket? Now I’m picturing a heart wearing a peacoat. I give up.)

And there you have it. If you enjoyed this, please check out the first official Voice Bureau creation out of Katie’s brain, a 4-week content strategy course based on her experience as a magazine editor. It’s pretty brill. (Yes, I still say that.)

In the comments, I (Abby) would love for you to:

Give Katie a warm reader welcome, & let her know ONE thing about The Voice Bureau you truly look forward to and love the way we do it, and ONE thing you’d love to see bolstered or made more of. Thanks in advance for your feedback to our newly minted Creative Director!


How to run your business like a magazine

In the spirit of our new course, Run Your Business Like a Magazine, I thought I’d lay out 10 observations on how great magazines (paper and digital) get it right, & how you can apply these insights to your own business brand.

How to run your business brand like a magazine — a primer:

  1. Be bold. Notice the trends (or patterns or fresh insights) coming down the pipeline in your industry. Precipitate them. Name them. Show them off. Leverage them. Invite your Right People to try them in the context of what your business does.
  2. Realize that you can’t do it all alone. You may need (you will need, if you scale your business past teeny-tiny) to hire an assistant, a VA, staff, subcontractors, or an intern or two. This is good. This is growth. This is collaboration.
  3. Be true to your vision but make room for other people’s gifts and strengths. In truth, The Voice Bureau probably still wouldn’t be operating today were it not for Katie Mehas. I’m not saying this as mere flattery. Katie came into the business in 2012 and since then, has been like the master.
  4. Get a plan for success. Work the plan. If the plan doesn’t work, get a new plan. Planful endeavors are successful endeavors. Don’t be afraid to reinvent, but do it incrementally.
  5. Get a signature Thing. Be known for something. Be an original. In our business, it’s our Voice Values paradigm for branding.
  6. Know what makes you different. Get clear on what sets you apart from others in your industry and niche. There’s a reason your Right People select your ‘issue’ from the ‘newsstand’ [sorry, couldn’t resist].
  7. Know your reader. Magazines are a great example of a Right Person-focused business. They have to be, because every issue, and every page of every issue, matters. Home in on what piques your Right Person’s interest, and beyond that, understand why it does.
  8. Be about something. Meaning: have a keen focus. You can be a lifestyle magazine or a special interest magazine, but either way, own your subject matter, your take, your strong stance, your point of view. No matter which path you choose — generalist with a POV or specialist — own it.
  9. Have fun. Every magazine has its own sense of zeal, of play, of wonderment, of fascination, of obsession. Whether you’re reading KinfolkScience Magazine, or Elle Decor, you probably read it because their take on their topic lights YOU up in some way. They couldn’t do that to you without their being lit up first.
  10. Embrace your preferred medium while being mindful of multimedia. As major magazines learned in the mid-aughts, when the world changes, you have to change with it. With the ubiquity of social media, no brand can afford to be missing from the online conversation. Find a reason to be there and get on it.

Today’s brands exist on the web through content, and content is the currency of any magazine — paper or digital.

In our new 4-week course, newly minted Creative Director Katie Mehas (yeah, we’re going to announce that officially very soon!) is leading participants through the ins and outs of creating a compelling content strategy that’s both intuitive AND planful. Learn to meld your personal interests and passions in the context of what you do with the needs and curiosities of your Right People. Make a plan, work your plan, and love it, too.


In the comments, we’d love to hear:

What’s your favorite of these lessons from the world of magazines? 


How to describe your brand's desired vibe

When I listen to a client’s brand, even before we’ve put words on the page for it or before there’s a website I can look at, I’m listening for two things: voice and vibe.

Though similar in nature and certainly intertwined, they’re not exactly the same things.

I describe vibe as the energy of the abstract qualities that come through a brand in its suite of signals. Vibe shows up in the design choices: color, typography, graphic style, layout. Vibe comes through the content. Vibe is felt in a business’s relationship with its customers, its readers, its supporters.

But describing your own brand’s vibe, or desired vibe, can be slippery. If you have an existing brand, there might be a gap between what the vibe you want and the vibe you’ve got.

You might have told a designer, “I want edgy, feminine, bohemian, and sacred,” and you might have gotten something else back — something that looked to you like ‘trendy, girly, and witchy.’ A different vibe. You might have sent a designer a pinboard full of colors, textures, and images, but what you got back wasn’t the composition you had in your mind’s eye. Therefore, the vibe was off.

Here are 3 exercises you can do to describe your existing brand’s vibe, or to describe your desired brand vibe if you’re in line for a redesign:

1. Focus on Colors. Where do the colors you love come from, in nature, history, design, art, or fashion? Are they linked to an era, like these Art Nouveau-era colors, or this Midcentury Modern palette? Are they inspired by fashion? Maybe built around a hex code resembling Chanel’s cult-classic nail polish Vamp? Did you derive your colors from a photo you took at a favorite spot outdoors, like, say, Washington State’s Cape Flattery? And what do your color choices SAY about what matters to you and your brand?

2. Filter Your Copy. Reread the most important pages of your site. Read your home page, about page, and service/sales page. Read them sentence by sentence and keep a pad of paper next to you as you read. As you read, write down the ONE most important word in each sentence — according to YOU. When you’re done, review your (long) list. Look for patterns in the words. Are there themes and motifs emerging? Are you noticing something about your brand or business you’ve never seen before in quite the same way?

3. Find Your Right People. Think of your 5 favorite clients so far. Write their names down. For each client, think of 5 words to describe them and write those down. Look for patterns in your list of 25. Any recurring words? Synonyms (different words that mean the same thing)? Really interesting juxtapositions that give your brand texture?

It’s a quick trip from vibe to themes and from themes to content. There’s a bit of a hop, skip, and a jump in there, but we know how to get you from Point A to Point B. Inside our new online course, Run Your Business Like a Magazine, we’ll unpack the magic of getting from vibe to voice on the page — in the form of a content strategy you can be proud of that meets your Right Person’s needs and inspires you to keep creating and publishing.

All the details on Run Your Business Like a Magazine are right here.


In the comments, we’d love to hear you:

Describe your own brand’s vibe, or desired vibe. We’d love to hear the words you’d choose, especially if you’ve done one or more of the exercises described here!


photo of a fern sitting on a worn wooden table in front of a blue armchair

What do you do for content when absolutely nothing seems worth writing about?

First of all, know that I have been there many times.

I’m guessing you have, too. It’s as common a problem for writers as any other problem. You might call it writer’s block or ambivalence or perfectionism or resistance.

No matter how you see fit to label it, the problem is getting words on the page. And believing they will matter.

You know that in a business brand that markets itself online, content is essential. Essentially, it’s the lifeblood of operations. Without meaningful content going out on a consistent basis (and I don’t just mean blogging — e-newsletters, podcasts, videos, images and graphics, and social media updates all count as content), a brand’s ability to connect withers and wanes.

When writing fresh, new, meaningful content feels impossible

There are times when you don’t feel inspired, tuned in, or capable of writing content that matters to your Right Person. This is so normal. Life isn’t an endless pipeline of inventive energy. It’s just not always there, or palpable.

But you’ve got a business to run and a brand to build, and if you want to keep going, you have to keep showing up.

For the times you have to push through the sludge to get to the gold (or even just the pyrite, which is still beautiful and worthy), here are 5 suggestions:

  1. REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE. You are a uniquely designed amalgam of gifts, talents, strengths, obsessions, genius, preoccupations, loves, and predilections. (Dark matter, too, of course. That’s what makes us whole.) All that is in you is there for a reason. Make a list so you can see it in front of you, or if you feel more comfy in the visual realm, make a pinboard. Pick something from that list or that board and tie it in to your business and your Right Person’s journey. Write about that.  If you just can’t see who you are (the star stuff, not the dark matter), ask someone who loves you to remind you.
  2. REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE DOING THIS. This work, this business, this brand. This mission, this vision, this Right Person potential reader. Write down 5 sentences you consider to be TRUE that tell the world why your business exists. Or 5 sentences about why your Right Person needs a business like yours to exist. Let each sentence can be a standalone — a one-liner. When you’re done, pick your favorite and write about that. Unpack it. Unfold it.
  3. START WITH WHAT’S RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. I truly mean what’s right in front of you. Years ago when we were cohorts in a Master’s program, my friend Kelly and I used to take ourselves out to this place called Ray’s, a local diner. Just off the campus of Kent State University, it was a favorite watering hole for students, profs, alumni, and locals. We were both (are both) aspiring fiction writers as well as English teachers-in-training. We’d sit down over plates of grilled cheese and fries with salt and ketchup. We were there to nosh and talk and also to write. Inevitably, one of us would grab the salt shaker and say, “Write about this salt shaker.” And there we’d start. We’d end up somewhere else entirely.
  4. START WITH THE VERY FIRST THING YOU REMEMBER. Go back to the beginning of your business. What’s the very first thing you remember doing/thinking/feeling? Sitting in your accountant’s office as you filled out paperwork to set up your LLC? Doodling ideas in a notebook in a doctor’s waiting room? Announcing to family at Thanksgiving Dinner that you’d be quitting your job and going out on your own? Tie that memory into something that’s meaningful to your Right Person: a need, an interest, a question, a desire. Write about that.
  5. START ON THE DAY THAT IS DIFFERENT. This is how you start a short story, according to my very first creative writing professor. Don’t start way back at the beginning, when the main character was born or married or got her first job, and then work forward into the action. Start on the day that is different. She wakes up and her living room furniture is gone. She wakes up and the sky is orange. She wakes up and wants to leave the country. Something has changed and now nothing can be the same. For every Right Person customer or client, there is a day on which they decide to hire you or make their first purchase through your shopping cart. What is happening for them on that day? What point have they reached? What decision have they made? What have they perceived differently today than they ever have before? Start there and write something for your Right Person about the day that is different (for them).

Sometimes writing for your brand will feel inspired and glow-y, like a gift from the gods, arriving whole and perfect and able to breathe on its own. Other times, writing will feel pedantic or pathetic, dry or hackneyed or even ridiculous.

We hope these suggestions help you to take a second look at your experience and find a new way to talk about it — even when it’s tough.

If you could use some extra inspiration for developing content that’s meaningful to you and your Right People, check out our 4-week course, Run Your Business Like a Magazine.

In the comments, we’d love to hear:

What do you do when absolutely nothing seems worth writing about but you still want to create something for your brand?


Voice Values Guide to Content Creation Inspiration

If you’re growing a brand online, you know you need ‘great content’ in order to survive & thrive.

You know that great content is the first type of currency your Right People will receive from you. Great content educates your clients before they ever hire you. Great content inspires, teaches, empathizes, rallies, and even enthralls.

You know you’re supposed to blog, tweet, Facebook, create images for Instagram, and maybe even podcast, Periscope, or YouTube. That can feel like SO MUCH and in fact it is SO MUCH. (And no, you don’t need to do it all and be on all the platforms. But that’s a different post.)

When content creation calls, but you’ve still got a business to run, where do you find the motivation & inspiration to keep creating?

What if I told you there wasn’t just ONE or even TWO common inspirations/motivations to create great content? What if I told you that your inspiration for creating great content inherently goes beyond (a) “because I need to if I want to do business online” and (2) “because I want to connect with more of my Right People?”

Well, I CAN tell you that! Your motivation for creating great content — unique content that’s skillfully created with artistry and confidence, on-brand for you, and highly compelling for your Right People — is intrinsically inspired by who you are and how you already move through the world.

Your inspiration for content writing (& other types of content creation, like visual & audio) is encoded in your Voice Values, which are the drivers of your innate brand voice.

Discover Your Voice Values is our proprietary brand voice self-assessment. Always free, always insightful.

Haven’t taken it yet? 48 questions, about 10 minutes of your time, and you’ll self-score your way to clarity on what’s naturally powerful about the way you tweet, Facebook, write blog posts, and email your list.

You’ll also learn a bit about why certain people are drawn to you and what you should watch out for as you grow your brand.

Enter your best email address below and click Go to get started.

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