Online platforms need well-crafted stories to connect their ideas with people who are listening, reading, or watching. And crafting a story is just that—a craft. As with any craft, it takes time to develop and practice to perfect.
Master storyteller Beth Kapes is an award-winning content creator. Her business, Moving Words Into Action, has helped clients tell stories that make a difference for over 20 years. She has developed content for national corporate and not-for-profit institutions, publishing groups, and websites. Her clients have included WebMD, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She has authored two historical perspectives for the Fortune 200 company, Parker Hannifin Corporation. And that’s not all! Most recently, she served as the managing editor for the 2016 Republican National Convention.
Follow along as Beth reveals her secret to generating ideas, getting organized, and making a piece of content that’s fresh, valuable, and engaging. With her help, you’ll become a better writer and content crafter in no time.
In This Episode
- How to prepare to create different types of content
- Steps to making complex, bland topics sexier
- Where to go to generate your best ideas to become a better writer
- Tools for making stories feel fresh and unique
- How to fit content creation into your day, every day
Quotes in This Episode
“Preparing the topic prior to any development is really important regardless of where you’re putting the content.” —Beth Kapes
“If you start thinking of your content really connecting with humans—because humans are reading it… It really does help you generate a story within that piece.” —Jacquie Chakirelis
“Making the content valuable goes back to who you talk with.” —Beth Kapes
“Being organized is the pinnacle of what I do each day.” —Beth Kapes
It’s really not about who you are. It’s about what you contribute every day. And everyone can contribute something. —Beth Kapes
Beth Kapes on LinkedIn and Twitter
Moving Words Into Action
The Synonym Finder
The Cooper Hill Stylebook
Seth Godin’s blog
Backwards in High Heels: The Impossible Art of Being Female by Tania Kindersley and Sarah Vine
Full Audio Transcription for Episode 7
Welcome to Platform FM, the show for people launching or growing an online platform, a must have for influencers and entrepreneurs brought to you by the Online Platform Institute. In addition to this podcast, platform builders can get actionable insights and inspiration with the free weekly online newsletter. Join us by signing up at onlineplatforminstitute.com. While there you can also download a personal platform blueprint to help you create an authentic and successful platform plan. Now on with today’s show. Here is Jacquie.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Hey everyone. Welcome to Platform FM. Now if this your first time listening, thank you so much for joining us. I am Jacquie Chakirelis, the host of Platform FM, and I’m here to connect you with content and amazing community of experts and encouragement to help you build and grow your online platform. Happy to have you here on episode number seven. Remember, all of the today’s show notes can be found at onlineplatforminstitute.com and I hope you’ll join us each week, so please add this podcast to your iTunes or Stitcher app. You can also follow us on Twitter @PlaformFM as well Instagram and Facebook. While you’re there, please don’t forget to leave a comment or a question so I can continue to build OPI as your number one resource for building an online platform. Now let’s get in today’s show.
As an online platform builder content is one of the three pillars of building your online business. You know this, right? Courage and community are other two. You simply cannot grow or start an online platform without content. This holds true whether you also have a brick and mortar business or you’re 100% online. The sooner you get serious about a content marketing strategy, the better your results will be. One statistic from Oracle reveals per dollar spent content marketing generates more return on investment than paid search. So whether your content is in the form of blogs, podcasts, videos, e-books, online courses, content is what attracts and engages your audience, your customers, and the community that you build. Like it or not, most forms of content require some sort of writing. Even if it’s an outline of a script for a podcast, or a headline of a video on YouTube, online platforms need content and stories to connect their ideas with people who are listening, reading, or watching.
But if you’re intimidated by your ability to write content that’s remarkable and not generic, well you’re not alone. I’m one of those as well. In fact, I would say the majority of people are not jazzed up about writing. And that’s where today’s guest comes in. Well joining us is Beth Kapes. Beth is an award-winning content creator with a mission. Her business, Moving Words Into Action, has been helping clients for over 20 years, and although her clients vary greatly, the focus has been the same, tell the story that makes a difference. Now Beth has developed and managed content for national corporate and not-for-profit clients, publishing groups and websites, including the Cleveland Clinic, Parker Hannifin, the FDA, and WebMD. Recently she served as the managing editor for the 2016 Republican National Convention host committee where she developed content for the website, newsletter, and podcast series. Now she is an online platform builder.
Beth, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to Platform FM.
Beth Kapes: Thanks so much for having me Jacquie. I’m thrilled to be here.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Great to have you. Well, now I mentioned a few different types of content you’ve created, all of which have roots in writing. But I would imagine writing for a podcast is very different than writing for a book, whether it’s an e-book or a hard cover book. How do you prepare for different types of content creation?
Beth Kapes: Right. So every different vehicle that I prepare content for it varies greatly but I really truly believe it comes down to understanding the basics of great content. So whether it’d be a podcast, which is very different, first and foremost getting to know your topic, whether you’re developing a newsletter or a podcast series you really need to find an angle that helps set that content apart. For instance, for the RNC host committee the podcast series was based on entrepreneurial spirit. I was to vet 10 companies out of 50 or 60 in the Cleveland area and then speak to them about what made them different as to why they started in Cleveland, how they stayed here, how they built their company, so really exploring the topic through interview, whether it’d be on a podcast, in person, and that really preparing the topic prior to any development is very important regardless of where you’re putting it.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Boy, I could take some tips from you Beth, which I’m excited to talk to you about. Do you think that most people are intimidated by their writing skills not being up to par?
Beth Kapes: Absolutely, absolutely. I think that’s been one of the things I have personally worked on as well, because I know it like the back of my hand. So I can see something a mile away that has a huge error in it, only because that’s my perspective. I oftentimes feel that when a client brings me in and says, “What do you think of my website? What do you think of my e-news campaign?” It’s very hard to approach and explain to them why it may not be working for them. Oftentimes it’s based I would say 90% of the time on the content not being polished, oftentimes too lengthy. So just giving them a little bit of tips and guidance, and of course I love to take the project over for them and make it better.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Absolutely. Well, and I am glad you mentioned lengthy because this has been an idea that’s really been making the rounds lately, that readers don’t have the same attention spans that they used to and are more prone to skimming than actually reading a piece of content. Is long form content out and is it worth investing in anymore?
Beth Kapes: Well, that’s an interesting question. Not too long ago I was hired by Cleveland Clinic to work on a revamp of their entire website. They had hired a consultant to also look at why it possibly wasn’t working. This is many years ago I should say because they are very successful now with this, but essentially that consultant told them you really need to cut your content, make it more brief, concise and informative. That’s very important now and it’s something that I try to follow very much. But I do believe there is a place for long form. There are people who really reach out for that. If they’re digging deeper into your site on a topic, it plays a valuable role. It certainly does. Whether it’d be, I don’t want to say a downloadable PDF, which I know isn’t high on SEO return, but if people are looking deep for that, I think it’s valuable to have it.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Absolutely. I have lots of PDFs in my [inaudible 00:07:30] that I’ve downloaded.
Beth Kapes: Great.
Jacquie Chakirelis: You mentioned the Cleveland Clinic. One of the reasons why I wanted to have you on the show because you’ve experienced writing for what I would describe challenging clients. Sometimes I think that not having a sexy topic can keep people back from actually writing about it. But you have wrote for in the healthcare space, for manufacturers, and even for a very politically sensitive event. How are you able to make all those topics relatable? And I know you do it.
Beth Kapes: Thank you Jacquie. I really love what I do. You know that. I mean, I’m honored to know you and be inspired by what you do and by those people I work with. But you’re right, my topics are rarely simple. It’s probably why I’m very busy. They always contact me and say if there is an oncology publication for Cleveland Clinic Florida to write about the common brain tumor known as glioblastoma, I’m the girl that will write that. But how do you make that reachable for the audience. Oftentimes more than not those topics I write for are going out to what I call the lay audience, the common, the person out on the street that doesn’t know anything about a brain tumor, or a hip implant. It is very challenging, but one of the ways I approach it is of course research, getting to know the topic.
Second, if I can get someone to speak with me beyond the physician, his patient who is recently treated, this makes an incredible content. All it takes is just a little bit more time to speak with someone. I know today in the digitized world we rarely speak with people face to face or one to one. For me it’s invaluable. I will spend that extra time to speak with that person who’s experienced this particular procedure or treatment. When it came to manufacturing for Parker Hannifin I … This is very difficult but it’s amazing how much of their technology under wove really with healthcare. For me it was almost a natural once I understood, and again, researching and speaking with the people who make this technology or innovation a reality it’s empowerful.
Jacquie Chakirelis: It really is. When I worked in the newsroom, we used to call that the human interest angle. Truly there if you start thinking of your content really connecting with humans, because humans are reading it, and then think about that human interest angle behind every single piece of content that you write, it really does help you generate in an outline in a story within that piece. How do you generate ideas?
Beth Kapes: Again if I … If anyone who knows me knows I’m behind my projects 110%. I get very enthusiastic, maybe to a fault. To generate the idea … Let’s say I’m contacted. “We want a spring newsletter on five different oncology topics.” Well you find out what’s really hitting those people out there, what’s hitting the general audience, how does this impact them, what are the most current types of treatments that are making a difference in this arena of cancer, that’s how … Again, it’s getting to know the topic. I can’t enforce it enough. I have worked with many, many clients who really don’t know what they’re selling. It’s amazing to me. Oftentimes I’ll come in and be like from a different perspective and explain to them why their product or service or technology is empowerful for the outside audience, because oftentimes I feel, and to say it nicely, you can’t see the forest to the trees. You get so close to your topic if you’re working in it every single day, you’re just not understanding it and how it might touch the lives of others. Really getting to know that is empowerful for me.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Is this how you make a piece valuable for an audience?
Beth Kapes: Absolutely. I think if they can take something away from it, learn something, and I really feel making the content valuable again goes back to who you talk with. I can give a quick example. I was hired to write historical perspective on the development of hose and fitting technology for Parker Hannifin. One of your friends that you know well, I’ll never forget, he said to me, “Beth, how in the world are you going to write about that? How could you make that exciting?” So I knew again it was the people who developed the technology and the story of their lives that would enrich it. I was only to interview 30 people. I reached out beyond to 70. Their talent and lives just I was awestruck.
I even got to know a gentleman who worked on the Atom Bomb before coming to Parker Hannifin. Now only imagine what he had to offer. I mean, it gives me shivers still honestly. That made that content ring true to the outside reader and I’m very proud of that work. 50 years of … Also, it’s very powerful too. You know this Jacquie more than anyone. Visuals are invaluable. So never underestimate the power of a photo or a video to support your writing. During that time for the book for two years I researched 50 years of archives. Invaluable visuals, things that they didn’t even know they had. To bring that forward it will forever be digitized now thankfully and archived in a way that it will always reach out to the world. It’s exciting.
Jacquie Chakirelis: It is. It absolutely is. You mentioned 70 people you reached out to. That’s … How do you coordinate all that? You must have some amazing tools that you use to keep organized because that’s not easy.
Beth Kapes: Yes. I do a lot of Excel spreadsheets of course, but when you’re juggling 70 interviews, and remember, at this time also I was the executive editor for a Cleveland Clinic monthly publication on arthritis. I was working on a monthly as you know it’s very time consuming and you have to be very organized to just get that out the door. But doing the book at the same time really taught me how to hassle. I love a challenge and I love to work fast so for me it’s a no-brainer. From the day one, from day one of starting what I’m doing I am extremely organized. But I’m often reminded that not many people work like me so I have to slow down a little I guess at times. But you’re right, being organized is the pinnacle of what I do each day.
Jacquie Chakirelis: It’s amazing. I know what a challenge it is to do small writing pieces. So to undertake what you undertake and to do it so beautifully and effortlessly it seems, I know it’s not effortlessly, but it certainly appears that way, is pretty amazing. What are some tools that you use to make your client stories unique, because I think if you’ve told so many it can be, yeah, challenging to make each of them unique?
Beth Kapes: I think that’s really something that … I had a mentor that turned me on to a tool that I think is invaluable. It’s not high tech. I don’t know if your readers will be wowed by this or not, but I think they all should get out and get one. You may have one yourself. But one of those is the, there’s a book that I was told you really need to pick this up. It is called The Synonym Finder by J. I. Rodale. It’s not your regular thesaurus. This has over a million synonyms. If you’re stuck on a way, again, for me I was writing about hip implants every month for three years. So how do I turn this into something exciting and speak to that audience in a different way, use a different way to describe it. It’s challenging. The Synonym Finder I cannot … It’s my bible. I carry it around wherever I go. My clients, they think I’m crazy.
But think about it. We can all say the same thing in the same way every single day. Who’s going to read that? Why would they care? It also inspires me to like, “Oh, that’s a great way of saying that.” I love words so it’s a great tool for me.
Jacquie Chakirelis: I am going to put that in the show notes, if I can find it. Hopefully there’s a link for it somewhere.
Beth Kapes: Right, you can get it on Amazon for a good price.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Okay, there you go. I have not used that. Now I use Cooper style books and all kinds of things that were related to news writing because obviously that was my background, but that’s a good one. I’m definitely going to pick that one up.
Beth Kapes: Great.
Jacquie Chakirelis: So how do you think a small business owner or someone that’s just starting up a blog, how can they take time for content marketing into their day? Because as you mentioned, this is something that you do, you know how to do it, you can move through it. But for someone that it doesn’t come natural for and they really want to start getting their content out there, how can they organize their day and fit it into their day?
Beth Kapes: Well, I think that goes to one of the thoughts I was, I often think about each day. Again, I’m very good at telling someone else’s story and I put 110% behind that every day. Oftentimes I don’t put it into myself. I think that’s true for everyone, especially those people who are starting out on their own business, who don’t have a lot of time. Time is always the issue. But really carve that out each day and don’t ever think that you don’t have something amazing to contribute. It’s really not about who you are. It’s about what you contribute every day. Everyone can contribute something. I always think that to myself. I mean just because I’ve been so busy and worked with some amazing people and clients, I doubt myself for sure. I mean, I don’t think you would be human if you didn’t. So carve that time out each day. Start a blog, start writing about something that you care about, because I’ll tell you, probably 9 times out of 10 someone else does too.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Great point. Journals help. I really think that just the practice of writing, even if you take that five minutes to express gratitude in the morning, I think just the practice of it definitely helps.
Beth Kapes: Absolutely.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Before we get into the lightning round Beth, this program is devoted to helping our listeners break through barriers that are holding them back from taking action. Can you recall a moment in your career, business, or life that you really needed to take a leap of faith?
Beth Kapes: Absolutely. Soon after graduating from college I earned my dream job as an editor at Cleveland Clinic. I was thrilled. I mean imagine straight out of college and it was exactly what I wanted. But little did I know that just one month after taking the role I would be pregnant. The decision to stay home with my daughter was very hard for me. I did not plan that. I did not intend to leave my professional ambitions behind so soon. It really was a leap of faith for me, but I knew that somehow someway I could continue my career, which I love my kids but I love what I do. I overcame that really from the support of those who believed in me.
There was one woman at the Cleveland Clinic who was the head of the communications at the time who said, “Beth, if you’re going to stay home, we have an opportunity for you to be a contractor, and here is a role you can do from home on contract.” It really actually made me believe I could do this. I mean this really still holds true today, and I’m sure Jacquie you have a huge support group. I know you do, and it’s amazing. You’re one of my biggest supporters and I appreciate that.
Today the wide support for advice and insight, I mean whether it’d be marketing managers throughout different industries, CEO of a huge corporation, or I have a very close friend who runs a very successful business and I turn to him for his insight on how to navigate difficult contracts. I am a writer. I am not a business person in terms of contracts and negotiation. He is. Those are the people that help me overcome my daily fears. We all have them. And encourage my ongoing success. I took that leap of faith, and here I am, and it does work out if you work hard.
Jacquie Chakirelis: So important to build a network as you mentioned. I really devote a lot of time to my network building, as well as supporting the network. You are certainly a part of that network Beth, and you have been for a long time. I cannot say how important it is. Because as you mentioned, everybody is going to have moments in their lives where they’re going to have fear and anxiety or have to take a big leap of faith, and your network is going to help you through those times.
Beth Kapes: Absolutely.
Jacquie Chakirelis: All right, Beth, you’re ready for the lightning round?
Beth Kapes: I am.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Okay. All right. Again, talking about your blog, your online platform, what was the number one thing holding you back from building your online platform?
Beth Kapes: Time. Absolutely time. While you mentioned earlier, “Boy, you’re so organized, you can interview 70 people and run a book and a publication each month,” the time that I did not put in to building my online platform is what held me back. Once I decided and for many of my supporters to say, “Beth, you need to do this, you have a story to tell, you have your own story to tell,” it took me a long time to realize that if I didn’t take care of myself, no one else was going to do that. The website that I developed for my company I’m thrilled about. When I finally carved out that niche of time, once you have that established, it just infuses total enthusiasm. For me anyway, I am thrilled about it. So really, take that time. It’s okay. Put yourself first for a change. It’s all right.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Right, right, schedule it in, right?
Beth Kapes: Right.
Jacquie Chakirelis: What productivity hack keeps you and helps you from getting things done or staying focused on what matters, because you have a lot of plates spinning, so how do you stay focused?
Beth Kapes: Schedule, keep a schedule. I know people from the beginning are like, “Oh, you’re so lucky to be home. You can be in your pajamas all day and with your bonbons and whatever,” I always remember … One of my mom’s friends used to say to me each day, “Beth Ann, you never know when a talent scout is around the corner.” So think about that. Keep your schedule. Get up early. Shower. Dress each day like you’re ready to face the world. What time is most productive for you. Many people it’s late in the evening. For me, I’m up at 5:00. I love the early mornings and I work that way. Whatever works for you. Just own it. Make it happen and keep that schedule.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Good point. Well do you have an online resource like a blog or a podcast that you are just absolutely in love with and you like to share with our listeners?
Beth Kapes: Absolutely. Author Seth Godin. His daily blog for me is invaluable. I read it 5:00 A. M. every day. His can be, I don’t know if you follow him, but he’s-
Jacquie Chakirelis: Oh yes-
Beth Kapes: … short, he’s succinct but very powerful. Some are longer but I would say for the most part they’re very short and succinct and sweet. One of my favorite talks recently was on resilience. The topic alone for me made me open it. It was a great exit that simply stated, “Enough small things by enough people coalesce into the next big thing.” That really inspired me and it does every morning.
Jacquie Chakirelis: It is amazing how that man writes. I mean really.
Beth Kapes: Yeah, absolutely.
Jacquie Chakirelis: I’ve never ever, ever read anyone else that can write the way he does. It can be inspiring but just so succinct. Every single word has a purpose.
Beth Kapes: Absolutely.
Jacquie Chakirelis: It’s such an inspiration. Thanks for mentioning that. Well how about a book? Have you read something in the last year that you would recommend the listeners? It doesn’t have to be of the last year, but something that really holds true and sticks with you.
Beth Kapes: I love to read. That is one of my favorite things to do, and I know you’re shocked by that, right? A writer who wants to read.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Right, right.
Beth Kapes: But It has to be a good book. You get to hold my attention because I read a lot. I’m going to make this a little funny for you Jacquie. For the girls out there listening, I highly recommend Backwards in High Heels, The Impossible Art of Being Female. This is by Tanya Kindersley. I every day if by the end of the evening if I’m exhausted I finally get to bed, I can open that book up to any page and get a refreshing frank perspective on just about everything from relationships to the women’s endless quest for perfection. We all do it. It’s just, it’s very entertaining for me. It just sits by my bed. It’s a great book.
Jacquie Chakirelis: That’s a great book. What a great suggestion. All right, here’s another one Beth. If you could invite any person dead or alive to a diner party, who would it be and why?
Beth Kapes: That’s interesting. For me I would invite J. K. Rowling. I want to know what makes her thought process move. I think her, how she came up with the whole Harry Potter series is just awe-inspiring, especially considering the circumstances she was in. To be that strong, to think and believe in herself, and look where she’s at now. I’d love to speak with her about that.
Jacquie Chakirelis: That would be a great person to have at a diner party because I could think of 10 questions to ask her immediately. I wouldn’t let her leave.
Beth Kapes: You’re right.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Our final thought Beth. What is your favorite success quote, if you have one, and how do you apply it to your life and mentality every day?
Beth Kapes: Well I thought about this and this is something that I really do turn to. There’s a quote by Henry Ford that I think about a lot, and his quote is, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” We all have days where we think we don’t contribute or we’re not valuable. But you have to remember that as I said before, everyone contributes something very special each day. Think you can and you will.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Absolutely. Thank you so much Beth for joining us today and for a great conversation. I have 100 different show notes and links to put in the show notes. What is the best way our listeners can find you or connect with today?
Beth Kapes: I’d love them to visit my website. The website is mwaction.com. You can connect with me via email through the site, or I give you my personal cellphone as well. I love to speak with people. That is what I do. I love to talk. But they also can connect with me on LinkedIn, or follow me on Twitter @BKapes.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Wonderful. We’ll put that all in the show notes. Thanks again Beth.
Beth Kapes: Thank you, Jacquie. It was great. Loved speaking with you.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Great talking with you.
And thank you for listening to Platform FM. You can find show notes and transcripts from the show today at onlineplatforminstitute.com. While you’re there join platform builders from around the globe by signing up for our free weekly online newsletter featuring curated info about content, community, and courage guiding you to launch and grow a profitable platform. Now you can also download a free personal platform blueprint to help you create an authentic and successful platform plan. If you liked what you heard today, please consider writing a review and giving us a rating on iTunes. It truly would mean the world to me. Until next time remember, every journey begins with a single step, so start yours today. We’ll see you soon.