Flying Solo interview: Influence for Small Business

I was honoured to be interviewed recently by Robert Gerrish for Flying Solo‘s podcast.

We delved into Dr Robert Cialdini‘s six influence principles and how small-business owners can apply them to their writing.

Whether you’re a solopreneur or run a micro or small business, you’ll get insights into persuasion and influence you can apply to your proposals, website copy, and client emails.


Weird Al’s hilarious grammar lesson: 9m views in 5 days – #WordCrimes video

I'll try to educate ya

A grammar intervention


If you love decent writing and grammar, this is for you.

If you don’t know your “you’re” from “your”, this is for you.

Weird Al Yankovic’s “Blurred Lines” parody called #WordCrimes made our week. I promise you’ll love it, like the other 9 million people who watched it in the last few days.

We need to hire this guy!

Watch #WordCrimes by Weird Al Yankovic

What do you think? Add your thoughts below!



Webinar: Tame the Email Beast


Limited seats: Book now

Date and Time

Friday, July 18, 2014 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM AEST


(Attend this for FREE! To receive a discount code to attend ALL our webinars as our guest, just subscribe to our free writing tips.)

JOINT WEBINAR: Paul Jones (copywriter & corporate writing trainer) with Dermot Crowley (email-productivity expert)

Far from enhancing productivity, half your day can easily slip down your inbox’s throat. Email should make you more productive, not less. But is that your experience? If you’re like most people, email rates high on your ‘scourge of humanity’ list.

It’s time to tame the email beast!

This practical, interactive seminar reveals a professional copywriter’s insights into how to write more effective, more persuasive emails.

You’ll also learn powerful keys to efficiently managing your email from productivity expert, Dermot Crowley of Adapt Training.

Paul will cover:

1. Get Opened: How to write irresistible “Read me!” subject headers; use the Preview Pane to your advantage; what to know about your reader before clicking “send”.

2. Get Actioned: Get more kick from your keyboard (persuading via email); structuring and presenting emails for clear, fast communication; a good email’s a short email (how to be brief).

Dermot will cover:

3. Get Control: How to master your inbox and time; key strategies to help you get to Inbox Zero and stay there (yes, it’s possible); the systems you need to do the right work at the right time.

Award-winning copywriter & corporate writing trainer, Paul Jones, and email-productivity expert, Dermot Crowley, whose clients include Deloitte, KPMG and CBA.

This webinar is for anyone who uses email at work. Um, yes, that’s a lot of people. Okay, more specifically, it’s for you if you’re:

  • sick of sending emails and being ignored,
  • tired of wasting time chasing people for replies to your emails, and
  • stressed because your inbox is out of control.

100 seats only — Book now.

If you miss out on a seat, email us and we’ll add you to the waitlist.

Please only book if you intend to join us — don’t block others from attending.

Grab your seat now!



Webinar: Trim the Fat – Keep Decision-Makers Engaged!


Limited seats: Book now.

Date and Time

Friday, August 29, 2014 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM AEST


(Attend this for FREE! To receive a discount code to attend ALL our webinars as our guest, just subscribe to our free writing tips.)

Those with the power to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to your projects are extremely time-poor.

That means your project is going nowhere unless you can get — and keep — decision-makers’ attention.

In editing 4000+ writing samples for our course attendees over the last seven years, I’ve seen the same readability problems in almost every attendee’s sample. It’s unbelievably consistent.

In this webinar, you’ll learn what these issues are, and how to correct them to make your writing a pleasure to read, not a pain.

You’ll learn:
1. Tricks to writing concisely
2. The ideal average sentence length
3. Keys to deleting redundant words
4. What ‘plain English’ really means (it’s not what you think)
5. The two biggest factors that affect readability
6. Why nouns cross-dressing as verbs make your writing ugly
7. And more!

Award-winning copywriter & corporate writing trainer, Paul Jones. Paul is a dynamic presenter whose copywriting and training clients include NAB, Westpac, BHP, Fairfax and IBM.

The more educated you are, the more you need this webinar. At school and university you had to write to a word count. You therefore likely developed bad habits such as waffling on, not getting to the point, using big words to impress, and writing in long, complex sentences — everything that turns off readers.

If you want specific tools to trim content to make your writing more engaging and readable, here’s your chance!

100 seats only — book now.

If you miss out on a seat, email us  and we’ll add you to the waitlist.

Please only book if you intend to join us — don’t block others from attending.

Grab your seat now!



Research shows poor communication kills projects

Sinking ship

Research: Half of all failed projects die due to poor communication


If getting more projects over the line is important to your career and business, this is for you.

Research from the Project Management Institute (PMI), the world’s biggest not-for-profit project-management association, shows quality communication is crucial to projects succeeding. One in two failed projects die because of ineffective communication.

PMI says: ‘Consistent success of projects … stems from mature project management practice that is rooted in sound fundamentals, including effective stakeholder management, transparent communications, engaged project sponsors, and strong alignment of projects and talent development to high-level strategy.’ (emphasis mine)

Here are some tips to help you with the bolded ‘communication’ points above:

Effective stakeholder management
Adapt to your readers. Once size doesn’t fit all. Consider their:

  • Personality type, e.g. more detail for Analyticals, less for Drivers; be friendly to Amiables;
  • Seniority — focus on their interests, e.g. senior managers want higher-level ‘strategic’ content, not lower-level ‘operational’ content; and
  • Values — emphasise what will resonate with them; e.g. some are tuned in to getting stuff done, some to what the ‘right’ thing is to do, and some to career advancement and visibility.

Transparent communications
Naturally, the best currency is trust. You build more trust by:

Engaged project sponsors
To keep your readers engaged:

  • Communicate regularly, concisely and in the mode they prefer, e.g. some prefer phone calls to emails, or PowerPoint decks to Word docs;
  • Lead with their need, and tell them what’s in it for them (WII-FM);
  • Use your reader’s name and personal pronouns, especially ‘you, your, yours';
  • Ask questions and listen to their answers — don’t make all your communication one-way.

Be our guest: Winter Webinar Series

Our next two webinars tackle workplace communication that’s critical to your projects succeeding:

  1. Tame Your Email Beast - Get opened, get actioned, get control (joint webinar with productivity guru Dermot Crowley)
  2. Trim the Fat – Keep Decision-Makers Engaged! 

E-zine subscribers get VIP access to our webinars. Sign up now — each webinar is limited to 100 seats.

EOFY special

Book in-house training for your team before 30 June 2014 (for delivery any time this year) and your team will get free access to private recordings of our three most popular webinars so far:

  • Influencing Up (how to persuade senior decision makers)
  • Pitching on Paper (how to hike your proposal ‘hit’ rates)
  • CPR for PPT (how to revive your presentations)
Just mention this offer when you book. Why not get in touch now?


Win a $449 seat on our live, online writing masterclass!

Gospel singer believes in great writing


DID YOU KNOW that high performers are 5 times more likely to be great communicators? Time to lift your game!

Here’s your chance to win a seat worth $449 on our 3 June 2014 online writing masterclass. All you have to do is:

  1. Like this post (if you have a WordPress account),
  2. Follow our LinkedIn company page, and
  3. Comment below saying why you want to win a seat.

More about our online writing course is here.

We’ll pick the winner on 29 May. What have you got to lose? Lady Luck could be smiling on you!


P.S. Here’s what someone said about our last course:

‘This was the best writing course – and the best online course – I’ve ever done. I did your session after an all-night flight (awake 30 hours straight), and you still held my attention the whole time.’


To influence them, frame them

Paul presenting to Business Chicks

‘Writing to Influence’ workshops: What they loved

I’ve just finished running ‘Writing to Influence’ workshops in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne for Business Chicks. Great to see such interest in persuasive writing (500+ attendees!).

One aspect they loved was the concept of using ‘frames’ in your influence attempts.

What’s a frame?
Put simply, what you say first changes how a reader or listener perceives what you say second.

A key way you make sense of the world is through comparisons. If I tell you my widget is $5,000, you’ll immediately compare that to what you know about other widgets. You’ll think it’s either affordable or expensive based on your current knowledge; that is, compared to your frame.

But if I first frame it up by telling you we give you far more than the average widget (and I give you the specifics), you may think $5k is good value, and want to find out more.

The point is this: If you don’t apply a frame yourself, your readers will. So in your persuasive writing, do it purposefully to make it work for you. Here are four frames to consider:

Four ‘influence’ frames

1. Name frame

  • Warren Buffet doesn’t call his investors investors or clients; he calls them partners, generating a sense of equality and collegiality.
  • Instead of calling your new initiative at work an efficiency drive, calling it the XYZ Team Efficiency Drive may win it more support, especially from the XYZ Team.
  • Job titles: Is it taking it too far to call a receptionist the Director of First Impressions, or a nightclub bouncer an Eviction Technician? Have your say in the comments below!

2. Loaded words

Words have power. Choose them carefully.

    • NO: We can’t get it to you until Friday.
    • YES: We can get it to you as early as Friday.
    • NO: The price is $490.
    • YES: Your investment will be $490.
  • NO: What are your objections?
  • YES: What are your areas of concern?

3. Metaphors

Some of the world’s most influential leaders have used metaphors to persuade, e.g. Martin Luther King in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech:
‘Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.’

But you don’t have to be giving a speech to frame with metaphors:

    • NO: It’s a high-quality system.
    • YES: It’s the BMW of systems.
  • NO: The needle will only sting a bit.
  • YES: The needle will only sting like an ant bite.

4. ‘Time’ frames

Research shows that people think about their future selves differently to their present selves. For example, they’re much more likely to agree to future pain than present pain. Ever signed up to run a marathon six months in advance, then, as the date approached, wondered ‘What was I thinking?!’

Consider this when influencing others. It’s easier to get people to commit to something well in advance rather than now. ‘Buy now, pay later’ works!

It’s even better if you can get them to commit publicly and in writing, invoking Cialdini‘s Commitment and Consistency).

Want some frame fame?

Would you like your team or company to be more influential? Would your conference benefit from a session on persuasion? Ask for my availability to present ‘Write to Influence’ for you. It’s a practical, interactive, high-energy session (2.5 hours). And Chicks dig it!

What frames do you use? Tell us in the comments below.

Now go frame someone!




‘Influence’ workshop sold out in Brisbane, Sydney — some seats left in Melbourne

Paul’s ‘Writing with Influence’ workshop for Business Chicks has sold out in Brisbane and Sydney, but some seats are still available in Melbourne this Friday, 21.3.14.

Run, don’t walk! Details here.

Get free VIP access to our 2014 webinars

Excited dog

STOP PRESS: Too exciting! Our webinars were booked out, but we’ve now released more seats. Apologies if you couldn’t book before. You can now, so jump to it!

If you believe you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, you’ll love this.

In a departure from sanity, we’re giving our blog readers (that’s you!) free VIP access to our new, drool-worthy 2014 webinar series. Check them out! But you’ll need this discount code to attend as our guest: 2014Subscriber

Please tell a friend if you think they’ll be interested.

See webinars and book seats.

Persuasive business writing: Commitment and consistency

Get 'em committed: Commitment and Consistency

One of Cialdini’s six principles of influence

To influence, get ‘em committed.

How are your New-Year resolutions going? Today’s ‘influence’ tip holds the key to you achieving them, and to changing your readers’ minds.

It’s the final in our six-part series on persuasion, loosely based on Dr Robert Cialdini’s work.

Cialdini tells of a researcher who surveyed residents, asking them to predict their response if they were asked to spend three hours collecting money for cancer research.

Many said they would. But they didn’t know that a few days later the Cancer Society would knock, asking for their help. The result was a 700 per cent increase in volunteers, compared to control groups.

Why? Because those ‘surveyed’ made a personal commitment – something we’re driven to remain consistent with. Also, in the gap between visits, their self-image changed – they started seeing themselves as more community-minded.

Apply this to your persuasive business writing:

  • Offer something small for a low price to get them thinking of themselves as your customer instead of your prospect. A bigger sale may be easier later.
  • Before sending a report or (internal) proposal, explain your key points to audience members verbally, and try to get them agreeing in principle in advance.
  • Affirm behaviour you want. For example, if you want someone to keep sending you reports on time, write, ‘Thanks for sending the KPI report on time last week. We need more people like you around here! Do you think you could also have the sales figures to me by COB Friday?’
  • Ask for a testimonial. This is a powerful mind-changer, forcing people to think of your positive attributes, then commit to them in writing. It’s also public, which greatly enhances the effect.
  • Try to generate positive customer comments on your blog. Don’t be afraid of negative comments — responding well to them can win you fans.
  • Survey people as in the Cancer Society example above. (Third-party surveyors may be best!)
  • Remind them what great customers they are and how much business they’ve done with you. At the very least, write to thank them.

Nail your New-Year resolutions
So how can this principle help you achieve your New Year resolutions? The trick is to make your resolutions public to those who know you, and who’ll know if you don’t follow through (Facebook-only friends probably won’t cut it).

Having made that commitment, you’ll be driven to remain consistent with it, and be more likely to achieve it. (That is, of course, if you really want to achieve it. Don’t say you’ll do it, then not do it, and ‘should’ all over yourself!)

Ready to commit to your resolutions? I’ve written mine in the comments below already. Add yours for the world to see!

Have a cracking start to 2014.



P.S. To see the previous five ‘influence’ principles, search for ‘Cialdini’ in the search box at top right.