The Wheel of Obsession

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I am obsessive. It’s both a very good and a very bad thing. My obsessive nature rotates within me like a water wheel, part of the time submerging my strength and exposing my attachment to nonessential details, and part of the time holding my capacity for productive learning up to the light. I know I am not alone. Strength is weakness and weakness is strength depending on context and even intention.

I recently gave my business card to someone with whom I’d been discussing my desire to work on more co-authorship projects. He glanced at my card and asked me why it didn’t express that intention more directly. Instantly, I thought about how the messaging on my card connected with my website and I felt a sharp tug of resistance.

You see, lately I’ve been spending a lot of time working on salvocommunications.com. I comb through the copy, add and subtract links, integrate content, research best practices, and monitor everything on my Google analytics account with ever increasing frequency. I’m thrilled when the bounce rate drops, deflated if it nudges upward by even a fraction of a percent. I saw the words on my business card as a strong thread attaching to an intricate network of closely examined and laboured-over connections, and the idea of pulling that strand loose felt deeply threatening and potentially destabilizing.

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January 9, 2015

‘Be The Change Room’: 3 Novel Ideas For Beating Presentation Anxiety

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As a truly spazzy stage fright sufferer, I deeply emphasize with nervous clients who are about to make presentations or go on-camera. In the tenth grade, all music and drama students at my school were forced to try out for a production of Annie by singing ‘Tomorrow’ in front of the teacher and a few student adjudicators. My audition ended in wracking on-stage sobs after a mere one or two shaky bars. I was crying so hard that my sniffles and choke-sounds were reverberating in the Suddenly Most Uncomfortable Auditorium In The World. That’s me.

I can travel from 0 to 100 on the anxiety-meter in less than 10 seconds.

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November 28, 2014

‘Purposeful Storytelling’ And The Difference Between Manipulation and Persuasion

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I use the term ‘purposeful storytelling’ now and then to describe a particular kind of writing I’ve done in my career. The bluntest—and clearest—way I could unpack this term is by explaining that purposeful stories are told in order to secure particular outcomes. Articulable goals are embedded like hearts inside of these stories, pumping life into them, propelling them to go forth and make contact. If I relay a vivid narrative about a person or a scenario that evokes a specific emotion in you, or inspires you to take a concrete action, then purposeful storytelling may have taken place.

If that sounds profoundly creepy to you, I understand.

Believe me. If you told me that this kind of thing sounds like nothing other than manipulation, I’d say it would be very easy for you to argue your point. However, manipulation, which omits and distorts the truth, can be differentiated from persuasion, which presents information transparently. Otherwise, we would have to label people like Martin Luther King and Gandhi as dire and incorrigible manipulators instead of the morally enlightened persuaders we remember them as.

I’ve met people who define manipulation as any communication that actively engages their emotions. It’s my observation that these same people often have strong beliefs about their own capacities to maintain a strictly ‘rational’ appraisal of ‘the facts’ at any given time. Oftentimes, this view is connected to a notion that palpably emotional people are impaired in their thinking, muddy in their valuations. If this is your belief, then anything that stirs strong feelings could be perceived as an obstruction to apprehending and interpreting reality correctly. Under this worldview, I can see how emotion-eliciting communication could be labeled as manipulation, as a deliberate attempt to disable an otherwise powerful mind.

A discussion of the falseness of the construct dividing ‘rational thought’ from ‘emotional processing’ is the subject of another post. Evidence to suggest that we human beings—yes, each one of us, and not just the ones who cry at the movies—are profoundly directed by so-called ‘irrational forces’ at all times, even when we are sure that we are making the coldest, most impartial calculations, is mounting up. Fascinating studies have approached this reality from so many different angles, and each is worth touching upon. But I won’t do so right now.

I will say that as I grow older, I grow more unashamedly emotional. The tears flow a little more freely; the laugh gets a little wilder. Strangely, I seem to be growing into a more confident, clear, and fact-oriented thinker at the same time. Somehow, these states of being do not seem to be mutually exclusive, at least not in my case.

So I don’t begrudge communications that elicit my good old irrational drives. I understand that these forces have been guiding my cognitions for as long as I’ve been alive. When I flip through the annual report of a charity or watch a documentary that forces me to perceive the suffering of another human being, I do not say that I am being manipulated simply because something strong stirs within me. I know that these stories are relaying rich information to me, delivering more of the facts that I need in order to conduct an analysis of my reality that is as big-picture-oriented as possible. Without access to this emotional information, my thinking would be really and truly impaired.

[Author: Kristin van Vloten]

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July 10, 2014

One Page Guide: The 4 Links of Marketing that Matters

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I just published a one-page guide on Scribd called ‘The 4 Links of Marketing that Matters’.

This is an ultra-simple guide for arranging the four types of information found in marketing that addresses a customer’s needs and compels action. The four-link chain is a simple mnemonic device that guides marketers in constructing stories about what happens when a customer purchases a service or product from a credible service-provider or vendor. I created this device to aid my own copywriting work and recently shared it with a group of entrepreneurs during a presentation on marketing. This is an original learning tool created by Salvo Communications. Enjoy, my high-EQ marketing communicators!

[Author: Kristin van Vloten]

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June 20, 2014