What if the apes tried to study Jane Goodall? 3 tricks for writing about yourself
“An ape couldn't do that to us, you know. An ape couldn't just walk into your house and study you for six years.”
So goes a comedy bit that’s been with me for a long time.
Why do I love it so much? Well for one thing, imagine waking up and
There’s Koko in your kitchen, holding a notepad, staring at you!
That’s hilarious to me. But really, I love it so much because I sure felt like Koko in Corporate America for the first 5 years of my career.
🙉 Me, so out of place yet so eager to learn.
🙈 Just wanting to understand what these humans are all about!
🙊 Trying to blend in so they don’t discover Hey! She doesn’t belong in here!
A more succinct (but not funny) example is Temple Grandin describing herself as “an anthropologist on Mars.” As someone with autism, Temple feels so out of place here she describes it like LIVING ON ANOTHER PLANET.
What do my Koko and Temple Grandin stories have in common?
They force you to step out of your own perspective and into the feet of an outsider.
And that is absolutely a skill you need if you’re going to write about yourself.
All of my clients have said this: “It’s so hard to write about myself.”
You know why it’s hard to write about yourself? You can’t see yourself well enough to recognize your you-ness let alone describe you well enough in writing.
And that’s a problem, because if you can’t write about yourself and your business, how will you convince your customers to buy from you?
Luckily this is not a hopeless situation. You can trick your mind into writing about yourself successfully!
I use mind tricks like these to force a shift in my perspective. It’s helpful when you have to write about what you do AND when you need to survive uncomfortable situations (think Corporate America, or Thanksgiving dinner with your in-laws’ in-laws).
#1 THE KOKO
Pretend you are an anthropologist who has been assigned to study [YOUR NAME]. What’s her habitat? What are her common behaviors you need to document in your field notes? Your field notes should be full of observations because that’s what an anthropologist does, so no excuses.
I DID THE KOKO AND LEARNED: I use the dictionary a lot, even to look up words I already know. Which lead to this blog post: Here's one radical copywriting idea that will save you at least $2K.
#2 THE SHOPPIN’-IN-THE-LIVING-ROOM
I used to read A LOT of DIY home design blogs for one of my clients. A common theme was ‘redecorating on a tight budget.’
One tip I read was
“Go shopping around your living room for items you can use elsewhere in your home.”
Makes you see the objects in your living room differently, right? Bet you forgot you had that vase in the corner? WHY NOT TRY IT IN THE GUEST ROOM!
For this recycling approach, you stroll through your mind, looking for items you can use elsewhere.
SHOPPING SPREES come in handy when you have multiple pages on your website. Your rant about business jargon doesn’t fit on your services page. Maybe try it in a blog post instead!
#3 THE DO-YOUR-COLORS
For my younger readers, this is something that happened to women in the 80s. You would have someone else “do your colors” by holding up various color swatches to your face to compare and contrast how they looked against your skin. From there, you’d figure out the most flattering colors for your clothes, makeup, and hair.
Or, someone might say to you, “Wear the blue—it really brings out the color in your eyes.” Or, “Don’t wear the yellow—you look jaundiced.”
The Do Your Colors is all about comparing and contrasting. Look at your competition. There’s more than one voice teacher in the world. More than one event design consultant.
But how are you different from them?
Why do people hire you instead of them?
“Price” is not an acceptable answer by the way. Neither is “I’m better.” You want to speak to your methodologies, your best practices. Your mindset. (And it probably goes without saying: you want to write about those things in a captivating way).
When you don’t know how to articulate what you do, start by describing a competitor’s methods and best practices. Then look at yours. What pops out at you now? Voilà! It’s enough to make you speak French against your will.
THE DO-YOUR-COLORS AT WORK: I used this approach with my client Katie of PetsCraveLove™ to describe what sets her apart from other dog walkers: her proprietary, evidence-based protocol for dog care.
Are you starting to see how these play-acting situations can help you see the special thing you do—and describe it effectively in your copy?
People want to hire you for That Thing You Do, not the 5th-grade-book-report version of you. (When was the last time you read a 5th-grade book report? They’re not great!).
They want to feel excited. Curious. Bewitched. Obsessed.
But not reported-to.
The way to do that is trick your mind into seeing yourself as a separate person.
And who knows, man. You may even discover Koko wants you to move the candelabra to the foyer, that coral-colored cardigan? It’s ace.
* I wish I could name the comedian who came up with that bit. I really loved that show a lot. But in his subsequent shows he talked about assaulting women so I won’t use his name (and no it wasn’t LCK).