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Episode 126: Storytelling Your Way to Consulting Clients—with Amy Blaschka

Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. This episode is all about nailing your story as a way to get more consulting business and the story is basically what you say out loud and what you put in writing. There is a particular skill to doing this so that it actually attracts clients and doesn't, I hate to say it, bore them or repel them. So I brought an expert in this, Amy Blaschka who basically helps people craft their stories as a way to be able to magnify their reach and their impact. She is going to walk us through so many details about how to get this right so that it actually serves your business goals, so let's get started. I want to welcome to my show today, Amy Blaschka. Amy, welcome to the show.

Amy Blaschka: Thanks for having me, Deb.

Deb Zahn: Let's start off. Tell my listeners, what you do.

Amy Blaschka: So I am a social media ghost writer, and I help leaders craft their stories to communicate and connect better by extending their reach and impact on social media.

Deb Zahn: I love it. That is perfectly succinct so everybody listen to that again because you have to be that succinct when you're talking about what you do. So I love that you focus on stories because I know how powerful those are for getting business, getting people to care about you, etc. Let's start off, why do stories matter? Why should we focus on that, not just, "Well, I'm just going to give people my resume. It'll be fine."

Amy Blaschka: OK. Well, first of all, you don't want to bore them. So if you just have a resume or you're spewing facts and figures and dates at people, they are going to immediately tune out. Our brains are wired for story. It's the way we've learned traditionally. It's just our gauge. When we are part of a story, when someone is telling us a story, we're an active participant in it. We're kind of like, "Oh, what's going to happen next, and then what, and then what?" So it's a natural way to attract and pull others in and bring them into your world without hitting them over the head with either facts and figures and statistics that they're like, "I don't care," or it's a way to kind of go, "Ah, they're humans. They're human beings."

I think we forget that at a very basic level, we're talking one on one to somebody. It's a conversation. It's a dialogue. It's not a soliloquy. It's not about spewing one way and storytelling allows you to open it up and tell the story. But it also draws others in, and then they can ask questions. You can engage them and really, it's about kind of planting that seed of a little bit of an intrigue, that they want to know more. You want to have a little bit of mystery. You want to have a little bit of a tantalizing tidbit like, "Oh, that sounds interesting. Tell me more."

Deb Zahn: Yeah. I love that and again, for the folks in the cheap seats, the notion that it's not a monologue, that the whole point is you're trying to draw people in. I think that's so powerful. That's written or verbal so either way, you got to nail down your story. Now, I know you talk about stories in relation to people's brands. So connect those two for us. How do those go together?

Amy Blaschka: OK, there are a couple ways. Everybody has a story, a career story, per se, right? That is simply. It's not just a regurgitation, like a resume of chronological order of I did this in this position and this and this. There's always a common thread that weaves together your professional and personal experience, that really makes you who you are and that's really your unique point of difference because two people can have the same resume, like we both were marketing managers here or we did this, we did this but your unique experience, the lens with which you view the world and how you've moved through it is really kind of your story, what makes you different?

Amy Blaschka: Part of that then is sharing tidbits, sharing those insights, those experiences, particularly if you are a leader, sharing that wisdom and insights and how you navigated not only success but challenges. How did you find your way out of a crazy like, "I messed up," but those types of things, you use those stories to sort of relay your thought leadership and your experience in such a way that it's not salesy, it's not braggadocious, it's not about, "Hey, aren't I wonderful?" It's really with the aim, to use those stories to help serve your audience and provide value to them, something that they can then glean and go, "Oh, if she was able to do this, maybe I can too or wow, I never thought about that way."

So sharing your story helps others more than you've even...people think I don't have much of a story, what, sharing my story, there's nothing to tell and I will tell you, every one of my clients will tell me that and they're proven wrong once they start sharing their stories because that's people will glom on and go, "Ah," it make makes you relatable. It makes people want to hear more. It ups your know-like-and-trust factor and people want to interact. They want to work with, they want to basically be around others that they feel that they know, that obviously they trust. That is the biggest thing because if you were so guarded and you never shared anything about your story...and I'm not saying you need to share every personal detail, please don't do that.

Deb Zahn: Thank you.

Amy Blaschka: Opening up and being a tiny bit vulnerable. They'll see that you're actually an imperfect human like them and that's what makes you relatable and genuine and authentic, and all those things that you want people to see about you, that instead of just saying, "Hey, Deb, I'm authentic. I'm trustworthy. I know a lot about this." You let your stories do that, and demonstrate that through your actions in that way.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Amy Blaschka: That's how stories can really help you and they're so powerful and people don't realize that everyone has that power within them, they have a story, but not a lot of people leverage that.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And I love how you talked about vulnerability because I think that goes back to the brand piece, which was when you figure out how you want to present within your market and to others, you make decisions about that. So I deliberately, in this business, I do the same thing. When I'm consulting, I present myself as imperfect because I don't want them to think they just have a stiff in a suit, who's trying to get money from them, but that's somebody who's actually learned, seen the things they've seen, come out the other side and now, I'm ready to help them come out the other side too.

Amy Blaschka: Right.

Deb Zahn: So how, when you're figuring out your story, do you think about what's my brand that's going to help shape then what stories I tell?

Amy Blaschka: Well, I think you have to figure out what is your one, two, maybe three things, like what's your zone of genius? Where are you experts, right? Nobody can be an expert in a million things. I'm sorry people, you can't. You need to niche down. You need to kind of focus on whatever it is that you can kind of hang your hat on and say, "Yeah," and if you're not sure, you can ask other people. If you're not sure, you can see, you can kind of glean those clues from your clients, from your co-workers. What is something that comes...this is the other thing, something that comes very naturally to you, that you don' think, everybody thinks or does or whatever this way, it comes easy to them. That's not important but that's your first clue.

If something comes up, that's one of your gifts and it's true, not everybody can do that. Not everybody thinks that way. Not everyone can do it as fast and as easily as you. Something that you will completely discount your gifts and your value all the time. I see it every day. Well, it can't be important because it comes easy to me. It's got to be something I've struggled with.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Amy Blaschka: No, it's something that for you, your personal brand is really more about how you move through the world uniquely. The service, how you serve others and who you serve, how you deal with it and what are other people saying about you? As a branding consultant, we like to say a brand is a promise, right? So what promise are you delivering on consistently? What are you about, and if you can narrow that down, and I want to share a quote about branding that''s literally taped on my wall. I would turn the camera and show it to you, but it's, "You are something specific to a special field." It's a good one, right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: So you need to figure out and you need to be OK, by the way, with not being all things to all people. You need to be OK with the fact that not everybody is going to love you. Not everyone is going to see your value, that doesn't diminish your worth, right? It just means that those aren't your people. Those aren't your clients. Those aren't your prospects. Those aren't the people that are looking for your unique brand, right?

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Amy Blaschka: So you should be OK with letting them go because when you let them go, you open up space for the people who are and do want you to come in.

Deb Zahn: That's right and what I love about that because you mentioned the know, like and trust factor, which is critical to people. They’ve got to know you, they’ve got to like you and they’ve got to trust you. If you tell a story, that you are everything to everyone, bye-bye trust because no one believes that. No one believes that.

Amy Blaschka: No. No, and it's OK...if somebody approaches you and they're like, "Ah, I saw you on this or I saw something you read or said or you wrote," and they ask you about something that you're not expert in, it's OK to say, "You know what, that's not in my wheelhouse." But here's the thing, they came to you because they trusted you. So you can then make a recommendation to somebody else you know and say, "Here's where I would go," and it's not turning away business. It's helping somebody and I guarantee they will remember that and that also speaks to your credibility, your trust factor and they will know like, "Wow, that person has a lot of integrity. They're not just after a buck. They actually want to help and serve." So maybe then, now that they better know what you do. They may tell a friend and go, "Oh, OK well, so and so," and they'll recommend you and this happens all the time.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: I think the other thing with that sort of know-like-and trust-factor and personal brands, and sharing your story, it's not an instantaneous thing. This is a long game that you have to play. You have to be consistent. You have to do it for a long time. I mean, what happens is that if you show up regularly, consistently and do this, people then go, "Oh, OK, it takes a bit of time," but when they do come to you, either through a private message or an email, or through a comment on something you post on LinkedIn and say like, "I've been following you for a while." There'll be something. It's just cumulative. You build up that trust over time, right or through consistency. So it's not that I'm going to post something once I've shared my story. I checked the box. Done, and really come to me. It's not how it works.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, it's not a movie that ends. Think of it as a franchise, that's on and on.

Amy Blaschka: Yeah, that's great.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, and just to punctuate that, so that's bankable and I want people to understand this isn't just light and fluffy because telling stories is fun. This is what gets you business. I've had so many people say to me, "I feel like I knew you before I met you. Yeah, I get what you're about. I love what you're about. That whole thing that you do..." I just had someone say this to me, "That whole thing you do," and in this case, I think she was talking about the whole life of flexibility of being a consultant and I have a mini farm and I checked the city life and did all of that stuff. I'm all about that and then, we started talking about ways that I could help. So it is a foot in the door, in a way that I think few other things are, so I love it.

Amy Blaschka: Well, and I think the big thing here is, when you think about your intended audience, you want to make it so easy for them to say yes, to learn more, to do whatever. So everything you're putting out there, make it easy. Reduce the friction factor. Make you said, this person who approached you, they saw themselves. They feel aligned with you and your brand. That's why they reached out. They're like, "I like her, what she has to say." Well, what do you have to say, that's your story. That's you sharing, consistently and overtime they go, "Ah, yeah, I want to be part of that world. That sounds pretty good."

Deb Zahn: Exactly. I want to grow kale. That sounds awesome. So let's get some of the bad stuff out of the way because I know...the first thing that comes to mind is when people are going to start telling their story, the first thing they start with is the About Me part, which can just go so badly so quickly, so what are some of the common mistakes you see, as people start to craft, this is who I'm presenting to the world on their About Me page or wherever it is they put that information?

Amy Blaschka: So either the...if they have a website that's isn't about me or even on their LinkedIn profile, the Summary or About Me, I will say the easiest thing to change is to switch from third person to first person. So if you think about third person, it's more of a traditional bio, right? Amy Blaschka, blah, blah, blah versus I help leaders...I mean, you immediately remove the barrier, when you speak in first person. Don't talk about yourself in third person this is…

Deb Zahn: It's weird.

Amy Blaschka: We're not that hoity-toity, right? I mean, it's dole. Exactly. So I would say, just that simple change, even if nothing else with the content changes and you switch it to first person, what you're doing is you break down that barrier. It's me, Amy. I'm talking to you, Deb or whomever is reading that about page or that profile. So instantly, it's like you're having a conversation one on one and you want to bring them in. Now, if you have the Amy Blaschka that's dah dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, it's this level of formality. I get it that's appropriate for a bio but about...people are trying to learn more about you. You can keep it...Listen, I know people are like, "Oh, but I'm not...I'm in a profession or something where I'm not so conversational with the way I talk about myself."

That's fine. You can still use first person and be a professional author and be more formal in your language. It's a simple shift, so that is the biggest and easiest tip that you can do right away.

Deb Zahn: You know what I hate to say, "I need to look at my website." I think I have changed it to other places. I'm just going to tell the truth there. I think I have to go back to my About Me page, I don't think I actually changed it. I have a good picture but I think I messed up.

Amy Blaschka: Good. Well, that's important to you. Yeah, well, this is the thing, right? The other thing is nothing is set in stone.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Amy Blaschka: Even if you're like, "Well, I already did that." Well, when did you do that? It's a good idea to review periodically. I think the other thing, if I can keep going with some other things.

Deb Zahn: Please. Please.

Amy Blaschka: Remove anything that is extraneous and does not apply. So when I'm working with folks on their stories, I say, "You want to sell your destiny not your history," right?

Deb Zahn: Nice.

Amy Blaschka: So your experience is important, but it's really more about where you're going, where do you want to be and when you are a new consultant or you're an aspiring consultant and you want to strike out on your own. Yes your past experience is important, but you want to talk're already doing this and talk about it this way because again, you want to make it easy for that intended audience for your possible client and be like, "Oh, OK, she's already doing that." OK, that's what she does, so I would remove anything that doesn't make sense. People are very hesitant. They get really like, "Oh, but they're going to think less of me, but this is important." If it's not relevant to your specific business right now remove it.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: I would much rather see something shorter, concise, that is all about what you offer, what you do than someone rambling on and on. And people tend to do that. You'll lose people. When you confuse people, you will lose people so don't confuse them, make it easy and keep it brief.

Deb Zahn: Well, and this goes back...and I just want to highlight this to what you said earlier about knowing who you're serving. So when you say make it relevant, it's make it relevant to who you're serving and not just everybody. You're not explaining to your parents what you do. You are talking to folks that want to buy your services. So I think that's really powerful. So what else? What are some of the things that folks should avoid?

Amy Blaschka: I would avoid it, just being a recap of your resume, in that format. I would put it in a narrative format, meaning paragraphs or in short paragraphs, you have some white space between make it easy and skimmable. So people can go, "Oh, I get it. I get it. I get it." I don't sell, right? It's really off putting to sell to somebody. There's a difference between sort of highlighting your experience and your value prop and what you can do and how you help other people.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: Self-appointing yourself...and I just wrote about this. It's like, "I'm an influencer. I'm an expert or I'm a ninja this or I'm a thought leader," right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: Those are not self-appointed, right? I'm sorry, they aren't. That's something that...the other thing is let other people do that for you through endorsements and testimonials and different things because of third party credibility, right? If somebody else thinks you're amazing, somebody that's reading that About section or reading about you is going to believe them, a former client or somebody else. If they don't know you yet, they're going to be, "Yeah. I don't know."

Deb Zahn: Well, then they're going to have to ask themselves, "Do I really want a braggart by my side? Am I going to have to listen to that nonsense the whole time I work with them?"

Amy Blaschka: So here's the other thing about the about section. It's about you, but it's not about you.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: It's really about who you are trying to attract. So it's a way to position yourself to attract your intended audience. It's not a place to spout off on how awesome you are.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: That's great, if you're confident, fantastic. Again, it's not about you.

Deb Zahn: I love that. So that is...that's one of the most powerful things that I want folks to hear. So how...if it's about you but not about you, so how do you hit that sweet spot other than obviously, hiring someone who knows how to do it? What is that Goldilocks place that you're trying to get to?

Amy Blaschka: I think you asked me to describe what I do, right? So basically, I gave you my value prop and the structure of this, you can copy this structure. It's, I help, right? You can use a different verb but help is good. Who is that? Who do you help? Fill that blank in, right? For me, it's leaders and usually those leaders are CXOs, founders, that sort of thing and what do you help them do? That's another blank, right and what benefit does that bring them? Not you. You're getting paid to do this and what do they need? What are they looking for, with help? So that's sort of what you do. The only part that's really about...I yeah, but what do you help them with? What do they want? So if you have that, it's literally, I have that I think on my homepage. This is what I do.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: I mean, get it really simple and concise. It's my LinkedIn headline. It's everything I do and you can have fun with it too but you want someone to basically go, "OK, yes, this is...oh, OK. I need that or I'm looking for that," and be able to go, "Great. I'm going to click on her. I'm going to get more information, I'm going to do whatever," or you want to go, "Oh, that's not what I'm looking for," and scroll because you don't want to waste your time. That's the thing, especially when you're first starting out. You're like, I'll take anyone and everyone, but they may not be the right client for you.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Amy Blaschka: It's better to be more concise and do that upfront so then people can self-select and self-select, opt out if they're not really right. The more that you can be concise and compelling and really get to the heart of what you're doing and not be vague and not drone on and on, but really just put it out there because people are looking for it but they want it to be easy. People are lazy, they're time starved, they don't have time to sort through your clever, sort of what you're calling yourself. Well, what does that mean to them?

Deb Zahn: That's right, well, and if you make them do that extra work, you've just told them, that's what it's like to work with you.

Amy Blaschka: Yes.

Deb Zahn: If you're going to make them work for it. So I can imagine that there's some folks that are listening to this and they're thinking, "OK, I have to get that value statement down to something brief. I have to write an about section that's not about me and it's about them.” And I can see confidence issues start to pop up. I can see perceived scarcity. I can just feel mindset traps, just like laying in front of people's paths. So how do you help people get past that so that they can present themselves confidently, not over confidently but confidently enough that it's attractive to who's reading it?

Amy Blaschka: Well, I mean, we always...OK, what's your goal? What are you trying to do? Who is your audience? Who are we trying to talk to? It's basic things and again, it's what are you expert in?

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Amy Blaschka: What is it because the disconnect, and the incongruence comes when you are trying to be something that your heart of hearts you're like, "I'm really not that but I heard it was good and maybe I should do it because all the other cool kids are doing it." Don't be afraid to really niche down something that you feel like, "I can own this." It's OK to be scared. I mean, everyone is scared, especially when they start...when they leave the corporate world and put themselves out there.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: You feel like there's a million coaches or there's a million consultants. There's all these people, but there's only one you.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Amy Blaschka: So your job is to find sort of what is that sliver? What is that thing that you can do better than anyone? OK and I won't say it that way because people say, "Oh, no, no, no, nothing." What do you feel like, "OK, I feel pretty confident, I feel pretty good about this," because you can always do more, right? If a client comes to you for A and they love working with you and you make it an amazing experience, you over-provide value, all these things and they ask you to do something that you didn't niche down and say you do this, and it's something you could actually do, you can do more.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Amy Blaschka: If you lead with three or four or five different offerings, you're going to water down all of those things.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Amy Blaschka: No one wants someone who's so-so in like five things, right?

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Amy Blaschka: They want someone who, "OK, I want help with a person, with this one thing and maybe you can also help me with this, that's related, do you think." Again, that's one of those things that you can decide, "Yes, I can and that's in my wheelhouse and sure because it's related and it makes sense," or you refer them to somebody else and then, you're still helping them, right?

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Amy Blaschka: I mean, at some point, you have to jump, right?

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Amy Blaschka: You have to just pick a lane. And the good news is, you can pick a lane. You can get all your stuff together and if it's not working, you can change that, you have the power to tweak, to sort of modify that with that audience. "OK, maybe that's not the right messaging for that audience. Maybe that's not what they're looking for." I would say if you already are interacting with folks, and you're putting content out there or you have clients, ask them what challenges they have. Ask them, what are they struggling with? What do they want to see? What would be most helpful? It's OK to do that too because that's just getting to know your audience better.

Deb Zahn: That's right and it gives you this specific language that you can use. I'm reminded of years ago, I knew I was good at facilitation but no one cares about I'm good at facilitation, and that actually sounds quite boring, but what happened is I was in a meeting with a whole bunch of people who are mad at each other. I was facilitating and somebody afterwards said, "We all agreed at the end of it. I don't know how we got there. I don't know how that happened, but I noticed at one point, your voice went a little lower and you kind of soothed us and you coaxed us into a different way of thinking," and she described for me what she saw that I did. I had no recognition that I was doing any of that.

Amy Blaschka: Yeah.

Deb Zahn: I was just trying to get everybody to move forward.

Amy Blaschka: Yeah, it's probably one of those things like because you just did it automatically, it came very naturally to you. Again, you were like, "Oh, I did. OK."

Deb Zahn: That's right. So that's why I don't use the word facilitation. I say, I help groups of leaders cure decision making disorders and move ahead.

Amy Blaschka: See.

Deb Zahn: That's really simple, and it's really clear. But it was getting that feedback from other people that helped me nail it down. So I love the, don't be afraid to do that. I think that's enormously powerful. So if somebody gets sort of the basics, right, like their About Me section is rocking, they got their value statement nailed down. That's rocking. Then, they have to think about "Oh, yeah, I should be posting on social media" because as you said at the beginning, they're continually telling their story. What guidance do you have about how stories work when now you're doing slices of them over a long period of time?

Amy Blaschka: So a couple things. I have something, I call the power trifecta and it's simply, these three things you have to keep in mind and it works for content, obviously but it works for a lot of things. So it's clarity, consistency, and discipline. So as I mentioned earlier, especially with content, it is a long game, right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: It's not just I'm going to post once I'm done, check the box, the posting goes. So with clarity, clarity is obviously being clear, but it's about being very focused with your message.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: Very intentional to your message. It's not just posting for the sake of posting, but it's having some clear guidelines around, "OK, what am I posting around?" I like to keep my clients in three buckets, max, right? Those buckets could be fairly broad. It could be leadership, it could be innovation. Depending on what they do in their worlds and whatever, and what they deal with, but it's always going back to one of those three. Those become your pillars. Those become sort of your holy grail. That's the only thing I'm going to post about. I use this example myself. If I suddenly started posting about cryptocurrency or blockchain, people would be like, "What?"

Deb Zahn: What?

Amy Blaschka: You're confusing and they're like, "I don't get it." Even if you have, they're just, "That's OK," but you should have a clear sort of thing that ties back to one of those at least three buckets.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: So that's the clarity piece. Consistency means that you are showing up on a regular basis and sharing those stories, right? Sharing experiences, insights, wisdom, something from...and it's always, I like to write about it and it's the easiest thing to do, your everyday life, right? It's your interaction with clients. It could be with your dog, your kids, something that struck you at the grocery store. Some interactions. Something that you can glean, that you can kind of tie back to something, that either made you go, "Huh," or you made a connection somewhere else and somebody else go, "Oh, OK." So just write about what you know, and your world. It's not that you have to be thinking about something so differently. I mean because again, it's easiest because you're living it.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: The lens with which you see the world, right? If that's unique to you, so stick with that. So that's the consistency and then discipline is staying in that wheelhouse, right and not venturing because if you veer too far from those things, people, they get confused. You'll lose them. They won't come back. You don't want to do that.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: I'd say the other thing is for every piece of content, whether it is written, whether it's videos, but whatever you do, always have one clear takeaway. Start with that. Know what that is, before you even start writing. What is it that you want people to really glean from this? What's the big idea? What's the nugget? What is that thing that you were trying to impart?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: So start with that because you can't have three takeaways, eight takeaways, people won't. I will tell you, if you're someone who loves video or you're trying it, keep it brief. If you ramble and ramble and ramble and ramble, nobody is going to watch an eight-minute video. I'm sorry, they won't. Just keep it concise and don't be afraid to just...I mean, literally, if the big idea is one sentence, it's OK to just post that one sentence.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Amy Blaschka: You don't have to, "Oh and this, and this, and this, and this." It can be very powerful to be brief because we all have seen our feeds and scroll and there's all these different things going on, but just something that someone can just nail it, that's great. Now, if you can nail it and then you have a personal or professional story that can kind of support that, that led you to that sort of Aha, all the better. All the better.

Deb Zahn: I love it. That's just gorgeous stuff. I have to tell you. So when somebody is developing their story, what does a ghostwriter do? What does that process look like?

Amy Blaschka: Well, ghost writers exist in many different functions. I will just speak to a social media ghostwriter. The way that I work may be different from ghost writers, books, speeches, different things.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: I think of myself as more of a thinking partner with my clients. So the way that I operate, I operate on a monthly retainer basis. My clients and I each...we have a recurring weekly call for 30 minutes. Let's say it's on a Tuesday at two, whatever and it'll be conversational. Say, what's going on in your world, Deb and talk to me. I'm one of those people who takes copious handwritten notes. I hear it. I process these through my hand and I'm listening to them, and I'll push back sometimes, I'll say, "What about that or how about this? So what's the big idea? What do you want to take away?" It's really 95%. It's them. It's their ideas. It's their experiences. I'm not making things up for them, where some other ghost writers might literally write everything for somebody else.

My job is to really synthesize and take all those seemingly random thoughts because sometimes a lot of my clients are what I call talkers.

Deb Zahn: You bet.

Amy Blaschka: As they're talking, they're thinking and that's how they process and work, and that's OK. It works out well to have a conversation, but I sort of help frame it and make it more concise and compelling. What I'll do is I will repeat back to them what I heard.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: So what you're saying is this. In that way, even though I am a writer, I'm an awesome listener. That's really my superpower in being a ghostwriter is to be able to listen to them because it's not just...I mean look, they just said, "I want to write something about leadership." Sure, I do it every day for myself. I could write something. The idea is to get their voice. If you do that, you need to listen to their cadence, their word choice, how they phrase things, what's their turn of phrase, what is their favorite thing because all my clients are very different. It's almost like method acting but it's method writing. I put myself into their head, in front of their world. The more we work together, the easier it becomes.

I just know that, "OK, this client, she'd never say it that way or he likes this and he has a bent towards these types of stories, so we want to make sure that we do that." So we just do that and it's basically rinse and repeat. They'll talk to me, I'll write it. We'll finish the call, I'll write it and typically, within a day, I turn it around. They use a Google Doc, so it's a shared document they can do and then they copy and paste it into LinkedIn or wherever they want to put that content. Between our calls, if they have ideas because you get ideas when you're not seen on the call, right? It's always in between things, you're in the shower and walking your dog, whatever. They'll shoot me a quick text or an email with a few words or phrase and I'm the keeper.

So I make it easy for them. They send it to me, I keep it and then when we next talk, I'll say, "OK, you've sent me these things," or if they...sometimes they'll come with "I have a million ideas," and they'll inevitably, as we all do, we brain dead one day, get to that comment and like, "Oh, Amy, I don't know. I have nothing. What's on the list?" I'll be able to say, "Well. We've got these 510, whatever. What do you want to talk about?" "Oh, OK. Let's talk about that." It's for their memory. It's really a partnership. It's their words, it's their ideas. I'm not making it up for them but I am writing it in such a way that captures their essence, the way that they speak, the way that they talk and their takeaways from their worlds in such a way that they can then share them confidently and feel like "Yeah, this is me."

Deb Zahn: I love it and it's not easy to do, so I've had to write in other people's voice before and I know that it can be really challenging, but the other thing I would say that I like about this approach is you also don't know that they woke up the morning after and felt complete lack of confidence and terrified at telling their story to the world because you just heard the good stuff and now, you can write about that. So the mood fluctuations, the emotional fluctuations, don't necessarily...because I've seen people go on and off of social media and in talking to some of the folks who did that, they're like, "I was just feeling like crap, I didn't have the confidence to do it. I didn't know who I was anymore. I wondered why I'm in this line of business," dot, dot, dot.

Amy Blaschka: Yeah, yeah.

Deb Zahn: And having somebody help you actually can get you past that, which I think is very powerful.

Amy Blaschka: It's funny. I've had more than one client say, "You know Amy, our sessions are like therapy," because I know things that never make it into print. I know more about my...either a lot of entrepreneurs than I...within these high stress environments and I know lots about their personal professional lives and I'm like, it's OK. I'm trusted, right? I don't take that lightly, but I know a lot that never makes it there and I know what they're going through. So if they confide in me and tell me, "Oh, God, it just happened or I'm struggling with this." OK, so we talk it through and then we're like, "Let's write about it but in such a way that will help you." What happens is it gives them greater clarity in their day-to-day life as a leader too, which is a really happy consequence because they have that me to bounce those ideas and kind of talk through things with them. They realized maybe it's not so bad that they're OK, that they're not alone.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Amy Blaschka: What happens too is they share something that makes them feel a little bit icky and vulnerable. The response they get, and the engagement they get then confirms like, "Oh, OK then, I'm not the only one," so it makes sense.

Deb Zahn: I love it and I want to put a plug in for that because sometimes if I was...and I don't write all my stuff. I actually do work with someone on it if I was, like, I would talk about menopause like too much. There are some people out there that like to hear it, but not every day. So that's why I think it's helpful to have that thinking partner and the person who captures it, and as you described, who can distill what types of messages are actually going to be helpful to put out in the world that are still authentically you. So that's beautiful.

Amy Blaschka: Yeah, and to help kind of protect you, right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: My clients, there was this one where she was so fired up about this awful situation. I listened but I said, "You know what, I wouldn't put that out there in that way. I don't think that's a great idea and here's why." Of course, you're the client, you can do whatever you want," but my job is to actually push back on you sometimes and say, "Don't do that please."

Deb Zahn: Yeah, you're the defender of the brand. That's wonderful. So where can folks find you?

Amy Blaschka: Well, I am on most of the social channels, but LinkedIn is my primary platform, so you can certainly find me and follow me there. I'm on Twitter and Instagram as well. I'm on clubhouse, but not really on clubhouse. I haven't been there. I haven't been on there for a while and if you're so inclined, I do have a free newsletter that you can follow my musings. It's and I am a Forbes leadership contributor, so you can certainly follow my Forbes articles there on Forbes as well.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, and I've read some of the articles. They're fantastic on a whole host of topics that I think it'd be very helpful for consultants to read about and we'll have that all in the show notes. So let me ask you this last piece. So when you're not telling other people's stories, in a way that helps them, how do you bring balance to your life, however it is you define that?

Amy Blaschka: So I will tell you the biggest lesson learned and the thing that's been the most impactful for that is to protect your time, right? I'm a solopreneur, been doing this for more than a decade and I will tell you, everybody wants a piece of you. You think, "I got to do this, I got to do this."

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Amy Blaschka: You need to protect your time, protect your calendar. You need to map out when you're going to work on things, what you're not and you set up boundaries and that's really, whether it's I'm only going to work from this hour to this hour. I'm not going to do things on weekends or whatever it means to protect your time, so you can have to say no to the people and things that don't serve you and that can change over time. So you can say yes to those that do. That's been the biggest, most impactful change I've made, especially over the last year.

Deb Zahn: That's incredible. I love that advice because I know how powerful it is. Well, Amy, thank you so much for joining me today. There are so many juicy nuggets here. I just love it.

Amy Blaschka: Thanks for having me Deb. It was a lot of fun.

Deb Zahn: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoyed this episode or if you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up and a lot of other great content and I don't want you to miss anything. But the other two things that I'm going to ask you to do is, one is, if you have any comments, so if you have any suggestions or any kind of feedback that will help make this podcast more helpful to more listeners, please include those.

And then the last thing is, again, if you've gotten something out of this, share it, share it with somebody you know who's a consultant or thinking about being a consultant, and make sure that they also have access to all this great content and all the other great content that's going to be coming up.

So as always, you can go and get more wonderful information and tools at Thanks so much. I will talk to you on the next episode. Bye-bye.

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