There are two kinds of platforms, one is the digital form, as in software like WordPress, twitter, Facebook, etc. The other is more conceptual and harder to define. Basically it’s the body of thought – principles, objectives, and discussions that you use to appeal to your customers or constituents.
One of the great benefits of having a platform is the capability to communicate clearly and consistently about the value or positive change you offer your clients. If you’re new to the process you’ll likely find it harder than expected, but there’s a process involved, and it’s vital to establishing your conceptual platform.
Some call this process “finding your voice,” but ultimately it’s not so much about finding as it is developing one’s voice. The distinction may seem subtle, but it’s key. While it’s true, that the voice you use to communicate is critical to your success;
you don’t find your voice in order to write clearly. You write – not always clearly – in order to develop your voice.
For example, my friend Tom says he needs to find his voice in the posts he writes on behalf of his moving company. The way I put it to Tom was, “You already know how to talk to your customers about moving. You know how to calm their fears and concerns, while at the same time gaining their commitment to be ready when your movers arrive.
In other words, Tom, you already have a voice. You just need to develop it.”
Tom may want to become a better writer (me too!) or come up with new, unique ways to get his points across, but these things will come as he develops his voice.
The reason this distinction is important is that if Tom thinks he’s on a voicefinding expedition, he’s liable to search for it in ways that aren’t helpful. Ways that don’t involve him sitting in front of a keyboard or a piece of paper and doing the hard work of writing and thinking.
The voice finding mentality can even be detrimental if Tom decides to wait until he’s found it to get started. At some point he just has to start, choose that first topic and begin the ongoing process of iterating and figuring out what resonates. The same is true for you.
There is a tension to not knowing exactly what it is you want to say and how to say it. But it helps to realize this tension is a natural part of the process, and not allow it to cause undue paralysis of the vocal muscles! As you begin, focus on exercising those voice muscles consistently and value that as meaningful progress.
Develop a routine for voice development training, and the results will come. Keep a schedule for this training the same way you would for training your muscles at the gym. The more regular you are, the more you will see the appreciable gains.
Those of us who were part of the phonics generation, learned to read by recognizing patterns of letters to sound out the words. It’s much the same with the process of making sentences and paragraphs make sense. It’s not entirely unlike using phonics in order to sound out the words, except it’s not just words, but sentences and paragraphs you’re sounding out for the meaning and value you want to convey. As you practice, these things will begin to take shape.
Your client has a voice too. In a very tangible sense, your voice has to be tied to theirs. You’ll need to become acutely aware of your client’s voice so that your communication can anticipate and answer their questions.
What is the main problem you solve for them? What are the opportunities your value offering make possible? What are the questions they have about that offering?
To begin, select one problem or opportunity to address, and let’s walk through the process with one of your most basic communication formats: the blog post. As you consider the topic, make a list of the questions your post will answer. For example:
Why is this topic important?
What is the client’s current perspective of the problem, and how do I want to reframe it for them?
What’s the hard part for them in dealing with the problem?
What are some of their most common misunderstandings?
What’s next? Or, what is a practical next step they can take to address it?
Stick to this regimen. Dig deeply, and you’ll begin to gain a sense of what needs to be said and how to say it. You’ll not only begin to write more clearly, but you’ll also start to think more clearly about who your work is for and what it does for them.
Keep in mind that our first ideas are not necessarily our best ideas, so resist the impulse to see your first draft as pristine. One way to do this is to invite feedback from knowledgeable, trusted sources. Part of finding your voice is developing a sense of good taste. Feedback is vital to that process.
Remember, you already have an idea of what you want to say and how you want to say it. If you see yourself as starting from zero, you’ll be waiting to get to one before you publish. And pushing the publish button is something you need to get comfortable with from the start.
Experiment. Take risks. Early on, when your readership is small, you have the latitude to make a few mistakes. Similar to the way a voice coach might have you practice things like intonation, phrasing, and voice fluctuation, consider such things as you develop your own voice.
Perhaps most important, believe that you have something of value to say, and begin the work to make it even more valuable. More than a search, it’s a process of discovery. Somewhere – God only knows where – are the words you’re after, already in existence but not yet manifest in the world. By seeing your voice as a work in progress – a development process rather than a treasure hunt – you’ll free yourself to stop searching and start developing and discovering.