Find your Voice

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action.” – Martha Graham When I opened my mouth to sing, my voice caught in my throat. The phlegm and irritation of a passing bronchial infection was still there. My voice was gravelly and strained from several days of coughing. And the process of singing wasn’t much fun.

The sound coming from my body wasn’t me. I cleared my throat a couple of times, but it was still rough. Instead of pushing, I lessened the pressure on my throat and kept singing lightly, watching and waiting for my sound to show up. I breathed deeply, imagining the sound coming up from my center.

Gradually, the sound smoothed out until I was singing with the connected sound I know to be me. Standing there, experimenting with finding my voice, I started thinking about the parallels between finding my singing or speaking voice and finding my symbolic or metaphorical voice. The physical voice flows from a connection between breath and vocal chords. The metaphorical voice is a unique relationship between a person’s values and vision and how they are expressed in action.

When I “find my voice,” I find my sense of purpose. I know what I’m about and express myself with much more ease. When I lose my voice, I can find it again in ways similar to the process I use to regain my singing voice: I don’t push. Obstacles are a signal to lessen the pressure, dig deeper, and reconnect with what is important. I breathe deeply and speak from center.

When I speak from center, both my literal and figurative voices are strong, clear, and more easily heard. I practice.Losing my voice is signal for me to stop, look, and practice finding it again. Gradually I get clear on what “my voice” sounds and feels like, and I’m able to regain it more easily. As Martha Graham suggests, find the vitality, the life force, and the energy that is your voice. With practice, it will become powerful and effortless.

Revitalize Your Brand on Instagram

Your brand launched an Instagram account and built a following, but your engagement and audience growth has plateaued. So, now what?

To spark fresh interest in the platform, Noah Champion Buck, executive director of Los Angeles-based Wagstaff Digital (the digital arm of Wagstaff Worldwide), says it’s crucial to pair a data-based approach with ingenuity and experimentation.

Buck, who has worked with many hospitality and travel brands to generate eye-catching Instagram content, shared six steps toward crafting more tactical and inventive Instagram content:

Leverage audience behavior to create benchmarks. 
Using that existing audience data, Wagstaff sets specific goals around diversifying content—aiming to increase video from 20% to 40% of total content, for example. It then creates an editorial calendar that specifies what kinds of content is being posted and when to post it.

Research audience behavior across all social channels. Wagstaff starts by doing an audit of a brand’s presence on other social media channels, looking at the audiences interacting with each platform, as well as what content gets the most attention and why.

User-generated content drives Instagram engagement…Today’s audiences are hardwired to share visuals of their personal experiences, taking pictures and videos that perform well on social. This is a great opportunity to repurpose content created by consumers, Buck says.

…But be sure to give credit where credit is due. Wagstaff always credits anyone whose content it’s using, to avoid a grey area of legal non-compliance. Before posting user-generated content, Wagstaff always reaches out to the original poster.

Focus on what’s being responded to, but focus more on what’s being shared. Overall reach is important, but the firm looks more at what posts are being celebrated by an audience. For instance, if Wagstaff featured a cocktail recipe leading up to the Kentucky Derby and then sees followers sharing that recipe afterward, it knows it’s on the right track.

Innovate with carousels and cinemagraphs. Wagstaff has played with Instasize new album format to create contiguous posts, so viewing becomes a continuous experience. The firm once created a travel timeline across multiple images; swiping left was like pulling photos along a string, Buck says. Cinemagraphs, which combine static images with moving ones, look carefully composed and artfully created, and see high engagement as a result.