On Being Helpful

On Being Helpful

Part of how I cope, in a crisis or otherwise, is to serve: my clients, my colleagues, my associates, my audience, those in need. I’ve done a good deal of serving lately by stepping into more podcasts, doing more writing, webinars and (virtual) conversation circles. I appreciate hearing that this has been helpful to many people. It’s why I do it. 

I also know that your inbox and mine are fuller than usual. Most of what I’m getting is from businesses I’ve either never heard of, or had forgotten I had some connection with. I’m probably being a little over-generous by giving some of these companies the benefit of doubt that they’re really trying to be helpful. Some of them, based on their hard-sell approaches, are clearly looking to capitalize on their downtime by push-marketing needless products, services, or information. These are easy “unsubscribes.”

Here are two worthwhile brand communication mantras.

Selling = helping (as Blair Enns defines it)

Marketing = articulating your value (as I define it) 

Like good comedy, marketing has a lot to do with timing. If you expect to articulate your value you’ll have to go beyond how you say what you say. You have to pick the right time to say it. Sure people can smell through most inauthentic marketing approaches, but even the best of intentions and messages will land on deaf ears if you say it at the wrong time.  

Here’s a relevant thought exercise: Imagine you’re at a dinner party or bbq with a table full of thoughtful people who all have valuable perspectives and a world of experience, just like you. Now imagine, you’re looking for the perfect time to share a great story. There’s only one way to know what the right story is and the right time to tell it, and that’s by deep listening. 

By doubling down on your listening, you’ll find the right time to talk. If you want to sell anything, treat it like helping and you’ll go far. If you want to articulate your value, employ deep listening and you’ll go farther.

By the way, there’s good science behind how helping others in need is good for you, too.

Join 24,000+ readers by subscribing to my newsletter.


Steve can help you create an integrated belief-driven business that can reach and align with more of the right people —employees, customers, donors and investors—in a sustainable and meaningful way.

Let’s Get Started >