Zoom Out and Zoom In

Clouded mountain by Joanne McCall

Sometimes we all simply need to have a little perspective.

When I do media training with authors and business leaders, I share a technique for responding to an initial interview question with either “zoom out” or “zoom in.” And, no, we’re not talking about the online video platform called Zoom, which has become one of the more successful companies during the pandemic, by the way. These terms were in existence long before Zoom came to be and are often used in the world of television.

When it comes to sharing a key message, you can either start small and zoom out, e.g., “While it’s true an employee may have this particular difficulty, it’s a much bigger problem when you consider 82% of workers around the world are dealing with it.”

Or you can start big, e.g., “We’ve all heard how important it is to give to others, but what it really comes down to is how do you treat yourself and those closest to you.”

In other words, zoom in: The interviewee goes into more detail about something in their story. Zoom out: The interviewee talks about the larger context of the story, or about the general topic that the story is about.

But interviews are not the only area where the Zoom In and Zoom Out techniques are effective. We can use them in any area of our own book and business marketing and publicity efforts. Particularly when it comes to planning.

I had a call this week from a brand new client who shared with me his frustration over the last four months while learning about the book industry. (I can understand this. There is a lot to it!) He then shared all the different marketing and PR people he spoke to and how each of them had him running down a particular single pathway that they thought was best, and all of them were different. The moment I heard that, I knew overwhelm was not far behind. Bingo. He was very confused. Understandably so.

He was caught up in all the details and tactics of the numerous strategies and suggestions made to him, and it was definitely time for him to zoom out and take a look at the bigger picture. Rather than looking at all the small pieces of the pie, it was time to look at the entire pie and make some decisions. (Metaphors can be so effective. The pie = his book and business.)

When it’s time to zoom out, here are a few recommendations for taking another look at what you really want regarding your book(s), business, and brand.

Create a plan.

It’s surprising to me how many people jump into action without taking the time to have a plan and a road map that specifies what needs to be done and when. Not having a plan is to plan for confusion. That’s not to say that you can’t change your plan, you can at any time, but you need to start somewhere and follow something in order to make progress with your book promotional efforts.

Planning for the day, the week, the month, and the year is effective. For this exercise, let’s go out for three years. If you want to go out into the future beyond three years, that’s fine, but don’t go less than three.

The Process.

Find a comfortable and quiet place to sit back, relax, and take some time to dream. Take some deep breaths, settle in, and continue to soften and relax…

Close your eyes, and before we go out into the future, let’s take a moment and go back into the past to review the many, many things you have learned and done right in your life. For some, it may be tempting to look at all the difficulties and issues of the past, but for this exercise we’re focusing on celebrating you and all the good, magical things that have happened in your life — so far.

Create your mental list, which might include learning to ride a bike, learning how to read and spell, graduating high school and then college. Perhaps highlights from your career. Getting married and having kids might be on your list if you made those life choices. Whatever it is, smile! Enjoy this. You have already done so much. You have solved many problems in the past, you’ve learned, and you have much more to come.

In your imagination, let’s go out into the future three full years. As I write this, that would be mid to late June, 2024.

See it. If you could see anything you want to see, what would it be? What is it you want to create? What do you want to do? Would you be a successful author with one or two or maybe three new books to your name? Are you making great money off of book sales? Have you built a big brand? Are you called regularly by the media to do interviews? Are you an influencer? Are you speaking and doing keynotes? The sky’s the limit. Where are you??

Picture where you want to be and bathe yourself in those good feelings, it is time to reverse engineer this process. As you stand where you are in the future, look back to the present, June of 2021. What needed to happen during those three years to get you to where you are now in your imagination?

That is the big question. What did you do?

You may only get bits and pieces of this, and that’s fine. More will come tonight while you sleep and dream or in the coming days, so relax and know that is the case. This is not the time to worry about how you’re going to do it, where you’re going to get the money, or the thousand and one other thoughts that could interrupt you. Just put them aside and see, feel, and hear what you want in a way that makes you happy.

Travel back to the present,  June of 2021 (or whatever date you’re reading this) and open your eyes. Grab a notebook and start writing down your impressions.

Remember in detail what you were just imagining and capture the feelings associated with your dream and vision. Write that down too.

Time to reverse engineer it in writing. What were you doing? What needs to happen in order for you to get to that vision? Do you want to speak? Are you hoping to give keynotes? Are you a workshop or seminar leader who wants to fill rooms? Are you a consultant who wants to sell your book and upsell to additional services? Are you a coach, a therapist, a spiritual advisor who wants to help change the world? Write down where you want to speak (if that’s something you want to do), the media you want to be featured in, the lifestyle you want to live. All of it.

Again, don’t get caught up in how. Let that go for now.

Go for it. I know this seems simplistic, and you have likely done similar processes in the past, but pretend this is your first time and just go for it. Too often we get hung up on the day-to-day and never get around to creating a future. But we must create something to shoot for, as well as something that helps keep us grounded when overwhelm is nipping at our toes.

And there is great power in simplicity. The most profound wisdom is often the simplest. Believing in yourself is a powerful thing. And not only that, it’s free!

Sculpt a compelling future. Once you see and feel it as you would love it to be, we want to identify what you are going to do, and get these things on the calendar. You won’t have all the details filled in with solid dates yet, but we’re zooming in a bit from your big picture dreaming, but we’re not yet into the fine details.

Perhaps for the rest of 2021, you want to focus on booking speaking gigs for 2022. Or, perhaps the rest of this year is devoted to writing your next book. Maybe in 2022, that is your year for doing as much media as you possibly can. Maybe it will be devoted to building out your social media channels. For 2023, maybe you want to design your own products and services, or maybe you want to make that the year you work on cooperative projects with others.

Once you decide your overarching directions, then you can zoom in even more and get into the tactics and details of what you will be doing to reach that vision.

I love the big wall calendars for this. You can put up each month and go to town with your planning. I still design my books this way with wall calendars and sticky notes. I love all things digital, but I still love to see the whole project life size in front of me.

Notice I referred to creating “directions” rather than “goals.” There’s a reason for this, and I wrote all about it here if you’re interested.

An extra fun exercise.

Imagine your favorite magazine with you on the home page or cover and you are the subject of the feature story. What would you want the writer or reporter to say about you three years from now? You’ll probably use some zoom in and zoom out as you’re sharing your story.

Once you get it all on a planning calendar and you’ve divided everything into individual campaigns, then it is time to zoom in and get it done. I will write about that in a future post. If you want to be sure not to miss it, sign up for our Savvy Sunday News below and we’ll send it to you by email.

Bottom line:

Zooming in either direction gives us a different perspective. Maybe it’s time to review your vision. We all need to do it from time-to-time, and changing one’s perspective is one of the best ways I know how to do that.

To your success!


P.S. Remember, no matter where you are or what has happened in the past, a new beginning is always possible — this is Day One.

And, if you want help creating that plan, sign up for a Media Strategy Session with me here.







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