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Can journalists work without social media? Nearly half say no

How much do journalists rely on social media?

You know reporters use social media–but do you know HOW they use it?

Having this insight helps you leverage social platforms to work with journalists more effectively.

Cision’s Global Social Journalism Study, conducted annually, sheds light on how journalists are using social media and how they view its impact on journalistic practices and the profession. Here, we look at some of the findings. Continue reading Can journalists work without social media? Nearly half say no

Yes, You Need A Website For Your Small Business

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I was doing some research recently when I came across an article that said nearly half of small businesses don’t have a website. You read that right, nearly HALF. 45 percent is the number quoted in the article, which by the way was titled, “You’ll be shocked to learn how many small businesses still don’t have a website.” And yes, I was shocked.

I’ve seen research like this before, and on one hand, it isn’t hard to believe. Small business owners are strapped for time and funds–I get it. They’re overwhelmed by the demands placed on them, including not only sales but marketing, operations, business development, HR and the list goes on.

On the other hand, how can a small business NOT have a site? It is simply a must for any business today. Even if you’re not selling anything online, a site is the hub of all digital marketing activity—social media, content marketing, PR, advertising and SEO. Where is the first place many will go when they look for a product or service? Online. If you’re not there, they may not bother to seek you out–and go elsewhere.

Continue reading Yes, You Need A Website For Your Small Business

Forget the resolutions: 5 ways to get started on PR in 2017

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2017 is here. As the New Year begins, resolutions are being made. That includes resolutions for your small business.

But, what if you don’t believe in making resolutions? And even if you do, for some of us, they simply don’t work.

That’s OK. How about we just focus on getting it done this year? If you’ve been thinking about doing some public relations for your small business or startup, there are some simple ways to get the ball rolling.

Here are five ways you can make it happen for your small business when it comes to PR:

Continue reading Forget the resolutions: 5 ways to get started on PR in 2017

The quality of writing is on the decline – 7 tips to make you a better writer

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The quality of writing today is on the decline.

If you read any online publications or blogs, you’re probably noticing more and more errors (even in major ones). Why is this?

  • There’s more content—everyone is creating content. With the rise of content marketing, blogging, self-publishing and guest posting, the volume of content has increased dramatically. More than two million blog posts are published every day, while 72 percent of marketers are producing more content than they did the previous year[i].
  • There are fewer copy editors. There are about half as many copy editors today as 10 years ago. Copy editors have been sacrificed more than any other newsroom category[ii].
  • There’s a rush to get content out there. Some statistics claim that companies that don’t blog daily will be left behind. With that sort of a rush mentality, it’s no wonder there are more mistakes than ever in our writing today.

Whatever the reason for this decline in our writing, our standards are being lowered. This hurts our credibility as professionals. 81 percent of businesspeople in a recent survey agree that poorly written material wastes a lot of their time[iii]. It distracts the reader from the intended message. And, it just makes us look plain unprofessional.

Conversely, while the quality of writing may be decreasing, content marketing is seen as an increasingly vital part of a company’s marketing strategy. Content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads (Source: DemandMetric). It’s efficient, compelling and highly customizable, catering to virtually all businesses and industries[iv].

So, given all of this, what can we do to produce higher quality written content?

Here are seven tips to improve your writing:

1) The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect: Just get it down on paper…get the words out. You can go back to fine tune it later, but it’s important to get all the information out of your head and on the page first.

Some writers seem to be intimidated by the writing process. But truly, the first draft is just that—a draft. If you get the words down, you can always go back to edit them. Don’t be afraid to just start writing. Remember—you don’t have to show anyone your first draft—so who’s judging?

2) Write when the mood strikes you: I often see pieces advising writers to set aside a block of time each day to write. And yes, generally speaking, there are times of day that are better than others for most when it comes to writing in a focused manner.

But sometimes, an idea will just hit you—that’s the time to go with it. Run with that inspiration to achieve some of your best work. For example, I can tell you that writing a 500-word blog post is going to go a lot faster when you’re feeling inspired to write—versus when you’re forcing yourself to write.

3) Allow time for rewrites: I find that my best work is usually a product of having enough time. Sure, there are times when you just have to get it written and done. But, a much more effective process is allowing yourself a couple of days in which to write, walk away, and then come back to refine your work. You’ll be amazed at what you catch and can improve if you give it time to breathe.

4) Proofread your work: Of course, you need to proof your work. Many simple errors would be caught before publication if writers would simply review their work. A tip I use often—read your work aloud. This will help you catch errors you might otherwise glance over. (A side note: You may want to try this when no one else is listening…!)

5) Have someone else review your work: After you’ve proofed (and re-proofed!) your work, ask someone else to review it. A spellchecker is good, but it’s not the same as having another human review your work. This could be a colleague, or even a friend (or check a service like Fiverr to hire a copy editor at a reasonable rate). It’s just helpful to have another pair of eyes reviewing your work to catch the errors you (or spell check) may miss.

If you have no human to proof your work, you can try a tool like Hemingway App or Grammarly. There are even free versions of these tools, which help catch complex sentences and common errors.

6) Follow style guidelines when applicable: Not sure if a number should be spelled out? Ever wonder if a word should be capitalized? Style guides to the rescue! If you’re in the news or PR fields, AP Style is generally preferred. The Chicago Manual of Style is the guide for authors, editors and publishers of books, periodicals and journals. A full explanation of both is here.

7) Look to the pros for more tips: Looking for more advice? I always recommend Ann Handley’s best-selling book, “Everybody Writes.” And, sites like MarketingProfs, Contently and Copyblogger are great sources to glean more writing tips and tricks.

Those are my best quick tips. What works for you when you write?

A closing thought: Did you know that 64% of B2B marketers outsource writing? (Source: TopRankBlog) So, if you need writing help, get in touch.

Looking for more writing and PR tips? Sign up for my free monthly newsletter by clicking here.

[i] http://neilpatel.com/2016/01/21/38-content-marketing-stats-that-every-marketer-needs-to-know/

[ii] http://www.poynter.org/2013/asne-survey-there-are-about-half-as-many-copy-editors-today-as-10-years-ago/203244/

[iii] https://hbr.org/2016/09/bad-writing-is-destroying-your-companys-productivity

The quality of writing is on the decline - but how can you improve your writing?

The quality of writing is on the decline – but how can you improve your writing?

[iv] http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2016/08/content-marketing-stats/

 

7 Takeaways from Content Marketing World

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As I continue to come down from the “high” of attending Content Marketing World this past week, I’ve begun to process all the knowledge I drank in.

If you’re not familiar with Content Marketing World (#CMWorld, for short), it’s a conference put on by the Content Marketing Institute in Cleveland, led by the “godfather” of content marketing (and all-around nice guy), Joe Pulizzi (@joepulizzi). This year, it drew 3,500 attendees from all over the world, including attendees from 40 Fortune 100 companies. If you create or market content, trust me—it’s a BIG deal.

So, what did I, as a writer and PR pro, take away from the event? Here, I share my top takeaways from the week:

  1. Slow down: This message seemed to come through time and again. If we’re doing too much, and not doing it well, maybe we need to do less—and do it better. It’s quality, not quantity, that matters. In our race to produce as much content as possible, something’s lost. So much of the content produced today isn’t as stellar as it could be. And, the number of typos seems to be growing, even in the work of high-level publications. Let’s slow down, take a breath and make sure what we’re writing is of a higher quality. Let’s make sure to make what we produce count. As social media and content marketing expert Ian Cleary (@iancleary) noted, “Don’t publish content just to publish – make it worthwhile.”
  2. Writing is a constant: Strong writing matters. Without great writing skills, our content suffers. That’s why, if we’re accomplished writers, we’ll always have a future in content creation. So, a focus on improving your writing skills will never go out of style.
  3. Better writing IS attainable: On the topic of writing, I was lucky enough to hear one of my favorites, best-selling author Ann Handley (@annhandley), present not once, but twice, at CMWorld. What I like about Ann is her practical advice on writing—it’s not magic. To get better at writing, guess what? You just have to write. Yes, there are some techniques and approaches Ann shares in her bestselling book, Everybody Writes, that are quite helpful (if you don’t own this book, you should). However, as she herself said in her session, “There is no magic feather” that will make you a better writer overnight.
  4. Strong opinions lead to more shares: Content marketing authority Andy Crestodina (@Crestodina) gave one of the most popular keynotes at CMWorld (no wonder he was the most highly rated speaker at the 2015 event). He talked about the power of strong opinions when creating content. What do you believe that most people would disagree with? What questions are people in your industry afraid to answer? Andy says if you take a stand and publish your strongest opinions, more followers will share your content.
  5. Social media involves more than just setting it—and forgetting it: Jonathan Crossfield (@kimota), content marketer and social media expert, talked about how history repeats itself—and there’s really little excuse for brands that could learn from others’ mistakes. Be thoughtful when planning social campaigns—don’t rush to push that campaign out there without first doing your research. Learn what not to do—and there are PLENTY of examples.
  6. Don’t forget the visuals: We know visuals are important. But HOW important? Research published by Hubspot says content with relevant images gets 94 percent more views than content without relevant images[i]. That’s 94 percent! So, find a designer or some tools (like Canva) to help you. There are also plenty of sources for royalty-free images like Unsplash and Pixabay, if you don’t have your own photos to use.
  7. Get buy-in: Content creation isn’t a solo activity. You really need buy-in from the top AND engagement to ensure the success of your content marketing efforts. If you struggle to get that buy-in, take small steps to win them over. As content strategist Deana Goldasich (@goldasich) said, “You have to walk before you can run.”

 

[i] http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/visual-content-marketing-strategy#sm.00006ju6bu19m4dg8y3gk2ofxhfjg

 

The small business owner’s answer to, “What should I post on social media?”

Ever wondered what you as a business owner should post on social media? If you want some great examples, look no further than this article that recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal, What Celebrities Can Teach Companies About Social Media.

It draws comparisons between how celebrities and businesses can use social media and gives real-world advice and examples as to what to post. And if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a small business owner said, “But what should I post?!”–well, you know the rest!

A couple of tips that resonated:

  • Don’t post the same thing across all social media platforms: The article talks about how the NBA posts game updates on Twitter, while on Pinterest, it’s more about their merchandise.
  • Don’t post at the same frequency on all platforms: Twitter requires more frequent posting, while the article recommends posting five times per day on Pinterest and twice on Instagram. From the article: “Social-media experts acknowledge that compared with celebrities, it’s harder for companies to conjure up interesting posts and tweets. ‘When was the last time you saw someone showing off a home-insurance policy on Instagram?’ Forrester Research quipped in a June report on social-media use.”
  • Do be sure to show up–meaning post on a consistent basis: There’s nothing worse than visiting a company on Twitter or Facebook only to see that they haven’t posted anything for months…. According to the piece, “A lot of times we see brands disappear for weeks or months at a time,” Hasti Kashfia, president of Kashfia Media and stylist to Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “It’s just like a normal relationship. You can’t disappear and expect that same warm fuzzy feeling within those relationships.”
  • Interact with your followers: For example, if someone tweets about your business, you should retweet, favorite and reply to say thank you.
  • Don’t be overly promotional: I’ve seen it before–because they don’t know what to post, companies will promote specials or deals on social media. This can be a turnoff to your followers. If you need inspiration, the piece suggests commenting on current events when it makes sense, or even taking advantage of “throwback Thursday” by posting old photos. “A company like Ford Motor Co., for instance, could use the occasion to post ads from the 1940s.”

Follow these tips to boost your social media efforts. You may find it’s easier than you think to find great content to post and grow your following.

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Do Reporters Prefer to Receive Pitches Via Email or Social Media?

As those of us in PR know, reporters don’t always like to hear from us, preferring to gather story ideas and sources elsewhere. But, when we do contact them, they have preferences as to how we do it.

While social media has come into play when pitching journalists, according to this recent survey conducted by Cision, good ol’ email still wins out, coming in at the top of the list,. Yes, 81 percent of the reporters surveyed say they prefer to receive pitches via email (and without attachments, please!).

The surprising finding here isn’t about the email preference but about social media, which many seem to think is “destroying” journalism by “undermining traditional journalistic values.” 54 percent of U.S. journalists who responded agreed with that statement. And, although they increasingly use social media to find sources, promote their stories and monitor breaking news, they still prefer to receive pitches via email.

Perhaps even more surprising, the phone was preferred (30 percent) over social media (24 percent) as a way to hear from PR pros—now, that’s saying something when they would rather hear from us via phone than social media (many reporters detest phone calls).

So, even though email is far and away still the preferred way to contact reporters, the debate will continue as to the use of social media for pitching. Read more on that topic here.

 

4 Social Media Tips for the Overwhelmed

I wanted to devote today’s post to a topic that continually crops up when I speak with small business owners: social media. While everyone understands that it’s here to stay and that they should be taking advantage of it because it’s a free way to market their businesses, there remains a “deer in the headlights” look on many of their faces when this comes up.

First, a disclaimer: I don’t consider myself a social media “strategist,” which I’m quick to point out whenever I talk about social media. However, I do handle social media for some of my clients and for myself, so I share this knowledge based on my experience. (Hire with care when it comes to those who do claim to be social media “experts.”)

So, for those of you who may be experiencing social media “paralysis” (!), here are a few tips to get you moving:

1) The first tip I want to share is to decide which social media platforms you want to focus on. For B2B types, I suggest LinkedIn and maybe Twitter or Google+. For B2C, it’s probably Facebook and one of the others. Obviously, Pinterest is huge for some B2C companies. Why only two to three, you may be thinking. The answer is if you focus on ALL of them out of the gate, most likely, you’ll want to quit before you even get started. I’ve seen this happen, too. Small business owners get on a kick to hit social media hard and decide to go after all the major platforms at once. Then, they quickly see they can’t keep up, so they stop. Entirely. So, my advice choose two and master those before adding others to your repertoire.

We could discuss why I suggest these particular outlets, especially Google+–not everyone “gets” that one. I never did either until a colleague explained that whatever you post there contributes to your SEO (search engine optimization) results. It’s true. Try it. I’ve posted about clients on Google+, then when I’ve Googled them, my post comes up on the first page of results.

2) Which brings up another important point: don’t be afraid to experiment. Even if you use the wrong hashtag or forget to include a link the first time or two, it won’t hurt anything. You can learn as you go. We’re all learning as we go with social media. Look at what others are posting to get ideas. If you feel it’s truly that poor a post, you can always edit it–or worst-case scenario–delete it.

3) And let’s talk for a minute about how much time you should spend. To start, it may take a little longer. Spend 30 minutes three days/week to see how much you can get done. Once you get the hang of it, it shouldn’t take a lot of time. There are, of course, ways to set up automated posts via Hootsuite and other solutions. You can investigate those, as well, if you feel so inclined.

A word of caution: It’s good to post on a regular basis once you start. I often see folks on Twitter who look like they got started, but then haven’t posted for six months. That’s a no-no. There may be weeks when you can’t post as often, but try to commit to making sure you post at least a few times a week to show that you’re serious about it.

4) This would be a good time to mention, too, that the frequency of posting varies from one platform to another. For example, I tweet more often than I post on Facebook. I post on Google+ more often than I post on LinkedIn. The school of thought on this varies, but because the life of a tweet is so brief (I think I just read 20 minutes), I post there most often, sometimes five times/day. There’s a lot of research on what times of day to post, as well, which you can Google and read if you’re interested. On Twitter, at a minimum, I try to be sure to post first thing in the morning, again around lunchtime and maybe again later in the afternoon. I don’t always post on weekends.

I see this is getting lengthy, so I’ll talk more next time about what to post. Hint: It doesn’t all have to be original content.

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