Sunday, November 25, 2012

Online Publicity & Social Media Marketing Tips for Writers

Aloha from Hawaii!!

Sorry for the hiatus. It was a busy month as I just finished my Modern & Contemporary Class and am now in beautiful Oahu on vacation visiting family, but wanted to pass along my latest article on Women on Writing. I tackle how to utilize social media to build a credible online reputation - easy publicity tips you can handle yourself. No need for a high-priced publicist!

I also pass along tips on how to stay safe online and how to avoid negative naysayers and social media highjackers.

Check out my article for more helpful social media marketing & publicity tips!


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

When the Going Gets Tough, New York Entrepreneurs Get Going

New York is one of my all time favorite cities and have spent quite a bit of time in Manhattan enjoying the sights, sounds, restaurants, and oh yes, the shopping! I have fond and special memories of the "city that never sleeps", and it wrenched my heart to see pictures of the damage that was left in Sandy's wake.

However, New Yorkers are tough and resilient. It's heartwarming to read the positive, uplifting stories about how New York businesses and entrepreneurs are coming together to support each other after Hurricane Sandy. I loved the story about a lower Manhattan bagel shop owner who personally picked up her employees and brought them to work. Now that's a caring and dedicated boss!

Seth Godin, one of my favorite marketers, shared an inspiring post this morning on his blog:

"There's never been a better opportunity to step up and make an impact, while we've got the chance. This generation, this decade, right now, there are more opportunities to connect and do art than ever before. Maybe even today.

It's pretty easy to decide to roll with the punches, to look at the enormity of natural disaster and choose to hunker down and do less. It's more important than ever, I think, to persist and make a dent in the universe instead."

Sending positive, healing thoughts to all those who suffered damage and loss, especially small business owners. My heart goes out to you all on the East Coast!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why It's Time to Get Rid of the Noise & Simplify Your Message

We are bombarded with noise on a daily basis. In my Modern Poetry class, there was a line in a Walt Whitman poem,"blab of the pave," that reminds me of all the noise that surrounds us, especially technological noise. When Whitman wrote "Song of Myself," he used this "blab" (and his rambling long lists and catalogs) to connect with his readers. Whitman was a democratic writer and wanted to include everyone in his message. However, blabbing in 21st century doesn't quite have the same impact unless you fancy yourself a Whitmanian poet. Good 'ole Walt wasn't known for  his less-is-more-approach with his poetry as he was quite wordy - and that's where you can get into trouble with your messaging.

If you feel like your messaging is getting lost and you are losing your audience as a result, it may be time to refine your message and keep it simple (the K.I.S.S. school of thought). You don't have a lot of time to make a good first impression so here are a few tips to help you cut out through the "blab" and stay on track with your messaging. Marketing and public relations isn't about who can be as grandiose as possible with their message. Sometimes simplicity can be just as powerful.

  • When writing a press release or blog post, don't cram every bit of information you possibly can into one page. Target your message and keep it news-worthy and pertinent. How will your audience benefit from the information you share with them? Just share the key points to get your point across. 
  • Say it with video or audio - the medium is your message. You don't always have to "write" your message. Use visual mediums to get your point across. You only have to look at the popularity of YouTube to know that video marketing can pack a walloping punch. Video is a very powerful way to send a message so look into shooting a short video to share your message - keep the video length around two minutes.
  • Scale back complex, confusing, and abstract ideas. Jargon can easily overwhelm your audience so remember to explain and present complicated ideas in simple, easy-to-understand language. 

Take a page from the Bard: "Brevity is the soul of wit." If you want to be an effective communicator, it's sometimes important to use less words in order to say more. While there is some "blab" that is important, blabbing for ten pages isn't always an effective way to get your point across to your audience.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The MOOC Debate: Does the Online Class Model Really Work?

I'm starting Week #4 of my Coursera Modern Poetry (ModPo) class and I'm learning more in just three weeks compared to college classes I took almost 20 years ago.

But there is a big debate buzzing around the academia water coolers. Does the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) model really work? Are we, as students, getting a watered-down education experience by enrolling in such free online courses offered through Coursera?

According to this article in the The Chronicle of Higher Education, A Pioneer in Online Education Tries MOOC, Ann Kirschner lends a somewhat biased opinion on her MOOC experience  specifically her experience with Coursera.

I find it interesting that she is quick to judge the entire MOOC model based on only one class she took through Coursera. Yes, she has experience in online education but times are-a-changing: add social media and you have a new dynamic when it comes to virtual learning.

She even readily admits that she made a half-hearted attempt and procrastinated throughout the class. As I mentioned to my fellow ModPo classmates, it's all about your personal experience with the class: you can make it good, bad, or indifferent. She was also quick to point out the flaws with the instructors and makes it sound that ALL Coursera classes don't work and will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth: i.e. how professors are not actively involved and that students are rude and leave nasty comments on the forums.

Of course, there are going to be techie glitches and there will always be trolls who purposely fuel the debate fires by posting incendiary comments. She does point out some "positive" benefits of Coursera, but the tone of her article leans to the side of anti-MOOC.

If you check out the comments left by my fellow students, many of us encourage Kirschner to enroll in Filreis' course. Yes, we are learning about modern poetry, but even more important we are creating a real online community - a virtual poetry salon that consists of 30,000 plus people learning poetry. I don't know how Al and our TAs keep up with our forums and Facebook group, but they do and actively post and interact with students. That has been the most impressive part about this class- to have a professor who genuinely cares, is very supportive of students, and leads by example. Al's enthusiasm and passion for poetry are contagious, and I am excited every time I click on "Go to class" on Coursera's site.

According to Kirschner, she is not entirely convinced that MOOC will work and poses that it could just be a passing "silly fad." My question to Kirschner: what's silly about opening up the education experience to people across the globe? The one point that she misses in her article is that the MOOC experience isn't just about the American-based higher education system. MOOC expands learning to the far corners of the world, and I don't find anything silly or bad about expanding people's minds - especially people from diverse backgrounds and cultures who want to learn about Modern American & Contemporary Poetry but would never have the opportunity to experience American poets otherwise.

You only have to peek inside the virtual doors of ModPo and see a shining example, thanks to Al and his TA team,  that MOOC and online learning really works and IS successful.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How Modern Poetry Helps Me In Business

What does modern poetry and business have in common? If you asked me that question a few months ago, I probably would have laughed. I just started an online Modern & Contemporary Poetry class through Coursera (taught by Al Filreis from Penn). I originally signed up for the course because my copywriter's brain feels stagnant, and felt a calling to return to the "classroom" (albeit the virtual classroom). I also wrote poetry in my 20s and I'm hoping the class will inspire me to write poetry again.

Today is Day #3 of our online course. There are over 30,000 students from across the globe enrolled in the class. From a sociological viewpoint, I find that fascinating unto itself. But as I thought about it more yesterday, I contemplated "how will this class help me as an entrepreneur and copywriter?"

Business professionals usually tend to stick with their own kind and don't venture into unknown territories - i.e. a modern poetry class. Just the word "poetry" alone can be downright scary and intimidating. You want me to read poetry for ten weeks straight? Huh?!

As business professionals, I invite you to step over that line into your imagination - your "house of possibilities" (to quote Dickinson). Poetry makes you dig deeper and delves inside the cobwebbed-corners of your brain. It's easy for me to sign up for webinars to learn how to be a better social media marketer or copywriter. These seminars will make me better at my job. But it was a big leap out of my professional comfort zone to take a modern poetry class. Even though my minor was American Studies in college and have read some of these poems, I would not call myself a poetry expert.

Poetry challenges you to look at language through new and brighter filters. It takes you into the past, but brings you back to present day. As a copywriter, it makes me look at words themselves in a richer, more layered context. I realize I've been looking at words on the surface, or maybe I just forgot how beautiful and poignant words really can be. I hate to admit it but I have lost an emotional connection to words, and I have a sneaking feeling that poetry will help rekindle that relationship again.

When reading poetry, there is no wrong or right answer. It's also a time to put your overachiever, perfectionist Type A tendencies on the back burner (I speak from experience). And sometimes poetry just doesn't make any sense at all. It might take weeks or even years to understand one line or even word. But that's okay. In the world of poetry, you are allowed to stumble and be frustrated, and you don't have to jump on the bandwagon and think like everyone else. Entrepreneurs are innovators so it makes sense that poetry might just light a new fire that takes your business out-of-bounds.

I'm not preaching that every business professional should run out and take a modern poetry class, but I  invite you to step across the line. Take a class that expands your brain in a way that makes you feel just a little bit uncomfortable. Even as a lover of literature, I find myself squirming. Give me a call to action or an article and I can write it. But throw down some Emily Dickinson (who I wasn't a big fan to begin with) and I'm stumbling to gain my literary footing. But I don't plan to run for the hills. For me, it's all about having fun and taking a leap into the wild unknown land of modern American poetry.

Don't let fear stop you from taking the plunge. You may be surprised at what happens if you open up your mind and just take a chance. And sitting on the sidelines gets lonely and boring.

"Their comes a moment when you have to stop revving up the car and shove it into gear."
— David Mahoney

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Tweet Heard 'Round the DNC: How to Lose Your Job With Just One Post

CNN correspondent Erick Erickson is in serious hot water for his tweet about the Democratic National Convention. The women's advocacy organization, UltraViolet, circulated a petition today urging CNN to fire Erickson (over 30,000 signatures so far) because of his "sexist" comment. This is the tweet that has been heard 'round the DNC and cyber water cooler: 
"First night of the Vagina Monologues in Charlotte going as expected."
Erickson missed the memo on journalistic ethics and integrity when posting on social media (especially on behalf of CNN). He also forgot this simple netiquette rule: "if you wouldn't say it to your mother, then don't post it on social media." 

And how did Erickson respond to the public's reaction to his tweet, especially from women? 
“My apologies to those offended by my tweet. Wasn’t my intention.” 
Sounds like a half-hearted attempt to save face so he doesn't lose his job. I don't know what his "intention" was but he obviously knee-jerked that tweet and didn't think about the consequences of his public comment. 

Erickson wouldn't be the first person to lose his job as a result of an insulting tweet heard 'round the world. Learn from Erickson's mistake...and his comment goes way beyond just a "whoops" on social media. Think BEFORE you tweet. When you insult the First Lady of the United States of America, that's a pretty big deal. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Not All Publicity is Good Publicity: Why You Can't Save a Sinking Ship

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, publicity is defined as "an act or device designed to attract public interest; specifically : information with news value issued as a means of gaining public attention or support." In the case of Todd Rutherford, the saying "there is no such thing as bad publicity" is a misnomer.

If you didn't catch the New York Times article this week, Rutherford is the fake book reviewer who was outed by a disgruntled customer and was caught by Amazon for posting fake five-star book reviews. His clients paid him a pretty penny to write the fake reviews, and those pennies added up to a whopping $28,000 per month. I wrote about Rutherford a few days ago and warned authors/writers to steer clear of  paid book review scammers.

The reviews are mixed about the "ethics and morals" behind Rutherford's actions. The general consensus in the book/publishing industry is that he is a swindling con-artist. Unfortunately, self-published authors are taking the heat as a result of the article's whistle-blowing; it's just bad publicity all the way around. He has literally bit (OFF) the hands that fed him at one time, and he has pissed off legitimate, ethical self-published authors in the process. And I don't blame them for being mad.

After digging around to see what I could find on Rutherford, I stumbled upon an interesting revelation via a Publisher's Weekly blog post, Paid Reviewer Goes Down Honest Path (thanks Gabe Habash for sharing this interesting tidbit). I had a sneaking suspicion that Rutherford pulled his own publicity stunt - trying to save face after he completely obliterated his business. He emailed Publisher's Weekly a press release a few days before the  New York Times article was published. In his press release, Rutherford announced the article would make a "big splash" and he was making a career comeback..wait for "book publicity".

Habash sums up exactly how I feel about Rutherford's attempt to save face with his press release. It backfired on him.
The email, meant to drum up more interest in Rutherford and his “comeback,” is a clear sign that he doesn’t think he’s committed any fault and further reinforces the image of an individual who’s only aware of his enterprises, not of his enterprises’ context or their consequences. In other words, he’s out of touch with reality (in a way that’s reminiscent of “publisher” PublishAmerica). Rutherford’s email is evidence that he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with manipulating the system if it allows him to manipulate it. The only problem is that he doesn’t seem aware that he’s been caught.

In Rutherford's case, sometimes you just can't save a sinking ship.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Writers Beware: Why You Shouldn't Pay For Book Reviews

I came across a very interesting article in the New York Times that talks about a hot debate in the publishing industry: paid book reviews. While reading the article, I recognized a familiar name - Todd Rutherford. A former author client hired (and then quickly fired) Mr. Rutherford due to his "questionable" ethics concerning marketing his book. My radar went up instantly and I dug around to find out more about Mr. Rutherford and his background. I quickly learned about the complaints against him, and told my client to steer clear of him. I always tell my clients never to buy book reviews.

For Mr. Rutherford, his once booming $28,000-per-month "fake book review" company took a nose dive,  which led him to close up shop and is now currently selling RVs.
"When Ms. Lorenzana found, $99 seemed reasonable. But the review did not show up as quickly as she expected. She posted a long, angry accusation against Mr. Rutherford and his service on several consumer sites, saying she had received better treatment from a reviewer whom she had hired for $5. (“You could tell that the person had really spent a few minutes checking out the information about my book and getting a feel for it before just diving into writing a meaningless review.”) 
Mr. Rutherford refunded her fee, but his problems were just beginning. Google suspended his advertising account, saying it did not approve of ads for favorable reviews. At about the same time, Amazon took down some, though not all, of his reviews. Mr. Rutherford dropped his first name in favor of his middle name, Jason, so that people who searched for him through Google would not automatically see Ms. Lorenzana’s complaints." (Source: New York Times) 
What's the moral of Mr. Rutherford's demise? Scammers don't last long, and fake paid reviews are NOT considered ethical book marketing. If you want to be taken seriously as a writer and don't want to damage your reputation and credibility, do not pay someone to write fake "five-star" reviews for your book. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Content Writing Tips: 4 Common Grammatical Mistakes

When writing content, don't rely on spell and grammar check. Even simple grammatical mistakes on your website and social media can make you look amateurish and unprofessional.

Here are common writing mistakes to avoid:

#1 Their, There, They're

Their is a plural possessive. There can be used as a pronoun or in reference to a place. They're is a contraction (they are).  

The students have their books.
There is an old house.
The kids want to go there.
They're going to school today. 

#2 It's, Its

It's is a contraction for it is or it has. Its is a possessive pronoun.

It's my birthday. 
It's been a warm day. 
A cat is possessive of its territory.

#3 You're, Your

You're is the contraction for you are. Your is a possessive pronoun.

You're my best friend.
Your article is fascinating. 

#4 Affect, Effect

Affect is a verb ("to influence") and effect is a noun ("result"). 

The heat will affect my garden. 
The medication has a negative side effect. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Why Every Writer Needs a Good Editor

Happy August! I just wanted to share my latest article that is featured on Women on Writing. I tackle the subject of book editing and writing for their DIY Self-Publishing Guide this month. I had the privilege of interviewing seasoned editors, Susan Malone and Karen Elliott. 

My article gives an in-the-trenches look at book editing, and the ladies share great advice on everything from how to choose an editor to how to beat writer's block. 

If you need more information about editing and writing, check out their helpful tips and resources detailed on their websites: 

A huge thanks to Karen and Susan for their interviews. Check out the other fantastic articles featured on WoW this month. Lots of great information for women about writing, self-publishing, how to market your self-published book, etc. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Online Plagiarism & Why It Needs to Be Stopped

"You should just give away your art and share it with the world." That's the response that my artist/illustrator friend received when he kindly asked the person to remove his artwork from their site. The "online plagiarism" discussion fueled me to write about a subject that really irks me -- people who steal artwork and writing, and think they are "entitled" to it...without having to pay a dime.

My friend makes a living from his art, and I make a living from copywriting. I know there are some people who are not informed when it comes to copyright law, and not every person out there "steals" art and content on purpose. However, it's a slap in the face to artists and writers when they assume that we should just give away our talents and skills for FREE. Are they going to pay our bills and expenses, and put food on our tables? I don't think so!

My response to people who think it's okay to steal art, music, writing, etc.: Would you clock in at 8 am and tell your boss you will work for free today? Would you step into a lawyer's office and expect him to give you FREE legal advice? 

Most of us who "create" for a living are freelancers and independent contractors, and we work hard to earn our money. We probably works ten times longer and harder. Because we are freelancers, that does not mean we give away our time and skills for "free".

And online plagiarism doesn't end there. It has taken over education as well. I have a friend who is a high school teacher and at the end of the year, I always ask him how many plagiarizers he caught during the school year. He said it never fails and kids don't learn their lessons. He has flunked students for plagiarizing papers. Unfortunately, the internet makes it easy for students to plagiarize, but it also makes it easy for teachers to catch their students as well (if they are diligent and cross-check facts and information).

I didn't go to college and earn a degree in journalism for the heck of it. And my friend doesn't spend hours creating his artistic illustrations for his clients because he has nothing better to do.

Please be respectful of artists, musicians, and writers, and please don't steal their work. If you want more information about digital copyright laws, check out the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) .

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why Companies Need to Know the Difference Between Content Writing Vs. Copywriting

I read an article this morning on SiteProNews about creating the "perfect content marketing strategy." As a copywriter, I wish that content marketing sites would spend more time researching the difference between content vs. copy. Some may call it semantics, but copywriting is a different beast unto itself. Some copywriters also write content/articles (I write both), but most copywriters usually stick with what they know best: marketing and sales-focused copy.

The information presented gives erroneous information to business professionals who require writing services. Yes, she presented good information about getting what you pay for and  that content writing is an investment. I definitely agree, but she threw "website writing" into the general content category and that is not correct.

So what's the big deal and what's the difference? There is a BIG difference that companies need to understand before hiring a professional writer:


Here is a typical scenario that companies face: 

Mr. Smith, CEO of ABC Company, is not happy with his company's website. He takes one look at it and cringes:"Our website reads like a first grader wrote it. Our sales are slacking, and our web site traffic is non-existent. When I talk to prospects at networking functions, they have never heard of our company, let alone understand how our products work!"

My recommendation to Mr. Smith: Hire a copywriter! A copywriter will sit down with Mr. Smith and his team, and figure out what's not working. He/she will review the company's marketing strategies, branding, and messaging -  from the top down. 

Some questions a copywriter might ask: 

  •  Why don't their target markets relate to their website? 
  • What's wrong or what's missing on the site? 
  • Is the website design lackluster and needs a design overhaul? 
  • Does the site have calls to action and testimonials on their website? 
  • What does the company want to achieve with their website? etc. 

These are just a few areas that a copywriter will address BEFORE they even sit down to write the copy. Hire copywriters who work well with designers. If the copywriter  is worth his/her weight in gold, they will have an "eye" for design. Most copywriters don't actually design sites, but they need to understand how a website intuitively works, and how to create a strategic site map, etc.

You could hire a content writer to write "text" for your site, but that's exactly what you will get - words that won't do anything for your sales, lead generation, etc. Copywriting is a persuasive writing style that achieves a marketing purpose, and content writing does not always do that.

Content Writing 

So when should you  hire a content writer? If you need a well-researched blog article/post or need help with your content marketing (placement of articles on syndicated sites to showcase your expertise in your industry/niche), then a content writer would be a good idea. But do NOT hire hack writers who churn out $2 articles. You get what you pay for and many of these companies hire non-native English speakers/writers. Sometimes these cheap articles may be plagiarized, and you could get in a lot of trouble for publishing plagiarized content. It also helps if the content writer understands SEO (search engine optimization) keyword placement. 

If you need a slick, well-researched article, white paper, or report, hire a writer with a journalism or strong writing background who knows how to research. Because someone has an English degree, that does mean they understand how to write an article. If you need a twenty page academic research paper, an English major may work in that case.

If your company requires technical writing, hire a professional technical writer - there's a reason they are called "technical" writers. And they are well worth their money!

By understanding the difference between copywriting vs. content writing, you will save your company a lot of time, money, and headaches!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Professional Skype Etiquette: How to Use Skype For Business

I spend the majority of my work day on Skype. Between instant messaging and Skype calls, you can usually find me hanging out on Skype. It makes it convenient for me to instantly communicate with my clients and you can't beat free Skype calls. If you conduct business via Skype, it's important to follow these "etiquette" rules. Skype is free to use - just download it to your computer. Skype offers low-cost calling plans, but instant messaging and Skype-to-Skype calls (including video calls) are free.

1. Don't "shout" when you type. Shouting is the equivalent of typing with all caps. Just be careful when you instant message and make sure your caps lock is turned off. "Shouting" in the cyber world is considered rude.

2. Don't have a one-sided conversation with yourself. Don't blast out twenty instant messages at once. Remember that not everyone is tied to their desk, and the other person may have stepped away. Wait patiently until you receive a reply, and then continue your conversation. If you need to review a conversation, Skype archives your instant messages, and you can go back (even a year later) to review the conversation.

3. Be respectful and courteous. The same professional rules apply when you use Skype. Use appropriate language, grammar, etc.

4. Don't call someone until they are ready to receive the call. Send an instant message first and politely ask if the other person is ready for the call. The person might be away from their desk, in a meeting, or on another call. Also, don't assume that everyone wants to participate in a video call, and some people may not have a web cam. It's polite to ask first - would they prefer a phone or video call? Video calls are a great feature, especially if you want to personalize the call and see the other person's happy, smiling face.

5. Use the "away" feature when you are busy or step away from your desk or phone. This lets your contacts know you aren't immediately available. If you set yourself to "Do Not Disturb" you will not see the other person's instant messages, so use this feature sparingly. You can also set yourself to "invisible" if you don't want your contacts to know you are online (but you are able to see your online contacts).

6. Download the free Skype app to your smartphone. The app makes it easy to catch your clients on the go, and is a handy feature if you don't want to use up your mobile minutes.

7. Include your professional contact information on your Skype profile - email, mobile number, website link, and don't forget to add a smiling photo!

8. Skype offers a low-cost international calling plan so if you work with clients in other countries, this might be a reasonable option. Take advantage of Skype's call forwarding feature - forwards Skype calls to  another phone number of your choice.

9. Use Skype for small group/conference calls. Conduct the Skype call as you would any conference call. This feature works well for smaller group calls. You can also upload and send files during the call.

10. Create groups within your Skype contacts. This feature allows you to instant message a group of your contacts at once. If you work with multiple people at the same location, this is a convenient feature. You can conduct a three or four-way conversation, and you don't have to go back and forth in different screens.

For more user-friendly tips and information, check out Skype's help page. Happy Skyping!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Damage Control - How to Save Your Company's Reputation

A few months ago, I was interviewed by the Redding Record Searchlight for a social media/online rep management article. In the article, I discuss my favorite topics - social media and online reputation management.

Yesterday I read an article about (touted as the #1 women's site on the internet). Unfortunately, is in hot water and I am certain their #1 ranking has slipped considerably.

According to the Adweek article, the editors sent out emails encouraging their writers to repeatedly click on Panera's ads, which is known as click fraud. When Panera found out what they did, they immediately pulled their ads. Click fraud is punishable by law and is considered a felony in some states. issued a statement that the editors were "disciplined" and the editors violated their ad policies. My question to management: did these actually editors read an employee handbook that clearly states their ad policies? And did these editors sign off that they read and understood their ad policies? If they signed on the dotted line, then they definitely have good reason to fire these editors. If no such handbook exists, then the responsibility falls on the shoulders of management/HR.
I dug around online, and I did not see ANY comments from directly responding to people's comments - most were unfavorable comments against the site. A negative article in Adweek is not the kind of 'bad' publicity you want. There is a huge lesson to be learned from their mistake. And click fraud is more than just an "oops"!

Hopefully, you won't EVER experience this kind of PR nightmare, but it could happen. If you find your company faced with a crisis situation that could seriously damage your reputation, keep these tips in mind. Be proactive and NOT reactive!

#1 If there are legal implications involved, seek legal advice/counsel immediately.

#2 Take immediate disciplinary action against employees who were involved. It's important to get all the facts first. Dependent upon what policies were violated, you may have to fire employees.

#3 Appoint your marketing/communications director (who understands media relations) to handle ALL media inquiries. If you don't have a designated marketing person, appoint your CEO or owner to take the lead. Do not allow staff to answer questions or talk to media. Issue a formal statement to the media and don't waiver in your statements. Remain calm. Don't become reactionary or defensive when answering questions. Don't forget to respond directly to "negative "comments on your website, blog, and social media channels. Use online rep management software or Google alerts to track your brand/company name.

#4 Right the wrong. If the "mistake" involves another company, customer client, or vendor (in this case, Panera), how can you make it up to them? Keep the communications channels open and don't shut your door in their face.

#5  Take a good, hard look at your employees and policies. Do your research. Why did this happen? How can you improve your policies and operations? A company should never become complacent and static. Communicate with your employees and see where the break-down happened.

I'm a stickler for business ethics and I realize that mistakes happen, but this is one mistake that could be very costly for  And no one wants to buy ads from a company who engages in fraudulent online activity. Ads equal revenue and without ads, their bottom-line will be seriously impacted.

Have you experienced a crisis situation within your company or business? How did you handle it? What were your results?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Kendall-Jackson Winery: Customer Service That Goes the Extra Mile

I recently wrote a post about my fantastic food-wine pairing at Kendall-Jackson Winery. But Kendall-Jackson went the extra mile for me, and they are now bumped up to my #1 favorite customer service story/experience. As a copywriter who writes for the hospitality and food/restaurant industry, I'm more than impressed with KJ.

When I was visiting their Wine Center, I purchased these really cool frozen wine bottle coolers for myself and to give away as gifts. Unfortunately, I got a dud and the cooler leaked red gunk all over the place (after I put it inside the freezer). I called the Wine Center at Kendall-Jackson and explained what happened. He apologized profusely, and gave me the option of a refund or he would send me another cooler. I really wanted another cooler, so I asked him to ship me another one (which he was more than happy to do - at their expense). But he took it one step further and asked me what kind of wine I liked. I tasted their Avant while I was there, so I told him I really liked their Avant. He threw in a free bottle of wine to make it up to me. Now that is my idea of awesome customer service. He wanted to make up for "my" inconvenience by sending me a bottle of wine.

So now I have a new wine bottle cooler AND a complimentary bottle of their delicious Avant Chardonnay headed my way. A HUGE thanks to the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center. Thanks for treating your customers with courtesy and going the extra mile to ensure my customer satisfaction. Word-of-mouth travels fast and I know lots of wine drinkers. I plan to sing KJ's praises as an example of fantastic customer service! 

It's really easy to complain about the businesses who treat customers poorly, but it's even more important to commend those businesses who treat their customers well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Restaurant & Food Trends Look to Eco-Eats

I am lucky to live in northern California and I have lots of healthy restaurant choices at my disposal. As a copywriter for the food and restaurant industry, I like to stay on top of the industry trends. Not to mention, I'm a foodie and love to cook with fresh, local ingredients and produce.

I read a positive article this morning in QSR Magazine that shows how the restaurant/food industry is moving towards a more "eco-friendly" trend. 

"Epic Burger’s website stakes out a strong claim to purity. “Our menu is all about what is NOT on it,” the site says. It explains what’s missing: “hormones, antibiotics, trans fats, food coloring, preservatives, nitrates, and yellow mustard."

Consumers have moved (and are moving) towards a health-conscious lifestyle, and they care about what they put into their bodies. And the restaurant industry is responding to this growing and popular need. You only have to watch Supersize Me to know that greasy, fatty fast-food is dangerous and how it can damage our bodies.

And the industry is taking a page from fruits and veggies. Although, you do have to be careful of high sugar content in some juices, it's nice to know that the industry is giving consumers a healthy alternative (and non-dairy choices)  - fresh, natural juices. 

"Jamba Juice is currently the strongest player in the juice space, but there are other up-and-coming brands as well. Roxberry Juice, which has eight stores in two states, was recently added to Beautiful Brands International’s portfolio, and the recently founded Daily Kitchen & Wellness Bar also offers fresh juice blends. One key element of the new juice craze will be to-go offerings. Ready-to-go drinks and foods like those offered by Evolution Fresh will continue to gain in popularity, even in locations not traditionally associated with healthy eating."

According to the American Diabetes Assocation, there are 25.8 million children and adults in the United States. And out of those people, 8.3% of the U.S. population have diabetes. So it's promising news that the restaurant and food industries are offering eco-friendly and healthier choices for consumers.

And don't forget to shop locally at Farmer's Markets and your local farms - home is where the healthy heart is at!

Friday, June 15, 2012

How to Write a Bio That Sizzles

Wow, it's been a crazy week packed with deadlines. I just turned in an article that included bios of the lovely editors I interviewed. I jazzed up their bios as I realized that they didn't give themselves enough credit. They both loved the extra OOMPH I added to their bios.

As we approach the long days of summer, it might be a good time to crank the AC, and sit down and revise your bio. As you read through your bio, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Does your bio reflect your true personality and brand?

2. Is your bio basically a regurgitation of your resume? 

3. Is it creative and makes people want to learn MORE about you?

4. Does your bio read like boring corporate-speak? 

5. Would you hire or interview yourself after reading your bio? 

Ask a colleague or friend to review your bio, or hire a copywriter or editor to spruce up your bio. A bio is a highly effective marketing tool that gives people an authentic glimpse behind the curtain. 

For more ideas, check out my branding/storytelling tips!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Why California Wineries Know How to Market

I visited Sonoma County's wine country for a belated birthday getaway last week. My mom was gifted a food-wine pairing at the beautiful Kendall-Jackson Winery in Sonoma County.

What did I learn from my food-wine pairing experience? California wineries definitely know how to market and appeal to their wine drinking and foodie demographic. The food-wine pairing featured a personal history and explanation of each tasting in our wine flight. Our friendly sommelier/host, Roberto, knew his wine and answered my questions. As a restaurant/food-specific copywriter, I was in food and wine lingo heaven. He tantalized my wine tastebuds with exotic words such as "leathery tannins" and "smoky tones."  Our personable chef greeted us and explained each course/pairing while we sipped our wine and sampled the gourmet eats. My favorite was the homemade caramel corn - who knew that wine and caramel corn would make such a palatable combination? The best caramel corn I've ever had! Delicious! 

This was my first gourmet food-wine pairing at a well-known winery. I've experienced food-wine pairings at local wineries, but the Kendall-Jackson experience was unforgettable. And that's why California wineries know a few things about marketing. They create an experience that leaves an unforgettable and memorable impression on their guests. They personalize it and focus their full attention on you, the wine drinker.

Just another reason why I love living in northern California...a foodie and wine lover's paradise!

Friday, June 1, 2012

How to Avoid Writing Content That Sounds Canned

I am in the midst of writing email campaign copy, and I like to browse through other email campaigns to see what's out there. It seems that most emails I read lately are one big canned sales pitch. The in-your-face "buy my awesome new product" gets old. What happened to the good stuff? Where are the complimentary white paper downloads? Why aren't people including links to a helpful blog or article? Unfortunately, I've been hitting the unsubscribe button a LOT this week.

Canned content doesn't send a good message to your audience, and you come across sounding fake. I don't understand why marketers write five page emails. No one has the time to read long-winded emails that leave the reader feeling confused and bored.

When creating your content - whether it's an email campaign, social media update, or blog post - keep the following tips in mind:

1. Write with your "real" audience in mind. Obviously, you want to create content that people find interesting but create a tone within your content that your targeted reader understands. Write for real people and use language people will understand and appreciate. As a busy professional, I don't have the time to read a five page email. However, I can easily scan through three to four paragraphs...and if there is a free white paper or article download, you definitely have my attention! It's easy to download the information and then read it at my leisure. 

2. Don't copy your favorite blogger's writing style. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, but don't take on another blogger's persona. I am a big fan of  marketer Seth Godin. One of the reasons I like his content is that he has his own style and doesn't try to be someone he's not. His emails/blog posts are short and get right to the point. His content always teaches a "real-world" marketing and business lesson. I can relate to his tips and usually have an "a-hahhh!" moment when I read his content. As much as I like Seth Godin, he has his own style and I wouldn't think of copying it. Seth's writing style is what sets him apart from the millions of high-profile marketers out there, and brands him as "Seth Godin". 

3. Ditch the pitch. As a copywriter, I can write calls to action in my sleep. But there is a time and a place for the sales pitch. You don't have to pitch in EVERY piece of content you publish. Create a happy medium. Offer people informative, valuable content. You don't have to write ten page white papers to capture people's attention either - short blog posts can be just as informative. It goes back to the sales funnel. People won't buy your product or service if they don't know, trust, or like you. Give them a chance to get a feel for your brand and what you have to offer. A 24,7 sales pitch will turn people off and they will probably unsubscribe from your lists. Check out more content tips -- The Ego Turn-Off: Why Your Email Lists Unsubscribe. 

4. Don't be a pesky content blaster. Don't blow up your social media, mobile marketing and/or email campaigns with content-around-the-clock. This is a HUGE annoyance for the person on the other end. It's tacky and makes you look like a spammer. Enthusiasm is great, but channel your marketing enthusiasm accordingly. Set up an editorial calendar and space out your content throughout the days, weeks, and months. You don't have to share everything you know in one email or blog post. 

And don't have to be a prolific writer to create and share good content. Be yourself and find your own voice! 

Friday, May 25, 2012

40 Years...40 Life Lessons - Part Two

Today is the big day - my 40th birthday. It seems surreal that 40 years ago I was born in Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, Calif. in the midst of the peace and love generation. As promised, here are the remaining 20 life lessons I have learned in the past 40 years. I shared the first 20 life lessons on Monday's blog post.

#21 Enjoy the finer things in life because life is too short.
#22 Don't look down on other people -- you never know when you might be in the same exact position!
#23 Duct tape is the miracle "MacGyver" fix-it for almost anything (learned that in my event planning days).
#24 Even if you disagree, listen with an open mind and be respectful of other people's thoughts and beliefs.
#25 Stress and worry negatively affect health and well-being -- find a healthy outlet to release your stress.
#26 Don't be afraid to say no. You don't have to be everything to everyone.
#27 Believe in miracles - they really do happen.
#28 Coloring with kids is fun, free therapy.
#29 Attend a live theatre performance, music concert, or visit an art museum - art is food for the soul.
#30 It's perfectly fine to eat brie and crackers for dinner.
#31 You are never too old to believe in Santa Claus.
#32 When you make a promise to someone (especially a child), keep it.
#33 Take mental health days and be kind to yourself.
#34 It's okay to accept help from others - you don't have to do everything yourself.
#35 Honesty is always the best policy.
#36 Don't ever change or give up your dreams for someone else.
#37 Eating Magnolia Bakery cupcakes (in NYC) is truly a life-changing experience.
#38 It's okay to challenge other people if you think there is a valid reason - don't take everything at face value.
#39 Don't put conditions on your love - love unconditionally.
#40 Always listen to your gut instinct -- your intuition won't steer you wrong.

Cheers! I look forward to my new 40something adventures! :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

40 Years...40 Life Lessons - Part I

I turn the big 40 on Friday, and I dedicate my blog posts this week to this huge milestone in my life. I've had an interesting career journey and have experienced twists and turns in my life. When I was a young girl, I thought 30 sounded really OLD and 40 sounded ancient.

I spent the majority of my career working as a non-profit fundraiser and events planner. While the job was stressful and chaotic, I wouldn't change my experiences or the life lessons I learned for anything in the world. I met some of the most amazing people throughout my journey. And each step I've taken in my life led me to building my own business and working with the most talented, creative, and supportive people.

As I reflect upon my life for the past 40 years, I want to share my first 20 life lessons that I learned. Sending big thanks to all the people - family, friends and colleagues - who have supported me and continue to support me on this journey called LIFE! I'll share the last 20 in my birthday post on Friday.

Thank YOU for being a part of my life! Sending love and hugs. :) 

#1 "Do unto others as you would do unto yourself." No matter what, treat people with kindness and respect.
#2 Set your boundaries and stick with those boundaries.
#3 Playing the victim and whining and complaining won't get you far. You are the only one who can make positive changes in your life.
#4 Don't rely on other people for your happiness. It's not about pleasing other people. Do what's right for YOU!
#5 Laughter and fun are truly the best medicine.
#6 Play in the ocean, hike beautiful trails and inhale nature!
#7 Be adventurous and travel to exotic locales (like Maui!!)
#8 Don't take life too seriously - to quote Ferris Bueller: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." 
#9 Be courageous and take risks.
#10 Don't be scared to follow your dreams and passions - ignore the negative naysayers!
#11 Yoga is a natural healer and has definitely kept me youthful! :)
#12 Don't take loved ones and friends for granted.
#13 Holding a grudge will only hurt you, not the other person. Learn to forgive.
#14 Stay present - don't worry about the past. There is a reason it's called the "past" - let it go and move forward.
#15 You're never too old to learn!
#16 "Be the change you wish you to see in the world" - take action and make a difference in your world.
#17 Teachers are truly inspirational people.
#18 Mind your own business - let people live their life (we're all on different journeys!)
#19 Music soothes the soul.
#20 Don't ever stop dancing!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How to Simplify Your Opt-In & Sign-Up Forms

When did opt-in forms become so complicated? I don't consider myself a lazy person, but I'm noticing a trend in lengthy opt-in forms (especially when it comes to free content downloads such as white papers, ebooks, etc.) I understand that marketers want to capture people's demographic information, but why is it necessary to ask for the name of your first born child? I'm being facetious, but that's what it feels like lately.

As a copywriter, this is a big pet peeve and companies are missing the boat by creating complicated sign-up forms. I don't have the time to fill out a lengthy survey disguised as an opt-in form, and neither do busy professionals.

As a content marketer, make it easy for people to opt-in with your forms...and don't forget your call to action. Don't just slap up a "hey cool kids, check out my new white paper" message on your website. Give your target audience an authentic reason to opt-in to your emails, website, blog, social media channels, etc.

Your call to action should portray a sense of urgency. If you have a strong call to action coupled with a lengthy email form, you will end up with no action...and zero subscribers!

Here are a few easy tips to remember when creating opt-in forms:

  • Keep your opt-in forms simple -- at the very minimum, request a first name and email.
  • Always remember to include a disclaimer that the information people disclose to you will not be shared or sold to third parties. This gives people peace of mind that their information remains private and secure.
  • Save the lengthy surveys for your sales funnel. People may disagree with me, but I don't want to disclose random information about myself until the company/person gains my trust. 

And don't forget a simple opt-in form is only one piece of the puzzle. Review your content. What kind of content do you offer your subscribers? Are you up to speed on the latest industry trends? Are your target markets genuinely interested in your topics? Is your content educational and informative? If prospects aren't impressed with your content, they will look elsewhere and probably won't sign up for your lists.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Choose Your Words Carefully

As a copywriter and content developer, there is one piece of advice I like to pass along to my clients. It's one very simple rule, but it's one that could save them a lot of heartache (and bad publicity) down the road. If you wouldn't say that to your mother, then don't post those words on your social media or blog. 

I just read an excellent article The Power of Our Tongues by author and writer, Randy Mitchell. As a copywriter, I am consciously aware of the energy I create with my words. Since copywriting is marketing focused, the words I create go beyond just a snappy tagline. I develop a cohesive synergy with my words - it goes back to weaving a real and authentic story. 

Remember that words have energy behind them, so it's important to choose your words carefully. Words can take us on a wild emotional roller coaster or words can soothe us, leaving us with a sense of calm and peace.

As an entrepreneur/business owner, you don't have a lot of time to make a good first impression -- and you want your target audiences to remember you for all the RIGHT (and not wrong) reasons.

For content creators, bloggers, and writers, Randy passes along excellent advice: 
"We all strive to give our readers words they’ll enjoy, creating ones they’ll see as positive, educative, informative, and sometimes inspirational. Oftentimes we succeed, other times we fail. Mainly because all words are interpreted differently by everyone, it all depends on their tone, arrangement on the page, and topic being covered."
Before you sit down and write your next blog or blast out a social media update, carefully think about  your words and how consciously-chosen words will positively impact your target audiences. 

The Bard sums it up nicely: 

"Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart."William Shakespeare

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why Your Content Needs Hard Facts

There is a reason why journalism students are taught the five Ws: who, what, where, when, and why. These five Ws glean “facts” associated with the story -- who was involved in the story/situation, what happened, where it took place, when did it happen, and why did it happen. It’s acceptable to add your personal angle or slant to your content, but remember that hard facts lend more credibility (especially if you are new to publishing content online). 

Hard facts can be gathered from white papers, reports, market and scientific research, and educational research, theses, dissertations, etc. If you interview and quote industry experts, make sure they have the credibility and expertise to back up their claims and research. The last thing you want to do is quote John Smith who has a class action lawsuit against him…which you find out AFTER you have quoted him in your article. Quotes should come from reliable, trustworthy sources. Do your homework; dig deeper into your sources' background and credentials. It is your reputation on the line so make sure you protect it accordingly.

If you interview an expert, ask them to look over your Q&A or verify their answers before you publish their content. If you misquote or include wrong information, it’s easy to edit your blog post and/or write a simple retraction apologizing for the misquote.

As a copywriter, research is a huge part of my job – writing copy is actually the easy part. I try to include reliable stats and data throughout my content. Your audience wants to see content backed up with actual proof and facts. You don’t need to bombard your audience with data and research every time. But a well-researched factoid thrown into the mix every now and then won’t hurt your content either.

Helpful research tip: if you are pressed for time, use Google Alerts to set up keywords and news feeds - Google does the research for you. Google Alerts allow you to pick and choose the information that catches your eye...AND saves you a lot of time and energy since the information is delivered straight to your in-box. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Why Simplicity Works - The Less is More Approach

As we move into May, spring cleaning is on the brain. It's time to get rid of the clutter we accumulated during the winter months (literally and figuratively). I am taking the time to evaluate and review my business plan and goals - what's working and what's not working? 

I stumbled upon an excellent blog post by Aaron Levie, CEO and co-founder of Box. Levie touches upon how companies are moving away from complexity. How can you simplify your business and how does complexity affect your company's overall success? 
"The only companies or products that will succeed now are the ones offering the lowest possible level of complexity for the maximum amount of value."
This point in particular caught my attention - so true!
"If you're making the customer do any extra amount of work, no matter what industry you call home, you're now a target for disruption." 
I like his idea of "reducing the clutter". Get rid of unnecessary steps in your business and keep it simple. It's all about getting back to basics. Levie lists tips to minimize complexity, especially when it comes to technology (See #6 in his post). #2 is my favorite -- don't overwhelm your customers and clients by offering too much. Fewer choices can be far more effective. 

Have you simplified your business lately? What steps have you taken or plan to take? 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Are You Mindfully Present in Your Business?

This week on Organic & Authentic we discuss business and mindfulness. Great discussion and feedback by our group. It made me realize that in order to be an effective business owner, I really need to be mindful and present in my business. Mindfulness relates to being aware of the words I create in emails and what I communicate to my colleagues, clients, and social media followers. I'm also very aware of how yoga and meditation has helped me stay centered and focused throughout my business, and sometimes I need to just step away and take a few deep breaths to clear my head (especially after a long day of sitting at the computer and writing). For example, I'm taking time out of my busy Thursday to take a noon lunch yoga class, which really calms and centers me. It's all about taking the time for ourselves, which only makes us more aware and mindfully-present in our businesses.

“Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone.” 
― Louis L'Amour

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Innovative Tech Companies Who Foster Social Change

Mashable has a great series about social entrepreneurship and featured more companies in their blog post today. It's nice to see, that despite the economy, companies are forging ahead with "bigger" missions -- other than just making the almighty dollar. These companies are using technology in innovative ways to help and educate people, especially women. 

Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action caught my eye - what a fantastic idea to help moms-to-be! The company provides expectant moms with free health information - sent directly to their mobile/smartphones. 

According to Mashable, this is why the company has achieved such positive success:
"Why It’s Working: In 2008, India had the most maternal-related deaths out of any other country, according to the Indian governmentMobile Alliance for Maternal Action(MAMA), works with low-income and at-risk mothers and families in India — as well as Bangladesh and South Africa, which are countries with high populations of mobile phone users — to provide vital health information through SMS text messaging and simple voice messages."
Do you work with companies who are dedicated to social change? How are you (or your company) using technology to make a positive impact in your local community? Change begins in our backyard. I'd love to hear your stories - please leave a comment and share!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Are You a Socially Conscious Entrepreneur?

Mashable had an interesting article that caught my eye this morning, 5 Socially Conscious Startups Innovating for Good. I also wrapped up my Inspiring Women Summit last week, and listened to amazing women who are using their innovation and creativity to make positive changes. I became re-energized as I listened to the speakers share their stories. As a result, the Summit inspired me to sign up as a social action representative/volunteer for the Miss Representation campaign: 
"The film Miss Representation exposes how American youth are being sold the concept that women and girls’ value lies in their youth, beauty and sexuality. It’s time to break that cycle of mistruths.
In response we created, a call-to-action campaign that seeks to empower women and girls to challenge limiting media labels in order to realize their potential.
We are uniting individuals around a common, meaningful goal to spark millions of small actions that ultimately lead to a cross-generational movement to eradicate gender stereotypes and create lasting cultural and sociological change." 
As a female copywriter and marketer, this is a cause that speaks directly to my heart. Young women need positive role models and are constantly bombarded with conflicting, and often sexist, messages within mainstream media. I am a huge fan of inspirational documentaries that spread a vital message to the world. I am now working towards finding a donated space to screen Miss Representation in my local community.

As I reflect upon last week's Summit and the Mashable article, I examined my own social consciousness as a business leader. What contribution can I give back to the world? As a former non-profit fundraiser, my career revolved around helping others and it is what made my job so rewarding. I felt like I was part of a higher purpose - a larger cause that went beyond just me.

Ask yourself this question: are you a socially conscious entrepreneur, and what are you doing to make a difference/impact in your community? I encourage you to take one small step  today - how can you help others and make a difference? There is sheer power and force when people come together and work for a higher cause. Choose a cause that personally resonates with you and where you feel you can leave a positive imprint on our world. 

PS - if you are interested in hosting a local screening of Miss Representation in your city or town, check out MissRepresentation for more information! 

Monday, April 9, 2012

How to Create a Positive Buzz Online with Social Media

I was recently interviewed for the Record Searchlight newspaper (Redding, CA) by Dana Cortez (thanks Dana!) and shared my insight on why it's important to stay proactive with your social media marketing and why you need to have a plan in place.

Dana's article touches upon online reputation management basics. It offers helpful tips from other social media professionals on how you can generate positive online buzz around your business brand. The articles brings up great points, but here are more online rep tips that weren't covered: 

1. Set up Google alerts. You can set up the alerts under your name, business name or certain keywords. Emails are directly sent to your email when the name or keyword appears in Google.

2. Track and monitor analytics for your website, blog and social media. If you use a social media monitoring platform (i.e. HootSuite, TweetDeck, Vocus, etc.) analytics are already built into the software. This allows you to better manage comments and keep an eye on your traffic and page rank (PR)/search engine results.

3. Type your name into Google and see what you find. I did this recently and found one of my interviews posted on an Eastern European website. You never know what you will find. It's a good way to see where your name pops up in search engines.

4. Don't engage in online battle - keep it short, sweet and professional. This point was touched upon in the article, but I wanted to reiterate how important it is to be professional. I notice people on forums and LinkedIn groups who engage in nasty banter back and forth. It's not only rude but it makes you, as the business professional, look catty and mean-spirited. Not to mention, it's a poor reflection on your brand's reputation.

5. Lend a helping hand. The one point that wasn't touched upon in the article is that social media is about helping people. It's not about spamming people with your products and services. Be authentic and genuine and offer to help people by sharing information and offering feedback (when asked).

You don't have to create a complicated social media marketing plan, but it helps to be prepared, stay aware and proactively monitor your online reputation. For more online rep tips, check out my How to Protect Your Online Rep From Spammers & Scammers - my two-part blog series with Karen Elliott.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Positive Benefits of Collaboration

I am re-reading Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose" and found a quote that fits with this week's theme -- collaboration.
"Enlightened collectives will fulfill an important function in the arising of the new consciousness. Just as egoic collectives pull you into unconsciousness and suffering, the enlightened collective can be a vortex for consciousness that will accelerate the planetary shift."
The above passage packs a wallop. In my newly launched LinkedIn group and blog, Organic & Authentic, the topic of collaboration was brought up this morning -- thanks, George Butters. Speaking of collaboration, Organic & Authentic would not have been possible without my co-creator and fellow copywriter, Vanessa Nix Anthony.

I shared with my LinkedIn group that I feel there is a shift happening in the way we do business in 2012. There is a higher consciousness happening, and I see colleagues and business professionals turning their creative ideas into amazing collaborative partnerships. The way we did business ten years ago isn't necessarily working anymore, especially in our ever-changing digital world. There are more opportunities for genuine and beneficial collaborations.

As I thought more about the topic of collaboration, I realize how MUCH I have benefited from collaborations over the years. As a non-profit fundraiser and special events director, I was always collaborating with other people. As a fundraiser, my main job was to forge relationships and partnerships with corporations and businesses. As I reflect upon my non-profit career, team work always came into play whether it was working with fellow staff, volunteers or committees. There is no way I could have been as successful with my campaigns and events if it hadn't been for other people's helping hands.

As a solopreneur running my own business, I took that "collaborative" mindset and put it into play as a copywriter and marketing consultant. I currently work with an amazing hospitality marketing agency in Texas, Adapt Marketing & Design, as their contracted copywriter/content manager. My role has expanded with the agency and I'm going into my third year with them. Adapt is a good example of how collaboration has helped me grow as a professional entrepreneur. I have learned how to work effectively within an agency structure, and have been treated like a partner and not just a "copywriter". The owner and I have established a cohesive working relationship, and we mutually respect each other's talents and skills.

I use the term "partner" because that's how I approach my collaborations. I don't see them as a competitive race to the top filled with jealousy and trying to "outsmart" each other. It's about working together as a team, playing off each other strengths. We all bring skills and ideas to the tables so why reinvent the wheel?

Not every collaboration will mesh, but that's part of the ebb and flow of doing business in the 21st century and working with diverse personalities. Egos get in the way; people aren't flexible and they let their own fears and insecurities trip them up. It's up to us to test the waters and decide what works and doesn't work for us. If a collaboration fizzles, dust yourself off, learn from the experience, and then move forward.

Whether you are a solopreneur or lead a team of 500 employees, you sometimes need a helping hand. Some of the greatest leaders and innovators didn't rise to success by themselves. Sometimes "two heads are better than one"...or three...or four!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Organic & Authentic Business Professionals and Solopreneurs

I just launched my new collaboration, Organic & Authentic, with Portland Writer, Vanessa Nix Anthony. Vanessa and I originally connected through LinkedIn and we both had the same mutual thoughts about the negative Nellies and Neals we witnessed floating around LinkedIn groups. Competitive spirit is good, but not when it comes at the expense of others.

As new media continues to evolve and change, it is my hope that more people will get back to the heart and authenticity of their business/job. In our technology-saturated world, it's become easy for people to hide behind  a screen and be a judgmental cyber bully. It's time to ditch the hype - and time to leave your ego at the door.  Rise above the cattiness and drama. Organic & Authentic is all about supporting each other and aligning ourselves with people who genuinely are happy for us and want to see us succeed.

Here's a sneak preview of our new colloboration:

Organic and Authentic is the brainchild of Vanessa Nix Anthony and Therese Pope, two hardworking solopreneurs who connected on LinkedIn (LI) and found they had much in common (copywriting, cooking, holistic health and a bent towards the positive.) Tired of all the spammers, negativity, whining and complaining that many of the networking groups on LI had evolved into, Vanessa and Therese decided to start their own group built on the tenets of positivity, camaraderie, and REAL information sharing.
We believe that being positive can bring more opportunity into your life and a deeper sense of satisfaction in your career path as well as your life.
We started our LinkedIn group in order to foster a positive place for the exchange of ideas. To learn from other solopreneurs, small and mid-sized business owners, and corporate professionals about what works and what doesn’t in the new media world of business today.
Stay tuned...we'll be adding more posts to Organic & Authentic...and insightful, uplifting interviews with business professionals and leaders! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Why It's Important to Think Before You Blast Out Emails

This is an excellent "email check off list" by Seth Godin. Before you send off emails (either individual or group), review this check list. I included my favorites from Seth's list below:

  • Is there anything in this email I don't want the attorney general, the media or my boss seeing? (If so, hit delete). 
  • If this email is to someone like Seth, did I check to make sure I know the difference between its and it's? Just wondering. 
  • If this is a press release, am I really sure that the recipient is going to be delighted to get it? Or am I taking advantage of the asymmetrical nature of email--free to send, expensive investment of time to read or delete?
Sometimes email may not be the best communication channel, and emails can often get lost in translation. Not to mention, people get tired of forwards and "spammy" email. Before you send your next email, take the time to carefully review Seth's list -- it might save you from annoying someone or potentially losing a customer or client.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Entrepreneurial Path of Girl Scouts - Why Girl Scouts Are More Than Just Thin Mints

I am the oldest daughter of six children and was raised by a single mom. I was a Brownie and aspired to be a Girl Scout, but based on tight budgets I wasn't able to be a Girl Scout. I watched as my Girl Scout friends were shuttled off to summer camps and earned their badges. I always thought being a Girl Scout was the coolest thing a tweener could be.

This is a fantastic article from INC. about why Girl Scouts become entrepreneurs. I think it's amazing that a large majority of female business owners were Girl Scouts in their younger days.
"The Girl Scouts have been preparing girls to become leaders — and to run their own businesses — for 100 years. (Last week, in fact, was the 100th anniversary of founding of the Girl Scouts of the USA by Juliette Gordon Low.)  This is no idle claim: More than two thirds of the female members of  Congress  and an incredible 80% of women business owners were Girl Scouts. Clearly, there's something about this organization that really works."
Look at how the Girl Scouts have been selling cookies for decades - that's some serious sales and marketing training. Not to mention, their Thin Mints have a secret, magical formula in them that keeps people craving more...and MORE! 

Congrats to the Girl Scouts - they have done an excellent job supporting and helping  young women over the years! Who knows? Maybe I'll volunteer as a Girl Scout Leader in the future so I can finally have my Girl Scout summer camp experience. 

If you were a Girl Scout, please leave a comment or drop me an email - I'd be curious how the Girl Scouts helped prepare you in the business world! 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Do Content Registration Forms Really Work?

People aren't going to magically hand over the keys to their kingdom - their personal information and email address. And can you actually GET people to sign up for your site? Are they providing you with legitimate information?  Take a good look at your content registration forms on your website, blog and landing pages. Are you turning off people and losing prospects? How could you improve your forms?

I stumbled upon this article from one of my favorite content marketing sites, Content Marketing Institute. These statistics are eye-openers for those who sell a product or service.
"Consider these findings from TechTarget’s report, “When Worlds Converge:Similarities in Brand Reception and Media Consumption of IT and Personal Technology Buyers. Of the 3,269 IT buyers surveyed, 43 percent said they were somewhat willing and 42 percent were very willing to share their contact information when they are ready to make a purchase. However, while 53 percent of respondents were somewhat willing to provide those details in exchange for “expert or editorial information,” only 19 percent were very willing to do so in the same scenario. 
Add to this the fact that separate research (sponsored by Janrain and conducted by Blue Research in October 2011) uncovered that 88 percent of consumers admitted to having given incorrect profile information on registration forms. It’s no wonder that Sirius Decisions found that 10 to 25 percent of all prospect records contain critical data errors."
The average consumer is not as dumb as we think. People don't always want us to have their information due to privacy and spam issues. Less is more when creating opt-in forms on your sites. Don't ask them to fill out a twenty page registration form. Keep the form simple. If I have to fill out a complicated registration form, I usually don't complete the process. I just don't have the time to waste filling out a long and complicated online form...and neither do your site visitors and prospects.

Take a lesson from HP. Look at your stats and get a feel for the conversion rates of your content registration forms. What's missing? You could be losing out on sales by ignoring your forms.
"According to a MarketingSherpa case study, HP trimmed its confusing 15-field monster of a registration form to five essential fields. It also collected visitors’ IP addresses and email domain names to cross-reference them with third-party data. The results speak for themselves: The new form yielded a 40 percent conversion rate — an increase of 186 percent — among visitors from HP’s support pages." 

Therese Pope, Copywriter/Content Developer & Digital Buzz-icist

Content Writing & Marketing Tips ** Online Buzz Branding

** Digital & Social Media Strategies