Skip to content

WordCamp Atlanta 2014: a look back

March 17, 2014

I hopped over to Atlanta Friday for the first day of WordCamp Atlanta 2014. It was a lot of fun showing how to build a mailing list using WordPress and a promotional campaign.

My thanks to the organizers and the volunteers for putting on a great conference.

And special thanks to my attendees. I loved being able to answer your questions and meeting all y’all. I give you a sample of their tweets from the session.

• • •

I’d love to help your audience, too.
Tell me about your upcoming conference, seminar, webinar or workshop.

Contact me

About these ads

Innovation from within

March 17, 2014
printing press

Photo: Marion Doss (CC)

Print media has always had the talent to change from within. But it didn’t.

Why?

Many of my colleagues were adept at taking news and bringing it to the masses. But with the benefit of perfect hindsight, I recognize that a tiny handful were able to shape the future.

I looked more closely at my past life in publishing and journalism after watching (and now reading) “Moneyball.” Professional baseball also had the know-how to make itself more competitive and more profitable. But it didn’t, at least not right away.

The sport has been shaped and reshaped in two jaw-dropping ways in its 150-year existence:

  1. Professional teams selected players not based on stats but also on looks. Scouts evaluated talent like contestants at a beauty pageant.
  2. All those teams hired sabermetricians to crunch numbers in the age of PCs, and then ignored them. The overlooked innovators eventually quit one by one in frustration.

Whether in baseball or journalism or any other industry, it takes guts and vision to go beyond standard practices. I have three professionals in mind who all worked at print outfits earlier in their careers, places I have worked at as well.

They became much more influential beyond the confines of traditional journalism. I still wonder where publishing would be today had they been nurtured properly and given leeway in remaking a dying outlet from within.

In 2014, you can benefit from their guidance in social media.

Carrie RollwagenCarrie Rollwagen and I worked together for years at a daily newspaper, the Birmingham Post-Herald. She served as a copy editor, which not only included fixing stories but also laying out pages and posting editions to our website.

Today, she is co-owner of Church Street Coffee and Books here in Birmingham. And Saturday, she will lead a daylong social media and blogging workshop for small business owners at her shop.

Carrie ran this workshop earlier this year and noted that her attendees not only benefitted from her instruction but also from group collaboration. This is a terrific opportunity for startups, entrepreneurs and creatives to learn in a friendly, hands-on setting.

It’s $100, and online registration ends soon.

David GrinerDavid Griner is simply brilliant at social media strategy. I’ve seen him speak at BlogWorld (now NMX) and here in town. A long time ago, he was an intern at the Post-Herald. (Sadly, we weren’t there at the same time.) (And we, in fact, did overlap our tenures briefly.)

In the interim, he served as vice president/director of digital content at Luckie and Company, one of Birmingham’s foremost ad agencies.

David will hold his first Digital Marketing Forum on April 3 at the Hill Event Center, a full day of talks on social media and marketing. Katie Richman, ESPN’s director of social media strategy, will give the keynote.

It’s $200, and online registration ends April 3. Update March 26: From David: “Due to some unforeseen scheduling conflicts, we’ve decided to push back Digital Marketing Forum 2014 to this fall, on a date to be announced soon.”

Jen BarnettJen Barnett has been a dear friend since high school. She and I have worked together for the Birmingham Blogging Academy, but prior to that, we were colleagues at Time Inc.’s Birmingham division.

At that time, Jen worked at Myrecipes.com and the digital properties for Cooking Light, Southern Living and Health. In the past year, she has spoken at TEDx Birmingham and the Alabama Social Media Association.

Jen will be one of my featured speakers at the Y’all Connect blogging and social media conference on June 13 at the Harbert Center downtown. I know you’ll enjoy her insights on social media for retailers.

It’s $129 for regular tickets and $199 for VIP tickets. It will sell out, so register today.

The Social Media Stars of Birmingham

I featured all three experts (along with dozens more) in my book,
“The Social Media Stars of Birmingham.”
Get your free copy today.

The real cost of Getty Images for your blog (hint: not free)

March 10, 2014

Singer Sara Evans performs at her CD release party at
Birmingham’s Iron City Thursday.

Getty Images announced Thursday that it would allow bloggers to embed its photos for free. No longer would we have to pay royalties (or, as happens too often, steal) to illustrate posts.

But is it really free? Not exactly.

It will cost us a little time. But not much.

Visit gettyimages.com. Search for your keywords, such as photos of Birmingham from the last 30 days. Copy the embed code and add it to your post. (Even WordPress.com users can embed the images quickly by using the code or the photo’s URL.)

That’s it: Image is in place, with photographer credit and link back to Getty. No watermarks, and sadly, no caption.

So we’ll need to spend a little extra time writing out a caption, as was done with the Sara Evans photo above. And bloggers who fuss over image size will spend even more time figuring out how to code it correctly. (Hint: Use the embed code.)

Birmingham’s skyline from Railroad Park

It will cost us privacy. Besides the auto-link back to Getty, the embed service is collecting data from each site using the photos. This is nothing new: Sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Google have monetized this data harvesting for a long time.

Are we OK with another site collecting data about us as publishers and our own audiences?

It will cost us fans. Speaking of our audiences, will they be turned off by more ads on our sites? These new embedded photos can also serve up ads someday, if Getty so chooses.

We already see this in both banner ads and pre-roll commercials on embedded YouTube videos. Dare we slave away on content only to make Getty richer or annoy readers or both?

The Club atop Red Mountain

It will cost us site integrity. The challenge with using embedded content that we don’t own is that it can disappear at any time without warning or replacement. That can leave holes where we originally had photos.

So this clip* from “It’s a Wonderful Life” …


… can end up a big black void, as has happened on my sites.

*Assuming in the future that visitors see the top clip intact and not, ironically, a second big black void.

Typically, I host images on my server so they can’t pull a disappearing act. Embedding cedes that perfect integrity to an outside party. (Nieman Journalism Lab notes other technical issues with the embed feature.)

It will cost us real dollars. Getty prohibits using its new program for “commercial purposes,” as stated on its help page:

Is there a fee for embedding a Getty Images photo on a website, social media site or blog?

No. You can embed a Getty Images photo on a website, social media site or blog for free and without having to buy a license, as long as the photo is not used for commercial purposes (meaning in an advertisement or in any way intended to sell a product, raise money, or promote or endorse something).

Similar language is used in the Terms of Use:

You may only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest). Embedded Getty Images Content may not be used: (a) for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship; (b) in violation of any stated restriction; (c) in a defamatory, pornographic or otherwise unlawful manner; or (d) outside of the context of the Embedded Viewer.

So using the images in this post would constitute “editorial purposes,” and media outlets al.com and the New York Times could do so as well. (Bad news for photojournalists who will be cut for this cost-saving alternative.) Even sites that earn revenue from Google Ads would not be considered “commercial,” says Craig Peters, Getty’s senior vice president of business development, content and marketing.

In any case, bloggers should consult an attorney. Beware: Getty has earned its notorious reputation for copyright enforcement over the years, to the point of being called extortion.

Getty Images has given us a great resource: high-quality photography for our sites. But while it’s free to use, we should know the hidden costs before embedding these photos on our blogs.

Picture Birmingham, a cause with a new photo blog

March 9, 2014

Rachel CallahanMy friend and fellow Birmingham blogger Rachel Callahan launched a new project last week called Picture Birmingham. She has put her collection of local sunset photos online to raise money for the WellHouse, a Birmingham nonprofit group helping women escape sex trafficking.

In learning about the project, I discovered that Rachel had been ill but also looking for a therapeutic outlet in her photography.

In an email interview, she discussed her start in photoblogging, the immediate gratification of social media and her connection to an important cause.

Of the various causes in Birmingham, what led you to pick the WellHouse as the charity partner?

It wasn’t as much that I was looking for a charity to partner with as that the entire photo journey seemed to be set up so that I could partner with the WellHouse. I had no intention of selling my photos until I felt a clear and undeniable direction from God to sell them for the WellHouse.

I had seen many Twitter mentions about its ministry, and then I read this article in Weld for Birmingham. It was a tough read, but a game changer for me. All of a sudden, I understood what human trafficking looked like in the United States, how prevalent it was, and how hopeless it could be.

It just took about 5 months to realize that I had the resources with which I could help them.

What’s special about the time of day for sunsets?

Other times of the day are great, but they lack the curiosity that sunset holds. Each sunset usually goes through at least four distinct phases every night. I documented that phenomenon [on my personal blog].

“The dramatic contortions that the sky goes through is exhilarating in a way that’s hard to explain without seeing the whole process. So, here are 20 shots in 65 minutes, all from my iPhone, using ProHDR as my camera, and with very few post-shot edits.”

Because you never know exactly which phase will be the most stunning, it’s a bit of a mysterious adventure to see if you can:

  • catch the exact moment of sunset perfection
  • from the right angle
  • with the right foreground
  • and with the right lighting.

Sometimes you fail. Sometimes you win.

It seems sunset photos have become more popular, at least with ABC 33/40 meteorologist James Spann’s large social media audience. What do people find appealing about sunset photos?

I think they’re becoming popular because of the rise of technology with which you can actually capture their beauty. In the past, with regular cameras with normal options, it was hard to catch the full array of the colors, shadows, city, etc. Photos have almost always paled in comparison to the real thing. But thanks to HDR [high-dynamic-range imaging] and powerful editing software, you can take a picture of the sunset and actually catch its glory.

Also, the real-time factor of social media gives immediate affirmation and the ability to share the moment with the world. It can produce quite a high.

And finally, Birmingham is a most unique city, since we have many beautiful overlooks from which we can capture the entire skyline plus the sunset.

How much time per week do you spend on shooting pics? Updating the site? Marketing, etc.?

I usually shoot sunset pictures three or four times a week, often on the way to dinner or an errand, 2 to 3 hours of my week. The site and marketing are all new to me, so they’re quite consuming right now. I’m not sure what the new normal will be.

What’s been the most surprising thing for you about photoblogging?

I’ve been most surprised that I’ve reverted back to iPhone photography. [Rachel's tips for shooting on iPhone]

I’m on my second fancy DSLR [digital single-lens reflex] camera and, though I’m no expert, had become a bit of a DSLR snob until last summer. Although I can still take better pictures of my kids with my DSLR, the array of apps I have on my phone make sunset photography so much more accurate with my iPhone 5S. So I do trade off some quality, but the vastly improved ability to actually capture the sunset makes it worth it.

All profits from sales of photos and other products on Picture Birmingham go to the WellHouse. To browse images and order prints, visit picturebirmingham.com.

• • •

Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter
to learn more about blogging and social media …

SUBSCRIBE

Your complete guide to voicemail perfection, as told in pictures

March 3, 2014

I want you to shine.

happy baby

Photo: George Keith (CC)

In order to shine, you must stop tripping over voicemail.

skinned knee

Photo: Ray Bouknight (CC)

We’ve had this technology for some 30 years. Let’s use it to make the best initial impression we can with strangers and friends alike.

handshake

Photo: Yorick_R (CC)

Don’t greet people with a cold generic greeting. (I’m still surprised when professionals can’t spare 20 seconds to customize their voicemail service.) Smile, and record a welcoming message.

Bender

Don’t let your name be “Mailbox 7046.” Record your name at the correct prompt.

Photo: Roberta Romero (CC)

Photo: Roberta Romero (CC)

(You might have to dig through your desk or the Internet to find the voicemail manual for your system. Horror of horrors, having to read to understand technology better.)

IKEA instructions

Photo: Sean Hobson (CC)

Don’t turn away important messages and potential sales with a full mailbox. Empty it out now.

full mailbox

Photo: Michael Coghlan (CC)

(Or if you want a free alternative, use Google Voice, which does not have voicemail storage limits. This service allows you to forward calls smartly, create custom greetings for different callers and send transcribed messages yo you via texts or email.

Having Google Voice means seeing messages from clients quietly while still in meetings.)

Don’t ignore voicemails. It’s unprofessional. Respond in a timely fashion.

covered ears

Photo: Melissa Gutierrez (CC)

And when calling: Don’t skip leaving a message. Tell me your name, your number and why you called — I promise I’ll always return your call promptly.

blank note

Photo: Charlene McBride (CC)

Call your voicemail today. Listen to your greeting. Leave a message. If you have an unpleasant experience, fix it for your callers.

maze

Photo: Seongbin Im (CC)

Shine with good communication, even at the most basic level. Even with plain old voicemail.

Need help with your communication skills?
Contact me for training today.

Contact me

Facebook Pages are dying. What now?

February 24, 2014

Facebook page and tab visits

“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”
— Capt. Picard to Lt. Cmdr. Data

Some companies have put all their eggs in the Facebook basket. In 2o14, they may wish they had diversified their outreach more.

Whether your Facebook page has 10,000 fans or 100, you may have already found a greatly diminished reach for your efforts thanks to changes in the News Feed algorithm. The good news is it’s probably not your fault. The bad news is you’ll need a new strategy for your digital marketing.

One option is to pay Facebook to run ads and boost posts. This can be a great tactic for 2014 as brands back away from the channel because of reduced impact. Fewer advertisers could mean better rates and less competition.

Facebook makes it very easy to set up targeted ads and consequently, to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on ineffective campaigns. (We can help you with your campaign creation and management.)

Another option is to train your fans to visit your page regularly or to at least pull up the comprehensive Pages Feed. (You should really click on Pages Feed to see what you’re missing from the pages you personally follow.)

Changing user behavior is difficult. It may require more resources than warranted given Facebook’s ever-changing ecosystem.

A third option is to create a Facebook Group. These forums can provide better interaction among peers and more flexibility in sharing info, photos, videos and even documents. One drawback is no Insights — but let’s be real: How many of you were checking your Facebook stats regularly? (We can help with setting up Groups and training your moderators.)

A fourth option is to build an audience in another channel. That could be on your blog, in your email newsletter, on Google+ or many other media. (We can help you understand your audience’s demographics and find a better way to interact with them.)

The digital landscape is always evolving rapidly, sometimes in ways no one can predict. Your strategy must be flexible and have meaningful statistics to guide you.

This year will be a harsh reminder that while Facebook Pages are still free, using them as the sole channel comes at a high cost in the end.

• • •

Learn more ways to use Facebook and other
social media channels in my free weekly newsletter …

SUBSCRIBE

Stretch or stagnate

February 17, 2014
ballet class

Photo: Tommy Wong (CC)

I am not a graphic designer. But I designed a logo for a friend’s new site in 15 minutes this weekend. For fun.

I am not an actor. But I work on smiling and emoting in my presentations.

I am not a jock. But I learned to love working out three times a week.

I am not a salesman. But I got advice from a top sales coach, read his book and put his tips into practice.

I am not an extrovert. But I go to coffee meetings and networking events every week, even when I don’t feel like it.

I am not an Instagrammer. But I share and Like photos as part of my new daily routine.

Long ago, I learned that getting better at communication meant stretching. I couldn’t do the same thing over and over and expect to reach more people over time.

I pushed reporters to look for new ideas and angles. I set out to find better ways to run projects that had worked fine for 10 years. I learned a new skill here and there.

I didn’t sit still.

Your message will stagnate over time. Your audience will shrink.

Both are avoidable.

Some things we do to stretch, to exercise our imaginations, to see what’s possible. We can and do fail, and we should do so as often as possible. Failure is unmatched as a teacher.

If you want to improve your marketing, your public relations, your customer service, your blogging, you must stretch. You must put your little toe outside of your comfort zone every damn day.

Your comfort zone grows slightly larger. And thus, you must stretch a little more the next day.

And soon, your communication will feel effortless.

I’ve been helping companies successfully grow
their communication comfort zones for
more than 20 years.

Can I help you?

Contact me

Fix your branding in 4 hours

February 10, 2014
palette

Photo: Hanbyul (CC)

We are not a branding agency.

But we can help you solve a branding question: What does your brand mean?

You may know, but your colleagues might have different conceptions. Your customers may see it another way entirely. How do you get everyone focused on your brand properly?

Several clients have mastered their brand in 4 short, painless hours. Working with us, they have a clear definition of their values and, equally as important, their boundaries.

Knowing your brand values makes the road ahead easier. It defines your potential markets, your potential partners, your potential services. And it pushes aside those ideas that aren’t a good fit for where your company is heading.

At our branding session, we sit down with you, get to know you and your company. We discuss your corporate personality and values. We learn what separates you from your competitors.

And we put together a customized brand values map that will guide you in hiring, marketing, goal setting and more.

Let us help you get a handle on your brand.

It’s the first impression you make, so make it spectacular.

• • •

Interested in finding out more about how our branding sessions work?
Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Contact me

Speaking gigs: WordCamp Atlanta, March 2014

February 2, 2014
Atlanta

Photo: bk (CC)

Atlanta friends, come see me at WordCamp.

I’m heading to Atlanta in March to talk about digital promotion.

Come see me at WordCamp Atlanta on March 14-15 at the Loudermilk Center. I’ll have a specific date and time soon, along with ticket prices. My presentation will be at 4 p.m. EDT March 14 in the ballroom. Tickets, $40, can be purchased online.

My talk is titled “How to run promotional campaigns and build your list using WordPress,” based on my 2013 book launch for “The Social Media Stars of Birmingham.” (Download a copy of the book for free.)

I’ll explain how I grew site traffic by a factor of eight for Y’all Connect and grew a new mailing list so fast that I saved years in the process.

I spoke at Atlanta’s conference in 2010 and 2013 to packed rooms and look forward to seeing you next month.

If you plan to stay overnight, special group rates are available through Thursday at the Sheraton Atlanta.

Let’s hang out at WordCamp Atlanta.

• • •

Need a speaker for your conference?
I can give interactive presentations on a number of topics.

Contact me

How to win the Super Bowl in 30 seconds

January 26, 2014

Super Bowl XLVIII

Scrolling through the commercials of Super Bowls past, you will not find many memorable spots. You’ll see mixed messages, poor branding and expensive mistakes.

Ten seconds, 30 seconds (only $4 million!), even 60 seconds can go by way too quickly, or for a clunker of a commercial, all too slowly.

One way I’d like to help you with your communication is with clear consistent messaging. It doesn’t need to be flashy or controversial. But most companies fail in reaching people because they start with no deliberate messaging.

The result is frustration for the audience and for the business itself. And a lot of wasted money.

How I can help you, explained in my imaginary 30-second Super Bowl spot …

[Drones march in single file to drab holding area. Projected face of DICTATOR on large wall screen addresses the gathering crowd.]

DICTATOR: Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives.

[Wade, wearing a tank top, runs in pursued by troops.]

DICTATOR: We have created for the first time in all history a garden of pure ideology, where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests of any contradictory true thoughts.

DICTATOR: Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth.

DICTATOR: We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause.

DICTATOR: Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion.”

[Wade spins, then hurls a series of memos at the screen.]

[Memos stick to screen in a shower of sparks. DICTATOR studies them carefully.]

DICTATOR: We shall prevail!

CRAWL: On Jan. 27, Wade will help another company with its messaging. And you’ll see why George Orwell will be laughing AND crying.

Or maybe just get James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell to riff on being “Star Wars”/”Star Trek” villains for 30 seconds. Because, awesome!

Start with a good tight message before you spend your first dime, whether on a Super Bowl ad, a Twitter campaign or my services. Or let me help.

See Super Bowl commercials from 2013 and 2012 on my Pinterest boards …

Part of the 2014 BBA yearlong blogging challenge.

See more posts from the series.

• • •

Subscribe to the free weekly BBA newsletter
for more ways to score in 2014 …

SUBSCRIBE

Book me for your next meeting for free

January 20, 2014
Wade Kwon

Photo: Bob Farley (CC)

In reviewing my 2013 talks, I realized something.

I spoke a lot last year. And each time with a new presentation.

Planning ahead for 2014, I want to help out your organization. I never charge for classroom talks, and almost never charge for nonprofit groups.

If you’re within 250 miles of Birmingham, and you need a speaker for your next event, contact me. I can speak for up to an hour — with or without slides — on any number of topics related to communication:

  • digital marketing;
  • blogging;
  • better leadership;
  • social media;
  • content strategy;
  • lead prospecting;
  • effective email newsletters;
  • market research;
  • and more!

I’ll always want to know about your audience (size, experience level), your room setup including AV equipment and wifi, your topic preferences and so on.

Book me today — my schedule always fills up quickly. I’d love to see you soon.

Part of the 2014 BBA yearlong blogging challenge.

See more posts from the series.

• • •

My talks bring in crowds,
so contact me now to make arrangements …

Contact me

Regions Bank uses video to focus on outstanding team members

January 12, 2014

Video: Lee Ann Petty wins Regions Bank
Better Life Award for January 2014.

It’s OK to toot your own horn occasionally. It’s even better to show off your best feature, your people.

Lee Ann PettyI recently saw that Birmingham’s Lee Ann Petty won an award from her employer, Regions Bank. The monthly Better Life Award recognizes an associate who contributes to others in the workplace and in the community.

(A few years ago, she and I served on the YP Roundtable, a loose affiliation of nonprofit representatives.)

Often, such recognition is limited to internal gestures: a certificate, an email announcement, a plaque. Regions went a step further by producing videos that interview the honorees and their colleagues. The bank also donates $1,000 to the winner’s designated cause, such as Lee Ann’s favorite, the Red Mountain Theatre Company.

This award puts a high value on customer service, as well as community service. While Lee Ann, a paralegal team lead, doesn’t work with customers at branches, she does assist associates on legal matters that affect them and the corporation.

I learned while working at a publication to treat everyone like customers: associates, supervisors, vendors and so on. Work hard at providing the best customer service to everyone. That means being polite, listening to concerns and solving problems.

(It can also mean setting boundaries. Sometimes, customers can overstep their bounds, but that doesn’t mean each one deserves the royal treatment.)

What Regions has done by sharing these awards through short videos is enhance its story. Many banks recognize employees. But Regions shows its values in action through its people and its rewarding of those standouts.

It becomes less about the bank proper and more about Lee Ann’s excellent works.

Make sure your company both rewards outstanding people and praises them as loudly as possible. It enhances your brand and shows who really is behind it.

Part of the 2014 BBA yearlong blogging challenge.

See more posts from the series.

See more helpful videos.

• • •

Learn more ways to promote and share your brand
in the free weekly BBA newsletter.

SUBSCRIBE

Our 2014 forecast: HOT!

January 6, 2014
beach

Photo: Justin Ornellas (CC)

Brrr! We are in the middle of a severe cold snap this week. Think warm thoughts … think warm thoughts …

But 2014 is looking hot, red hot. Best to look ahead, because — like the weather — your communication needs will change rapidly, and your preparation begins today.

Some of you will need help mapping out a course. It will start with your most basic needs: new sales leads, better customer service, understanding technology and channels and so on. I can guide you through our needs assessment so that you receive exactly what you need, not what someone’s pushing on you.

Companies may need training in multiple areas: interpersonal dialogue, effective email campaigns, public speaking, how to make the most of your 3 minutes on the air, Twitter or social networking. I can train employees one on one or in groups as large as 100.

The trickiest area can be strategy. You may not know which direction to pick, because each one looks somewhat promising and probably expensive. I will help you sort through tactics to find the ones that meet your resources and your goals.

Don’t face the chilly conditions of communications alone. Before you know it, you’ll be basking in the warm glow of smart marketing and interaction.

Part of the 2014 BBA yearlong blogging challenge.

See more posts from the series.

See our full list of services.

• • •

It’s never too cold for a free consultation.
Contact me today to set one up …

Contact me

The 2014 BBA yearlong blogging challenge

December 30, 2013
notebook

Photo: Alexandre Dulaunoy (CC)

The 2014 BBA yearlong blogging challengeSome of you are caught in a gap.

You have a blog on your company site, but you don’t know how to fill it. You don’t have the time to brainstorm, but you want to put your brand out there in Internet land.

The 2014 BBA yearlong blogging challenge can help you. [Download as a PDF.]

Look to this list of ideas for a new blog post every Monday. Some are short and easy to write. Others will take planning and production.

Creating a new blog post a week will help you …

  1. Understand your brand better;
  2. Stretch as a blogger;
  3. And have fun!

No matter what type of company or products or services or target audience, this list of ideas can help you think more deeply about your customers’ needs and your brand’s hidden identity.

Happy blogging in 2014!

The 2014 BBA yearlong blogging challenge

  • Jan. 6: What to expect from your company in 2014; include offers to subscribe to newsletter or follow on social media.
  • Jan. 13: Profile a team member who works directly with customers.
  • Jan. 20: Today is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service; how have your company and your colleagues participated in community service?
  • Jan. 27: Super Bowl ads cost $4 million for 30 seconds of airtime (not counting production costs). What would you tell a billion people about your company in 30 seconds?
  • Feb. 3: Take your most popular product or service, and illustrate how it has evolved over the years (or why it has remained unchanged).
  • Feb. 10: In honor of Valentine’s Day, send a love letter to your customers and fans.
  • Feb. 17: Profile an intern or the newest employee.
  • Feb. 24: Show how your company has solved a problem recently for a customer.
  • March 3: In like a lion … How has your company outpaced your competitors?
  • March 10: Profile a longtime customer.
  • March 17: Spring means a new start. Offer a free trial to new customers.
  • March 24: What events — trade shows, grand openings, focus groups, community events — will your company take part in?
  • March 31: Out like a lamb … What is the biggest challenge your company is working to solve?
  • April 7: What is the top mistake your customers make, and how can they avoid it?
  • April 14: Set out some Easter eggs: What are the aspects people find most surprising about your company?
  • April 21: Profile a team member in sales or marketing.
  • April 28: Post five YouTube videos that will help customers understand your industry better.
  • May 5: Q&A with 10 colleagues asking the same question focused on customer issues.
  • May 12: How did your company get started? What are its roots in the community?
  • May 19: Profile the team member who has served the longest at the company.
  • May 26: PowerPoint theater: Post an insider slideshow that reveals interesting info about your company; backup plan: search SlideShare for decks that help your particular customers.
  • June 2: Share a story of how a colleague has gone the extra mile for someone.
  • June 9: Put together a list of linked resources for fans and customers. Bonus points if you link to competitors.
  • June 16: Summer reading: five must-read books that will make your readers smarter about your industry.
  • June 23: Blue sky thinking: Where will your company be in 10 years?
  • June 30: Today is Social Media Day: Show off your biggest fans in each channel.
  • July 7: It’s too hot outside. What are the coolest things about your company?
  • July 14: Share a white paper in PDF form that offers short-term and long-term solutions for your target audiences.
  • July 21: Profile your human resources director.
  • July 28: Write a “help wanted” ad for your ideal customer.
  • Aug. 4: Use photos or a video to give a tour of your company.
  • Aug. 11: Back-to-school time: Educate your fans on your services and your prices.
  • Aug. 18: Profile a management team member.
  • Aug. 25: Share testimonials, questions and complaints from customers’ emails. (Get their permission first.)
  • Sept. 1: Offer a prize to the reader who answers the most questions correctly about company trivia.
  • Sept. 8: Profile a new customer.
  • Sept. 15: What is your company culture? Its mission?
  • Sept. 22: Autumn means change. Ask readers what one thing they would change about your company.
  • Sept. 29: Create a screencast that guides visitors through your company website and blog.
  • Oct. 6: Then and now: Use photos to show your company at the beginning and in 2014. Bonus points if you use a list to show more figures from then and now (number of employees, revenue, etc.).
  • Oct. 13: List job openings at your company.
  • Oct. 20: Profile your CEO.
  • Oct. 27: Tricks and treats: Show off your best tricks for helping customers solve problems; offer treats for their best tips.
  • Nov. 3: Give a sneak peek at new products in development.
  • Nov. 10: Embed tweets of questions related to your company, products or industry. Then, answer them.
  • Nov. 17: Profile a colleague in accounting or finances.
  • Nov. 24: Show thanks for your customers, your team members, your vendors and others who have helped build your business.
  • Dec. 1: Create an infographic with your keenest industry insights.
  • Dec. 8: Profile your toughest critic.
  • Dec. 15: Give a “how to” for your product or service.
  • Dec. 22: Share your company Christmas card.
  • Dec. 29: Offer resolutions to help your customers grow in 2015.

• • •

55 ideas for blogging for
the blogger who doesn’t want to blog

• • •

Never get stuck blogging again.
Call me in to help your company’s blog prosper in the new year …

Contact me

The 2013 index to posts

December 23, 2013
Children's of Alabama

Photo: Shannon (CC)

I had a great time sharing with you and learning from you in 2013. Take a look at my posts this year, organized by category below.

Blogging

Social Media

Digital Marketing

Leadership and Management

Last but not Least

Also: The 2012 index to posts

• • •

Want to keep up with the latest information in 2014?
Be sure to subscribe to my free weekly newsletter.

SUBSCRIBE

Hanging out in the virtual peanut gallery

December 16, 2013
group discussion

Photo: Michael Coghlan (CC)

Most of us don’t have big comment communities, and likely never will. That’s OK: They can be troublesome to manage and rife with infighting, spam and nastiness.

But, oh, how fun they are when they work.

I look at content for info or entertainment. But I study the comments for genuine laughs and opinions. My favorite comment communities allow users to display their wit and have deeper discussions, while self-policing for trolls and spambots.

For example, Gawker and its sister sites trade in provocative posts. What’s great about looking at a post on io9 or Jezebel is seeing how the regulars will respond.

And fortunately, they can respond with text, GIFs and videos in threaded comments. They can give points to their favorite comments.

I like to think I’m a comedy snob, but really, a clever screen name is enough for me. The responses on this post, “Oklahoma Legislature Opens Door to Satanic Monument on Capitol Grounds,” are fairly typical.

Another place I’ll spend time reading and laughing is the A.V. Club, the Onion’s pop culture site. Specifically, the robust TV Club section.

The A.V. Club recently switched to the Disqus commenting system, which apparently has caused some dissension among the ranks. The current settings don’t allow any embedded media, just up votes and down votes. Disqus allows readers to sort comments by date or by up votes, but I rarely switch it up.

The site not only keeps track of active TV shows, but also classics. I enjoy popping in for the occasional retro-review of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” but what I really love are the capsules from Rappin’ Jake Sisko. Take in the poetry from this recent analysis of DS9 episode, “Inquisition.”

My final example is an old standby, What’s Alan Watching? on HitFix, another TV blog. Critic Alan Sepinwall posts news items and reviews almost daily. I’ve long admired his simple comment policy which keeps life easier for blog writer and blog readers.

I enjoy reading viewers’ reactions to the latest episodes of my favorite shows, so I’ll stop by daily to see what comments pop up. They always see things I miss, or, at the very least, run through my favorite quotes. HitFix recently added the Like button to comments, but no sorting or no embedding allowed.

Check out the discussion below Sepinwall’s latest review of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

Vibrant online communities make good blogs great. Even if the posts are mediocre, the comments keep me coming back. I’m content to read and laugh along, rarely putting in my own 2 cents.

Make it easy for readers to leave comments and interact not only with you but also each other. Give them room to play, and watch how they help your site flourish.

• • •

Learn more about communication in the digital world
with my free weekly newsletter …

SUBSCRIBE

The worst headlines in history will destroy your faith in humanity

December 9, 2013
tabloid headlines

Photo: Stephen Dann (CC)

Read any good headlines lately? It’s more likely you’ve clicked on a few provocative — if ultimately, unfulfilling — ones out of curiosity.

I posted today’s headlines from a few of the high-traffic sites.

BuzzFeed

  • How A Small-Time Marijuana Arrest Has Devastated A Great Teacher’s Life
  • Lady Gaga Is A Human Christmas Tree
  • 21 Signs You Had A Skater Phase
  • Tech Giants Launch Group Aimed At Government Surveillance Reform
  • The First Real Trailer For “Sherlock” Season 3 Dropped

Huffington Post

  • SPOOKS SPIED ON ONLINE GAMERS
  • Congress Ready To Extend Ban On Plastic Firearms
  • Economy on the Mend: Good News or Bad News?
  • Leaked Docs: White House Seeking Radical New Political Powers For Corporations
  • Sarah Silverman: ‘I Think Vaginas Really, Really Scare People’

Upworthy

  • A 15-Year-Old Ad About Racism Is A Great Reminder Of The Power We All Have To Promote Justice
  • ‘How Old Are You’ Is The Simplest Question Ever. So Why’d It Ruin An 11-Year-Old’s Life?
  • Think You Know What ‘Fat’ Means? You Should Listen To This Dude’s Definition.
  • Did That Really Just Happen? Yep. This Guy Pulled Down His Pants, On Stage, During His TED Talk.
  • One Singer’s Response To A Huge Promise Being Broken

Several traits help these headlines stand out: shock, celebrity, surprise. Many of the headlines are paired with thumbnails to help drive home the message.

The headline arms race has escalated dramatically during the digital age for several reasons. For starters, competition for attention has increased exponentially. We started battling in RSS feed readers, and now we demand clicks next to millions of tweets and Facebook updates.

Another reason headlines have become punchier is better metrics. We know instantly what works and tailor our style accordingly. It’s why you can out-bait the baiters with the Clickbait Headline Generator and the Upworthy Generator.

And we’re seeing intense focus on areas of coverage that continue to drive traffic: human interest, politics, gossip. These topics can lend themselves to strong headlines.

You don’t have to go overboard in writing your headlines and tweets. While a little sex appeal can spice up drab teases, I usually recommend a crash course in CNN headline writing.

Visit the CNN home page regularly to see stories with headlines and rewritten headlines every hour. Today’s sampling:

  • NEW 5 things for your ‘New Day’
  • Ugly scene at Brazilian soccer match
  • Fan fighting turns bloody
  • Paul Walker honored with car show
  • Terror threat spreads like ‘wildfire’
  • Campus cop shoots, kills student
  • Cops: Teens let friend drive drunk
  • 91 world leaders to honor Mandela
  • Bride’s pushed-off-cliff trial begins
  • Sources: Fraud ring also spied
  • Tech giants demand spying reforms
  • Iconic statue hacked to pieces

Every headline is a five- or six-word promise. Note how succinctly each story captures the one critical element in its wording.

You might click something out of curiosity. They’re seemingly irresistible.

Writing strong headlines does more than generate traffic. It makes for easier promotion. It helps you narrow the scope of your post. It develops your writing skills, as you write for brevity and impact. And it develops your editing skills, as you dump your first draft to craft the perfect hed.

Study those headlines. Then work toward making yours as fantastically, frightfully, shockingly stupendous.

• • •

Need help with your headlines?
Contact an award-winning headline writer for help …

Contact me

2014 goal: Improve my storytelling

December 2, 2013

Video: Vine compilation 2013

I could tell much better stories. I need to work on that skill as much as possible.

I worked on my focus this year, and will continue to do so in the years to come. In 2014, I want to also work on my storytelling. That might mean in writing and in my daily haiku. That might mean in video. That might mean onstage.

I believe in stories. I love watching them and reading them and hearing them. It’s why Malcolm Gladwell sells so many books, by hooking readers with compelling narratives. It’s why even a 6-second Vine video can have a beginning, middle and end before you can blink. (See a slew of examples in the video above.)

It’s why even a creative nonfiction tweet (#cnftweet) can pack more story into 140 characters than in some novels.

Improving my storytelling skills will help me teach others more effectively. I weave stories into my presentations and training sessions, but usually in addition to my outline. I need to think more narratively from the start.

Being better at storytelling will also help me assist clients in developing campaigns and messaging for their goals. I already help plan editorial calendars, but having the story defined from the start will guide us in our work.

I shall dig deep into story construction and presentation. I know where I need to work hardest, and I look forward to practicing these skills.

Come see me in 2014, and let me tell you a story …

• • •

I share stories and links to stories in the free
weekly Birmingham Blogging Academy newsletter …

SUBSCRIBE

Pinterest adds maps to its pins and boards

November 25, 2013

Pinterest Birmingham map screenshot

Screenshot of the Birmingham Pinterest place board

I wasn’t terribly good at geography in school. Maybe Pinterest’s newest feature will help me.

Last week, the social network added place pins to its “rich pins” set. Pinners can add location data to each pin, creating a “place board” or map of tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, retailers and more.

If a locale has a Foursquare marker, it can have its location data on Pinterest.

When I found out Thursday, I started building a Birmingham place board with 74 pins. I learned my friend and colleague Jen was building her own map, ShopSmallBHAM. Funny how we both jumped right in on the first day. We’re just a couple of Pinterest nerds.

I can embed the pins on this site, but for now, they look exactly the same as regular pins … no location info included. Clicking on the embedded image leads to the pin, complete with a mini-map.

Gip’s Juke Joint pin with no geolocation data

I can also embed place boards, but as shown below, the embedded boards have no overall map (like the screenshot up top).

Birmingham place board, but no map

ShopSmallBHAM place board, but no map

Despite these display limitations, I can build a data-rich map similar to ones in Google Maps, with the added benefit of a great social network. (Google Maps, however, allows full map embedding, custom locations, routes and more.) Other pinners can follow the place board, repin their faves (to either regular pinboards or place boards), and Like or comment on pins.

(One huge and frankly odd limitation is the omission of follower counts on place boards. A Pinterest customer service representative said via email, “We don’t display followers on place boards — we’re working on a few designs to improve this in the near future.”)

The Pinterest blog rolled out the new feature with a list of 20 select place boards. My two favorites are …

1. A campus tour of the University of Michigan.

University of Michigan campus tour

2. Chef Andrew Zimmern’s favorite barbecue joints across America.

Andrew Zimmern barbecue map

Geolocation data can be a critical component, both for customers and companies.

A smart business will already have its Foursquare locations registered. A smart business will use Pinterest maps and geolocation-rich pins to feature branches, vendors, fans and any locale that relates to its mission.

And a smart business will understand that mapping provides another opportunity to reach and connect with people by giving geographic context to any message.

Follow me on Pinterest.

Learn more about Pinterest.

Let’s brainstorm

November 18, 2013

coffee

I must confess: I don’t do coffee.

I mean, I do coffees, as in coffee meetups. But I’ll likely have a Diet Coke.

Despite this shortcoming, I’d still like to do coffee with you. Meeting face to face gives me a better sense as to where you may need help with communication.

It will also give you a better sense as to what I do for a living. Because this is what I do, assessing corporate communications and making suggestions on how to improve, based on your goals.

Brainstorming is one of my strengths. I’ll pitch idea after idea after idea. And it won’t cost you a penny — I’ll even spring for the coffee.

(For those of you outside the Birmingham area, we can chat by phone, Skype or other video service. BYOC.)

Let’s do coffee soon. You’ll walk away with some killer ideas.

Photo: Martin Fisch (CC)

• • •

Let me know when you’d like
to brainstorm strategies and tactics …

Contact me

%d bloggers like this: