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The fight for media attention

June 16, 2014

Media coverage can be important to a marketing plan. It can make or break a product launch or a sales campaign.

And sometimes, the media can play unfairly, demanding pay for play or allowing business interests to override editorial decisions. I discussed how the Birmingham Business Journal banned coverage of my company Y’all Connect in a recent post.

But marketers have proven tactics to fight back. Just because a newspaper or a TV station or a website behaves badly doesn’t mean we have to.

1. Publish media releases on a regular basis. The once-a-year release isn’t worth it. I’ve heard the argument that the media release is dead, and I’m not buying it. I put out a bulletin for assignment editors on Friday to alert them to our Y’all Connect conference, and we had coverage on two newscasts that evening.

Part of that comes from regular contact with editors and reporters, having a relationship already in place. Most media releases won’t earn coverage, but this is where to begin.

Hire me: I help companies with media relations.

2. Cultivate relationships with (fellow) bloggers. Bloggers love to write about great brands and products. Bloggers need good ideas. Bloggers reach passionate engaged audiences. But many companies haven’t the faintest idea how to work with this global community.

Marketers should be reading relevant blogs daily, leaving appropriate and helpful comments as necessary. They should contact bloggers with ideas, suggestions and questions. I’ve been fortunate to receive terrific coverage, not just from traditional media, but also from fellow bloggers.

Hire me: I connect bloggers with brands.

3. Outsource. Busy marketers may not have time to do it all themselves. They may need help with campaigns, ad buys, blogging, social media, event planning and a million other details.

Companies can bring in ad agencies, brand specialists, public relations professionals, social media experts, freelance writers and editors, event planners and other creatives who can execute plans quickly and smoothly. Bring in a big gun to win media attention.

Hire me: I work with marketers to develop the best strategy.

I never thought I’d have to work under the constraints of a media ban. It’s not an ideal situation, but by working all year long on gaining coverage, even one outlet’s shortsightedness can’t stop my message.

• • •

Hire me today …

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Video: John Oliver explains net neutrality, and what you can do next

June 8, 2014

Video: Net neutrality, on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”

As a communication consultant, I depend on the Internet to do research, market my services to clients and share information. As a citizen, I want the Internet to remain a level playing field.

The corporate interests that want to tilt the balance in their favor will become more and more aggressive in their efforts over time.

Comedian and host John Oliver discusses net neutrality, and the latest threat to it in this important 13-minute video.

Net neutrality means that all data is treated equally on the Internet, that no company or service is held back (or given priority). I pay a local cable company monthly for my Internet service, my lifeline to the outside world, with very few alternatives. Fellow Birmingham-area residents know this plight, as cable companies have territorial monopolies in the metropolitan region.

Please watch the video, then leave a comment on the FCC site at fcc.gov/comments. (The open comment period for net neutrality runs through June 27.)

Let’s ensure that the Internet — which helps all of us connect, learn and grow — remains open and free.

The best customer service on social media is often mundane

June 2, 2014

Answering questions is a big part of my job. But my friend and frequent collaborator Jen Barnett turned it into artistry.

She managed the daily business of her retail company’s Facebook page. This required some significant time, as Freshfully has more than 15,000 fans for its grocery store.

What impressed me early on was her patience in answering routine questions multiple times a day. The two most asked questions in the comments were:

  • What hours are you open?
  • Where are you located?

Both answers were on the page, but she answered each one every time with a smile. (I would’ve lost my mind.)

Jen took the smart approach, because while the answers were dull and easy to find, she wanted to ensure her customers knew this vital info. She had no idea if the asker was a busy mom between errands looking to squeeze in a grocery run before taking her kids home.

She armed each person with the info they needed to stop by and purchase a few things.

Great customer service on social media is rarely flashy. It involves the most basic of interactions, questions and answers. Jen showed consistency and attentiveness in answering those two questions again and again and again.

Listening carefully to customers and responding with a smile ensures terrific customer service.

Part of the 2014 BBA yearlong blogging challenge.

See more posts from the series.

• • •

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Get your Y’all Connect 2014 tickets!

May 26, 2014

Wade Kwon

I tend to do things backwards.

The latest example would be reminding you to check out Y’all Connect Presented by Alabama Power. On the last week of ticket sales. Just a few weeks before the conference.

I’ve been on the road all month promoting my event, but have not talked much about it on this site. Mercy me.

[FYI: Last stop on the speaking tour is Wednesday at PRAM Central in Jackson. Join me for my talk on "Be a Digital Storyteller." RSVP on the event page.]

Y’all Connect will be even better than 2013, with a great group of speakers and terrific topics for the June 13 event. If you want to learn everything you can about digital marketing, including blogging and social media, this is the place to be next month.

Regular tickets are $129, VIP tickets are $199, and they’re on sale till Saturday, May 31 (unless we sell out sooner). Join 200 other guests for the South’s biggest blogging and social media conference.

I hope to see you there!

Don’t miss out on Y’all Connect!
Get your tickets today!

Buy your tickets

WordPress Birmingham presentation: The Cheapest Website You Can Do in 60 Minutes

May 19, 2014

If you came to my WordPress Birmingham meetup presentation, “The Cheapest Website You Can Do in 60 Minutes,” thank you. If you’re just interested in easy site design for business, you’re in the right place.

1. You can see the slides from the presentation. Please feel free to download them or embed them on your site. To download a PDF, click the Slideshare logo in the lower left, then “Save.”

2. If you want to stay in touch

3. Don’t forget to buy your tickets to Y’all Connect Presented by Alabama Power, taking place June 13 in Birmingham.

Thanks for checking out “The Cheapest Website You Can Do in 60 Minutes.”

• • •

If you need help with communication,
book me for a FREE consultation.

Contact me

Four appearances in Birmingham, and a return to Auburn

May 19, 2014
empty stage

Photo: Max Wolfe (CC)

Busy week coming up for me, as the speaking tour continues … 

• Tonight, I’ll show how to make a free company website. Join me at WordPress Birmingham.

• Wednesday, I’ll have a special afternoon workshop for tenants of Birmingham’s Innovation Depot on prospecting in LinkedIn and Facebook.

• Also on Wednesday, I’ll be at the Birmingham Urban League Young Professionals May meeting, focusing on prospecting in LinkedIn.

• Thursday, I’ll head to Auburn to present to the univeristy’s Alumni Relations Group on prospecting in LinkedIn and Facebook. This is my second trip there in the last few weeks, but only my third time there ever.

• Also on Thursday, I’ll be hanging with the Janes for See Jane Write‘s members only meeting. Be sure to check out membership — it’s just $25 a year.

Y'all ConnectI’d love to see you this week. But if I miss you, be sure to get your tickets to Y’all Connect Presented by Alabama Power. The conference is June 13, but tickets are available only until May 31.

We have a great lineup, including Birmingham’s own Ike Pigott and Jen Barnett. Topics include How Brands Kill the Social Conversation, Emerging Social Trends and the Future of Search.

Get your tickets today!

Speaking gigs: WordPress Birmingham, May 2014

May 12, 2014
Under construction

Photo: Anton Nordenfur (CC)

Among the many WordPress resources, meetups have been a great way for users, designers, developers and other community members to learn and network.

Birmingham is fortunate to have a strong WordPress group, one that grows each year.

I’m the speaker at WordPress Birmingham next week, focusing on one of my favorite variations of this software, WordPress.com. My talk is called “The Cheapest Website You Can Do in 60 Minutes.”

I’ll reveal just how little it costs to run a robust site, and the most important steps in launching a new site for a company, a project, an organization or an event. You can a new website, or 10 new websites, with almost no effort or cash.

And the best part … it’s free. Plus, I’ll have discount codes to save $30 on regular tickets to Y’all Connect Presented by Alabama Power.

The meeting takes place from 7 to 8 p.m. May 19 at Pale Eddie’s Pour House, 2308 Second Ave. N., downtown [map].

Make sure to RSVP today.

RSVP

And coming up this week …

  • Tuesday at lunchtime, I’ll talk about social media and volunteerism at PRSA Alabama. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online.
  • Tuesday evening, I’ll talk about social media and volunteerism (again!) at the Birmingham Girls Club. Join the group today.
  • Saturday at 3 p.m. CDT, I’ll talk about the power of storytelling at PodCamp Nashville. Get your free tickets today.

Memphis and Tuscaloosa, watch out!

May 5, 2014
Wade Kwon

Photo: Bob Farley, f8 Photo

I’ll be on the road this week giving talks and promoting Y’all Connect Presented by Alabama Power

• Wednesday, find me at Interactive Expedition in Memphis. We’ll talk about “Set the Expectation: Expedition of Content.” My thanks to my pal Dave Barger for having me as speaker.

The event starts at 7:30 a.m. Admission is $20. For more information and to RSVP, visit the event page.

• Thursday, see me at American Advertising Federation, Tuscaloosa chapter meeting. I’ll discuss “How to Run Promotional Campaigns and Building Your List Using WordPress.”

The event starts at 11:45 a.m. at the University Club, 421 Queen City Ave. For more information and to RSVP, visit the event page.

• • •

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Video crash course in metrics

April 28, 2014
chocolate pie chart

Photo: Dan Dickinson (CC)

Marketing tactics vary by company, by season, by target audience. How do we even know if they’re working?

Metrics.

Of course, many marketing directors launch campaign after campaign with no idea on if they’re even working. How many people saw it? What did they do, if anything? How do we even measure that?

Metrics.

The five videos below will help explain metrics, what to measure and how to set up a system to capture and interpret that data. Viewers can learn at their own pace and review material as many times as needed.

Love numbers, because they will help guide marketers to better tactics and more receptive audiences.

Video: Using metrics, featuring Martin Klubeck and Tim Chester

Video: How to Build a Company Metrics Dashboard, by Ash Maurya

Video: Advanced metrics, by MicroStrategy

 

Video: Metrics, Metrics Everywhere, by Coda Hale

Video: Startup metrics for pirates, by Dave McClure

Part of the 2014 BBA yearlong blogging challenge.

See more posts from the series.

• • •

Need help getting your metrics moving in the right direction.
Let me build you a successful system …

Contact me

Breaking bread with bloggers

April 21, 2014

Aside from my recent talks on communication, I’ve been fortunate to visit with bloggers across Birmingham lately to discuss their blogging needs. And eat well.

Last week, I took part in the April Alabama Bloggers lunch, a fund-raiser for the WellHouse. We gave away some great door prizes and more importantly, raised more than $160 in cash gifts and purchases plus donated items for this Birmingham nonprofit organization.

Donate directly to the WellHouse.

Our attendees discussed the finer points of photography, SEO, monetization (my table), topic ideas and getting started.

And a few days earlier, I sat down with See Jane Write’s Bloggers Who Brunch. I loved hearing about everyone’s sites and ideas and backgrounds.

Birmingham has great resources for bloggers of all stripes. Learn from the best, those who do it every day.

Follow these sites:

See Jane Write bloggers who brunch

See Jane Write Bloggers Who Brunch

The personal touch on LinkedIn

April 14, 2014

My schedule has gotten away from me lately, as Y’all Connect Presented by Alabama Power grows closer.

Even worse, I’ve skipped my daily check-ins with my LinkedIn friends, in which I contact three connections each day to ask how they’re doing. (I’ll resume in the summer when my schedule eases up.)

LinkedIn

Photo: Coletivo Mambembe (CC)

But I still make time each morning to take care of my LinkedIn friends, thanks to a simple email reminder.

LinkedIn sends me a daily digest of “network updates,” connections who today celebrate a birthday or a new job. I always send a note wishing them a great day or my congratulations.

It’s a small sincere gesture, one that lets me share in life’s daily joy.

Tip for power users: Wow your LinkedIn connections by sending a card, or even flowers or a branded item like a thumb drive or mug. (My friend Matt at MyLogoSource here in Birmingham can help with promotional items.)

LinkedIn - email frequency

To set up your LinkedIn network updates email:

  1. Go to the Email frequency settings page. (See image above.)
  2. Click the pencil icon next to “Updates and news.”
  3. Change “Network updates” to “Daily Digest Email.” (Can’t wish someone a Happy Birthday 4 days late!)
  4. Click “Save changes.”

One of the best ways to get value out of LinkedIn is to grow and maintain your network. Be good to your connections, and they’ll be good to you.

• • •

Our 1-hour webinar can help you land a job or more leads
on LinkedIn …

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Lunch and learn with Alabama Bloggers

April 7, 2014

Cantina

Meet the Alabama Bloggers at Cantina.

The April Alabama Bloggers meetup is coming up next week. Organizer Rachel Callahan occasionally lets me put together a theme, and this one will be so much fun.

The lunch runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 18.

For starters, it’s at Cantina at Pepper Place, one of my favorite dining spots in Birmingham. Lots of great options for diners.

Another reason this event rocks is our topics: You can learn more about SEO, taking photos, monetization, marketing, getting started and brainstorming topics. Pick the topic you want to discuss … we’ll sit by category so we won’t have to shout over each other.

My pals Tiffeny Currier and Sheree Martin have already signed on to lead the marketing and SEO tables. Rachel will share her tips on photography, and I’ll help with monetization. You’ll walk away with great ideas on taking your blog to the next level.

Dreamcakes

Dreamcakes Bakery has given two $25 gift cards as prizes.

You might also walk away with a great door prize: a Cantina gift card, a Dreamcakes Bakery gift card or a print from Picture Birmingham! Aren’t our sponsors terrific?

The last reason happens to be the most important: We want to collect donations for the WellHouse, a Birmingham nonprofit organization helping women escape sex trafficking. Admission is either a $5 donation or an item on the list (from study Bibles to jewelry making supplies).

All I need you to do is put your name on the signup form today. With 20 spots left, you should hurry to get a seat.

I hope you’ll join us for this fund-raiser and blogging roundtable with Alabama Bloggers.

RSVP

Make your events winners through consistency

March 31, 2014
registration desk

Photo: Official GDC (CC)

I preach consistency. I consistently preach consistency.

It is the one method you can use to make your blog, your newsletter, your social media and even your events better than those of your competitors.

Your company might use events for building awareness, or generating leads, or researching the market. Events can be great for reinforcing the brand and maintaining good ties with clients.

I’ve seen organizations execute events sharply, delivering on the promise of education, networking or plain old fun. I’ve served as event planner for years with different groups, in addition to taking in my fair share of seminars, conferences, receptions and happy hours.

Events are challenging. They require intense focus on the guests and management of a thousand details.

The way to outmaneuver the many competing events is through consistency.

That can include, but is not limited to …

  • Reminders: Busy people forget events, even ones for which they paid. Send a reminder or two.
  • Timing: day of the week/month, time of day, time of year.
  • Timing, part 2: Start on time. Let the stragglers catch up — don’t punish those who were punctual.
  • Registration: friendly and swift, with clearly delineated check-in areas.
  • Signage: Help guests help themselves with simple navigation. Plus, an opportunity for branding.
  • Greeters: I learned this secret early on: Everything else can go wrong, but you have full control over hospitality. It can make or break an event.
  • Speaker: Arm them with information ahead of time: Who will introduce them? How much time will they have? What is the audience’s profile?
  • A/V: When possible, make sure your announcer has a microphone; it’s tough to be heard in noisy venues. Check ahead of time to ensure lighting, projection, computer, remote and other equipment works smoothly and effortlessly.
  • Vendors: Check in regularly with caterers, sponsors and partners with updates, questions and reminders.
  • Presentation: When in doubt, script it. This gives you a foolproof way to cover all announcements, sponsor mentions, complete speaker introduction and welcome message.
  • Follow-up: Thank your guests, and let them know how they can give feedback and sign up for the next event.

(If you need help with all these details, consider hiring an event planner. They love this stuff and can even help save money and eliminate headaches.)

Consistent events build trust among clients. That trust leads to sales and satisfaction. Work hard to build that trust with each outing.

• • •

Need help fine-tuning your events?
Let me help make them successful …

Contact me

Good things come in fives … our fifth anniversary

March 24, 2014

elevator

To mark 5 years of the Birmingham Blogging Academy, I’d like to share some wisdom collected along the way …

Five things I love about blogging

  1. Showing off my ideas and my writing.
  2. Commiserating with fellow bloggers.
  3. Collaboration.
  4. Inserting the perfect image with a post.
  5. Traffic spikes.

Five things I hate about blogging

  1. Hunting for photos.
  2. Seeing people give up.
  3. The list (in my head) of site fixes needed.
  4. When you bare your soul and no one reads it. sigh
  5. Infinite scroll.

five ways

Five things I’ve learned about consulting

  1. Get paid up front. Always.
  2. Vacation? What’s that?
  3. Hustle is your best friend.
  4. Flexibility is your next best friend.
  5. Developing sales skills is crucial.

Five things I do well

  1. Ideas.
  2. Little surprises.
  3. Improvise.
  4. Analysis.
  5. Deadpan.

hand

Five things I need to do better

  1. Follow up with clients after the project.
  2. Elevator pitches.
  3. Listen.
  4. Edit video.
  5. Record videos.

Five tips to blog better

  1. Start.
  2. Repeat.
  3. Measure.
  4. Innovate.
  5. Love.

stamps

Five changes in blogging in the last 5 years

  1. Listicles.
  2. SEO.
  3. Decline of RSS.
  4. Rise of mobile.
  5. Responsive design.

Five traits I admire in other bloggers

  1. Honesty.
  2. Niceness.
  3. Brevity.
  4. Consistency.
  5. Humility.

warehouse

Five suggested goals for blogging

  1. Generate leads.
  2. Increase number of subscribers.
  3. Sign a book deal.
  4. Sell products and services.
  5. Become thought leader/expert in topic.

Five ways you know you’re succeeding at blogging

  1. Strangers call you by your blog name.
  2. You have more ideas than time.
  3. Other bloggers look up to you.
  4. Your goal becomes reality.
  5. It’s still fun after all these years.

Photos: (from top) Bill Bradford | Elliott BrownWoodley
Wonderworks
Kevin DooleyStew Dean (CC)

• • •

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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

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.

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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.

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