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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, 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.


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.
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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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to keep up with me and the world of communication …


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?


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?


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.)


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 …

Register Today

Lunch and learn with Alabama Bloggers

April 7, 2014


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 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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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
Kevin DooleyStew Dean (CC)

• • •

Find more insights into blogging and other channels
in my free weekly newsletter …


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.


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 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 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 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 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

• • •

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


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.


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.


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.


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 …


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

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

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.

• • •

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for more ways to score in 2014 …


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.

• • •

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in the free weekly BBA newsletter.


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