Sunday, May 30, 2010

7 Blog Publishing Tips

Confucius said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” If all bloggers asked themselves these 7 questions (via Kevin Martineau’s post) before hitting the “publish” button, life would be so simple and great.

Oh, and FYI, before I published this post, I actually asked myself all of these questions. :)

Here we go:

1) Have I read the post in its entirety after finishing it?

When you were a child, do you remember connecting the dots to form a picture in your coloring book? If you do, then you know that if you didn’t connect the dots in correct numerical order, the image would look… weird. The same goes for blog posts. Reading the entire post allows you to link your own dots between your ideas and opinions to create a concrete message.

2) Have I chosen by title carefully?

There are millions of blogs out there. It is you against the millions. Therefore, you need a compelling title. Before a person even reads your introduction, all they see is your title. So, give them a reason to stick around. Let them know with your title what they are getting out of your post.

Titles with numbers (5 Simple Steps to Getting Your Business on Twitter) or that pose a question (Got Ethics?) attract readers. Also, very funny or attention-getter headlines, such as Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die! is sure to make some heads turn.

3) Have I proofread it?

Blog posts are public; it will be read. So, you don’t want to seem unprofessional or unintelligent, do you? Proofreading is one of the many ways to avoid that stamp.

If you just really hate or have no time for proofreading, try this: Treat a blog as if it’s a paper worth 30 percent of your grade. You wouldn’t turn in an important essay without proofreading it, right? Maybe you would, but I sure wouldn’t.

4) Have I linked to one or more of my older posts?

If you have been blogging for years, you probably have some really great and insightful posts that have been acquiring dust. Linking posts allows you to let those older posts shine while also providing content for your current posts. Plus, this gives viewers the opportunity to read some of your older work. With any luck, they will rummage through more of your old stuff.

P.S. I did this in question 2.

5) Have I made sure that all my links are working?

A post titled Top 6 Ways Sexist Bigots Drive Me Crazy catches your interest. The neurons in your brain begin to stir. You start to read the introduction. The blogger is talking about the portrayal of women in the media. Then, the blogger links the post to an article listing 25 Horribly Sexist Vintage Ads. You go to click, and you are taken to an error page. You think: Just great! I am taken nowhere!

The bottom line is if you add a link, take that person somewhere.

6) Have I included a captivating image?

An image is one of the first things a reader notices. So, it should entice and draw a reader in. Perform a Web search for stock photography, and you will find websites for free or low cost photos.

7) Have I included one or more ways to engage with my readers?

You started a blog to share your thoughts; however, you should also let your readers share theirs. You can make it easy for them by posing a question or a call to action. In addition, making it debatable or controversy may attract more readers.

Remember, blogs are meant to create dialogue and provide networking opportunities. When you write, have this in mind.

Photo by Xurble

Experienced reporting: priceless

Newsweek is up for sale. Why? Because people aren’t willing to pay for news anymore. And why should they? The Internet makes information accessible, instant, and free. You can subscribe to blogs, sign up for free newsletters, follow CNN and The New York Times via Twitter, and listen to complimentary podcasts. All of these resources present news at no cost. Therefore, many people are not willing to hand over a few bucks for news.

If people do not want to pay for information, what will happen to real news coverage? Will we rely on citizen journalism? My answer: While citizen journalism presents news, it can never replace experienced journalists. Real reporting takes skill− the kind that can only comes with education and practice. Aside from influencers on blogs, much of what is published from citizen journalism does not provide a real reporter’s accuracy and analysis of a story. Anyone can participate in citizen journalism. As result of that freedom and opportunity, citizen journalism often can be filled with false facts and bias.

So, why should society spend money for information that not only finds them, but can be accessed free of charge? A simple answer is because it is worth it. Staff of all news publications spend hours editing, designing, and promoting the publication to offer you current, well-written news with objectivity. They deserve your support for all their sweat and tears. When you give them that, you get exactly what you pay for.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Straight Talk

Campbell Brown is resigning from her anchor position on CNN’s ‘Campbell Brown’ with dignity and integrity. She admits that she is stepping down from her position because of low ratings. She didn’t sugar coat the truth or try to blame anyone for her failure. Instead, she remained transparent about her reasons for leaving, and she did it beautifully.

Journalism constantly receives a bad rep for employing yellow journalism and spinning information. Through her statement, she defied that image. By being honest, she is directing bad press away from herself and CNN.

Brown wrote, "Shedding my own journalistic skin to try to inhabit the kind of persona that might co-exist in that line up is simply impossible for me. It is not who I am or who I want to be; nor is it who CNN asked me to be at any point."

I admire her message in these sentences, because she is saying that she will not change herself or her show in order to reach desired ratings. She stuck to her “hard-news roots” and her value in “old-school journalism.” Nowadays, news tends to be entertaining in order to appeal to a mass audience. The entertainment aspect is reached by evoking sensationalism, which is not always newsworthy (sadly). So, a show could reach high ratings, but that does not mean it is delivering quality news. With that said, since rates do not always reflect quality content, should rates have a place in journalism?

The fact that her show was cut even though she provided real news and not downgraded news for an American audience reminds me of a speech given by Christiane Amanpour. In her speech, she talked about how war reporters were risking their lives to cover events, yet those stories were cut due to gate keeping and the need to sell news to an American audience. Brown was informative and objective, but her show is going to be removed, because she wants to present news and hard facts, not entertainment news filled with bias.

In my opinion, a show that presented quality news should not be cut. The same goes for any story.

Whether rating should matter or not doesn’t change the reality that it matters more than it should. News conglomerates want to see good results for their efforts, and they want to advance and develop. Without good ratings, a news company will lose their audience and never grow. Therefore, they will do just about anything to avoid low ratings. So, while Brown’s truthfulness doesn’t surprise me, neither does her resignation. We know how it works in business− you either leave, or they will probably fire you. I am just glad that Brown made an elegant exit full of straight talk.

Photo from

Got Ethics?

There are many myths about PR professionals and PR in general, including the synonymous relationship between PR practitioner and publicist and the belief that anyone can do PR, which is partly based on the idea that majority of a PR practitioner’s work consist of writing and sending press releases. Some people even think that advertising and PR are the same. Fortunately, none of the myths are true.

Among those myths is the infamous assumption that PR professionals distort and spin the truth. While there are a few bad apples who tarnish the PR face, I have the utmost confidence that majority of upcoming, practicing, and retired PR professionals uphold to the highest ethical standards.

However, as a future PR professional, I worry about the day when I will be faced with an ethical decision. Will I make the right choice?

I stumbled upon a video on YouTube that soothed my worries. PRConversations had a chat with Peter Stanton, CEO of Stanton Communications. In the video he gave several ethics tips for new communications practitioners, which I found very helpful. Therefore, I want to share it with you. The video is below.

Before I end this blog post, I want to suggest that you follow PRConversations if you aren’t already. They regularly upload videos about current PR-related topics and news. They are another great media resource offering advice and information.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Get ready. Get set. Get professional!

It is never too early to start on your career. Whether you are a college freshman with an undeclared major or a senior graduating in the next few days, being a professional now will go a long way. A connection you make at a conference may lead you to an interview at your dream job. Or a mentor’s advice may help you land an internship where you discover your true passion. Be a professional now, and you will reap the rewards in the future.

Here are 7 Ways a College Student Can Start Becoming a Professional Now by David Spinks:

1) Plant your seeds. The people you meet today could be valuable to your future, so start networking. Connect with classmates, professors, alumni, and people on social networking sites, including LinkedIn and Twitter.

2) Participate in projects. Get involved with activities and groups on campus− anything that will provide experience in your future career and impress potential employers. For example, if you love taking photographs, apply for a photographer position in a campus newspaper or magazine. Or if you enjoy animals, volunteer at a local pet shelter.

3) Attend events. Many events are free and provide you with the opportunity to meet new people face to face. If you can’t afford to attend an event, try volunteering. PRSA also offers great webinars, some of which are free!

4) Join communities. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and many other social networking sites have communities that are open to members. There are so many communities that it is not difficult to find one that caters to your interest. Maybe a discussion on a community will spark a great humanitarian idea or inspire you to join a new cause.

5) Start writing. In my opinion, writing is one of the many things we all should do in life. Professionals need a basic understanding of writing and grammar skills. Without those skills, people may doubt your expertise and view you as unprofessional. In addition, Spinks wrote, “Writing will help you learn and grow as a professional”− so true.

6) Establish mentorship. In order to build a stronger relationship with a professional, you need to maintain it. Keep in touch with him or her and sooner or later, the relationship will deepen. When that happens, don’t be afraid to request advice or to ask them to Skype with you. That is what mentors are for− to guide you through school as you develop your career.

7) Ignore me and do whatever you want. In the end, always do what is best for you no matter what people may say. Know yourself and know what works and what doesn’t. Just remember to do something. Do anything. Just do.

There you have it folks! A great post, but the only tip I will add is stay current. Keeping up with news in your field of work will help you to learn about trends as well as give you the opportunity to join the discussion. I recently published a blog post on PROpenMic about tips to help PR practitioners stay current. Those same tips can also apply to any profession. Here’s a brief rundown of the blog post:

-Subscribe to podcasts

-Subscribe to e-mail newsletters

-Follow blogs

-Use Twitter

-Learn how to use media tools

-Attend conferences

I hope this post helped! Get ready. Get set. Get professional!

Photo from Francesco Marino

Emerging social media apps

First, there was Myspace. Then, Facebook followed by Twitter. Now, it’s Gowalla and Foursquarethe newest social media craze. Gowalla and Foursquare are location-based social networking sites that use GPS to allow individuals to “check in” at any location in real life. Depending on the site, members receive points or stamps when checking in as well as the opportunity to leave a message at the location, which can be posted on Facebook and Twitter. Both sites also allow users to view nearby locations.

An article by Sarah Benson from Ink briefly sums up the differences between the two sites:


- Lets you use the site to check in to a real-life location from anywhere, which allows you to disguise your whereabouts. But you won’t earn rewards unless you are where you say you are.

- Each location has a mayor, the person who checked in there most often.

- Collect virtual badges and points for visiting new places.

- Available for iPhone, Blackberry, Android and Palm.

- Share tips about places (ex: The margarita at Esquina in Lawrence is to die for!).


- Prevents you from checking into a location through the site unless you’re physically there.

- Each location has a top 10 list of users who check in there most often.

- Collect virtual stamps, pins and items for visiting new places.

- Available for iPhone, Android and Palm. Also in HTML format for Blackberry.

- Share photos and trips (ex: You could design a Kansas City barbecue tour.).

Right now, you might be thinking that these applications are Facebook and Twitter on Red Bull. But, I see many advantages to using Gowalla and Foursquare. These sites allow people to discover and learn about places. While on a trip, you could come across a restaurant that serves very cheap and delicious breakfast. Or, you could learn about a museum that’s hosting art from a favorite painter. You could even learn something new about your hometown. Maybe you’ll discover that a nearby coffee shop hosts an open mic every Thursday. The possibilities are endless.

They also present the opportunity to know which places your friends frequently visit and what they usually do at those locations. Furthermore, imagine the opportunities for businesses. If people are constantly checking in at a certain location and leaving positive feedback, people who search for that location are given an incentive to check out the site. Wouldn’t you want to go to a certain bakery or comedy club if many people are raving about it?

Therefore, a location-based social networking site may be another social media tool that companies could begin to use. It’ll also be another way for companies to track their social media success.

Companies can get very creative with location-based social networking applications. They could offer coupons and discounts to frequent visitors. They could also exchange items or points collected on Gowalla or Foursquare for a real product or service. They could get their spokesperson to check in at a certain location in order to promote a product, service, or event. They could create a contest based on points or items collected. I can think of so many other ways for businesses to use a location-based social networking site as a marketing tool. What creative marketing tactics can you think of?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

How to track social media success

I recently commented on a post by Spencer Kollas titled Social media marketing in 10 minutes a day. The article highlighted the importance for businesses to dedicate a few minutes daily to social networking efforts. Although many companies find themselves unable to maintain a social media presence due to lack of time, he believes that spending at least 10 minutes every day managing social media sites could generate revenue and lead to additional partnerships. While this is possible, I do not consider social media as an essential tool for all marketing campaigns. It’s an effective tool, but it is just another method among the many used to reach an audience. The decision to use social media depends on the organization’s mission and goal. In addition, there is really no reason for an organization to employ social media if it does not generate desired results. Companies should determine social networking success and decide if those numbers match up with their objective(s).

Java Social Networking published a post called Tracking Success with Social Networking. They provided four key ways to help companies observe their social media endeavors.

Google Analytics

The program allows individuals to track website traffic and marketing effectiveness. It is a great tool to help companies analyze data, which can be used to develop stronger marketing tactics. Set up an account via this website.

Here are a few tips from Java Social Networking:

"If you are using a program like WordPress or Drupal to manage your blog or website, there are plugins and modules available to make this process even easier.

Once you're set up, you can access your Analytics account to view "referral sources" such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc. You can also see how many visitors came from each source and which keywords were used to find your website."

Below is an interface tutorial for beginners:

Twitter Management Tools

There are many applications besides Twitter to help businesses manage Twitter accounts. I found a blog post by Jennifer Van Grove that provides options in categories including desktop, mobile, and semi-professional for maintaining Twitter profiles.

Coupon Codes and Twitter Incentives

Companies are starting to use social media to offer coupons to customers, which can also steer customers to their website. For example, a business could announce via Twitter or Facebook that the first 100 customers to purchase a certain product will receive a 30% discount. If a high amount of customers respond to the coupon, then that can be determined as a successful social networking tactic.

Ask Your Customers

Sometimes the most effective way to determine the usefulness of social networking efforts is to ask your customers.

Many customers may not be following a business via a social media site. Therefore, they may visit other places, such as a website or the location where the product or service is provided.

Java Social Networking offered suggestions that can be used to elicit customer response:

- If you’re an online store, include the “Where did you hear about us?” question in your order form.

- If you’re a retail store, leave a “Thanks for following us on Twitter! Let us follow you back” sign on your counter and see how many customers will leave you their Twitter name.

There are many other ways to obtain customer response. There are also many other methods that can be used to determine success with social networking. It all depends on what techniques fit best with the company and what information the company wants or needs.