4 Quick Tips for Brand New Small Biz Bloggers

Does this sound familiar? You’ve got a grant proposal to write, several contracts to review, a merchandising vendor ready for your final designs, not to mention the prospecting that brings in the very business which is your bread and butter or the actual creation of your products! If any of this rings a bell…

Congratulations! You are building a brand! If you stick to it, your hard work will pay off with good returns. But, as your fellow small business owner, I know firsthand that no matter how exhilarating our work is, deadlines in other areas of our businesses can make it difficult to keep the flow of content from being interrupted on a small business blog.  Take a look at these four tips for brand new small business bloggers.

1. Use an editorial calendar.

My blogging platform of choice has always been WordPress. I’ve tried the others and just can’t get behind them. It doesn’t mean that you can’t, won’t or haven’t. I love the editorial calendar plug-in found in WordPress and highly recommend fresh bloggers jump on board as you figure out where you are going and what you are doing. Once installed, this plug-in is nestled under the “Posts” menu and displays in four week snapshots. You can adjust the weeks displayed, moving back to past posts or look at what you’ve got scheduled for the future. Your past posts are imported to the corresponding days they were published, which will allow you to get a feel for when you are most productive or what your publishing habits have been so far.  The easy way drop and drag functionality is a huge time saver and empowers you to quickly manage your daily publishing goals so you can get back to creating!

(If you are struggling with post topics, check out this article I wrote for Michael Pollock’s Bigger Life Blog.)

2. Download a mobile app to allow posting on the go.

Download a mobile blogging app to your Android or iPhone for quick navigation. Mobile apps like  Wordpress are not just for writing new articles. You can easily track your stats, access your reader to catch up with other blogs or re-read and edit old posts. As your online presence begins to sprout, you will want to careful tend to the budding comments and watch traffic patterns for valuable insight on how to maximize your impact. Never blog while driving, not even at stop lights.

3. Ask for feedback.

This is your baby and you are mighty proud of the steps you’ve taken. You should be! Ask a colleague, trusted business partner or associate to take a look at your work so far. Does the information make sense? Is it easily digested by readers? Are your topics relevant to the services that you are offering? Folks closest to your business will be able to connect the dots with what you have created so far and what you provide. Good. Now, can the average, everyday Joe Plumber or a Soccer Mom do the same? If you include business jargon that is unexplained or wander too far into technical specs of your industry, you will quickly lose the most important readers…YOUR FUTURE CLIENTS!

4. Include a Call to Action (CTA)

If you are blogging for your small business, you are blogging for money. Hang on to that fact, stick it in your back pocket and look at your blog as an opportunity to convert readers into clients. A hundred well crafted articles about how to make a great wedding cake does not inspire someone to CONTACT YOU. They might ooh and aah over your work, but need some motivation to pick up the phone or request a price. The point of a blog is to show who you are and what you can do. Now, drive consumer engagement so that when they are ready to buy, they know where to come. You are the expert waiting in the wings to scoop up their business. Be sure you are clearly letting the reader know exactly what you would like for them to do. “Call me for a free consultation” or “Get a 10% discount when you book online.”  Don’t put off today what you want your readers to do before tomorrow.

 Extract your self from writing only long enough to make sure the “big rocks” are well placed, and then get back to creating great content within the boundaries of your well-planned, strategic editorial calendar.

Remember that content is key. Consumer engagement thrives off of good content and will do wonders for you behind the scenes, while you are putting out those other fires. Make time for blogging. Not at the expense of maintaining a superior client relationship, but a top priority. If you do get sidetracked, be forgiving and get back on board. Keep up the great work! You can do this!

Amazing or Authentic? Listening to Echoes and Stirrings

There is such a difference between writing what you know and knowing what you write, isn’t there?

I mean, everyone says, “Write what you know”. I think we all agree and I have certainly always strived to follow this magnanimous rule, cursing myself silently when I wandered too far into the side lane of the “mastery highway”.

But, I never considered how different that is from “knowing” what I write. A sense of acute self-awareness. Well, something sort of clicked over in me unexpectedly last night. In the wee hours, when I am usually most productive, I felt restless and uneasy. My words didn’t flow the way they usually do when the keyboard and I connect. It wasn’t writer’s block. It was more. A deep need and longing to listen to the stirrings of my soul and spirit. “Ok. I could do that”, I said aloud to only my self.

I began to listen to what my self had to offer up,  in a very patient and still sort of way. I heard an authoritative cry of “Deeper!” from somewhere down inside and obliged, despite.the urge to laugh at myself and turn on the television.

“Deeper!”, came the insistent command again. “Okay, okay”, I said, still aloud, deliberately strengthening my resolve to block out my new ideas, those chain reactions that are always tumbling around inside me, as if desperate to get out and be free.

As I waited motionlessly, curious about what I assumed must be some great and powerful revelation, I realized that I was indeed quite thirsty for what would and could surely quench my parched and patched up being–body, mind and soul. It never occurred to me that I might not like what I had to say. Or that the experience would be more of a chastisement, than lauding of praise. In a nutshell, I never thought I would be overcome by probing, gutteral feelings of being utterly worthless and useless, stemming from the authentic voice inside me. {Think less “scene in the second Matrix movie when the probes find Jada Pinkett Smith’s ship and begin to rip it apart” and more “taking the red pill from Morpheus in the first movie”.}

No, it never occurred to me. But nonetheless, my core was truly shaken with the internal advertisement of my imperfections and flaws as both a person and a writer. Don’t be alarmed that I’ve given in to low self-esteem! This internal guide, it wasn’t those self-defeating thoughts of doubt and failure, that whisper sweet nothings in our ear to sway us from the course that I was accepting as sweet nuggets of truth. As much as it could be, it was a loving and real experience, a “rebuke like oil on my head.”

You may wonder how I responded or maybe more why I am sharing this intensely personal experience?

Well, I began to weep bitterly, not out of defeat or sadness, but at the true knowledge of my total ignorance. I knew at that moment that I couldn’t be content to just “write about what [I] knew”, because I was realizing how little that actually was in the grand scheme of things. {And I suspect we are very similar in this way, but too terrified to let it show in front of  others.} Believe me, writing these words now is an exercise of faith, for sure.

I felt confident that on this journey I travel, I should constantly question if I am being my authentic self. Not “self” in the sense of stingy and sinful, but “self” in the sense of my true identity. {Of course, that opens a whole new topic of questioning who one truly is and what defines oneself, but not right now. Stay with me.} I share this pretty personal moment because I know how personal writing is and rightly should be. If you aren’t being personal, you probably aren’t being read, right? Call me crazy, but I think someone out there can relate.

So, here I am, on the other side of my shot-in- the-arm session. A little wondrous, a bit cautious, but altogether better for it and ready to keep writing but with renewed depth. I believe that we don’t always have to write “amazing” content, but it should be authentic. I commit to remind myself that I should always be digger “deeper”, not just relying on my ability as a wordsmith to get me by, and then consider that “my best”.

Even if you don’t write, I hope that this lesson I’ve encountered will be of some worth to you. I believe in this age of digital everything, we are spoonfed so often that we forget to eat for ourselves. I wonder what your authentic self has to say and what it will prompt you to engage in your life. If you are brave enough, maybe you will share with the rest of us?

You are reading , Amazing or Authentic? Listening to Echoes and Stirrings originally posted on PollySentrick. If you’ve enjoyed this post, join us and check out PollySentrick on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest.

Go! Be A Mentor, Drive Results and Become A Leader

It’s February 13, the day before Valentine’s Day and each year, I celebrate this day with a heart-shaped cake and the singing of a traditional song.

Noooo….It’s not because I celebrate Valentine’s Day-Eve, its because I celebrate a birthday! My mother’s!! So, I thought it only appropriate that she be the inspiration for my post today.

So, how does this relate to digital marketing or business? Well, having a mother is one of the things that links all of humankind. Both literally and theoretically, we were all brought forth from someone else. To enter adulthood, we needed a helping hand, a guiding light and a nurturing source. I am amazingly blessed to have The Saint of all saints for a mother and consider it a true privilege to have had a powerful source of inspiration that taught me to go hungrily after my passions and never see the impossible. Furthermore, as a teacher by nature and trade, she always stressed the importance of sharing knowledge and joyfully helping others.

Authentic-Leadership

As I age, I notice, both personally and professionally, the disparity amongst younger folks these days, who, at alarming rates, tend to lack well-defined skill sets, social graces, interpersonal skills and the strong sense of integrity that I assumed came with the territory of adulthood. I fully embrace the diversity of our world and revel in the strength it brings us as a nation of people. But from a business perspective, it’s disconcerting that our churn is so significant that we would consider it a waste of time to simply interact. I find it appalling that we don’t reach out and build better relationships, but deliberately isolate these individuals, invisibly marking them as easy prey in our respective, competitive campaigns for personal success and glory.

One of the great travesties that I see in today’s workplace is the lack of a guiding figure that plays an integral role in one’s professional and personal development. A mentor.

Let me be clear- I’m describing a formal relationship that both parties enter with the shared goal of a long-term,close interaction. I’m not talking about just a boss, a trainer or a co-worker. While a mentor can certainly hold one of those titles and all of those roles carry great influence, I’m referring specifically to one who plays a sacred role in the life of a young{ish} professional.Mentor-Diagram

I heard once that we should always eagerly seek out a leader we admire with the intent of one day being able to take his/her place. I would like to add that maybe this should be viewed with a different lens.

Ambition is great and absolutely vital to survival in our dog-eat-dog world. But instead of planning a subtly, hostile takeover of our senior executives, should we not be focusing our attentions elsewhere? Who we will bring along with us? Who we will commit to truly nurture and guide this year? Who will we actively develop for success in life in general and not just to successfully maintain our legacy?

These are not popular ideas because they require an investment of Time and of Self. But, the ROI {return on investment} ! If we spent an hour developing an employee instead of cleaning up his mess, we would reap long term, sustainable results.

Nobody goes to work and says “I want to do a really awful job today”. But, it happens {too many times} when fresh talent bounds through the door, eager to absorb, digest and contribute, but then is left hanging out to dry; making their own way down a thorny path. I contend that this is a true waste of resources and senior level managers should proactively engage their teams to seek out a mentor, if no one is knocking on the door. Enable them to find a good fit! Facilitate a valuable introduction! 

A leader never has to tell others to follow…they just do. If we each focused on what positive change we can affect in our respective worlds by mentoring another, our workplaces would overflow with increased productivity, fresh ideas, increased value adds and eventually streams of revenue. And we would become leaders…by default.

I encourage you to be enriched by sharing experiences with another and to reach out to share your best practices with someone today. Don’t put this off. Even a small effort can have a ripple effect. Regardless of your industry, it can be a rewarding experience to impact the career of another. {Chances are that you will even be recognized by your seniors as the go-to guy for employee engagement and be promoted.}

With that, I have a heart-shaped cake to eat and a song to sing. Happy Birthday, Mama!

 Did a mentor play a role in your professional development. How do you engage with younger professionals to share your best practices? Leave a comment with your experiences as a mentor or mentee.

You are reading , Go! Be A Mentor, Drive Results and Become A Leader originally posted on PollySentrick. If you’ve enjoyed this post, join us and check out PollySentrick on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest.

Sources

Authentic-Leadership. Digital image. Http://smartwomensmoney.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.

Mentor-Diagram. Digital image. Http://happygolegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Mentor-Diagram.jpg. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.

 

Social Media in the Time of Cholera

Last year saw the resurgence of an old foe of humankind – the deadly disease, Cholera. In December 2010, the AFP reported that the cholera toll in Haiti reached over 2500 affected individuals.  The United Nations continues to seek the cause of the deadly epidemic while angry riots broke out in the streets of Port-au-Prince.Cholera? The first thing that comes to mind is Oprah’s Book Club choice, Love in the Time of Cholera. Great read. But, cholera? Really?

I cannot help but feel isolated and out of touch with reality when news of this magnitude reaches me. It feels trite to say that I hope this catastrophe will be eradicated in the very near future. The news has prompted me to take a fresh look at myself and my connection with the world around me.

Using Social Media Channels like Twitter

As we all start fresh this year, with resolve to make positive changes in our lives and the world, I ask myself what behaviors I should adopt. I feel trite, considering the unrest around the world and question my relevance.  Specifically, in writing an article about Social Media while real and significant challenges are being presented globally.  But, today I relish the thought that I am connected by virtual superhighways to every corner of the globe. I  have the perfect conduit to develop a personal and business brand and publish my thoughts to the ENTIRE WORLD! {Okay, at least to those who will listen}. Talk about a soapbox.

So, what is the most effective way to use social media? And how can I stay relevant in an arena that is constantly changing, especially when there is real and significant stuff going on in the world around me? I’m going to pull a Scarlett O’Hara and tackle each of these questions later this week. Honestly, it needs more thought. Today, I want to focus on the establishment of trust and genuine authority.

1. Being “real”

Any of us who have a real following on any social media channel know that transparency and being “real” are the most important aspects of developing digital relationships. If we to continue to make real and lasting relationships through the phenomenon of social media, we ultimately, increase our sphere of influence. If “being real” means dropping WTFs or posting racy pictures, don’t be real. Be someone else.

However, I do believe that a genuine interest in both your topics and your online audience translate into a clear picture of who you are and why you are interesting. I am not as intrigued by 25-ways-to-do-this or 7-ways-to-do that as I am to a quirky, attention-grabbing tweet that shows a personality.

Do I blog these types of articles? Yes. *Sigh* But, only because copy writing and article writing is an important part of my business. And even if it feels contrived, numbered articles are a proven way of catching attention to get my message out. Blogging is the reason you are here now, n’est ce pas?

2. Replying directly on Twitter

Plenty of well-respected “Tweeters” advise to send scheduled thank you messages after you are followed for the first time by a new user. I wholeheartedly agree that a response is vital. But, to schedule or not to schedule? That is the question. I am most likely to follow an online personality who a) responds to me and b) responds quickly. This shows genuine expressed interest in ME and is a good indicator that this person/brand may have something worthwhile to say. Scheduling feels very impersonal to me. But, I see the benefit in ensuring that each new follower gets a quick message. I fall back to the “quality, not quantity” meme. It takes more time, true, but if I’m spending significant time direct messaging folks in Twitter, it’s pretty obvious that I have developed a genuine online relationship with that individual. This may mean that I don’t have thousands of followers, but that’s okay if I have developed quality relationships with those that do follow me. Sometimes we forget that our ultimate goal is to drive consumer engagement. You can’t do a better job of engaging a potential client than engaging a client.

3.  Investing in your “online” relationships

There is vast difference between “Tweeters” and “Facebookers”. At times, I almost feel a welcome relief, like I’m coming back home when I log into my Facebook account. I can ask about birthdays, follow up on important events, see pictures and “like” what my “friends” are up to. This builds an incredible loyalty all of it’s own. Not that these things can’t be done on Twitter. Some people do it very well. But let’s face it…that 140-word count can take some getting used to.  Either way it’s important to mastering {or at least attempt mastery, in my case} of several digital streams and always continue to seek out better ways to build strong online relationships. Joining online twitter chats like #blogchat is a great way to meet other bloggers whether you are new to the game or a veteran player. Just remember that paying it forward is the best way to foster goodwill and getting some of the feedback that you are seeking.

Effectively leveraging social media can be a daunting task. There are volumes of information with tutorials, and they can be overwhelming. If you are like me, by the time you have found an article you would like to read, you have stumbled upon seven more.

So, while the world keeps on spinning and new technology makes our favorite social media channels bigger and better, my fingers keep on typing. Sometimes with abbreviated number-words and #hashtag and sometimes with a complete sentence and good ole’ fashioned punctuation. Building relationships is one of the greatest joys of this job and keeps me coming back for me. Join me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest and let’s invest in each other.

Finally, if you haven’t already forgotten about my opening paragraph, very cliche, blog title and the awkward transition between the two, then I invite you to donate to the victims of the cholera outbreak in Haiti. Dozens of charities have activated plans to provide supplies and medical attention to the devastated population. You can retweet this or share it on Facebook.

You are reading , Social Media in the Time of Cholera posted on PollySentrick. If you’ve enjoyed this post, join us and check out PollySentrick on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest.

 Originally Posted: 03 Jan 2011 12:26 AM PST by Polly Sentrick for Pandora Project Marketing, LLC.

 

What the What? 4 Super Obvious Tips to Battling Writer’s Block

Battling Writer's Block

The web has made writers out of all of us. Whether I’m posting a birthday haiku on a friend’s Facebook page,  commenting on the newest app via Twitter or habitually article writing for my business, I am more aware each day that my words are my craft. Honestly, there is nothing that makes me happier. Until “The Dreadful” happens…that is.

You know what I’m talking about. DUM, DUM, DUM! Writer’s Block. {Enter scream of mock horror}.

Last week, it happened to me. There is nothing worse that wanting so badly to be productive and not being able to do so.  Experts agree that this hellish phenomenon is simply the anxious mind shutting down.

The omniscient and always reliable {sarcasm} Wiki says,

“Writer’s block is a condition, associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some “blocked” writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers. It can manifest as the affected writer viewing their work as inferior or unsuitable, when in fact it could be the opposite.”

Um, YEARS?!? Okay, so before I fall off the cliffs of insanity and “abandon my career”, let’s take a practical approach here. Sheesh!

As I was struggling with a particularly bad case of writer’s block last week, I noticed that I followed a few super simple key principles to drag myself out of it. These writing tips are very obvious {as my snarky title implies} because they are nothing new. Sometimes, we just need to keep it simple.

Battling Writer's Block

1. Get out of your head & deny the anxiety.

Many times, I’ve fallen back on warm-up exercises from my college writing class. Back then, I was grabbing my favorite pen and homemade journal and letting anything that came into my mind pour out onto the paper.  These days as a copywriter, the quiet clicking on a keyboard brings similar relief as I let my fingers do the talking. In fact, during my uncomfortable moment last week, I even jotted down the title of this article…”Battling Writers Block.”  While this technique is especially liberating for creative writing, this exercise is also a surefire tool in prepping for research and analytic writing. Your brain is a muscle after all. So, warm it up! Try not to think “What can I write about…?”, but instead follow the lead of your inner dialogue. Let go of the reins and step out of your comfy little zone. The fancy name for this is a “free associative exercise“.

2. Write ahead and schedule your posts.

All the preparation in the world doesn’t matter if you find yourself stuck in the writer’s block quagmire. I try to recognize when I’m in a particularly productive mode and make the most out it. By maximizing my “peak’ hours, I work smarter, not harder. Sometimes, this means writing four half-articles with huge gaping holes that need polishing later. But, even if I don’t finish my article, a good start will be a heaven-sent blessing at a more sluggish time later. Using a good interactive calendar and post scheduler like Hootsuite can also been very helpful in your article writing endeavors. I recently discovered the “Auto Schedule” function in Hootsuite and it has taken some of the guesswork out of strategic scheduling.

3. Keep a list of brainstorming ideas.

The topic list is a writer’s most sacred text. Hold it close. Value and treasure it. Add to it with the fervor and reverence of a patriotic revolutionary. This is your craft, your livelihood, your handiwork. Don’t be afraid of fragmented ideas and definitely don’t forget that there are no stupid ideas, only underdeveloped ideas. A good time to add to this list for me is during those “peak hours”  I mentioned in point #2.  Try a mobile app like ColorNote for Android or Apple’s Note Plus for iPhone and iPad users. If you need more space, use a whiteboard and some colorful markers to get your creative juices flowing. The key is to a) keep this list and b) refer to it.

4. Get a Fresh Perspective

Writing is an expression of your thoughts, perspectives and opinions – a culmination of YOU, with a particular message to share. If you find yourself  in a writer’s block funk, try to break up the routine by doing something good for the soul like chatting with a fellow blogger, listening to good music or getting outside. Chances are, once you encounter a new thought or idea, your mind will be dying to digest the information and add your own spin through your copywriting. Reading and researching is also a never-fail solution for me. My Google Reader has been a life-preserver during particularly agonizing periods of  writer’s block.

Do you have have a recommendation on how to beat the writing blues? What is the longest period of writer’s block that you have battled?

This article was orginally posted: 31 Dec 2010 12:21 AM PST by PollySentrick for Pandora Project Marketing, LLC.

You are reading , What the What? 4 Super Obvious Tips to Battling Writer’s Block originally posted on PollySentrick. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please be sure to follow PollySentrick on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest.