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!

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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.

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.

Writing A Blog that Doesn’t Totally Stink

So, you’ve decided to write a blog that doesn’t stink? Let me know how that works out for you. Kidding. That’s great! Congratulations on your exciting new venture!

Now, you just need to get your message out to your audience through one of the many vehicles waiting at your disposal. But wait! If the mere thought of how to do that makes you feel like a plucky, action hero running through dangerous streets with talking trucks trying to save the world from imminent destruction…(DEEP BREATH)…you are not alone.  I feel that way too sometimes and I help build blogs for other people. Just relax, it’s really not as hard as it sounds. Blogging is fun and it can become a way of life that is rewarding and profitable.

You really don’t have to be an expert writer.  So, if there’s nobody around that you can dump it on and you still feel insecure, just dig in and get to work. You’ll get better by osmosis!  Building and managing your brand online through blogging and other social media tools can be a daunting task, but like riding a bike, once you learn how, it’s a snap. The key is to keep pedaling!

Creating your Blogsite

Whether you use WordPress, Blogger or a custom-built blog integrated on your site, think of these programs as your own personal car or truck. It’s not about what everyone else is driving as much as what suits your needs most appropriately. Open several free accounts and find an interface on which you feel you can work comfortably. If you don’t have the time or inclination to do so, have one built.

Like many folks, my first real job in my twenties came along with a new car purchase. Instead of following conventional wisdom, I picked out an overpriced model that carried a payment rivaling my rent. Why? It made me feel good. Consumerism at work! Looking back, and hopefully not so wet-behind-the-ears, my choice was poor and I paid the price. The car was just a way to get where I was going. Your blogsite will be the same. Bottom line…choose function over glamour. Just pick one and get started. Upgrade later when you are a rockstar.

Blogging

Whether you are  maintaining a well-oiled machine or launching your first SMO (Social Media Optimization) campaign now, there is a ton of good information out there to help you get started. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and RSS syndication work for you on a daily basis, with just a little effort on your part. We recommend setting up a reader to help you on your blogging adventures.

But be warned! Don’t just regurgitate the same things you’ve read on other pages. The sharing of ideas is important and the foundation of blogging in the first place, but you should be prepared to absorb your research and produce something new and fresh.

Blogging experts agree that your unique perspective, a way the information can be used for YOUR audience or how you have managed to use best practices to your advantage should be your focus. The point is to BE INSPIRED and not to snatch someone else’s work.  Scott Allen, co-author of The Virtual Handshake and avid blogger puts this pretty eloquently.

Good networking means learning about other people’s business. For those of us who write professionally, our content is our product. Learning about our business means learning how to properly refer people to us, just as it would for anyone else. The simplest solution is to always use an excerpt and a link, never content in its entirety. That will pretty much always constitute fair use, and will always be appreciated by the content creator.

Research and a constant flow of ideas are super important. We use Twitter to follow some great bloggers and learn something new everyday. Use this link to see who we follow.

How to Blog

In his article entitled, Corporate Blogging – Expert Series, Steve Farnsworth says,

“Given a choice between dull and compelling, people gravitate toward compelling. This is why more people watch American Idol that C-SPAN”.

  1. Everyone will tell you to make it personal, add a photo, use your name.  Don’t grab a duck-face shot from your cell phone, but, DO find a picture that shows some personality.I suggest taking a personal inventory of how you want to present yourself and get ready to fall in love with sharing your thoughts and communicating on a regular basis.
  2. Make some notes of what you want to talk about, keeping in mind who is going to read your words.
  3. Be real, pick a schedule and be consistent. You drink your coffee every morning, brush your teeth and check your email… you get the picture. Habits take about three weeks to sink in. So, experiment with times that realistically fit into your schedule and get ready to produce creative and effective content.

Check out  The Social Media Examiner‘s article The Five Pillars of Blogging Success for more good tips.

WHO? and WHAT?

It’s important to know who you are trying to reach and what you have to say.  No one can do a better job of that than YOU!  Lisa Barone of Outspoken Media does an amazing job at this. Her posts are human, funny, real and always feel like a conversation. If you don’t follow her on Twitter already, do so! Reading her blog is easy to read for first timers and veterans and her perspective makes the experience light and enjoyable. Concerning how to communicate your ideas, she recommends,

“Whatever the goal is, keep it in the back of your head while writing. Ideally, you should know approximately how you are going to start the post and how it will eventually sum up. You don’t have to know the actual words or lines you are going to use, just a sense of where it’s going based on the goal you selected.”

What advice would you give to a brand-new baby blogger? What’s the best thing you ever did for your blog? The worst? Let us know in the comments below and give us a chance to check you out!

You are reading , Writing A Blog that Doesn’t Totally Stink  posted on PollySentrick. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please be sure to follow PollySentrick on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest.

This article was originally written and posted: 18 Dec 2010 02:13 PM PST by PollySentrick for Pandora Project Marketing.

Attracting 10 Things I Love, Using The Secret

Grabbing a moment of clarity has never been easy. The challenges to daily reflection multiply like Hydra heads. Just getting up in the morning now feels like a monumental achievement. Is this really what the 30’s brings?

So, this morning, while I’m contemplating my metamorphosis into a cranky old hag, I test the cheese grits to make sure they are ready to serve. Ahhh…bliss! Creamy, comforting, sweet, sweet grits. Nevermind the fact that I’m immediately starting my day off kilter by taking that first bite. (Cause one bite of carbs never stays single for long.) Morning hair and glazed over eyes be damned! These babies just illicited a pure response of LOVE! I see a remnant of last night’s cookie baking, a paper bag, and get inspired to write on it.

About grits? Yes. Grits. Something. …anything…pen to paper…water & air. Argh!

So while my son, dives into his cheesy bowl of goodness,  guiltfree and with reckless abandonment I might add, I hopped onto the stool next to him and started a list. A list of ten things I love. Not the kind of list that you show off, so you list all the things you want your friends and followers to use in defining or branding you, but a true honest to goodness moment of soul glimpsing.

After two entries, I get proud of myself and start making a list of all the other lists I could make. Things that make me happy, things I hate, things I want…but wait im already missing the point. I stop and allow my son to jot down the beginning of a list of every 2013 video game and admonish him and myself to stop. Take a breath. Answer really truthfully. What do I love, love, love?  What do I want to attract more of in my life?

I realize that more than just being a good chance to practice discipline in writing daily,   this is an exercise in faith. My list of “hate” and “want” would surely fill up that lunch bag and then whatever else I could get my hands on. But focusing on love, what I love, not only brings me back to a place of gratitude,  but reminds me to reset my priorities and expectations for this day and for life.

My world can be a hell bound hand basket or a bowl of creamy grits. Only I can choose to acknowledge my ability to attract or put more of these listed things in my life. No one can tell me to do that and turn it into a real desire at that moment. It has to bubble up from within. Maybe due to being at a boiling point elsewhere in my life or just because its time to move on to the next step in the creative process. Baby steps. Grabbing the moment when it presents itself will be my salvation. At least until I figure out how to conjure up more existentialism at the stove.

image

Paper bag scribblings

You are reading, Attracting 10 Things I Love  originally posted on PollySentrick.  If you’ve enjoyed this post, please be sure to follow PollySentrick on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest.