Do you want to eat carrots ALL of your life? Diversify your marketing plan.

Marketing is challenging and sometimes what works for one client won’t work for others. But there are some truths. I know that unless you plan and set goals, you are like an exercise bike—you are pedaling hard but getting nowhere. And I know that a marketing or publicity campaign is not ‘one size fits all.’ It’s especially true for social media. The public may grow tired of one social media platform and all of the dollars a company has invested in that platform may be useless after a while. Facebook’s announcement that it was changing what we see in our news feeds is one example. Companies who placed an emphasis on Facebook are now worried their ads will not be seen.

Full disclosure—I have run campaigns that were only on Facebook or a couple of social media platforms that were pretty successful at the time. But those decisions were largely based on the client’s preference and not my recommendations. My recommendation is to always have a healthy menu that has a variety of “dishes.” Carrots are great and very healthy, but is that the only thing you want to eat for a long period of time? Don’t you want a little steak?

How do you start? First, make sure you know your customers and know where they are consuming their information. For some of them, social media is the “meat and potatoes” of their existence. Depending on your demographics, you may have some “old school” customers who still get their information mainly from newspapers. Determining where your customers get their information may take trial and error but it is an important part of your plan.

Once you know where you want to spend your dollars, determine your budget. It’s okay to spend 2/3 of your marketing budget in one place if you can reach most of your customers there. But never spend 100% on any one platform. I plan a marketing budget similar to the plate method dieticians use when helping you develop a healthy diet. One half should be your protein—the marketing tool that works best for you. It can be social media ads or a billboard. The other half of your plate should be split between two other nutritional items or platforms that have some return. These platforms may only give you a few responses but those responses turn into customers. Or it could be platforms with a high response rate but a low ROI. Again, you determine what works for you.

If you want, you can leave room for dessert. This could be a platform you like but doesn’t give you any results. A good example is an advertisement you take out in your local newspaper only because your cousin is the salesperson. You may not get any response but you like your cousin.

I also make sure I have enough set aside for “snacks.” From a marketing standpoint, these are platforms I may want to sample every once in a while. Even though many people think print media is dead, I am seeing several new glossy publications in the area where I live. I would not recommend purchasing a long-term contract, but at least give it three months. You need to give people an opportunity to see the ad several times. “Snacks” are also opportunities for you to try some new ‘foods.” Maybe you have seen ad on your local cable station and you have been considering it. Go ahead! Give it a try.

So why should you try different marketing methods? First, as I mentioned, you need to find out what works best to maximize your ROI. And in some cases, you want to keep goodwill with your resources, like a local magazine or TV station.

I have only mentioned a few marketing opportunities here but you have hundreds you can try. So sit down at the table and create your marketing plan.

 

 

 

 

 

How mindfulness can sharpen creativity

mindfullnewssThis post was written by Lee Webb.  

According to The Merriam-Webster dictionary, mindfulness is “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis…” The way I view it, mindfulness can be as simple as paying more attention. It’s this idea that taking time to better sense the world leads to a better appreciation for it and a more positive outlook on life. The concept of mindfulness also proves extremely useful for creatives. Whether you write words, mix sounds, capture photos, or do anything that involves making something new, allowing yourself to be more mindful has the same benefits. Taking the extra moments to process affords you a deeper understanding of the object of your art.

Say a small town journalist named Pam has been assigned an article on local luxury home. Pam can interview top designers and high-class residents. She can photograph and examine the diverse angular features and stylistic preferences of many. But, Pam has a deeper technique in mind for producing this article. She takes time to stop and pay attention to what she feels when she steps into a room. She notices the way the light seeps in and how the smells seem to transport her to another time. She takes the time to search her emotions and notice how the various environments affect her thoughts. This is mindfulness at its finest.

All this uniquely personal information transforms Pam’s somewhat basic assignment into something much more connected and real. It makes her work something special that stands apart from the cold, only-technical work of her peers. She has created something that her readers will not only be informed by but feel connected to on a deeper level. Years down the road, Pam may be an award-winning writer for the New York Times with an enormous, loyal following.

Mindfulness can seem like some sort of hipster joo-joo at first, but it’s actually so simple and easy that it seems foolish to ignore the benefits. Being sharply aware of the world around you has a way of deepening the already infinite creative well inside, allowing us to transform simple things into art that is layered, unique, and unforgettable.

The post I didn’t think I would write

I am not a New Year’s resolution kind of person. I start every day, every week and every month fresh. Sometimes I even start over in the middle of a day. I always hated writing those year-end and looking ahead stories when I was in print media.

And I can’t believe I am writing this now.

But 2017 was another year of change and to some degree loss. After losing my parents, mother-in-law and some dear friends in 2016, I was hopeful for a better year. I was sputtering along the first three months knowing I was not happy and questioning  my career goals. I was talking to my husband one day and I told him I was willing to go wherever God led me. I just wanted an answer.

The very next day I was laid off from my job.  I began planning my future on the drive home. In the weeks that followed, I looked for full-time jobs but I knew that wasn’t what I was supposed to do. I wanted to freelance, do exciting projects and work with clients from all over the world. The past nine months have been some of the happiest for me. I have had my ups and downs. But it’s been a blessing and so rewarding.

I love unlimited in my work.  To Al Gore or whoever created this Internet thing, thank you.  I have worked with clients from all over the United States and in several countries. I have written about everything from state lemon laws, self-driving cars, the telecom industry, SaaS, balsamic vinegar, apple growing and a lot of things I am sure I am forgetting. I thought I wanted to do some event planning but after about 42 of them, I hung that up. I learned what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is, what the Dodd-Frank Act is, and what a fintech is. Every day is fun and exciting and I don’t have to shower, do my hair or even change out of my pajamas. (I do shower daily but sometimes I just put on another pair of pjs if I am busy.) I have met so many great people virtually and a few of them in person. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this crazy ride this year.

I am so excited for next year as I already have some fun new projects for January as I continue some current ones. I believe it’s all because of the prayer I said in March. I don’t mean to get mushy but it helps to have support in life and I have the best in my husband, Steve, and son, Lee who are there for me daily. And thanks to anyone reading this, especially if you got this far and for supporting me.

Here’s to a great 2018 for all of us!

 

 

 

 

The media today: How did we get here?

Fake news is a term that is tossed around a lot in this culture. A few weeks ago I spent 30 minutes explaining to a client with a much higher pay grade than me the difference between a New York Times editorial and a story. Social media should be easy but I have to explain to clients why I won’t use content that appears to be copied or not verified. And since anyone can buy a domain name these days and call themselves a news organization, I have to advise my clients to also scrutinize the media source. Yeah, you don’t have to have any kind of license or experience to call yourself media. I stick to accredited sources when curating content. I really don’t use the word “fake” but it is implied. I thought my strong stances would hurt my reputation but I have found the opposite is true.

I think media is in this place for four key reasons (remember, this is my opinion):

  1. A news organization should never label itself conservative or liberal. I was taught news is objective. I had to interview plenty of people whose views who made me sick while I was a reporter but it was important to tell all sides of the story. I was taught to keep my personal feelings out of it. But now that we have created Fox News and MSNBC, how do we go back? And does anyone want a truly objective media anymore?
  2. The media has not done a good enough job of protecting its turf. I cringe when I see legitimate news sources linking to wannabe sites. I understand it though because newsrooms have been cut dramatically and it’s hard to cover the news without working 18 hours a day. I don’t know the answer but we shouldn’t have gotten to this place. The wannabe sites that are in almost every city in the country now have done more damage to news credibility than some of the sites that spread celebrity death hoaxes and other clickbait content. Come on! How many times can we kill Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman?
  3. The public cannot distinguish fake and real news sites and it seems they don’t care at times. The general public often does not understand that some “news sources” have no professional training, no experience and in some cases, no ethics.
  4. The public is sometimes confused between editorial and news. It’s easy to mock them for not knowing but the media need to do a better job of explaining it sometimes.

Finally, how do we educate a public that sometimes doesn’t care about the truth and quality journalism? For me, I just do it one person at a time.

 

The “gig” economy (and why it’s a good thing)

Note: I asked my 16-year-old son to write about the “gig economy.” This is his view of it with just a few edits from me. Let me know what you think.

Stable salary, health-care benefits, steady hours — these are the things that might come to mind when you think of jobs that are largely considered desirable. But all these things come with a price some aren’t willing to pay: repetitiveness, little opportunity for advancement, and short, scarce vacations, among other things. However, there is another option outside of a traditional workspace.

Many people work outside of the organized system, and they’re all the better off for it. A wedding planner, for example, chooses what events they organize, how much they will be paid, and when their hours of client service will be. These same freedoms are afforded by freelance writers, photographers, and anyone who chooses to take “gigs” as they see fit, for prices they see as fitting.

This idea may seem scary. It may seem to threaten the very foundation of the American workplace. But it has enormous benefits for all of us. Freelance workers have much more freedom than those who work for an employer, and that tends to magnify their skills. Because they have no one to look up to — no one to rescue them if they get into a bind — they tend to work harder, and with more passion for the life they’re pursuing.

Ambition is the driving force behind so much of the progress we see in this modern day. People with original ideas, who choose to work on their own accord and not under another’s thumb, have brought us many of the products we use every day. If it weren’t for these brave people, you’d be hard-pressed to find top-notch creative minds. Organized corporate jobs can be stifling.  Freelancers are not only defying tradition, but they are paving the way for those who feel too constricted by workplace structure to pursue the ideas that may very well be the next big thing.

However, there are many challenges in working for oneself, and health-care comes in high on the list. It’s expensive. Outrageously expensive. You pay your own taxes and Social Security and file quarterly.

There’s also the aspect of loneliness associated with this workspace. The self-employed often have no co-workers. Their only regular human interaction would be with clients, and those they spend their free time with if they have any to spare. However, organizations such as collectives and networks can help these people communicate with and work alongside others like them.

Yes, the “gig” economy may seem like a threat to traditional jobs. But, traditional jobs are not for everyone. Freelance workers are facing the challenges of expensive health-care and questionable stability to bring upon us a more innovative and passionate America. They are bringing us the America of tomorrow.

 

Afternoon productivity hacks for morning people

I am one of those people that wake up every day with my to-do list already written the day before or I have it in my brain. I am great until about 1 p.m, usually after lunch, then the bed in my “office” starts to look very inviting. The problem is I can only do so much from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. I need to work a few hours in the evening or afternoon.

I am not a doctor, psychologist or life coach even though I played a talk show host once at a dinner theater. I learned some productivity hacks by trial and error how to not crash after lunch and actually get things done—like my blog posts for my sites!

  • Watch your diet. It’s just science that a heavy lunch will cause you to be sluggish, especially if you suffer from a chronic disease like diabetes. Try a lower carb option like a salad instead of that all-you-can Chinese buffet. Some people eat a large breakfast and skip lunch, something that has actually worked for me.
  • Watch your caffeine. I get up at 5:30 every day. Most days, I only drink a caffeinated drink at this point of my day. Then…
  • Drink more water. It’s easier than you think to get dehydrated, trust me. And I always just feel better when I drink more water.
  • Do “administrative” or non-creative task in the early afternoon. I find it easier to muddle through tasks such as answering emails or planning social media campaigns when I am sluggish than trying to write an article or blog.
  • Take a break.  I am lucky to be self-employed and be able to make my own schedule. A couple of days a week my schedule may look like 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. than 3 p.m. until I am finished.

Are you a morning person or a night owl? How do you remain productive no matter what time of day it is?

 

 

 

This school of life

I loved school. All of it. Even the draining term papers on some random moment in history and the calculus I don’t really understand even now. My recent work has been a re-education of sorts for me. I am lucky to have worked on a variety of projects and realize that I need to read more! Understand, I am not stupid. I just spent many years in the daily news grind. Once you write the arrest report, cover a county commission meeting and write a story about the latest charity event, the last thing you want to do when you get home is think. Here a few of my recent subjects.

  • My first big challenge was an assignment that included a referent to IoT. I had to look it up and I learned the Internet of Things applies to every industry differently.  I haven’t found a way to drop it into a conversation yet, but I will.
  • I have written for the financial sector before but now I am deep into it daily. I apparently missed the news stories about the Dood-Frank Act but I am on top of the Financial Choice Act. What is happening in Congress is very interesting right now.
  • Did you know that gun holsters can save an officer’s life? Safety companies can rate a holster’s “retention,” or the amount of time it takes for an officer to get the gun out of the holster. Those few seconds can save an officers life.
  • Some of the permafrost in Siberia is beginning to thaw. This can be big trouble for a country that’s infrastructure is built on the frozen tundra.

I wake up excited every day about what I will learn next. For me, this is the life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Atlanta Braves, birds and other distractions

I am not a fan of summer’s hot temperatures but summer does mean baseball. But baseball also means I get distracted looking up the starting pitchers for the Atlanta Braves or the latest stats on Freddie Freeman.

Honestly, baseball is not my only distraction. And let’s be honest. We all lose focus occasionally (or once a day). Nearly everyone gets drawn into social media. Oh, and don’t forget the email panic where you check every 15 minutes just in case you have a note from a potential client.

But those are not even my biggest distractions. I do a lot of research. Let’s say I am researching bird of North America. I see that a bird is a native of a place I have thought would be a great spot for a vacation. My bird research leads to more personal research about a vacation destination. I waste 15 minutes before I snap back to reality. But hey, I am great at trivia!

So how do you overcome it? The truth is, you may never have a day when you are not distracted at least once or twice. But I have found some ways that work for me.

  • Work blocks–I have written about this before but it is a part of how I stay focused. I set aside a certain amount of time for each task I do. If I know I must complete a task in an hour, I am less likely to wonder to la-la land for 20 minutes.
  • When I need to be online, I only keep the tabs relevant to what I am working on active. I don’t want to know if an email is coming in or if I have a Facebook notification.
  • I work at home so it’s not just online distractions that can complicate my life. I often turn off my phone or hand it to my husband. I keep the door to my “office” closed for many tasks. I also have my desk facing a window and I have a group of birds and squirrels that love to put on a show for me every day. Sadly, some days I lower the blinds. I also try to limit personal conversations, even with the husband, during the work day.

Finally, if you have been around me you know I am a planner and a list maker. I always try to complete my to-do-list. And I try to reach the weekly goals outlined on my calendars.

This all sounds so easy but it is hard to do. How do you keep yourself from getting distracted?

There’s a site for that

I was living part-time with my parents a few years ago and doing a lot for freelance writing. I am not sure when it started but my once in a while my dad would come into my room and ask me what I was writing about that day. Back in those days, I was doing a lot of work for an agency that handled copy for real estate agents. I wrote community descriptions of places I’ve never been from Florida to Oregon. One day my answer was chickens because I was writing two profiles for a poultry magazine. I also wrote for a magazine about floor coverings–not too surprising since I live just half an hour from the Carpet Capital of the World. These stories were not as exciting as the hundred of crime and legal stories I wrote as a reporter and those are usually the ones I get asked about most often.

Until I started freelancing a dozen years ago I had no idea about the number of trade magazines. Even before the Internet made content king you could find magazines focusing on pizza restaurants, carpet, Christmas tree farms and tree trimming to name a few. Every once in a while one of these magazines contacts me to do an article. I also hear from businesses who want me to write up their announcements or press releases to submit to their trade publications.

This is what I love about my career. I can be writing about anything and interviewing anyone on any given day. And no day is ever the same. This week is a good example as I will be interviewing two attorneys, a chiropractor and a city councilman. You may think your business is too mundane. But trust me, somewhere there is a place for your story.

 

 

 

50 ways to…(well almost)

I was in elementary school when Paul Simon came out with “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” I haven’t counted the number of ways in the song but I don’t think it was 50.

Today, business owners have almost as many ways to tell their story than Paul Simon had to leave his lover (not sure if he left her since they were sleeping on it in the last verse). Let’s just talk about 10.

  1. Your website. This is often the first impression you make on a customer. You can include many story-telling techniques on your site but make sure to include these pages–about, contact, homepage, landing page, etc… and make sure the pages are error free and well written.
  2. Blog. A blog is an easy way to share your uncensored thoughts about your company and industry (hint, you are reading one right now). The blog can help your search engine rankings. If you don’t have one, you can create one right here in WordPress and link it to your website. And if you don’t have a website, you can create one of those right here in WordPress, too.
  3. Press release. Newspapers are not dead and not everything is “fake news.” Your local media is a great partner in telling your story. Some newspapers, like the Kansas City Star, have a separate website for posting press releases. You can also use online distribution sites to reach a wider audience. Some of these do require a fee but some of them are free.
  4. Business announcement. I consider these different from press releases because you are targeting just the business section of a newspaper or magazine. These are sections that are like “Who’s Who in Business.” Do you have a new employee? Have you promoted an employee? Send in an announcement to a magazine or newspaper’s business section. It’s good for employee morale and for public relations.
  5. Case study. How has your company helped one of your customers? Case studies tell the story of how you met a challenge with a winning solution. A case study more than a testimonial–it’s a complete story. Companies post these on their websites and add them to their media kits.
  6. White papers. While case studies focus on a customer/client experience, white papers focus on the benefits of a product for customers. These are longer and are usually just used business to business. White papers require extensive research.
  7. Photographs. You don’t just have to tell your story with words. Instagram, Pinterest and other social media sites allow you to tell your story with pictures and captions.
  8. Videos. Once very expensive to make, prices have decreased for professional videos. If the video is going to be used for a recruitment or sales too, hire someone to produce it.
  9. Infographics. Sites like Canva have made it easy for marketers to produce graphics that are eye-catching. Make sure the infographic tells a story about your business.
  10. Podcasts allow you to listen anywhere–in your car, while working out, etc… If you don’t like your own voice, hire a voice-over professional.

You know you want to tell your story using one or more of these methods but you have no idea where to begin or what may work for you. That’s where I can help. If you have read this far, I will offer a 25 percent discount on my services if you sign before June 15. Click here to set up a free consultation.