First impressions in the digital age

I am old enough to remember what it was like before the Internet. I interviewed in person for all of the jobs I wanted. As a freelancer, I have clients I have never met in person and some who have actually flown me to their city to work onsite. Almost all of the clients that hire me have never met me in person.

Recently, I have applied for gigs that I seem made to do.  I have extensive experience in the industry. I have great clips that pertain to the industry. Yet, I am either rejected or I never hear from the potential client.

I honestly think sometimes that if they only met they would know how fabulous I was and hire me on the spot! I have the talent (you have to be confident to be a writer because you deal with daily rejection). Am I not making a good impression?  So how do you make a good first impression when you don’t meet face-to-face?

You can find a lot of information online  about pitching clients. I am a firm believer that one size does not fit all and what works for you may not work for me. But I think we can all agree on a few basic tenets that make a good impression.

  1. Don’t have spelling errors or grammatical errors, especially if you are a client pitching clients. I have a tendency to want to get things done fast. But if you take just a few minutes to read over that pitch you will likely find an error or two.
  2. If you are sending the same pitch to several clients (which I don’t recommend but hey, we all have  to save time),  make sure you change the address line. You are guaranteed to make a bad impression if you send the email to different client, especially if it is a competitor.
  3. Tailor each pitch or email to the client. It takes just a few minutes to peruse a website to get to know what the client is about. You may also get some ideas of how you can better direct your pitch based on their needs.
  4. I have read a lot of debate about when and should you follow up after you have sent a pitch. I will be honest. I don’t always follow up. Sometimes I look back on my pitch and I don’t think it was very good. Or I may not think the lead is very hot. My follow up is also determined by how busy I am and if I have developed hotter leads. This leads me to my final piece of advice.
  5. No matter what your niche or talent, there are thousands of businesses that you can pitch. Make sure you keep some sort of record on who you pitch. Some people use spreadsheets and some simply keep up with their pitches and follow up in a notebook (my method).

As I said earlier, one size does not always fit all. You can find a lot of amazing resources online. Develop a plan that works for you and success will follow!




A little rant about plagiarism

I went on a little rant on my personal Facebook page last night after I watched so many people downplay the accusation that Melania Trump may have copied part of her speech from an address by Michelle Obama in 2008. This post, like my other one, is not about politics. I will never post my political views here. It’s about a subject that angers every legitimate journalist and writer that has their work stolen by someone else.

As I said in my original post, if I were selling cars and someone stole one from me people would not even question that it was a theft. But if you copy someone else’s words or ideas some people seem to think that is okay.

Most writers and communicators have a plagiarism detector we use. Before I send copy to a client, I run it through a program then I send a screen shot of the report with my copy.  I pay less than $15 a year for a plagiarism detector. And there are many programs  you can use that are free!

But here’s a simple rule to avoid being accused of ripping off your copy. If you use someone else’s work, give them credit! I have no problem with people who use my work as long as they acknowledge me or my organization as the source.

I agree with some of the pundits who say that some of the things said in the speech are commonly said by many people. In 2010, I wrote a sentence for an article only to discover I had written the same sentence in 2007 for a different client. I ended up rewriting the article even though I had plagiarized myself.

Having your work ripped off by someone who is just cutting and pasting is very frustrating. One day I watched a colleague work for nearly an hour on a graphic for a story that was posted online. I put an invisible watermark on the photo. Sure enough, I was alerted another news site had used our graphic and the story on their site without giving us credit.

The media and all communicators offline and online have a big responsibility and as a 26-year veteran, I still take it seriously. I understand mistakes are made at times but own your mistakes and put safeguards in place to make sure they don’t happen again.

Shamelessly starting over–again

I told you when I started this blog that I have been out of the freelance writing business for a few years. I did about a dozen projects or so during my hiatus but those were mostly referrals and I was not looking for that work.  I am back for several reasons. The less sexy one is we are saving and paying off bills to purchase a house. But the other reason is I do love it–even when it is hard.

I was going to tell you about a new app I started using but that can wait. I am going to do some shameless self promotion. I will use bullet points because to tell you about my skills just because I like bullet points.

  • Press releases and publicity. This is probably some of my favorite work. I have been a journalist for a very long time and I will be honest, most press releases go in the trash. That’s why I work hard to write an exciting press release that may capture an editor’s eye. But writing the press release is not the only part of publicity. You have  to follow-up and pitch that story idea to the editors. I have pitched a lot of stuff from murder mystery dinner shows to face cream to my favorite, nonprofits.
  • Newspaper/magazine articles. These are not blogs or SEO articles. These are pieces where I do interviews, research and a lot of rewriting. I have written for trade publications, newspapers, radio, television and magazines. I love learning new things and meeting people.
  • SEO articles.  When I started freelancing over a decade ago, I had to adjust to using keywords in online writing. Back then clients wanted you to stuff as many keywords as you could into the copy and some of those words did not make sense. Coming from a newspaper background at the time, it was very frustrating that the keywords were more important than the quality of the content. Google and other search engines have changed their algorithms and now keyword stuffing is often penalized. I don’t do as many of these types of articles now.
  • Blogs: Businesses from attorneys to stores to even your local beauty shop often have blogs. Often business owners lose interest and the blog is dormant for months, sometimes years. I help businesses keep their blogs alive. I specialize in law firms and employment agencies.
  • Social media marketing: When I started freelancing, Facebook had another name and no one was tweeting yet. Now we are instagramming and snap chatting our hearts out. I love doing posts and social media management. But it means I also read a lot of websites and take at least two online classes a month to stay up to date on what the latest trend is.
  • Voice overs. I am an award-winning broadcaster and from time to time I do some voice over work.

So do I have room in my schedule to help you or someone you know? Right now, yes. But like all smart freelance writers I make sure I am continually marketing myself and I do have a lot of queries and proposals out there. If you have a need, drop me a line and let’s talk about how I can help you.

And stay tuned later this week for a blog on a fun app I found that may help your business.


Do you understand native advertising?

As I have said before, it’s been nearly three years since I have been actively involved in online marketing, content writing and publicity. This industry is always changing so I have been taking a lot of online classes and reading a lot.

In the three years that I have been away from this industry, native advertising has grown. An article in Business Insider last month indicates that 74 percent of add revenue by 2021. That number should alarm those still clinging to traditional advertising models.

Unless you are in the business you may not know what native advertising is. Many people in the industry are often unclear and sometimes confuse it with content marketing. Readers may not know it is actually advertising because it is formatted like the site on which it appears. Let me break it down simply:

  • Have you ever seen a sponsored post or tweet in your social media feed? That’s native advertising.
  • Have you ever seen suggested content when visiting a traditional news site such as CNN? That’s native advertising.
  • Some native advertising is easier to spot. It is labeled “sponsored content.”

Native advertising works like the advertorials you may still see in some local newspapers. It looks like a real news story but it’s just there to promote a company or product.

This type of advertising does work, even on “professionals” like me who think they are smart enough to spot a sales pitch. Just this morning while reading my Facebook feed I drifted off into some sponsored content out of my curiosity about the actors in some of the high profile commercials.

Traditional media sources such as newspapers, radio and television stations have websites and are using this type of advertising as well. The use by consumers of mobile phones and computers for their content is what is driving the native advertising trend.

Have you clicked noticed native advertising and clicked on it lately?