Why I Will Never Stop Blogging

Alltop, confirmation that I kick ass

I just recently learned that I was accepted by Alltop – that I will be included in their listing, which is a great honor for me and so I felt that I owed them an explanation of why I love blogging and why I will never stop.

In all my years of writing I have always felt that there were certain limitations placed upon me. Whether by a teacher for a school assignment, an essay contest, a grant proposal, an editor, you name it. But with blogging…I feel that with very few exceptions I can be totally free to express myself.

I have always loved words. I guess I can thank my overbearing 3rd grade teacher in part for that one. I was quite the talker in grade school, always eager to shout out the answer whether I had raised my hand or not. Her punishment was to have me copy dictionary pages while sitting in silent lunch. Truth be told I spent nearly the entire third grade in silent lunch and had copied that dictionary (EVERY PAGE) twice by the end of the year. But I guess It really did me some good though since after that I was placed in advanced classes(primarily due to my excellent vocabulary) and never again received a bad grade for behavior….ever. Thanks Ms.Taylor!

Anyways, back to writing, even before that I was always writing poems, short stories or drawing cartoons. I had so much in my head that I wanted to share. Some people got it and others wished that I would spend a little less time in fantasy land and concentrate on math and science more. I didn’t care though and by the time I was in high school I was winning awards for my creative writing.

As anyone who has followed this blog knows I discovered blogging in college and a new outlet for me was born. All of the sudden I was free to write pretty much whatever I felt like. I have never pushed to monetize this blog, it is simply my way of expressing all that I have swirling around in my brain. I love talking about public relations, which in many ways is simply good story telling and this is how I do it. So therefore, no matter how few readers, I will NEVER stop blogging. I now operate five blogs actually, each with a different purpose, each with a different style and I love all of them. I hope that you have the chance to one day visit them all.

What makes things even better is that I have passed on my inherent passion for storytelling and writing to my children as evident in The Adventures of the Little Red Car, a story-blog I am co-writing with my children based on semi-true events.

I also write about the crazy adventures I had while serving as a public affairs officer for a wildlife conservation agency for nearly three years, an experience that led me to become a conservation ecologist.

Dancing to the Music in my Head is a deeply personal blog where I write about my family, my friends and what it’s like to just be a crazy creative soul in a topsy-turvy world that is not always open or accepting of people like me.

The last one, Teaching with Technology was started as this one was, as a class blog and is not updated as regularly as I’d like it to be but I hope to get back to it soon for  it serves a valuable purpose, that of helping teachers and other educators (even non-traditional ones) of using this wonderful thing we refer to as social media to further education.

So I hope you will continue to enjoy reading as I enjoy writing it for you. Until Next time 🙂

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How Good a Story-Teller are You?

I hemmed and hawed for a couple of weeks over the subject of this post. I am right in the middle of several projects and quite frankly could have written about any of them but as I am going to be a guest lecturer in the one and only Professor Karen Russell’s Classroom this Friday I felt that topic of properly engaging an audience perfectly fitted the bill.

Okay, first a little background. Way back when I was a lowly undergraduate struggling along with the rest of my class to figure out where I was going in life, (I will admit to being a little more anxious than most of my fellow students seeing as I had about 10 years and 2 kids on most of them) I met a really cool teacher. For whatever reason, call it fate or whatever, we just sort of clicked. We had kids roughly the same age and we were both into this “new” social media revolution. She assigned the class to start a blog, and here five years later, I am still at it. I found something I love to do. Something I enjoy so much in fact that I actually have started several others for various reasons and have helped various non-profits set up ones of their own. Over the last five years, Karen has given me feedback, advice, and friendship and has rightfully earned the title of blogging mentor. Now on to the rest of this post.

I have been studying social media for the past four years. My teachers are people that you are probably pretty familiar with if you follow social media at all. I’m talking about Blog Bloke, Holly Hoffman, Tiffany Mollohan, Lisa Barone, Kelley Crane, Matt Chevront, Michael Margolis, Daren Rowse, Eric Qualman and course Chris Brogan. Some of these I met via Brazen Careerist, an awesome site that brings a whole bunch of us bloggers together regularly in a comfortable forum where we can bounce ideas off one another and share both good and bad ideas. Others I’ve met only in passing, either through Twitter or one of my blogs but I can honestly say that I’ve learned something valuable from each and every one of them.

Recently I have been reading a fantastic book by Annette Simmons entitled “Whoever Tells The Best Story Wins”. When I first started reading it, I will admit it was out of pure curiosity, being a writer and a storyteller by trade. By the time I realized it was actually a book geared towards marketers I was enjoying it so much that I kept right on reading, figuring that the lessons learned could very well apply to just about anyone who makes a living from stringing words together, whether in a sales pitch or an article in a magazine.

So how does this apply to social media? I mean this post is about what I plan to talk about as a THE guest speaker for the 5990H class at the University of Georgia on Friday so I guess I should get to the point.

Social media is like any other media in that those who have the gift of being able to intuitively tune in to their audiences are going to be the most successful. To be able to do this you have to be able to suppress your natural inclinations towards objective thinking, you know the type of thing that has been ingrained into us since we were barely knee-high. This idea that everything must be logical, must have a justifiable cause and effect. This thinking will only slow you down when it comes to getting in tune with those who will ultimately become your bread and butter.

Lost yet? Here is an example. say that a particular client loves the color red, songs by Bach and moonlit walks along the beach. You have been hired to create a social media campaign for a new brand of breath fresheners. Objectively speaking the clients subjective whims have nothing to do with the product. But putting objective aside you decide to do a couple of independent online surveys to see if any of the target audience may also have similar associations with their breath freshener products. 

As it turns out, your cleverly worded survey brings in surprising results. Putting objective numbers and statistics aside you decide to run with your campaign which features individuals being carried away by their breath fresheners….taken over in a dream like state. The video shorts were posted on YouTube and the Twitter and Facebook campaign solicited consumers to send in their own experiences with their favorite brand of X breath freshener, whether it be a magical proposal moment or just a fun moment.

The client was impressed.  They had expected a presentation of numbers, target markets, graphs and the like.Objective stuff.Instead they got a series of stories told right from the mouths of the consumers, The subjective. What better way to sell a product than to tell a great story. One that can be repeated over and over again.

So I ask you. How good a storyteller are you?

Using your Backstory to Shape your Online Persona

“Everyone is a storyteller”  –Michael Margolis

I recently had the privilege of listening to a webinar broadcast from SXSW 2011 (where I so wish I could be right now) by the author and master storyteller, Michael Margolis. Despite tuning in a little late, the first comment I caught really made me sit up and pay attention; and that was that as social media entrepreneurs we are all essentially storytellers, that our success or failure depends on our ability to relate our story to our audience.

As a trained journalist, Communications & Outreach Specialist, PR pro and freelance writer by trade this totally made sense to me. after all, isn’t it my job to relate to those who I am working with by finding the common ground, by sharing my story in the hopes that there will indeed be a shared empathetic connection?

I think his primary point was to use your “back-story” to shape your online persona, the parts of yourself that you put out there for others to either accept, judge or completely ignore. The idea that we can reinterpret a past event through new perspectives and may even learn something new just made total sense to me. After all, don’t we all live according to a certain revisionist history to a point anyway? Seems to me that as we look back on what made us who we are, we may even learn something new to add to the story.

So what’s your back-story? I’m thinking that I can totally be a superhero if I want to be. I did after all graduate early, make it through college with honors while a single parent (at least in the beginning) and then became known for my social media knowledge through rigorous self tutelage (thanks @blogbloketips, @socialmediatoday, @socialguide and @HollyHoffman for that!)

So maybe from now on I am going to work on developing my back-story. Interested? Well you don’t have to take my word for it. You can download the free e-book “Story Manifesto” or buy your very own copy from the Get Storied website.


So What’s your back-story and how do you use it to engage with your clients? I’d love to hear all about it!


Staying Innovative is Crucial for Conservation

With so many non-profits and NGO’s, not to mention all the state and federal agencies vying for a piece of the continually shrinking resource pie, it is no secret that to remain in the conservation game, being innovative has become a critical component for survival.

The old stand-by tricks of the trade are no longer returning the numbers they used to which is part of why so many have turned to using social media. But just “using” social media or creating a social media plan is not enough.

In order to stay ahead of the game, you have to almost stay ahead of social media, a nearly impossible task. That means having at least one or more dedicated staff members that just work on social media campaigns, not just a summer intern. They stay current on what’s out there, using valid search methods and make sure your organization is represented on all the major social networks where it is relevant to be present.

But as the great Cat in the Hat said, “that is not all, oh no, that is not all.”

Twitter and Facebook, while important are considered the norm by today’s social media standards. To stay ahead and keep today’s 5-second attention spans on your web sites (and hopefully clicking on your donation buttons) you have got to have an innovative approach. You need something that will not only capture attention but then nudge them to act upon an impulse. Not an easy task I know (In fact I am currently working on a thesis about this very topic so please feel free to comment, I need all the help I can get!!)

First take a look at this list. I found it while perusing a great blog called NowSourcing and although a bit dated, it has some tremendous resources.

Next take a look around you and ask a few key marketing and demographic questions. Who are you trying to reach? What kind of sites do they generally frequent? What is your key demographic. Most organizations have access to this type of information and can sit down and come up with a list pretty easily.

Once you have your list, it is time to get creative. Brainstorm all the ways (in 140 characters or less if you can) that you can appeal your organization’s latest achievement to all the different demographics you listed. Try humor, trivia, promotion, a plea, whatever and see what you come up with. The point is start getting the creative juices flowing.The upside of this is that if you come away with anything really good, it is already pre-packaged for Twitter!

Once you are feeling a little looser, take your demographic and start researching some new networks where you might be able to connect with them. Depending on the type of organization you are a part of this could be Care2, GovLoop, GreenWalla, etc. Again be creative. Enter some key words into a few search engines and see what pops up, whether they be blogs, web sites, online magazines etc. Make a note of these search results and where you can begin to interact. Don’t hide your identity, the point is to get your organization’s name out there, to show you have an interest where your customers/constituents are spending time.

Okay, so you have a pretty good idea where your audience is spending their time and you’ve created a decent, maybe even humorous list of possible tweets/pitches for your organization. Now for the next step – to find out who is already talking about you and plug in.

Similar to the keyword search you used before, you will be using some social media tools to locate just how far your actual reach is on the web using klout, backtweet, twitter reach etc. A great discussion of these tools can be found here. What these will do for you is to help you determine just how influential you are being with your current campaigns, and where you may need to beef up your efforts.

So hopefully this short refresher has helped you but please note that this is a continuing work in progress. What additional ways do you stay on your toes in the name of conservation?

Is the traditional press release dead?

Recently I had a conversation with my boss as we carpooled back to the office from Atlanta. The gist of the conversation revolved around my attempts to assuage my guilt at feeling that maybe I wasn’t fulfilling all of my technical job duties. Don’t get me wrong, I work my butt off, but as our budget continues to be slashed and more and more people find greener grass on the other side of the fence (at least I am hoping they are), my day-to-day duties have changed, evolved and increased into new and exciting (but exhausting) avenues.

For starters I am not writing 2-3 press releases every week anymore. When I mentioned this, my boss was quick to point out that even though I wasn’t writing out releases, I was still promoting content, probably more so than when I was submitting the standard releases. By utilizing our social media platforms I was reaching a larger audience in real-time – can’t get that kind of reach necessarily with an article in the local paper. Also more and more bloggers were picking up on things I was putting on Facebook and twitter – so in reality I was actually creating more buzz than ever before.

Also – many of the traditional media outlets are cutting their print editions more and more. Very little actually goes into those small rolled up bug squashers still hand delivered right to your door. Now days, people read their news online so the bulk of the news that is picked up, either by traditional release or by other means ends up online, not the traditional “front page”.

I actually spend a large part of my time researching new media outlets, demographics and social media (as a science of all things), rather than writing press releases. I still work in the field and have a blast documenting the work that first drew me to conservation in the first place, but now I am also learning how to market what I’m passionate about, so that maybe others will become as fiercely devoted to it as well.

So back to the title of this post. Is the traditional press release dead? Maybe not. There will probably always be the mom and pop grocer that sells bait, milk and hands out a weekly fishing report with info from a press release (probably verbatim). But in the grand scheme of things, most organizations have or will soon have to move beyond the comfort zone of what’s easy and step out into the scary world of new media.

Use Social Media to Work Smarter Not Harder…

During tough times such as now doing more with less has become the norm’ rather than the exception. Therefore, why should your social media strategy be any different. Many organizations are hesitant to allow workers to have access to social media applications at their work-stations even now amidst all the positive and compelling  evidence of the amazing things being accomplished. This is due primarily to the fear that employees will become distracted by the inherent social factor, the farm town gifts, mafia wars, pokes, super pokes and redundant quizzes. However by cracking down it’s possible that they are missing prime opportunities to optimize their brand, content and social currency.

Employee Evolution claims that the best strategy is to make every employee a social media representative, a tool for furthering the needs of the organization rather than a weight around the neck used to slow momentum.

I tend to agree with this view point. By allowing employees to take part while on the clock, you are giving them ownership of the brand, creating a sense of pride and loyalty that will ultimately serve to benefit the organization. Want to convince your supervisor? Here are a few key points to remember when presenting the case for social media at work:

  1. Empower by encouragement-Give a person ownership and you will create a sense of pride, empowering them and also helping to ensure that they will be good public representatives of the organization. If you have ownership then you feel loyalty towards the organization that creates that feeling. Simple right?
  2. Make everyone an equal-This is a big one. Rather than getting caught up in silo-type thinking, allowing only either the top reps or the grunts to speak out, let everyone be on equal footing. This supports the first point about empowerment. Doing this helps to humanize an organization making them appear to be much friendlier and appealing to the public.
  3. Build creativity while cutting costs-Allowing everyone to participate means that an entire collection of creative minds with different skill sets will be utilized rather than a select few. Creativity tends to stagnate if not poked occasionally with the big fork of distinction. You also save money by taking advantage of existing resources, and who doesn’t want to save money?

Do you work for a progressive organization? Share your story about how you engage with the public via social media at work. Is it working for your company? Or do the employees take advantage? If you are banned from using social media while on the clock, why do you think that is?

 

 

Can Your Online Persona Strengthen Your Brand?

Not long ago I had a very interesting conversation via TweetChat with someone who is excellent at one thing, Branding.  We talked about how many of us bloggers have a unique online persona, one we share with the “world” as it may and one that may be different than our random everyday personality. Good or bad, it does happen and if you do it right, this may just  help you to succeed in the craziness of the online social media world.

From the feedback I received I realized that this idea is hardly new. Since the dawn of Hollywood and before, people have been using their public image to enhance their brand. I may not be a movie star, but many of the same techniques still apply. As a PR person, I learned many of these tricks and tips in school and thought I would now share them with you. So here is just a quick refresher on how to use your online identity (public persona) to help solidify your brand.

1. How important is a name? If you make a point to use your full name in all of your online interactions, that’s great…but remember that not everyone will agree and using your real name can inadvertently create enemies. As long as you remain thick skinned, this should be alright though. Another important thing to remember – if you use your name, all of your revelations whether they are professional or a rant against an insane boss are all linked to you. This can come back to bite you so if you choose to use your real name….be aware of the consequences that come with it. It is a good idea to go ahead and purchase your own domain while you’re at it. (oh and if you are curious…Google yourself and see what comes up – apparently I am an exotic dancer/stripper in Texas….who knew?)

2. According to Erik Qualman (@equalman) the author of the incredibly awesome book, “Socialnomics” , if you choose to develop your online brand based on a singular persona, (real or not) it is very important to have a singular image across all of your social media outlets. This may be a logo or even a picture. I really had no idea that one image could be that important, and then I felt silly since this is one of the first things hammered into your head in all advertising and marketing classes. We are a visual species, and more than remembering what is written, we will remember an image whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, FriendFeed or a blog. Therefore, pick an icon/image/photo that truly represents your brand and use it across the web. Soon, those who are interested in you and what you stand for will begin to read your online responses, or notice your “ads” simply because they see your icon, regardless if they are actually interested in the topic of the blog post or article.

3. No matter how “big” you become online, remember that you have a life…in the real world. When approached or contacted to speak, give presentations, be a guest-poster etc, remember that you are representing both your online persona (the person/brand the world is familiar with through your blog) and you as a person. If there is too much of a gap then your brand awareness could become tarnished. No one wants to feel they have been lied too or led on. While this may seem contradictory, one of the main things I have learned is that although I have deveoped a brand through my work online, I am still me and that is the person that I want people to respect.

Have thoughts? Has your personal brand ever interfered with your personal (off-line) life? Please feel free to share.

’till next time!