I’m not the only one who likes being a content curator. Elizabeth Engel is always an excellent source for interesting reads. Check out her weekly What I’m Reading series.

If your job involves engaging members, customers, constituents, donors or volunteers, you must read this post by Jeffery Cufaude, Cultivating Engagement: What was the Catalyst? He says, “If we want to cultivate relationships that invest people in our community, cause, or organization, we must remain curious about them: how might what I’m learning about you now alter my next interaction with you?” Grab your team, make them read this, and figure out how you’re going to start doing this next week.

Andy Freed captures why I like reading all kinds of things and making odd connections. He was heading to TEDActive (the live Palm Springs simulcast) where he anticipated learning about association management from a dolphin researcher. And why not?

When’s the last time you picked up a phone and called a member you don’t know? I know. I never did it either, except when we were desperately promoting our trade show in the midst of the housing implosion. Eric Lanke has some ideas about the real reasons we don’t pick up the phone.

Barry Feldman wants you to take a hard look at your website after reading his post, 11 Reasons Why Prospects Don’t Convert Into Customers. He gives you the eleven reasons, good advice and a quick checklist at the Convince & Convert blog.

I just LOVE this post about a dying restaurant by Ken Mueller. I can feel for them because for eight years I was the general manager of an independently-owned (and very successful) restaurant, long before the days of social media. But we’ve all seen this story – lots of attention, but a little too late. Let’s all pledge to honor Ken’s words:

“I will continue to support small, independently owned family businesses whenever I can. I will also go out of my way to let them know I appreciate and support them. I will reward them for their humanity by spending my money with them, in hopes that they will be sustainable and profitable.”

Are you texting and using LOL like an old fart? Luckily for me I got tired of LOL long ago. And it’s a good thing because it no longer means what you think it does, if you’re of a certain age. Not my age. And if you’re one to lament the decline of the English language because of texting, fear not. “Anyone who says that text language is chaotic isn’t paying enough attention to the system of rules that users have developed to move real-time conversation into written form,” says Anne Curzan in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

At ProBlogger, Thomas Ford explains what you need to know about using free images from the web. His post will help you understand copyright rules, rights and different types of Creative Commons licenses.

Here’s one to bookmark and hope you never have to use. Tia Fisher at Social Media Today shows you what to do if your Twitter account has been hacked.

Steal this idea from Association Media & Publishing: sponsored small group dinner discussions.

Steal this idea too for your next trade show:

vendor twitter game tweet

The only infographic I looked at this week, thanks to Stowe Boyd.

This is conference week for me. I spent Sunday through Tuesday at the Avectra Users & Developers Conference where I wrote a few blog posts:

I got back Wednesday afternoon and today I’m heading to Colorado Springs for the ASAE Great Ideas Conference. Be sure to check out the hashtag #ideas13 if you want to follow along.

Pretty soon we’ll all be Dr. Doolittles. Vince Cerf “envisions an interspecies Internet” where we’ll communicate with animals and aliens.

Happy Friday!

“…talk with the animals, grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals”Photo by Curt Smith (Flickr)

“…talk with the animals, grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals”
Photo by Curt Smith (Flickr)

 

In one corner, a company that made a mess of customer service and then made it worse with social media. A moving company threatened to sue my friend’s wife because she wrote a negative Yelp review about them. The company also purchased positive Yelp reviews, deleted negative Facebook updates, and doesn’t seem to know how to dig itself out except by digging deeper.

“The beautiful part of the Internet is that everyone can now be a publisher. The scary part of the Internet for a company like <name> is that you don’t always know who you’re sending crazy intimidation letters to and how they might respond,” says Phil Buckley, the guy in the other corner. They picked the wrong guy to piss off, Phil happens to be an SEO and Online Reputation Management (ORM) expert. He has a lot of friends, and many of them are also ORM experts. The experts think this makes a great case study – you can’t buy that kind of publicity!

And, Happy Birthday, Phil!

Jeff Cobb at Tagoras is in the midst of updating their Association Learning Management Systems (LMS) report. He and Celisa Steele have been talking to LMS vendors and participating in demonstrations of platforms. He’s identified four association learning technology trends: “I can already see that there are at least four areas in which some very significant progress has been achieved over the past couple of years. I’m labeling these broadly as integration, convergence, mobility, and analytics.” Exciting times for associations with the educational innovations that await!

As our use of new social and digital platforms and technology evolves, irksome issues crop up, well, they’re irksome for some, not all. A sports reporter was “reprimanded” by the University of Washington athletic department for excessive tweeting during a basketball game. Sam Laird at Mashable writes, “As the ability to provide real-time updates becomes more and more common — and as the line between reporter and spectator becomes increasingly blurred — should the rights to live updates be protected to the same degree as TV and radio broadcasts?” Another example of an organization having a tough time giving up control? Or are their rights being infringed? I tend to side with the reporter on this one.

One more Twitter item: can we all just agree that you should never retweet something without first reading it? Good. I’m glad you see it my way, you’re a good citizen.

How different would the world be if everyone had access to high-quality education and a bigger world of ideas? Call me a dreamer, but I think we’d have less crazy extremism, ignorance, and poverty. Maybe the $20 Aakash tablet made by Suneet Tuli’s company, Datawind, is a step in that direction. Christopher Mims at Quartz reports that India’s government wants to distribute Datawind’s tablet to India’s 220 million students. It would be cheaper than buying textbooks. Tuli wants to educate the “ignored billion.” He says, “Our effort in all of this was to use technology to fight poverty. What happens when you try to make it affordable at this level?”

“Calling all publishers, editors, and content creators: If you’re creating content for a business, you are marketing. But you might be missing out on all that you can achieve with your superb content if you are not content marketing.” That’s the rallying cry of The Content Marketing Manifesto by Monica Bussolati, her recently released e-book – a call to action you should heed if you run a business or organization. I’ve only skimmed through the book because I’m planning to read it this weekend, but I can already tell I’m going to be reading along saying “Yes!” out loud, and probably learning a good deal as well, and as usual, from Monica.

Blogs are one of my favorite content marketing tools, but they’re also a great way to think out loud and become part of a larger conversation, according to Seth Godin. “No single thing in the last 15 years professionally has been more important to my life than blogging,” says Tom Peters. He goes on: “And it’s the best damn marketing tool by an order of magnitude that I’ve ever had.” Well then! Maddie Grant found this short video of Godin and Peters talking about blogs. It’s only 1:38 minutes, come on, click!

For those of you who read last week’s post and had doubts about an old band led by two guys in their late 60s: I’m happy to report that The Who exceeded my expectations, and my boyfriend’s, whose expectations were much lower. They did the entire Quadrophenia album, followed it up with five Who classics, and then a quiet version of Tea & Theater with just Roger and Pete on the stage. The highlights of the evening: Roger’s voice and efforts to get every note and scream right; Zak Starkey’s Moon-like melodic bombastic drumming (he is so damn good); video solos by, rest their souls, John in 5:15 and Keith in, what else, Bellboy; the mesmerizing Quadrophenia instrumentals; and being in the same room as Pete. Long live rock.

Happy Friday!

Young Zak Starkey with godfather Keith Moon (credit unknown)

The coolest thing I saw all week, no contest, was Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic free fall skydive. Nothing beats that. Red Bull has two short videos of the event: a 1:30 minute highlight version and a 4:30 minute full recap version. Both are exhilarating to watch.

If you publish text, video, and photos on the web, please understand how copyright works. I’ve been a little loose a few times with screenshots of YouTube videos, but other than that, I try to stick to the rules, it’s only fair.  However, I’ve seen lots of blogs using copyrighted photos, and I bet it’s because they just don’t know any better. My most popular post of all time explained the basics of copyright, so if you’re not clear, be a good social citizen and check it out.

Here’s the worst case scenario when you infringe on someone’s copyright. A blog hosted by EduBlogs, a client of web hosting firm ServerBeach, had posted a questionnaire copyrighted by Pearson, an educational publishing company. ServerBeach received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) violation notice from Pearson. Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica explains what happened next: instead of dealing with the complaint in a rational way, ServerBeach shut down all 1.45 million education blogs hosted by EduBlogs.

And here’s another one. Jeff John Roberts at GigaOm writes about copyright trolls hired by “image owners (who) are brandishing the nuclear option against everyone — from small blogs to careless interns.” This could happen to you if you use copyrighted material and the owner gets sore about it.

I love politics. I hate politics. That’s life inside my head during election season. I guess what really drives me bonkers is the partisan hatred. The self-righteous arrogance that too many people on both sides have toward the other. No wonder I’m an independent, but not undecided.

Chelsea J. Carter at CNN says this election tests Facebook friendships. An election should never test a real friendship but I can see how it would test your tolerance for being around someone who talks politics all the time. According to Pew Research Center, “Nearly one-fifth of people admit to blocking, unfriending or hiding someone on social media over political postings.” I’m part of that one-fifth. I’ve hidden people for now. I’ll bring them back later. Her article mentioned a Facebook page: Nobody Cares About Your Political Posts. Really. Like. There’s more to life than politics.

All this political drama might just be an exercise in someone’s lab. According to physicists at the University of Bonn, “they may have evidence that the universe is a computer simulation.” Have we finally discovered who the They are? Hmm, maybe someone is watching you.

And if that didn’t spin your mind around enough, have you read this Newsweek piece by Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon, about the after-life experience he had during a coma? I hope this guy is on the level. Pretty wild.

I read a disturbing essay last weekend by religious scholar Sarah Sentilles in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin: The Pen is Mightier: Sexist Responses to Women Writing about Religion. No, I don’t normally read the Harvard Divinity Bulletin, but I was led to it by one of my literary blogs. She writes about the sexist responses her recent book received from male critics. Then she goes on to discuss the more pervasive sexism existing in the literary world, and speculates about the reception her essay will receive: “I expect to be called whiny and strident and annoying and grating and hysterical and uninformed. I expect to be told I don’t know what I’m talking about.” Why does this persist? It makes no sense to me.

Art geeks will enjoy this one. Bence Hajdu creates new works from paintings by Old Masters, like David, Boticelli, and Fra Angelico. They’re eerie and wonderful in their abandoned state. See for yourself at Hyperallergic.

Happy Friday!

into the light by mindfulness (Flickr)

Close your eyes and imagine a perfect world. Your audience never misses a post because your content is so interesting and entertaining. They can hardly wait to share it. Your reputation as the industry’s premier resource spreads. Your Google ranking and retention rate improve as more traffic and members come your way.

David Carr at the New York Times knows that perfect world:

“Hit the right note, and your readers become like bees, stopping by your site to grab links and heading back out on the Web to pollinate other platforms.”

Your content will create that type of buzz if you pay attention to a few key steps.

Understand your audience’s culture.

Associations are made up of many communities based on demographics and professional interests. The online community is likely very different than the volunteer leadership culture you’re used to. Take some time to get to know them – the online community citizens, influencers, connectors, creators and conversationalists. Get a sense of their hot buttons and accepted truths. Find out what they read and share, and what fascinates and irritates them.

Listen and learn about their needs and interests. Participate in conversations. Ask questions. Become a trusted member of the community. Without that trust there’s no chance of success.

Please read the rest of this post at the Avectra blog

how to get people to share your content associations

Photo by David Lofink/Flickr

Blogs are not dead! That was the verdict from DelCor Technology Solution’s unconference last month: Progress U. – Blogger Summit. I’m go glad I got up to Arlington VA to attend, it was a great day of conversation. DelCor’s publishing a series of follow-up posts from the Summit. The first talks about the state of blog reading and writing today and why blogs are a good idea for associations.

DelCor’s second post discusses Six Barriers to Blogging – And How to Bust Them. Don’t let limited resources, organizational culture, staff’s full plates, fear, lack of confidence orleadership’s unfamiliarity with blogs discourage you.

We’re so lucky to have access to free tools for professional development, like blogs, but there is a potential downside: cognitive overload. Back in August, Ed Rodley, an exhibits professional at the Museum of Science in Boston, wrote about Dealing with Your Cognitive Load. His post received so many replies from the museum community that he compiled their ideas into four more posts.

I must share something he said in Part 4 – it’s what drew me into the rest of these posts because it’s so spot on about personal growth:

“All of the strategies listed above have one thing in common. They don’t require anything aside from your own desire to learn. As someone who has worked in a large institution for most of my professional career, it’s easy to succumb to the mindset of waiting for permission to do anything. This is especially true of old-school “professional development.” There are forms to be completed, signatures to be garnered, and justifications to be gathered before any learning happens. But in the current climate, waiting for anything seems like a recipe for getting left behind.

Speaking of traditional nonprofit organizations, how many of them have a full-time employee dedicated to managing volunteers? Yeah, not many. In associations, volunteering is a benefit of membership, often the benefit that brings them back year after year. You’d think more resources would be directed at keeping members engaged and satisfied, but no. Susan J. Ellis at Energize, Inc. says Part-time Volunteer Management Means Equally Limited Volunteer Involvement.

In this brilliant post Jamie Notter, author with Maddie Grant of must-read book, Humanize, points out that social media is just a wave knocking down a corner of your sand castle. But be ready, he says. “The tide is coming in. Social media is giving us a bit of an advance warning that things are changing.”

While Eric Lanke was visiting one of his members, a manufacturing company, a simple sign on the wall provided a moment of clarity. He brought the mantra back to his association, it’s one that works in any organization: help the customer succeed.

I started this selection with two posts from an unconference, I’ll end with a post that Jenise Fryatt wrote about Event Camp East Coast: How an Unconference Changed My Life.

That’s it for now, happy reading!

Lady Blogger with Her Maid, after Vermeer by Mike Licht (Flickr)

I usually start off my selection of good reads with something to help you save time or be more productive, but nothing wowed me this week. So I wrote my own: Be Productive While Having a Beer (or Two).

This is such a cool idea from Mike Brown at Brainzooming: assign extreme creativity makeover roles to everyone on your project team. You be the Outrageous Ideameister and I’ll be the Minister of Scare the S#!t Out of Us Possibilities!

I never get tired of sharing this type of post because I know many people are stumped when it comes to blog content. Jackie Roy at TMG Media’s Engage blog (a must read in my book) provides 7 Ways for Your Company to Break the Ice with the Blogosphere.

If you’re going to a conference or educational session and plan to tweet, read this post first. Megan Yarbrough at M+R Research Labs shares tips for thoughtful and effective live-tweeting from an event.

Standard press releases are often misdirected, irrelevant and boring. Here are some creative alternatives to sending a press release from Claire Celsi at Ragan’s PR Daily.

Yes, yes, we’re all professionals, but sometimes you just have to giggle in the middle of the day. One of my favorite sites for that is Funny or Die. If you’re an Arrested Development fan (hey, the rumor is the show’s coming back, woo hoo!), start with this slideshow of AD screen captures.

you've got to read this

This is a big week in the association management industry — the week of Innovation Talks, aka #asaeinnov. I wrote about innovation in associations last week for the Avectra blog and will have another post on Wednesday about how Disney encourages an innovative culture.

Innovation is right up there as one of the most over-used words this past year, but maybe that’s because we finally realize that if we don’t innovate, we might become irrelevant. Apple’s been doing it right for a long time so Alan Webber at The Christian Science Monitor looks at what Apple can teach the rest of us.

You want to start a blog, you really do, but there are many factors to consider, or so you say. Laura Click examines The Top 10 Excuses That Keep You From Starting a Blog and tells you how to overcome each one.

Now you have a blog, but you still have trouble finding time to blog regularly, despite Laura’s good advice. Stephanie Cuevas to the rescue with her tips for Time Management for Ridiculously Busy Bloggers.

When’s the last time you took a hard look at the About Us page on your website? Is it the same old lame copy your organization has been using forever? Oh dear. Have no fear, Brian Eisenberg at ClickZ shares the Five Traits of an Effective ‘About Us’ Page

Sheila Scarborough provides some of the best advice I’ve read about conference tweeting plus Tips for Following Conference Twitter Hashtags. Bookmark this one so you’re ready for your next real or virtual conference experience.

Finally, and in keeping with the spirit of risk-taking and innovation, here’s a list by Michele Martin of Seven Dangerous Things Every Adult Should Do. I think I’ve done at least six of them. I’m honestly not sure about #4. Surely I’ve done that in a committee meeting in front of members, but I can’t say for sure. What about you?

blogging website copywriting innovation association freelance writer

Photo by Flattop341 (Flickr)

I get my ideas for articles and blog posts by thinking about readers. Yes, you, you’re always in my thoughts. I think about how I can help you solve a problem or make your job (or life) a little bit easier. Or I aim to share something interesting and valuable.

When I begin work on a copywriting project, I also think about the ultimate readers — my client’s customers, prospects or members. I can’t communicate effectively to them unless I first get to know them. If only I had Vulcan mind meld skills, this part of my job would be a lot easier. Instead I rely on consultation with my client and lots of research and reading.

Studying customers is only the beginning, but let’s stop there for a moment. What if you’re on your own without a marketing vice president or a freelance writer, what do you do? Like me, you must completely understand your customers before you can determine how best to communicate with them.

I’ll share with you some of the questions I usually have; perhaps they’ll help you create a list of your own.

First, create a descriptive profile for each type of customer (or member) you serve. Heck, give each one a name too. If your customers are businesses, the profile will include characteristics that a consumer profile wouldn’t, and vice versa. Here are some suggestions to start, but you’ll end up with others specific to your business:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Employment status
  • Marital or family status
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Lifestyle
  • Purchasing history
  • Memberships
  • Career stage
  • Position in organization
  • Role in purchasing process
  • Place in conversion process
  • Educational background
  • Comfort with technology

The most interesting part of customer research comes next – the big meaty questions. Again, these will vary depending on your business. Since I usually work in the business-to-business sector, my questions have that slant.

  • What are your customer’s biggest problems at work?
  • What keeps her up at night worrying and stressing?
  • What does she fear?
  • What annoys her? What frustrates her?
  • What would make her life and job much easier?
  • What does she yearn for?
  • Why does she have these problems? Why aren’t these problems solved yet? What are the obstacles to solving them?
  • How do prospects like her usually find you?
  • What type of questions do your prospects and customers frequently ask your sales, social media and customer service staff?
  • What do they search for on your website? What search terms bring them there?
  • What hurdles (mental or real) prevent them from taking the next conversion step?

Spend some time where your customers hang out – blogs, forums, Twitter chats, face-to-face meetings, radio shows or podcasts – so you can get a sense of the language they use and their industry’s or profession’s culture.

The whole point of this exercise is to get into your customer’s mind to understand their perspective and needs, so you can connect their desires or worries to a solution you provide.

There are many more questions I must answer before I start writing, but that will be a topic for another post.

customer persona profile understand copywriting marketing

A Vulcan understands his customers.

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