Reads of the Week: January 11, 2013

I’m back, I’m back in the saddle again.

After a relaxing vacation, I’m catching up on reading and work. Here are some of my favorite reads from the past week, or two, or three.

At the Content Marketing Institute, Mark Sherbin provides tips on newsjacking: “the process of injecting your brand into the day’s news, creating a twist that grabs eyes when they’re open widest.” He also provides some examples of brands that have done it well, and a few who laid a big smelly egg. Newsjacking isn’t only for brands, individuals and associations can make newsjacking work for them too.

Jonathan Barrick has something to say to his fellow marketers: “Stop sucking, be awesome, and prove it.” That’s not all he has to say, his post at Crowdshifter lays out five promises every living marketer should make to themselves. Even though they’re all common sense, how many people are really adhering to them?

Steve Drake has been on a roll lately. Well, now that I think about it, he’s always on a roll.  His post, 15 “And/Or” Dilemmas Facing Association Leaders in 2013, provides enough fodder for discussion for more than a year’s worth of board and staff meetings. Want to know what your association should be thinking about? Start here!

Content marketing is the name of the game for events in 2013, says Jenise Fryatt. “Presentations, panels, discussions and workshops, even keynote speeches provide digestible content that is particularly useful to the larger community to which your attendees belong.” She shares ideas on how associations can generate and use this content throughout the year.

Surveys, you either don’t do them frequently enough, or if you do, you don’t ask the right questions or use what you learn. Eric Lanke has a solution: more surveys, but make them really short – just one question. He says, “When the responses come in, do something you’ve probably never done before. Post the results. Share them with the entire membership. And even more importantly, let everyone know what you’re going to do differently based on the feedback you received.” Brilliant!

One of my favorite posts this week is Come Original – Whole Self Membership from Shelly Alcorn. She encourages associations to redirect their focus so they serve and benefit from the whole member, not just the occupational or professional side of a member, but their whole self. In the comments, I (along with a few others) explained why this concept resonates so loudly and harmoniously with me. We do our best work when we bring our complete self to work, to our association or to any endeavor.

Steve Drake (yes, him again!) confessed (I think he should brag) that he’s a switchtasker – “someone who rapidly alternates between tasks.” He learned the term from an article by our pal Elizabeth Engel, who learned it from a post on Lifehacker. It gets better. I just read a post that says switchtasking maximizes creative thinking. It’s the old “sleep on it” principle at work – let your unconscious mind perform its magic. Christian Jarrett at 99U writes, “Incubation breaks boosted creative performance, but only when the time was spent engaged in a different kind of mental activity.” The challenge for me is finding that different kind of mental activity when I’m writing most of the day.

I don’t usually have problems with my writing mojo (knock on wood!) but if I do, I will follow the advice of Sarah O’Leary at Write To Done. Her five tips to keep your mojo going will work for everyone, not just writers. She emphasizes self-care: “Our creative muscles need breaks too. A change in focus replenishes those creative and intellectual synapses, priming you for another session.” Hmm, switchtasking again? Check out the good advice she shares.

content marketing reads
Parts of the Brain by Cachecope Bell (Flickr)

Reads of the Week: December 7, 2012

I didn’t go to ASAE’s Technology Conference this week because I was too busy and too cheap, but I almost felt like I was there – minus the hugs, good conversation and drinks. You know why – Twitter, baby. Following the hashtag (#tech12), I got the highlights from the two keynote sessions with Brian Solis and Dion Hinchcliffe, the town hall with Reggie Henry, and several sessions featuring association technology experts and smarty pants. It’s not exactly like being there but it’s good stuff. Thanks to all the attendees who shared their notes on Twitter.

Ok, everyone, I’m asking you to hold me accountable so that I follow the practice I preach. This week on the Avectra blog I wrote about making time at the end of the year for Me Time – strategic reflection, planning, and reading for professional/personal development. Somehow between celebrating the holidays both here and in Massachusetts, I intend to find time to do all those things on my to-do list that I have pushed off week after week, month after month. It will mean saying “no” when I don’t want to (sorry, clients!), but this is critical work – an investment in my career and expertise. Are you with me?

Maybe during Me Time, I should start a daily habit of using Google+. I’m on there but completely inactive. But, according to this presentation by Gideon Rosenblatt that Maddie Grant shares on her blog and at #tech12, Google+ is the place for me because I’m not only a content creator, I’m a content curator, here and on Twitter. Maddie also shares a bunch of other great resources about Google+. Ok, Maddie, ok, I’m on it.

Here’s a post by Krista Kortrla about crazy companies. “These crazy companies actually involve every single person in their business to create content.” Oh to be crazy. She discusses the many ways that content marketing transforms a company and its culture.  

Looking for blog ideas that will grab the attention of your audience? Even if you don’t have a “local” audience, try tweaking these to fit your audience’s interests – the emotional hooks should still work. NPR Digital Services’ Eric Athas and Teresa Gorman wanted to find out why some local stories received more “likes” and comments, and were shared more than others. In this Nieman Journalism Lab article, they present their findings – “data-backed trends we discovered in an analysis of content geotargeted to four cities…over a span of three months” – and share the nine types of local stories that cause engagement.

At one of my association’s affiliate services roundtable, a lot of questions were raised about SEO, so I invited a fellow member to come in and talk to us about the basics. This post by Diane Huff, Trusted SEO Resources for Small Businesses, would have been handy as well.

Many of us will resolve to develop new habits in 2013. Isn’t it interesting how humans are always striving to improve ourselves? I don’t see my dog doing that. Here are six simple rituals to help you reach your potential every day from Amber Rae at Fast Company. I do #1-4 already but have never made #5 and #6 intentional habits. I think about them sometimes, but not daily. So many habits to develop!

That’s it for now, Happy Friday!

Downward facing dog, heh, a nap sounds better.
Downward facing dog, heh, a nap sounds better.

Reads of the Week: September 7, 2012

I lead off this week with a request to your heart. And wallet. Tonight, as you sit down to dinner, thousands of families in your area struggle to provide a nutritious meal to their kids. Food donations are decreasing, yet the number of adults and kids who go hungry every day is increasing.

In an effort to raise awareness, funds, and food as part of Hunger Action Month, starting at 6pm tonight, the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina will stream live online for 24 hours from their warehouse in Raleigh. The telethon will be hosted by Gregory Ng of the popular online frozen food review show, FreezerBurns. Please visit their website and donate to our food bank, or to your local food bank.

Update: If you’re in DC, MD, or VA, check out what DelCor is doing to raise funds (and food) for the Capital Area Food Bank.

Now, back to the best of the week. Thanks for hanging in there with me, and for any help you can give to your local food bank.

My favorite tweet this week came via Dave Phillips – whom I’m featuring in my next Avectra post about association CEOs who excel at social media:

RT @ValaAfshar: Don’t do social, be S.O.C.I.A.L. – sincere | open | collaborative | interested | authentic | likeable.

My favorite hashtag of the week was from the Content Marketing World conference held in Columbus, OH: #cmworld. I have GOT to put that conference in my 2013 budget.

Mention the name Beth Kanter to any gathering of online non-profit folks and prepare for gushing adulations. Everyone loves Beth, and for good reason. She’s been dishing out good digital advice since, well, since forever it seems. Check out her tips to avoid getting content-fried – “a potential hazard for content curators,” she writes, but I’d add for many other folks who want to avoid getting distracted by the information deluge at our fingertips. All of them will bring more zen and less stress to your life.

I’ve been getting into online education lately – a fascinating area full of opportunity for associations. It’s been several years since I took an online class but next week I start one from Coursera – modern poetry. I expect it to be a nice kick to the right side of my brain. Jeff Cobb of Tagoras has been the e-learning guru of the association community before it was cool. Recently he wrote about “five key changes I think are needed if we really want to see a revolution in association education.” If you care about association education, this is required reading.

Facebook is an easy target for derision because they don’t really care about the user experience. We’re just data for sale. Despite its shortcomings, I still love Facebook because it helps me connect to family and friends in a way I didn’t have before. You see, I’m a bad friend (and sister, and cousin, and aunt) who doesn’t pick up the phone like I should, so thank god for Facebook. Alexandra Samuel pointed out another benefit – seven ways to enhance your vacations with Facebook.

Oh dear, I was going to point out a good post about things your customers wish you knew about them, but apparently the people who wrote that post don’t know that most of us HATE having to close those damn sign-up-for-our-newsletter pop-up boxes before we can even get to the post we wanted to read. So forget them.

You’ve probably seen this pair of posts from Fast Company making their way around Twitter, but maybe not. Perhaps this is the moment that will change your life! Find out from Kevin Purdy what successful people do with the first hour of their work day. And then, Lydia Dishman tells us what successful night owls get done before bed. After reading them you’ll either feel smugly awesome because you do a lot of these things already, or you’ll feel slightly inadequate because, well, you know.

Cheer up, it’s Friday!

You’ve Got to Read This: October 11, 2011

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

Be Productive While Having a Beer (or Two)

Five o’clock on Friday afternoon, it’s been a good day. Most of the items on your daily to-do list have been crossed out. However, you’re getting your usual late afternoon second (or third?) wind. Your brain is still clicking. You could put in a few more hours of work.

Then a thought rears up in your mind, or is it a little devil on the shoulder? Wouldn’t a glass of beer or wine taste good right about now? Yes, it would. It would be especially good with that pimento cheese in the refrigerator. What to do, what to do…

The beauty of a home office, the refrigerator is just steps away. But now you’re torn: stop working (it is the weekend after all) or relax with your favorite refreshing brew while getting a bit more done.

You can have it all. There are plenty of productive tasks you can do while enjoying a beverage. Or two.

Thank you cards. You send thank you cards, don’t you? No, it’s not passé. Take a sip and shop online for handmade cards. Etsy’s a good place to start.

Addresses. Save time later by hunting down the addresses you’ll need for those thank you cards. But don’t write the cards. No no no. No permanent writing is allowed right now.

Read. Expand your mind by reading blogs and websites outside your niche. If you’re a blogger, jot down post ideas. Take notes. Doodle. Get inspired. Make connections between random ideas.

Listen. Listen to podcasts. I like catching up on NPR shows I’ve missed, like Fresh Air or This American Life. What do you like?

Tidy up. While you’re listening to the podcast, clean and organize your desk. Clutter has such bad juju. Clean your dusty computer screen and crumby keyboard. But move your beer first. A tipped over beverage can lead to a short-circuited keyboard. It’s not important why I know this. While you’re at it, does the floor need a sweep?

Organize. Start your to-do list for next week. Jot down some of your big ideas for the future.

Tweet. Twitter’s great for conversation and random reading. Find an interesting hashtag to search and read. But please, no drunk tweeting. Stop after two beers. You’ll thank me later.

Emails. If you really want to be productive, draft emails you need to send, but don’t enter the email address into the To field and don’t even think about sending them.

Inbox. Power through your inbox. Delete the crap. Skim or read the newsletters. Mark things to read later.

Play. Exercise your creative muscle. Write in your journal. Make a visionboard (oops, I just lost half the crowd). Or do whatever creative hobby you practice.

Draft. Draft articles, reports, letters or blog posts about productive things you can do while having a beer with pimento cheese and crackers. Edit and publish later.

What productive work-related things do you do while you’re enjoying a beverage?

working work productivity drinking beer wine
photo by Karl Baron/Flickr

You’ve Got to Read This: September 20, 2011

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)

You’ve Got to Read This: September 6, 2011

Since this is a four-day work week, there’s no time to waste. You’ve got to hit that to-do list hard. No dilly-dallying. How would you like to learn the best procrastination tip ever? Leo Babuta (aka @zen_habits) has the answer.

Andrew Hannelly of TMG Custom Media dug into a research study and pulled out five stats showing the power of content marketing to build relationships with customers. What is content marketing? According to Junta42, “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

A blog is one content marketing tool that will attract website visitors and hold their attention. Rebecca Corliss at HubSpot shares five reasons your blog needs more than one contributor. And, saving your sanity is not one of them, although it could be.

Once you collect a stable of writers for your blog, how do you manage it all? John Haydon provides excellent advice on managing a successful multi-author blog. John writes for the nonprofit crowd, but his smart and practical advice will work for any business or organization blog.

Anna Caraveli provides excellent advice for any website, a five-step, five-minute website copy retooling. It’s not about you, it’s about your customers or members. “Begin by changing your thinking and conversation with members (or customers) from what you do to what you can do for them.” Does your website copy reflect that?

How often do you unplug and pay attention to those you love? David Leite’s reflections on life, love and what really matters was prompted by the recent and sudden death of food blogger Jennie Perillo’s husband. I must share one of his paragraphs with you to make sure you and Iread it again and again because this is important.

“I know I must wring dry every moment of time I spend with those I love. I must push back from my desk at 6:00 p.m. and make dinner for The One. I must refuse to work on the weekends. I must slow down. I have Jennie–a woman I don’t even know–to thank for that realization.”

Thank you, David, and Jennie.

content marketing blogging website copy
photo by Lee & Chantelle McArthur

You’ve Got to Read This: August 30, 2011

How often do you unplug? How many social media platforms do you participate in? Are you feeling a bit burnt, overloaded and stretched thin trying to keep up with it all? Yeah? Then, quick, read this short post by Simon Mainwaring at Fast Company: Top 10 Ways to Keep Social Media from Driving You Insane. I like #7, Refresh.

Cindy King collected advice from several Social Media Examiner writers in 21 Dangerous Blogging Mistakes (and How to Fix Them). Don’t steer away because the post focuses on mistakes, it’s really an excellent primer on effective blogging. Pay attention to Mistake #9, Bad Writing. (Said with just a bit of self-interest.)

Instead of a blog post, my next recommendation is a Prezi. What’s a Prezi? A more visually appealing alternative to PowerPoint. Maddie Grant at Socialfish shared a Prezi by Carie Lewis of The Humane Society. It’s the best advice I’ve seen about Facebook in a long time: Why I Don’t “Like” You. You need to read this if you, your business or your organization has a Facebook page. You’ll thank me, or Maddie, or even better, Carie, later.

You can always count on Andrew Hannelly at TMG Custom Media for good advice, the kind of advice that people normally pay for. If you want to know why your email subscribers stop subscribing, he’ll give you seven reasons. And, he’ll tell you what you can do about it. If you follow his advice, and it works, at least buy the man a beer.

I’ve always been a language nut. I’ve studied Portuguese, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Chinese, and learned enough of a few others to get by as a tourist. Can I speak any of them now? Heck, no, if you don’t use it, you lose it, cliché, but true. One of the cool things about studying languages is the insight it gives you into how other people perceive and deal with the world around them. When you study Chinese, it’s like traveling to another culture’s brain without leaving your living room.

I was reminded of that when reading this interesting post by Emily Badger at the Miller-McCune blog, Rescuing Endangered Languages Means Saving Ideas. Here’s what she means by that:

“Language systems don’t merely translate universal ideas into different spellings; they encode different concepts. And when we lose a language, we risk losing those concepts. A lot of concepts are on the edge of oblivion — out of about 7,000 languages spoken in the world today, half are projected to disappear by the end of the century, if not sooner. That’s an amazing amount of knowledge.”

That’s all for this week. Go learn a language and happy reading!

raleigh freelance writer blogger copywriter
photo by Mike Licht
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