Tips for Making Sure a Content Slip-up Won’t Destroy Your Brand Image

It only takes a few wrong words in a few split seconds to turn a well-respected brand into one abhorred by the masses.Tan sneaker ready to step on slippery banana peel

That’s the power—and the pitfall—of social media. One gaffe in a moment of misjudgment can lead to a potential firestorm of fury that inflicts permanent public relations damage.

 

How to Manage Your Brand’s Content and Maintain Your Good PR Standing

Whether you’re a solopreneur responsible for posting your own content or a marketing manager or business owners with multiple team members at the helm of your social media accounts, it’s critical to manage your content wisely so it doesn’t go rogue on you.

 

If you’re like me, the sole person handling your posts, it’s important to set rules and reminders for yourself so that you don’t accidentally cross any lines.

 

If you rely on others to create and post content, you face a more daunting challenge. As a contributing writer for Straight North, I wrote an article that’s focused on addressing that. It’s about how to avoid content crises that can ruin a company’s reputation.

 

Tips that I expand on in the post include:

  • Develop a style guide for your content.
  • Establish a social media policy.
  • Coach your team.

 

Check it out on the Alison May Public Relations blog!

 

4 Reasons to Have Multiple Freelance Content Writers

Outsourcing your blog writing and copywriting to a freelance content writer can save you a lot of time, energy, laptop and notepadfrustration. Also, it can prevent you from sounding unprofessional if you or no one on your staff has writing skills.

 

A marketing writer who understands your brand can ensure your communications have consistency and continuity.

 

When you find one that fits perfectly with your company’s culture and “gets it,” hold onto that resource.

 

But regardless of how happy you are with that person, don’t make the mistake of using the services of only that one freelance writer.

 

Why It’s Critical to Have Multiple Freelance Content Writers for Your Business

Every writer has strengths and weaknesses.

Not every writer will be right for every assignment. Some are better at short-form content (such 600- to 800-word blog posts) while others shine at longer-form content (like white papers and ebooks). Some are adept at crafting brand slogans and print ad copy, while others are skilled at writing website copy that appeals to readers and search engines.

 

Takeaway: If you can find a writer who is the complete package, fantastic! But you may discover you need more than one writer to ensure all of your marketing content is top-notch.

 

Capable writers have busy schedules.

“Freelance” doesn’t mean “lounging around with nothing to do.” Established writers often have maxed out project schedules. If you have an “emergency” assignment that needs a quick turn-around, you might be out of luck. Most freelance content writers that I know (myself included) will do their best to accommodate rush requests, but that’s not always possible.

 

Takeaway: If you have relationships with several freelancers, you increase your odds of having a writing resource to help when you’re in a pinch.

 

Writers get sick, go on vacation, and have family emergencies.

Yes, we do. Fortunately, these situations are the exception rather than the rule. However, they can affect the volume of work we’re able to take on and create the need for extended deadlines now and then.

 

Takeaway: Having several writers to turn to will help you navigate times when your go-to writer will be out of town or is dealing with unforeseen circumstances.

 

It may be time for a change.

At some point in time, either you or your writer may decide it’s time to part ways. You may decide you want a fresh approach and feel a new writer is your best way to accomplish it. Or, your writer may choose to discontinue doing certain types of assignments or cease doing work for your industry.

 

Takeaway: Business relationships evolve. By having more than one writer to help you with your content, you will not feel stuck without options or be left high and dry when a writer opts to make a change.

 

Where to a Find Competent Freelance Content Writer

Doing searches on LinkedIn and Google will help you find potential candidates to help you with your content needs. Also, ask fellow business owners and marketing managers for recommendations. And, believe it or not, the freelancer you’re currently working with might be happy to connect you with other writers. I have introduced several of my clients to writers that I respect and trust to do good work.

 

Relying on one writer for everything can put your content at risk of falling behind deadlines or not being done as well as it could be. I believe you’ll find it’s well worth the time and effort to build relationships with multiple writers. Not only will it help ensure you have quality content for any assignment, but it will also provide peace of mind that all your eggs are not in one basket.

The First Step To Emotional Intelligence

I’ve been mulling over two blog posts I had read last week.silhouette of head with brain diagram within it

 

It’s OK to Be on Your Way by Rachel Strella

 

13 Signs of High Emotional Intelligence by author Justin Bariso

 

Both articles crossed my radar thanks to tweets by two of my favorite Twitter friends, Rachel Strella and Dennis Shiao. Although the posts’ topics are different at face value, they possess a strong synergy.

 

Rachel’s post, It’s OK to Be on Your Way, touches on how many of us are in constant pursuit of doing more and being more. We become frustrated at our inability to achieve perfection. But we need to stop beating up on ourselves. We’re works in progress—and that’s OK.

 

13 Signs of High Emotional Intelligence, which Dennis had shared, discusses characteristics of people who possess a high level of emotional intelligence. (Of course, I immediately started contemplating how I measure up.) Several of the traits involve the capacity to cut others some slack when they do wrong or fall short, and the article specifically calls out “empathy.”

 

Putting It All Together

 

To have empathy (a critical component of emotional intelligence), we must see some of ourselves in others. So to accept and forgive the fallibility of others, don’t we first have to accept our own faults and stop being so tough on ourselves (as Rachel suggests)?

 

We’re all human. We have all made—and will continue to make—mistakes. We have (and probably will again):

 

  • Let insensitive words leave our mouths in moments of anger or frustration.
  • Talk behind someone’s back.
  • Look for what we can gain from a situation rather than what we can do for someone else.
  • Sometimes not put our best foot forward.
  • Not tell our partner or parents or children or friends how much we love and appreciate them.
  • Tell a little white lie (or possibly even a mind-blowing whopper).
  • Snap at our kids when they ask us a question while we’re working.
  • Forget to send a birthday card.
  • Not do what we said we would.
  • Judge others when we have no clue what it’s like to be in their shoes.

 

Yeah, we slip up sometimes.

 

I do. You do. And everyone else does.

 

If we realize that doesn’t make us failures or bad people, we can all be happier, more self-confident, and more emotionally intelligent.

The Endangered Em Dash—And How You Can Help Save It.

I know it’s not nice to pick favorites, but I have. The em dash ( — ) is by far my all-time favorite piece of punctuation. It’sTwo palms of hand with the world painted on them; text at top "Save the Em Dash" versatile, adds more emphasis than parentheses and commas, and (when not overused) provides clarity and an unencumbered reading experience.

 

I revere the em dash.

 

But people are dissing it. I’m seeing more and more blog posts with two double dashes (–) as a substitute for the em dash.

 

Enough already. The em dash deserves better than that.

 

But I—sort of—understand why bloggers are doing it.

 

Adding an Em Dash Requires Effort—But So What?

 

My guess is the em dash-dissing writers are typing their posts in Google Docs or some other online word processing tool, maybe even directly in WordPress. To add a proper em dash, they would need to use the “insert symbol” function and select em dash from the available options. Unlike MS Word, those platforms don’t recognize double dashes following a letter plus a space as the signal to automatically add an em dash.

 

I understand that can be pain in the @$#. I create my drafts in Google Docs and find it annoying to have to go through the manual process of hand-picking the em dash from the special characters menu whenever I want to add one. But if that’s what it takes to add an em dash, I’m willing to do it.

 

However, not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the em dash. Fortunately for those folks, there’s an easier way.

 

The Less Cumbersome Way to Add an Em Dash in Google Docs

By going to the Tools menu and selecting Preferences, you can set up a “substitution” so that when you type a predefined letter or character combination, Google Docs will automatically substitute it with an em dash.

Drop down menu to find Preferences in Google Docs

In my Preferences, I’ve set up ++ to automatically change to an em dash. It’s less cumbersome than manually inserting the em dash symbol.

Preferences settings in Google Docs

 

It’s not without some inconvenience, though. Google Docs doesn’t recognize that it should substitute an em dash if there is a letter or character directly behind the ++. So, it requires going back to delete that unwanted space after the em dash (and to do that, you need to forward delete not backspace; otherwise, your em dash will revert to ++).  Still, I’ve found it an efficiency improvement.

You can do the same for en dashes, too. I’ve set up my preferences to make -+ become an en dash.

 

You might be thinking, “Why didn’t she use — or — as the en and em dash cues?” I admit, that does seem more logical. However, that works only if you have just an em dash preference set up. Unfortunately, things go awry when you set up both an en dash and em dash. Google Docs appears to get confused in that situation. The en dash will work just fine, but the em dash shows up as an en dash plus a single dash. Weird, I know. Anyways, because I want substitutions for both, I use -+ and ++ instead.

 

Long Live the Em Dash

Try this tip and spread the word to other bloggers who have been contributing to the demise of the em dash.

Your turn: What’s your favorite punctuation mark or punctuation pet peeve?

 

3 Ways Small Businesses Struggle With Data

Small businesses are usually strapped for resources, money and time. However, having good data can be both a lifelineAbstract bar chart with gray and black bars to represent data and a competitive advantage. Here are the top three struggles that small businesses are faced with when it comes to data.

 

Struggle #1: No time to analyze the available data

 

When you are busy serving customers at the restaurant you rarely have the time to stop and look at what menu items are popular and what are not. After all, you have ten tables that are in need of coffee refills. But if you do find an hour or two to analyze which selections are popular and which are not, you can make important changes. Analyzing orders over time can uncover new trends andall you to adapt what you’re doing so you can attract new customers and keep your existing patrons happy. An alternative to trying to carve out time to analyze your own data is to hire a professional freelance analyst who will be able to help uncover new insights for your business.

 

Struggle #2: No budget to spend on technology

 

More and more new technologies are flagging the marketplace. They can assist with anything: from the monitoring of social media to summarizing of all your digital marketing in one place. This can present challenges, not just from an integration perspective but also from a budget perspective. However, you may not need the latest technology to keep track and analyze your data. Google Sheets might do the trick. There are also other great tools that are free or close to free of charge. These tools might not have all the bells and whistles, but they work well enough with a small amount of data. A bit of research can go a long way to identify perfect tools for your business.

 

Struggle #3:  Hard time collecting data

You have probably heard that data is the business’s biggest asset. But how do you start collecting data and what data is actually useful? The answer is that data can be collected in various ways. You can observe your customers and prospects online using tools such as Google Analytics, Social Media and so on. Offline, the data may be accumulated by monitoring the types of customers and prospects that come to your store. You can also gather data by asking your prospect or customers for their names, Emails and other information that is relevant to your business. Valuable data can be collected in an online form, at a cash register or by conducting a customer survey.

You can transform struggles into opportunities with a bit of effort, a small budget and creative thinking. The first step toward turning your business into a data driven business is to start collecting data in any shape or form. The second step is to analyze the acquired data. Data analysis, in return, will provide the insights that can help drive your business forward.

Anna KayfitzAbout the Author

Anna Kayfitz is C.E.O. and founder of StrategicDB Corporation, an analytics and data cleansing company. StrategicDB Corp. helps businesses get more from their data. By analyzing sales and marketing data, you can derive tremendous value for your business. StrategicDB offers data cleansing services because no analysis is possible if you cannot trust your data. Some of our services include: segmentation modelling, dashboard building, market basket analysis, lifetime value analysis and much much more.

The Blueprint for Internet Marketing Lead Generation

Why do online efforts to generate leads and convert them into customers too often fall flat?

 

Lead generation campaigns fail to function as well as they should when some crucial element is missing—and no one notices.

 

In a sense, an Internet marketing lead generation campaign is like a jigsaw puzzle. If only a solitary piece is missing or out of place, you have no way of successfully achieving your goal. Unfortunately, with a generation campaign, you don’t have the benefit of a picture on the front of a box to guide you.

 

If your lead generation campaigns haven’t gained the results you’ve hoped for, Straight North, a Chicago-based Internet marketing firm (for whom I’m a contributing writer), has created the handy flowchart below to help you.

 

It identifies the components an effective campaign requires and how all the pieces fit together. Use it as your blueprint to solving the lead generation puzzle.

 

Infographic created by Straight North

Quick Tip to Prevent Losing Content (and Your Valuable Time) if MS Word Behaves Badly

Microsoft Word – Good, But Not Perfectnaughty brown puppy chewing up white pillow

 

Microsoft Word documents are the go-to for many writers because most clients prefer to receive content in a .doc or .docx file. Unless clients request that I share content in some other mutually agreeable way, I submit my writing to them in Word docs via email. That seems to be the standard process for most of the writers I know.

 

Although a useful, universal program, MS Word has issues—and creates headaches—from time to time. Some are predicaments of our own making, like when we accidentally click “don’t save” when closing a document to which we just added multiple paragraphs. Oops!

 

But some problems are out of our control. For example, as I was wrapping up and spell-checking a 500- to 600-word draft last month, nearly every character in my text turned into gibberish symbols. WTH? I scoured the Internet, trying to find some solution to get my words back. But alas, nothing fixed the situation. And so, I had to recreate the entire post from scratch. The unforeseen circumstances derailed my day and hijacked more than 3 hours of my already filled-to-the-brim schedule.

 

I was not amused.

 

And I vowed that would never happen again.

 

How To Prevent Losing Content and Precious Hours

 

In the past, I used Google Docs sparingly. Occasionally, a client would request to share files that way, but otherwise, I didn’t pay much attention to the cloud-based word processor.

 

Since my MS Word-gibberish debacle, that has changed.

 

I now create all my content in Google Docs. Doing so protects me from both of the issues I mentioned above.

 

Benefits of Creating Content in Google DocsGoogle Docs Screen Shot of Share Option

 

  1. Google Docs auto-save in real time.

 

So you never have to worry about closing your docs and losing your changes.

 

  1. Google Docs gives you a backup if a Word file fails.

 

After I finish content in Google Docs, I export it into a Word document, save it to my Mac, and then send it to my client. By keeping the Google Doc in my content repository in Google Drive, I have a backup if Word behaves badly—or if I accidentally delete or misplace the Word doc.

 

If you have clients who feel comfortable using Google Drive, you can eliminate the hassle of back-and-forth emails during the revision and approval process. You can give the people who need to weigh in on your content access to your Google Docs files (and entire Google Drive folders). Even better, you can give them editing privileges, and all of their suggested changes will be marked up within your Google Docs. This avoids the mayhem that ensues when multiple people email you their modifications via separate revised Word docs.

 

Not Just For Writers

Even if you’re not a content creator by trade, you likely have a lot of communicating to accomplish with employees, project partners, vendors, and customers. Whether you have meeting agendas, spreadsheets, to-do lists, or other information that needs the input of multiple people, Google Drive can serve as a viable collaboration tool and backup plan. It’s a rather intuitive program, but if you need assistance in learning to navigate it, Google has a helpful online guide available.

 

Three Key Personal Branding Takeaways From Taylor Swift

I’m not a star-struck groupie, but occasionally someone with celebrity status wows me. At this moment, it’s Taylor Swift.

Not so much because of her music but because of her command of her personal brand.

Swift recently had wiped out all of her social media accounts, leaving fans and the media wondering whether she had been hacked or planning a big announcement. It turns out the social network purge was intentional. It was Swift’s way of not only generating buzz about her new single “Look What You Made Me Do,” but also of announcing her updated personal brand.


Unlike other celebrities who have undergone lofty persona fluctuations (Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears, for example), Swift has made it perfectly clear that SHE is in charge. This change has been no accident. It’s not a manifestation of feeling victimized or misunderstood.

 

Swift’s new brand image is 100 percent on purpose—and she is masterfully executing it.

 

Yours and my personal brands may never gain the prominence that Swift’s has, nor will we likely see the need to re-invent ourselves to the degree she has. But we can learn a few things from how she has handled her personal brand.

 

Three Personal Branding Lessons We Can Learn From Taylor Swift

 

  • Have a vision and purpose.

Know who you are, how you want others to perceive your personal brand, and why it’s important that you project that image. Swift exudes self-confidence because she knows exactly who she is and what she stands for. That level of self-assurance and intent is especially critical if you decide to make a change to your personal brand. Change for the sake of change will look more like a mid-life crisis than a carefully calculated decision.

 

  • Don’t dwell on the haters.

As Swift’s song “Shake It Off” goes, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate…” When you’re a professional whose personal brand is out there on social media and in the business community, you’ll have followers who embrace and support who you are and others who constantly criticize and demean. Focus not on the naysayers whose sole purpose is to drag you down. Instead, put your energy into building relationships and loyalty with the people who appreciate you and your talents.

 

  • Own it.

Swift hasn’t let the media or the public define her personal brand. She has told us who she is. Your words, your actions, your style, your affiliations…you have the capacity to control all of the components that contribute to your personal brand. Take charge of them, so you can maintain power over your personal brand rather than relinquishing that control to others.

 

Whether you’re a Taylor Swift fan or one of the haters, there’s no denying her badass mastery of personal branding.

 

Your turn: What other celebrities and public figures do believe have solid personal branding strategies? What personal branding challenges have  you faced?

 

Three Simple Tips For Managing Freelance Projects

In an ideal world, every client would have her act together.Desktop with Macbook, monitor, and notebook, etc.

 

But as fulfilling as a freelancer’s world is, it’s rarely ideal.

  • Some clients don’t know what they want.
  • Some clients change their minds—often.
  • Some clients don’t communicate well.
  • Some clients [Fill in the blank—the list goes on.]

 

Besides doing your craft well, freelancing demands a flair for project management, too. You will find yourself in situations when you’ll need to grab the reins to keep assignments on track.

 

That means having your act together. Here are three simple steps to help start projects on a clear note and see them through successfully.

1. Get confirmation of all deliverables and determine dependencies BEFORE you start the project and agree to a deadline.

Often, projects involve more than just your work. For example, if I’m writing content for a website, I typically cannot begin until the layout of the site is determined and SEO requirements have been defined. Make it clear that your ability to start or finish your to-dos is dependent on others pulling their weight. If you have slackers on a project team, you will need additional time to complete your work.

 

2. Reserve time on your calendar for the different components you need to tackle.

This will save you headaches and help prevent the onset of panic attacks because you’ll have a plan for getting your work done.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” said a wise man named Benjamin Franklin.

Block out periods of time on your calendar for attending to the tasks associated with the project. It’s best to overestimate to give yourself some wiggle room in case not everything goes as planned.

 

3. Ask for feedback as you go.

Presenting your entire body of work at the project deadline can lead to disaster. Just one incorrect element or a misunderstanding can snowball into a giant re-do requiring hours and hours and hours of labor.

To get a pulse on whether or not you’re on target with your work, check in with clients regularly to present sections of completed work. As you get feedback and input, you can fine-tune what you’ve done and use that knowledge to make sure everything you do from that point onward will be closer to spot on.

I’ve found this tip invaluable. It enables me to make changes as I go in the event my writing tone is slightly off, or I need to rephrase certain terminology.

 

Keep Calm – And Get It Done.

Most freelancing projects are never completely free of challenges. But when you have a solid project management approach in your back pocket, you can keep a cool head and help steer the work process in the right direction.

 

What tips do you have for managing your freelance projects?

 

Four Must-Haves Solopreneurs Need But Don’t Know It

Now That Makes A Difference text on purple and white background

When you start out as a solopreneur, you know you need the usual business essentials to operate professionally: computer, phone, printer, Internet, paper, and so on and so forth. Now in my eighth year of self-employment, I’ve discovered other assets I originally didn’t realize could be so important. Slightly obscure, they might have fallen below your radar, too.

 

Four Business Essentials You Might Not Realize You Need

 

  • A really good umbrella

By all accounts, I’m blessed. Our family has the good fortune to be financially secure; we have what we need and can (within reason) get what we want. BUT we have the most pathetic umbrellas at our house. There’s only one that I’m not mortified to use in public. The others are obnoxious red and white umbrellas the telecom company I once worked for offered as promotional freebies for its now non-existent Internet service provider division. After a recent rainy spell here in eastern Pennsylvania (during which my 9th-grade daughter forgot our only respectable umbrella in her locker at school), I realized I should invest in several more decent umbrellas. It’s a matter of pride—and professional appearance. Own umbrellas that won’t make you look and feel like a panhandler.

 

  • Kick-@s$ closet hangers

Upon launching my freelance business in 2010, I quickly learned being organized personally helps keep all professional endeavors in order, too. What I didn’t realize, however, is how much of a difference a well-designed hanger can make. Fortunately, a colleague recently introduced me to Joy Mangano Huggable Hangers. No more jungle of jumbled wire and bulky plastic hangers that crowd our limited space and let my outfits slip to the floor. I’ve replaced all hangers in our bedroom walk-in closet and my daughter’s closet with these gems, and I’m in the process of swapping out every last hanger in our entire house with them.

 

I’m obsessed.

With more free space in my closet, I can find what I want to wear more easily, and my clothes don’t get wrinkly while hanging. These hangers have saved me time and made it much easier to get out the door on time for meetings. If you have a closet that needs a revamp, definitely check them out.

 

  • A spritz of confidence

Nobody wants to think about this, and I can hardly believe I’m writing about it, but here it “goes.” When you’re on the go and have to go, Poo-Pourri lets you do it in stealth mode. I bought a bottle and intended it as a gag gift for a family Christmas gift swap a few years ago. Intrigued by the concept, I tried it first. The s%@t works (pun intended). Why would anyone ever want to leave home without it? The company sells 2-ounce bottles that you can easily fit into laptop bags or handbags.

 

  • Wiggle room

Despite how well you plan your project schedule, some tasks will require more time than you anticipate they will, and unexpected phone calls, tech issues, etc. will occasionally happen. If you jam-pack your day down to the minute, you’ll never have a buffer zone to address those sorts of surprises. The solution, add some wiggle room (empty slots of time) into your calendar every day. It’s a sanity saver!

 

Nothing fancy above—just practical items that I’ve found can make a difference professionally.

 

What underappreciated must-haves would you add to the list?