ClearVerve Marketing, LLC

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Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

In honor of Halloween: writing a blog is not as scary as you think

 

For some people, The Blog might as well be a new version of the 1958 cheesy alien invasion movie, The Blob. But, blogging shouldn’t scare you.

A client of ours recently asked us to blog (why, yes, it is a verb and a noun) for him. This happens all the time. He has good ideas and decent writing skills but he’s just tech-hesitant and time-challenged.

Though we’re more than happy to help him build his digital presence, writing for an online channel such as blog, is a skill he – and you — can cultivate. You need to find your niche and your voice and the tool that’s right for you. You don’t have to crank out your writing. You can move slowly. It might take you a while to familiarize yourself with the process, but before you know you’re thought of as a leader, a forward thinker who brings new ideas to the table and adds value.

But if you’re still a little spooked, here are a few tips we found for building fearlessness:

Tech is the means, not the end. The blogosphere, along with social media outlets, is just a spot for your message. Your message is what matters most. There a people who can help you make the technology work.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Writing is a process. So lighten up on yourself and move ahead.

Take a tour. Meet my friend YouTube. There’s an instructional tutorial (or 100) out there for anything with which you might need help.

Develop an outline. Planning and process might not be things you love to do but it will help you develop and repurpose your idea.

No worries. If the post just doesn’t look right in the preview mode, just upload it again.

Jackie Costa is the director of content marketing at Clear Verve. She works with clients to communication more clearly and create smarter, better, channel-appropriate content. Listen for her on Twitter as @JackieMCosta.

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What content is right for you?

 

Content marketing has become the newest gotta have it thing in marketing. And just like many marketers were told to “get us up on Facebook” for no other reason than someone had heard of this new Facebook thing and it sounded cool, content generation is now a jump in with both feet and no thought thing.

But the problem is that creating all this content is WORK. A lot of work. And there are a ton of platforms you can use. For example:

  • You can write a whitepaper and post it to your website, or create a microsite, or post it to Facebook, or Tweet it, write a press release about it, or…
  • Work with a videographer create a video and post it in a bunch of places (see above)
  • You can create a short-form video, such as a Vine, for your website, YouTube, or Facebook
  • Try uploading a presentation or e-book to Slideshare
  • Write and post information to your LinkedIn account
  • Create your own magazine on Flipboard
  • Tweet
  • Blog
  • Set up a Facebook page or a Google + profile
  • Maintain an online press room
  • Publish an e-newsletter
  • Don’t forget about Instagram, Pinterest, and a thousand other platforms I can’t think of off the top of my head
  • And on and on and on…

Who has time for all this? Even large companies struggle to keep up with it all. And there’s nothing worse than setting up an online profile and then abandoning it. In fact, a recent study showed that 70 percent of buyers are relying on content more than they did just a year ago to make buying decisions.

So take your time. Think about what you actually can do. Pat yourself on the back for what you accomplish. Keep your eyes open for new opportunities, but remember that just because something exists, that doesn’t mean you have to use it.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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2013 is the year of content marketing

 

According to a recent survey, 79 percent of marketers are now reporting that their companies are shifting into branded content either at a moderate or aggressive pace. The portion of the marketing budget dedicated to creating content is up 13 percent over the past two years.

Content marketing is using the creation of content as a marketing tool. It can take the form of blogs, social media, or website content. It can be video or email. It also includes traditional forms of content such as books, printed newsletters, or whitepapers. Anything your organization does to inform and educate your audience, with the exception of advertising, can be considered content marketing.

In the professional services world, content marketing is something that has always been done. Most accounting firms, insurance companies, health care organizations, and law firms have been producing newsletters for years. However, the number of mediums for distribution and the speed at which content must now be created is new. This poses a challenge for many organizations, as evidenced by the fact that 56 percent of brands are now outsourcing content creation. It is a necessity, but is outside the skill set of many professionals. If your organization can afford to outsource content, it provides many advantages. Content is created consistently and is of higher quality. However, if you can’t afford outside help, you can still participate. Here’s how:

  • Set realistic goals. You don’t have to blog every day. Shoot for once a week or twice a month. Just be consistent.
  • Produce the best content you can. Better to produce a smaller amount of high quality content than hundreds of gobbledygook posts nobody will read.
  • Remember, it’s not advertising. Inform, don’t sell. Your goal is not to make a sale, it is to educate your audience and demonstrate your knowledge.

Get multiple people at your organization involved. If everyone only needs to write one or two articles per year, it can get done.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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You decided to start a blog, now what?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 — 

 

You made a good choice. Blogs position you as an expert and help you build trusting relationships with your prospects and customers. What you write helps them get to know you better, and through their comments and your site analytics, you come to know them better too.

Your blog will pay off. People always prefer to work with those they know and trust. So, when they’re ready to get down to business, they’ll call you.

But, how to start? Here are a few tips to help you develop your blog.

Choose your blog domain name carefully. Be sure to buy the URLs so that if you ever want to change platforms, you can easily do so without losing traffic.

Keep the design clean, simple and easy to navigate. We use WordPress, but there are other easy-to-use blog platforms as well. Remember it’s more about what you write. Well, what would you expect a director of content to say?

Content. Speaking of content, your blog should be reflective of your principals and personality. Also, keep social media etiquette in mind when blogging. You must understand the importance of transparency and motive. Don’t always be selling. Often times adding value by giving advice is better. You might even want to develop a style outline for your blog. This will provide clear direction for the tone and objectives of what you write. Keep a running list of blog post ideas and check your blog metrics so you can see what posts generate the most traffic. And remember to write using key words so that your posts can be easily found by your audience.

Set a goal for the number of posts to write per week or month. We’re all more likely to stick to a schedule if we set one — plus there’s the added bonus of posting fresh content. Most of your blog posts should contain original content, but others can highlight information, resources or research that you know your audience likes or appreciates.

Repurpose your blog content. Think how simple life will be when an editor calls asking for you to contribute a column or opinion piece for publication. Not an issue, grab an appropriate blog post from the past and you’re ready to roll. Don’t worry about running your blog posts in other places — email newsletters, in your ezine, on Twitter or on your Facebook page, as the basis of news releases, or in print in a professional organization’s publication – they’re your messages and you’ll want to get plenty of use from them.

Jackie Costa, the director of content marketing at Clear Verve, works with clients to create and distribute smarter, better marketing communications materials. Listen for her on Twitter @JackieMCosta.

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Five reasons your organization should be blogging

 

I read recently that fewer than half of all Fortune 100 companies use blogs as a communications tool, and that smaller to midsize organizations are only a little more engaged in blogging than their Fortune 100 counterparts.

That’s a cryin’ shame. Having a blog is well worth the time and effort. It provides great benefits and ultimately, can be your most highly effective, powerful, low-cost marketing tool. You should take advantage of this medium. Use this tactic and make it the key component of your social media and content marketing efforts. Here’s why:

Blogs bring new business or new donations. It’s important for your prospective customers, clients or donors to find you online. Blogs make it easier for them to do that and initiate contact with you when they are ready to engage. You become part of their mental furniture and when they’re ready to rearrange some things, you’ll be the knowledgeable, helpful organization that’s top of mind.

Blogs provide prominence and show leadership. A blog can become the gateway to your organization and provide a reason to visit it often. If your website is your online brochure, your blog is your sales call. In addition, blogging enriches you professionally; it keeps you in the loop, which thought leader usually are. As you read more about your industry you’ll be excited to share and comment on it. You’ll be up to date with the freshest thinking and be acquainted with the newest trends — all good things for the people you serve. Blogging positions you in their minds as a trusted expert. However, you have to be a little careful. As soon as you start to sell your organization or crow a little bit too loudly about your credentials, accomplishments or awards, you’ll lose your street cred and your audience. Stick with writing rich, helpful content about people, things and activities that make life a little better … or funnier.

Blogs help you build trust and allow you to practice what you preach. If you volunteer at a nonprofit, you can blog for them about the people who’ve met and helped. If you sell vegetables, you can blog about how to use them in recipes. If you work at a marketing company that recommends blogging, you better be doing it. Plus, blogs offer lots of flexibility. Posts can be long or short, visual or not, and incorporate just about any type of media. Videos, photos, infographics, even presentations can all be embedded into your organization’s blog. With a blog, you own the content, control the platform and decide on the format. Say what you want to say. Be the authority.

Blogs are always fresh. By its very nature, a blog is one of the best ways to continually produce fresh content for your website, and search engines love fresh content. A steady stream of new information will attract new visitors to your site and keep your fans coming back too. Additionally, blog content can be repurposed on websites and reposted on other social media sites.

Blogs boost your search engine rankings. Unless your company or product line is very large, blogging is the most practical and valuable way to expand your website content. By creating more content through blog articles, you create more opportunities to rank in search engines. Because of a much higher number of keywords, blog posts can organically attract diverse high-quality links, which are far more likely to be shared in social media than standard website content; just make sure your blog is hosted on your company domain (e.g. blog.yourcompany.com or yourcompany.com/blog).

Blogging isn’t free, but it is a bargain. Setup and hosting fees plus the time you or an employee invest in writing are minimal compared to the amount you’d spend calling and traveling to meet people at their offices or networking at a tradeshow. What’s invaluable though is the traffic and trust you’ll build by simply adding content.

Jackie Costa is the director of content marketing at Clear Verve and works with clients to create and distribute smarter, better marketing communications materials. Listen for her on Twitter as @JackieMCosta.

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5 tips to improve your writing

Thursday, June 7, 2012 — 

 

People often tell me that my job seems really hard or that they struggle with writing. While it is true that everyone has their own “thing,” there are some steps you can take to improve your writing if it does not come easily.

1. Just start writing. Most people try to write the title for their article first. Then they get stuck and can’t move on. Or, they write a title that limits the subject of the article. Next time, try skipping the title and write the article first. It will be easier to title your article when you know what your article is actually about.

2. Write it when you think it. I carry a small notebook in my purse and in my car, so I can record thoughts at stoplights. (Don’t worry, I know better than to write when I’m driving!) You never know when inspiration will strike and if you don’t write your thoughts down, they will be lost. Alternately, you could use the voice recorder in your phone to grab your thoughts for later.

3. Don’t be afraid to skip around. If you get stuck on one thought and another one that isn’t related to what you’re writing pops into your head, just move further down the page and record your thought. You can go back later and connect your two thoughts or delete one and expand upon the other.

4. Write backwards. Most of us were taught to write by introducing the setting, explaining the situation, and building to a conclusion. However, effective business writing begins at the end. I call this writing backwards, because the conclusion is at the beginning and everything you write afterwards supports that idea. That’s how newspapers are written. The headline tells you what happened and the story explained the circumstances that led up to the final event. If you’re not in the habit of writing this way, just write the way you normally do and then go back and edit your work. Your main idea is probably the first sentence of the second paragraph.

5. Take a break. When you feel like you’re done, pause and walk away. An hour or more away from your writing will give you fresh eyes and make you a better editor.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Nobody reads agency blogs

 

Two of my favorite bloggers, Michael Gass and Chris Brogan wrote blog posts prompted by a blog post from Jason Falls. (Can you follow that? It almost sounds like a middle school chain of gossip. But it’s not.) All three posts make great points about corporate blogging in general.  It seems that many corporations are investing less time in their blogs and many agencies are following suit, saying they are too much work for too little results.

Well duh! Most agency blogs aren’t all that great. Both Gass and Brogan point out that most blogs have no strategy behind them and that nobody likes to read self-serving posts. We agree. We also think that agencies generally have horrible websites too. I think it’s because as creative people our own websites are a great place to turn the creative faucet all the way to high. This sometimes leads to beautiful, oddly-functioning, hard to navigate websites. Also, agencies often flock to the latest, newest, shiniest tool and get bored quickly with “old” (as in 6 months old) stuff.

We continue to advise our clients to blog and to (gasp!) publish e-newsletters. They work. But you have to be willing to share what you know. Remember, you can talk all day about what you know and a good prospect will recognize that it’s better to pay for your expertise than to try to figure out how to do something for themselves. If they’re a DIY kind of business, they’re not a great client anyway. At least not yet.

Don’t give up on blogs. They’re great for SEO. They’re great for forcing yourself to read and write on a regular basis. They demonstrate expertise. And they do work!

 

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Niches: A smart strategy

 

In his blog, Real Lawyers Have Blogs, Kevin O’Keefe makes several compelling arguments for why attorneys should blog on specific niches rather than writing a blog on general legal topics. It’s a great, short read and we recommend you check it out, particularly if you’ve ever worried about defining your practice or your firm by a niche.

We think niches are a smart strategy. Not just for blogs, but for your business. Whether you’re an attorney, an accountant, or any other type of service provider, niches can help you market your firm because your prospects will understand when you are the right person to call. Will it exclude you from some opportunities? Sure, but it will also ensure that you get more of the work you enjoy most because when you explain what you do, eight of the nine people you are talking to will not be interested but that ninth person will hand you a business card and say, “Call me. I’ve been looking for someone like you.”

Choosing a niche is scary, we know. But it is the best way to differentiate yourself from other service providers who describe their work in such general terms you can’t tell why on earth you’d ever want to engage them.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns.  Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.