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September 2012

16 Desktop Apps to Help You Tweet

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Desktop Apps to Help You Tweet This post is chock-full of downloadable Twitter tools to help you use Twitter better from your desktop. Twitter.com is just the beginning of using Twitter effectively.

I absolutely love Twitter. Some complain that it’s turning into a link broadcast system, but I say that just means you’re following the wrong people. My conversations on Twitter are fun, interesting, and extremely helpful when I’m working on growing my brand online.

I have to admit, though: I don’t love the Twitter.com website. I find the functionality of this platform clunky at best, so I prefer using a desktop client. So today, I’ve put together a list of awesome Twitter tools that can help you make the most of this social media platform. And I hope that you’ll leave your favorite desktop client in the comments if I’ve missed any!

TweetDeck: TweetDeck is my desktop client of choice. I like how you can display columns, schedule tweets, and add multiple accounts so you can update from several Twitter profiles, as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms. I actually use an old version of TweetDeck, preferring that to the newer version, but I feel like either is better than the Twitter.com website.

HootSuite: One of the most popular social media management tools our there is HootSuite. This is the desktop client our Director of Community here are NMX, Deb Ng, uses. Like TweetDeck, this tool allows you schedule messages and to update from multiple accounts, but if you want to add more than five, you have to pay for a pro account. If you upgrade, you can also integrate Google Analytics and Facebook Insights, and you can add unlimited RSS feeds (you only get two with the free version).

Destroy Twitter: With Destroy Twitter, you don’t get all the bells and whistles you do with other desktop clients – and that’s by design. This client is meant to be very minimalistic so it doesn’t use much memory. You also have some filter options if certain kinds of Twitter updates (like Foursquare) annoy you.

Janetter: Janetter calls itself “the best Twitter app for Windows and Mac.” Those are some pretty big claims! It’s similar to TweetDeck and Hootsuite in many ways, with the main difference in that you have tons of options for customizing the look. You can change the skin, wallpaper, font, and more with this desktop client.

Echofon: In the past few months, I keep seeing more and more people switching to Echofon. This desktop client will sync with the iPhone app version so you won’t see tweets twice, which is a nice function. It’s free, though you can pay for an ad-free premium version.

Other Desktop Clients: Some others that are less popular or include fewer functions, but which you should check out if you’re looking for that perfect desktop client include the following:

Which of the above apps do you use? Or did I miss mentioning your favorite desktop Twitter app? Leave a comment below telling us your desktop Twitter habits!

The Bookend Blog-Writing Technique

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If you’re like most writers, you’ve lost many mornings staring at an empty screen—but it doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you’re looking for a way to stay motivated or for the secret to adding punch to your blog posts, here’s a solution you might not have considered: bookending.

Bookending Basics

What Is Bookending?

Bookending is all about the order in which you write your posts. It means writing the end, then the beginning and finally the middle. While helpful for blogging, it’s also applicable in every kind of writing context, from magazines to screenplays to short stories.

Why Does Bookending Work?

Sometimes the hardest part of writing is knowing where you’re going. With bookending, you start with the end—so you always have a sense of what you’re working towards. Once you know where you’re headed, it’s easier to know how to get started. Then, all that’s left is filling in the remainder

 

The Bookending Blog Process

When you’re new to the bookending technique, it can feel daunting. You know you start with the ending, but how? And does it matter what your beginning is like? What about the middle? Here’s a more in-depth look at the different parts of the bookending process:

Writing the End of Your Post

Writing the ending first is all about knowing where you’re going with your post. It’s like getting in the car, knowing you’re leaving Chicago, bound for Texas—you automatically know to point your wheels south.

Discerning Your Direction

In her previous BlogWorld article, Allison Boyer says, “Before you start writing (or staring at a blank screen wondering what to write), take a moment to identify a broad goal for the post you’re about to publish.”

In taking that moment, you may want to ask yourself questions like these:

  • What do I want my readers to feel or think after reading this post?
  • What do I want them to take away?
  • Do I want them to do something after reading?
  • What difference will this post make to my readers?

Answering these questions will help clarify the goal of your post, which will show you what the ending should look like.

Knowing the direction of your post brings several benefits:

  • Easier post writing because there’s a specific outcome in mind
  • Less of a tendency to wander or get off track in the post
  • Assurance that you’re writing something with purpose
  • Increasing loyalty among readers who see this pattern in your posts

Writing the Ending

Once you’ve settled what kind of message you want to share in your post, it’s time to write the ending. If you’re stuck for ideas, reach into your writer’s toolbox and consider creating an ending that takes the form of one or more of the following options:

  • Summary: Drive home your point by reiterating and summarizing it at the end of your post.
  • Story: Amplify your message with an anecdote sure to connect with readers—this can be a powerful way to keep them thinking about your post even after they click away.
  • Question(s): Encourage discussion by finishing your post with open-ended questions that ask your readers to respond.
  • Call to action: Give your readers a specific way to respond to your post—ask them to share it, tell them to subscribe, give them a task to go complete as a result.
  • Link: Conclude your post by pointing to other helpful resources that support your topic, whether newspaper articles or other blog articles or books.
  • Hint at Next Post: Tell your readers what’s coming next in order to keep them interested and build anticipation. This is especially helpful when you’re writing a series of blog posts.

 

Writing the Beginning of Your Post

The beginning of a blog post is like a first impression—it sets the tone for what’s coming. When you’re writing the beginning, you want to be intentional about what you’re communicating.

Key to Beginning

A good blog post can begin in many different ways: a story, a summary, questions. But no matter which format you choose, one thing is the same: you need to pull readers in and communicate what your post is going to be about. As Erik Johnson writes in his previous BlogWorld post, “When you want your listeners to stick around and listen to what you have to say, you need to give them a compelling reason.”

Questions to Ask

To test your introduction for quality, ask the following questions:

  • Is the first sentence interesting?
  • Will this introduction draw readers in?
  • Am I communicating what the post will be about?
  • Is this short and sweet, or am I rambling?
  • Does this tell a reader why he should keep reading?

Writing the Middle of Your Post

While your introduction sets the stage for the content to come, the middle of your post delivers it. This section should be the easiest to write because it is the heart and soul of what you’re trying to communicate. Still though, it’s easy to lose readers if you make classic mistakes.

How to Drive Readers Away

  • Don’t meet expectations: If your introduction says you’re going to give me five reasons for visiting Milwaukee, your blog post better give me five reasons to visit Milwaukee. When you don’t deliver on your promise, you send me packing.
  • Be long and boring: We’ve all gone to blogs with too-long posts that ramble on and on about off-topic issues. Don’t make this mistake. To keep readers, it’s smarter to be to-the-point.
  • Don’t be different: Say what everyone else is saying, and I have no reason to come to you.
  • Overwhelm them: Here’s a tip that bears repeating—get rid of popups and auto-playing music. If I start reading your post and am hit with giant popups that cover the screen, I’m clicking away before I find out what you wrote.

Characteristics of Quality Content

Okay, so when you know what not to do, then what? What are the marks of good content (i.e., good middles)?

  • Show What’s in It for the Reader: From the end to the beginning and everything in between, have something to offer your readers. Show them why they should be reading and what the information matters.
  • Be Unique: Set yourself apart by being different from everybody else. Don’t copy the content and style of another blog—be unique.
  • Use Compelling Images: Images amplify your content and make it more interesting. In fact, quality images are one of the top three factors in raising your blog’s quality and reputation.
  • Make Your Content Scannable: Statistics show blog readers spend less than two minutes reading the average blog post. That’s because they’re not reading; they’re scanning. If your message gets buried inside several long paragraphs, you can count on most of your readers not getting it.

Bookending is a pretty simple idea—but a powerful one. How could it change the way you approach the blogging process? Is it different from your typical routine?

Content Creators: Stop Using the Term “IRL”

Author:

Today, I wanted to share a video with you that I think is extremely important. It comes from TEDxVictoria and is a talk by Alexandra Samuel, the Director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University and the co-founder and principal of Social Signal.

Every day, I see people using the phrase “in real life” (or “IRL”) when speaking about their life away from the Internet. But why isn’t the time we spend online real too?

It starts with us, the content creators. It starts with banishing the term “in real life” to talk about face-to-face connections and instead acknowledging that it is okay to have a real life online as well. And not only is it okay, but our interactions online count. When we say something mean online, it can hurt another person the same way saying something mean to them face-to-face can hurt. When we’re creative online, it’s just as valuable as when we’re creative in the offline world. Online, you can help people, hurt people, or even fall in love. It’s real life too.

Here’s the video:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ui2ZwO-efo0[/youtube]

My favorite quote from this video: “It’s up to each of us to decide that what we are doing and sharing online can create meaning. And if you focus on creating real meaning with what you are doing online, you’ll find that the Internet is actually meaningful.”

We are the shapers of the Internet. It’s up to us to be responsible for the content we’re adding to the Internet so that we’re creating a meaningful real life experience for everyone online.

The 5 Biggest Obstacles (& Solutions!) to Getting Your Blog Started

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blog consulting

Image Credit: Benjamin Belew

In my years of blog consulting with veterans, businesses, newbie and wannabe bloggers I have learned that there are generally five obstacles that most bloggers face when getting started.

In this article I will share those five obstacles AND the solutions to them.

Will Rogers was a cowboy, vaudeville performer and social commentator who lived in the late 19th to early 20th centuries.  Rogers is credited with having first said, “If you can do it, it ain’t bragging.”

I am not “horn tooting” here. Rather I want the reader to have confidence that what I have learned and share here comes not from theory, but from real world experience. I’ve helped more people create web sites than I can remember AND get in total real/relevant traffic that is approaching 100,000,000 page views (that’s right, 100 million)–primarily (80%+) from search engines. I ain’t bragging.

Obstacle #1 Picking a Domain Name

I am genuinely surprised at the number of times that I have sat with small businesses to corporate clients who were paying me from $200-500/hr (really!) to discuss with them what domain name they should use.

I suppose it is natural to think that some names might be better than others and it is best to choose the most ideal name.

The simple truth – it really doesn’t matter what your domain name is. I have some very stupid names for some of my sites and they still have received anywhere from 1 – 30 million page views total depending on the topic.

Question: Why is that?

Answer: The domain name is not nearly as important as the title of your blog, your tagline, your choice of categories, the title you choose on individual posts and posting consistently relevant content to your blog. Get these latter points right and you can call your blog anything you want.

That being said, I do have some suggestions.

1. Choose something people can spell.

Americans are pretty much spelling challenged. If you were not born between 1954 and 1959, you probably are not that good at putting all your letters in a row correctly. From ’54-’59 Americans learned how to spell phonetically. I can spell things I have never heard or seen before (usually) and I can guess at the reading of most words. Yeah, I am old. I know it. My brother was born in ’53. He can’t spell to save his soul. My sister was born in ’60. Yup, can’t spell.

Not long ago GoDaddy invited me to their HQ for a tour and some priming. I’ll explain below. One of the things I learned was that the average length of a domain name is 8-9 characters. GoDaddy would know. They have sold some 53 million names.

Choose something that is as short as possible and that people can spell.

2. Use your own name.

I own BillBelew.com. It is not because I am vain. It is because it’s me. It was also the name of Elvis Presley’s costume designer. That Bill Belew died a few years ago. I got a LOT of visits from friends asking, “Bill, are you okay?” If you happen to have the name of somebody famous, good for you. Most don’t. For the most part, if you can’t think of a good domain name that hasn’t been used in 10 minutes or less, use your own name. Add your middle initial if you must. Add your title. First initial, last name. First name, last initial. That sort of thing. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of choosing something for your domain name and getting started. I will explain why in my session at NMX.

3. You can always change your domain name.

My son is a concert pianist who started getting pretty popular. People asked him if he had a web site. When he told them the name (it was an old fantasy character), the response was “Huh?!”

Repeat the name.

“Huh?”

He ended up buying the name BenjaminBelew.com and used a redirect to the old website domain name. Nobody knows the difference unless they check the URL box at the top AFTER they type in the domain name. Who does that? Curious? Take a look at www.benjaminbelew.com and see how it changes.

Obstacle #2 – Choosing good/reliable/cheap hosting

At least half the world’s population is shoppers.

Question: Where is the best place to get the most reliable hosting at the cheapest price?

Answer: Short of someone subsidizing the costs, the cheapest place to go is www.bm2hosting.com

(Full disclosure – I own this, but keep reading before you pass judgment on what may seem to be self promotion.)

I bought the rights to be a reseller for the world’s largest domain and hosting company. See above. I asked them, “What is the lowest possible price I can sell domains and hosting for without me having to dip into my own pocket to pay?” The prices offered at BM2Hosting are the lowest you will find anywhere. When people buy there, I do not make any money. Seriously, I pay a nominal sum annually to be able to resell these products so that my students and clients will not get bogged down searching for something better. There isn’t anything better.

  1. Nowhere more cheaply
  2. 24/7 support – great customer service
  3. Solid reputation

Obstacle #3 – Selecting Best Template

There is Blogger and WordPress and Typepad and Homemade.

Google’s chief of search engine findability and spam prevention recommends WordPress. He uses a WordPress template. And he says that WordPress templates are search engine friendly “out of the box.” And he has all of Google’s Blogger resources at his disposal! Use WordPress.

It has:

  1. More flexibility – If you can think of something you’d like to have/do at your blog, somebody has figured out a way to do it.
  2. More options – Too many! Don’t get bogged down.
  3. Ease of use – If you can write an email, you can use WordPress.
  4. Availability of help – There is a whole industry of worker bees helping people with their WordPress blogs. Don’t know who to ask? Ask me.

Question: Which WordPress template should you use?

Answer: If you can’t decide within 15 minutes of looking at the many FREE options that WordPress offers, choose the default template and go with it for now. The simple truth – in the beginning it doesn’t matter what your site looks like, nobody is coming anyway. What is important is getting started.

Choose a template, start writing and hit publish–often.

Obstacle #4 Choosing What to Write About

Question: What is the single best way to get more traffic to your web site?

Answer: Write more.

It is absolutely fundamental that the more you write, that is, the more often you hit the publish button, the higher the probability of AND the more actual visits you will see. Nothing beats publishing more. Period. Unless it would be writing more and better, using good SEO principles. I will explain this at my session at NMX.

For now, I tell people to write about something that:

  1. They are interested in – Usually when people ask me what to write about, they mean to ask what the highest paying niches are. I know the answer. But, why would you want to write about something you don’t care about just so you can make more money?
  2. You can create an interest in – Write about your topic so much that people will think, “Hey, I’d better go see what all the fuss is all about.” A good, hard-working blogger really can create their own ‘celebrity’ status.
  3. Is timeless – This is stuff that is always on people’s “to-know” list. Five of these, four reasons for, How to… and so on.
  4. Is timely – What does what you know have to do with what is going on in the world around you? Make the connection.
  5. You have a lot to say about – I tell my clients they need to write about something they have 1,000 things to say about. Literally a thousand. Don’t have that much to say? You will be hard pressed to make money blogging, I think.

Obstacle #5 It’s too much work

Making a living blogging is a lot of work. Getting good results (a LOT of traffic at your blog) from is a lot of work. Doing better business, getting more leads, more clients, more offers from your blog is a lot of work. But if you don’t want to work hard, I have solved that problem, too.

Write a big check (depends on your goals) and I will do it for you. And, if not me, there are people who will ghost blog for you. But it costs money.

There is no reason why you can’t get started blogging today. You can go from zero to hitting the publish button in about two hours.

The five biggest obstacles to getting started blogging are overcome

  1. Name – done
  2. Hosting – done
  3. Template – done
  4. Content – done
  5. Hard – done

What are you waiting for? Get started today.

3 Ways to Monetize a Podcast

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Have we moved past the notion that podcasting should generate no income? While there are certainly still many “purists” who think that all media should be free and that it should never generate income for the creator, it does seem that they are increasingly in the minority. There are costs to being a podcaster that climb ever higher as audiences grow and production scales. While it’s true that a podcaster can start off at square one with a cheap USB headset and a free hosting account, that changes when audio quality becomes a limiting factor to growth and video enters the picture (pun totally intended).

Cash

We’ll even accept foreign currency, if that’s what you’ve got.

Three primary monetization methods exist for podcasters and there are generally two ways to implement them: on your site or in your show. Many podcasters begin a show with a short advertisement (some go quite a lot longer… but I won’t name names).

And if I wasn’t writing for NMX, I’d show his picture and make a joke right here.

Running an ad or two for 30 seconds or a minute at the top of your show is one way to go. Other podcasters will take a break in the middle of a show to talk about an advertiser. These segments can last anywhere from half a minute to a few minutes, depending on the nature of the sponsor and the way the ad is integrated. Audiobook reviews, for example, can be tied into an advertisement for Audible.com. Least-used is the insertion of an ad after the show is over. It stands to reason that as soon as the host says “bye,” people will turn off the show. Ads at the end will not perform nearly as well as ads at the top or in the middle of the show.

Sponsorships

Advertisers buying ad space on radio or television shows are nearly as old as the mediums themselves. Podcasters are not exempt from this form of income generation, and while it’s true that a young show or one without a large audience will not get the primo offers, the offers are out there. This is perhaps the easiest form of income to manage—you deal with the advertiser directly, you set a fixed rate by the week, by the month or even by the episode, and you get paid.

Sponsors for podcasts, just like radio, will simply provide you with a script or a pre-recorded ad to run during your show. Some advertisers allow you to write your own script. Either way, you will direct people to the advertiser either by links on your site or ads on your show (usually both). With the ads that run on your show, you’ll need to be able to speak their website addresses, which is not usually a problem—unlike what we face with affiliate marketing.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is not a scam. Affiliate marketing is not a scam. Say it with me: affiliate marketing is not a scam.

apples

The saying about a bunch spoiled by one apple applies here.

Unfamiliar with the concept? Heard some less-than-flattering things about it? Here is the rock-bottom truth: you, a website owner and podcaster, create a link to a product on Amazon (for example), only instead of using a regular link, you use a specially-coded “affiliate link.” When someone clicks that link and buys something at Amazon (for example), you get a small commission. You are being compensated for referring customers to a business, nothing more. With all this talk about clicking links, how can a podcaster work with this? You can’t speak affiliate links, right?

Well, no, you can’t. This is a sample affiliate link for the Blue Snowball microphone (yes, it’s one of mine. Full disclosure. PLEASE do not use it if you do not want to. I’m not after your clicks, I’m after your eyeballs right this second):

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002OO18NS?ie=UTF8&tag=qaqn-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B002OO18NS

How can you possibly speak that on your podcast?! Clearly, you can’t…but you can speak a shortened link. Services like bit.ly or tinyurl.com will take that monstrosity and cut it down to a manageable size. You can also (and I recommend this) use a WordPress plugin called Pretty Link to shorten links on your own website. That link above, destined for Amazon.com, has been shorted on my website to this:

http://qaqn.com/snowball

…and I can totally speak that link on my shows. When someone types it in after hearing it, it’s the same as if they had clicked the link on my website.

Donations

When it comes to raising money, asking for donations has a long, storied history in radio, television, podcasting, street corners and public schools.

Teenagers playing soccer in the rain

Sure I can spare three bucks. Go Wildcats! That’s the team’s name, right?

Many a successful podcast has been built on listener donations. Setting up a PayPal account and a form to collect money on your website is pretty straightforward these days and can often be set up in an afternoon. A call for donations can happen during a show in the same places that the other two forms of advertising run. A script like “You’re listening to listener-supported <show title>. Learn more at <web address>” can work wonders. A once or twice-yearly pledge drive, PBS-style, can also be a great source of income. Loyal listeners like to support the shows they enjoy—they don’t want to lose them.

Do you monetize?

Podcasters! Are you monetizing your shows in one of these ways? Let’s talk about it in the comments below. Podcast listener! Do ads in shows bother you? Let’s talk about that, too.

Featured image credit

How to Use Your Blog to Get Freelancing and Consulting Work

Author:

Recently, we talked about 17 plugins you can use with WordPress to make money on your blog, and while I think this is a great place to start, not every blog needs to be monetized so overtly. Just because you don’t run ads or work with sponsors doesn’t mean you can’t make money with your blog. In fact, one of the most lucrative monetization efforts for me has been gaining other work through my blog. You can be hired as a freelancer or consultant, or you can even be offered a job in your field, all due to your blogging activities.

Before you go about monetizing in this way, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Every time you take on outside work, you have less time for your blog.
  2. When you take a full-time job in your field, you might ultimately have to give up your blog if it is a conflict of interest.
  3. If your main goal with your blog is to use it to get hired, you might have to heavily filter what you say in op-ed posts.

Now that you know some of the drawbacks, are you still interested in making money this way? If so, here are a few tips to help you get started.

  • Create a page for your services.

Sometimes, the people who visit your blog might not realize that you’re looking for work even though they’re looking to hire someone with your skills. Once, I worked with a client looking for a web designer. He said, “Can you help me find someone like such-and-such blogger? Her work is perfect!” My response was, “Have you asked that blogger?” My client ended up hiring that person, who almost missed out on the job simply because she didn’t have a “hire me” page on her website.

  • Talk about prices.

Every time I see Marcus Sheridan speak, he preaches the importance of talking about prices on your website. I think this is a great tactic if you’re selling services online. People like to know what they’re going to have to pay in order to hire you. Of course, sometimes, you can’t give an exact price, but even giving a range is better than not giving any pricing information at all.

If your ultimate goal is to get work from your blog, there are times when you might not want to post about certain topics. Potential employers could be turned off by highly opinionated pieces, posts where you are negative about a company in your industry, or too many guest posts on your blog. Yes, you want traffic, but if you are using your blog as an online portfolio, you should choose each post with care.

Ultimately, you don’t need ads to monetize your blog; you have other options as well, including using your blog to get freelancing and consulting work. If you’re a blogger looking for this kind of work, consider coming to the next NMX event. It’s a great place to network and meet the type of people who want to hire someone like you!

How to Keep Fans Interested in Your Web Series

Author:

I’d like to start this post by pointing out that I’m not a web series creator. I’m a blogger. That said, I am a huge fan of web series. I’m a huge geek, so some of my favorites include The Guild, My Drunk Kitchen, pretty much any series on That Guy With the Glasses. I also thought BBC’s The Pond Life leading up to the Doctor Who series 7 premier was brilliant.

That’s just scratching the surface of the web series I enjoy. Like most of you out there, however, my time is limited. You have to keep me interested with every episode or I’m probably going to forget about your series, instead moving on to find new series to enjoy. So how can you keep me (and other fans) interested? Here are my best tips:

1. Make some “special” episodes.

I absolutely love when web series producers includes some videos that are beyond the scope of the series itself. Behind-the-scenes footage, funny music videos, bloopers, and interviews with the cast are just a few examples of videos you can make that add a ton of value to your series. It’s like the special features disk when you buy a DVD. Fans who aren’t interested can just watch the series, but I think you’ll be surprised to know just how many viewers really do want extra footage.

2. Know your viewers – and make videos for them.

Without fail, the very best series always seem to be made for me. In other words, there’s a common theme, a thread that connects all of the videos so they’re made with a specific viewer in mind. Before you start filming the first episode or even getting too far along with the writing, think about the demographic you’re trying to target. Not everyone is going to like your web series, but that’s okay. You want to make rabid fans of the people who do like your series, not have a bunch of people who say “meh, it was okay” and never watch past the second or third episode.

3. Take your show on the road.

I never watched The Guild until I met some of the actors at a video game convention. At that point, the series was certainly popular, but it has only grown in popularity since then. Getting your actors out there, visible and promoting the show, is going to not only help you find new fans, but it is also going to feed your current hungry fans, keeping them interested in your series. Even if you can’t get a booth or speak on a panel at the show, just attending and networking with other attendees can help your fan base grow.

4. Don’t allow huge gaps between episodes or between seasons.

Just like bloggers need to be consistent with their posting schedule, it’s important for your web series episode to come out on a consistent basis. For most, this means every week during a season, with possible longer gaps between seasons. Once you have the millions of fans some series have, you can easily come back after six months or even a year of being off the air. If you’re new, though, or not yet super popular, this kind of gap can kill any momentum you have.

5. Get viewers involved.

Lastly, consider getting your viewers involved in some way. Hannah Harto from My Drunk Kitchen, Jenna Marbles, and lots of other web series creators take viewer questions and answer them on air. The Guild was initially funded by viewer donations, and today, you can start a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign. You can even consider getting a viewer to be part of an upcoming episode, and I’ve seen some series that allow viewers to vote in a poll regarding what should happen to characters. If I’m part of your web series in some way, I’m definitely going to be more interested to see what happens.

The Top 10 Public Relations Blogs

Author:

About two years ago, I started a small blog about public relations. But before I even drafted my first post, I spent some time trolling the Internet for other PR blogs to see how the pros do it.

The following is my personal list of the top ten blogs about public relations—it is by no means an end-all-be-all list.

I have bookmarked and enjoyed these blogs for the past few years—I hope you do too!

1. Bad Pitch Blog

This was one of the first blogs I started reading “back in the day” (circa 2007).

It is essential for PR pros because the authors do not merely mock media pitching mistakes; they use them as case examples of what not to do.

And PR folks might want to check this blog periodically—just in case they see their own wares!

2. Spin Sucks

I’ll be honest– this is probably one of the best blogs to read not only for PR, but also for social media, marketing, entrepreneurship and current topics in social media.

Gini Dietrich sticks to her blog’s mission and has such a consistent tone that you feel as though you hear her voice when you read them.

Gini’s got an incredible drive for constantly creating original and helpful content, as well as a steady stream of guest posts that run daily from a variety of experts in their own fields.

All together, this is a great example of what it means to create a social media community around a topic and maintain it.

3. Proper Propaganda

I was initially attracted to the title of this blog and the author’s penchant for vintage socialist propaganda art.

But Jackson Wightman is more than a snarky PR/communications professional.

He’s got a particular sort of wit to his posts, almost as if he never quite takes himself seriously, although he is a seriously talented guy.

Plus, Jackson writes about aspects of PR as they relate to nonprofit organizations and start-up companies, including his own solo PR shop.

4. Waxing Unlyrical

Shonali Burke’s blog is like serenity in blogging form—I feel at peace when I read her posts!

Her blog content consistently hits on many current topics as they relate to PR and social media (including some of her own successful social media campaigns), but she’s also not afraid to take a break and to simply blog about life and reflection.

And while Shonali is working full time at a PR agency now, she hasn’t given up her torch nor her wonderfully delightful blog, thank goodness.

5. The Sword and the Script

Here is the perfect blog for PR/communications folks who want to feel challenged and to stretch their opinions a little.

Frank Strong features a good balance of content that is both challenging to the reader but also approachable at the same time.

You may have to read his posts more than once (it’s okay, I do it all the time), but once you soak it in, or engage with Frank in discussion in the comments, you’ll realize it is well worth the effort.

6. Communications Conversations

I may be biased because Arik Hanson hails from my home state of Minnesota. But his blog is a great resource for PR and social media topics.

Arik is also a huge advocate for bloggers—having organized the Minnesota Blogger Conference and created a truly collaborative environment for bloggers.

His content is always engaging to read and he often features guest posts and interviews with many interesting Midwestern PR/communications pros.

7. KD Paine’s PR Measurement Blog

It’s the dreaded part of working in PR or any communications field—what is the return on investment? How are you going to measure your success?

Fear not, PR pro—KD Paine has your back and she’s blogging about it!

This blog is like the holy grail of measurement tips, case studies, and overall great content.

It’s not as scary as you think measurement is—give KD’s blog a read and you might just find an extremely helpful resource.

8. PR 2.0 Strategies

Here is another of my favorite blogs that I’ve enjoyed over the past few years.

Deirdre Breakenridge is an incredible social media and PR author; her blog is pretty nifty as well.

She’s also a proponent of supporting PR pros with the #PRStudChat series for students, teachers and practitioners of public relations.

Deirdre definitely has her finger on the pulse of where public relations and communications are going, so it’s well worth bookmarking her blog.

9. PRtini

Here is another incredibly helpful blog for PR pro’s run by Heather Whalig, founder of Geben Communication.

Heather is a prolific writer and national speaker, but she never forgets to share helpful resources and links to other articles of interest with her readers.

And who couldn’t like a blog that has an official cocktail?

10. 99 Problems But a Pitch Ain’t One

Okay, so this isn’t a blog in the sense as the others on my list, but c’mon.  We PR people need to laugh sometimes!

So, in between your client emails and press releases drafts, check out his Tumblr and bookmark it for daily lulz or to simply feel assured that you are not alone.

Again, this list is simply my personal list and I hope you find some of these blogs as enjoyable as I do.

What are your favorite PR blogs? Any blogs I may have missed? Feel free to share your favorites as well!

12 Places to Find Inspiration for Your Next Blog Post

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12 Places to Find Inspiration for Your Next Blog Post Recently, I sat down at my computer to write some blog posts for the week. I found myself in that dangerous cycle of staring at the blank page, getting frustrated, walking away, coming back to the computer when I felt “refreshed”…and starting the cycle all over by staring at the blank page again. I’ve written hundreds of posts here on the NMX blog and thousands of posts across several blogs over the span of my career.

I had nothing left to say.

I felt like punching the computer. I felt like crying. Could this be the end? Was it time for Allison the blogger to retire once and for all?

Of course, if you’ve been blogging for any length of time, you know that these feelings wax and wane. All bloggers inevitably face the terror of the blank screen from time to time. It’s one thing if you truly do not enjoy blogging in your niche anymore. Then, maybe it’s time to move on to another project. But if you’re simply feeling uninspired, don’t worry; it will pass.

It will pass…but you can’t just sit around and wait for that to happen. If you do, you can easily fall into complacency, ignoring your blog for months. Sometimes, you have to go out and find inspiration, tear it from the world, and stick it on your blog. If you don’t have a muse, look for one rather than just waiting for one to magically find you.

I already posted this short list of the places I find inspiration most often – from current events, stories/parables, and kids/pets. But some days, those techniques just don’t work. So let’s dig even deeper and find more places to help get inspired to write. Here are the places I look for inspiration when I don’t know what to write about (and if you need even more ideas, check out this list of Brilliant Bloggers talking about finding post ideas):

1. Other Bloggers

When is the last time you took a day to catch up on your reading? When’s the last time you actively searched for new blogs to read instead of relying on your old favorites? What’s the last time you wrote a reactionary piece to something someone else wrote?

2. Google Analytics

What search terms are people using to get to your site? Are you actually answering their questions or addressing their needs with the posts they find?

3. Your Readers

Don’t be afraid to post a poll asking your readers what kind of topics they want to see you covering on your blog. You can also ask them for specific questions they have so you can address their problems.

4. Your Past Posts

Rarely is a post truly evergreen. Could you write an update to a previous post? Could you cover a topic in more detail? Think about how you can use one of your favorite past posts as a starting point for one or more new posts.

5. Versus

What in your niche can be compared? Think about two products or two services or two schools of thought you can compare and contrast and write about it.

6. Books and Print Media

Just like we don’t take enough time to read other blogs, we often don’t take enough time to read books in our niche. Books (and other forms of print media) can lead not only to reviews, but also to content ideas. Pull a quote from an author and write an entire blog post around that.

7. YouTube

What are people in your niche creating video content about? Check out YouTube and see what videos are most popular about specific topics. Even if you don’t do videos yourself, you can turn those ideas into blog posts.

8. Forums

If you don’t have a huge following quite yet, polling your readers can be difficult. So instead, head to a forum related to your niche and see what people are asking. Answer their questions with a blog post.

9. Wordtracker’s Keyword Questions

This is a trick I learned from Rich Brooks during his BlogWorld New York 2012 session. Wordtracker has a great tool called Keyword Questions. You enter a broad term (like “cooking” if you are a food blogger) and you can see what people are really asking about this topic. Each question can be answered in a blog post.

10. Twitter Hashtags

On Twitter, people often use hashtags to talk about specific topics. Search these hashtags (or just do a general Twitter search) to find out what they’re talking about. This can inspire you to write your own posts about the topic.

11. Pinterest

I absolutely love Pinterest! (If you aren’t using it yet, here’s a five-part Pinterest 101 series to help you get started.) This site is a great source of inspiration, since you can search for boards about a specific topic and see what people have pinned to those boards. You can also type in pinterest.com/source/yoururl.com (replaced with your url of course) to find out what people are pinning from your site so you can replicate that success by expanding more on a popular topic.

12. Your Own List of Ideas

Lastly, you can get inspiration from your own list of ideas. What does that mean? It means that right now, start a list of ideas that you can pull up whenever you are stuck. When you’re feeling super creative, it’s easy to come up with topics for posts, so when you’re in the blank screen cycle and contemplating giving up, you can simply open this document and pick an idea from the list. Add to this list of ideas regularly so you also have fresh content ideas for your blog.

Weaving Your Personal Life into Your Podcasting

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The power of podcasting is enormous. Just think about it, when somebody puts on their earphones and heads out the door for their daily run or their long commute, you are the one accompanying them. Your voice is in their ears and for a little while you have their undivided attention. It goes without saying then that you have the power to personally and massively impact the life of someone you may not even know exists.

But with this awareness also comes a great question: How much of my personal life should I share on a podcast? Or even further than that: How much of my struggles, my victories or even my insecurities am I allowed to share with my listeners?

The truth is that in order to build a successful podcast, you have to create a bond with your readers. It doesn’t matter what your podcast is about, if you only stick to the facts, you’ll hardly be likely to build a strong audience.

The boom of “reality TV” quite powerfully shows that people love to take a look behind the scenes and they hardly ever get enough of it. The same is true for podcasting.

People love to get to know the person behind the microphone. Why? Because it’s in our DNA. We are wired for human connection. We want to hear stories. We want–no need–to belong and relate.

We also have a high level of curiosity and simply want to know whom the person really is that we are listening to.

As a podcaster, you can use that natural tendency for relation to your advantage. By sharing bits and pieces of your life, you’ll create loyal listeners who have a meaningful connection with you.

However, that doesn’t mean that you have to or should talk about all details of your private life.

Keeping your privacy, but still building an effective relationship with your audience is like a dance and you are the one who leads.

You give your audience the nuggets of information that are relevant to your podcast, your topic or just this one episode. You create a bond with targeted, specific and relevant information.

The secret is to share with a certain purpose behind it. The secret is to know which outcome you want to achieve. The secret is to be smart about it.

When I decided to not only blog but also podcast about my recovery from anorexia, I opened myself up and became very transparent. However, I didn’t do it in order to assuage my (non-existent) desire for fame and attention. I did it because I knew that I would be able to help others. I knew that by talking about walking the rocky road to health, I would inspire and encourage others to do the same. I knew that by giving away details of my private life, I would speak straight to the heart of others who are experiencing similar issues.

At the same time, there are still many areas of my life, many stories, many circumstances that people don’t know about and won’t ever hear or read.

Yes, there has to be a level of transparency about your life, but you get to choose how high that is.

There are a few questions you should ask yourself when preparing your podcast episode:

1. Is there a personal story that would illustrate what I am talking about in this episode?

Would my listeners benefit from it? In the end, it all comes down to helping your listeners get the most value when listening to your podcast. By sharing a story, you’ll not only strengthen the bond with your listeners, but you’ll also be able to clarify the points that you are trying to make. We learn best when following examples. So, if you have one, then share it.

Do you want your listeners to let go of their delusional dream that having a certain body size will magically make them feel worthy and whole? If so, then talking about your own story of dieting and never experiencing this transformation makes sense. Do you want to inspire your listeners to get out of an unfulfilling job and find the career of their dreams? If so, then sharing details of how you finally walked out of a soul-sucking job and changed your life for the better is perfect. Do you want to encourage your listeners to find their way back to a healthy exercise regime? If so, then sharing how you fell off the bandwagon for a few months and successfully reintegrated exercise into your life is just the right dose of inspiration your listeners need.

There is a myriad of ways you can use your personal experiences in order to make a point. Just be sure that it really serves your audience in the best way possible.

2. Do I respect the privacy of others?

It is crucial that when you share a personal anecdote and other people are involved, you either ask their permission or change their names and adapt other information. It is easy to forget that not everybody feels comfortable having their name put out there or having thousands of people hear a story about them. I share a lot about my family’s past because it is so tightly interwoven with my history of anorexia. However, every time I share details that may be uncomfortable for my family or I decide to use a story that they’re involved in, I ask for their permission before I publish it online. It’s just the right thing to do. So, be respectful of other people’s wishes and accommodate them.

3. In a few years from now, will I still feel comfortable having shared this information?

I find this to be one of the most important questions to ask ourselves. It’s so easy to talk about something on a podcast when you’re mad, hurt or otherwise emotional and later on regret it. Or maybe it’s not even that. Maybe you feel led to share a very personal part of your life because you feel passionate about it at the moment, but you end up feeling uncomfortable knowing that thousands of people have heard you talk about it. When you get ready to share something deeply personal, then take a step back, breathe and really try to determine how this may impact your life and how you might feel about it in the future. I know this is not an easy exercise, but it is important to do if you want to save yourself some agony and if you want to respect yourself.

Like I said, sharing personal information on your podcast is extremely important to build a strong relationship with your listeners and to bring important points across. But you don’t have to disrespect your own sense of privacy in order to be successful.

Listeners want to get to know you, but they wouldn’t want you to feel uncomfortable doing so.

Know your motivation, respect others and always be true to yourself. If you follow these steps, then you’re on the right path to creating a perfect balance between sharing too little and sharing too much.

How about you? What is your experience with sharing personal information on podcasts? Do you have guidelines or do you feel uncomfortable sharing anything at all? I want to hear your thoughts!

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