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There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills: Finding Hidden Content Treasures for Your Blog

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After blogging for a year or two, you likely have a rich library of evergreen content. Your blog is just bursting at the seams with these high-quality posts, but what gets the most attention? Whatever you’ve posted most recently. Some of your best content might never see the light of day again.

This content is gold. Older blog posts can be absolute treasures, helping you create new content and drive new readers to your blog. You just have to dig it out, dust it off, and repurpose it in the best way possible.

The Inspiration Bank

Since new content often gets the most attention, maybe it’s time to repurpose some of your old content into brand new posts. I keep a list of the very best posts I’ve ever written, and this is my inspiration bank. Even posts that are timely (i.e., not evergreen) can be part of your bank. What was most popular in the past and why? How can you replicate that success? Think about the topic matters you’ve covered and consider doing an update on them to create a brand new post for readers.

For example, let’s say you’re a political blogger. You probably covered the 2012 U.S. Presidential elections pretty closely. A year from now, it probably seems like those posts aren’t relevant – but they are! Posts that discuss candidates’ promises or predictions from yourself and others can be turned into excellent follow-up posts on the topic.

You can also use this kind of “updating” technique to produce high-quality guest posts. With guest posts, people are often more likely to visit specific posts you mention in the text rather than a general link in your bio at the end.

Build Your Mailing List

Old content – or should that be gold content – can also be extremely helpful in building your mailing list. Instead of writing a free ebook from scratch, are there post series that could be combined, edited, and formatted into a short ebook to give away in exchange for mailing list sign-ups? Or, you might be able to expand upon a post, breaking down your advice into more detail so you can turn the post into a longer format giveaway.

You can also look to see which posts were most popular and then offer a free webinar or e-course on the topic. Use your older posts as a jumping off point for this kind of education. It’s much easier than starting from scratch.

Reshare Instead of Repurpose

If a post is truly evergreen, repurposing it might not make as much sense as simply resharing it. The key is to share it with a new audience. For example:

  • When you first published the post, were you active on Pinterest or Google+? If not, share them with these communities.
  • Have you ever shared the post with your mailing list? Maybe it’s time to promote it in one of your newsletters.
  • Was the post shared at a certain time of day? Change things up and share it at a different time of day to hit different time zones.

Breathe some new life into that old content!

Of course, to have great evergreen content in your library, you have to be adding new evergreen content to your blog regularly. For blog content creation tips, check out our upcoming Blogging Track at NMX in Las Vegas 2013!

Photo Credit: Bigstock

3 Ways Content Creators Can Use Private Pinterest Boards

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Pinterest recently announced the introduction of private or “secret’ boards, which allow users to pin items to boards that their followers can’t see. This is a feature Pinterest users have been wanting for a long time, as it helps with planning gifts and surprise parties and pinning personal items that you might not want others to see.

If you’re using Pinterest as a marketing tool, private boards might not at first seem like a big deal. After all, why bother pinning images your followers can’t see to click on, repin, or like? But if you think outside of the box, there are a few ways bloggers (and even podcasters and video producers) can use this new Pinterest feature to create better content.

1. Sharing Content Ideas with Your Team

If you have a content team, like we do here on the NMX/BlogWorld blog, a private Pinterest board can be invaluable for sharing ideas quickly. Pinterest’s new private boards can be seen by one person initially, but you can invite others to view as well, giving you a great place to collaborate. Sharing ideas in this manner is especially easy because of Pinterest’s commenting system. Rather than a long email chain that just gets lost in the inbox shuffle anyway, keep your post concepts contained to a single board.

2. Creating Inspiration Boards for Future Posts

You can also create a private board of images that inspire your and could be good to use in future posts. Quotes, beautiful pictures, blog posts from other people, and reports can all serve as inspiration. Unlike the group post idea and collaboration board, these ideas might not be fleshed out quite yet, but that’s okay. No one can see them but you! So when writer’s block hits, head to your inspiration board to see if you can get your juices flowing.

3. Bookmarking Competitor Design Ideas

“Spying” on competitors (and I mean that in the most innocent way possible) can help you come up with new ideas for your own blog. There’s nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from others. So if you see a cool design element or notice another blogger in your niche using a cool plugin, take a screenshot and upload it to Pinterest. It’s easier (or cheaper if you hire someone) to make lots of changes at once instead of little changes here and there.

If you want even more Pinterest education, make sure to check out Debba Haupert’s Pinterest session at NMX Las Vegas!

How will you use Pinterest’s new private boards feature?

Working with Guest Bloggers: The Secret to Your Success

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Guest bloggers? Isn’t your blog supposed to be your voice, representing your view and perspective on business, life, parenting, family matters, your hobby, or even products you’re selling? Well, yes, it is. But it can be more…

Actually, there are lots of reasons why inviting people to write guest posts on your blog can be a great idea, including adding a bit of variety for your readers, gaining visibility through more popular writers, offering slightly different perspectives on your topical area and giving you a bit of a break from the daily grind of blogging. There’s also this thing called SEO and people who are willing to publish guest articles might just find themselves more frequently invited to write guest posts on other people’s blogs. Those guest posts you write that include a link back to your own site are great for your own site’s visibility. A win-win!

Even on the most personal of blogs, embedding a dialog with someone else that perhaps started out as an email exchange can be a powerful entry to write, or you can even frame a guest article by introducing it to your readers in the opening paragraphs and then add your own concluding paragraph after, reacting to the main piece and ensuring that your own voice isn’t lost in the process.

To have your guest bloggers be successful and to make the process as easy as possible, here are my hard-learned tips:

Agree on a theme or topic in advance — This saves a lot of hassles and misunderstandings, when the guest blogger sends you an article that’s just not relevant to your audience. Rejections are never appreciated, even if they’re appropriate, so sidestep it by asking them for a sentence or two summary of what they want to talk about.

Specify your writing style — Do you like publishing obscenities? Do you want long, complicated sentences that are suitable for your audience of research scientists, or short, easily understood grammatical constructs perfect for a busy parent to understand? It’s your site, I encourage you to ask the guest writer to try and match your own writing style while still honoring their own voice in the process.

Long or short? Give ’em a target word count — This is one that always seems to be a challenge, but if your audience is used to substantial articles of 400 words or longer, a guest post of 135 words will seem insubstantial and pointless. Avoid that by specifying “target word count: 400 words” or, in the opposite situation, “please don’t exceed 250 words.”

Pictures? Video? — Just about all blog posts are enhanced by including some sort of media content. Are they responsible for this content? If so, make sure you tell them, and also ensure that they obtain the rights to the content (easily done if it’s their own photo or graphic, of course) so that they don’t put you in potential legal hot water due to rights violations. Your blog, your problem, even if the original was sent by a guest author.

Those are the key factors to ensure success working with guest bloggers. It’s easy and it’s fun!

I also asked a few other popular bloggers what their parameters are with accepting guest blog articles, and here’s what they had to say:

Jenny Ford: I have contributors and accept guest posts. it’s one of the only ways you won’t get stuck writing every single recipe!! (and getting grossly over-weight on my site! HA!). My tip – have a format, give clear details and expectations, let people know your deadline, make sure they have terrific photography.

Mary-Frances Main: I only take local “voices” and then they have to be relevant to the topic (which seems like a no brainer, but you’d be amazed!). Personally I like people I know – but will accept a recommendation of another connection.

Elizabeth C. Lewis: Make sure that before you ask for a guest blogger, you have read some of what they write! You don’t want to ask someone to write something to find out that they are terrible at writing and have to find a reason that you can’t use it.

Amy Gahran: Have a process: offer clear guidance on length, format, topic. Tell them how to submit a draft: text file? Word doc? HTML doc? Only do this for evergreen topics that can run anytime. Guest posts often don’t happen on deadline.

So there you have it. Not just my enthusiasm for guest bloggers showing up on one of my blogs — and I have four that I publish, ranging from my AskDaveTaylor tech support site to DaveOnFilm, where I share film reviews and the popular GoFatherhood site where I write about my experiences as a single dad — but the view of some other savvy bloggers who also invite submissions from friends and colleagues to mix things up.

Now, what are your thoughts on this? Do you accept guest submissions and, if so, what are your parameters?

Editor’s Note: For those who want to learn more from Dave, check out his session at NMX called “Quick and Dirty Video Production Workshop for Your First YouTube Video.”

10 Reasons to Blog Every Day

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10 reasons to blog every day Every November, writers around the world join together for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), an every-day-writing challenge that’s so popular, it’s spread to blogging with National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). Today, bloggers of all kinds come together monthly to post daily, whether about business or photography or their family life, sticking to that everyday schedule for an entire month and encouraging each other along the way.

Have you considered joining them and taking the challenge to post every day? Should you? Does it make sense? What does daily blogging have to offer?

To help answer that question, let’s take a look at 10 of the biggest benefits that come from a month of posting every day!

1. Increases Self-Discipline

A common piece of advice given to new bloggers (even if it’s considered overrated advice) is to post every day, at least for a month. Why is this advice so common? Why do many feel daily posts are so important? Perhaps it’s because regular posting, more than anything else, helps establish the blogging habit. “It is said that it takes 10,000 hours to master something,” writes John Rampton. “If that is the case then you need to spend lots of time practicing. “ What better way to practice than through the habit of daily posts?

”Daily practice in developing my voice means that I’ve been able to find words more quickly and say things more effectively, which is always a benefit even when you’re writing an e-mail to a client.” Blogger Dawn Storey, Alphabet Salad

2. Builds Community

Now hosted by blogging mega-community BlogHer, NaBloPoMo is an instant way to connect with other bloggers. Participants link up to their postings on BlogHer’s site, distributing their content amongst others taking part. This gives you a ready audience with whom to share your content, as well as other bloggers to reach out to and form relationships with. What’s more, to encourage participants, BlogHer offers regular inspiration, advice and writing prompts throughout the month to help make it easier for you to stick with the challenge.

3. Forces Creativity

The biggest hindrance that most bloggers who consider a monthly of daily posting find is coming up with daily things to write about. While posting every day may seem intimidating, the truth is, it could also be key in unlocking creativity.

There’s an old saying: “If you want to be a writer, write!” By forcing yourself to blog every day, you gain regular practice in blogging and force regular productivity.  “To be honest, the more you write, the more creative you become,” says David Santistevan, GoinsWriter.com.

Blogger Christopher S. Penn agrees:

”[When you’re blogging every day,] you run into your own limits. Forcing myself to a daily content scheme forces me to be creative, forces me to think outside the box, forces me to look at old things in new ways to see if there are additional avenues to extract value.”

4. Forces Faster Writing

If you’re like a lot of writers, you can easily spend so much time tweaking a project that you never finish. By forcing yourself to blog every day, you practice calling projects done. And as you, every day, have to come up with a new post and hit publish, you get better and faster at creating. This is not only good for blogging but also for all your work, as you push against perfectionism.

”Get the post up fast, not perfect. You can edit if you have to, later. Perfectionism kills good habits.”  Blogger Chris Brogan, ChrisBrogan.com

5. Adds Value to Your Site

When you’re daily posting quality content (and quality is key!), you’re giving readers a solid reason to keep coming back to your site—and this not only boosts SEO but also your value in the minds of your audience.

6. Encourages Comments

More posts mean more opportunities for readers to weigh in. What’s more, sometimes the more real-time nature of daily posts is more conducive to discussion as the posts feel less finished and polished.

7. Builds Website Authority

Daily posting can help boost your website authority, which improves your influence on the Web and sends the message to search engines that you’re an expert. Zemanta CEO Bostjan Spetic saw this firsthand when he decided to post once a day for a full month:

”I’ve learned that my blogging more regularly has brought more visitors to my blog and has raised my profile in the industry; in other words, I am becoming more influential,” said Bostjan Spetic in “One CEO’s Story on the Benefits of Daily Blogging” published on Contently.com.

8. Increases Back-Links

Every new post is a new opportunity to generate back-links—a key factor in search results. The more valuable your site is, the more links you’ll acquire from other sites, too, which is also good for both SEO and referral traffic.

9. Boosts Overall Search Rankings

The combination of greater website authority and more backlinks can lead to higher search rankings. As most SEO experts will tell you, more blog content usually translates to better search results. In fact, “you’ll get the most out of your SEO program if you publish new content as often as possible,” says Brandon Cornett at Austin SEO Guy. Why is this the case? The more you’re posting quality content, the more opportunities you have to draw the attention of readers, the more ways search engines can notice you, the more established your site becomes.

10. Increases Traffic

When blogger Todd Schnick posted every day for a month, he saw unique visitors to his site more than double; the same thing happened to Ryan M. Healy of RyanHealy.com. Why the huge uptick? Most likely the change came partly from better SEO and partly from the new content drawing readers each day. One thing’s certain, though, an idea that doubles traffic is an idea worth considering.

What do you think? November is fast approaching, and along with it, another opportunity to test this strategy yourself. Have you already participated in a NaBloPoMo? Will you? Or does the thought of posting daily leave you scared stiff?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

6 Ways to Add the “Show” to Your “Business”

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Imagination. It is the wonderful result of recorded audio. When you listen to the radio, podcasts, audiobooks or other recorded audio, the imagination is in full motion. Your imagination belongs to you and you alone. You have full control. Your imagination is unlike any other.

Your imagination is used for your sole benefit. The characters and scenes created in your “Theater of the Mind” are exactly how you want them to look. The images are created in your mind in a way that gives you the greatest pleasure. It is all to benefit you.

The wonderful details in a story can stir the imagination in magical ways.

Video typically doesn’t stimulate the imagination the way audio does. When you see a car in a video, you know exactly what it looks like. If you and I both see a car in a video, we would both describe it in very similar ways. There is not much left to interpretation.

If I describe a cherry red 1968 Ford Mustang to you, I couldn’t possibly describe every detail. What does the interior look like? Where is it parked, or was it moving? Is there anybody in it? What kind of tires are on it? Hard top or convertible? There are many details to the story left to your interpretation.

Your imagination creates the car in a way that adds the most to your story and vision. That is the magic of recorded audio. Vivid details take your stories to another level of engagement that video cannot.

There are ways to include recorded production elements within your show that will enhance your listener’s imagination and experience. When you add recorded elements, the imagination of your listener will be further stimulated. You will help create elements within your listener’s “Theater of the Mind.”

Here are a few recorded elements you could easily add to your podcast to spice up the listening experience.

1. Intro/Outro

This is show biz. You produce your show to entertain just as much as inform. Your podcast is just as much “show” as it is “business.” Add some sizzle to your show.

A produced “intro” and “outro” for your podcast is an easy first step. The “intro” opens the show, as in “introduction.” The “outro” closes the show, similar to a conclusion. At a minimum, find a great piece of music that will open and close your show. You can find many sites on the internet that sell music clips for less than a few dollars.

 

2. Interviews

Guest interviews are a great way to add depth to your audio. A second voice on the show will stir the imagination. Listeners will wonder what your guest looks like. The stories told during the interview will create visions in the mind of your listener.

Listeners enjoy eavesdropping on other conversations more than listening to a lecture. By adding interviews to your show, you allow your listener this pleasure. Sure, you could provide the information yourself rather than going through all the work to secure, arrange and conduct the interview. If you are hoping to develop a relationship with your listener using content that will be engaging, go the extra step by including interviews within your podcast.

 

3. Listeners

Adding listener audio to your show is another way to juice up your podcast. When you simply read a listener e-mail, the question typically lacks the passion that would come from the listener. The inflection is a little different than the caller would use. The question is also asked in the same cadence, style and voice that you ask every other question.

When you add listener audio, a second dimension is added to the show. Though the caller isn’t actually there, the second voice almost creates a conversation. Your audience is now listening to a conversation rather than a monologue. The question will also be asked in a way unique to the caller.

Similar to the way interviews stimulate the listener’s imagination, callers can add to the “Theater of the Mind.

You don’t need to include the entire phone call. It is show biz. Use the part of the call that will most add to your show. If the call includes a bunch of details not relevant to the question or the show, feel free to edit those parts out of the call. As long as you are not changing the intention of the caller, or making it sound like they are saying something they didn’t say, editing the call is perfectly acceptable.

 

4. Audio Examples

When you make reference to a piece of audio, play a sample. If you are talking about an interview that Jimmy Johnson gave after a race, play a clip of that interview. Your listeners will be further engaged by the additional voice. Audio examples are just another way to add that additional level of production to your show.

Additional audio will take your listener to another place. An interview clip will transport your listener to the interview location. An old television clip with create memories of seeing the show. A sample of a classic speech may elicit visions of the orator. Use audio to enhance the listening experience.

 

5. Celebrity Endorsements

People like to have their decisions validated. That is why many companies hire celebrities to endorse their products. If Michael Jordan wears Hanes, it should be alright for me to wear Hanes as well. I don’t feel like I’m the only one doing it when I see Michael Jordan doing it.

You can use this concept to benefit your podcast. If you can get a well-known name in your area of expertise to record a quick endorsement for your show, that piece of audio will add an element of credibility to your podcast. Your listeners will feel like they are not alone in liking your show. They will be validated.

 

6. Sound Effects

Sound effects can easily enhance the imagination. You need to be careful that you don’t overuse sound effects. Too many effects can make your show sound amateur. However, a well-placed effect here and there can add to the delight of listening.

Adam Carolla has a producer who is responsible for adding sound effects to the show. If you haven’t spent time with Adam’s podcast, listen to one episode simply for the production elements. His content may not be your cup of tea. However, the production of the show must be admired.

The magic of recorded audio comes from the imagination. When you stir wonderful visions in the “Theater of the Mind” of your listener, you will truly begin to engage your audience. You can then begin to build meaningful relationships with your listeners and keep them coming back again and again. Use these ideas to add a little “show biz” to your podcast today.

Photo Credit: Bigstock

What Small Businesses Can Learn from the Hospitality Industry

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The world of social media, blogging and podcasting provides an unprecedented opportunity for brands to provide unique, personal experiences for customers past, present and future. The hospitality industry in particular has been able to take advantage of these opportunities to market in innovative ways.

The definition of hospitality is “the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.” For a sector that is distinctly characterized by providing excellent customer service, the incorporation of social media to marketing and branding strategies is a perfect union.

Aside from day-to-day Twitter and Facebook posts, supplemental initiatives like Foursquare check-in perks, Pinterest promotions, Instagram presences and hotel blogs have allowed businesses to stay connected and build relationships with their consumers like never before. Many in the industry are finding unique means of implementing these tools in manners which are universally applicable to any type of business.

The Rise of Visual Content

Pinterest is extremely suitable for travel marketing since there are so many (independent and collaborative) components people consider when planning a vacation.

While many brands are still sorting out the tracking implications of Pinterest and how best to execute promotions there, a few have already emerged with authentic and captivating administration. Aqua Hotels & Resorts in Hawaii asked fans to “Pin Hawaii” – create a bucket list on Pinterest of their ideal Hawaiian vacation.

The process involved having users share at least one of Aqua’s pins (thereby sharing the brand name, along with the link to their website); using the #PinHawaii hashtag (spreading the word of the contest); and submitting their boards to a sign-up page (allowing for more accurate tracking).

Pin Hawaii was successful because it accomplished many things.

  • It got people fantasizing about a Hawaii vacation.
  • It got people spreading the word voluntarily.
  • It got people exploring the website (or partner sites).
  • It got people thinking outside the box.

These are qualities that any company can embrace with the right project, and a little fine tuning to each’s needs.

The Range of Written Content

Blogging is a great way to educate consumers about your brand, and many hotels do a fantastic job of utilizing this multi-layered platform.

First, more broad blogs on overall categories are a great way to provide an umbrella of information about a particular niche.

Hotel Chatter does this for hotels. Their goal is to cover everything related to hotels and lodging around the world, including hotel deals and reviews, which celebrities are staying where, hotel industry news, tips for booking online, the hotels you should stay away from, the hotels you should book, and more.

The site is supplemented by regularly updated Twitter and Facebook pages, allowing followers (over 120K on Twitter and 12K on Facebook) to be consistently updated with the latest information.

To curate content and keep everything as fresh as possible, Hotel Chatter encourages visitors to become members and submit their own stories. This allows not only for a substantial variety of material, but also for users to have a first-hand experience with the brand.

Second, many individual hotels themselves maintain blogs. Hotel blogs can serve many purposes, from being a forum for guest feedback, to being an online concierge, to boosting search engine optimization. They can also provide inside information about happenings in the area or on site, and really allow each property to showcase their distinct personality.

The Hollywood Hotel sets the bar high. Aligning with the hotel’s overall image, their blog does an excellent job providing visitors inside information. The right sidebar contains a calendar and tag cloud, making it easy for future travelers to search for specific items if they so desire, along with a variety of content – everything from upcoming events, to videos, to photos and general weekend happenings.

One thing that is also worth noting is that the blog itself contains very little actual promotion for the property. While the top contains the regular options presented on the website (accommodations, dining, etc.), the blog itself is not situated as a sales tool or advertising piece, making it more naturally alluring to visitors (who are used to be inundated with advertisements on a regular basis).

This is brilliant because not only does it show support for the community and other businesses, but it also depicts WHY the area is worth visiting, and therefore, why a visit to Hollywood Hotel would be worthwhile. When you can attract business without actually having to hard sell, it’s a win/win for all involved.

The Application of Audible Content

With the fast-paced advancing of technology, it’s vital for hotels to stay ahead of the curve in any and all ways possible. Some have even begun tying in podcasting to the online experience.

The Dearborn Inn, a Marriott hotel in Dearborn, MI, provides a podcast allowing listeners to take a tour of the celebrated hotel, learn about its unique history and the people who influenced it. The host, Alan Osborne, reveals the chronicles of the hotel from his 20 years of knowledge. How cool is this? Rather than sift through photos of the hotel, which all hotel websites provide, users can listen in to a passionate insider and hear intimidate details of the environment.

Small businesses could utilize podcasts in the same way. While we are an extremely visual culture and we are used to reading information online on a regular basis, it’s a refreshing shift to be able to ignite an additional sense and listen to someone’s first-hand experience.

These are just a few of the ways the hospitality industry is thinking outside the box when it comes to new media initiatives. What others have caught your attention?

Photo Credit: Bigstock

Top Review Tips for Bloggers from Ken Pierce

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Ken Pierce

Photo Credit: Peter Parrella

Reviewing products can be great for any blogger, no matter what your niche, but being a good reviewer is about more than simply ranting or raving about items in a blog post. Today, I have a special treat for everyone out there who publishes reviews or is interested in reviewing products in the future. Ken Pierce from PiercingMetal, who has been reviewing music and concerts for several years, recently sat down with me to share some great tips about writing reviews.

Allison: For people who may not know you, could you tell us a little about you and your site?

Ken: Sure, well in a nutshell I run the PiercingMetal.com website and its companion blog “PiercingMetal Musings.” The site was launched back in early 2005 as a means to present my voice and views on a wide variety of Hard Rock and Metal music releases and concert events. I’m a former Metal musician that still supports the scene and I wanted to become a positive voice for the good things that were out there.

The decision to launch PiercingMetal stemmed from my being a contributor to several other sites of note at the time and eventually realizing that I could do more for the genre by starting my own presence and working closely with those who I had come in contact with. The name is an obvious play on my last name and the music that is focused on and the readers seemed to take to it.  With that and the support of many established press contacts in hand I was ready to run with the ball.

The site features more than just reviews of course and has a calendar that lists numerous “happenings” of interest, lots of live concert photos and as of 2007 a companion blog was introduced to our readership.  I also try to help the releases that I review by adding in an Amazon.com code to each and every article. In 2012 the website celebrated its seventh year of being online and I admit that no matter how much there is to do, it’s still a lot of fun and a never ending learning experience that reaches a lot of Metal fans.  I maintain numerous PiercingMetal focused social network accounts as well in order to broaden the reach of the brand name.

Allison: With music, personal taste definitely comes into play. It’s not like other items where you can judge a product based on whether or not it works. What are some of your tips for reviewing items like music when it’s so subjective? How do you make sure your review is fair?

Ken: As far as being fair, you just have to be honest about how the release hits you. Is it great?  Then say so. Does it stink?  Then say so but know that you MUST back up why this is the case in your eyes.  Compare it against another work that firms up the viewpoint, otherwise your “voice” can be considered untrustworthy.

You will also most likely need to deal with this publicist on other artists that they are working. And while they might realize that not everything is gold that they send to you, if you lambast everything that they pitch, there is a chance that you go to the bottom of their resource list because you are not an objective or truly honest reviewer that they can count on. Periodically I like to say how I might prefer an older album by an artist as opposed to something new and hope for a return to a more reliable sound.

Another tip is to mind your article length.  If something is out of this world you should be able to say it in no more than three decent paragraphs. Over the years I have seen three page thesis length reviews on things that the writer felt was crap and that makes my head spin.  Maybe it’s me, but I know that I don’t want to read three pages about something that I should be avoiding at all costs.

Allison: I love that you do live event/concert reviews along with album reviews! Can you talk about your decision to include these types reviews on your site and some of the challenges of reviewing an event?

Ken: If you are just a regular fan who wants to blog about concerts, then the best advice is to be as detailed as possible for your readers in order to bring them into the show with you. Take some photos with your phone or snappy camera from afar (since EVERYONE does that these days) and just make them feel like they were there with you. I say to see the opening bands as well because you never know who you will end up enjoying. I always love telling people how I first heard of both Into Eternity and Unexpect as openers on other shows and how since that time each how band have become favorites of mine. You truly get to watch a band develop their career and music with that premise. It’s so exciting. Bring your reader the level of excitement you had for the show and if it was a disappointment then warn them about it.

Allison: What’s the best piece of advice you can give to someone interesting in starting to review items on their blog?

Ken: Nowadays (if you are aiming at being considered a “professional reviewer”)  the geography of this has changed so much since I even launched the blog part of PiercingMetal.com, but I guess the best advice is to just do it and expect the unexpected.

For new bloggers who want to review I say that they should start with things that they are most passionate about and want to share with their readership. It cannot hurt for them to write reviews about music that they are purchasing and if they want to chance sending these reviews over to publicity for said artist then they should. Perhaps it will lead to their being added to a media service list and be included in the mailers about the latest batch of releases from a company  If they say “no” for whatever reason that does NOT stop you from posting a review about something and sharing a link across Twitter and Facebook. There are so many official band pages out there nowadays and fans are actually interacting more with the talent than ever before.

It’s your blog so the floor is yours to share your views about stuff.  Don’t be afraid of standing by your words if you are challenged about them, but in that regard you should be prepared for the consequences as well. I suggest leaving comments open but to not be afraid of trashing the ones that don’t speak to the topic and go on forever or get venomous for no reason. Try to be a positive and reliable resource to the best of your ability and don’t make promises that you cannot keep or walk around with a sense of entitlement about having the blog with a few reviews online. There are always bigger sites with more content it seems. Also, don’t start to do it and forget about it for three months as people will lose interest. As long as review content keeps flowing to your blog you will keep your readers educated and informed and your contacts happy.

Allison: Thanks for a great interview, Ken! Readers, check out PiercingMetal for examples of his work as a reviewer! You can also find Piercing Metal on both Facebook and Twitter.

5 Ways To Generate Content Topics

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As I coach talent, people often ask me, “Where do I find good topics?” It’s often a struggle of new talent and veterans alike.

Creating an entertaining podcast show after show, week after week, is a challenge (and the tips below can apply to blogs and video episodes, too!). You need to find a topic that holds your interest. Your topic must also be attractive to your audience. Finally, you need to present it in a way that is engaging. Every topic, every time. Even the most seasoned talent run into a sort of writer’s block from time to time.

When you hit a wall and have no topic readily at hand, where do you turn? How do you get past the block to create engaging entertainment? Where does the next captivating topic originate?

There are five primary methods I teach my clients to get past the topic block. These five questions will help you find quality topics for your show. If you take a few minutes before each episode to brainstorm these questions, you will have plenty of material for your show.

The key to each of these questions is awareness. Be aware when events, comments and ideas throughout your day capture your attention. If you are interested in something, you can usually deliver it in a way that will be interesting to your audience.

Keep these questions in your mind as you go through your day. I would also suggest you keep a little notebook in your pocket to jot down ideas. You never know when the next interesting topic might pop up.

1. What daily happenings capture my attention?

Things are happening all around you everyday. You may find yourself wondering why things happen like they do. Something might spark a laugh. You might learn something new. All of these things can lead to great topics. Be aware.

Jot down people you meet, things you see and ideas you learn that capture your attention. It is possible to turn it all into great topics.

2. What has happened in my past that created vivid memories?

You have tremendous experience in your field. That is why you create your podcast in the first place. Put it to work.

What are the things in your past that generate clear memories? Remember, many listeners that are learning from you are staring at the very beginning. They are in the same place you were when you began years ago. Help them learn.

Even if your listeners already know the information, your podcast will serve as a refresher course. Be confident in your material. Deliver it with passion, and your listeners will love you.

3. What articles have caputure your attention?

Read many articles from a variety of industries. Your topic ideas won’t always come from information within your field. Simply look for statements within the article that pique your interest.

Read with a highlighter. Whenever you come across a word, phrase or sentence that captures your attention, highlight it. When you’re done with the article, scan the highlighted parts for the most interesting one or two. Use that word, phrase or sentence to begin brainstorming. You never know where it may lead.

Let’s say you read an article about the correlation between the location of churches and bars. As you highlight the article, you highlight a phrase where a local councilman wants to pass an ordinance to keep bars at least 500 yards from any church. Your podcast is about hockey. How do we make the link to a great topic?

When you begin brainstorming, your thoughts will lead in many directions. Within your freeform writing as you are considering new laws, you write, “People are always looking to change the rules of the game. Are more rules really good for the growth of the sport?”

Suddenly, you’ve gone from church and liquor to the rules of hockey. You now have a great topic. Topics can come from anywhere.

4. What conversations have you had today that were truly engaging?

If a conversation engaged both you and your counterpart, there is a good chance it will also engage your audience.

Conversations tend to wander in many directions. You might start discussing the news of the day. That may lead the discussion into a movie you want to see. Suddenly, you’re discussing classic leading men. Any part of the discussion might lead to a good topic. You simply need to be aware of the parts of the discussion that are most interesting.

5. What questions are people in your industry asking?

You can find questions on a daily basis even if you aren’t regularly talking to people. The internet is your friend. Search the discussion boards to find the questions.

Help those in your industry solve their problems. You don’t need to answer the question verbatim. Let the question lead you to great topics.

If you find a question interesting, but not completely engaging, rephrase it. Mold the question a bit until it becomes an entertaining topic. It doesn’t matter that the question is not exact. It only matters that it is compelling.

When your listeners e-mail questions to you, answer the question as it is stated and give credit to the individual that asked. If you feel the need to change the question to make it more engaging, briefly answer the original question, then move on to the rephrased version. Say something such as, “Yes, it is possible to do that. However, the more important question is ‘should you do that?’”.

Brainstorm your notes

Great topics can originate in many places. The topic might not jump out at first. However, you can brainstorm the topic until it becomes engaging.

If you get curious about something, there is a good chance your audience might be just as curious. Jot down things that strike your interest as they happen in daily life. Then, brainstorm a bit to really flush out the idea.

As you write, let your thoughts flow. Don’t critique.  Simply write.  Let the ideas flow to the paper.

You may start writing about your experience at a restaurant and by the end of your brainstorm wonder why we learn calculus. That’s ok. You simply want to find the most interesting topic related to your podcast. It doesn’t necessarily need to have any relationship to your original observation. Your topic only needs to be interesting.

Be aware of all that happens around you. That next great topic could come from anywhere. You’ll miss it unless you are looking.

Keep a notepad in your pocket. Write down everything that captures your imagination. Take ten minutes before your podcast to brainstorm your topic. You will get past the podcast topic block and create engaging entertainment with your content.

The Bookend Blog-Writing Technique

Author:

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?

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