Recently, I saw the following headline on Ragan.com, and it made me want to pour even more brandy into my coffee (kidding, kidding!):
Well, that’s just great.
It turns out that writers are more prone to anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and substance control problems.
Though I don’t think any of these symptoms apply to me, I started wondering whether my daily writing habits were going to lead my down a dark hole, filled with unpredictable mood swings, late-night trips to Walgreens for $3 red wine, and the irrational fear that the white van in my neighborhood really is following me.
It’s too late for me to become an otolaryngologist or get that degree in aeronautical engineering. Sitting down at a computer and writing stuff is pretty much the only thing I know how to do. I just don’t want to suffer from the side effects of my profession.
Ever since I started telecommuting, I’ve noticed that some of my personal habits are deteriorating. Sure, it’s little things now, but if I don’t get control of myself, I could wind up passed out (or worse) in an alley, wearing mismatched slippers and a Snuggie, and clutching a gin-soaked notepad filled with unfinished haikus about corporate communicators.
To avoid this fate, here’s how I should try to make my writing more healthful:
Go outside when I work from home. My desk is right next to a big picture window. I look at squirrels that crawl up trees and cheer them on when they get acorns. At first I thought this was a fun hobby, but it’s actually pathetic. It’s only a matter of time before I start naming them. When you work from home, you fall into the trap of “getting cozy.” But maybe it’s time that I put on some shoes and go for a walk during my lunch break. At least that way, the squirrels will hear me cheer them on.
Eat a well-balanced lunch. A friend put it best: “Your refrigerator makes you look like a serial killer.” Ha! Little did he know that my cupboards are packed with cereal. (Editor’s Note: Seriously, Jessica, you should go take a walk right now.) At the office, I eat “acceptable” food: chicken sandwiches, soup, or Chinese take-out. When I work from home, I wind up eating massive quantities of Cheerios, a Hot Pocket, and/or a can of kidney beans. If I ate at a regular hour with regular food, this might make me less anxious about my lunch habits resembling those of a 13-year-old boy.
Stop wearing my bathrobe. I own this hideous, leopard print XXL bathrobe that I put on immediately when I wake up and as soon as I get home from work. I have a feeling that wearing this so much will just lead to a drug habit. Isn’t it more likely that a person would start a heroin addiction wearing a bathrobe, versus wearing a sweater and jeans? I should just turn up my heat.
Sleep like someone my age. Lately, I’ve been reverting back to my “college schedule.” If I feel inspired to edit and write at night, I’ll just stay up late and do it and then sleep in a little bit more the next day. But it’s weird to email your co-workers at midnight on a Wednesday. Why even bother? Everybody else is asleep (or doing something much more fun). I should be, too.
Drink with friends, not alone. Writing has been linked with alcoholism. OK, not just linked; mixed and then shaken, not stirred. It makes sense—there you are, sitting at a desk, alone, writing down words that come into your head and you wonder, “Is anybody, anybody out there reading this? Or is it still just my mom?” If you’re feeling the urge to drink, grab lunch and a beer with a friend. (At least this way, you’ll go outside.) Hemingway made drinking and writing look cool because he was Hemingway. You’re not. (Besides, his story didn’t end “happily ever after,” now did it?) Starting your mornings with Malibu and orange juice is just going to give you a headache by 2 p.m.—not the beginnings of the next Great American Novel.
Care to add any other detrimental behaviors and their healthier alternatives? (You’ll feel better if you do; trust me.) Please leave them in the comments section.
As a public relations professional, the most important client you will ever represent is yourself.
The old phrase “the cobbler’s children have no shoes” has no place in today’s professional landscape, because now, the expectation is that the cobbler’s children have on the most fabulous, stylish, and chic shoes available. Scratch that—they are wearing the shoes that won’t even be available to the rest of us until next season.
Clients today (and employers) want to see what you can do for them the moment they visit your website or hear your name. As PR professionals we are expected to be experts in positioning and branding, and what better way to showcase our skills than on ourselves.
Here are three easy steps to brand yourself in 2012:
Claim your name
Establish a blog or website under your full name and add interesting, relevant content to it regularly. The content you generate should appear in the first page of results for your name in Google and other search engines, making sure the first impression is the right one.
Include your bio, work experience, contact information, and a headshot, as well as links to your online profiles such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. This way, people have options on how to reach you and spark a conversation.
Samantha Warren, a designer at Twitter, said she uses her personal site as a “test bed.”
“I’ve found that my site is the perfect way to be able to relate to clients trying to get off of the ground,” she explained. “Why? Because I can honestly say what worked— and what didn’t—for me, both personally and professionally.”
Voice your opinion
Pick an industry you’re passionate about and delve into the conversation both online and off. You’ll meet other professionals who share your interests and will start to feel a part of a larger community.
For example, if you’re interested in building a career in food and beverage PR, share your favorite recipes; engage with food and beverage editors, critics, and bloggers; attend industry events and follow industry trends.
If you’re interested in fashion PR, put together your own outfit layouts, interview up-and-coming designers and stylists whose style you connect with, and share their knowledge and experiences with your readers. If your schedule, and wallet, allow for it, attend a local or prominent fashion week.
The best brands have a human touch. By doing so, they make themselves more relatable to their publics.
Consider Starbucks decision to share the names of the three individuals who manage the company Twitter account, or Coca-Cola’s decision to collaborate with the two fans who originally created the existing Coca-Cola Facebook Page.
Take a cue from these companies when branding yourself. Don’t forget to show your personality and highlight the quirky details that make you human and relatable. Make every character in your Twitter bio count so that it’s more than just the facts you would find on a resume. Entice your audience to always want to learn more about you and the knowledge you have to offer.
The popular blogging platform WordPress revealed that its users produce about 500,000 new posts daily. Given that number, don’t you wish the Internet had a loudspeaker system that only you could use?
But you—unlike spammers—exercise restraint. You don’t want to be the person who uses capital letters in tweets, or solicits email addresses for shady Nigerian trust funds or Viagra campaigns. You want to earn attention and keep it.
Given the fierce competition, how can you set yourself apart?
Below are five strategies you can use to engage readers without being demanding or annoying.
1. Be as specific as possible.
Most humans have voyeuristic tendencies. Why not appeal to them?
Being nosy is how we learn about the world and gauge whether we’re “normal.” If you bait your reader with a personal anecdote developed with rich detail, the reader will gladly enter the world you created.
For example, instead of writing, “I went to the store,” you could write, “I jogged to the nearest 7-11 to pick up my favorite celebrity tabloid.” Which statement piques your curiosity?
2. Avoid talking down to your reader.
Even an expert in a niche field should practice explaining challenging and/or complicated concepts in simple terms. Don’t assume the reader understands what you mean; he or she can’t stop and ask you a question.
If you don’t often have the chance to discuss your work outside the workplace, ask someone outside of your field to interview you. If you can find a friend who works in a communications-related field, that’s a plus!
3. Use transitions and section headings when possible.
Transitions are words or phrases that help your reader follow your train of thought. Examples include “for instance,” “on the other hand,” and “similarly.” Using transitions also help arrange your ideas in an understandable pattern.
Section headings—bolded titles that break up a lengthy chunk of text—will help your reader skip to relevant information and absorb the main ideas.
4. Use rhetorical questions and quotes.
A rhetorical question is a question the writer asks the audience without expecting a reply. The writer won’t necessarily answer the question in the text, but he’ll use it to make a point and slow the pace.
Use rhetorical questions sparingly, but remember that they can make a big impact, especially in an introductory paragraph.
Also, consider quoting thought leaders or other experts in your field. When you support your thoughts and opinions with those of others, you demonstrate you did your research.
5. Incorporate multimedia wisely.
Think of your favorite teacher. Did that person spend the allotted class time simply lecturing? Most likely, your teacher incorporated elements like images, videos, and group discussion.
Media shouldn’t substitute good writing in your blog posts, but it can definitely enhance it and keep readers interested. Choose media such as images, video and sound wisely, and use restraint.
Brainstorm an idea for your next blog post. If you don’t have a blog, think about your next article or email. How can you incorporate one of the above strategies into your writing, and which response do you hope to elicit from your audience?
Have you had success engaging an audience, whether through written or spoken word? Share your tips!
Rewarding your fans is a great way to show how much you appreciate their role in your success. Though it might seem obvious that you should reward them, some people just don’t know how or when to do it.
Here are some ideas for rewarding your fans to make sure they feel appreciated.
Special offers: When you release a new product or you’re running out of stock, offer your social media fans first dibs on the goods. There are many types of special offers you can make that don’t involve discounts. For example, you could give your social media followers a coupon that, when entered at checkout, adds a free sample or bonus item to their cart. You can give them access to pre-order merchandise, or post last-minute specials for the first few people to claim them.
Discount codes: Discount codes can be the tipping point that causes people who were thinking about ordering to actually go ahead and buy something. They might not have remembered otherwise, or they might have been waiting until they got paid and then forgot about their order. It doesn’t have to be a huge blow-out discount; just 10 percent off would help your customers out, and you can always limit it to one per customer.
Worthwhile content: Help your loyal fans solve a problem by providing more than just a sales pitch. Ask questions of your fans, or ask them what they most want and need to know, then publish the answers for free. Share interesting articles or fresh information, and post when there’s big news in the industry. One of the best ways to thank people is by helping them, even if it doesn’t lead to immediate profits for you.
Thank-you letters: Simply emailing a valued client or customer to say “thank you” after a purchase can be a fantastic way of thanking them. If they aren’t concerned about staying confidential, you can post a personal thank-you to them on your page, or even think about mailing a physical thank-you card or letter. Every once in a while—at good opportunities, like your business anniversary or a milestone number of Facebook page fans or Twitter followers—post a heartfelt thank-you to everyone following you.
Brands that do it right:
If you need more inspiration to figure out how you can thank your customers, look at what other businesses are doing. Domino’s Pizza ran a “50 percent off online orders” special in June to celebrate reaching $1 billion in online sales in a year, and Target ran an Olympics trivia contest on Twitter in which followers could win a gift card.
Kraft’s 2011 Twitter campaign simultaneously “@ mentioned” two people who had used the phrase “mac & cheese”; the first one to respond would get a free Kraft Dinner.
Nobody likes to feel that they’re just a number on your social network. Show your appreciation for everything they have done for you by reaching out to your friends, fans, and followers with a variety of strategies.Peter Nevis wrote this article on behalf of OrangeLine SEO. Peter contributes to various marketing blogs, is a marketing expert, and enjoys writing articles about SEO and online marketing strategies.A version of this article first appeared on SmartBlog on Social Media.
• A new product. Post a cool picture of the new product, screenshot, or someone using the product on Instagram. Be sure to make the photo simple. It should give off a vibe, not jam in technical details.Here are is a list to get you started:
• A new hire. You often see headshots along with a press release for a new hire. For Instagram, make this picture a more relaxed version of the person at work or of his or her office, or use a shot of the welcome package on the desk. Avoid coming across as too stiff or formal; it makes it less likely someone will “like” or share the picture.
• An upcoming event. Consider posting an image of the venue or city where it will be held. Take advantage of Instagram’s brand-new feature, a photomap that lets members plot their pictures on an interactive world map.
• A recent award. Instead of a picture of the team accepting the award, a more compelling shot could be a hand gripping the trophy or someone nailing a certificate to a wall. Much like Twitter and Facebook, there are steps you need to take to kick-start and grow your Instagram follower base.
• Fill out your Instagram profile completely, completing all fields;Instagram isn’t just a place for rich kids to show off their ridiculous purchases, or narcissistic celebrities such as Kim Kardashian to post picture after picture of herself; it can also serve as a valuable tool for businesses. And at the exponential rate Instagram is growing, now is the time to start sharing.
• Tag your pictures with relevant hashtags in the comments section, much like you do with tweets;
• Tag other users who are relevant to the post by typing their user name in the comments section;
• “Like” and comment on other pictures you find interesting—the point of a social network is to engage with others;
• Share your Instagram activity on Facebook and Twitter, and promote it on your website with follow buttons;
• Sign up for Statigram, a great tool for viewing your images in a Web browser, monitoring your stats, and promoting your stream on other social networks.