Category Archives: Project Management

Free Learning Modules to Work On Over Lunch

Embracing lifelong learning ought to be the standard and not the exception. Consider updating your skills by spending an hour before or after work or during lunch in one of hundreds of available free learning modules.

Image courtesy of M. Martin Vicente- http://www.flickr.com/photos/martius/

Image courtesy of M. Martin Vicente- http://www.flickr.com/photos/martius/

Tag Manager Certification

If you own a website, you’ve undoubtedly placed Google Analytics and other tags in your headers to measure various results.  Google Tag Manager eliminates extra lines of code, which increases your website’s speed. Add one container code to your site from Google Tag Manager and then fire everything else you need from Google through Tag Manager. You can create triggers for Google Analytics or Adwords. According to Krista Seiden of Google, over 80,000 people worked on improving their knowledge of Google Tag manager this summer. If you miss the course, there are still free modules on the site to learn at your leisure.

Adwords Certification

Get certified for Google Adwords. Did you know that CPM is phasing out and vCPM will soon be the standard for impressions? Even if you’ve been working in the space for years, there’s always something new to glean. Start learning the essentials of Adwords marketing and display advertising or refine your skills with more advanced courses. Google’s training modules are easy to manage in corners of available time and the certification exams are free to Google Partners. Microsoft offers its own training for Bing Ads, too.

SEO Training

Google provides this free guide on the basics of SEO. If you’re more of a video person, check out all of the webmaster videos Google offers on YouTube. Don’t expect to be a master of SEO after watching a few videos, but do expect to be better prepared to ask decent questions of the digital markers in your life.

Social Media Marketing Insights

Find out more about social media marketing from Twitter, Facebook, and G+ or check out this decent blog post with other do it yourself training ideas.

Writing, Business, and Other Free Classes

Even the rules of grammar, punctuation, and formatting change over the years. If you’re used to typing two spaces after every sentence, for example, it’s time to retrain yourself to type just one. How do we know? We read and always strive to keep a pulse on the latest. Peruse this list of 10 free writing courses or jump into the latest Ted talk. Colleges know that the smarter you become, the more you’ll value continued learning. Universities like MIT now offer hundreds of free online course materials. Improve your semantics, management, analytical, and programming skills or something else.

Find an hour in your day and start the journey. You’re never too young, too old, too ignorant, or too smart to learn.

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Filed under Apps & Tools, Content, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media, Writing Careers

Best Practices When Handling a Media Crisis

Whether social media, print media, or televised media, disastrous accidents seem to inexplicably occur, usually causing massive uproar among both followers and critics. Media crises happen in a variety of ways and on a wide range of forums. By planning ahead and having a solid strategy in place if a media crisis should occur, your company and your reputation have a better chance of coming through unscathed.bomb

Prepare Your Company

The first step in preparing your company to handle a media crisis is to determine what a crisis is and what is not. According to Convince and Convert, there are three main characteristics to look for when determining whether or not your situation is a crisis.

  1. Does your company only have the same information as the public?
  2. Has the general criticism from the public taken on a different tone than normal?
  3. Does the situation have the potential to materially impact the company as a whole?

These are all warning signs that your situation has become a crisis. Make sure your employees know what to look for and offer examples to eliminate any confusion.

Another important preparation step is to set up a chain of command for the response team. Lay out a plan for whom to call for which type of crisis. Email updated versions of your chain of command to your employees quarterly to ensure everyone is kept informed and prepared. Your employees will also be better equipped to handle the onset of the situation if they know exactly whom to contact.

Handling a Crisis

Follow these basic steps to deescalate a situation that is beginning to boil.

  1. Acknowledge the crisis.
  2. Respond first where it started, then turn to other outlets.
  3. Be genuinely sorry for what happened.
  4. Give people one place to find all the information concerning the crisis.
  5. Give people a “controlled forum” in which they can vent about the crisis.
  6. Know when to not publicly respond anymore—a third response is simply turning communication into an argument, so instead give out your email address and phone number and encourage the person to contact you directly rather than go back and forth on an open forum.
  7. Prepare and inform your workers.
  8. Document and analyze everything and thank those who defended you.

(Jay Baer, Convince and Convert)

How can handling a crisis apply to content creation? In many ways, whether that content is found on social media, print media, or televised media. Social media ambassadors make mistakes, as do journalists and writers for news programs. Even content on e-stores has been incorrect before. By not only being prepared to handle a crisis, but taking steps to prevent improper and unfinished content from surfacing, content creators play a part in avoiding media crises altogether.

If and when something slips through the cracks, content creators are instrumental in helping to diffuse situations—company representatives often turn to content creators.  It’s especially important to know the signs of an impending crisis, but it’s also important to know the proper steps to take in order to properly handle the crisis. Prepare and inform your employees, prepare yourself, and create a chain of command in order to follow the steps to handle a media crisis. ~Holly

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20 Questions to Ask Yourself about Copy before Starting a Project

As a business owner preparing for a project on your website can be a long process that is difficult to organize. Even as a writer it is easy to be overwhelmed at the beginning of a new project. To help overcome any potential problems it is very important to solidify the details of the project before the writing can start. Having these twenty questions clearly answered can make writing projects much easier for all involved.

Courtesy of Flickr.com user Milos Milosevic

Courtesy of Flickr.com user Milos Milosevic

What is the Project?

Is the project a small update to reflect a new season, is it starting a new blog to appeal to a new audience, or is it a full site upgrade? Without this information clearly stated it is impossible to accurately plan the rest of the project.

Why Create Content?

Once you decide what the project is it is important to know the reason for starting that project. Are there some pages that are outdated, poorly written, not SEO optimized, or is it something else? Knowing why a new project is being started makes sure that all the appropriate changes are made to what doesn’t work and what is working is left alone.

Is the Content Going to be Reused?

Is the content going to only be used once or will it be used again and again? Content that is intended to be reused will use evergreen phrases that will maintain their meaning for years to come.

Who is the Target Audience?

Your writers will need to know this information before they can start writing quality content for your project. Content that is written without a clear audience sounds too general and won’t give you any lasting connection with your audience.

What Need Does the Content Address?

Once you identify who the content is trying to reach you can increase your connection with them by finding a specific need or two that your company can fulfil. Knowing the needs that are being addressed means that writers can craft their content around that need.

Will There Be Any Other Requirements Beyond Writing?

A large project will have many requirements beyond writing, such as new graphic designs and videos. Having these other requirements outlined early on will eliminate a lot of last minute confusion when attempting to bring all the separate pieces together into one cohesive whole.

How Many Hours Will the Project Take?

As a project progresses the answer to this question will change but knowing this information will help to determine approximate times and dates for when the content will be ready for customers to see.

What is the Budget?

This is important to discuss especially if external writers are going to be used.

What is the Tone or Style of the Piece?

Is your company an authority who is providing information to your readers? Or are you trying to start a conversation with your customers by asking them questions throughout your content.

Does the Content Need to be SEO Optimized?

Any content that is intended to attract the attention of search engines needs to be SEO optimized. More questions will come up when deciding what keywords to use and how to provide quality content that both meets the clients’ needs as well attracting search engine algorithms.

Word Count?

Do you need short descriptions to improve SEO rankings? Or do you need longer form blog posts intended to impart information to your readers? Good word count estimates will make sure that you won’t have content that won’t be used.

What are the Guidelines the Writer Should Follow?

Are there unique services that only your company provides? Are there words or phrases that should be avoided? Understanding what should be emphasized and what should be played down can only help your writers provide you with better content.

How Many People Will be Involved? Who of Those People Have Final Approval?

Even the most collaborative projects have one individual who can give the final approval. Knowing who this person is early in the project will prevent any confusion about who has the final say on the content.

Who Comes Up with the Topics?

Do the writers have the freedom to decide what topic to write about, or will topics be provided to them? Even if you decide on a combination of the two sides a writer will be happy to know exactly what is expected of them.

Do Any Drafts Have to be Seen?

Is content expected to be seen in a rough form as well as in a finished form? Rough drafts can help ensure that all the content has the same tone but it also can increase the amount of time a project takes to finish.

What is the Rewrite Process?

No matter if drafts are expected there are always revisions to be done. The rewrite process can become confusing if it isn’t clearly outlined beforehand.

What is the Timeline? And what happens if the deadline isn’t met?

While the final deadline may be decided earlier there are many smaller deadlines that need to be met in order to meet the final deadline. Deciding the consequences of any missed deadline allows everyone to know when work is due and what will happen if it is late.

Can earlier content be reused?

When content is simply being updated, keeping the older content is useful to show what topics should be discussed on that page. Poorly written content can become a good example of what not to write.

Any Specific Sources to Cite? If Interviews are Involved, Who Finds the Subjects to Interview?

Does your company have a close relationship with another company that should be reflected in the content? Letting writers know which sources to cite before work begins makes the writing process much easier because the writers will only use approved sources.

How will Success be Measured?

Once a project is finished what determines if the project was successful or not? Success can be measured by an increase in the number of visits to or an improvement in search engine rankings. By determining how to measure the success of the project you can decide which analytic tools to use to track the success.

 

These 20 questions will help you overcome many of the common problems that come up in every copywriting project.

~Megan

 

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Filed under Content, Project Management, Proposals, Time Management, Writing Resources

Five Ways to Increase Profits Through the End of the Year

How do small business owners stay afloat during trying times?  Here are five ways to help increase profit and get your business humming again.search funnel

Look Inside

  • Assess your current costs. Make sure that every dollar spent is absolutely necessary.  You may need to streamline staff or create more efficient processes and procedures.  Don’t be too arrogant as to think that you can’t learn something new.  This becomes an issue when a business hasn’t looked inside for a long, long time.  They begin to believe there is not a better way than theirs.  It’s worked so well for all of these years, why fix what isn’t broke?  Well, because times change – and so should we.  Always be willing to consider suggestions from your team.  They see things you don’t, which brings us to the next point.
  • Your team is your most valuable asset. The vision and passion that you bring to your company cannot be duplicated but it must be transferred as you build enthusiasm within your culture.  Even if you are a one-man show it is essential to stay motivated by being mindful of the bigger picture.  Get excited again about what you do and why.   Regardless of the work, having a sense of doing it for a greater good, a higher purpose, meets a fundamental human need.  You would be surprised what your team is willing to do for you and your vision if you make them a part of it. They will appreciate your trusting them. Don’t let old philosophies of management keep you from drawing the best out of the stewards of your business.
  • Maximize current business opportunities. Tap into existing clients for a greater revenue stream. Consider maximizing current opportunities to include social media. You have a virtual Rolodex of connections through Linked In, Twitter etc.   If you don’t know how to use these resources to their full potential, you should think about having someone on your team become your social media expert, or hire someone to train you.  Which brings us to our next point.

Look Outside

  • It is still true that it takes money to make money. Sometimes it is necessary to bring in outside help to evaluate our team and us.  Being willing to be honest that there are some things that need to be fixed can make or break your business by the years end.  Often it takes an outside observer, seeing through the lens of their expertise to expose an area of weakness, which can be remedied once it has been identified.  If your organization is in serious trouble, but you can afford to bring in a consultant before your forced to shut the doors, it may just keep you in business.
  • For some time we have been creating and requiring careers to be highly defined and specific. Now those same careers are becoming obsolete.  Adaptability is the name of this new game.  Looking outside may mean considering partnerships or a modified product line. It may mean giving up brick and mortar and strictly selling on line. It comes down to looking outside of our box to see who and what we might become to generate some revenue.

It’s important to know that people, relationships, are still the foundation of business. Remember we’re in this together; we need each other and that ultimately, is good for business.  ~Jennifer S.

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One Cannot Not Communicate- Is Silence Golden?

Maybe Mom Wasn’t Always Right

The first of Paul Watzlawick’s five axioms is simple- “One Cannot Not Communicate.” Wanterfall says,

Even when you think you are not sending any messages, that absence of messages is quite evident to any observer, and can itself constitute quite a significant message. Not only that, but we usually transmit quite a few non-verbal messages unconsciously, even when we think we are not sending any messages at all.

What do you, as a professional, communicate when you choose not to communicate?

Photo courtesy of Bonoz

Photo courtesy of Bonoz

Perhaps your mother used to say, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” When your new friend with long, braided hair entered your home, she bit her tongue.

Did her silence mean, “I wouldn’t let my son wear his hair that long, but since I have no association beyond his association with you, I’ll make you feel comfortable enough without offering approval?” Her tongue biting left wiggle room- both for your friend’s eventual haircut and her possible opinion change.

While the intent behind silence might be noble, its very form is deceiving – a mask for a mix of thoughts and emotions forming in the sender or else a sign of ignorance. Silence is golden because it buys the sender time and it offers the receiver little information- or so is the hope.

What are the Effects of Non-Responses in Digital Communications? 

One cannot not communicate with social media. Not following a customer or fan on Twitter or G+, for example, could be construed as a slight. You’re too busy, too important, to ignorant to use the tools to follow and interact. Not having your social media in order says a lot about the organization behind your organization. Your brand communicates that it does’t embrace or understand the mediums or struggles to find funds. The receiver never really knows why you’re silent- just that you are and the resulting message is up for interpretation.

Internet marketer, Jay Baer, suggests:

Further, 42% expect a response within 60 minutes. Is your company prepared to handle social media inquiries within the hour? A few are. Most are not, in my experience, which potentially creates a disillusionment gap between customers’ anticipated response time, and your actual ability to provide a response.

Having a workforce to handle your social media interactions could be just what you need to reduce the stress in your customer service department.

One cannot not communicate with blogs. You haven’t written a blog post in weeks. Maybe there isn’t a lot happening in your company or industry – yeah right. You’re too busy, too underfunded, too unorganized. You were in the hospital. Whatever the reason, a lack of action or words communicates a message. Is it the message you want your fans to receive?

Darren Rouse looks at blogging this way:

The more posts you publish over time, the more doorways you present readers with to enter your blog.

1 post a week means you’ve got 52 doorways at the end of the year – daily posts means 365 doorways at the end of the year. This means people are more likely to see your content in RSS readers, in search engines, on social media etc. Over time this adds up.

Contracting out some of your brand’s writing work to writers can keep opening doors verses closing them in silence.

One cannot not communicate with correspondences. Two candidates fly out to your company for second interviews. You extend an offer to one. The chosen candidate receives your full attention. The other doesn’t. The one who didn’t get the job sends an email to you. No reply. This happens once. Twice. Three times. Surely, not communicating is a soft let down, right?  According to Career Builder,

56 percent of employers admitted that they don’t respond to all candidates or acknowledge receipt of their applications; 33 percent said they don’t follow up with candidates they interviewed with to let them know they didn’t get the job.

What does a lack of response communicate? That from the top down, your company’s communication process isn’t clear or even rude when not in need of a person, service, or product. It communicates disorganization and incompetency in the HR department. Don’t think for a moment that the candidate won’t remember the lack of communication when they’re in a better position.  According to the HT Group:

If you’re guilty of this and other bad hiring habits, beware your actions could complicate your recruiting efforts and even damage your company’s overall reputation. Here’s how (according to the same study):

  • Job seekers who don’t hear back after applying for a job are less likely to continue buying products or services from that company.
  • Did a job seeker have a bad experience with you? Half will tell their friends about it.
  • An overwhelming 75 percent of job seekers use traditional networking such as word-of-mouth to gather more information about a company.
  • More than 60 percent will check out your company on social media to find out if what you’re telling them about your culture is true.
  • More than two-thirds of job seekers would accept a lower salary if the company had exceptionally positive reviews online.

One cannot not communicate. What are the unintended messages you send just by choosing inaction or silence with your digital marketing strategies or relationships? From creating blog posts and social media posts to staying up with emails and correspondences silence is not usually golden.  Rethink if you’re clearly, consistently, and honestly, as well as tactfully communicating.

 

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Filed under Audience, Blog Writing Tips, Capturing Audience, Content Job Boards, Customer Profile, Leadership, Marketing, Project Management, Reputation Management, Resumes, Social Media

How Much Time Does It Take to Write Website Content?

This is a question that is near and dear to my heart.  Besides writing client content, I’m rewriting My Web Writers’ website content these days.  I’m finding that as the afternoons drag into the evenings and people circle into my office only to find my hands waving them away with, “Shhh, I’ll be out in a few minutes,” that clearly writing thirty-five pages of my own site’s content is taking more time than I bargained for.  That’s because, while I planned just to copy and paste the old stuff and make a few tweeks, that’s not what’s happening.  I’m rewriting and adding new thought into old verbiage.

I should have hired My Web Writers.

To my defense, I did ask my husband to write a few pages…

Copyright My Web Writers 2014

What a trooper!

Bless him.

So, I guess I can’t really blame you, Ms. Do-It-Yourself for wanting to take on the task of writing your website or blog content all by yourself.  We’re great writers (and so are our spouses), so why do we need help?

Here’s why.

It is taking me (yeah, and him, too) about 1 -2 hours per page each with content that’s close to our hearts.  With those 35 – 70 hours back in our lives, we could be getting our laundry done and getting your laundry done.  I could be working on losing the gazillion pounds I gained eating granola bars while sitting in a computer chair.

Outsourcing projects to writers is efficient.

We have to scale.

You can’t get around to managing a company if you’re grasping to details that others are perfectly capable of delivering.

True.  No one knows the subject matter like you do, but then consider being your project’s editor.  With a good writer, you’ll cut your time in half- at least.

How much do you get paid at work per hour?  How much will it cost to pull three people off your boss’ pet project to get your company’s website content updated?

We have three people waiting for the opportunity to work, so that your team can stay on task.

How long does it take to write website content?

Plan on one to four hours per page if you do it yourself, but it’s a lot less time if you outsource it.

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Filed under Business Strategy, Leadership, Project Management, Time Management

How do I Find and Hire a Great Web Writer?

How to Hire a Web WriterHiring a web writer may appear to be simple and straightforward, yet many people continue to make critical mistakes that cost their business both time and money. It requires a well thought out process to ensure you receive the best writing talent and results for your business.

Both online and in your local community, there’s a vast network of freelance writers ready for hire. Whether you’ve successfully navigated this process many times or this is your first attempt, there are some key things you need to know. Here are five steps you should take when hiring your web writer.

1. Make sure you’re ready for a writer

Is your business truly ready for professional writing help? There are a couple key points you should consider before hiring a web writer. Foremost, you should have a strategy for your content and be able to communicate this strategy to your writer. If you’re still in the “idea” phase, your project may not yet be ready for professional writing help. Additionally, you must have the bandwidth to manage writers. It will require your input and direction to make the project successful, so be sure you are ready to dedicate time to your web writer.  If time is sacred, hire a writing agency to oversee your content project. A dedicated content agency will assist you with all of the necessary details to make the content successful – including hiring and overseeing writers and editors.

2. Define your budget

Before you hire a web writer, you should be fully aware of the scope of the project and your budget to pay for it. There’s a broad range of rates for professional writing making it overwhelming to narrow down the best options. Knowing your budget will help guide you toward the writer that is the best fit for you. It will also allow you to fairly negotiate prices so that both parties are comfortable with the work arrangement.

3. Know where to look

When trying to find quality, freelance writers it can be challenging to even know where to begin. You can look at online networks for professional writers. These allow you to post your project and writers will bid for the work.  Sites to find individual writers include Elance, WriterAccess and oDesk.  Also, think local. Ask fellow business owners for word of mouth recommendations for writers or agencies they have already worked with or search the directory within your chamber of business. References and recommendations will give you that extra boost of confidence that you’re working with a respected professional.  If finding, interviewing, and vetting out writers and editors is a step you’d like to avoid, let a writing agency handle those details for you.  Unlike applicant banks, content agencies usually interact with their writers to make sure that the articles you receive meet or exceed industry standards.

4. Keep your expectations in check

Remember that you’re hiring the web writer to create quality content, not to magically triple your sales or to increase your bottom line. While good content can certainly enhance your web presence and marketing efforts, such results should not be expected solely from your web writer. Manage your expectations and place your focus on the scope of the project which you hired the web writer to complete.

5. It takes more than just a great writer

In addition to keeping your expectations in check, be sure to remember that the type of content you receive is also dependent upon how clearly you communicate with your web writer. Be as specific as possible with your needs and provide all the essential information to your writer. Remember, you know your business better than anyone else. For an outsider writer to convey this in their content, they need your insight and expertise. Aim to be a good project manager – just as you would with any other employee – and provide your web writer with the tools they need to succeed.

A web writer can be a valuable asset to your team. Before you hire professional writing help, be sure to consider these five steps to ensure a productive and enjoyable working relationship. ~Stephanie

Share your thoughts! What good or bad experiences have you had with hiring a web writer?

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Filed under Business Strategy, Content Job Boards, Leadership, Project Management, Web Writers, Writing Careers