Annmarie’s Top 10 Most Popular Blogs and Why

When it comes to business-to-business marketing, blogging is considered a must for what marketing experts call “inbound” marketing. According to Hubspot.com, the goal of inbound marketing is to convert strangers into customers and promoters of your business.

My blog has been very successful at inbound marketing. I like to think of it as encouraging potential clients to come to you instead of the other way around. That’s different from traditional marketing, which is when you reach out directly to customers through emails, brochures, cold calling and, well, you get the idea.

Hubspot publishes that since 2006, inbound marketing has been the most effective marketing method for doing business online. Inbound marketing, however, is not easy. It requires strategic thinking to figure out what kind of quality content will attract potential clients to your website and, ultimately, to boost your business results.

Blogging is a primary tool for inbound marketing. Effective blogs should incorporate the idea of brand journalism.

What is brand journalism? It’s a newer term of art that describes what successful public relations professionals have always done. That is, providing useful and quality content to attract readers to your brand. I did this years ago for a client’s newsletter. I produced newsletters that had more focus on news readers can use instead of marketing hype. As a result, potential customers approached my client for its services.

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Effective inbound marketing is both an art and science.
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When it comes to successful blogging, brand journalism and inbound marketing, I have an advantage. Since I have a journalism background, I am used to thinking about information through the lens of what will attract and retain readers. I also write about technical subjects in a non-technical way to reach broader audiences.

If you are thinking about blogging, you should be clear on the purpose of your blog. Mine is to reach insurance professionals looking for writing and public relations services. That is why you will find a mix of insurance information and marketing advice in my blog posts. (For more on successful blogging, please check out the “blogging” tag.)

Effective inbound marketing is both an art and science. There is a lot of great advice out there on anticipating search terms, considering search engine algorithms and profiling potential customers and readers. Since I am too busy servicing my clients, I just stick to writing what I think will interest readers. (For more on knowing your audience, click here.)

So why has my blog worked? To determine this, I reviewed the 10 most popular blogs I’ve run since I started blogging two years ago. By offering what has worked for me and why, I am hoping my blog can inspire greater blogging success for others.

1)   Discovering the Power of F#. This blog is based on an article I wrote for Contingencies magazine. It generated most hits, was the most tweeted, reached readers from all over the world and helped me to reach a new market. Why it works: Everyone is looking for innovation that will boost their competitive prowess.

2)   Workers Need to Know the Truth About Workers Compensation. Why it works: It offers practical advice and information non-workers’ compensation experts need to know.

3)   Ten Ways to Improve Workplace Safety. This blog consistently attracts readers every single day. In fact, if you type “ways to improve workplace safety,” my blog is the third on the Google page. Why it works: The title mirrors wording that searchers are likely to use and delivers on its promises.

4)   Why Injured Workers Hire Attorneys. Why it works: The title is search engine friendly and the information usefully distills research by the well-respected Workers Compensation Research Institute to make it practical for employers.

5) 21 Lessons From My First Year of Blogging. Why it works: Because it provides helpful insight for new and future bloggers.

6)   Converting the CEO to the Cause of Workers’ Compensation. This blog was shared and commented on extensively in workers’ compensation LinkedIn groups and is the top Google listing for “convincing the CEO about workers’ compensation.” Why it works: Convincing the CEO to invest in workers’ compensation programs is a major pain point for professionals in the field. The blog offers internal strategies on how to convince the CEO that workers’ comp initiatives are worth the investment.

7)   Reduce Claim Filing Lag time Through Effective Employee Communication Plans. Why it works: Employers are always looking to save on workers’ compensation dollars and claim lag time is a key cost driver. Again, writing headlines that will match search terms is key. Type in “how to reduce workers’ compensation claim lag time” and my blog is the sixth in the list.

8)   What Employers Should Know About Workers’ Compensation Predictive Modeling. Why it works: Employers have heard of predictive modeling, but they need to know how it will affect them.

9)   Opening A Window Into Health Care’s Future. This blog covers an article I wrote for Leader’s Edge magazine that covers the future of health care, its technology, the ethics involved and implications for ObamaCare. Why it works: People like to read cutting edge information and the subject has universal appeal.

10) Ten Attributes of Quality Content. Why it works: People want to write better content and this blog offers ways to do it.

 

Setting Your Blog on Fire

The dream of every blogger is to watch their blog catch viral fire.

I have enjoyed a week of the dream. Watching the hits climb was great fun.

I would love to say that the blog’s success was due to my brilliant writing. But I am no fool. The blog’s success was more due to the fact that the topic was interesting to those active in social media.

Great blogs cover topics that meet the needs of the reader, such as how to do something better or hot news. This blog’s purpose was to introduce readers to a technology article I had just published. The article is about F# a programming language that could benefit insurers in the United States as it has in Europe. (To see it, please click here.)

Sure, I promoted the blog to appropriate LinkedIn groups and periodically re-tweeted the blog post. But it was not until a handful of influential tweeters shared my tweet that the blog started catching fire. As they began to retweet, do did I, periodically, to keep the fire going. Since people are bombarded with constant tweets, you have to post periodically and hope someone will pick it up.

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The blog’s success was more due to the fact
that the topic was interesting to those active in social media.

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It’s been a great week! The post is by far the most popular one I have ever posted. The hits continue as others from all over the world continue to share my blog.

But I am a realist. It will be difficult to achieve these results regularly. My typical audience is made up of those in the insurance industry. This is an industry not exactly known for being technological progressive. Demographically, many of its decision makers are of an older generation that had not wholly adopted social media.

This of course will change as the older generation retires, so in the meantime I continue to build a strong base of followers. B2B blogging is an investment that some feel do not get strong enough returns to justify the effort. Of course I disagree because my blog has brought me customers. There are many more benefits to blogging, but that is the topic of another blog!

So I need to give due credit. I thank everyone who shared my blog with others but there are two people I want to thank in particular. Vijesh Shah got the tweeter ball rolling on my blog. He is from London and leads a modeling systems team in the pension, life insurance and the banking industry. You can follow him at https://twitter.com/vijesh.

Sergey Tihon is a software developer who has participated in international programming competitions. His blog, www.sergeytihon.wordpress.com, is responsible for more than 70 hits to my blog.

Like what you see? Then follow me!

Know Thy Competitors

Professional football players literally go head-to-head against their competition.

To win, they and their coaches have to know their competitors as intimately as possible. They take notes on play patterns and the strengths and weaknesses of each player on the other team.

Too often, however, business professionals become so focused on the greatness of their product, service or concept that they lose sight of the playing field.

I often remind my readers and clients that knowing your audience is the most important rule of effective communications and marketing.

But to beat your competitors, you need to know them as well. This includes indirect competitors too.

We all know this, but I have seen too many business plans and marketing strategies so focused product/service/concept greatness that they do not pay enough attention to the “others” who are trying to reach the same buyers.

You can’t develop a strong value proposition, which states uniqueness, without knowing the playing field.

You cannot develop effective messaging without knowing what others are saying.

You cannot know which features to sell without knowing what is selling for the  “others.”

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 …business professionals become so focused
on the greatness of their product, service or concept
they lose sight of the playing field.

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And perhaps most importantly, you cannot outsell the competition without knowing why buyers are purchasing from them.

You need to know their customers as well.

Finding out all of this requires dedicated research time, but often, business professionals go off the marketing strategy tangent, so in love with the hot “it” that they lose perspective.

But remember, it’s far more important that potential buyers believe it is hot. Knowing the competition helps you to show how your product will help clients be more competitive.

How do you research the competition?

Pretend you are a student who has to write a report on the competition. Check out everything you can from the customer’s point of view.

Since I have an investigative reporting background and am a rabid genealogist, I first exhaust written every source possible because sometimes the smallest piece of information that does not seem useful at first can be very important later.

When doing genealogical research, you don’t just write down family members’ names and ages. You keep a copy of the whole page because neighbors can matter. When discovering a new ancestor, I noticed an older woman who was living with the family. Gathering other clues, I was able to go back another generation.

For business-to-business competitive research, start with the Internet. Search news articles. Give more than a quick look at websites. Be sure you know their messaging, value proposition, pricing and top features.

Find the key players on the Internet. Collecting annual reports, marketing materials and, when possible, buy the competitors’ stuff and try it out.

Don’t forget outreach. The best outreachers are well connected in the industry who are not necessarily direct salespeople. Show up at conferences, meetings and parties and for goodness sakes, use social media to ask questions or glean more information.

And be sure to find the customers of your competitors. If you have a well-connected source and you are doing business-to-business marketing, this does not have to be difficult.

Call me old-fashioned, but I am still a big believer in focus groups, doing lunch and offering questionnaires because they work. Since human contact has been sacrificed to the immediacy of mobile technology, I believe personal interaction makes a more lasting impression.

Is it a lot of work to be sure, but if professional football teams invest in due diligence for the sweet taste of victory, so should you.

How do you research your competitors? Please leave a comment. Browns fans are especially welcome!

Like what you see? Then follow me!

The Latest Trends in B2B Content

More evidence that providing quality content is the name of the social media marketing game.

This is a great infographic available on a Hubspot blog, How Does Your Company Stack Up? The Latest Trends in B2B Content. To check it out, click here.

Here’s the beginning of the blog:

One of my favorite things in grade school was that whole “gold star” system. Remember it? You do something well in the classroom and you get a shiny gold star next to your name on a chart of your whole classmates. So, at any given time, you can look around and see how you’re stacking up against the rest of the class.

But once you get out of that grade-school classroom, the gold-star system often goes away. You can’t see how you stack up against your competitors and peers because you don’t have access to their data.

That’s why benchmark studies, like one recently released by Content Marketing Institute, Marketing Profs, and Brightcove about the current state of content marketing, are just so darn awesome.

Take a look at the latest trends to find out if your company deserves a gold star or not. Trust me — it’ll be just as exciting as the time you got a gold star in the fourth grade.

Blogging Quality Content: Do You Have What It Takes?

Blogs are an essential marketing tool, but simply having one on your company’s website is not enough.

To draw readers and build brand credibility, you need to consistently publish quality content that drives readers to come back for more.

After spending the past couple years blogging, along with 25 years of publishing experience, I can tell you that blogging content worth reading is a steady commitment of time and energy. It’s also not easy.

So before publishing a single online keystroke, ask yourself: Do you have what it takes to blog quality content?

Here is my list of the characteristics of effective bloggers. Effective bloggers are:

  • writers who enjoy writing and can express themselves clearly. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? If you don’t like to write, your product will show it. Therefore, for the sake of your sanity, do not blog.
  • experts. Any idiot can cut and paste material from other blogs and re-package it into blogs. You, however, confidently know your stuff and can offer original content. You are also an expert at knowing your audience (click here) and understanding their needs (click here).
  • critical and creative thinkers. Effective bloggers are constantly thinking. You think while sleeping in an unending quest for better solutions and approaches and/or understanding and perspective.
  • curious. You watch TV with you tablet to learn more about actors, plots and topics.
  • readers. And I don’t just mean Internet surfing. You read books about topics that have nothing to do with work because you want to learn.
  • ideas people. When you attend events, you unwittingly go from small talk to substantive issues within a two-sentence conversation. You thrive on applying concepts from other disciplines to introduce innovative solutions to another.
  • disciplined. Earning online traction requires consistently producing new content at least once a week.
  • thick skinned. You can handle constructive disagreement online for the world to see.
  • givers. You do not mind contributing useful information to help others and understand that sharing really means caring about your audience.
  • personalities. There’s no boresville because you take chances and engage in an interesting manner.

Of course, great bloggers have other characteristics as well. What characteristics would you add?

Like what you see? Then follow me!

Five Reasons for Linking In

It always amazes me when I can’t find someone LinkedIn.

Get with it people!linkedin+can+help_1844_800715221_0_0_14009585_300

As the world’s largest professional social media network, LinkedIn is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the professional world – and be found  — for free!

And if you engage with others on LinkedIn, you are likely to find new opportunities not possible from traditional networking.

But there are still those who are not joining to the party. Some have already “arrived” in their careers and don’t think they need it. Others contend they just do not have the time.

My word to them is this: Unless you plan to become a monk or plan to retire with unlimited financial security, you need LinkedIn.

We live in uncertain economic times. Staying connected opens up opportunities open, which will only grow in importance.

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Unless you plan to become a monk or plan to retire with unlimited financial security, you need LinkedIn.
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I am a fan of LinkedIn because it enables me to meet goals I could have never met had I depended on traditional networking and marketing approaches.

Here are my top five reasons to join and engage in LinkedIn:

1)   LinkedIn is a great equalizer for professionals. Traditional networking does not work for everyone. Often, people are focused on meeting “the right people” based on their title or reputation and miss the up-and-comers or those with talents not apparent in a crowded room of dark suits.

LinkedIn, however, equalizes the playing field. People are looking for more for talent, not necessarily titles. LinkedIn allows everyone from Jack Welch to the part-time sole proprietor to showcase what he or she can do. It also provides the opportunity to search deliberately for the talent you need.

Try that over cocktails and awkward conversations! In fact, LinkedIn’s degrees of separation might just help you discover that a former colleague can introduce you to the former General Electric revolutionary!

2)   LinkedIn Makes Intelligence Gathering Easier. Those of you born before the Clinton administration might not appreciate just how much professionals depended on word of mouth! When I began my career in communications, I would contact someone I knew, ask them whom they knew and maybe I would get a job lead or the right source for an article. I spent a lot of time on the phone and attending meetings.

Then search engines came online and gradually, it became easier to learn about someone by Googling their names. But that did not always cut it because often the available information wasn’t useful.

You can learn much more about someone and whom they know via LinkedIn.

3) LinkedIn promotes inbound marketing, which draws professionals to you instead of having to pound the payment for leads and contacts. When I was a full-time reporter, I was constantly on the phone to find leads and exclusives. LinkedIn makes that a thing of the past. (That said, LinkedIn is for engaging, not for making sales pitches. That is a major social media turn off!)

4) LinkedIn is like an electronic Rolodex, reducing the time it takes to build address books. With LinkedIn, I can contact virtually everyone I know professionally. Last year, when I needed to announce my marriage and name change, I was able to contact 50 people contacts at a time through LinkedIn messaging. LinkedIn also offers an app just for obtaining your contacts on your mobile device.

5) LinkedIn Keeps You Top of Mind. Broadcasting messages is no longer the sole domain of public relations professionals. Want to stay top of mind by sharing an idea, company news, a useful article or blog? Go for it!

If you have not yet taken advantage of LinkedIn, set up an appointment on your calendar to get connected. You can thank me later.

 

 

 

 

 

Industry Spotlight: 20 Questions with Annmarie Geddes Baribeau

Claimwire Interview by Steve Schmutz

avatar Steve Schmutz 08/26/13  

I first heard about Annmarie on LinkedIn. I saw a link to one of her articles that caught my interest. It was excellent – and refreshingly real. Too many articles today are bland re-runs – no personality and nothing new. I started reading more of Annmarie’s articles and found them all to be well-written and well thought-out. We started communicating via LinkedIn groups and email. I wanted to highlight Annmarie because she offers great insight in an industry that tends to be pretty boring. I wanted Annmarie to get more exposure, so I invited her to be interviewed.
Here’s my interview with Annmarie Geddes Baribeau, President at Lipold Communications, LLC.

#1 Claimwire: Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I graduated cum laude from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, but I earned more credit hours in political science.

To learn more about Claimwire, please visit www.claimwire.com

To learn more about Claimwire, please visit http://www.claimwire.com

#2 Claimwire: Can you share something about you that most people wouldn’t know?

My dream is to write historical fiction.

#3 Claimwire: What are some of your hobbies?

Gardening, cooking, sewing and genealogy. I also love to read history and biography. Any book by historian Paul Johnson is a winner!

#4 Claimwire: What people have influenced your life, and in what ways?

The list is eclectic:

Jesus What he says makes more sense to me than even the most modern thinkers.

Dr. Frank J. Henderson. He was a political science professor at Ohio University who valued critical thinking over rote memorization.

Roberta Matty. She gave me my first publishing gig as a weekly columnist at my hometown newspaper when I was in high school. She has been my friend and mentor ever since.

For workers’ compensation, there are so many I could mention. If had to pick out one person, however, it would be Roger Thompson, a retired executive from Traveler’s Insurance. He a true visionary and helped me to become one as well.

#5 Claimwire: What historical figures do you look up to and why?

Abraham Lincoln. His life demonstrates the strength and resilience of the human spirit. He managed to keep this country and his family together while suffering personal loss and caring for his mentally ill wife.

#6 Claimwire: What two or three Smartphone apps do you use the most – for either business or personal use?

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

_______________
I am tired of public policy discussions
that sound like union-management contract negotiations! 
That is so last century!
______________

#7 Claimwire: Give us a brief recap of your career.

I started my career as a writer for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. After that, I was a Cleveland business reporter with my own live-call in radio show. When I moved Washington, D.C. , I became the lead reporter for BNA’s Workers’ Compensation Report.

I started freelancing about 13 years ago. My public relations company has been going strong ever since. It has given me opportunities I would have never enjoyed had I continued as a full-time reporter. I also write freelance articles on occasion.

#8 Claimwire: What factors motivated you the most to start Lipold Communications, LLC?

The pursuit of the so-called family/work life balance.

As I mentioned, my daughter was born and I realized my net income as a full-time reporter did not justify the opportunity costs for my family and me. My company has provided a higher net income on a part-time basis than my previous full-time job. When my second daughter was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 3, I could be there for her and my income did not suffer.

#9 Claimwire: Tell us how Lipold Communications, LLC is doing and what you see in the next two to three years.

My company is doing well. I am the process of developing a new business and marketing plan and re-naming and re-branding my company.

As a sole proprietor, the business plan process includes soul searching. The Internet and social media are offering me new ways to grow my business. The opportunities are both exciting and daunting.

#10 Claimwire: Other than your product, what are the greatest assets and strengths Lipold Communications, LLC has?

It starts with the value proposition. My company offers a unique combination of established insurance industry expertise with nearly all the services you would expect from a public relations company.

When I went into public relations, I promised myself I would never be a propaganda hack! My clients and my company benefit from the journalistic approach to everything. This means asking the tough questions and publishing reliable information that builds trust and credibility for my clients, their current and potential customers, and my business.

#11 Claimwire: If you had to boil Lipold Communications, LLC down to one sentence, what would it be?

Lipold Communications, LLC provides expert insurance public relations services to build trustworthy brands.

#12 Claimwire: What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make as President of Lipold Communications, LLC?

Re-considering my company’s name and direction.

#13 Claimwire: Where do you see the insurance industry headed in the next few years?

Technology will continue to define change in the insurance industry on several levels. Smart apps, gamification and integrated predictive modeling will change even the smallest pieces of the insurance process.

Employees will be able to file a claim through an app, which will guide them to the appropriate doctor for the best immediate medical treatment and begin the claims process.

Since software is becoming more intelligent and intuitive, even new claims examiners will catch potential hitches in the process. Thanks to “integrated predictive modeling,” a term I coined, underwriters will better reward employers who truly follow best practices in workers’ compensation.

Employers who effectively communicate with employees to enhance safety programs and inspire immediate filing of legitimate claims will not have to wait years for their investment to reflect the experience modification factor to save premium dollars. The claim examiner’s app could include return-to-work options already identified by the employer. This also can be factored into the experience mod, which will be extinct in the next 10 years, at least for large employers.

The success of technology relies on effective communication, which is sorely lacking in many areas. Most companies make the mistake of not investing enough in communication and I have seen businesses fail because of it.

From a brand advocacy standpoint, insurers and vendors will pursue “brand journalism,” which is the next step beyond custom content to meet higher reader expectations. Brand journalism combines the tenets of journalism with brand communication to create customer value.

Predictive analytics will continue to be an important way companies will enhance the online customer experience as well. A site featuring the top most popular apps included a recipe for the best grilled cheese sandwich! I went for it!

#14 Claimwire: How important is Social Media to Lipold Communications and to you personally?

It’s importance cannot be overstated. In the communications industry, you either ride the wave or fossilize. There is no middle ground.

For my company, it is changing the work I do. For example, I used to build media lists, now I build influencer lists that include reporters and key players in social media.

It has changed how I market my company. Social media have enhanced my company’s “inbound marketing” by growing my network. My blog attracts new clients.

But like anything else, there is a negative side. Social media requires consistent contributions and interaction and a greater time commitment than traditional approaches.

#15 Claimwire: Related to the last question, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being an Ultra Power User, what lever of Social Media user are you?

I would say I am a 7 to 8. My LinkedIn profile is among the top five percent most viewed, which points to engagement.

But I am not a social media junkie looking to explore every new medium that comes online. I want to maximize the social mediums I currently use first. Let someone else figure out how to use Pinterest for marketing workers’ compensation!

#16 Claimwire: If you could hire any famous person to be the spokesperson for Lipold Communications, LLC, who would it be and why?

Jack Welch. He is straight-forward, honest and persuasive.

_______________
The success of technology relies on effective communication…

_______________

#17 Claimwire: What is your vision for workers’ compensation?

My vision is very broad so I will touch on a small piece of it.

For years, I have been advocating that we change how we talk about workers’ compensation. I am tired of public policy discussions that sound like union-management contract negotiations!

That is so last century!

For example, we need to show employees that getting the best medical care and return to work at medical feasibility are far better in the long run than higher maximum weekly benefits and choice of physician. Since recovery can be greatly affected by mental health, injured workers should receive counseling as well.

Once the workers’ compensation system is dominated by a return-to-work culture, compensating employees at the same salary level would be more possible. We have examples of employers who do this. We’ve done the studies. Let’s get to work!

#18 Claimwire: If you could write a biography about anyone, who would it be?

Steve Jobs.

#19 Claimwire: If you could spend a month with your family anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

England because of its history and my family roots are based there.

#20 Claimwire: If you could recommend just one book for high school students to read, what would it be and why?

“Guerrilla Marketing” by Jay Conrad Levinson. We need to train our youth to be entrepreneurs who can find and create opportunities.

Special thanks to Steve Schmutz for honoring me with an interview. To  learn more about Claimwire, please visit http://www.claimwire.com  — Annmarie

Maximizing Your Quality Content Investment

recycleQuality content is an investment. It requires expertise, experience and research. Whether writing it yourself or paying a writer, you might as well get the most from it.

Excellent public relations and marketing professionals treat content as a commodity and try to maximize its use. It’s called “re-purposing” in public relations circles; though some get cute and call it content recycling. (That just sounds so green, doesn’t it?)

What is re-purposing content? Re-purposing is creatively reusing quality content you already have.

Sounds easy, but it does require good organizational skills so you can harvest it for other purposes.

To re-purpose content, review the pre-existing written material. Make files however you wish – such as by subject, market, product, service or customer profile.

As you go through the content, copy and paste material into the appropriate file buckets.

The fun part of this exercise is finding inconsistencies in messaging or information. It is only natural that as material gets added to websites, opportunities to “re-purpose” it are often missed.

Part of this relates to a company’s internal marketing and communications departments, plans and strategies. To the world, your company’s website is one cohesive entity. Behind the website, tasks are often divided up with poor communication between workers and functions caught in their individual silos.

That’s why it is so easy to run a blog about a topic, list it in the blog section and forget to cross-pollinate the material in other sections of the website.

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Excellent public relations and marketing professionals treat content as a commodity and try to maximize its use.
_______________

Do not forget to look at documents that never go online. Business and marketing plans should have some good stuff, especially if a professional writer crafted the plans to be reader friendly.

Company research and reports also provide good written material to be re-used more broadly. Personalized marketing letters tend to have more relaxed language or explanations that would work well in other places.

Once your information is placed in the file buckets, determine how you want to reuse it. To be systematic about it, keep a list of all the venues you use to reach all your customers. Your list will include traditional material — like brochures and associated web text, the company newsletter and thought pieces and your company’s social media presence on LinkedIn (including appropriate groups), Twitter, Facebook and all the other ways you reach your market.

Don’t forget to include other customers such as the media, vendors and others who use your site.

If the mere thought of this burns you out, hire an outsider to do the work for you. Someone outside your organization can see your material more objectively.

Another way to re-purpose is to make it part of the writing/editing process. Since writing is a creative process, it can help generate new ideas. Let’s say you are writing about an issue that relates to the product or service you are selling.

As you do, consider places to publish it. After it is edited, copy the material placed elsewhere on the website and/or in the file system I suggested above. If you want to track the content’s original origin, just color the copy according to where it originally came from.

Encourage content providers not to write in a vacuum. Ask them to suggest other applications for the text. They could find and polish the quick hits or short content that can stand on its own. These can be re-used immediately on Twitter, always including the link to the material. Programs like TweetDeck will publish each tweet at the time you want the tweet to get posted.

If your material comes from a longer piece, such as an article, monograph or white paper, copy and paste material that can be greatly shortened for re-publishing as blogs or in newsletters.

Don’t forget the stuff on the cutting room floor. That’s the material you wrote that is more useful through another venue.  Just add it to your filing system.

Challenge yourself to think of re-purposing beyond replicating materials in different communication venues. By writing and reviewing all material for re-usefulness, your quality content investment could pay dividends in surprising ways.

Re-purposing quality content can be a painstaking effort. You will be rewarded with endless new ideas for more quality content, blogs and cross-marketing potential. Give re-purposing a try and let me know how you are doing!

Brainstorming Ideas for Blogs, Articles and Other Written Materials

With so many opportunities to showcase expertise online, sooner or later, you will probably need to write something. It could be a blog, a newsletter article or a thought piece. Perhaps the marketing department approaches you  for content or you want to build your reputation through Internet or print publishing.

Whatever the case, you need ideas but do not know where to find them. You’ve tried freethinking — the exercise of writing whatever comes to mind on screen or paper — but it goes nowhere. Your brainstorm becomes a drizzle.

It might surprise you to learn have more ideas than you realize. You just need to train yourself to see them.  You can become so good at it that you have my dilemma of more ideas than time!

From whence will inspiration come?

1)   Conversations. Many of my blog and article ideas come from conversations with colleagues or customers. It can be an unrelated remark, a question or a story.

2)   Reading. News, blogs, social media discussion groups and other sources mention issues that you can give more attention. Take time to discover your unique approach to it.

  • Did someone miss an important aspect of a problem or story?
  • Do you have a totally different perspective?
  • Is there another angle to cover?
  • Is there a different way to approach the subject?
  • Did you reach different conclusions?
  • Is there any new research or conditions that will affect your clients?
  • What questions are left unanswered?

3)   Just doing your job. So many potential topics arise when you are just doing your day-to-day job.

  • Did you find a creative way to solve a problem?
  • Did you hear about a new issue that calls for further exploration?
  • Can you address a customer pain point in a new way?
  • How did a new law, regulation or process change create new opportunities or headaches?

Generating ideas boil down to being curious. Think critically about everything you see and hear.

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Generating ideas boil down to being curious.
_______________

Consider information as reporters do. Ask yourself if the information matters and if so, to whom? Consider its impact, usefulness and limitations. Practice these suggestions and the ideas will start flowing.

Make sure you do not forget all these great ideas. Keep a file, perhaps in your smart phone memo, to jot ideas down as you go.

As the ideas lead to others, develop a file and keep them. You will be surprised how quickly it will fit up. Categorize them by topic and you might just develop the key points of your written piece. You might even realize a new product or service for your company to boost its uniqueness in the marketplace.

This should get you started. If you have other great brainstorming ideas, please share below.

Ten Attributes of Quality Content

Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 1.00.32 PMDo you find that too many bloggers publish more for their own edification than yours?

How about blogs and web content that are just trying to sell you something?

Readers like me are demanding better content — and rightly so. You are busy and do not want to waste precious time reading lousy blogs. If someone is reading your blog, you should feel honored.

If you want to build credibility for your business, everything published should be top quality. Put it another way, it should pass the news editor’s smell test. Editors have to be very picky about what they publish. Editors know publishing garbage is bad for business. This is applies to any organization.

I was also thinking about quality content when I recently worked tirelessly on a magazine feature article. I am paid by the article so I could have made more money by not putting in so many hours. However, I need to be proud of it, so I dig deeper to give my readers the value-added. My byline is my brand, so publishing good stuff is important for my professional reputation. (If you want to see some of my magazine articles, please visit the “Work Samples” page.)

Given this, my simple rule for quality content is: Don’t write anything you would not want to read.

Here are, in my opinion, the attributes of quality content:

1)     Value. If you cannot answer the reader’s “what is in it for me?” question, stop writing until you can.

2)     Uniqueness. I wrote a blog on tweeting quality content for live events because other blogs focused more on the technical aspects of tweeting than on the content. What good are technical skills with lousy content?

3)     Newness. Provide new information or offer a new perspective.

4)     Show, don’t just tell. Give readers a picture of what you are communicating. Explain how a concept or product works. Give examples.

5)     Cleanliness. Meaningful content obeys the rules of grammar. It is not wordy or redundant. Use a fog index to find sentences that are too long.

6)     Easy-to-understand. The old journalism rule of writing on an 8th grade level is still a good one. Microsoft Word offers a readability index. Use it.

7)     Use graphics to reinforce your point.

8)     Accuracy. Your readers should feel they can take what you said to the bank. If not, you are not building credibility and trust.

9)     Be real. Don’t blog like you are writing a term paper. Your genuine voice makes for much better reading.

10)  Conversation starter. Don’t just write into a vortex. We all benefit from the conversation social media offers and nobody knows everything.

Here’s the truth: quality blogs take time. Do not start blogging until you can make time to dedicate to it. I’ve been blogging for about 18 months. I’ve learned that writing quality blogs once a week and keeping up with comments takes about four hours a week. Blogging is a discipline and consistent posting is necessary to attract Google’s attention.

_______________
Editors know publishing garbage is bad for business.
This applies to any organization.
_______________

Here are the hallmarks of bad blogging:

1)     Poor writing.

2)     Blatant marketing pitches. Social media is about contributing to the Internet community. People are not stupid. They will see through your intentions pretty quickly.

3)     Sensationalism. Some bloggers in the insurance industry would be better fodder for “News of the Weird.” I’ve seen too many blogs relating to sex or bizarre circumstances. It’s unprofessional and insulting, so don’t do it.

4)     Blogs that do not deliver what headlines promise.

5)     Plagiarism. When I got behind on my blogging, a writer friend of mine suggested I lift the works of others and run that. That is called plagiarism and it is one of the deadly sins of writers. If others have covered the topic, do it better. If you can’t, refer your readers to the better blog.

Why is there so much crappy content out there? I blame it on communications and marketing professionals who emphasize blogging as a marketing tool. Consistent blogging with great content should attract customers by building credibility, but bad blogging does the opposite. For the sake of your credibility, do it right or don’t do it at all.

What do you think?