Tips for Hiring and Working With Freelance Writers

By Petr Kratochvil (Public Domain)

By Petr Kratochvil (Public Domain)

Finding a freelance writer who will truly meet an organization’s needs requires a lot of consideration. Like any other profession, freelancers vary on experience, professionalism, expertise and quality. At the same time, those looking to hire freelance writers have to be clear on their expectations.

A quality writer can help boost your content marketing efforts and search engine optimization. As I promised in an earlier blog, I am offering my thoughts on hiring freelance writers. This perspective is based on my experience as a paid writer and public relations professional for more than 40 clients during the past 25 years.

Here’s what you need to know:

• Be clear about your business objectives. I’ve had potential clients who wanted an article, a blog or web text only but when I asked them the ultimate goals, they could not be identified. As a result, I worked with some of them on business plans, marketing plans and value propositions so they could re-think what they really needed. Be wary of writers who will do a job without understanding the purpose or desired results.

• Finding the best writers requires some research. If you enter “freelance writers” on a search engine also add the desired subject expertise.

• Look for writers with proven publishing success. Always examine the writer’s content, which in this day and age should be easily available online.Here are some questions to ask yourself:

☐ Do I like the writer’s style?
☐ Is there evidence of quality content that will draw readers to your business?
☐ Where has the writer been published?
☐ Are there online references? If so, are they specific about what they like about the writer?
☐ Can the writer show evidence he or she can handle the assignment? Writing news releases is easy. Producing magazine features, booklets or annual reports requires specialized experience.

• Only hire writers who ask about your audience. If writers do not ask about the intended audience, they have missed the most important element of effective communication. It shows their priorities are more focused on producing work and being paid than meeting their clients’ needs. For some clients, I have provided some informal market research and customer interviews so everyone better understands the intended audience and their needs.

• Check out the writer’s LinkedIn profile. Does the writer’s network include an impressive array of professionals? Are any of them in your network?

• Know the assignment details ahead of time. Can you provide subject matter experts or will you also be paying for research? When is the assignment due? How long is it? What’s the re-purposing plan? What is the corporate style? Is this a one-time only project? Know this ahead of time instead of making vague inquires.

• Do not expect writers to start work immediately. The best writers are busy. Ask when they can be reasonably available to start and finish your project.

• Be sure you can be available to answer questions and help the project move forward. Often, writers will not realize the full scope of a project until they are fully engaged in it. They will likely have follow-up questions, necessary to complete their assignment. Quality writers will also offer advice on editorial packaging.

• Ask how they want to be compensated. By the word? By the hour? By the project? There are pros and cons to these approaches for both the writer and the customer. Some writers will even barter for products or services.

• Compensate fairly. I remember one potential client who wanted to pay me $10 per hour. I declined. Not only was that less than the minimum wage after I pay taxes, but I had not worked for so little (practically free) since I was in college writing articles to build my portfolio! Proven publishing experience and expertise should translate in a better product that is less hassle to produce. Reliable, quality writers that make your life easier are worth their weight in gold.

• Pay in a timely fashion. Payment in full within 30 days is customary, but everyone appreciates being paid sooner.

• When the project is over, ask them how it went. Finding a writer you enjoy working with is not just a matter of professionalism but personality. Ask the writer for feedback on their experience can help you decide to hire them again or clue you in to internal issues that hampered progress. Offer them the same courtesy. Let the writer know if you intend to hire again and explain why.

What other tips would you offer to someone looking to hire a writer? Please share in the comments section below.

To Write Successful Marketing Content, Think Like A Journalist

Courtesy of Mike Lincht NotionsCapital.com via flickr.com

Courtesy of Mike Lincht NotionsCapital.com via flickr.com

Online content marketing is an essential way to reach potential customers. This approach has certainly worked for my clients and my company.

The primarily goal of content marketing is to provide “organic” content — as opposed to advertising — to boost Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to attract potential customers.

While executives can get excited about the bells and whistles of technical SEO, the truth is that content remains king. After all, if the written material does not attract search engines to your website, what’s the point?

So it’s curious to me that so many companies do not make the necessary investment for unique and useful content that is more likely to garner the all-coveted higher search engine rankings.

You no doubt see the results every time you do an Internet search. Since anyone can publish on the Internet without editorial scrutiny or peer review, the cyber world is filled with a lot of distracting and frustrating written refuse. There’s too much content “noise” on the Internet: material that is too generic, doesn’t answer reader questions or even worse, is duplicative from other websites.

The explanation for Internet noise is simple. Content marketing is a form of self-publishing and yet, much online copy is not produced by publishing professionals.

So to become an awesome content marketer, you need to think more like a quality-minded publisher or journalist. Consider this: just as a byline is the journalist’s brand, the material your organization publishes reflects its brand. Some experts call this brand journalism.

Publishers and journalists understand they must thoroughly know their audiences to offer content so compelling that busy people will sacrifice their time to read it. Yes, I mean sacrifice. By publishing a piece, you are asking the viewer to read your stuff instead of doing something else.

Frankly, I am always amazed at the marketing hype that gets published by people who don’t want to spend their precious time reading the hype of others.

_____________

Is your company’s content so awesome
that someone would actually pay
for the privilege of reading it?
_____________

I’ve also been equally shocked by how many professionals I have encountered who are not well acquainted with their customers’ needs and situations. Such information is necessary for producing quality content that will best serve customers. Investing in interviews, surveys or focus groups is a great way to know your customers better. (And by the way, you’ll also get great content ideas.)

The key is to show – not just tell the customer – why your firm is unique and how that equates to better products and services. That means no direct sales material or the blah, blah, blah about your company’s greatness. Ways to show, instead of tell are: publishing expert advice and insight, providing testimonials and case studies that solve common problems.

Professionals with publishing backgrounds understand that to make money, they must produce material that is so credible, useful and compelling that a person would buy it (through subscription) or it will attract enough readers to sell advertising.

Ask yourself a question. Is your company’s content so awesome that someone would actually pay for the privilege of reading it? If so, they will keep coming to your website for more!

Your organization’s content should showcase your expertise and build credibility with your potential and current clients. This is another reason why I recommend a journalistic approach. Strict journalistic standards push out the hype and sloppy content because every sentence must be justified.

Such journalistic standards include:

  • Knowing the reader. This cannot be emphasized enough! 
  • Assuring accuracy. Fact-check and double fact check when referencing other authors or sources. That means that proper nouns must always be correct or they are factual errors. 
  • Clarifying the purpose of the article, blog or other material and ensuring it answers the famous: who, what, when, where, why and how questions. 
  • Being specific. Instead of writing, “according to a study,” you name the study, the organization that published it and provide a link. 
  • Anticipating and answering reader questions about the subject. 
  • Presenting material in its appropriate “editorial package” by considering the appropriate use of graphical elements such as bullets and art. 
  • Staying concise. That does not necessarily mean keeping material short. Search engines do reward thoughtful and longer pieces. Aim for smaller sentences, tighter and active wording (for example, overusing the phrase “of the”) and phrasing that compel further reading.

Applying such standards for producing unique and high-quality content takes a lot of time and adjustment. So what are you to do?

There are several approaches. You can:

  • Buy generic material about insurance that is pretty affordable, but since it is not original, it is more likely to be pushed down by the search rankings. 
  • Produce content in-house, making sure that you have an editor who will approach the article journalistically. 
  • Hire a freelance writer with a journalism background. Writers with solid reputations, years of experience and who know the subject matter (or know what to ask) will likely cost more. Just think of the time it takes subject matter experts, consultants and executives to produce well-written material. Compare that to the cost of hiring a seasoned writer. Besides receiving quality and unique content, you should also benefit from ideas for re-purposing, new stories, different angles and approaches and creative ways to present material.

Conclusion

Publishing unique and quality content is more important for boosting SEO than technical SEO enhancements. By approaching a subject like a journalist, you will enhance your organization’s brand to build trust and credibility that should attract potential customers.

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Leader’s Edge Feature Offers Digital Marketing Insight and Advice

Leader's Edge logoQuestion: When there is so much Internet noise, how do you make sure your company stands out? Answer: Digital marketing.

As I explain in my recently released Leader’s Edge article, “From Buzz to Bucks,” digital marketing encompasses everything from social media marketing to links, search engine optimization (SEO), video, advertising and other channels.

In general, the insurance industry is behind other sectors when it comes to mastering digital marketing. Digital marketing is not a replacement for all traditional marketing techniques, but it a crucial part of a marketing plan.

The article includes interviews with digital marketing experts and agents and brokers reaping positive results from digital marketing. Their advice can help nearly any company. There is also a sidebar devoted to determining return on investment (ROI) and another covers social media.

Some Digital Marketing Tips Getting started in digital marketing is just like any other form of marketing or public relations strategy.

  • Define your customer, their interests and pain points to develop appropriate messaging. I don’t believe you can know enough about potential or current customers. 
  • Surveys, focus groups and asking readers for follow-up are important tools for better knowing customers. A lot of companies skip this step to their peril. Don’t make that mistake. Hiring an outside firm is a good idea to assure objectivity. At the very least, make sure sales staff keeps track of lead origination. They should be asking – and keeping records — about how customers heard of the company, what prompted them to contact the company and content of interest. 
  • Also, take a close look at your website. Since about half of viewers use their mobile devices to look up information, at the very least, the website needs to be responsive so it’s easy to read and navigate.

_______________
I believe that any new marketing strategy should be approached humbly…

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  • Make sure call-to-action buttons are well placed to transform readers to leads. 
  • Re-evaluate your social media strategy. Are you on LinkedIn, Facebook, GooglePlus and Twitter? If so, post on a regular basis to keep your company top of mind. If not, get signed up! 
  • The secret to great SEO has much more to do with content than fancy programming techniques. Make sure the information is written for readers as search engine algorithms try to mimic what people want to read. Speaking of search engine algorithms, Jayson DeMers, one of the experts quoted in my article, published a piece on Entrepreneur this week explaining how Google’s future algorithm change on April 21st will “revolutionize the way mobile friendliness is determined.” It’s worth checking out. Regardless of algorithm changes, quality content continues to be more important than ever. (Please see the “quality content” tag on this blog to learn how to produce it.) 
  • Make sure your material meets your customers’ needs. 
  • Re-evaluate your website and other content for SEO. Do not stuff content with searchable words. Search engines hate the practice and give sites that do it lower rankings. 
  • Blogging is another way to provide quality content. It requires a time commitment, but regularly introducing quality content – at least once per week — through blogging is very effective for boosting SEO and keeping your company top of mind. Post it on social media sites including LinkedIn. 
  • Take the best sentences and points and feed them into Twitter. To ensure originality and be rewarded by search engines, avoid companies that sell pre-packaged content. Yes, it’s cheaper, but it might not fare as well with search engines. Quality content can be developed by company subject matter experts, guest bloggers and freelance writers. 
  • Graphics play a critical role in presenting content. The right picture can be worth a 1,000 words. Since many people prefer to get information by watching rather than reading, video also plays a role in digital marketing as well.I believe that any new marketing strategy should be approached humbly because the arena continues to evolve. Each company should track every tactic they pursue to see what is most effective. For example, an agent or broker who sells both personal and commercial lines might find that Facebook postings are more effective for selling personal lines and LinkedIn works better for commercial lines.

    Which digital marketing tactics are working at your company?
                 

To Build Credibility, Stop the Nonsense

Don’t you just love it when the basics of effective business practices win out over marketing ploys?

One basic is credibility. Every company needs it to build trust with potential and current clients, but few do a great job achieving it.

To me, credibility is saying what you mean and meaning what you say. For effective business-to-business brand advocacy, you need a credible product or service. You also need written material that reinforces it.

Companies cannot risk losing customers by telling them “it depends on the meaning of the word ‘is'” as politicians do with voters. (I dare say that if ObamaCare were offered by the private sector, there would be a ton of lawsuits, but I digress.)

Developing quality content comes down to this: write only what you would want to read. Like your readers, you are busy. You don’t want waste precious time wading through marketing hype to get your questions answered.

If your text is has more words than meaning or does not help the customer be ruthless and cut it.

This is really all you need to know and you probably already knew it.

Yet amazingly, too many companies still serve up marketing nonsense for reader consumption. Even worse, the so-called experts advocate disingenuous tactics for building readership. Don’t let them distract you from your goal of writing truly useful text.

_______________
Dictionaries offer definitions of credibility,
but to me, it means saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

_______________

Call me old fashioned, but I never practiced or advocated for so-called strategies like using Google analytics to find key words and then stuffing them into copy. This was never worthwhile because words are for people, not machines! (And as any English teacher will tell you, redundant use of words is just bad writing).

The ultimate goal of web text, and any marketing material, is to gain satisified customers. Back in the day when webmasters were the ultimate purveyors of content, they argued it was better to boost hits to attract people to the content.

I would insist it was other way around: awesome content — which is informative, helpful or interesting – attracts and retains readers. Who cares how many hits you get if the content does not build brand credibility or help sell products or services? My blog does not reach millions but it does reach enough of my potential customer base to keep me busy.

Thankfully, Google’s recent algorithm changes are doing a much better job at discouraging marketing hype. Google is also rewarding longer content as well. This means that organizations can no longer get away with producing cheap, generic content to the ever-growing number of people who only rely on the Internet – as opposed to print — to find out information.

Google’s algorithm also discourages the practice of inserting hyperlinks to material not truly germaine to your topic. To the reader, unnecessary links are empty promises.

Hubspot, which offers software to generate web traffic, does a great job covering this in its “2013 Marketing Predictions: Hits & Misses.” You can find at http://www.hubspot.com. I love what its report said, “Don’t game the system, don’t write for the algorithm, don’t try to be sneaky – focus on helping the people you are trying to reach.”

To this I offer a heartily, “Amen.” Hubspot recommended that marketers focus on quality content (thank you very much), in-depth articles, and social recommends” – that is, the more likes your material earns, the more Google will notice.

Toward Credible Content

Producing material of journalistic quality will encourage reader trust. Today, that is called “brand journalism.” To offer brand journalism, you have to think like an editor and view the customer as the audience. You need to anticipate business problems — what is keeping them up at night — and offer ways to help.

Even before “brand journalism” became a term of art, publishing quality content that readers could trust was always effective.

I had a client who self-published an article on a PDF about ten years ago. Ever since, searchers who enter the subject term in the search engine will still find it on the first results page. He is now nationally known for his expertise. Keep in mind this happened while word stuffing was a common practice and before Google’s developed a finer text sifter.

Quality content also fills an information void. There are fewer journalistic publications, whether on paper or online, because publishers cannot afford reporters. Your organization can fill this information through brand journalism. That is, producing trustworthy articles, blogs, web content, etc., that will keep the readers for coming back for more.

Before producing written material, companies should make sure they live up to their promises. If customer service is lame, even great content will become meaningless now that people can complain online for the world to see.

To build public credibility, identify topics that will interest potential clients and produce copy the media would publish. If the piece is really hot, see if an outside publication would like to publish it first. If a reporter calls you for an article interview, your credibility goes up. If the whole piece is published, credibility goes up even more!

_______________
Ultimately, what customers say about your company is more important than what you say.

_______________

So next time you read your organization’s website, put on your customer empathy hat and ask yourself if the text succinctly answers what readers want to know. Are the words empty or are they are building credibility for your company?

Anyone can say their firm produces quality whatever or the best service – and they do and will. Does the copy say what you mean? Is it accurate? Does it not just tell but also show the readers why it is so great?

Does it mean what you say? Can customers count on the truthfulness of the words? Does your firm’s value proposition reflect the realities of customer service?

Ultimately, what customers say about your company is more important than what you say. When happy customers endorse your offering, credibility and sales should go up.

It all starts with awesome content about a quality offering.

How do you ensure meaningful and credible content? Please share at will!

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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.

_______________
Effective inbound marketing is both an art and science.
_______________

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.

 

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?

How to Tweet Live Events – with Quality Content

Much of the online content about tweeting live events covers the technical considerations. What is missing, ironically, is quality content on — well — tweeting quality content.

So before you go atweetin’, check out my tips on tweeting live events:twitter-logo-hashtag

1) Knowing your audience is numero uno for tweeting and any type of communication. Being aware of what readers care about should guide your content. (For more on knowing your audience, click here. Another past blog covers getting your message out. To see it, click here.)

2) Be or become a subject expert. If you want to attract and maintain followers, know your stuff and its proper context. Otherwise, your tweets risk ringing hollow and being difficult to understand. Since I had expertise in workers’ compensation, I was also able to add insight to my conference coverage.

3) Build and expand your audience. Let the world know you will be tweeting an event to encourage interest and new followers. I recommend posting the announcement two to three weeks in advance and then re-announcing the week before and then a couple of days before the event.

I gained several new followers after posting announcements on my blog, Twitter and subject-based LinkedIn groups. During and after my tweets, I gained even more. Next time, I will also announce the hash tags I am using.

_______________

Think of tweeting conferences, speeches and presentations as taking notes
 and sharing them with your audience in real time.

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4) Prepare in advance. Get the names of the speakers, follow them on Twitter when possible and have all their names pre-typed in so you just copy and paste it when you need it. I also looked at the supporting material and copied it into my Notes app so I was ready when the speaker mentioned it.

5) Consider using a portable device such as an IPad. I took a chance on bringing the IPad instead of my laptop. Since I am not sold on any of the word processing programs for IPad, I used the Notes app to cut and paste my already typed in names and quotes for future tweets.

6) Give the reader a flavor of the event. Not just how many people are there, but how they responded. In one tweet, I mentioned the hearty laughter resulting from a speaker’s comment.

7) Do not be intimidated. Think of tweeting conferences, speeches and presentations as taking notes and sharing them with your audience in real time.

6) Write Attention-Getting Tweets. You can never go wrong with statistics and facts (please attribute responsibly), new information, insights, and relevant story summaries.

8) Tweet now, write later. Don’t worry about blogging or writing more information until later. Excellent live tweets can be lost to the writing process.

9) Use hash tags. No mystery here. Try to anticipate subjects and enter those, #pound sign first, into your prepared notes for future cutting and pasting.

10) Don’t be sloppy. Poor grammar, punctuation and spelling kill credibility.

(To see or follow my tweets, check out annmariegedbaribeau@twitter.com.)

What’s your best advice for tweeting live events? Please comment below.

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LinkedIn’s Top 5 % Most Viewed LinkedIn Profile Complaints: What’s the Big Deal?

linkedin+can+help_1844_800715221_0_0_14009585_300I am not an apologist for LinkedIn, but really, people need to lighten up about LinkedIn’s recent “Top 5 (or 1) % Most Viewed LinkedIn Profile”  complaints.

So many bloggers are complaining about LinkedIn‘s obvious marketing campaign. But I think it’s kinda fun.

LinkedIn supports the marketing efforts of those looking to boost their careers and brand image, and for most of us, for free. Through it, I have expanded my network, boosted name recognition and attracted potential customers.

So what if the company wants to sell more premium services. Hello…LinkedIn is a business. Private enterprise is fueled by the profit motive. It is not unusual for businesses (or drug dealers for that matter) to provide free services or information to lure in potential customers.

In fact, providing quality content for free is the main strategy for attracting customers via social media.

Besides getting a grip, people also need to quit operating under the delusion that their social media contributions belong solely to them. I am not a copyright attorney, but  I remember from journalism school that anything you write (even a letter) is a form of publishing. If people got this they would be more careful with what they write.

They might also be more realistic about the give-and-take of a free service.

And while millions are on the list, there are likely to be a few in your industry. I am glad to see people I know who made the list. It’s another hint for determining my industry’s potential influencers.

Finally, I also appreciate the marketing genius behind the campaign. Whether this marketing campaign aggravates you or not, it accomplished a main goal of social media. It got us to engage!

Predictive Modeling ‘s Impact on Agents and Brokers—and Their Clients

Predictive modeling pieces together data in new ways

Predictive modeling pieces together data in new ways. (Thanks to steve.kargs.net for the pic.)

Leader’s Edge magazine just published my article on how predictive modeling will affect agents and brokers who sell commercial insurance – and their customers. The article, Modeling the Futureexplains how agents and brokers who invest in their own predictive models can see significant returns on their bottom line.

Many agents and brokers are already being affected by the predictive models of the insurance companies they represent. To a greater extent, predictive modeling reveals the true risk of employers. Some agents’ customers will see price improvements while others will experience the opposite. Insurers also need to do a better job informing their agents of how they are using the models so agents can respond appropriately.

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Those who adapt quickly will do well, those who do not will be left behind.
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Agents and brokers with the interest and resources to invest in their own predictive models will be able to offer better products and services. My article features one company that is increasing revenue by improving the value proposition of workers’ compensation products and services with predictive modeling.

Some agents bristle at the technology, but predictive modeling is here to stay. Those who adapt quickly will do well, those who do not will be left behind.

I hope you enjoy this last article under my current byline. Since I am getting married this Saturday, my future byline will be Annmarie Geddes Baribeau.

If you want to read more about predictive modeling, please check out the “predictive modeling” section under “topics.”

Reduce Claim Filing Lag Time Through Effective Employee Communication Plans

(This is Part II of What Every Employer Should Know About Workers’ Compensation)

Despite the best safety efforts, workers’ compensation claims happen. The unnecessary lag time between the date of a work-related injury and date of claim filing can mean the difference between a medical-only claim and a lost-time claim costing tens of thousands of dollars. A lag of more than 10 days is enough to make a claim unnecessarily expensive and can affect how soon employees return to work.

Too often, employees do not know what to do if they sustain a work-related injury or an occupational illness. An effective employee communication plan can help educate employees and reduce the intimidation factor of filing a claim. Besides encouraging immediate claim filing, it should outline protocol and provide answers to often-asked questions.

Employer protocols will differ based on the company’s philosophy and culture. How employers insure their workers’ compensation obligation is another factor. Employers with self-insured, self-administered workers’ compensation programs or an on-site medical staff will have different approaches than those who rely solely on their insurance company to handle and pay claims.

The key message of the communication plan should provide information on who to contact file a claim and answer questions. Ideally, this would be the outgrowth of an overall message that the employer cares about its employees.
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Posting a sign in the lunchroom is not enough.
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When developing messages and support content, it helps to know the experiences of past claims and how they were filed and handled to discourage future miss steps. Perhaps conduct an employee survey to learn what employees know about workers’ compensation. Employees might think they should rely on an attorney, a union representative or their doctor to file a claim.

Once the main message is established, identify the most effective ways to reach employees. This requires knowing and understanding them as an audience. (For more information, please click here for my blog on knowing your audience and here for customer empathy.) Do not be afraid to ask employees how they like to receive communication. Text messages are often the best bet for Generation X and younger. Old-fashioned table tents at the company cafeteria are still effective.

Generally, employee communication plans should be occasionally audited to ensure messages are effectively reaching employees. There is a tendency, for example, to publish newsletter articles when a list of bullet points is more effective. Articles should be limited to stories that will truly interest employees. Human-interest articles, such as employee testimonials of the company’s workers’ compensation support, or interesting workers’ compensation statistics, should draw interest.

To generate excitement, invite employees to develop a slogan or offer creative ways to get the message out. I recommend establishing a workers’ compensation hotline. This directly gets the worker to the right place and avoids the discomfort some employees might feel about telling their supervisors.

Launch the messages in exciting and creative ways, such as at the company picnic or Christmas party can also reach families with the message. Skits and videos can humorously make the message more memorable.

Since people need to hear a message several times before it becomes knowledge, reinforcement is just as important. Posting a sign in the lunchroom is not enough. Team meetings, occasional email messages and newsletter “ads” can reinforce the message. Finally, offering giveaways that employees can actually use, as opposed to landfill fillers, can help reinforce the message. (Click here to read my blog on giveaways.)

With concerted effort, employers can make a significant difference to save money and help workers get the right medical treatment as soon as possible to encourage healing and return to work.