Thursday, 27 December 2012

New Year... New Mission - Self Publish Mental Pause!

This image courtesy of suphakit73 at freedigitalphotos.net
What a wonderful day yesterday with family gathered together reminiscing about 2012 and talking about what's in store for 2013.  The next generation of my family are just the type of young adults who are going to change the world!  Really... I'm not biased... they're brilliant!  Okay, maybe just a little but I'm allowed to be a proud auntie, especially since I don't have children of my own.

Anyway... During the past year, I had some great projects to work on, including assisting in the launch of the corporate division of 'embers of the world' as well as working with the Dubai office of DBM as they merged with Lee Hecht Harrison (as of January they will be LHH Gulf).

I also started on my journey to find an agent for my for my first novel, Mental Pause and it's been a year now.  I've had a little interest, many asking for the first few chapters and one NY agent who actually asked to see the full manuscript... three months ago.  My follow up seems to have fallen on deaf ears.  I do have several more on a spreadsheet that I've targeted but I had an epiphany the other day and decided that I would publish it myself.  I've been studying the options for about two years now and tested the Kindle Direct Publishing process with a simple e-book so I've decided to take the plunge (with lots of encouragement from family and friends who have already read, and enjoyed, my first attempt at fiction).  I will do both electronic and print versions and will use Create Space.

So, I've taken the following steps so far:

1. Hired a designer to start working on cover (Graham Booth at Creation Booth who also designed the covers for @Home in Dubai and 10 Steps to a Successful PR Campaign for me.  He has done many fiction covers too so I expect great things from him)... :)  As soon as it's ready, I'll share it here.

2.  Have asked yet another professional writer to edit it.  This is critical!  Even though I've been writing professionally for years, you can NEVER edit your own work.

And...

3.  Chosen a launch date, which means the editing will have to end soon as I've targeted March 8th - International Women's Day... thanks to my friend Alison Delory (a fellow author and blogger) who made that suggestion as sometimes I just can't see the forest for the trees.  I thought it was perfect.  Thanks Alison!

Stay tuned as the launch plan comes together!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Basic Business Writing to Capture an Audience

 
photographer, Graur Razvan Ionut

With the explosion of online content development driven by the evolution of social media, I thought it was time to talk about back to basics business writing to capture and engage an audience.   I wrote this article a while back for Suite101 and thought it was timely to resurrect it...

With the rapid fire communications coming at consumers, information is being weeded through and tossed out at a great rate.   What makes them stop and read?

 Brilliant Business Writing

In the book Brilliant Business Writing-How to Inspire, Engage and Persuade through Words, author Neil Taylor says that good business writing should be clear and concise but can be livened up by adding stories, rhythm and the odd metaphor.  These are the elements that bring business writing from good to brilliant, says Taylor and will increase the likelihood that the purpose of the communication (to help, inform or influence) will be met.

The challenge in the information age is to cut through the noise and actually reach and engage an audience.  “Although there is an abundance of information available, it is often difficult to obtain useful, relevant information when it is needed,” according to an article published in the International Journal of Information Management, “The Problem of Information Overload in Business Organizations,” by Angela Edmunds and Anne Morris, 2000.  It goes on to say that “Professional and personal survival in modern society clearly depends on our ability to take on board vast amounts of new information.  Yet that information is growing at an exponential rate.”

Information Fatique
 
The article refers to the challenge of managing “information fatigue” in the workplace to alleviate potential “analysis paralysis” a phrase coined by Stanley and Clipsham in 1997.  Since that study was conducted the information overload syndrome of the office has obviously seeped into home and family life as well and trying to reach an information saturated audience is a challenge.

Methods of information sharing continue to grow exponentially and regardless of the way messages are being delivered, through Twitter, Facebook, websites, billboards, ezines, newspapers or magazines, it’s critical that the message is crafted in a way that it is received and understood in order for it to be acted upon.

Taylor’s book walks readers through the basics of style and grammar but in an enjoyable and engaging way (using his own advice to draw readers in).  It’s a great read with a twist of humour laced with the occasional bit of sarcasm.  

Training a Writer's Brain

At the beginning of the book Taylor suggests that getting good at business writing takes time.  He recommends that business writers “think of it like circuit training: you’ll be gradually building up your linguistic muscles” as you read the book.

He compares being a writer to being an actor and suggests that writers be “present” in their writing like an actor in a play.  An actor could show up, say his or her lines on cue, walk through the right doors at the right time but if there’s no life to the performance they won’t be getting any Tony Awards.  According to Taylor, “writing is a presentation you’re not in the room to deliver.” 

The Inverted Pyramid

Skimming and scanning is typical with today’s online readers so it’s best to take a journalistic approach to writing anything.  In one of Taylor’s Brilliant Tips he says to “put the most important points at the beginning of what you’re writing.”  It’s what is known as the “inverted pyramid.”  If readers aren’t captured with the first line, they’ve moved on and there’s rarely a second chance to engage them. 

What clever methods do you use to capture and engage your audience, whatever type of writing you do?


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Relevant Socializing in Your Social Media



 I spent a long time yesterday writing a comment in a LinkedIn discussion on a social media marketing group that I thought I would share here.  The group facilitator had invited members to post all their links but included a long list of guidelines on what to do and what not to do...  to make it a more useful discussion rather than a dumping ground.  I thought I would share it here because I think, in their desperation to 'connect' and be 'liked' so many people are totally missing the point...

Here's the comment I wrote:

I'm sad to say that even though you (the facilitator) painstakingly outlined the guidelines for this discussion I have already been bombarded in my LinkedIn inbox.

I will simply delete those messages and continue merrily on my way.

I would like to thank everyone who has begun following all my social media but would like to plead with those who are blindly following, liking and connecting with everyone on this string, to please use a little strategic thinking before you do so. I'm disappointed to see irrelevant posts on my timeline that have absolutely nothing to do with my areas of interest or expertise and certainly will not be welcomed by my friends/followers/connections.

I will not respond to each piece of SPAM individually but will quietly delete it and will not be visiting or following anyone back simply because they have 'liked' my page (but are not likely to grace it with their presence anytime in the near or distant future... but have only clicked the button in the hopes of highjacking a few followers)!

I will go through this discussion and will visit, read with interest, comment, like, share and follow those who pique my interest, have information I want or need or who I would like to engage in a conversation. If I don't follow back, it's not because I'm not 'playing fair'. It's because there aren't enough hours in the day to follow and read all the relevant content that is available let alone the reams and reams of 'stuff' that isn't.

I hope I haven't offended anyone but I felt the need to share my feelings so those of you I'm not 'following back' understand why that might be. Also, it may take some time for me to get to everyone so just because I'm not following today doesn't mean I won't jump on tomorrow. If what I write about is of interest to you, don't unfollow me just because I haven't followed you back right away. Feel free to leave relevant comments on Facebook, DM or @message me on Twitter and I'll see the honest engagement and happily engage back!

Happy (relevant) Socializing,
Anne :) 



Would anyone else like to join my rant?  Please feel free to let it all out on the comment section below.  I know I feel much better :)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Eating My Way Through Singapore

I thought I would do something a little different since I've been a little derelict in my blogging duties lately.  It's still in keeping with my mission to write about writing in that, I find that the pure act of exploring a strange (to me) Asian city on the hunt for the best street vendor, flogging the most compelling local dish, gives me so much experiential fodder to draw from when describing any sense in my writing - sight, sound, smell, taste (and even touch when attempting to successfully wield the series of utensils presented to us).  I attentively watch the locals who surround us and try to mimic their motions as they make it look so effortless and never end up with the spicey juices flowing down their chins, which is fortunate for them as there often seems to be a serious lack of materials with which to mop the drips from one's face!

So, here is a pictorial meander through the flavors of Singapore from a recent trip I took with my husband.  I threw in a few visual beauties at the end just for variety!

On our first day we stopped in a cavernous food court on Bugis Street and immediately followed our noses to this amazing bowl of chicken curry.  Two large Tiger beers were almost not enough to quench the thirst that followed after the sweat broke out on both our foreheads!  But, it sure was tastey!

















We just stood here for a while and inhaled the blended aromas and beautiful presentation of this cornucopia of delicacies before we ordered.  We took advantage of all the gorgeous green and topped up our vegetables for the day.











The sight of this sign was enough to make us hold our breath and keep walking.  Not sure I'll ever need to write about the sensation of eating this!  My characters will just have to forgo the experience.











Fish Ball Soup!  Who knew how delicious fish balls could be?  That is, as long as you can get beyond the rubbery texture.  It is quite a skill to pick one of the slippery suckers up with chopsticks but we've got the maneuver down pat!















And... I'll leave you with just a few visual treats...


A very colorful refurbished building in the middle of Little India


Splashes of vibrancy abound amongst the vendors in the midst of Chinatown.

The Singapore Flyer lit up at night.



The Singapore skyline taken from Sky Park on top of the new Marina Bay Sands Hotel. 

So much eye-candy around every turn it literally took our breath away!  I can't believe the incredible pics my iPhone takes!  I even discovered how to zoom in on a shot with it and crop a photo once it's taken.  Learn something new every day!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Managing Your Online Reputation

I wrote this originally for Suite101 on August 2, 2010 but I think it's so important that it deserves to be re-posted. It's amazing to me how many people just don't realize (or care) the damage they can do to themselves by not 'minding their Ps & Qs" as my mom always said,  So, with my permission (and as per the copyright of the piece which allows me to repost any of my work from Suite101 one year following the original post) here are some thoughts on protecting yourself while taking advantage of the awesome power of Social Media!

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Photo credit: Graur Razvan Jonut, Freedigitalphotos.net
Organizations and individuals in the past benefited from years of experience, a certain level of maturity and often a paid professional to guide them through the intricacies of creating and maintaining a positive corporate or professional image.
With the explosion of social media, an individual’s online reputation now starts to be built at a very young age. Today’s generation has grown up online and these “digital natives” are beginning to enter the workforce with a huge disadvantage. Their youthful antics and sometimes bad decisions are splayed across the internet for all, including potential employers, to see.

Employers Use the Internet to Weed out Applicants

According to a report on CBS News on January 10, 2009, “It's estimated that more than 70 percent of employers do a Web search on job applicants as part of their hiring procedures. More than half of them admit to not bringing someone on board because of negative information they found online.”

That figure has probably increased even more dramatically since then and unfortunately privacy laws have not caught up to Web 2.0 which means that nothing is sacred. Embarrassing photos posted, inflammatory comments made in the heat of the moment and rants printed on blogs can become a poster’s worst nightmare.

So it went with now infamous Stacy Snyder who posted a party photo of herself online and was denied her teaching degree months before her graduation from Millersville University School of Education. The school felt that she was not setting a good example for her students by promoting drinking (she was doing a teaching practicum in a high school at the time).

Millions Cruise and Use Social Media

Facebook’s 500 million members spend more than 500 billion minutes a month on the site posting with abandon not believing the same thing could possibly happen to them. Messages posted on the wildly popular Twitter (which has more than 105 million-plus registered users according to an article in PC Magazine, “Twitter Blows Past 20-Billionth Tweet” on July 31, 2010) are now being archived at the Library of Congress according to a CNN report on April 14, 2010. So, the best approach to all online interaction is to keep in mind that it’s an online reputation that has viral tentacles and individuals networking online shouldn’t post anything they wouldn’t like to read in the headlines the next morning.

Online Reputation Monitoring

According to LifeHacker.com the best way to start managing an online reputation is to start tracking what’s being said using tools like Google Alert or Monitor This. In the January 2009 CBS report, Michael Fertik from image management company Reputation Defender, suggests these three important steps as a good start:
  1. Write your own history - establish a professional profile, website, blog, Twitter account and make sure they're search engine optimized so that these positive, professional references appear higher on a search results page.
  2. Constantly monitor the web and stay on top of anything that's being said.
  3. If there's something negative or inaccurate, deal with it immediately and directly with the poster.
  More information on how to manage your online reputation can be found at Microsoft's online safety guidelines' page.


Here's an update on some of the numbers since I originally wrote this piece:
  • A report on the BBC on Oct. 5, 2012 stated that there were over one BILLION users who log onto Facebook every month.
  • On it's sixth birthday in March, 2012, Twitter announced that it had 140 million users Tweeting 340 million times per day


Saturday, 29 September 2012

Super Swe-e-e-e-e-t Award

I'm flattered to have received a Super Swe-e-e-e-t Award from Jeanette Anderson http://jeanettesandersen.blogspot.com/ on September 20 (sorry for the delay in getting this up Jeanette but it is greatly appreciated)!  Her mission is to make people laugh, cry, shout, smile, frown and just enjoy reading so check out her blog and see if it works!

The Guidelines:

So, once I accept this award, the guidelines state that:

First:  I must thank the person who nominated me... of course, that's the proper thing to do! Thanks Jeanette!

Second: Answer the Super Sweet Questions (that follow below).

Third: Nominate a baker's dozen (13) to receive this award (if you can't find 13 that's okay... just find as many as you can).

“Super Sweet” Questions:
 
1. Cookies or Cake?   Cookies. Especially my mother-in-law's special oatmeal cookies!  Even tastier when eaten at the cottage.


2. Chocolate or Vanilla?    Vanilla, with lots of fresh berries.


3. What is your favorite sweet treat?   I really don't have a sweet tooth... I know, ironic considering the nature of this award, right?  But, if I had to choose it would be Godiva Chocolates.


4. When do you crave sweet things the most?   
I don't :(

5. If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be? 
My dad called me Annie Bananie (does that count)?
 


My Baker’s Dozen: I'm going to highlight the blogs of some of my special friends and favorite people, not necessarily because their content is sweet (although some of it is) but because they have touched my life in some way:

The Awards go to:

Katie Foster -  http://www.arabiantalesandotheramazingadventures.blogspot.com/
Susan Castle - http://susanthecoach.wordpress.com/
Debbie Nicol -  http://embersoftheworld.com/blog/
Jo Parfitt -  http://www.joparfitt.com/
Padmini Sankar - http://paddersatdubai.blogspot.com/
Shirley Ralston - http://texpatfaith.wordpress.com/ 
Sarah Walton - http://www.thehedonista.com/
Lynda Skok Martinez - http://longhornsandcamels.wordpress.com/
Alison Delory - http://alisondelory.com/blog/
Linda Janssen - http://www.adventuresinexpatland.com/wp/
Morgen Bailey - http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/
Maria Foley - http://iwasanexpatwife.com/
Zvezdana Raskovich - http://www.zvezdanarashkovich.com/apps/blog/ 

You all rock!


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Back to ‘Normal’ Routine

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Morning Coffee... part of my writing routine
When you make a habit of straddling two countries sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly what is ‘normal’.  Yesterday, as I sat on my balcony with my coffee and checked my emails I realized I was slowly getting back to ‘Thai normal’ after our summer in Canada.  No, the jet lag hasn’t completely gone away as I’m only into the fifth day of what is going to be an 11 day recovery process for me according to all the literature on how long it takes…. one day for every hour of time zone change… but we’re getting there.

As much as I’m an adventurer and love to travel, I also relish my routine and when it’s out of whack for any length of time, I go through a sort of withdrawal.  I'm now back at my desk, with my coffee and picture of my loving husband to my right and my trusty muse Zorro either to the left of me snoozing away on his ‘half’ of my desk or directly behind me so I have to pause to look around before I push my chair back.

Also to my right is the stack of notes and To Do’s for each of my clients.  Yes, they’re still handwritten in this crazy electronic age!  The feel of the paper being crumpled in my hand and tossed into the actual garbage can - or the ‘bin’ for my UK readers - under my desk because all of the items on it have been ticked off, gives me such great pleasure.  These must be prioritized in stacks of descending order of importance depending on deadlines: a blog tour plan, Twitter and Facebook update for one, LinkedIn profile for another and final changes for a freelance magazine article.  All is right in my world.

And, yes, I continue to query agents for my novel, Mental Pause.  I did promise to keep you updated with the progress and I’m tickled to report that I finally had one agent ask for the full manuscript after reading my query!  I guess that one was written right.  I’ve had others ask for two or three chapters but this is the first who has asked for the full manuscript following a query. I do write a fresh one every time depending on who the agent is, what they typically represent, the character of their agency and the requirements of their specific submission guidelines.  Of course, the synopsis is usually the same with a few tweaks (as it can always be improved)!  No word from her yet but I’ll keep you posted.

So, happy writing and feel free to share your quirky routines too.  It’ll make me feel better.   For now, I #amwriting (which is my favourite hashtag on Twitter - I'd love for you to join me there too @annethewriter).

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Seeking a Literary Agent… Is There a Needle in that Haystack?


Several months ago I started to query literary agents for my first novel, which I wrote last year during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  At the time, I considered writing the odd blog to keep everyone updated on the progress… does the term wading through cold molasses mean anything to you? 

Rejection hurts!
Well, due to a variety of assorted reasons (excuses), the plan to write a series on agent querying ground to a halt after the first five polite rejections.  It really doesn’t matter how polite the rejection is, or how stoic you’ve received them at the time, it still stings.  Even though I kept reading on all my writer/author forums that so many very famous authors were passed over hundreds of times before a publishing company picked them up, I still didn’t want to publicly share my humiliation.

Then I realized how cathartic it would be to share with people who care or who have been through the process before and can reassure me that it’ll be worth it in the end.

Playing the Agent Query Game Right
It’s a long, drawn out process that takes time and a lot of effort if you do it right.  Each query takes me a couple hours to write after I’ve done the research to find the right agent… and after the synopsis is written and re-written a hundred times and the first three chapters are perfected yet again because they often ask for those up front.  

Traditional Vs. Self-Publishing
But, I’m not giving up.  I still have in the back of my mind that I could self-publish.  After doing a webinar with Shelley Hitz and purchasing her Kindle layout template and guide (which were very reasonably priced by the way), I was off to the races.  I did a test run of a short e-book on authors doing their own PR (after all... I have 20 years in PR so had lots of advice to give) .  I wanted to see how easy or difficult publishing a Kindle e-book on Amazon would be and it was quite simple, once you know how.  The actual upload onto Amazon is free, however, don’t forget to take into account the cost of editing and cover design and then if you want to do a print version, the cost for someone to do your layout… but I digress. 

So, with that in my back pocket as plan B, I continue to query agents and hope that someone will pick up my novel, Mental Pause.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Is Your Website Content Dynamic or Docile?

This blog is re-posted here with permission from Roger Hicks (fellow Leadership Broward alum, Class XVII), client services director from Electrum Marketing.

Having a website that’s simply an electronic brochure is so 20th century.  With today’s technology, your website has the ability to be a high performing tool for business development, a valuable resource for your clients, and a means to engage the community.

Do you prominently feature current product or service promotions? 
If you’re not promoting yourself, who will?  Place current promotions front and center on your home page.  Make them impossible to miss.

How often are you updating your content? 
It is important to update regularly since fresh content not only helps in search engine rankings, but it keeps customers coming back to see what’s new.  When’s the last time your site was updated?  If you had to think about it, it’s been too long.

Does your content help your search rankings? 
 In 2012, an estimated 3.45 billion local searches will be made, making Search Engine Optimization (SEO) vital.  Even simple changes in text, page titles and URLs can make considerable improvements in search rankings.

Do you use landing pages to increase conversions?
 When it comes to online advertising, don’t throw away all your hard work by sending interested customers to your homepage. Create a simple landing page that picks up right where your ad left off with a very clear call to action. Don’t lose your visitor—and potential sale—by confusing them with unnecessary content.

Is there a mobile version of your website?
Nearly half of all Americans (47%) now own a smartphone, 19% have some kind of electronic tablet and those numbers will only continue to rise.  Based on current trends, mobile internet use will surpass desktop use in a few years.

Does your website generate leads for your sales force?
Do you offer any unique value proposition such as a white paper, free evaluation or coupon you can provide in exchange for a prospect’s name and email? 

Does your website contain complicated animations?
Flash-based animations can be bad for search engine optimization, but they can also complicate the website experience for visitors. Animations can often be slow to load, which slows down the user and can make them abandon your website.

Does your website contain industry jargon?
Write your website copy as if your customer does not understand your industry’s terminology.  Look through your website and highlight terms that are not commonly used outside of your industry and replace them with more common explanations.

Does your website contain excessive images?
Images play an important role in telling your brand’s story.  However, having too many images can slow down the load time for your website in a web browser.  Did you know that search engines consider page load times when ranking websites?

Does your website contain long pages of text?
Research has shown that Internet users don’t like to scroll. A product page that takes several scrolls to reach the bottom is a product page whose information will be ignored.   If you have that much information on a page then you are trying to communicate too many ideas.   Keep each page focused on one topic.

This appeared originally on the Electrum Marketing blog where you can find loads of other great marketing advice. Thanks Roger for permission to share it here!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Watch What you Say on Social Media… You Never Know who’s Lurking!



I’ve had several people lately tell me that they don’t do much with their Facebook profile but that they’ve set it up just to see what people are up to. It’s what you would call ‘lurking’ and it’s fine when you imagine it to be family, friends and close colleagues but it’s a bit creepy when you think about the potential ripple effect.

It’s a well-known fact that there are people out there who use social media for nefarious purposes, like stalking you online (a friend of mine was just freaked out by a guy she had ‘met’ online only a week ago who was proposing marriage and sending rather shocking pictures of himself).

I’ve always been a proponent of not putting anything ‘out there’ on any social media you may be using whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest (which I haven’t truly tried yet but it’s on the To Do list), that you wouldn’t want to wind up in the news headlines tomorrow.
This goes double if you’re using social media for professional purposes (by the way, potential employers are lurking too). Even if you clearly divide your personal and professional interactions (which I strongly recommend) you may still have ‘lurkers’ you don’t even realize are popping by to have a look.

It pays to set your privacy settings to ‘friends only’ (and drill a little deeper down and sub-divide your 'friends' categorically) and check back frequently to make sure the settings haven’t changed. We’re in a world where if you don’t change you get left behind. People complain bitterly when their favorite social network introduces yet another update but it’s really only an attempt to stay ahead of the curve. So, you might as well embrace the changes but always watch your back because… you never know who’s watching you.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Where Does Inspiration Come From?

Paul tinkles the ivories with the Beatles 'Let it Be'
Artists Inspire Artists
 I was at my brother's piano recital yesterday and had a very interesting conversation with his 92 year old piano teacher and one of her students.  The student, who was an artist and had only started learning to play the piano, was talking about how she used sound to teach painting.  A long stroke was a 'shoosh' and making short, staccato brush movements went 'bup, bup, bup'.  I smiled and thought about how all creative types overlapped, embracing all elements of culture to enrich one's specific area of skill and passion.  A sculptor or painter often creates to music and, as a writer, I definitely pull from my cultural experiences, whether it's a symphony or an art gallery, to help formulate descriptions of feelings and senses to lay out on a printed page.

 Nature Inspires
Creative types see the world around them just a bit differently, which leads to the creation of books, paintings, music scores and movies and a litany of other sources of entertainment for all to enjoy. 

I was looking at this little creature as I sat peacefully drinking my coffee just the other day.  He was minding his own business, seemingly enjoying the ride on his leaf, that was gently bouncing in the breeze.  Now, this is a strange looking bug, I thought as I took another sip.  Then I chuckled out loud... this was the type of vision that would inspire the likes of an animator working for Pixar.  Add a little size and color to this little fella and, voila!  He could have proudly stood next to Sully in Monsters, Inc.  I certainly never know where my inspiration will come from but I know how to put myself in the places both physically and mentally where I'm most likely to release the creative juices I need to do my job.  And, no matter where I go or what I'm doing, I'm always absorbing life!

Thanks for inviting me to your recital, Paul.  It was inspiring.  I think I'll pick up my guitar when I get back to Thailand.   


 

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Pinterest Skeptic Turned Convert


Pinterest Business use Still Minimal (photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Yesterday I decided I would participate in a webinar on Pinterest.  I have to admit, before yesterday I didn’t get it, didn’t want to and had enough on my plate, actually several spinning plates, that I didn’t need to add one more social media platform to my already crowded set of dinnerware. 

Really… who wants to see a mish mash of photos of someone else’s favourite products?  I went for a walk just before it started and didn’t rush because I was still averse to the idea of being part of the herd.  What a bunch of lemmings, I thought.  But, I couldn’t ignore that it had quickly entered the top three most used social media platforms and as a professional communicator, I could no longer resist.  So, I signed up for Melanie Duncan’s ‘How to use Pinterest for your Business to get Traffic and Customers,” hosted by Carl White of Social Marketing Animals.

I was late, but fortunately there were still spaces (it was being capped off at 1,000 participants).  Melanie’s infectious enthusiasm drew me in immediately.  I plugged in my headphones (which is what I do when I really want to pay attention and capture absolutely everything being said), pulled out my webinar notebook and with pen poised, prepared to be wowed.

Pinterest's Practical Business Uses  
Melanie didn’t disappoint.  Even before the end of the session I had linked to the sales page and jumped on the bandwagon.  I’m not usually an impulse buyer but she convinced me that there was a very practical business use to Pinterest for both my clients and me.

There are so many I couldn’t write fast enough, which is why I had to become a member of the Social Marketing Animals group (I'll let you know how it goes). 

My 5 Big Take Aways

·      Businesses can use Pinterest for consumer research. Duh!  A simple search will show you what other people have re-pinned from your boards, what products of yours have been pinned by others and which ones are most popular.

·      Pinterest is highly search engine friendly.  So, in the 200 words in the about section, which appears at the very top of your page (just like Twitter), you should use keywords as you would in any of your online marketing SEO. And, you can use either your name or your company name.

·      Make sure you write captions for all photos using key words again.  

·      Create an infographic.  Apparently they’re the most viral and collected forms of shared content on Pinterest.

·      The hottest type of content are How To’s and Tutorials but create a visual to pin and then link to the content on your blog or website (you can even pin a video from YouTube)

As Melanie put so succinctly, “Clarity always wins in marketing.  If they can’t figure out what you’re all about in 10 seconds, they’ll leave.”  A picture paints a thousand words, right?  So, why didn’t I see this before?  Oh well, better late than never.  However, according to Melanie, “Businesses are just starting to do it and there are very few doing it right.”  So, I guess I’m still slightly ahead of the curve.  One more thing… you have to be invited to participate. 

Are you using Pinterest?  How’s it going for you?  Here's a little taste of the Power of Pinning.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Do Not Touch


As I’ve been combing the streets of Paris I’ve been keeping all my senses at attention, as every good writer should.  Except, there's one missing… touch.  It’s interesting as I evaluate my experiences I realize I’m very good at seeing, smelling, tasting and hearing but I always forget to include the tactile experience (unless I come across an animal that needs patting).  I guess that’s a good thing in the city I am currently exploring since everywhere we go (I’m referring to the dozens of museums we’ve visited) there are signs that say “Ne Touchez Pas!”  It’s okay, really, since the sites, sounds and smells of Paris are spectacular enough.  

Fresco on the ceiling in Opera Garnier...not sure who the artist is

Absorbing Aromas and Art

Yesterday, I commented to my mother-in-law, with whom I’m traveling, that we’ve savored crepes in the gardens at Versailles, sipped wine on the Left Bank and swilled beer in a pub on the Grand Boulevard.  So, we had taste totally covered.  Any time I'm writing about eating in the future, I'll have loads of memories from which to pull.  We’ve inhaled the smells of the patisseries and boulangeries as we’ve meandered down cobblestoned streets and have paused appreciatively to absorb the works of the masters.  I haven’t really felt the need to touch the Rembrandt at the Jacquemart Andre or the many Monet murals at the Orangerie.  I've been happy to get drawn into them visually, which I did especially with one particular Monet.   As I gazed at the panels stretched across the width of the room, I was sure a floor to ceiling image of a face leaped out at me from the canvass! 

Describing Touch

But, where does touch come in?  As a writer I always pride myself in being able to experience things with all the senses in order to draw on vibrant, multi dimensional memories when sitting down to write descriptive prose.  Now I know that I must concentrate on including touch as I wander through life and, as I go through yet another edit of my novel, I must remember to add some tactile descriptions.  Not to mention, noticing good examples of descriptions of how something ‘feels’ on the finger tips when I'm reading for pleasure!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Keeping up with the Penguins and Pixels


 One day a farmer, a panda and a penguin walk into a bar... Well, you know where this is going don't you?  It's no joke.  Things have changed - again.  The pixel size on your new Facebook timeline is having an identity crisis and the Google algorithm has gone north to catch webmasters practicing the dark art of Black Hat SEO and also target over optimization or web spamming.  The challenge has become to guess how they identify spam because there seems to be some differences of opinion between Google and the SEO experts. 


Changes in Social Media?  Of course!

I've finally resigned myself to getting used to it.  The only sure thing in life these days are death and changes in your favorite social media platform.  I really don't get why so many people keep resisting.  If you stand still and let moss grow in and around your feet you inevitably get left behind.  It's all about fresh and new and the smart folks are capitalizing on it by becoming experts like my Facebook hero Mari Smith (I just bought her new book that launched today, Facebook Marketing an Hour a Day), or social media guru Michael Stelzner.  They thrive on the change because it gives them fodder for yet another blog or book... otherwise known as, fresh content!

Free... and Easy?  Maybe not.  Cost effective?  Yes!

If you choose to make use of the amazing power of social media for your personal or professional life, hang on to your hats (black or white).  If you don't stay on top of it, you'll miss out on all the fun.  I remind myself that it's free (and being a solopreneur that's great for the balance sheet) so what do I really have to complain about? 

The key is to focus.  Along with the changes in my favorites there are always new 'cool' interfaces that crop up every day.  It's like being in Disney World.  You've got to do it methodically or you'll wind up wandering aimlessly or standing in lines one after the other and never actually enjoy the ride.  Just remember, as your stomach races up to your throat with the latest 'death drop', not far behind is that exhilarating adrenalin rush that comes from surviving the plunge.

So, I'm off now to make sure I haven't over optimized my website and maybe add some fresh content while I'm at it.  Happy Socializing!

Monday, 30 April 2012

The Very Small Expat World

Part of who I am includes a deep-seeded passion for giving back. It started when I was nine years old and did a craft sale with my best friend from which we gave the proceeds to Rainbow Haven a summer camp for poor kids. That passion has followed me through life and I really don’t feel complete unless I’ve got a volunteer gig underway. When I was in Dubai I started the local volunteer chapter of Room to Read with a fellow Canadian I had met at the American Women’s Association (no, there wasn’t a Canadian Women’s Association).

Naturally, after the dust settled following our move to Thailand, I set about finding the charity I would embrace as my own. After a quick Internet search I found the Phuket has Been Good to Us Foundation that does English language programs for children at a government school not far from where I live. The program started initially to serve orphans of the Tsunami but has expanded to include all students at two schools. I looked to see if any of the principals were on LinkedIn and if we had any common connections and, lo and behold, Erin Ganju, co-founder and COO of Room to Read was connected to one of the teachers at the school the foundation supported. I didn’t need any more reassurance than that and contacted the organization right away to offer my assistance. Fast forward a couple of months… I was helping out at their annual fundraiser, the Bliss Beach Ball, and selling raffle tickets when I ran into the head of Gulf 4 Good, a Dubai charity, who I had met at a Room to Read fundraiser in Dubai!

It's a very small world and once you get into the expat community it gets even smaller.  It warms my heart to see people consistently giving back and it was great to see Brian here in Phuket.

When I get back after my summer in Canada, I'll be helping out with the reading program at the school (in between copy writing clients, of course) and I'm really exited about that.

If you'd like to share any of your expat community outreach stories bring 'em on!  I'd love to hear about them.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Book review: Laptop Entrepreneur by Nick Snelling and Graham Hunt

This book is such an amazing resource for anyone who works from home and uses the internet for marketing their business, or anyone who is contemplating doing so.  I've been working freelance for almost 5 years now (after almost 20 years in PR) and I started underlining and making notes in the margin on the first page!

Each page is chock full of advice and links to online resources and there are case studies at the end of each chapter of people who are not only making it happen but to a huge level of success.  I suggest you read this while sitting at your laptop so you can test things out as you go.

When researching how to make money on the internet the authors say themselves that "it's easy to drown in the shear quantity of this information." But, they chunk it up into digestable bits so you can just take it one chapter at a time and decide your next best step.  They outline loads of options and every one is not right for every "Laptop Entrepreneur".  However, it will give you some food for thought on which one's right for you! 

Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Press Release - Meat and Potatoes

Lately I've been writing more about my new book (@Home in Dubai) and what's happening in the world around me in my new life in Thailand. I thought I would throw a business-type blog in as I myself am back to the 'main course' of what I do...writing copy for clients.

The Press Release
It doesn't matter how many new media crop up, the good 'old fashioned' press release (the meat and potatoes of PR) always seems to have a place.  It's the central tool that's used to share 'news' with any audience through the conveyers of information whether it's a blog, newspaper, magazine, television, radio or ezine.  Of course, there's always the pitch letter too but that's another blog!

Optimizing Releases
Of course, technology has hugely improved the possibilities for reach way beyond what the old 'pop in the mail paper press release' of a previous era did.  Then you had to rely on it reaching the right person and having a gripping enough headline to get their attention.  Now-a-days, sending out your press release with the proper key word optimization and relevant links will get your press release recognized by search engines even if your primary target doesn't pick it up.  Heck, you even post it on your own website for fresh content and search engine pick up, however, having a third party, unbiased medium run your release has more impact.

Do’s and Don’ts of Good Press Release Writing
Regardless of the comparisons between then and now, the basics still hold true...maybe even more so today.  There's so much out there on how to reach new online media but don't forget, there are still those who rely on major dailies for their local news and most people I know still listen to the radio in the car on their commute to and from work.  So, here's the rub: in this day and age with instant news, copious amounts of media (print, broadcast and online) and everyone writing content, it's more and more difficult to get your news heard and placed in the mainstream media. I have always believed (and still do) that a strongly written, concise and (most importantly) newsworthy release can still get the attention of editors and reporters. If your goal is to appear in the top media outlets it's always important to nurture relationships but if you have a good story and a clear pitch that can be expressed clearly in 15 seconds or less, you've got a great start.

There are many do's and don'ts when writing a press release and pitching to the media. Here are a few of my tried and true bits of advice:

Do: Write a clear headline that fully explains the main point of the story.

Do: Put the most important facts up front. The first paragraph should have who, what, when, where why and how.

Do: Put contact information at the very top.

Do:  Include a short boilerplate paragraph of your company (or your bio) at the end.

Do: Identify the right media for your story.

Do: Be considerate of deadlines.

Don't: Make them hunt for for your contact information.

Don't: Go over two pages (one is preferable) or beyond the first screen of an email (they shouldn't have to scroll).

Don't: Send attachments...copy and paste the text of your release in the body of the email.

Don't: Send large photos. Include a comment at the bottom that photos (or other graphics) are available on request.

Don't: Follow up to ask if the reporter/editor received your release (the kiss of death). Call or email with additional, valuable information.

Don't: Call on deadline.

Don't: Send garbage.

If you have any more to add, pop them into the comment section below.  Also, I am just about to release a short e-book called 10 Steps to a Successful PR Campaign: A Do-it-Yourself Guide for Authors.  As soon as it's out, I'll announce it here!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

10 Things Expats Get Used to


Living in a foreign country brings a litany of adventure and excitement, challenges, frustrations, elation and sometimes just downright weirdness!  After a while, for the veteran expat, the unusual becomes commonplace.

This thought occurred to me the other day while I waited at the Thai Department of Land Transport to take my driving test for the second time (driving on the left hand side of the road sitting in a right-hand drive car…So, what’s the big deal, my British friends would ask, right?). It did take a few tries but you’ve got to cut me some slack. It’s been 30 years since I’ve had to do a driving test so it sort of caught me by surprise.  After spending two full days at the licensing place in Phuket Town (getting there was a feat in itself) I finally walked away with both car and motorbike driving licenses in hand (or should I say ‘drove away’ on my Honda Click…finally legal to drive it)!  It was high-fives and smiles all around for the ‘farang’ (me…the expat or foreigner) as I walked out of the administration building.

But I digress.  So, as I was sitting and waiting my turn I came up with a list of things I have ‘gotten used to’ here in Thailand (other than driving on the left side of the road):

1. Rarely understanding what is being said around you. Actually, I find this one quite liberating, as it’s sometimes nice to wander around with total anonymity.

2. The amazing smells that confront you as you round a corner (some quite pleasurable and some not so much).

My favorite vendor at our local market...always great smells emnating from his booth!

3. The explosion of color of the most exotic flowers you would ever see in a flower shop sprouting wildly from crevices and around walls.

These are just outside my kitchen window.






These delicate pink beauties line the stone wall along our lane way.

4. Bathroom sinks that just drain onto the floor.

5. Shower heads just mounted on the bathroom wall in the open (I just imagine I’m living on a sailboat and it doesn’t feel so strange anymore).

6. A urinal in my powder room (yes, I said urinal… I think it’s bizarre but my husband loves it)!  It’s right off the kitchen so it has now become a utility room where I keep the cleaning supplies and the cat’s litter box).

7. Bug tents in all bedrooms.

8. Roosters as alarm clocks (the one next door comes alive at around 5:15 every morning, which is just before the Imam at the local mosque starts up his ‘call to prayer’ – we got used to that in Dubai but here we’ve added the rooster).

9. Boys who try to look like girls (okay, I admit, that one’s a little hard to get used to but it’s definitely an interesting sociological and societal study).

10.  Warm weather every day of the year (I had to add that one as a Canadian but, of course, not all expats choose to live in sunny climes, it’s just our preference).

I’m sure I could think of another 10 but I’ll leave it to you to add what you’ve gotten used to in the years you’ve lived as an expat to the list!