Navigate Communications, PR, and Social like a Bawse

Category: 101 Series

Writing for Others? 5 Ways to Avoid Being a Sucker for Words


If words are your bread and butter, you gotta learn how to cook. What I mean is if you write for money, anything from writing as part of your daily job function to freelancing, pinpointing the scope is paramount.

If you aren’t adept at asking the right questions to make sure at the outset you and your intended client are on the same page–there will be blood. Dramatic? Perhaps. But, it’s easier to plan for a worst-case scenario up front. This as opposed to being driven to rocking back and forth in a corner either seething, crying, or both because a project has exceeded its worth (oh, that’s just me?). As I have, you’ll collect valuable lessons from your mistakes and be a better writer-for-hire for it. But… if some are avoidable–why not?

Ask the write questions

That’s no typo. To write well for another person, you first need to understand the what and why. Whether a commentary, a blog post, a white paper, a media release, or marketing copy, you need a full understanding of what outcomes the client hopes to achieve. Collect available supplementary materials. This includes bios, earlier pieces of work, a full rundown of the event, key messages, and more. Understand the power of an actual conversation. Sometimes a quick call with the person will fill in the unspoken blanks that can trip you up later. Set up a line of communication where you can reach out for clarification as you go. No question is dumb. It’s better to understand upfront and as you go than to receive an edit-riddled draft that requires you burn what you’ve already done. To write in someone else’s style and voice you need to understand them. Asking key questions will save you time, gray roots, and much-needed sodium (see above crying reference).

Set mutual expectations

Your client needs to trust you, and you need to trust them, and then you need to trust yourself. Agreeing on the outcome of a piece is the key to a successful partnership. It’ll allow you to manage expectations and produce a piece that makes everyone happy. There have been a few instances where I’ve received feedback and/or edits that turned a delightful piece into a sad sack of potatoes. You’re on the project because the client likes the way you write. So, if you have counter-suggestions to keep the person from appearing boring or saddled with copy that won’t resonate–tell them so. Explain why you’ve made the edits or changes. It may shock you to find that once explained, the client is not only accepting but grateful that you’re looking out for their best interest.

Set a timeframe

Set a realistic timeframe that accounts for feedback, edits, and rewrites. If you need more time, make a case for what you need. Be sure to track your time. Consistent tracking improves your ability to estimate project parameters. Either use your phone timer or tracking apps to help. Toggl is one of my favourites.

Determine your value–then ask for it

Come close and lend your ear (ok I get you’re reading this but you get the point). You are worth it. Worth what you’re charging–and likely more. Good writing translates into real value. Understand that others know the value too–but they may not always want to pay for it. Asking for more money can seem gauche or downright scary but learn to be unafraid to ask for what your work is worth. Keep in mind you’re trying to make a living. Many wonderful resources exist to guide you through calculating what to charge, and how to negotiate. It gets easier; promise.

Let go

Take your joy from writing for your own endeavours. On your personal blog, site, social channels, journalistic articles, and that novel–these are where your own voice sings. Those spaces are where you get to highlight what’s uniquely you. When writing for others, best to keep it ‘church and state’. This is what will allow you to write in many voices, genres, and forms. You’ll meet clients who aren’t sure what they want–or who have such strong opinions you’ll wonder why they didn’t just write for themselves! Exhale. You do your best to produce great work that represents your client well, making them happy and coming back for more. On the flip side, you’ll also learn what you’re not willing to sacrifice, such as your ethics. Become ok with letting go, and you just may find a bit of that joy anyway.

If You Build [A Content Calendar], They Will Come

I know, I know. You get daily reminders from every industry expert, newsletter, and your 14-year-old that a key component of business success these days is a killer social media presence. There’s an enormous opportunity to give your expertise legs by developing relevant content and sharing it strategically.

It’s not that you aren’t aware right? It’s that the starting point resembles the gate to Hades.

Here’s the thing, I promise that if you take the time to develop a content plan, that includes a calendar, you’ll remove some daily work from your plate, and some pressure. It can prompt soon-to-be new clients and customers to find you instead of you always hunting for them. It will provide insight into your customers that can make you the best virtual friend ever–which will often develop into a great customer/provider relationship IRL.  It will highlight you as the engaged and resource-rich industry aficionado you are–while you’re busy doing what makes that true. Follow these 5 steps to get you started:

1. Set your intentions 

Namaste. Kidding! Well, not about setting intentions. I mean goals Y’all. Decide your desired outcomes. Sales? Thought-leadership? Brand awareness? Leads? Set S.M.A.R.T social goals that align with your business objectives. These will inform your strategy, provide a way to measure outcomes, and allow you to adjust as needed for success.

2. Do the research 

Do an audit any employee of the CRA would be proud of on your social platforms. Explore each place you live online. Focus on the platforms that make sense for your business. Do they need an update or makeover? Perhaps you’re not on a platform you should be or another has run its course. You’ll be sharing and cross-promoting your content through these channels so you want to make sure they represent you well. Your identity and personality should be consistent and clear across the lot. While you’re at it, spend time on competitor properties to see what they do well and what needs work, and some accounts you plain admire for inspiration. Then, get to know your audience. Check out the analytics to determine where most your followers are, when they interact with you most, and what type of content resonates.

3. Develop your content strategy

This step takes time and contemplation so give yourself the space to do so. Think of the content strategy as your map. It will outline how to get your useful and relevant content out to your audience. Look beyond your obvious core offerings. You’ll get traffic from folks looking for what you offer but creating a community where you are a useful resource every day, will mean you’ll stay top of mind for when that time comes. You may also stand-out as the obvious choice. For instance, if you offer accounting services, your content could span anything from tips on doing your own taxes, to how to build a budget, how to teach kids about money, or what the newest dip in the stock market means in layman’s terms. Think of your owned social and digital properties as the middle of a wheel and the spokes are how you get that info out to the world. Find some templates in the style you prefer to start.

4. Carve out your editorial plan 

Take those core subjects/areas of expertise and marry them with relevant calendar dates such as holidays, seasons and key dates in your industry and decide ahead of time what you’ll talk and write about when. Plug these into a weekly editorial calendar. Keep in mind to leave room for real life happenings. Using the accounting example again, if a surprise announcement is made that affects finances and that week you planned to talk about teen spending, be ready to make a shift. Remember relevancy and usefulness is the core of every activity, and each should serve your goals. These are overarching themes that you’ll share in various ways across your networks – and all roads lead back to you.

5. Build the calendar 

Now it’s plug-in time. You’ll outline per platform, the what and when for each day and week. This includes links and visuals. Doing these a year in advance is the holy grail, but if you can master 2 or 3 months at a time to start – you’re doing great. HootSuite and CoSchedule provide user-friendly and free calendar templates. The calendar should be detailed enough, that you can post quickly, in bulk if available, or just hand to someone else (lucky you!) and they understand exactly what to do.

How do you tackle the massive web that is content planning? Share your tips and struggles!

Do You Even Need PR? (Hint: yassssss)

Public Relations usually gets its whispered mentions in conversations about marketing, communications, advertising, crisis management and the like. While most folks would agree that much of that list a necessary and even important part of business function, sometimes PR seems more like a play-cousin. Nice to have, but not essential.

But what about in your particular case? What’s in it for you or your [insert just about any type of business here]? Do you even need PR, or is it reserved for the Fortunate 500, Jolie-Pitts’, or clients of Pope and Associates?

At its core, Public Relations is simply (as penned by my wise professor Sheldon Rose) “Doing good things and telling others about it”.

Here are a few basics of PR and how it can indeed be of use to you (yes, you!):

1. PR will help you communicate better with your audience(s)

Allow me to go academic for a second. The Canadian Public Relations Society defines Public Relations as:

“the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understandingrealize organizational goals and serve the public interest.”

In short, PR helps you identify your peeps and speak to them properly. Whether your biz is B2B, service or product offering, or charity, having public relations as part of your overall success plan eases the process and ensures it’s built on a solid foundation. PR folks can help you make sense of your goals, express those goals in a way that captures your core values in your unique voice, craft them into an outcome-driven plan, and then share them in a way that each one of your audiences not only understands, but is drawn to.

2. PR will help you avoid becoming the next negative hashtag

Just about every week, another brand finds itself in the news for all the wrong reasons. For the most part, the problem seems to be a lack of diversity in the decision-making process. People are missing from the table. It’s PR’s business to make sure you not only identify each of your stakeholders (see point 1 ya’ll) but that you also uncover those you may have missed or may have been ignoring. Paying attention to everyone with a stake in what you do, will ensure you stay on the pulse, and the right track.

3. PR will help you evangelise your Big Idea

Above we mentioned communications, marketing, and advertising plans, and by now you’re getting that PR should absolutely be part of that mix. The key is that PR is a path to marrying the focus of each of these areas into a smooth succinct flow across multiple platforms. That means through media, social, digital, traditional and everything in between. Identify the core value you have to offer, and use PR to share that with the world – clearly and consistently – all the while feeding your bottom line.

4. PR will help you keep your integrity

To point back to point 2 (yeah, I know, I do that a lot), the way a lot of business and brands end up in trouble is through oversight. Sometimes it’s glaring, but many times it’s subtle and has happened over time. You’ve moved away from your core messaging and purpose, your initial convictions, or can’t quite remember the original goal – basically the likely super-simple and pure reason you started your business. Well this falls into PRs wheelhouse too. Ethics is an enormous piece of the PR pie. Despite lingering negative stereotypes, it is the job of good PR folks to ensure that every action, strategy, and tactic under their umbrella, is done with integrity and with ethics at its core. Having someone with this focus on your team can help keep all of those moving pieces on the up and up, and it’ll be handy to have a voice like that in the war room.

5. This isn’t really 5.

Instead it’s a handy list of what PR is not, so that when (that’s right, no ‘ifs’ up in here) you add PR to the mix, you’ll be BFFs with your PR pro by lunch.

Want more media coverage? Start here

Want more media coverage? Of course you do, but where the heck to start? Here’s 5 steps to get you on your way.

1. Find your tribe

First things first, ask yourself “who cares?” May seem harsh but it’s a necessary first step. On the path to getting more coverage on your awesome person, place or thing, you first need to determine who’s interested. If you haven’t clearly defined your potential audience, nothing else matters. Create a profile that describes them to a fine point.

With that out of the way, you’re ready to start the next crucial step of focusing on the media that reaches your audience. When searching, go deeper than just “art magazines” or “journalists who cover sports”. Chances are you already have a choice lists of sites and writers you visit regularly to stay abreast of your industry, so start with there. In turn, check out who they read and follow on social. Set up Google Alerts  with key words to let you know whenever your subject matter is in the news, and if it’s in the budget, use a service offered by companies such as CisionAgility PR , and Meltwater that offer media database access. These databases allow you to specifically search and have contact information for journalists, outlets, publications, and influencers who cover your beat. Remember though, just like us, journalists don’t always stay on the same path. Check in regularly to make sure they’re still part of your tribe.

2. Customize your outreach

Now that you’ve determined your audience and have a killer listing of who’s talking to them already, it’s time to plan how you’ll get in touch. First, you’ll want to do another once-over on that list. Identify your “stars”; the ones who cover your area often and well. Custom pitches are time consuming so you’ll want to spend most of your efforts crafting outreach for this group, because, they’re worth it. Read the last few articles/posts they’ve done. Identify the trend or sentiment and include that trend as part of the reason you’re reaching out to them specifically. Next, you’re selling them on why they are especially suited to cover your topic for a particular publication. Get to the point, their time is precious and in short supply, but give enough info to make it compelling.

This could be the start of a great relationship, so treat it that way. Be respectful of their time, mindful of their workload, say please and thanks, and stay in touch. Lastly, the journalist/site/publication needs content, and lots of it, every single day. You have a source of content. So rather than approach like a beggar, approach like the business partner you are.

3. Follow-up

There’s no cute pun here. Seriously, just follow-up. Journalists get so very many pitches every day. Many are ill-fitting, poorly written, or worse. They do a lot of skimming, ignoring, and deleting, it’s a survival tool. Therefore, when you know you have something worth a second look, don’t be afraid to follow-up. Ask what they thought of the pitch/idea, and if they’re interested. Suggest an alternate angle and whether a later date might work better. Even if they’re not currently into it, they could be interested later, so use the opportunity for feedback. If you get interaction, keep or add them to that special list. Start to get to know them better through their writing, and try them again when you have another great idea. If they cover you, be sure to send a thank-you.

4. Stay informed

You can in fact make an educated guess as to whether a journalist might be interested in your story – by staying current. Stay abreast of what’s trending in the news, the world at large, and especially within your industry. What are you seeing a lot of articles about? What seems to be the hot topic of the moment? The more in-tune your pitches are with what is currently happening, the more likely your pitch fits into the editorial plan, and will in turn be seen as a valuable source.

5. Analyze the results

Once you’ve gone through a complete cycle, do an analysis. Assess what worked, what didn’t, the feedback you’ve received, and how many responses and subsequent hits you got. Keep track of all results. Google Analytics  can help with hard stats about how hits are helping to drive traffic for you. The next time, it’ll be easier, and more successful, because you’ll have learnings you can use to be that much better.


Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: