Category Archives: Blog

Big Ideas Begin with Writers

By Erica Dix, former BIW Writer

They say that you can do a lot of different things with a degree in English. Some routes are obvious to everyone, like becoming an English teacher, or going on to law school. However, many students choose English because they have a passion for writing. Of course, not everyone is cut out for writing the next great American novel, so what’s an English major to do?

The fact is, writers are in high demand, and bringing creativity to writing is a truly marketable skill. As an English major, the important thing is to know that your writing is valuable, and to explore where it will be valued.

I enjoyed learning about great literature and critiquing fiction, but I never guessed it would translate to the world of marketing communications. However, in English class, we are taught to come up with big ideas, create content from prompts, and analyze text for meaning and direction, which is exactly what is necessary to be an effective writer who can create engaging content for websites, blogs and more.

Enter Big Ideas Writing

While I was a student at DePaul, I was lucky enough to intern at my mom’s company, Big Ideas Writing, a marketing strategy and content marketing firm. I learned the basics of freelancing, and how to work independently.

One of the toughest skills I learned was how to focus myself and stay motivated even when the boss isn’t around, and you are working at home, surrounded by distractions. I learned to meet deadlines despite the allures of Netflix or the constant barrage of unanswered texts and emails. I also learned that people who are good writers have many job titles like Marketing Strategist, Social Media Manager, Project Manager, and Communications Specialist.

Every person with a liberal arts degree can turn those essay-writing skills into a great career in marketing communications if they are willing to learn a few things outside of the classroom. Here are some practical, tangible skills that Big Ideas Writing taught me, that many businesses are looking for right now.

How to write a press release. Like the iambic couplets I studied in Shakespeare class, I learned to write press releases within certain parameters to convey information in a specific way. Press releases are designed to provide information to the media, and they have to be as straightforward and informative as possible, all within a word limit. Being able to write within a very specific set of rules can be very rewarding, and hone your creativity.

How to create social media posts for business. Companies like writers who can put together a creative Facebook, Instagram or Twitter post. When you write for social media, you have to be brief, pointed, and keep your eye on the prize: increased exposure for your client. Like the essay outlines we are taught to create in English class, social media calendars and posts help us hit the objectives of our campaign and organize our ideas into relevant content.

What SEO keywords are and how to use them. Search Engine Optimization is not something that they teach in English class, but if you have a way with words, knowing a little about SEO can get your digital content found on the internet. As English majors, our attention to detail in grammar and style makes us experts at inserting SEO keywords in a natural way.

How to write a “share-worthy” blog post… like this one! In the classroom, the professor that we English majors write for is a captive audience. With a little creative problem-solving, writers can produce an informative, persuasive or disruptive blog that reaches the public and generates those views, likes and shares. Creating online content will bring your writing into the 21st century!

How to edit my own work. Everyone likes to imagine that their first draft is perfect, but anyone who rereads their first draft the next day will realize that it’s not. For many writers, that journey begins in college where professors have students rewrite essays. The novice writer is easily frustrated by revisions and criticism, but by graduation, English majors have the humility and patience that it takes to revise like a pro.

How to always look for new opportunities. Having no boss sounds like fun… until you realize that you have to become your own boss. If you’re too easy on yourself, you will never meet deadlines and strive to be your best. The only way to succeed in freelancing is to be disciplined and passionate. Never stop searching for your next project, always promote yourself, and think from the client’s perspective. Figure out what clients need, and make it available to them.

Speaking of looking for opportunities, I am currently on the hunt for my next big one. I sadly say goodbye to Big Ideas, but the skills that I learned while working there are ideal for work with a marketing agency or association, preferably one in science, medical or environmental issues. I have always had a mind for science, and minored in Environmental Studies, so I am especially interested in work that is related to science and health. I also live in Chicago and am interested in loop locations. You can check out my work portfolio here. I will always be thankful for the lessons I learned at Big Ideas Writing, and I am excited to launch a long and prosperous career in content writing and marketing.

If you are interested in referring me for a position working in content writing, please email me at erica@bigideaswriting.com.

Social Media Prime Time: When Your Business Should Post

Social media is an incredibly important aspect of today’s business practices, and knowing when the best time is to post or update social media can be key to exposing your content to a wider audience.

Recently, I attended a presentation on this very topic given by Maria Ramos, an award-winning blogger and social media consultant.  Her website, A Savings Wow, is an eclectic mix of coupons, savings tips, and deals and giveaways. As a social media consultant, Maria helps businesses get the most from their efforts, and her presentation gave some concrete information on the best and worst times to post on some of the most popular platforms. I’ve put together this chart as a handy guide for myself (and you!) to schedule accordingly.

Social media Best time to post Worst times to post
Facebook 1-2 times per day, 1pm to 4pm ET Weekends before 8am and after 8pm ET
Twitter About 3 times a day, Mondays through Thursdays from 1pm to 3pm ET Every day after 8pm and Friday after 3pm ET
Instagram Mondays from 3pm to 4pm ET
LinkedIn 2 to 4 times a week, Tuesdays through Thursdays at noon and between 5pm and 6pm ET Mondays and Fridays between 10pm and 6am ET

Also, if you have active social media, make sure your customers and prospects know you’re there! There are many unusual places to put your social media icons that you may not have considered.

Experts will tell you that even if you don’t follow the guidelines above, the important thing is to post, get the word out and make social media work for you!

At Big Ideas Writing, we help clients with their social media content and page management. If you need some help with yours, contact us today!

Five Hidden Values of a Marketing Consultant

sssssssssssssssssss

Marketing consultants are an amazing tool for small or medium sized businesses that need to expand their media exposure, reach a new audience, promote an award they have received, or accomplish other marketing goals. When companies have a need for marketing, they have two choices. They can use their internal marketing department (or even establish one) or they can hire an outside marketing expert. The decision usually depends on budget and resources, human and otherwise. Both internal and external marketing professionals can do a smashing job for a company. In general, however, marketing consultants, by virtue of their external perspective, can bring something even more valuable to the table, without charging an extra cent!

1. Creative Solutions Born of Experience. An external marketing consultant may have experience in yours and other industries that can come in handy in unconventional ways. They may have seen marketing strategies before that have helped other clients. They may have tried a strategy in another industry that may work in yours too. They may have experience with technology and tools that can bring results, like electronic press release distribution systems and SEO keyword planners. Let their experience enrich yours!

2. A New Perspective. Employees in an internal marketing department are employed by the company and often see everything from the company perspective. They may be there to grow their career and become a lifelong employee or just as likely be there for the paycheck and be biding their time for a better opportunity. An outside force like a marketing consultant sees things objectively, and from a different angle. In their position, they’ve had access to many different types of corporate cultures, leadership styles and marketing strategies. They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be surprised if they propose something completely different to you that you’ve never considered before. It’s part of the hidden value of a consultant!

3. Resources. One reason you hire an outside marketing consultant is because you don’t have the time, experience, or manpower to handle the marketing for your company. Marketing experts have all three for your business, as well as access to marketing resources that you might not know about and knowledge of many different resources for promoting a business. There are always new ways that a business can use social media, networking, and promotional material that a business owner might need.  As a marketing consultant, I have connections with specialists who can produce e-blasts, search optimization, and other tools to help businesses reach a wider audience.

4. Publicity opportunities. Marketing consultants are always on the lookout for publicity opportunities. Everything promotional tool that crosses a good marketing consultant’s path is a possibility for their client. Awards programs, for example, are a great way to put your business in the spotlight while participating in the community. As a marketing consultant, I do a variety of work for clients, but I always keep an eye out for opportunities to do even more. Sometimes I am called in to proofread a website or write content for a whitepaper, but if I find other ways that a business can make itself more accessible, I’ll let my client know! A good marketing consultant knows that their client’s success equals their own.

5. Business Consulting. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. Sometimes the entrepreneur may feel like they are the only one in the business who truly cares about the company’s success. It’s helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of and talk to about other, non-marketing related issues. As a marketing consultant, clients often ask me about human resources, pricing, sourcing, etc. I always try to have the answer for them and hope that my advice has saved them hours of googling for information!

So when you need a helping hand with your marketing, remember that a good consultant brings more with them than just what it says on their business card. If you need an example of what that might be, feel free to contact me.

 

Comma Comma Comma Comma Comma Chameleon

Inspired by the old George Michael song, this week the Big Ideas Writing blog is taken over by our summer intern, Erica Dix, who educates us on …what else? Commas! 20140607_182708

Some of the most common grammatical errors are comma-related. Very few of us can name all of the comma rules with certainty. They are more than just a pause in the sentence, they actually serve a purpose! Here are the ten main uses of commas and how to use them well…with or without the chameleon.

  1. Commas are used with dependent clauses, when the sentence begins with a word such as although, when, because, or if. Like this:

Although chameleons like the sunlight, they are careful not to overheat.

However, they are not used if the dependent clause comes second.

Chameleons are careful not to overheat even though they like the sunlight.

 

  1. Commas are used before a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)

The chameleon was blue, but he soon changed back to green.

 

  1. Commas can be used to separate adjectives when an “and” can be used between them, for example:

He was a slow, steady chameleon who was skilled at climbing trees.

..which would be written without a comma as:

He was a slow and steady chameleon who was skilled at climbing trees.

 

  1. Commas can be used after introductory phrases, such as consequently, nonetheless, etc.

However, the chameleon wasn’t at the top of the tree yet.

 

  1. A comma is used after a direct address to someone.

Chameleon, where are you going?

 

  1. Commas are used to separate a phrase in quotations.

I’m going to find my friends,” the chameleon replied.

 

  1. Use a comma when referring to dates…

The chameleon’s birthday is June 21st, 2015.

and places…

Chameleon City, USA

 

  1. And when you are indicating an exact renaming…..

The chameleon, named Jeff, was very intelligent.

 

  1. Commas are used with clauses that contain unnecessary information (nonrestrictive), beginning with “which/who”.

The chameleon, who didn’t know how to read, continued to climb.

The information between the subject (chameleon) and the verb (continued) does not affect the meaning of the sentence and needs to be offset with a comma. However, if it is a clause which contains necessary information (restrictive clause) that begins with “that/who”, a comma is not necessary.

The chameleon that was in a hurry continued to climb.

The information in the clause “that was in a hurry” describes (and often identifies) the subject and affects the meaning of the sentence. It does not need to be offset with commas.

 

  1. The Oxford (Serial) Comma

Yes, we would be amiss if we didn’t mention the dreaded Oxford Comma. The Oxford comma is used at the ends of lists before the word “and”. Many writers and publications deliberately eliminate it but here in the United States, the Oxford Comma is widely acknowledged as grammatically correct.

With Oxford Comma: The chameleon eats lettuce, carrots, and spinach.

Without Oxford Comma: The chameleon eats lettuce, carrots and spinach.

I hope this answered some of your comma questions, and got you thinking about how you use this important piece of punctuation. Leave a comment if you have any of your own tips and tricks about commas. And if you are ever in need of a look at your comma use in something you’ve written, contact us at Big Ideas Writing!

Ten Ways to Promote Your Business After You’ve Won an Award

2293239853_021fc868c0_o_d

So you’ve won a business award. Congratulations!

After you’re done with the awards ceremony, the handshakes, the acceptance speech, the photo op and the positioning of the trophy on the front desk of your office, remember, the power of that award is yet to be unleashed. Don’t leave the story to be told only to those who enter your office. It’s time to tell the world!

Chances are the organization, non-profit or publication that gave you the award will have some public relations efforts in place. They will probably have a press release prepared and distributed with the names of the winners on it. If you are a sole winner, this may or may not be the case. If you are a winner in a multi-category or multi-tiered competition, the press release will include names of all winners. Whether you are a sole winner or one among many, it is always a good idea to make the investment to do the most important thing you can do…

  1. Issue your own personalized press release. Why should you do this, you ask, if the organization is doing their own press release? For several reasons. First, your own press release allows you to describe your business and include a quote from your president or CEO which helps increase your brand awareness and the award’s significance to your company. Second, you can customize the distribution to the right trade and local publications, which may lead to a feature story or other opportunities. You may or may not be privy to the media list from the awarding organization and many of the outlets may have no meaning for your customers and potential customers. Finally, in some markets, your release may provide a secondary touchpoint for the news. You can never get your name into the press too often!
  1. Announce the award on social media. If you have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even just Linkedin, make the announcement with nice images of the actual award or the company representative receiving the award. As you know, the beauty of social media is its shareability. That’s why social media is a great way to get the word out to the world as quickly as possible.
  1. Announce the Award Internally. It’s important for morale that your employees know they have won an award so they too can spread the news. It’s even a greater morale booster to have a small in-house celebration, which can be as inexpensive as allowing a casual dress day or bringing in donuts or a celebratory cake. The announcement can be made orally or in writing, with a description of the ways the award will be publicized, and of course an invitation for them to share the company social media posts about the accolade.
  1. Add “award winning” to all company descriptions. After they win an award, I tell my clients from that day on, they now have the right to call themselves an “award winning” company. It’s not bragging—it’s a fact, and one that can be used in many occasions to add authority and relevance to the company.
  1. Add to company collateral (stickers). It’s often Murphy’s Law that the day the new brochure rolls off the press, the company wins an award which of course is then not mentioned in the brochure. I often recommend a company produce inexpensive, but tasteful looking stickers that can be affixed to marketing materials like a seal, stating the name of the award.
  1. Add to your email signature. Your email signature is seen daily by scores of people who may not know about your award. Just add a statement that says “winner of the (year) (award name). Be inconspicuous, yet bold.
  1. Consider an advertisement. It’s common for companies to take out an advertisement after they’ve won an award to call attention to their achievement, or to possibly congratulate fellow winners.
  1. Tell clients individually or in company newsletter. Winning an award is a great time to touch base with clients and thank them for their patronage. Some companies even go as far as to make a special direct mail piece card that is an announcement and “out of the blue” show of appreciation for their clients. Announcing it on the company newsletter is another good place, or any other marketing materials that typically hit your clients.
  1. Signage. Right near my home is a car wash that was honored as a “best of” from a local magazine as voted on by the readers. It is a banner that hangs outside, just above the front door. My first thought? Smart. More companies should do that!20150710_134719
  1. Website home page. Finally, an often overlooked but very important place to put your award is on your website home page. A mention, a graphic element, a slider image or banner are all ways to represent the award on your website.

It’s your award so make it count! Can you think of any other ways to publicize your awards? Leave me a comment and let me know!

The 5 W’s of Writing a Business Blog (Including 10 Why’s)

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-five-ws-signpost-image25139199

When reporters write a story, they  use the “5 W’s”  (Who, What, Where, When and Why) to make sure they cover all of the important information.

Coincidentally, the same 5 W’s should be considered when setting up a blog!

What does it take to set up a blog? Assuming you already have a website, you may want to discuss the logistics of adding the blog to your existing webpage with your webmaster. However, before you sit down at the keyboard, let’s get the 5 W’s of your blog straight.

 THE WHO: Who will write the blog?  If you decide to have a blog, someone must write the posts. The answer to this question will depend upon your resources and your ultimate goal.  You yourself could do the writing, you could assign it to an employee or you can outsource it to a freelance content writer. I myself provide blog posts for several clients upon request or on a regular basis. Sometimes they provide me technical information which I fashion into an “audience friendly” post or I concoct a piece from an interview source provided by the client.  Sometimes, clients write some of their own blog posts and have me craft more complex ones.  Since blogs should be done consistently to develop a relationship with the audience, it is important to have a plan for continuity of posts.

THE WHAT: Purpose of the Blog  What will your blog look like?  What is its number one objective? Do you want to promote upcoming sales and promotions or educate your readers about your products? Will you position yourself as a thought leader on a particular topic?  Will you express your viewpoints about developments in the industry?  Whatever your purpose, keep it consistent so your readers know what to expect every time they log on.

THE WHEN: Frequency of Posts Some companies start out with the best intentions. I’m going to post a blog every week, they say, and it turns out to be every month. It’s important to set the bar high for yourself, especially at the beginning. Write it down and try to stick to your goal. Just like setting a goal for dieting or exercise, you may fail along the way, but at least you know what success will look like.

THE WHERE: Editorial Calendar  The “where” of your blog refers to the platform it will “live”, either your website or a hosted site like blogspot or wordpress. It also refers to your editorial calendar, which determines where your blog will take your reader. Wherever the destination, having an editorial calendar is like a roadmap to get you there. Create a chart with the desired posting dates for the calendar year, then take some time to develop ideas.  The calendar does not have to be set in stone. For example, if there is a development in your industry that warrants a post, the topic can supersede the originally scheduled piece. The purpose of the calendar will tell you where you are in your blog plans and where you will post throughout the month.

WHY Why Do I Need a Blog? When I tell clients they need to add a blog to their website, often they want to know “why?” After all, blogs are a lot of work and to be honest, the ROI can be difficult to calculate. Yet, there are many reasons like these below that can make having a blog on your website a very important part of your overall marketing strategy. I actually came up with 10 great reasons to have a blog.

#1 Reason to Have a Blog: To Drive Website Traffic!!  This is perhaps the most important reason to have a business blog. Hubspot reports that businesses that blog get 55% more website visitors than those that don’t!  This is how it works: if you are clever enough to write on an edgy, very desirable topic, those searching for information on the subject will stumble upon the keywords as they google for information, and be brought right to your blog post on your website to learn more. That’s why it’s also a good idea to include keywords in your blog that will take readers to your relevant interior web pages. 

2. To increase search engine optimization. Adding a blog actually improves the quality of your site in Google’s eyes. In the rankings, Google favors websites that post fresh content on a regular basis, as well as those that are visited more often.

3. To position yourself as a thought leader. The words “as I say in my blog,” say a lot about your expertise and your commitment to your industry.  Your blog posts become intellectual property that can be used to educate and motivate others.

4. To leverage the information.  Sometimes, blogs become the basis or informational outline for something greater—a book, a presentation, a white paper or downloadable report. Writing a book, rather than simply a blogpost, is the next step to becoming a “thought leader” on a particular topic or building awareness of the business you operate.

5. To answer your customer’s questions. One trick to coming up with blog topics is to answer those questions you get continually from your customers. These answers demonstrate what information customers may be searching for on the internet. If you provide them in the blog, the result will be increased website traffic and potential new business.

6. To share on Social Media. Always announce your blog posts on your social media, even if it is just on Linkedin. Include a link to the post and watch your website traffic stats rise.

7. To use in  your newsletter. Many customers use their blog post as the lead story in their corporate newsletter. A snippet, included with a “read more” link to the website, will bring the subscriber onto the website for further interaction with your company.

8. To use as an emotional release.  As long as the emotional tirade is appropriate, a blog can serve as an emotional outlet for the writer (and/or the reader!) about a certain, industry-related topic. It’s completely ok to espouse a strong corporate opinion in a blog, especially if your position is controversial. Just be ready to reply diplomatically to all the dissenting comments that are sure to follow!

9. To invest your employees in the company.  Depending on your situation, allowing employees to participate in the blog can give them a feeling of “investment” in the company.  Provide a small bonus to the worker for each post and you will have a more willing participant!

10. To build your brand. If you’ve determined what your company stands for, the blog is a great place to drive this brand awareness forward. Writing dedicated posts about the way you do business and why can bring the reader closer to your business.  Try blogging about your business process or your core values as they are applied to the industry.

So there you have the 5 W’s of putting together a business blog.  As a freelance content writer I regularly help companies come up with editorial calendars and stick to them with custom creative content creation. If I can help you with your blog, please contact me at 630-778-6182.

 

 

SEO COPYWRITER’S CHECKLIST FOR WRITING SEO BLOGS

  • SEO-Checklist-Blogs

Do you write your blog for SEO, or search engine optimization?

There are a million reasons to write a blog: to inform clients of a new product or service; take a stance on an issue; impart information on the industry, etc. In most situations, the rules on style, word choice, etc. are  completely up to you.

Writing a blog for search engine optimization, or SEO, however, is a different matter.  You should take certain, particular steps to optimize your post so Google can find, index, and rank it as highly as possible in the search engine results. These steps include proper use of keywords, including backlinks in the copy and attention to the length of the blog elements.

An SEO freelance copywriter can help you craft your blog posts for search engine optimization but if you are doing it yourself, this checklist can help you make sure your blog is properly optimized before you press the “publish” button. Use it regularly to ensure your blog posts will rank highly in the search engines!

KEYWORD SELECTION AND INCLUSION The first step to writing anything with search engine optimization value is keyword selection. If you don’t know what your SEO keywords should be, try google keyword planner.  There you can plug in different ideas and see how many searches are launched a month for each keyword. It also provides new keyword ideas and tells you how high the competition is for each keyword.  After you’ve selected your best two or three keywords, it’s time write content for the blog post, using the keywords you select.

TITLE w/keyword and 65-70 characters. This is the length Google wants to see. Also, make sure one of your keywords is in the title tag of your blog’s page.

KEYWORD DENSITY of no more than 3% per keyword. It’s detrimental to stuff your blog full of keywords. There are many free, online keyword density checkers, but my favorite is the Live Keyword Analysis.

KEYWORD IN FIRST PARAGRAPH Try to get a keyword in the first sentence of your blog. In this case, I have done that by using my keyword “writing for SEO?” in the first paragraph.

SEO BLOG POST KEYWORDS IN SUBHEADS. See what I did there? My keyword for this post, SEO bblog post, is slipped into the subhead.  Subheads are a good place to use SEO keywords.

KEYWORDS IN IMAGE TITLES  When you name your “image” for your post, don’t just name it “blog image.” Seize the opportunity to add a SEO keyword.  For this post, the name of my blog image is checklistseo-blog.

LENGTH LONG ENOUGH TO BE INDEXED AS RELEVANT Google likes longer posts.  Shoot for a minimum of 500 words.  Longer is better, but only if you are adding value.  If your post is repetitive, nobody will read it and you could risk alienating your audience.

3-5 BACKLINKS If someone is reading your blog, perhaps they would be interested in the other posts you have done.  However, they need some incentive to go there.  Here’s where backlinks come in. Your backlinks can be to your website pages, including other related blog posts, your web pages (and not just the home page!), online samples of your work, or press notices of your achievements.  You can also offer backlinks to industry resources, strategic partners or other service professionals, but consider the consequences. If your reader leaves your site to access the backlink, they may not return.

BACKLINK IN CTA  A call to action should always appear at the end of the blog, to motivate the reader to “do something,” whether it be call for an appointment, make a donation, seek more information, etc. Here is a good place to put in a backlink to make it as easy as possible for the reader to follow through on the desired call to action.

COMMENTS/SOCIAL SHARING Ideally, your blog should have a place for your readers to share your work. Provide if you can.

Would you need help writing a blog post for SEO or for web content writing? I’d be happy to speak with you about your needs.  Contact me today.