Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Marketing Tip of the Month: Blog like a Pro

Blogging is a wonderful way to bulk up your image as a knowledgeable professional in your industry. Although I would say that blogging doesn't typically lead to booking new clients directly, it does so passively by creating an online presence showing that you are a reputable player in the industry. Potential clients see that you aren't just someone that has thrown together a website, they see that you are actively involved and well versed in the field. Clients then feel more comfortable that they are getting the quality service they need and want.

Step 1: Generating Content

Before you even begin writing, compose an outline. Having an outline will help you stay organized and will also help with the fluidity of your article to ensure that you won't miss an important point that you want to cover.

Don't forget that we're living in a fast paced society! You really have to fight to get -and keep- a person's attention. The first way to do this is by writing a mind-blowing headline. After all, most people won't even click on your article to read it if it doesn't catch their interest with the headline! Focus on writing a headline that will please search engines and readers alike by incorporating focused keywords in each of your blog posts.

"Mac or PC?", "THIS JUST IN!", "Best VO Software JUST RELEASED!" These are just a few ideas of topics that are most likely get people talking. Controversial opinions, breaking news and new technology tools are all great things to blog about. Use these "hot" words, ideas and phrases to illicit more of a response from people reading your blog. Another simple way to get people to comment and engage on your blog is to ask a question at the end of an article. That encourages people to continue the conversation by commenting and interacting with one another.

Make your blog visually pleasing. By taking a little time to format your blog, you are increasing the chance that someone will stay and read the entire post. Make sure that you have a clean design and take full advantage of formatting helpers such as bullet points, images and hyperlinking to outside sources or websites.

Remember that variety is the spice of life! Cover a variety of topics and vary the lengths and styles in your own writing. You could vary the styles by including interviews, Q&A style articles, bullet-pointed lists and a rating system (i.e. "Top 10 Microphones") to shake things up.

Creating a resource list is one of the great ways to attract readers and keep them coming back for more. If you can create a resource list relevant to the industry (Top 10 places to get free music, 10 social media sites every voiceover artist should be on, etc.), your readers will likely bookmark this article and keep coming back to use it for reference. If you see that you have traffic coming back to reference your post years after, you can always choose to add and expand on it. Make sure you announce on your blog by posting that it has been updated, for those people that maybe haven't read it yet, or haven't referred back to it since they originally read it.

Another popular format is a product review. Not everyone can afford to purchase 5 microphones to give each a full review, but you could download a few different free editing programs and review the ups and downs of each of them and give your final rating system based on what you found! To encourage feedback from your readers, ask them if they've ever used any of these programs and which one is their favorite.

You don't always have to be the first person to cover a topic. This is a very typical cause of writer's block…people think they have to write about something that nobody has written out before. You could spend hours upon hours trying to come up with a topic that nobody has ever written about. Instead of trying to come up with a completely new idea, just write about a topic that interests you or something you have a lot of knowledge about. Even though somebody else has written about it in the past, you are the only one that can provide your perspective on the subject using your unique writing style.

Are you getting burnt out by being the only contributor to your blog and feeling like it's just becoming your personal sounding board? Get another opinion (and "voice") by setting up guest bloggers to contribute to your blog. This is a great way to get a burst of fresh air to your blog now and again. You may even be able to team up with other voiceover artists and do a blog link exchange in which you provide them with a few blog articles you've written and they'll provide you with a few in return. Typically you link back to their blog for credit and they'll do the same for you. It's a wonderful way to get new content AND help expand your reader base.

Finally, before you hit "Publish", take the time to proofread! I can say that this is one point in writing that I've personally had a hard time breaking. I used to just send off each article to another set of eyes to proofread before taking a highly critical eye and reading the finished article myself. Trust me, though. Taking the time to read what you've written and see if YOU enjoy reading it will make all the difference. If you don't enjoy it, why would anyone else enjoy it? Make sure it reads well and makes sense from beginning to end. If you have someone else that you trust and can count on, it never hurts to have a second set of eyes quickly read what you've written to make sure it reads well to them as well.

STEP 2: Getting (and keeping) readers

When you first begin blogging, it's very important that you post blogs on a regular basis to start attracting readers to your site. I suggest trying to post a blog article every day if you can. The articles don't have to be very long (no more than 500 words, really), but they should contain nuggets of useful information to show your readers why they should be following your blog.

Don't have any followers on your blog yet? Make your blog content easy to find for people that are already looking for it! How many times have you been looking for something very specific online and you've had to search through 10 sites before you've found what you were looking for? A lot of times people just give up after the first few sites didn't contain the information they were seeking out. Make sure your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is top notch for your blog to ensure that your readers or potential readers can easily find your blog when it's relevant to what they want and need. Not well versed in SEO? There are quite a few resources out there for free that can teach you the basics, they're just a Google search away!

Don't just be a blog writer, be a blog reader (and commenter) as well. Take the time to seek out other blogs that are relevant to you and comment on articles that you enjoy or have an opinion on. Since you normally have to submit your information when you comment on a blog, make sure you are logged in to your account that you use for blogging. Therefore, everyone reading the comments on that blog (as well as the author) will then be able to link back to your blog!

Make it easy for readers to post comments on your blog. It's pretty simple, the easier you make it for readers to post comments, the more comments you'll receive. If you force someone to create a new account for each different blog hosting site, type in a captcha code and register an email address, it's going to be too much work for the reader to give you something that you WANT from them. Make it easy by letting them log in either with their choice of email address or even using Facebook.

Utilize buttons so readers can easily share your blog. Most blog hosting sites have tools that help you give your readers the ability to share your blog articles via social media sites. Make sure you activate this feature (how it's handled varies from site to site). Readers are more likely to share your blog with their friends and followers if you make it easy for them!

There are many things that you can do to help build the quality, content and interaction on your blog. The tips above are a great way to start. A quick search online will lead you to a sea of information about blogging. Each site has a varying degree of expertise, so it all depends on how much time you want to spend on your blog. Many people out there blog as their career. Obviously you are blogging to help promote your career, so you don't want to spend your entire day working on your blog.

Remember, just like every other marketing strategy, building up your blog will take time. Stick with it and write about topics you enjoy and you'll begin to start seeing the results!

The best piece of advice I ever received regarding writing was "When you have writer's block, don't spend too much time thinking about it…just start writing". Sounds so simple, but it has helped me work through so many cases of writer's block! What is the best professional advice you ever received?

Written by:
Bethany Baker
Such A Voice Marketing Director

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Manage Your Time Better!

Take a moment and think about your typical workday, think about the tasks that you do on a daily basis. If someone were to stop and ask you right now how much time it took you to do each task, would you have a good grasp at it? Do you ever feel like there just aren't enough hours in the day for what you have to accomplish? Do you find that you're completing tasks JUST before they are due and stressing out that you may miss deadlines? In my past days of management, I noticed that many people pride themselves on how busy they appear to be. When somebody tries to offer them solutions or ways to try to manage their time better, they tend to brush them off. Sometimes people will even get downright defensive or insulted. It's almost as if they think that the busier they appear, the more important they are. They may feel threatened that if they don't seem busy all the time that their job would be on the line. Or they may be insulted because they think that you're implying that they're not working hard enough or fast enough (definitely not the case). If any of these examples apply to you, I'm here to change your theory and give you more peace of mind at the end of the day. If this does not apply to you, then still continue to read and get great tips on how to manage your time better.

I will be the first to admit that many years ago I fell into that first category of people. I would rush around all day long, unwilling to ask for help, ending my day in a stressed frenzy claiming that I simply had too much to do and not enough time in the day to do it. Now, let me clarify, I really BELIEVED that I had too much to do and not enough time in the day to do it. I never thought that I was doing anything wrong or that there was anything I could do to change that. The day came when I had finally had enough. I stepped back and analyzed my day, the approach I was taking to the tasks I was completing and the order in which I was completing them. I asked coworkers for an unbiased opinion as to how I was going about things. Asked them for any suggested shortcuts that they used on any programs, processes or procedures that we both used in our daily tasks. I took all of this information and restructured, reorganized and refocused with a clearer vision. I realized that if I made a few adjustments to my day, it might just give me some breathing room. Best. Decision. EVER! Now I jump on the opportunity to meet with someone that says they can help me better manage my time. I will no longer be the person so unwilling to seek out advice from someone else. Let's face it, if you can shave even 15 minutes off of your workload, it's still worth it! After all, you're "so busy you can't even breathe until the work day is over"…so 15 minutes would be fantastic, am I right?!

Are you sitting here right now rolling your eyes and thinking that you're so impossibly busy that you can't take time out of your day to revamp your functional system that you have worked out? I thought maybe you might be…just keep reading. I recommend for you to start keeping a journal, spreadsheet or other document and record your day. I'm sure you've heard of food journals, or dream journals. This will be your work journal. Start out by listing your goals for the day to keep yourself on task. As the day progresses, try to note how much time you spent on each goal and add in anything else you spent time on during the day. I would recommend trying to break things out into 15 minute increments so it doesn't get TOO specific (you don't need to notate that you took a break to get a glass of water).

Sidebar: Those of you that follow our blog posts regularly know about my list obsession. You can read more about writing an effective to-do list (the list of threes) in our blog article here.

Take things into consideration that take time away from your goals (personal social networking, playing games, reading articles online, chatting with friends, etc.). Now start practicing restraint with those procrastination tactics. On the other hand, some of the things that take time away from your goals are things that are unavoidable (sleeping, eating, driving to and from appointments). You can still try to plan your day out even better to make the most of that unavoidable time. For instance, if you find yourself in the waiting room of your physician's office (and, like many people today, you have a smart phone), take a few minutes to check your business social media sites or answer a few business emails.

Beware of the stealthy productivity killers! Do you sometimes take your laptop into a family area to work comfortably from your couch? Do you then think "Oh, I'll just turn on the TV for background noise"? Do you then realize that hours have gone by and you've been watching a marathon of some show that you would normally never watch if the TV wasn't on merely for "background noise"? The same can be said for streaming music onto your computer. You turn it on for background noise and before you know it you're downloading new music, setting up a playlist or searching out the history of a particular artist. Now, I'm not saying that you should work in complete silence, just make sure that you're staying focused on your work and not searching out lyrics for a song you just heard!

Take advantage of your computer's multitasking abilities! I've walked by many-a-desk in my time to see people staring at their computer screen and tapping their fingers as a large file saves or as their email loads and wondered "why?!". Your computer is a powerful machine, so don't sit there and stare at it as it works, continue working. Update your to-do list as that large file saves. Update your business social media sites as your email loads for the day. Take the time during a computer reboots to get your work station organized or make an important phone call.

Once you use these tips and analyze your workday, I hope that you'll be able to free up time! Changes begin small, so even if you manage to free up 10 or 20 minutes in your day, it's still a step in the right direction. Don't stop looking for ways to free up even more time by multi-tasking or restructuring your day. If you're constantly looking for ways to manage your time better, you'll always be working toward the most productive workday you could have!

Now that you've freed up a bit of time, don't make the mistake to then turn around, take that free time and pile on loads of additional work. That will just bring you right back to where you started. The whole point of managing your time is to be able to handle your workload with less stress. Don't end up overextending yourself back to the point where you were originally.

When all else fails, if you just keep struggling to manage your time, I would sincerely consider hiring a professional consultant. Now, of course, this all depends on your budget. I firmly believe that having a professional unbiased opinion about your workflow is a great way to analyze your workday. Don't fall back into the routine of being defensive about how busy you are. After all, you're the ONLY one that's suffering in that equation! A professional will typically monitor your work day for a few days, sitting by as you work and have an open conversation about your daily tasks, the time you spend on them, what your priorities are in your day and what tasks you always find that you aren't making time for when the day is over. They will take notes and then analyze areas where you could save time by either implementing different programs or procedures to help. I've worked with about two or three different time management consultants and I've found that they are definitely worth the money to have a little peace of mind at the end of the day!

What methods have you used to manage your time in the past? What has been your most effective time-management method to date? Have you ever hired a consultant to help you prioritize your workday? We'd love to hear your stories and experiences!

Written by:
Bethany Baker
Such A Voice Marketing Director