Category Archives: Social Media Tips

Carol Dunlop Shares the Secret to ‘Un-Marketing’ in her New Book for Entrepreneurs

Today on The Writing Well I am delighted to introduce Carol Dunlop, a savvy marketer, master networker and author of UN-Market Your Business: 10 Ways for Savvy Entrepreneurs to Stand Out, Stop Struggling, and Start Profiting.

Carol and I both have book titles with a similar play on words. My book, Moving to Atlanta: The Un-Tourist Guide, was featured last March on the author podcast, Write Books that Sell Now, that Carol hosts with two other dynamic Atlanta book marketing pros, Anita Henderson and Candice Davis.

In the Q&A below, Carol shares some secrets that every entrepreneur can employ to get noticed and win new clients. I heartily recommend her book, which is available on Kindle Unlimited for free for the next five days only.  Let us know what you think about her insights!

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Q. What made you decide to write UN-Market Your Business: 10 Ways for Savvy Entrepreneurs to Stand Out, Stop Struggling, and Start Profiting?  

Carol: The main reason I decided to write this book is that I wanted to kickstart my speaking career. I know it’s not an absolute requirement to have a book, but it puts me ahead of the other people who don’t have a book. Plus, having written a book gives me instant credibility and authority.

Q. The title of your book is a bit of a twist — You are saying that it’s better to “un-market” your business than market it in a traditional sense. What do you mean by that? 

Carol: Yes indeed, UN-Marketing is how you take advantage of this new, exciting, and ever-changing digital economy to market your business successfully. It’s a way of using out-of-the-box, UN-thought-about, strategies that are simple and easy for you to make your own to turn friends, fans, and followers into paying clients.

Q. What are a few surprising takeaways in your book that may surprise business owners? 

Carol: The overarching theme of the book is that marketing your business doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg and doesn’t have to be a big scary thing. In actuality, all the strategies in this book are low- or no-cost, but they do require some time, on the business-owner’s part to put into place. I made sure I broke down the strategies into simple steps and included the reasoning as to why you are doing each one, what you can expect to get out of it, along with the best way to implement. Plus, I have lots and lots of extras, examples, and resources to help you with each step.

Another takeaway is that you can use any or all the strategies authentically, meaning you can cater them to how you are, how you present your business, and how you want to be perceived. All the strategies are customizable so you can be true to who you really are and be successful doing it.

Q. What was the most challenging and most rewarding part of researching and writing this book?  

Carol: The most challenging part wasn’t really the writing, it was after the writing; putting everything together. I did have an author coach, who helped me tremendously to get my thoughts and words across as I had envisioned, but putting the entire book together with the pictures, pull quotes, and how to do the things you don’t think about, like citing previous work, was quite challenging. As for research, the thing that helped me out the most was creating an outline first. It helped me to put my thoughts in order and in writing everything out. Once I created the outline, it was easy to write, because everything in the book was what I knew about or had previously done. The most rewarding part happened when I did research certain parts of the book and the research echoed what I had written or was about to write. It was kind of a “YEAH, you got this!” type of feeling.

Q. Many authors say that writing a book is one-third of the work; the rest is marketing it. How are you promoting your book? 

Carol: My promotion strategy is based on involving my tribe and social media followers to help me. When I originally started thinking about writing the book, I wanted to get input from my peers, colleagues, and peeps to infuse into the content. I also wanted to show readers that I actually use the strategies that I talk about in the book, so they can see that these strategies really work. For instance, in Part 3, I went to HARO (which is the Strategy showcased in Chapter 12) and submitted a query to business leaders on what’s going to happen next in marketing in this new, digital economy. The responses are in Part 3, Chapter 15: What’s Next. I received the most awesome and intriguing responses. Not only is this great content, but I emailed all the contributors to let them know the book is complete and will be launching soon. This alerts them to the fact that other people will be seeing their comments and contact information and since people love to see themselves in print, will lead them to purchase the book and share it.

Q. Any promotion best practices you can share with other business leaders thinking about becoming authors?

Carol: Of course, I am going to utilize my blog and social media platforms, but I also created a podcast of the same name, UN-Market Your Business, where I share insights from the book and interview other business owners who exhibit UN-Marketing characteristics in their business. The thing is to get the concept out there, in front of people over and over again, in a way that “tickles the palette” and makes people think about their marketing strategies in a whole new way. That is UN-Marketing. When you are writing your book, think of a concept that you can make bigger than your book and infuse into the thoughts of others and you will have a success on your hands.

Q. What other books have you written and what makes this book different than what you’ve crafted before? 

Carol: This is my second book, but my first solo book. In, my first book, Write Books That Sell Now, I was a co-author, but this time, it’s all me. It is very different to be a solo author instead of a co-author. In the first book, I didn’t do a lot, I submitted a couple blog posts, answered a couple questions, and wrote a few paragraphs. The editing and overall feel of the book was handled by someone else. But in this book, everything was me. Even though I had an author coach who helped me to stay succinct and relevant in my writing, because I tend to go off on tangents, it was still my writing. I made sure that throughout the book, my authentic voice, along with all my quirks, were showcased, even if that meant totally ignoring something my author coach, editor, or beta reader suggested.

About the Author

Carol Dunlop – The Savvy Entrepreneur’s Online WOW! Strategist

An energetic and personable networker, Carol J. Dunlop is among the elite in her field, her clients refer to her as an online marketing phenom, she is known as “The Online WOW! Strategist.” She is VP of Marketing and Communications at CSI Corporation, the company she founded more than twenty-three years ago with her husband Alvin. And is also currently serving as the VP of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships for ProWIN, a women’s business networking group in Atlanta. Carol also co-founded and formerly served as the marketing mastermind behind Write Books That Sell Now, an organization that helps aspiring authors to write, publish, and market their business-building book.

Carol currently speaks to business owners about how “UN-Market” their business and convert their website into their business hub. She also shows them how to get the conversation started, grow brand awareness, build trust, and ultimately convert their fans, friends, and followers into paying clients through the strategies she’s used in her book, UN-Market Your Business; 10 Ways for Entrepreneurs to Stand Out, Stop Struggling, and Start Profiting.

Fun facts about Carol:

  • She is a former Bodybuilder, Fitness and CrossFit competitor
  • She has two grown children and five grandchildren
  • She and her husband have been married and partners in business for 23 years

How to Connect with Carol:

  • Tune in to her weekly podcast, UN-Market Your Business, airing Thursdays at 1 p.m. EST.   www.csicoporation.com/podcast
  • Follow her on Twitter: @csicorporation

The Craft of Creating Compelling Characters – Tips from 12-time Novelist Lee Gimenez

mm-cover-8Today, The Writing Well talks with Atlanta mystery-thriller writer Lee Gimenez on his techniques for character development tied to the release of his twelfth novel, The Media Murders.

The story opens with a prominent New York Times reporter dying under suspicious circumstances right before breaking an explosive story. Then a well-known TV reporter commits suicide. Suspecting foul play, the FBI’s John Ryan and Erin Welch investigate. As they probe the mysterious deaths, they uncover a shocking truth: Reporters are being murdered to suppress the news. More shocking is who they suspect is responsible for the killings.

As a writer who regularly reports on technology trends, I found the premise compelling. And, having read earlier books by Lee, featuring Ryan and Welch, I knew I would be in for a treat.  Lee has a knack for creating believable characters and suspenseful storylines. The Media Murders didn’t disappoint on both counts. Below, Lee shares his process for creating well-rounded, imperfect heroes and antiheroes who readers can identify with – a component that any good story must have.

Q. Your newest thriller, The Media Murders, takes readers into the world of ethics and journalism, and the growing corruption of the field by outside interests, in this case, political forces. How true-to-life is this trend, and how did it inform your writing?

Lee: Like all of my previous eleven novels, The Media Murders, is primarily an action/mystery thriller. It’s ideal for someone who enjoys a past-paced, plot-driven novel, witty and engaging characters, and a strong sense of mystery and suspense. But it’s also more than that, as it tackles a serious issue that faces society today. As you mentioned, the plot revolves around the news media and journalism, and the key element is the murder of several reporters. Although the murder aspect of the reporters is fictional in the U.S. (at least as far as I could discover), it has happened in Europe and Russia in order to suppress the news.

The background of The Media Murders is based on research I did prior to writing the book. From this research I learned that the news industry in the U.S. has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. The news industry now reports news that is intended to not offend advertisers or government institutions. This trend has accelerated to the point that much news ‘reporting’ now is actually editorials from one side of the political spectrum or another. The ‘free press’ and the First Amendment to the Constitution are under assault in the U.S., something much of the public doesn’t seem to be aware of. I hope that by talking about this topic in my book, more people will become aware of this alarming trend.

Q. The Media Murders features several favorite characters, including Erin Welch, J.T. Ryan and Rachel West. In fact, you actually grace this book cover with a male character, J.T. Ryan, a first for you. Your characters are always well-defined and multi-dimensional. How do you create memorable characters that people can identify with and want to root for?

 

Lee: I’ve found several effective methods of creating memorable characters. One such method is to realize that characters cannot be perfect. This is especially true in your main characters, both the protagonists and the antagonists. For example, your protagonist cannot just have good qualities. He or she has to have flaws, either physical or emotional, and better yet, a little bit of each. Remember that perfect people don’t exist. We all have flaws. In order to make your hero/heroine believable, you have to include things about the person that are not necessarily positive. For example, one of the main characters in The Media Murders is John (J.T.) Ryan, who works for the FBI. He is one of the heroes in the book, and he has many good qualities in his personality. But he’s also impulsive and hot-headed at times, which puts him and the people around him in some dangerous situations.

Another way to create multi-dimensional characters is to give them an engaging backstory and to include humor and wit in the dialogue. My novels all have serious, life-and-death action thriller plots, but I always try to lighten the mood by bringing in humorous and witty dialogue. It makes the novel more readable, entertaining and believable.

Characters also have to have conflict in their lives, whether it relates to their love life, their family, their jobs, etc. Without conflict there’s no tension, and you have a boring novel. I try to include tension, suspense, and mystery, on every page.

Q. How much effort do you put into creating equally interesting villains? What kind of balance do writers need to strike when it comes to crafting characters on both sides of the good-bad spectrum?

Lee: Just as important as your main good guys/gals, the villains are, I’ve found, equally important. I don’t want to give away the plot of The Media Murders, so I won’t discuss the villains in this book, except to say they are extremely dangerous and deadly. So I’ll use one of my previous thrillers, The Washington Ultimatum, to illustrate. The main villain in this book, Angel Stone (she’s the beautiful woman featured on the book’s cover) is the world’s deadliest terrorist. The key to making this book successful was portraying her as evil as you would expect, but also to show that she had a human side that at times made her compassionate. Another good example of how this can be successfully done is shown in the Godfather movies, where the mobsters were killers, but they were also family men that went to church, and occasionally did good deeds.

Q. Engaging the audience through social media channels like Twitter is important for any author. How have you done this using your characters? What has been the feedback?

Lee: I find that engaging your reader audience is very important to the success of your book. I currently have over 50,000 followers on Twitter, and I’ve found this social media site a good way to get my message out and engage readers of my books. I’m also on Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Pinterest. The key to social media, I found, is to realize that it’s a great way to have a conversation with your readers. And what makes social media unique is that you can have a conversation with people not just in this country, but also with people around the world.

Q. What is coming up next for you in terms of book projects? Do you plan to continue with some of the character themes you introduced in The Media Murders? Will there be more interaction between J.T. and Rachel, for example?

Lee: I really enjoy writing about the main characters I’ve created in the last several novels. They include the FBI’s John (J.T.) Ryan and Erin Welch, and my other series character, Rachel West, who is a CIA operative. Four of my novels, including The Media Murders, Skyflash, Killing West, and The Washington Ultimatum, are based on these characters. In my next novel I plan on including them as well. I’m currently working on the main plot for my next book, which I estimate would be published in the later part of 2017. Stay tuned for more details!

About the Author

LeeGimenezLee Gimenez is the award-winning author of 12 novels, including his highly-acclaimed J.T. Ryan series. His latest thriller is THE MEDIA MURDERS. Several of his books were Featured Novels of the International Thriller Writers Association, among them SKYFLASH, KILLING WEST, and THE WASHINGTON ULTIMATUM. Lee was nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award and was a Finalist in the prestigious Terry Kay Prize for Fiction.

Lee’s books are available at Amazon and many other bookstores in the U.S. and Internationally. For more information, please visit his website at: www.LeeGimenez.com. Lee lives with his wife in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

Storm Storyteller: A Q&A with New York Times’ Bestselling Author Kim Cross

 

Kim Cross Book Cover

The day I spoke with Alabama author Kim Cross, it was on the one-year anniversary of her first book being published. The Alabama native and contributing editor with Southern Living Magazine wrote What Stands in a Storm, her riveting New York Times’ bestseller published by Atria/Simon & Schuster.

The book captures the true story of love and resilience in the worst superstorm in history – a three-day storm  in late April 2011 that unleashed 349 tornadoes in 21 states, destroying entire towns.  Alabama was ground zero for the disaster, where on April 27 alone a total of 62 tornadoes raked the state. The storm also claimed 324 lives, most of them in Alabama, which now leads the nation in tornado deaths.

Kim Cross, her son in the background, at the Roswell Reads Literary Luncheon held on March 12.

Kim Cross, her son in the background, at the Roswell Reads Literary Luncheon held on March 12.

Kim and I spoke by phone as she was driving to Roswell, Georgia, where today she was honored as the featured author for the Eleventh annual Roswell Reads Community Read program.  Having finished her book in two days, I can attest to its power. The story was impossible to put down – it pulsates with tension as I experienced the love of friends and neighbors, parents and children, in  the tension-filled moments leading up to the storm and its aftermath.

Ron Powers, Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist and coauthor of Flags of Our Fathers said it best: “…the terse dark poetry of this debut book explodes from every page.”

As a Dayton, Ohio, native who remembers as a child hearing the tornado sirens from neighboring Xenia, Ohio, in 1974, I was keen to talk to Kim. I also have been working on my own disaster story – the retelling of a historic flood that destroyed Dayton 100 years ago, I found reading her book and learning her writing process incredibly helpful and inspiring as I edit my own work.

What Stands in a Storm is Kim’s first book, but it doesn’t read like it.  Her narrative was born from a magazine story she wrote with Alabama native son Rick Bragg for Southern Living.  Rick, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, was living in Tuscaloosa at the time. He and his family made it through the storm, but their street was hit “really bad.”  Kim asked him to write something from the heart of what it meant to be in this storm and he agreed.  His intro paired with her reporting along with fellow staffer Erin Shaw struck a chord in people. According to Kim, “We got hundreds of messages from readers, who said, ‘That it was the first time I ever cried while reading Southern Living.’ I realized it was touching this emotional place inside of people… I felt like that story needed to be told.”

Isaac's StormThe Perfect Storm“I started to look around and I realized that we have epic bestselling books about hurricanes and floods and Nor’easters (The Perfect Storm), but we didn’t find a book like that about tornadoes that really did it well. I wanted something like Isaac’s Storm and The Perfect Storm. I don’t know if I was aiming too high but that’s what I was hoping to do,” she said.

I think Kim met that standard of excellence and exceeded it with her phenomenal storytelling. Below is our expanded conversation.

 

Q. Where were you on April 27, 2011?

Kim: My husband and I were sitting on our couch [in a suburb of Birmingham] with our son who was 4 at the time, watching weatherman James Spann as the tornado went through Tuscaloosa.

It was awful. We knew the town so well. I had gone to college twice in Tuscaloosa and we had lived there. There is this moment where you watching it and it feels like a movie. It reminded me when we were all watching TV and the Twin Towers fell. I remember feeling, ‘Is this real?’ Then you have this moment when you realize, ‘I’m watching people die right now’ and it’s a horrible feeling.

Then the Tuscaloosa EF4 started making its way toward Birmingham and it actually got a little bit bigger as it came. From what we could tell we were right in its path. At some point the power went off and we lost TV. I watched live Twitter feeds from my phone, watching Jim, who knows the neighborhoods so well. At one point he called our neighborhood and that’s where it got really scary. My husband is an Eagle Scout – he’s Mr. Prepared. He was the one who had us put on bike helmets before it was widely done.  Studies show that a helmet would have saved a lot of lives because of flying debris.

Waiting out a tornado is one of the few times in life where you have time to think about impending death.  Usually you get a lot of time to think about it because you’re sick or there’s no time to think because it happens so fast.   When the tornado passed – we didn’t see much of anything in our neighborhood but seven miles away a neighborhood of Birmingham was just flattened. It came within two or three miles of downtown Birmingham.”’

Q. I always thought that tornadoes mostly struck the central of the country – Kansas.

Kim: People think of Oklahoma and Kansas having a larger volume of tornadoes, but  Alabama and the South – the so-called Dixie Alley — has more of the big ones, more of the EF4s and EF5s, so the numbers are a little deceptive. The other thing is Oklahoma and Kansas are flat, there aren’t a lot of trees and it’s not real humid so you can see the tornadoes and get out of the way. The chasers go there and that’s where they get filmed. Tornado chasers don’t generally chase in the South because we have a lot of hills and a lot of trees, and the roads are windy — they don’t go in a grid. It’s really hard to see the tornado across the landscape.

Q. I was impressed with the degree of research you had in your book. How important was research in writing What Stands in a Storm?

Kim: It was everything. I probably spent 80% of my time on research and 20% of time in an outright panic trying to get words on a page. There was so much research that went into it because it wasn’t this straightforward narrative in the sense that the central characters are all victims… There are so many stories that deserved to be told but you can only tell a few without confusing and losing the reader.

I started by getting the weather reports and the tornado tracks and see what towns were hit and then I went to all the newspapers in those towns to look up who was lost and who they were and who was left behind. I felt pretty strong from the beginning that Tuscaloosa was going to be one of my focused towns — one it’s the one people remember. People outside Alabama know Tuscaloosa because of Crimson Tide. It was well documented and also because it was one of my hometowns – I knew it very well.  But I also wanted to tell the story of a small town and a volunteer fire department — a community that didn’t have the well-funded, well-equipped fire department / rescue squads that a town like Tuscaloosa would have. That represents most of the towns in Alabama and most of the towns in the country. They are saving people just the same as people who are paid a full-time salary.

Q. You did an amazing job introducing readers to some of the Alabamans whose lives were forever changed by the storm. What story resonated most with you on a personal level?

Kim: The story of the three college students — Danielle, Will and Loryn. I could relate to all of them in a different way. They were all working so hard to get through school and they were from a small town and close to their families. I felt a great emotional investment in each of them. When I look at my son I think of Will – Will was a brunette little boy who loves his mom. I think about Danielle and how much she just busted her ass to put herself through college, to work, and to fight for her grades. I liked her feistiness and her pragmatism.  She wasn’t going to let anyone bully her sister. I like Loryn’s spirit and the fact that she was just wide open – she had a great head on her shoulders and was the kind of girl who was comfortable in a dress or cowboy boots.

I wanted you as a reader to not know who lives or dies until it happened  for the reason that if you know who is going to die, you keep them at arm’s length and you don’t allow yourself to care about them too much. I wanted you to paint your own faces on these characters.  That’s why there are no photos in the book so that when you did lose them, you really felt like you lost someone you cared about.  My editor was the one who insisted on no photos.

Q. Your description of the destruction from the storm was almost its own character. How were you able to do that so vividly?

Kim: I got my hands on every video I could –so I could feel like I was there. There were some riveting videos. If you go on my website there is a little playlist I created. I read fictional accounts – including Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. She did a wonderful job of describing a hurricane. I studied the heck out of her verbs. I tried to figure out “how did she do that? What did she do there?” I read and re-read The Perfect Storm and Isaac’s Storm.

Q. How did you get your book published by a major imprint?

Kim: I had an agent, Jim Hornfischer, who I met at a literary non-fiction conference in Dallas. I always wanted to write a book and had gone to grad school and wrote a book about two nuns. It just wasn’t the right first book [I didn’t want to be pigeon holed as a religion writer]. I met Jim and I just knew he was the one — a straight shooter. We started batting ideas around for a book. I said, what about this [a story about the storm]? A lot of magazine stories evolve into books. I feel like the emotional response from readers in Southern Living shows how much people needed this story.  When something horrible happens (like a tornado), you’re in just one little spot. I thought it might be helpful and healing for people to understand the magnitude of what happened but also the beautiful things that came from the brokenness. I think it turned out to be the perfect first book. I love science – taking something really complicated and esoteric and trying to make it come alive and be understandable for a lay reader.

Q. If you were going to advise someone who is writing that first book, what pearl of wisdom would you share that you learned from this experience?

Kim: To study structure in other books. Structure is the hardest thing. I didn’t understand structure when I wrote my earlier [unpublished] book – I’m going to have to go back and rewrite it.  I also didn’t understand how book publishing worked. If you are a fiction writer, you write the book and then you find an agent who likes it and the agent helps you revise it and get it into shape and he or she sends the entire manuscript to publishers.

With non-fiction, you don’t write the book – you write a proposal, which is a 60 to 70-page document that lays out a blueprint of your book, including why this book is different. It has a 35- or 40-page chapter outline and you have to explain who your audience is and what your marketing plan is because it’s not enough to write a good book, you have to sell it. Publishers want to know if you have a platform and social media followers. The harder you work on the front end to get the proposal great, the easier it will be on the tail end to both write the book and sell it. You have to chip at it every day. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Also, you never feel done and you can never fact check it enough. I didn’t realize …magazines come with a staff of fact checkers who go behind you and they call your sources and make sure everything you’ve written about them is correct.  Book publishers don’t have that, so if something is wrong, it’s all on you. I actually sold a beloved a mountain bike so I could pay for a National Geographic-trained fact checker.  I ‘m glad I did it.

Q. How many places did your agent send out your manuscript?

Kim: I think my agent sent it out to 10 to 12 big New York imprints of publishing houses. I had two bid on it, including an imprint of Simon & Schuster. The rejections were so nice – they said we love the writing; we love the idea. The flaw they saw is that they didn’t see the characters [because I hadn’t fleshed them out yet], or they said that the story was going to too many places.

Q. How has the book done?

Kim: So far no one has come forward to come forward with a correction. Regionally it’s done well but I can’t get it on the national radar. The other thing I’ll say – this whole NY Bestseller List is a lot of smoke and mirrors. It did well enough in the first two months that it got on one of these narrow sublists of The New York Times – adventures, disasters and expeditions. The Perfect Storm and Isaac’s Storm are still on that list so I imagine it is not that big of a category. But, when that happens you get to put it on the paperback.

Q. How important is social media if you want to reach readers for your book?

Kim: I feel it’s an evil I have to deal with. Honestly it’s one of the hardest things we as authors have to deal with because most authors are introverts and in order to promote a book, you have to put your extrovert hat on. For social media – so much of it feel not very authentic… I’m torn about it.  I feel like you can’t afford to not be on them unless you are Rick Bragg who has never been on them and people don’t expect you to be on them. I enjoy Instagram – I think that’s my favorite of the social channels.

One positive [aspect of Twitter] is you get to dialogue with readers. It’s an interesting reporting tool. You want to hear how people are interacting with your work.  I put out something on all the social channels – where I’m looking for people who had a certain kind of Schwinn bike when they were a kid.  People are posting pictures of their bike. The other way I use it is to put out some of my process of writing. When I went on a writers’ residency where I had to churn out 1,000 to 2,000 words a day, I shared that with my followers. Some days it came easy other days it didn’t. I think people need to see that writing is a lot of work. This is what the process looks like – it’s messy; it’s hard.

Author Bio

Kim CrossKim Cross is a contributing editor for Southern Living and a feature writer who has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of American Travel Writers, and the Media Industry Newsletter. Her writing has appeared in Outside, Cooking Light, Bicycling, Bike, Runner’s World, Parade magazine, Popular Mechanics, The Tampa Bay Times, The Birmingham News, The Anniston Star, USA TODAY, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, and CNN.com. She lives in Alabama.  Connect with her at kimhcross.com

 

 

 

 

Video as Story

Mountain View Group Shares Best Practices in
Digital & Video Communications 

Mountain View Group Principals

(L to R) Thom Gonyeau and Stephen Pruitt, principals with Atlanta creative agency Mountain View Group.

Mountain View Group, an award-winning Atlanta-based creative communications agency founded in 1981 by a documentary filmmaker, wowed professional communicators on Jan. 26 with their insights on the power of video storytelling.

“Story is ultimately about affecting change – it could be change in what someone knows…it could be change in what someone believes…and it could be change in what one does,” Thom Gonyeau, Mountain View Group’s principal and founder told the Atlanta chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) during the organization’s first meeting of 2016.  “Story is the means, and change is the end.”

Gonyeau, a creative storyteller for over 20 years, was joined by principal Stephen Pruitt, as they shared the keys to engaging people’s hearts and minds in today’s video age.

Noting that “a very high value is placed on video content,” Gonyeau cited a statistic from B2B Marketer that over 80% of B2B marketers now rely on video content in their annual communication plans, posting video via corporate websites, YouTube, video blogs and even six-second Vines.  ChiefMarketer.org, reports an even higher percentage of video usage at around 96%.  “In the B2C space, you are talking about 100%,” he added.

Gonyeau called the “holy grail’ of video storytelling is when companies take a long-term approach to their video strategy rather than doing one-off videos.

“One thing we’ve learned is that no one really needs a video. What you need is a solution to a business problem,” said Pruitt, explaining that is how his firm always starts conversations with new clients. “If you start to think that way about your video content or any creative content, you start to think more strategically about your message and what you need that content to do for you.”

Pruitt explained that video isn’t always the best communication tool if one needs to present a lot of detailed information. But it’s a great medium to excite, engage and emotionally connect with people. “Video can stir the imagination – it’s a great vehicle to showcase people, places…it’s also a great way to motivate people to want to learn more,” he said.

One thing is clear, Mountain View Group knows its stuff.  Pruitt said the team tackles an average of 150 projects a year, from corporate videos, animation and commercials to graphic design, communications strategy planning to social media. Last year at the IABC Atlanta’s annual Golden Flame Awards, the Inman Park creative firm won eight Golden Flames for their work.

Gonyeau said there are three ideal times for a video story:  at the birth of a new company, when a company is going through major change, and when it is facing real challenges. In the case of change, video can “bring some certainty to the chaos.” During times of challenge there’s “an incredible opportunity to use story in an authentic and purposeful way to get your message out there,” he said.

Mountain View’s team of 15 full-time creatives takes a process-driven approach to helping their clients strategically think about their video project. They start with the “Creative Brief” – a consensus-building tool that enables client and agency to jointly define the project deliverables and the purpose and objectives, including audience and key messages.

Gonyeau considers the purpose and objectives “the real meat” of the brief.  It’s where he asks clients, “Why this?” “Why now?” “What’s changed?”  It’s also when the agency helps the clients define the creative challenge of “What do you want the audience to think, feel and do?”

From the Project Brief, Mountain View’s team defines their client’s story. A storytelling worksheet helps the process along – it embraces the classic three-act screenplay structure, including the concept of a hero.

An important detail is distribution of the video, leveraging a company’s internal and external social media, video and PR channels. “Too many people leave this as an afterthought,”   said Pruitt.  “When  you tell stories with video, you are making an investment and you want to make sure you are getting the most out of that investment. Creating a multi-channel distribution plan is the way to do that.”

He advised, “Look at what the core communication channels are to reach the target audience, whether it’s internal, external, corporate marketing, PR, social media. You can figure out which ones to take the most advantage of and which ones you didn’t think of to get this message out. Then, once you have the distribution plan mapped out, promote it.”

Mountain View’s principals then shared examples of their agency’s video work from clients such as Coca-Cola, Raytheon and GE.  Check out videos showcasing:

The two presenters summed up their talk by sharing a quote by Seth Godin: “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”

Following the presentation, communication pros shared their impressions:

  • “I loved the talk and the Creative Brief leave-behind in how to construct a story. Very worthwhile!” – Scott Dixon, President, CATMEDIA
  • “The most valuable takeaway from the talk was the necessity of doing a Creative Brief and to know the one key message you’re going to give. In my experience working as freelancer for corporate clients, we sometimes forget to ask, ‘What is your objective?’ ‘Why do you need a video?’”- Elisabeth Holmes, The Writing Studio
  • “The point that no one needs a video; what they need is a solution to a problem, really stood out for me because it brings everything back to the business and keeps us focused, allowing us to drive the business forward. “ –Uzo Amajor, Internal Communications Manager

Book Marketing: What’s Your Strategy?

book-marketing

By Anita Paul Henderson, The Author’s Midwife

Writing your book is the hard part, right? Well, if you’ve completed your manuscript, had it published, and started down the road of sales and marketing, you know the previous statement is absolutely not true. Marketing is the hard part, as any experienced author/writer will tell you. Trouble is, most writers don’t have a clue how to market their book. You’re a writer, after all, not a marketing specialist.

Marketing, however, is THE most important aspect of book publishing, and the one that receives the least thought and attention from the writer—the one who will ultimately do the marketing. Yes, you, as the writer/author, will also be the name, face, brand, and executor of the marketing plan for your book. But how do you do that when you don’t know the difference between a press release and a speaker sheet? Not only that, who pays for all of this marketing stuff? Remember, you (or your publisher) have limited marketing time and limited marketing dollars, so you’d better use both wisely.

TigerMarketing—essentially EVERYTHING you do to get the word out about your book—is a big animal, and you have to tackle it one bite at a time. So think strategically and know the ultimate result you’d like to have with your book. To get started, consider these points:

Know your target audience. Trust me, your target audience or ideal reader is not EVERYONE. Narrow it down to the one person who would get the most from your book or who would enjoy it most. Think of your book as a service to others. Which person or person type would be best served by the content of your book? Describe him/her as thoroughly as possible.

Seek and find. Knowing your target audience helps you determine where to find him/her. Determine what blogs, podcasts, magazines, radio shows, venues, activities, social media sites, etc. your target audience most enjoys. Visit and engage within these outlets in the form of visits, posts, comments, likes, shares, etc., then determine if your limited marketing dollars would be well spent there based on the response you receive from the audience.

Identify your big wow. What is the ultimate result you want to accomplish with your book? Make wow_rt_red_Tit measurable. Is it number of book sales, dollars earned, clients booked, speaking gig invites, media exposure, awards won, or something else? There are no wrong answers here. Just know what you want, assign a number and timeframe to it, and go for it.

Get some help. There are few things worse than watching someone struggle to do something when getting help would make it so much easier. Marketing is one of those things. Why struggle to build a website, apply for awards competitions, submit news pitches, post regularly on social media, schedule book signings, and more when there are experts who can do these tasks much faster and with a greater level of professionalism than you can? Hiring professional marketing help is probably the best investment you can make in your book project.

how-market-your-book-free-nicole-antoinette-paperback-cover-artThere are thousands of ways to market your book. In fact, in my book, How to Market Your Book Free, my co-author and I include 101 no-cost ways to do so. But really, you only need to execute a handful of marketing strategies that make sense for you, your target audience, your team, and your budget. As you develop strategies for your book marketing, consider the following:
• Appearances/book signings/speaking
• Articles
• Awards
• Blogging (guest or host)
• Contests
• Family, friends, fans
• Podcasts (guest or host)
• Public relations, media interviews
• Radio shows (guest or host)
• Retail stores (think outside the bookstore)
• Social media
• Website

These are only a few strategies to consider. Choose the one(s) that work best for you, then develop a plan to get results.

About Anita

Anita Paul.0168Anita R. Paul Henderson is known as The Author’s Midwife. Through her Write Your Life program she coaches professionals and entrepreneurs to develop engaging book content, publish it, and market it for success. She is co-author of five books, including How to Market Your Book Free and Publishing as a Marketing Strategy. She is also co-creator of Write Books That Sell Now, a digital program to help authors write, publish, and market their self-published books. She can be reached at www.WriteYourLife.net.

Dream Decoder: Lauri Loewenberg & the Meaning of Dreams

Dream on It
As a girl, Lauri Quinn Loewenberg loved to watch astronomer Carl Sagan host  “Cosmos,” his TV show based on his bestselling book that explored the universe.
“He was my first crush at age 5. He was so handsome and I loved how he spoke,” recalls Lauri, a

Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan

holistic counselor and a leading authority on dream psychology. As author of the 2011 book, Dream On It, Lauri helps people interpret the meaning of their dreams so they can live more fulfilling lives.

“I want to be the Carl Sagan of dreaming. Just as he helped people to easily understand the universe, I want to help people to easily understand dreaming… our inner universe.”
Below, she shares her process of writing her book, now available in 10 languages, and which continues to garner significant media interest with major news outlets such as Dr. Oz, Anderson Cooper 360, The View, Good Morning America and The Today Show.

 

Q. What was the most memorable dream you ever had?

Lauri: There’s two. One propelled me into studying dream analysis and psychology because I wanted to know why. About two weeks after my grandfather died, I dreamed of him and in the dream I knew he was dead. I asked him, “What’s it like where you are?” He said, “I can’t tell you. All I can say is it is secure.” Then he hugged and went up the staircase and I woke up. I could still smell his Old Spice. It was such more than a dream – what was that?

The other dream was a lucid dream, which is where you are in the dream and you know it’s a dream. This one was after my second miscarriage and I was deep in a depression. I tell people when you become lucid in a dream to ask someone a question and see what answer you get. In this dream, there is no one in the dream. It’s just me standing in my son’s bedroom. I wanted to know so I just asked the dream itself, “Is there anything I need to know?” I felt this giant warm hand lift me up and say, “Everything is okay.” I woke up from that dream and I really think it helped in the depth of depression I was in.

One of the reasons dreams are so profound and meaningful and helpful is because your eyes are shut, the lights are out, the TV is off. You’ve turned out the outside world and as you sleep that stream of consciousness you’ve had with yourself all day goes deeper and deeper into yourself so when you are in the dream state, you are thinking in metaphors and symbols instead linear with words, so you don’t have distractions – you don’t have the phone ringing, or this talk you have to have with yourself. It’s your brutally honest core – a lot of people think dreams are the language of the soul. That’s a great expression.

Q. What made you decide to write this book?

Lauri: I had self-published two books before this one. I had been doing radio to promote my dream interpretation services for about 10 years and everyone would ask me, “Do you have a book?”

My first two were self-published and then a literary agent came to me and said, “I would like to get you published-published. “ Literally a month after she came to me we got a deal with St. Martin’s Press. I was out there a lot in radio and print so she thought I would be a good author for the book.

Q. What do you want people to get out of Dream on It?

Lauri: A couple of things – one, I want them after reading the book to have no doubt whatsoever that dreams have meaning. I want them to start paying attention to their dreams. Dreaming is a natural function of the brain.  It’s your core authentic self. Your dreams are there to guide you through every single step of your life. Every little detail in your dream relates to your waking life. So if you pay attention to them, you will get a huge edge in life; you will live the life you were meant to have. Don’t ever disregard any dream you ever have.

The more horrible the dream, the more important it is. I have a very big chapter on nightmares because the nightmare is connected to our most difficult issues – the issues we mishandle and the issues we ignore. That’s the thing about dreams – you can turn a blind eye and pretend something is not going on all day, but when you go to sleep you are forced to face it and work it out.

Q. How has the field of dream psychology changed since you began doing this almost two decades ago?
Lauri: In the beginning I would get a lot of pushback from some people. One sect would say, “Only Jesus can interpret your dreams.” Another sect would say, “It’s only random misfiring’s of your brain. People have been so closed off to the possibilities that there is something to dreaming but in the last decade, it has Lauri Loewenbergchanged dramatically –way more people are open to their dreams having meaning than they used to be.

Q. What’s been the most surprising aspect of all your research for Dream on It?

Lauri: I hear the craziest stuff as you can imagine. The most surprising thing to me is how our dreams are such a renewable resource of wild and crazy imagery. The dreaming mind is so deep and creative, and it’s always coming up with something new. Even with all the thousands of people I’ve worked with over the last couple of decades, there’s always something original that I never heard before in a dream. It’s just amazing how deep the mind can go.

 

Q. What was your writing process like?

Lauri: It was a nine-month deadline, and they gave me free reign in terms of how I wanted to put it together. What I wanted to do differently with this book than the first two books was to do the chapters in categories – how different types of dreams are connected to a different part of your life.

  • The animal chapter dream is all about how the different animals in your dreams are connected to your different behaviors.
  • The people chapter dream is all about how the different people in your dreams symbolize different roles you play in life.
  • The house and home chapter dream is all about your state of mind and your self-image. So each category of dream can be connected to a different part of the self.

Q. Is there one category that is more dominant? What do people most commonly dream about?

Lauri. I would say people are the most popular themes in dreams. It can be anything from a celebrity to a classmate you haven’t seen in 20 years, so this chapter teaches you how you can find out what part of your personality that person is symbolizing.

Q. How important is storytelling to getting points across in your book?

Lauri: I think it’s really important because there’s two layers of storytelling the book. One is the dream itself is a story. The dreams I feature in the book have a storyline, a main character, a conflict; they don’t always have a solution, but they have a timeline. The other layer of storytelling is telling the story of how the dream reflects the person’s personal story right now – where they are in their life; what’s going on in their life, so you kind of get two stories in one with each dream I cover.

 

Q. Why do some people never remember their dreams?

Lauri: They don’t give themselves time to remember. Creative people – the writers, the musicians, the artists – have great regard for their dreams – they’re going to remember them more. Your left-brain people – your investment banker, don’t remember their dreams as much. That’s not to say they can’t start remembering — you just have to give them time in the morning when you wake up.

Before you even roll out of bed, you want to stay in the same position. Don’t move; give yourself three to five minutes still time. Don’t think about anything. Stay quiet and the dream will come back to you. Make this part of your morning routine and you’ll start remembering all your dreams.

Q. How do you handle the science of your discipline – explaining it to people in a way where you won’t lose them?
Lauri: I only touch on briefly in the introduction of what’s going on in the dream physiologically just to give it a foundation. Dreaming is a very complicated process – the falling asleep and waking-up process is also very complicated – turning off certain parts of the brain and waking up others. I briefly talked about how different parts of the brain are active during the dream state so you can better understand why dreams are the way they are.

One of the questions I’m asked all the time is, “If dreams really had meaning, why don’t they say what they mean?” Here’s why: your brain is working differently when you are in REM than when you are awake. Your rational linear thought, which is controlled by the frontal cortex of the brain is dormant, which is why dreams don’t always seem in a straight line. The medulla, the emotional center of the brain, is hyperactive – that’s why dreams can be so vivid.

Q. You’ve been very successful marketing your book. Any tips on how authors can get media exposure?

Lauri: I started in radio. That’s a great start. You’ve got to be media savvy and not just talk about your book. With a non-fiction book, you have to make it engaging between you and your interviewer. You want to make it relatable to viewers and listeners. The good thing about my book is people do dream and wonder – I had that built-in going for me.

I wrote this book back in 2011, but I can still use it to get on interviews but I can tie in to what is going on in the news such as when Robin Williams died. I let media outlets know I could talk about the warning signs that dreams give you that you are heading into a depression. For example, we all dream in colors. But, if you are going through a very depressing time, the dream will be in black and white or the colors will be muted. You’ll dream of rain; you’ll dream of storms; you’ll have a lot of the color blue, because that is symbolic of the blues. Someone in your dream (or you) will be crying.

You also need to ask yourself, “Can I be a good call-in guest?” Radio stations love that. It’s not as popular on TV. Some TV shows will do viewer dreams, but usually TV is just you and the host talking back and forth. Radio loves it when you can be a guest who can drive calls. What I’ve been doing this for 15 years is that format of radio interview. People call in and tell me their dreams and I interpret them live on the spot.

Look for how to make yourself  the perfect guest for call-ins. For example, if you are a Feng shui expert, have people call in with their design problems or even their personal life problems and you can tell them how to re-arrange their room to fix their love life or bring in more money, etc.

Q. Is radio really the way to drive book sales rather than doing in-person appearances on TV or book signings?

Lauri: For me radio has been fantastic. National TV, not soRadio-Talk-Show much. I can get more book sales from one decent market like Dallas or Chicago than I could doing a segment on Dr. Oz.

Q. Social media is very important for every author. Has it played into your strategy?

Lauri: Yes, and thank God for Facebook because it actually helped me write my book. I’ve been doing this for so long so I have hundreds of dreams on file. When I started writing and dividing my manuscript up into topics, instead of going through all my files, I just threw a question on Facebook. I asked, “If you had a nightmare about a murderer or a demon, I want to hear from you.” And people lined up with their dreams. It made it so much faster. I have 48,000 fans on Facebook. I used both my fan page and my personal Facebook page for research.

Q. Which social media platforms are your preferred channels?

Lauri: For me, Facebook is fantastic – it helps me even in my pin-up portrait painting business. I got 100% of my pin-up portrait clients through Facebook. I paint women as a pin-up model, vintage style or modern.

# # #

About the Author

LauriLauri Quinn Loewenberg is a Certified Dream Analyst, syndicated columnist, author, popular radio personality, speaker and member of IASD, the International Association for the Study of Dreams, an international organization whose purpose, is to conduct and encourage research into the nature, function, and significance of dreaming.

She spent much of her childhood keeping a dream journal in order to capture all those wonderfully strange adventures she experienced every night.  One night, after she had a dream where her deceased grandfather visited her and gave her a life-changing message, she decided to dedicate herself to finding the answers we all seek within our dreams.

Lauri studied Dream Psychology and became certified as a Dream Analyst under the tutelage of Katia Romanoff, Ph.D. in 1996.  She has since analyzed and researched over 75,000 dreams from people of all walks of life from all over this planet.

An avid artist, Lauri resides in Tampa, Florida, with her “strikingly handsome husband and very loud son.” She holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do in order to keep them both in line.   Read more about Lauri at: www.lauriloewenberg.com.

dream-life-

 What do People Dream About?

 Below, Lauri Interprets Common Dream Experiences & their Metaphors for Real Life:

  • Falling down — usually connected to some letdown in real life; something you were
    looking forward to fall through, or perhaps when someone let you down. It can also be a heads-up of depression.
  • Flying — it’s a great dream – the most common childhood dream; it tapers off as we get older and life gets harder. We lose that happy-go-lucky, carefree childlike side of ourselves. As an adult you’ll have this dream when you’ve accomplished something and feel you’ve reached a high, or when you have freed yourself from something that’s weighed you down. Really successful people get this dream a lot because they are always trying to get higher and higher.
  • Seeing someone you’ve lost — psychologically speaking when you dream of someone right after their death, it’s part of the grief process. When it’s years down the road, they could symbolize a part of you. Dreaming about the mother you lost could symbolize how you feel about being a mother. Dreaming that she is dying or you can’t get to her could symbolize like your losing touch with your maternal instincts. If she’s helpful, you could be doing a really good job with your child.
  • Teeth falling out of mouth  — it’s a common recurring dream and it relates to communication.  The most common one is teeth are falling out and you’re trying to hold them in. That’s usually connected to saying something you wish you hadn’t and wanting to put it back, whereas the crumbling, crackling, breaking teeth is connected to weak speech – maybe you didn’t stand your ground well in an argument or get your point across; you didn’t say what you wanted to say well enough.

 

Crime Thriller Writer Shares his Process in Time for July 15 Writing Workshop

  

LeeGimenez_Picture

The inspiration for Lee Gimenez’s first novel, Azul 7, was a SciFi short story that he first got published in Nature magazine.

“I was writing sequels to my short stories,” recalls Lee, a retired technology marketing executive and military veteran. Lee says he always wanted to write books and began pursuing his craft in earnest back in 2006. He has published 11 novels over the last decade — the first five were Sci-Fi-based and the more recent ones fall under the genre of present-day mystery thrillers.

“I got to the point where I like writing about things happening now – real places,” says Lee, who strives to publish one book a year.

His 2014 novel, Killing West, is about a CIA operative named Rachel West. “It was the first time I had a woman in the lead,” he says.  “The reason I wrote it is that a lot of my readers are women – in fact, 75% of all fiction books are bought by women.”

Common elements to all his books, which have a following in the US and internationally, are “a nice cover, snappy title and compelling characters.”

One of his more popular characters is J.T. Ryan, an Atlanta PI, who does contract work for the FBI.

“I always begin with a ‘What if’ [scenario],” he says.  With Killing West, the ‘what-if’ question is: “What if a person controlled the internet?”

With his 2015 thriller, Skyflash, Lee poses the question, “What if there was a perfect wonder Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00009]drug that could cure disease, old age — everything that ails humans?” Of course, there are some side effects with it, Lee adds with a chuckle.   “I try to have conflict at the end of each chapter and to cliff hang my readers at the end of each book (to set up the next novel).”
After crafting the what-if question, Lee writes a succinct synopsis of his novel.  “If you can capture your story in one or two paragraphs, you are a third of a way done,” he says.

He’s a big advocate of GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict book by established publisher and author  Debra Dixon, co-founder of BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books.  Lee says he sets up his story on page 1 – often in the first line.

An MBA grad with a career doing marketing for companies like Verizon, Lee knows how important book marketing and promotion are – he’s savvy and successful at garnering social media fans, recently crossing over the 47,000 threshold of Twitter followers.

“I attribute it to following other writers,” says Lee, who has to limit his time on Twitter to a half hour a day if he wants to meet his writing deadlines. He advises writers to make good use of hashtags such as #books, #bookbloggers, #bookclub, #amwriting to get their tweets found by other authors, readers and book reviewers.  He’s even created hashags for some of his more popular characters (#JTRyan).

“Marketing is one of the most important things you can do as a writer,” he says. Lee is constantly thinking about his readers when considering the cover design and the titles of his books – he opts for shorter titles and one simple, dominant image on his book covers rather than elaborate scenes because people who are perusing books on Amazon will only see a thumbnail image of the book.  “You have to start talking about your book before it’s out but that’s a two-edged sword – pre-promotion to get people excited about your book, but it’s important not to reveal too much or you risk someone stealing your idea.”

He uses his own travels and experiences in technology to bring realism to his stories.  In SkyFlash, several scenes take place in Juneau, Alaska, as well as Colombia, places he’s visited.   In contrast, Killing West takes place in Helsinki.  Lee says he enjoyed walking around the city and talking to lot of people to get ideas for his story – noting that it was easy to do so since a lot of people speak English.  Another city that factored into his writing was St. Petersburg, Russia, which he visited four years ago.   “When I write a scene about a place, I look at street maps and the intersections – I give it a page or a half page of description. It really helps add color and mood to my writing.”

Lee is also a big believer in using all five senses in his novels – and he deftly integrates his characters’ experiences through sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing into every chapter.

His final advice to aspiring writers? “Never give up. Even when things are not going the way you hoped. I had to send 86 query letters before my first book was picked up.”

________________________

About the Author

LeeGimenez

Lee Gimenez is the author of 11 novels. His latest thriller, SKYFLASH, was published in 2015 and is a new J.T. Ryan novel. Several of his books became bestsellers, including The WASHINGTON ULTIMATUM and BLACKSNOW ZERO. His thriller KILLING WEST was a featured novel of the International Thriller Writers Association. His books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Apple Store, Books-A-Million, Books In Motion, and many other retailers in the U.S. and internationally. Lee is a member of International Thriller Writers (ITW) and the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA).

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Georgia Tech University and a Masters degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University. After college, he served as an officer in the U.S. Army. During his business management career, he worked for three Fortune 500 companies: Verizon, Tech Data, and M&M Mars. For more information about him, please visit his website at: www.LeeGimenez.com. You can also join him on Twitter (@LeeGimenez), Facebook, and other social media sites. Lee lives with his wife in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

Lee will be at this year’s Decatur Book Festival being held in Atlanta Sept. 4-6, 2015, as a panelist on the Mystery Thrillers Panel.

Atlanta area writers can also sign up for his upcoming writing class, “Ten Steps to Writing a Successful Novel.” The class will be held at the Jera Publishing office in Roswell, Georgia, on July 15th at 6:30 p.m. The cost is $10, and will feature tips and illustrated with writing examples from his own eleven novels and from bestselling authors such as Steve Berry, James Patterson, and David Baldacci.   For more information or to register, visit:  http://www.self-pub.net/blog/event/ten-steps-to-writing-a-successful-novel/.

iPads, Marching Band and College Football: OSU PR Guru Brings it All Together

Ohio State University's Marching Band.

Ohio State University’s Marching Band.

When it comes to pitching stories that media love, fellow Dayton, Ohio, native Patricia (Patty) Allen is one of the best PR people I’ve had the privilege to call both a colleague and a friend.

As Ohio State University Fisher College of Business’s associate director of Communications, Patty FisherLogo10is responsible for cultivating media relationships for Fisher, and for supporting the social media and institutional communications at this top 25 business school. A multi-talented storyteller, Patty was instrumental in helping me understand Fisher’s environment when I wrote two Fisher annual reports, one of which received a PRism Award from the Columbus chapter of PRSA. Her support laid the foundation for me to secure writing work from other Executive Education clients nationally.

Today, as part of my month-long celebration of my clients’ storytelling journeys, I talk to this accomplished media storyteller and Ohio University journalism alumnus about her approach to media pitching, the state of journalism and the PR field,  and how her experience as a journalist has helped her be successful.

Q. Why do former journalists make the best media relations people?

I was hired by NCR when it was owned in the 1990s by AT&T, which had a reputation for hiring news reporters. So I was lucky to get in at NCR as they were following AT&T’s lead in hiring. As a former reporter, obviously I knew what other reporters looked for in stories and what their editors look for in stories.

Q. How has your newspaper reporting equipped you to do PR – authentically?

I was able to look at press announcements and story pitches before I executed them and understand what would sell to reporters and editors because I had been in their shoes. Also, inside of the corporation I was able to use my news hound skills to find the stories that would resonate with people in my former field.

Q. Traditionally there has been tension between PR and media folks – do you think that’s changing?

Yes, it has definitely changed. I’m a member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). I remember after I had become a PR person and made the switch, I felt like both a traitor and an outsider when I attended national conferences. As the years went on and as newspapers were in decline, both journalists from print and broadcast were losing their jobs and finding it more difficult to obtain jobs in the field. So by the early 2000s and on, I remember attending the NABJ national conferences and instead of feeling like a traitor or an outsider, people sought me out trying to learn from me how I made the transition.

Q. What are the most common mistake media relations folks make that alienate them from journalists?

Forgetting that it is not just the reporter you have to pitch the story to, but it is the editor who ultimately makes the decision of what ends up in print or on the air. Sometimes it is giving them way too much information from the organizations side they represent and not recognizing the need to be concise and, most importantly, relevant to both audiences of the news organizations. As much as telling the story from our organization’s standpoint and providing that information, an important part of the practice is looking on the outside of the organization you represent and finding the bigger trends and answering the question why should the public care about a certain topic or issue being pitched.

Q. So much of what we all do is story tell – how do you tell stories that the media will want to cover/ write about?

I develop the story from the audience perspective as well as from my organization’s perspective.

For instance, my recent successful pitch to Bloomberg Businessweek Online was about the use of the iPad by the marching band. While Businessweek was looking for stories about tailgating traditions or ways to use tailgating to attract b-school alumni, I took another approach in pitching a story about football season and talked about the Ohio State half-time show. Ohio State had a business student in the Marching Band who had convinced university administrators to adopt iPads to reduce paper waste for printing music and halftime show choreography for the band. The student was able to use lessons he learned in his business class to draw up a business proposal. So instead of being lumped into a story about football season at business schools, I was able to present a story to Businessweek that illustrated a talented business student using b-school curriculum to improve efficiency in his extra curricular activity. So we achieved a separate story, which received prominence from the rest of the business schools who were lumped into a bigger story about college football season.

Ryan Barta, during the media blitz surrounding the iPad initiative. Photo courtesy of OSU/Fisher.

Ryan Barta, during the media blitz surrounding the iPad initiative. Photo courtesy of OSU/Fisher.

Q. How do you leverage social media to reach / influence media?

While producing the iPad story for our internal use, we also developed great visuals utilizing our video team. So we had other great assets that we used on our YouTube channel and Facebook page that we made available to reporters as links to enhance their story. There was a mutual benefit for both the media and for Ohio State. We were able to provide video of our story that they could use on their website. The fact that the video appeared on The Chronicle of Higher Education website drove new audiences to Ohio State’s social media vehicles.

Q. What’s the best compliment you ever received from a journalist?

It’s a great compliment any time a reporter says, “Thank you — you gave me everything I need so quickly.”

 In this age of fast-paced online journalism, where news staffs are lean, speed and responsiveness are critical. Reporters atmost news organizations, even the national media, have scaled back so much, they don’t have the resources to spend on hiring photographers or videographers (especially if the story is not in their backyard) to allow them to capture visuals. Already having those assets available to them makes putting their story together much easier. So, I’m often complimented on the fact that I provide them with every aspect and asset of their story — not just people to interview, but also the images that are readily available to help them do their best job in telling a story.

About Patty Allen

PattyAllen

 

 

Patty has worked in the communications and public relations field for nearly three decades. After beginning her career in corporate communications at NCR and AT&T, the last 15 years, she has served in higher education communications first at New York University, then Princeton University before her current position at The Ohio State University. A cum laude graduate of Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, she worked for more than five years as a newspaper reporter in Massachusetts and Ohio, including at the Cape Cod Times and The Dayton Daily News. Follow her on Twitter @PattyAtFisherPR.

Social Storytelling: Cbeyond’s 31 Days of Yammer

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Rashida Powell and Amy MacKinnon led Cbeyond’s employee engagement campaign on Yammer.

I’m marking 14 years as a storyteller to organizations by celebrating  my clients’ storytelling journeys. Today, I turn to Cbeyond, a leading business technology ally, to learn about its innovative use of enterprise social networking. 

Cbeyond’s character and culture have long embraced engaging employees, through the example of Cbeyond’s Founder Jim Geiger, who talked about his company’s character-driven culture and the role of communication at a September 2011 IABC Atlanta meeting. Jim founded Cbeyond in 1999 out of a desire to change the dynamic for small and mid-sized businesses under-served by other communications providers.

It’s not surprising that Cbeyond became an early adopter of social enterprise networking tools to bring employees together, deploying Yammer company-wide in October 2011. Within a year, its Yammer community swelled from 400 to 1,600 members.

“Our vision for our social enterprise network is to help Cbeyonders collaborate more across functions, manage projects better and create a community. At the corporate level, we use Yammer to create a dialogue around our corporate strategy and initiatives – it’s all about being more transparent and open about what we’re doing,” says Amy MacKinnon, Cbeyond Internal Communications.

cbeyond-screenshot2For Cbeyond’s one-year anniversary on Yammer, the internal communications team  unveiled “31 Days of Yammer”, a highly engaging campaign that included a host of activities, from daily tips to weekly contests such as the “Get Your Yam on from ANYWHERE” contest, where employees were encouraged to download Yammer’s mobile app.   

The month-long celebration coincided with Cbeyond’s annual “Week of Service” held in October when employees from all 15 markets engage in volunteer activities in their communities. They were encouraged to post pictures of their volunteer efforts using the #2012WeekofService tag.

“Uploads on Yammer hit the roof that week,” recalls Rashida Powell, then-manager of the Yammer channel for Cbeyond, adding that adoption rates of Yammer have continued to grow.

yammer-logo-ps3Yammer’s own blog credits Cbeyond’s “31 Days of Yammer” campaign that it covered in 2012 as a best practice for organizations to overcome “business as usual” and continue to create buzz and grow adoption for Yammer after the initial launch.

“This effort was born when Cbeyond celebrated their month-long Yammer anniversary, and has evolved as other community managers were inspired to deliver their own and iterate on the approach,” the blog post stated, citing Manhattan Associates embarking on its own ’31 Days of Yammer’ to uncover great work, celebrate successes and coach employees on working smarter and faster.

Cbeyond has continued to build momentum through feature campaigns in 2013, with themes such as a health-and-wellness for January, celebrating Cbeyond’s Character in February, and Going Green in April to coincide with Earth Day.  

“This campaign was the launching pad for getting really focused on leveraging social enterprise networking as a strategic engagement tool,” Amy concludes.

Irish Indie Author: Making Your Online Presence Your Own

One of Ireland’s most successful self-published authors, Catherine Ryan Howard, recently sat down with The Writing Well to talk about book promotion and social media.  She self-published her first book, a travel memoir called Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida, in March 2010 after failing to find a publisher for her tales of Space Shuttle launches, humidity-challenged hair, Bruce Willis, the Ebola virus and being an Irish girl working in Walt Disney World.  Starting from scratch and using only social media to promote the book, Catherine has sold more than 12,000 copies to date and has since released two other full-length books, Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America and Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing.
 
Below, she shares which social media platform she can’t live without, the three questions every independent author should ask before creating an online platform and the author she most admires for her social media moxy.
 
 

 

Why do indie authors in particular need to connect online with their target audience?
Catherine: Because in most cases, that’s their only opportunity to connect with their audience at all. The first step to selling a copy of your book is to let a potential reader know that it exists. If you’re traditionally published, generally-speaking, there are plenty of opportunities for this to occur without your direct involvement: the efforts of your publisher’s marketing department, a reader happening upon your book on a bookstore shelf, a mention of it in the media. But it’s rare that a self-published book will be “happened upon” in the same way. Therefore it’s vital that the author makes an effort to assemble a band of supporters — or at the very least, mildly interested blog readers or Twitter followers — who will help them launch their book just by spreading the word about it. Personally, I don’t know why a self-publisher wouldn’t do this, as it’s (a) free, (b) fun and (c) extremely rewarding to connect directly with your readers.
In your experience, what is the hardest part of book marketing for indie authors?
Catherine: Self-publishers are at a bit of a disadvantage because since we haven’t been vetted by an established publishing house, we have no credibility. We have to prove to the potential reader that — to put it bluntly — we’re not crap. There’s a number of easy ways to do this, though. Start by not being crap: write a good book, make sure it’s good by getting qualified feedback (i.e. not your mother) and then enlist the services of professionals (editors, proofreaders, cover designers) to help you self-publish it. Then assemble as much of evidence of your not-crapness as you possibly can: send complimentary copies out to book bloggers, do a Goodreads giveaway to encourage reviews there, write a killer author bio that tells us all about your writing history, your achievements and why we’re likely to enjoy your book if we buy it. Then add all this to your Amazon listing, and model it on the listings of bestselling books. Every single thing about you — your book’s cover, your website, your Twitter bio, your e-mail address, even your business cards — should help convince me that you’re a professional writer who’s serious about writing as a career and that chances are, the book you’ve written is good.

What three questions should authors always ask themselves before they create an online platform?


Catherine: 1. Do I really WANT to do this? There’s nothing more obvious than the tweeter who’s only there because someone told them Twitter was good for book promotion, or the blogger who started posting weekly with a book-shaped gun to their head. There is absolutely no point doing this if you don’t genuinely enjoy Blogger, Twitter and Facebook. It won’t work unless it doesn’t feel like work to you.
2. Would a professional author do this? As I said above, you must be professional in every single thing you do. Think of a mega-selling, traditionally published author and go look at their website. Do they have a series of amateur-made trinkets flashing on and off in their sidebar, things that proclaim them to have been awarded “The Loveliest Blogger Award” and the like, just for instance? Do they talk about how annoying their boyfriend is on their Facebook page? Do they tweet people pleas like “PLEASE review my book. I’ll review yours!”? Of course they don’t and so, neither should you.
3. Does my blog look like the example on WordPress/Blogger.com? Blogs aren’t just substance, they’re style too. So if you have a website that doesn’t look much different than it did immediately after you picked your theme from WP or Blogger, then you haven’t made it your own yet — and you should.
 
What are your favorite social media channels for communicating with your audience?

Catherine:  Twitter always wins hands down for me. It’s the single thing that’s made the biggest difference to my writing career and not just in terms of book sales, but when it comes to getting speaking engagements and media coverage too. I also love using Buffer App to make it manageable.

Is there an author you admire for their ability to leverage social platforms? Who really gets this?

Joanna Penn

 
Catherine:  I really admire (British author, digital publishing speaker and entrepreneur) Joanna Penn who was leveraging social media platforms before most of us even knew what that was! I think she’s a great example of the key being in the content; she is absolutely committed to providing her fellow writers with insights into her success. I’m an avid reader of her blog, The Creative Penn
 
(I, too, am a fan of Jonanna’s blog, voted one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers, and one of the Top 10 Blogs for Self-Publishers 2012. She also hosts a podcast every two weeks featuring many author interviews.)