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Maria Perez

I am director of news operations for ProfNet (http://www.profnet.com), a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. You can also find me on Twitter at @profnet

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How to attract members to your online community

Community bulletin boardAuthor Maria Perez is director of news operations at ProfNet, a free service that helps journalists find sources.

I recently attended BlogWorld & New Media Expo, a three-day conference and tradeshow for bloggers, podcasters, Web content creators and social media innovators. I was able to listen in on several content creation and blogging sessions, and have been sharing highlights from a few of my favorites. [See also: "7 deadly social sins," "8 ways to master the list post," "40 content creation ideas for your blog" and "7 don'ts of online community management."]

In this session, four experts discussed their strategies for creating and building a community people will participate in — without spending a lot of money.

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We heard from Lynette Young, CEO of Purple Stripe Productions and founder of Women of Google+; Rob Ludlow, owner of a portfolio of websites that generate over 12 million pageviews a month, including BackYardChickens.com; David Risley, founder and CEO of PC Media; and Scott Fox, founder of the lifestyle entrepreneur coaching community ClickMillionaires.com.

Creating and Building a Community

Be remarkable. “Content is king, but engagement is queen,” said Ludlow. Think of what you can say that is remarkable, that people will comment on. Make sure any time you’re developing content, you’re passionate about it.

Look at your community as a cohesive whole. Risley suggests using a blog to build up the community. Most people overlook the importance of using an email list to get people on the site and interact on it, he added. Use an email newsletter to keep members up-to-date on what’s happening on the site. Otherwise, you’re just counting on them to remember to come back to the site.

Show your personality.  Letting a part of your personality show through is key to getting users to share your content, said Young. Share pieces of you that are not all work all the time. “That is so boring.”

Admit failure. “If content is king and engagement is queen, then trust is the emperor,” said Young. Openly admit failure and defeat online. People want to help. Sometimes, by showing the blemish, it shows you’re willing to not be perfect. As long as you can gracefully recover from that, they’ll respect you more.” Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Added Fox: “If plan A doesn’t work out, there are 25 more letters.”

Reaching your community, Bloggers
ATTRACTING TRAFFIC

Email users. According to Risley, email is the best way to get users on the site. For example, including a “Hot Forum Discussions” section in your weekly email can help pique users’ interest and get them back on the site. You can also see who hasn’t been active on the site in a while and send them an email reminding them of the site and updating the on any changes.

Reach out beyond your immediate circle. There are pieces of your community that have different interests than you do, which means they have different circles that aren’t connected to you. Give them information and knowledge they will want to share with those circles, and you will expand yours.

Try new things. It’s important to throw things at the wall and see what sticks, said Ludlow – but you have to monitor and see what really sticks, and then build on those.

CONTENT IDEAS THAT ATTRACT TRAFFIC

Get to know your community. You have to get to know your community, said Risley. That’s how you figure out the hot buttons. Then, when things get quiet, “light the spark that will open up debate and get people talking and engaging.”

Seek out user-generated content. “User-generated content is one of the sleeping giants of the industry,” said Fox. “And it makes your job so much easier.”

Ludlow agrees. “One of the best things about communities is user-generated content,” he said. Every three months, BackYardChickens.com hosts a design contest for chicken coops people have made. The people in his community love this, because they love to be recognized. In turn, they share on their social networks, which increases awareness of his website. In addition, because people have to register to post their chicken coops, Ludlow then has their email address and can continue to re-engage them.

Google+ iTunes appCrowdsource. Young likes to engage with her community. When she was considering choosing a charity her users could donate to, she asked her community to vote. In addition to getting the community involved, it also takes the onus off of her.

Incentivize members. Give members an incentive to submit content, like recipes. Motivate people to vote on the content, and then package and sell the content (as an e-book, a calendar, etc.). You’re not only generating content and motivating your audience, but you’re also selling that content and monetizing your efforts.

SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS

Look at your stats. Ludlow said that Pinterest is driving half as much traffic to his site as Facebook, yet he hasn’t even done anything on Pinterest. “That shows me I have to pay more attention to Pinterest,” he said.

Go where your audience is. “Yes, I’m a Google+ fangirl,” said Young. “But I don’t believe there’s any one type of place. It depends on the type of media that best engages your audience.” Find that out, and then use it. For example, does your audience respond to pictures? Then use Pinterest. “I don’t care so much about the platform as I do about sharing the content in the way your audience wants it.”

Ultimately, you have to remember your audience and why they’re there.

“You have to get your mindset away from it being a platform for you to being a platform for your community,” said Fox.

You can read more from Maria Perez at her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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7 don’ts of online community management

Author Maria Perez is director of news operations at ProfNet, a free service that helps journalists find sources.

Social media community managersI recently attended BlogWorld & New Media Expo, a three-day conference and tradeshow for bloggers, podcasters, Web content creators and social media innovators. I was able to listen in on several content creation and blogging sessions, and will share highlights from a few of my favorites. [See also: "7 deadly social sins," "8 ways to master the list post" and "40 content creation ideas for your blog"]

In this panel, Debba Haupert, founder of the online community Girlfriendology, shared the seven “don’ts” of online community management:

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1. Don’t do it if you’re not passionate about your community. Managing an online community is not for the faint of heart, said Haupert. You must be passionate about it. Always remember why you started your community. If you do lose that passion:

  • Get to know your community. It will remind you of why you started the community and will help you get back your passion.
  • Look for “wins” to celebrate. Learning to celebrate your achievements will help you remember why you do it.
  • Embrace technology and social media, and how it connects you with your community.
  • Have an “accountability partner” who can help you get back on track.
  • Fake it. There are times when you’re done, tired. Sometimes you just have to fake it.

2. Don’t be afraid to get to know your community. Listen to your community, and don’t be afraid to engage in conversation. Ask them what they think. End every blog post with a question. Know their schedule, their goals, their objectives. Recognize and reward readers who are frequently active on your community.

3. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If you haven’t failed in social media, you haven’t tried in social media. Don’t be afraid to try something new (e.g., Pinterest). Everyone is allowed to make mistakes. “I believe in ‘what the hell’ marketing,” said Haupert. “What the hell, just try it.”Social Media clutter

4. Don’t make it harder than it is. Managing your time is very important. Set time limits for yourself (e.g., limit your time on Pinterest to an hour a day), and actually time yourself. Haupert also shared a few tools that help her manage her time:

  • HootSuite, TweetDeck and Seesmic, social media dashboards that let you manage multiple platforms and profiles.
  • Feedblitz, a service that monitors blogs, RSS feeds and Web URLs for feed publishers.
  • Buffer, an app that helps you share Twitter and Facebook posts.
  • Rapportive, a Gmail add-on that displays social media info about contacts as you email them.

5. Don’t try to do everything. Survey the community to find out their social media habits and manage yours accordingly. For example, if your community is on Facebook, spend more of your time there. Also, prioritize your projects based on your goals, and plan accordingly. Haupert said she uses Marketing Calendar Blueprint to help her plan her time.

6. Don’t get sucked into “time-sucks.” This is where having clear goals and objectives helps. Manage your time on social media. If most of your audience is on Facebook and not Google+, spend your time on Facebook. Stay focused; use a timer to be conscious of your time. Repurpose content across multiple social media platforms. Understand what’s working and what’s not.

7. Don’t keep it to yourself.  You want to grow your community — ask them to get involved. Engage your community. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Is this working? Is it helpful?” Get their feedback. Make it a dialogue. Also, share your knowledge with other community managers.

You can read more from Maria Perez at her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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7 Deadly Social Sins: Or how not to suck on social media

Author Maria Perez is director of news operations at ProfNet, a free service that helps journalists find sources.

I recently attended BlogWorld & New Media Expo, a three-day conference and trade show for bloggers, podcasters, Web content creators and social media innovators. I was able to listen in on several content creation and blogging sessions, and will share highlights from a few of my favorites. [See also "40+ content creation story ideas for your blog" and "8 ways to master the list post."]

MORE on ProfNet
Whether you’re a reporter,
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you can send a ProfNet query
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The opening session, “7 Deadly Social Sins,” was presented by the entertaining Scott Stratten, a well-known speaker and expert on viral, social and authentic marketing (aka “unmarketing”). Here are a few highlights from his presentation:

“Social media is not about being everywhere. You just have to be great where you are.”

And being great on social media only really requires you to be average, added Stratten, “because everyone else sucks.”

Want to not suck at social media? Don’t commit these seven social sins:

1. Gluttony. Engagement is the biggest benefit of social media, said Stratten, so if you’re automating your feeds without engaging with your audience, you’re not being present. The shelf life of a tweet is about five minutes; if you don’t engage with someone who responds to your tweet, you lose the chance to have a conversation.

2. Pride. Posing questions like, “What’s your favorite product of ours?” or “Why do you love our company?” is not the right way to engage your audience. It’s not about you – it’s about them.

7 Deadly Social Media sinsAlso, don’t be the company that allows only positive comments. “You don’t make the rules,” said Stratten. Doing this will only cause people to make fun of you, and that’s the wrong way to get people to share.

3. Sloth. Social media has changed the timeline for responding. Whereas companies used to be able to say, “We will get back to you in 5-7 days,” response time is now measured in hours, if not minutes. “If you’re not going to monitor social media regularly, delete your account,” said Stratten. “If you don’t have the time, don’t do it. If you hate people, don’t do it. Don’t try to have a presence without being present.”

4. Greed. We’ve all seen the ads: “I will get you 1,000 followers for $50.” There’s no shortcut to being social. It’s not a numbers game – it’s an engagement game. If you want more fans, more readers, more shares, create better content.

5. Lust. Stratten reminded us of the cases of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (who accidentally tweeted sexually explicit pictures of himself) and the Red Cross employee who drunk tweeted on the Red Cross Twitter account instead of her own.

Never do anything on social media you wouldn’t want on a billboard that your mom, your priest, your kids will see, said Stratten. But if you do make a mistake, get in front of it. “When it hits the fan,” he said, “it’s not time to hide behind the fan.”

Stratten applauded the Red Cross for the way they handled the errant tweet.

 6. Envy. Stratten puts the “self-retweet” in this category. Don’t only retweet when someone compliments you. Don’t be selfish. Don’t “humble brag.”

7. Wrath. Social media has given people the power. You have to respond when there’s a complaint or a problem.

If it’s a troll, delete it immediately. But if it’s constructive criticism, don’t remove it – reply to it. “It’s a chance to be awesome,” said Stratten.

And if you do follow up with someone privately, make sure you close the loop publicly so it’s obvious you’ve addressed the problem.

Other tips:

  • Apathy is social media’s biggest enemy, said Stratten. For example, so many companies send out untargeted, uninteresting event invites on Facebook that people have become apathetic to all invites, making them irrelevant. “We’re breaking social,” one of the best things of recent years, he added.
  • Be passionate. Any great social site was drive by passion. Pinterest, for example, was successful because it tapped into people’s passions. But then business came and ruined it (e.g., “the ROI of a pin”).
  • Don’t forget mobile. You have to look at your apps through the eyes of your audience. If you make your audience work to see your content, you’ll lose them.
  • Don’t use technology for the sake of using technology. For example, QR codes have such great potential, but “we’re already breaking it,” said Stratten. QR codes on billboards on subway tracks (where there are no phone signals) are one way companies are misusing them. “Every time someone scans a QR code and it doesn’t work, we’re running it.”

You can read more from Maria Perez at her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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8 ways to master the list post, count ‘em

Author Maria Perez is director of news operations at ProfNet, a free service that helps journalists find sources.

I recently attended BlogWorld & New Media Expo, a three-day conference and tradeshow for bloggers, podcasters, Web content creators and social media innovators. I was able to listen in on several content creation and blogging sessions, and will share highlights from a few of my favorites. [See "40+ content creation, story ideas for your blog"]

graphic numerals 1-8We often talk about the science of blogging, but we don’t often talk about the art of blogging — and blogging is most definitely an art. As someone who blogs regularly, I know how hard it is to get people to read blog posts. And let’s be real — it doesn’t matter how good your content is if no one is reading it.

In this session, Nate Riggs, director of social business for The Karcher Group, shared his tips for creating list posts, which he said are some of the most-shared content on the Web (along with how-to’s).

Frameworks

With blogs, the framework (or style) you use makes it easier to stay consistent in your blogging practice. Your content becomes more inviting, readable and memorable, and it helps you stand out in a crowded space.

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Think about it: If all else is equal, including content, the style of your blog posts makes all the difference and can help you get readers. That’s readers, not traffic — there’s a big difference. Readers are going to get you to your end goal.

List Types

There are three different list styles:

  • Simple list: more than 10 listed items (e.g., “101 Ways to…”). Tip: Include backlinks. If you include 20 backlinks, the people you linked to will share it and it will open your post up to more people.
  • Detailed list: less than 10 items. Although it has less items, it includes much more detailed descriptions with each, maybe even paragraphs. Tips: If using paragraphs, bold the first sentence. Long paragraphs are unattractive to read.
  • Blended-media list: non-text based. These are especially easy posts to read because they’re not text-heavy.

 

With lists, the title becomes very important. People are attracted to numbers in the title (e.g., “8 Actionable Tips to Master the List Post.”)

8 ACTIONABLE TIPS

Riggs shares these eight tips for creating list posts. “These are just frameworks,” he added. “It’s important for you to improvise and find your own style.”

  1. Write your list to make a difference for one reader. Write as if you’re talking to one individual person, rather than the whole room. Your writing will have more impact.
  2. Draft your list body first. Think about what your list elements are first, and then write the opening and closing.
  3. Don’t write in a linear format. Use mind maps to develop list elements at random, and then order the list. Take the ideas in your head, dump them into a document, then order them.
  4. Make your lists easy to navigate. Use headers to break up long lists into categories, etc.
  5. Always include the number of listed items in the title, e.g., “50 Ideas for…”
  6. Place target keywords into your list for SEO juice. “Lists are a great way to build keyword density,” said Riggs.
  7. Leave your list incomplete and ask your readers to add listed items in the comments. “Lists aren’t just about teaching someone,” explained Riggs. “They’re also about getting your readers involved.”
  8. Experiment with combining list frameworks. Use different list styles within the post.

Again, it all comes down to getting people to read your posts, and lists are very powerful posts.

“We talk about conversion, but if no one reads your stuff, you’re never going to be successful as a blogger,” said Riggs.

You can read more from Maria Perez at her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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40+ content creation, story ideas for your blog

Author Maria Perez is director of news operations at ProfNet, a free service that helps journalists find sources.

Blogworld2010

2010 was BlogWorld’s Year of the Woman. Photos: Blogworld 2010

Earlier this month, I attended BlogWorld & New Media Expo, a three-day conference and tradeshow for bloggers, podcasters, Web content creators and social media innovators. I was able to listen in on several of the content creation and blogging sessions, and will share highlights from a few of my favorites.

In this session, Rich Brooks, president of flyte new media, a Web design and Internet marketing company, shared nearly 50 ideas on how to find content for your blog:

Research

1. Google AdWorlds: Keyword Tool: Type in keywords (e.g., “gluten-free”) and you get a lot of content ideas in the keyword report.

2. Google Alerts: Set up a Google Alert for keywords in the area you cover.

3. Google Insights: Shows you top searches and rising searches (i.e., emerging trends). “When you’re first out of the gate to write about something, you’re the one who gets cited and gets the traffic,” explained Brooks.

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Whether you’re a reporter,
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All of ProfNet’s services
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4. Google-related searches: See the bottom of any Google search.

5. Google Analytics: Shows you what keywords are most important.

6. Content Strategy Generator: A publicly available Google document that lets you input a keyword and pulls up articles, blog posts, etc., related to your keyword.

7. Social Mention:  It’s like Google Alerts, but for social media.

8. Wikipedia: Look up any topic and scroll down to the Table of Contents, References and See Also sections to generate ideas.

9. Review an industry book.

10. Do a product review.

Unanswered Questions, aka “The Sweet Spot”

11. Questions from customers: Create a Dear Abby-style column and answer the question there.

12. Quora: People pose questions regarding topics in your industry every day. You can use those questions as story ideas.

13. Yahoo! Answers: If you have a gardening blog, for example, check out the garden section of Yahoo! Answers to get story ideas.

14. LinkedIn Answers: “If you’re in business-to-business, you should be there,” said Brooks.

15. LinkedIn Groups: “This is where the best conversations take place,” said Brooks. Join the groups and see the conversations happening there.

16. Competitors’ FAQs: Go through the FAQs, take the questions there, and answer them with your own perspective.

17. Google suggested search: When you type in a phrase, you’ll get suggestions from Google on other searches that were done using the same words you type in.

18. YouTube suggested search: Same as with Google suggested search, but on YouTube.

19. Keyword + “discussion forums”: Type in any topic and add “discussion forums” at the end to see what people are talking about.

20. Keyword Questions: A “freemium” service via which you put in a keyword and get a list/report of the questions people are asking in your market. Tip: “Go broad, rather than narrow, with this one,” said Brooks.

21. Ask.coms Q&A section.

22: Focus.coms business-oriented Q&As.

23. Blog comments – both from your blog and others’.

24. Social Media Examiner Networking Clubs.

Inspiration

25. Get seasonal: Create content relevant to the season, e.g., “What the NBA finals can teach us about…”

26. Prismatic: Looks at what you talk about in social media and sends you a feed of content it thinks you might be interested in.

27: Twitter search: Put in keyword phrases and see what people are talking about.

28: WeFollow: Look at the categories you cover and it will tell you who are the most influential people in that category. See what they’re writing about.

29. AllTop: All the top headlines from popular topics around the Web.

30: Google Trends: Enter up to five topics and see how often they’ve been searched on Google over time. Hot Searches lets you see a snapshot of what’s on the public’s collective mind by viewing a stream of the fastest-rising search queries in the U.S.

31: OpenBook: Lets you do a live-search of Facebook member status updates in real-time.

32: Paper.li: See what people are writing about on the topics you cover.

33: EzineArticles: Search by keyword to see what people are writing about.

34: Amazon “See Inside/Table of Contents”: View the table of contents in any book in your industry to get ideas.

35:  Digg: The latest news headlines, videos and images.

36: SlideShare: “It’s like YouTube for PowerPoint,” said Brooks.

37: Your tweets, retweeted: what you said that people retweeted.

38. eBay: Type in keyword phrases and see what comes up.

39: Flickr

40: Know Your Meme, a website dedicated to memes.

41. Pinterest

42. StumbleUpon: discover new and interesting Web pages, photos and videos across the Web.

43. Delicious: a social bookmarking service.

44: Life – as in real life. Go for a walk. If you get an idea, make sure you write it down right away.

Leveraging Others

45. Invite a guest blogger – it’s good for you and for them.

46. Interview an expert.

Last Straws

If all those still don’t help you come up with ideas:

47. On Google, type in “blog ideas for…” (e.g., “blog ideas for lawyers”).

48: Fiverr.com: Hire someone to write a blog post for you for $5.

You can read more from Maria Perez at her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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Tricks of the trade: Best online tools and apps for writers

Author Maria Perez is director of news operations at ProfNet, a free service for journalists in need of expert sources.

The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) recently held its annual Writers Conference, which featured more than 80 sessions covering a wide variety of topics, from how to write a book proposal to how to break into magazines.

One session, “Online Tools and Apps for Writers,” focused on the latest in online software and mobile apps for research and reporting, and all the ways these tools can improve your productivity and help you promote your work.

Here are some highlights from the session:

SAM GREENGARD, freelancer.

Sam Greengard, author

Sam Greengard

Sam Greengard, author of AARP Crash Course in Finding the Work You Love: The Essential Guide to Reinventing Your Life,” has written for AARP The Magazine, American Way, Discover, Hemispheres, IndustryWeek, MSNBC/MSN Online, PM Network, Southwest Spirit, Wired and others.

As a freelancer, you need to be able to access your data anytime, anywhere, said Greengard. If you aren’t able to access all of your information digitally, you’ll wind up duplicating efforts, which will increase your inefficiency.

Greengard offered three areas to focus on to get to a paperless office:

1. Get rid of every notepad and every pen on your desk. You need to have everything digital, or you’ll be duplicating efforts, which decreases efficiency.

Some of the tools he recommends to get you paperless:

  • Microsoft OneNote or Mac Devonthink Pro, which capture Web pages, drag PDF/Word/Excel files from email. Devonthink also synchs to your iPhone/iPad so you can have that data with you anytime, anywhere.
  • Evernote, a cloud-based content storage service.
  • SOHO Notes, a digital note-taking application for Mac.

2. Equip your computer with the right software, such as Things, a task management program for Mac that lets you create project lists and offers an easy way to keep track of your emails.

Other software Greengard recommends:

  • Microsoft Office. Although Mac Pages is available for Macs, Greengard feels it’s robust enough, and you need something that lets you track changes in articles.
  • A PDF program, like Adobe Acrobat, which has signature capability for contracts.
  • Apps like DocScanner let you take a picture of a document and turn it into a PDF.

3. Make your data available. Like Greengard mentioned, it’s important for you to be able to access your data and documents no matter where you are. Some tools that can help:

  • Apps that give you access to your documents include iCloud, Dropbox, Box.com and Google Drive.
  • Programs like MailTags that let you tag your emails with keywords can help eliminate the cumbersome process of trying to find files or folders.

 

BILL PFLEGING, tech expert.

The Geek GapBill Pfleging is a computer and tech expert and a former director of Internet community for the Lycos Network. He is the co-author of The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don’t Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive.” He covers technology for the Woodstock Times.

Pfleging suggested the following tools to help writers increase their productivity:

  • Lifescribe pen records everything you write and transfers it into your computer. It also records audio in stereo. “It’s a very useful tool,” said Pfleging.
  • CamScanner turns your smartphone into a scanner. You can turn a scanned document into a PDF and email it to yourself or others.
  • WorldCard is a business-card reader. The app scans both sides of the card and turns it into usable text by saving it to your contacts.
  • magicJack is a device that plugs into a USB port on your computer and lets you make unlimited phone calls to almost any phone.
  • Google Voice  gives you one phone number that connects to all your phones. It’s a good tool “so you don’t lose contact and you don’t lose work,” said Pfleging.

 

COURT PASSANT, CBS News

 

Executive Director of Interactive at CBS Newspath

Court Passant

Court Passant is executive director of interactive at CBS News. He was previously executive producer of CBS News on Logo and is a veteran of CBS News, working on the overnight broadcast “Up to the Minute” and managing CBS Newspath.

One of Passant’s roles is to take CBS News into the digital era. He teaches correspondents and producers how to get the most out of their phones when covering news and writing stories. He also helps CBS News staff with their use of social media, including Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Passant said there are hundreds of apps that can help you cover a story or be used as multimedia in your projects. He recommended everyone experiment with the photo apps available for cellphones to bring pictures to a whole new level.

Some tips:

  • Every time you take a picture on your cellphone, the picture is “geotagged.” You can then load them to Picasa Web and create a map with all the pictures, or create a slideshow you can sell to publishers/editors.
  • Invite others to hang out with you on Google+ Hangout, a free way to hold video conferencing. It can also be recorded and played back later.
  • Ustream lets you broadcast live speeches, seminars, breaking news from your mobile phone. You can also interact via social media and live chat.

Other cool apps:

  • 360 Panorama to take panoramic pictures with your cellphone camera
  • iMovie for video editing
  • Audioboo to post and share audio
  • Steadicam, a camera-stabilizing mount for iPhone

 

You can read more from Maria Perez at her blog on ProfNet Connect.


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Looking great on camera: Know your stuff, be picky, be comfortable

Author Maria Perez is director of news operations at ProfNet, a free service for journalists in need of expert sources.

Robert Scoble on camera

Robert Scoble, who launched FastCompany.TV in 2008, certainly looks comfortable on camera. Photo by Thomas Hawk

The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) recently held its annual Writers Conference, which featured more than 80 sessions covering a wide variety of topics, from how to write a book proposal to how to break into magazines.

In the session on “How to Look and Sound Great on Camera,” three experts shared their tips on what you can do to look and sound your best on video.

Here are some highlights from the session:

RACHEL WEINGARTEN 

Rachel Weingarten, founder of the marketing and promotions agency Interrobang, is a style expert, marketing strategist and personal branding consultant. She is the author of “Career and Corporate Cool” and “Hello, Gorgeous,” and is a regularly featured expert on TV shows, including “Good Morning America” and the “Today” show.

The average American watches 28 hours of video a week, said Weingarten, or roughly nine years of their lives. In October 2011, more than 184 million people watched 42.6 billion videos on YouTube.

“People really are hungry for videos,” said Weingarten, “and especially for good videos.”

The first thing people think about when preparing a video is what they should wear, but there is more to looking good than what you’re wearing. In fact, the No. 1 key to a good video appearance is that you exude confidence, even if you don’t feel it, said Weingarten. How do you do that?

Know your stuff. Do your homework, and prepare as much in advance as you can. Know what the set is like. Do as much research on the host as you can, and make the host the focus of your attention. “If the host loves you, the audience will love you,” said Weingarten.

Be put-together. “People make snap decisions,” said Weingarten. “You want them to focus on your knowledge, not on what you’re wearing. For example, there’s a lawyer that loves to wear head-to-toe green suits. People tend to tune out his message because they’re so focused on what he’s wearing.

Be picky. Research every opportunity, rather than accepting every offer. Weingarten shared the story of how she was offered to be on “The Daily Show,” but turned it down because it would not have provided her the kind of exposure she was looking for.

Be comfortable. When deciding what to wear, pick something you’re comfortable in so you are not self-conscious. Otherwise, you are going to be too distracted to do a good job.

NANCY DANIELS

Nancy Daniels is the founder of Voice Dynamic, which offers voice training, voice improvement and public-speaking solutions. Daniels is the creator of the “Voicing it!” DVD training program, which helps clients find their “real” voice and correct problems such as low volume, nasality and childlike tone.

“The way you sound on your answering machine is the way everyone else hears you,” said Daniels. If you don’t like what you hear, there are ways you can improve and find your “real” voice:

Record yourself. Practice by recording yourself in a mock interview session with a friend or colleague. This will help you gauge:

  • The volume of your voice: “You don’t want to speak too softly,” said Daniels.
  • Your accent: You don’t have to get rid of it, but you do have to be understood.
  • Whether you speak with “Valley Girl-ese,” as Daniels calls it. “If every sentence sounds like it ends in a question, you will not sound confident or professional.”

Find the friendly faces. The secret to public speaking, said Daniels, is to treat the audience or interviewer as if you were having a conversation in your living room. Zero in on your “smilers” – they will make you feel more confident.

Learn diaphragmatic breathing. It’s OK to be nervous. Learn to breathe with the support of your diaphragm; it will help you take control of your nervousness. Daniels recently wrote about how to control what comes out of your mouth when you’re nervous.

BRAD PHILLIPS

Brad Phillips is president of Phillips Media Relations, a media presentation firm with offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City. Phillips is a former broadcast journalist and producer, and is the creator of the popular Mr. Media Training blog, offering media and presentation training.

When speaking to the media, remember that your job is not to be comprehensive – your job is to give the public only enough information to take the action you want them to take. Reduce your points to your three most important messages, and support them with compelling stories and statistics.

People will remember almost nothing you say during media interviews, and one of the ways you can combat that is through repetition. “It takes 7-15 repetitions for people to remember your message,” said Phillips.

So what makes a message effective? According to Phillips, an effective message is composed of stories, statistics and sound bites.

Stories: These can be a personal story, an anecdote, a case study or a historical example. It just has to reinforce the theme of your message and make it less abstract and more tangible. You should be able to tell a compelling story in 20 seconds or less.

Statistics: Don’t use raw data; use statistics in a way the audience can relate.

Philips gave this example: “Five million Americans have Alzheimer’s.” That doesn’t immediately make you think, “Wow.”

Try this instead: “Fenway Park seats 37,000 people. It would take 135 Fenway Parks packed with people to hold every American with Alzheimer’s. That’s 5 million people in total. Now, think about the family members caring for that patient. It would take almost 600 Fenway Parks, packed with people, to hold all the patients and family members affected by Alzheimer’s.”

“For most people,” said Phillips, “that statistic is more powerful, evoking a specific image and producing that desired ‘Wow’ response.”

Sound bites: Sound bites are short, wonderful quips that are repeatable – e.g., “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

Other types of sound bites:

  • Simile, metaphor, analogy
  • Witty
  • Rhetorical  questions
  • References to pop culture
  • “Triples” (“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”)

Once you have your messages, prepare for the interview. Create a worksheet detailing each message, and the story, statistic and sound bite for that message. Repeat for each message.

On his blog, Phillips shares more tips on how to create a message: Creating Your Message: A Seven-Part Series.

Q&A: Nancy Daniels, Brad Phillips

Q: When offering statistics, do you need to provide the source?

Phillips: Your goal is to intrigue. In a public presentation, I would stay away from it. Unless it’s core to their understanding, I wouldn’t focus on it.

Q: Which television personalities should we watch that have a good presence?

Daniels: Diane Sawyer – her voice is like a blanket around your shoulders. Listen for the voice that has warmth, speaks comfortably.

Phillips: Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton are both very effective in their own way. Also, Tom Friedman – what I like is that he comes in very prepared, with three or four tight bullet points he can deliver in 20 seconds. One thing I don’t agree with that he does is saying the name of the host – “Well, Diane…” – because you want the audience to think you’re talking to them, and that breaks the connection.

Q: If you make a mistake, should you correct it or let it go?

Phillips: It depends on the nature of the mistake. If it’s a mispronunciation, let it go. If it’s a significant mistake, correct it.

You can read more from Maria Perez at her blog on ProfNet Connect.

1

Freelancers: Breaking through to online business markets

Author Maria Perez is director of news operations at ProfNet, a free service for journalists in need of expert sources.

The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) recently held its annual Writers Conference, which featured more than 80 sessions covering a wide variety of topics, from how to write a book proposal to how to break into magazines.

ASJA Writers Conference

Writing Bootcamp was the theme for this year's ASJA Writers Conference held in April in New York City. Photo: ASJA

One session, “Breaking Through to Online Business Markets,” offered an inside look on what editors from Fortune.com, CNNMoney and DailyWorth.com look for and how you can get their attention.

Here are some highlights of the conversation:

Scott Olster, Fortune.com

Olster is an editor at Fortune, where he oversees the management page of Fortune.com.

There are three primary pillars of content on Fortune.com: finance, technology, and leadership and careers, the latter of which covers anything to do with the workplace. Olster said he is always looking for people with a willingness to “look behind the curtain of the workplace.”

The section offers a mix of service journalism and features. Olster said he looks for stories on companies that are “on the tips of people’s tongues.” He’s looking for novel angles and pieces with a point of view (“reported argument”).

Breaking news and exclusives are usually written by staff writers. From freelancers, he’s looking for interesting, feature-type stories.

Olster said he prefers to get ideas first to get a sense of what is interesting to him. In a pitch, include not just the idea and angle, but also how you’re going to pull off the article (who you’re going to talk to, what the timeframe is, etc.).

Also, hone your writing skills. “We really need your copy to be close to ready. We don’t have the time to rewrite your work,” explained Olster.

Before pitching, make sure to check Fortune.com’s clips to make sure it hasn’t already been covered in the magazine.

Fortune.com pays $400-600 for Web stories, which can range anywhere from 600 to 1,300 words. Word count is not important, said Olster, as long as the story is complete.

Tania Padgett, CNNMoney

Tania Padgett is an editor at CNNMoney, where she oversees the small-business coverage.

According to Padgett, CNNMoney’s small-business section is the only section that uses freelancers, so you have to be creative, and you have to keep your ear to the ground on what people are thinking and saying. What are your friends talking about? What do you want to read about? Don’t pitch a story on “five ways a furniture story can expand its inventory.”

For CNNMoney, “think entrepreneurial, think outside the box,” said Padgett. “Don’t go to consultants, accounts, lawyers. Go to places where there are entrepreneurs, small businesses. Whatever they’re complaining about, that’s the story.”

She cited as an example a CNNMoney gallery on small businesses that were preparing for the end of the world.

“You can be creative,” said Padgett, “and you can touch pop culture — but you have to support it with solid reporting.”

Also, make sure your pitches and articles are free of typos and bad grammar.

“We don’t have a copy desk or fact-checkers,” said Padgett. “This is all on you. When you deliver a story, it has to be clean, and your facts have to be tight. Corrections stink; they make us look bad. Anyone can make a mistake, but content errors, constant typos – I’m just not going to return your calls.”

CNNMoney pays freelancers $.75 per word for 500- to 600-word stories. Slideshows pay $75 a panel, for 5-10 panels.

Founded in 1948, ASJA has about 1,200 nonfiction writers as members. Photo: ASJA

There is room for negotiation, “but don’t try on the first round,” said Padgett. “I negotiate with people who are accurate all the time and can get things done quickly. Don’t try to negotiate after I’ve found 10 mistakes.”

MP Dunleavey, DailyWorth.com

MP Dunleavey is editor-in-chief of DailyWorth.com and contributing editor at Money magazine.

DailyWorth is a personal finance email newsletter for women, to help them grow their net worth. Although its content is archived on the Web, it is not an online publication.

Dunleavey said she is interested in short, pithy ideas of about 200 words, with a strong point of view on a recent news item.

But don’t pitch stories about personal finance (budgeting, how to save on your food bill, etc.). “There are plenty of blogs about personal finance,” she explained.

Instead, pitch stories that offer actionable advice/insights from behavioral economics research and other types of studies relating to money.

When pitching your first item to DailyWorth, include 1-2 lines on what the piece is about, as well as links to other articles you’ve reported before so she can get a sense of your writing.

DailyWorth pays up to $200 per post, depending on the writer’s experience and whether it’s a re-post from your blog.

Q&A – Scott Olster, Fortune.com; Tania Padgett, CNNMoney; and MP Dunleavey, DailyWorth.com

Q: What’s the best day/time to pitch you?

Dunleavey: I’m calmer later in the day (from 4:30 p.m. on).

Padgett: Do not call in the morning.

Olster: Late morning (11 a.m.) and late afternoon (2-3). From 8-10 a.m., I’m probably slammed.

Q: Once a piece is assigned, how quickly do you want the piece?

Dunleavey: Usually within a week.

Padgett: For breaking news, 3-4 hours. For regular pieces, it’s longer. Galleries are 1-2 weeks; profiles are 3-4 days. I’ll only take profiles for My First Million.

Q: Are there categories of stories you have trouble getting?

Dunleavey: We could really use people who can write about investing in a basic but not condescending way – like something small and digestible about the European economic crisis, or the new 401(k) regulations. Our readers also love gift guides.

Padgett: It pays to be hip. Don’t be too corny when pitching related to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.

Olster: We need stuff on big company strategies, big company decisions. We also want stories about professions (the legal profession, the health profession).

You can read more from Maria Perez at her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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