Friday, February 25, 2011

TODAY AT 1PM EST: Borders Closing & Fallout for Writers

Pre-registration is required for this free, one-hour webinar, hosted by Writer's Digest, featuring experts from  leading publishers:

If you're querying agents or publishers, this will probably be a good investment of your time.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Words that Sell & the Semantic Web

For the most part, people communicate in words, and computers do their best to understand us. Now their best is getting better. Now semantic web tools - touted as "the next big thing"in 2001(!) - are really proving their worth as great interpreters (of our search keywords) and the result is...well, happy retailers, at least.

In addition to investing in software platforms that take advantage of semantic searches customers use while shopping online, retailers are also learning that integrating blog content with behind-the-scenes sales tools and including terms shoppers use to find products leads to more "organic" traffic (generated from searches on-site, rather than visitors arriving from off-site) and higher conversion rates.

The difference the words make: Fickle customers decide to buy or abandon a site within a couple of minutes. That means to make the sale, your site has to understand what a customer wants when she types in "small red bag" or "dainty maroon clutch" and figure out that it may or may not be the same thing. At its most basic, a semantics-savvy search engine won't deliver something related to a manual transmission and is likely to counter with a question like "to take to the gym or accessorize evening wear?"

So what does today's more mature semantic web mean to copywriters? If your paycheck depends on using words to sell, you need to understand its behavior well enough to use it to your - and your clients' - advantage.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Photojournalism Still Does the Job

First, look at this.

Freelance photojournalist Jodi Bieber won top prize in the 2011 World Press Photo awards for the striking pose of Afghan woman Bibi Aisha. 

Aisha, 18, suffered Taliban justice when she left her abusive husband. Her punishment for wanting out of the violent marriage? Her husband cut off her nose and her ears. The photo is arresting because it is sickening in a way that cannot be ignored. 

I am completely unable to put the whole story into context; I will never be able to comprehend the deeper meaning, to understand how a society exists that respects the "justice" of the act of violence that made this photo possible. 

This is why photojournalism exists. 

Some messages cannot be conveyed in words.

As I contemplated the winning photo, my head started spinning. Back in the dark ages when I went to J-school (and film was developed in darkrooms) I learned that a good photo could be worth a thousand words; a great photo worth a thousand inches. Of newsprint. 

What is such a photo worth now?

The world has changed; journalism has changed; the world has changed journalism and journalism has   changed the world. (Still spinning.) I believe, and I want to believe, that journalists will continue to work and some of their work will change the world. For the better, I hope. 

Back to the story, the one about the photo. Buried deep, because it can't be the lead - not with a photo like that - is this quote from David Burnett, jury chairman for the awards:
"A lot of the best work is done by photographers who went out and did it on their own. They didn't wait to be sent."

In other words, they were freelancers. In some cases, freelancers commissioned by (the remaining few) powerful corporate news organizations. But they went out and did it on their own.
Burnett's statement leaves me both encouraged and even more worried about Journalism's present and future. 

Unfortunately, as with the photo, I'm left with a only tiny bit of insight, and absolutely no answers. Anyone?

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Jodi Beiber's photo

World Press Photo
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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Updating Your Social Media AND Communications Skills

Here are 3 tips just as applicable to those who were waiting to see if social media would catch on (it did) as they are for those who jumped on the social media bandwagon five years ago. (As it may be time to brush up, or catch-up.)

Inspiration for this post came from an article with the ironic subhead, The last in a series about Facebook. The article was published in 2008. Insert laugh track here. The article proved (once again) that while communications vehicles change constantly, the basics of communication don't.

Whether you're just jumping into Facebook and Twitter conversations or have been participating for years, it pays to observe what's working and what's not, and to borrow liberally from folks in the first category. 

For your consideration:
  • Beyond the Hype offers a good look at what worked - for the administration and the people - in the lastest State of the Union address.  

Takeaway: Keep your message on message, and remember a little humor can help get that message across. 

  • Comcast shows Twitter can be a powerful business tool. 

Takeaway: In business, you are not the message; your service is.

  • The tech journalists at Venture Beat remind PR professionals that lessons learned in Pitching 101 still apply. 

Takeaway: Do your homework, provide your reader(s) with some clear benefits, and be honest.

>>>>and this just in>>>> Know your niche!
R.E.M. hits all the right notes with its free, re-mixable downloads. Read, then mix it up if you want to, here:

-- -- -- --Full urls for hotlinks above-- -- --   
Beyond the Hype's analysis of SOTU message, 

Comcast's Customer Service Twittter feed,

How to pitch to Venture Beat (or anyone else),