Editorial Calendars for All

You launched a blog, a newsletter, or Twitter account. You had some great topic ideas, and you wrote with great gusto for a week. Then…nothing.

Calendar Work got busy. Sitting down to come up with an idea and writing about it was too daunting. You abandoned it, even though you know it would be a great way to market your business.

But here’s a great way to sustain your effort: An editorial calendar. A what? An editorial calendar is a tool to plan for periodic, relevant, and channel-appropriate communications with your target audiences. You can use one of the many calendar templates available online (including through WordPress, the site of this blog), but you can also create a simple spreadsheet or list. The key is not what it looks like, but how you use it over time.

I use a very simple editorial calendar for my e-newsletter—and have managed to put together an issue every month for more than five years.

Recently, I talked with Dori Kelner, managing partner of Sleight-of-Hand Studios, about how she works with organizations to set up and adhere to an editorial calendar.

Audience and Goals

According to Kelner, basic questions come first:

  • Your target audience(s)
  • Your business objectives
  • Issues that are of interest to them (and not just what you want them to know about you!)
  • Channel(s) to best reach them (blog, Twitter, newsletter, etc.), ideally based on research.

Content can be static (for example, About Us or Contact Us on your website) or dynamic (blogs with new postings, tweets, Facebook posts, and the like). Most content these days should be dynamic. That’s where the calendar comes in.

Creating the Calendar

Using the format that works best for you, develop a calendar of how you will review and update/change the static content (maybe quarterly) and create dynamic content (way more often). Consider:

  • Which channels to regularly use, based on your audiences
  • How often to create (or curate) content
  • Topics
  • Who will do it

Kelner recommends a 4-month planning horizon. Be specific in your dates and assignments. Don’t propose, for example, twice-weekly blog postings. Instead, write out which dates each week, the general topics, and who will write them.

Be realistic, based on available resources. For instance, if you can’t keep up a weekly newsletter, make it biweekly or monthly. Use tools such as Twuffer to schedule tweets that you write in the morning over the course of the day.  

Keeping the Calendar

This is tricky, but it’s why the specificity of a calendar is your friend.

Honor the dates on your calendar as you do other project deadlines. Depending on the size of your business, you may be doing all the content yourself or coordinating the work of others. Either way requires time and attention.

And here’s another important part, Kelner said. Don’t run through the 4 months, then come to a full stop. At the end of the first month, plan for month 5, and so on, so you always have a flow ahead of you, and the task is more manageable.

Tracking

Use analytics to see any changes in traffic to your website. Chances are, if you are true to your calendar, you’ll see spikes in traffic when you post new content and dips when you are AWOL.

p.s. I will be blogging monthly on writing topics that are relevant to small businesses. Yes, I have set up an editorial calendar, but leave a comment here if you have a question or topic you would like me to cover that would benefit you.

 

4 Lessons on Writing for Your Business’s Website or Blog

For a business looking to try something new or different on its website, it’s never been easier than right now.

Adding streaming video, real-time social media feeds and attractive design effects can be simple. And users have the bandwidth and savvy to handle it when they land on a more complex site. There’s never been a better time to experiment.

That said, the simplest element of every website has not lost its importance as web pages have gotten more sophisticated. That element is the text.

I’d like to think that the words you publish on your business website are the most important part of the site (although I understand that some photographers and designers might beg to differ). There’s no doubt that the words play a big part in the impression you make on potential customers and clients, not to mention the search engine spiders that crawl and classify your site.

With that in mind, here are four lessons about writing I have learned over the years. Keep them in mind them when you’re writing for your site — whether it’s the text on your homepage, the staff  bios on your “About Us” page or posts on your company blog. I think they’ll help you make just the right impression.

1. Write the Way You Talk

This is the foundation of all the writing and editing I have done since high school. I learned it from my mom, who suggested this approach as I worked on a term paper.

This lesson does not mean that all of your writing needs to be conversational — although on the web, less formal often works better than more formal.

What it means is you should read the words you are writing as if they are being spoken, and if they don’t sound like something anyone would ever say, try again. Depending on your audience and your goal, the voice you imagine speaking your words could be casual or formal. But make sure the words match the voice and sound natural.

2. Less Is More

There are very few sentences that cannot be improved by making them shorter. (In fact, the previous sentence is probably better written as “Almost every sentence is better when it’s shorter.” That edit cuts out five words — a 38 percent reduction).

This lesson applies doubly on the web, where attention spans are short and competition for information and entertainment is a click away.

In a way, this lesson conflicts a bit with Lesson 1. When we speak, we often use extraneous words — understandably, since we are turning thoughts and feelings into words on the fly. Perhaps Lesson 1 should be, “Write the Way You Wish You Talked.” That’s only two more words.

 

3. A Second Set of Eyes Always Helps

Reporters and writers have editors. Entrepreneurs who are writing blog posts about their business don’t always have that luxury.

But if you can get someone — anyone — to read what you’ve written for your site, either before you publish or after it’s live, it can save you headaches and embarrassment.

Whether you realize it or not, you will have blind spots about anything you write yourself. Readers notice the errors, typos and faulty logic that you miss — so why not have the first reader report them back to you?

If you’re in a pinch and can’t get a second set of eyes, I suggest you read your copy in a different way. Print it out and take a red pen to it. Load it on to your tablet (if you wrote on a PC or laptop) and read it there. Read it backwards (really, this works — you’ll pick up spelling errors you would have glossed over going forward).

4. Don’t Believe in Writer’s Block

You have limited time to write for your site or blog. If you stare at a blank page for long, you might convince yourself you have “writer’s block” and it will take too long. You’ll move on to other things — hey, you have a business to run — and you may never come back to the writing.

There’s no such thing as writer’s block. I know, because every time I faced a newspaper deadline, somehow I found a way to get all the words written in time. If you make yourself write, you will write.

If you’re having trouble getting started, I suggest putting yourself on the clock. Tell yourself, “I have to have six paragraphs written in 30 minutes,” or something like that. It will happen.

You can also avoid the mythical “writer’s block” by collecting ideas. Start a notebook or file on one of your devices where you jot down ideas for good material for your business site. Then when it’s time to write, you have a place to start.

So there they are, four lessons that should help you write for your business site. As good content becomes more and more important on the web, I hope these tips help you make the right impression and explain your business to customers and clients.

I’ve written it before — a website can be beautifully designed, SEO-friendly and quick as Usain Bolt, but if the actual words on the page are sloppy, unprofessional or indecipherable, you’re losing readers (and business).

Jon DeNunzio worked in the Washington Post newsroom for nearly 20 years and now runs Squarely Digital, a consulting firm that aims to make the internet a little bit easier and a lot more profitable for your company. Contact him at [email protected].

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PROBLEM EMPLOYEE – OR GREAT ONE WAITING?

English: emperform

Dealing with performance issues is a critical component of any founder or manager’s job. Since this often involves conflict and difficult emotions, many people put this off. That often means they do not deal with problems until it is too late to effective solve them. Firing and replacing staff is disruptive and expensive at best. Often you can avoid getting to that stage by more effective performance management.

Remember: your success is directly related to the performance of your staff.

What causes inadequate performance?

Far too often, it is failures in the system rather than the person. Management experts from Peter Drucker on, list the most common causes of inadequate performance as:

* employee does not know what is expected
* employee does not know how to do the task
* work processes interfere with good performance
* feedback on actual performance quality is not given to the employee
* there is negative consequence for good performance

These issues must be addressed first if they exist. It starts with hiring the right person for the right job. Orientation to your workplace, systems, and expectations is important too. Looking regularly at how your processes and systems work  to see that they are efficient for your current needs is vital. And so is regular performance feedback.

When an employee does not perform to expected levels, you can succeed in improving the person’s performance if you address the issue as quickly as it is first identified.

Here are some basics on how to do this well.

* accurately identify the problem and the behavior change you desire
* give specific details of the behavior that creates the problem and the impact of the problem on the function or business
* involve the employee and ask for his/her solution

Once the employee has accepted responsibility and you have a mutually agreed plan, be sure you follow-up to ensure it is working well.

On a regular basis, you can create the conditions that help all your employees succeed by your own behavior and practices.  Demonstrate your commitment to helping employees succeed by actively soliciting their ideas for improvements and by encouraging them to grow and develop their skills.  Model the behaviors you expect.  Provide on-going feedback on results.  Say ‘thank you’ when you mean it.

There are many ways to improve your ability to manage people effectively.  Learning to communicate effectively and managing performance are critical first steps to your success.

Join us November 6, 2012 for a Brown Bag lunch on how to handle termination of employment issues effectively.

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