Top 5 from 2013

New YearHappy New Year! Best wishes for 2014!

Many thanks to all of our clients, fellow business owners, writers, marketers and PR practitioners who read and enjoy our articles. We appreciate your business, friendship and camaraderie.

In case you missed one, here are our 5 most popular articles from 2013… showcasing a mix of our marketing and social media work, along with freelance writing pieces on regional and statewide levels:

1 – Handmade in PA: Foxxy Moxxy

2 – “Buy Local” this Holiday Season

3 – Everyday Hero: “Angel” Traci Lochbaum

4 – Word Clouds… in the Forecast

5 – 5 Tips for Business Blogs

 

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Blogging… from Battlefields to Bliss

By Karen Hendricks

Welcome to “Gettysburg Social.” Highlighting Gettysburg and Adams County businesses, this bi-monthly column examines the latest social media trends. This article was first published in Celebrate Gettysburg magazine, May/June 2013.

Social media avenues are evolving at the speed of light. New tools and features are constantly being added to our favorite online sites. However, one of the pillars of social media, blogging, has actually been around for a while. The word “blog,” meaning an “online personal journal, reflections or comments” was added to Merriam-Webster in 1999 and was the dictionary’s #1 word of the year for 2004. The blogging “trend” is here to stay!

wordpress-logo-stacked-rgbToday, WordPress has cornered the market on blogging. More than 62 million WordPress blogs have been created worldwide, and since 2011, more than 100,000 new blogs are created daily, according to a handy up-to-the-minute counter on the website. WordPress.com is your source for creating free or low-cost blogs; WordPress.org is home to those who want to create a self-hosted website with a user-friendly WordPress content management system (CMS).

Almost a quarter of all new websites in the world are built with a WordPress platform. Equally astounding? The number of high-profile corporations and celebrities, even Fortune 500 companies, using WordPress. The site claims 15% of the world’s top websites use WordPress, including CNN, NBC Sports and numerous NFL sites.

Closer to home, there are two excellent examples of WordPress blogs using today’s technology, ironically, to talk about Civil War history. From the Fields of Gettysburg is the Gettysburg National Military Park’s blog by park rangers and The Road to Gettysburg is written by staff at the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Interested in blogging? Go to WordPress.com and click on “themes” to browse through the vast assortment of styles and layouts. Since wedding season is upon us, I’ll point out a popular trending theme perfect for brides-to-be: “Blissful Blog.” Has a nice “ring” to it.

For previous “Gettysburg Social” articles, please see:

Springtime Tweets: Twitter

Introducing Gettysburg Social: Pinterest

 

 

Spring Cleaning: 5 Fresh, Budget-Friendly PR & Marketing Tips

Photo Credit: (c) 123RFStockPhotos.com

Photo Credit: (c) 123RFStockPhotos.com

By Karen Hendricks

Spring cleaning isn’t limited to dust bunnies under the bed. Did you know… you may have virtual dust bunnies lurking in your social media and marketing accounts? This is the perfect time of year to freshen up your marketing strategy, evaluate and consider adding a few new marketing tools—all with a budget-friendly approach. Here are five ways to put a little springtime sparkle into your marketing mix:

1. Facebook Facelift: Give your business or organization a fresh look on Facebook by uploading a new top image. This is a great rule of thumb to follow at least once per quarter or season. This instantly sets the tone on your account as a current, relevant source of information. According to a study by Vocus, Facebook fans are a brand’s most valuable customers, with 79% of your fans more likely to purchase your products/services as compared to non-Facebook fans… so give them a fresh “face” atop your latest content. Remember the dimensions for Facebook’s cover image are 851×315 pixels.

2. Blogging Bling: When is the last time you updated your company’s or organization’s blog? According to Blogging.org, 60% of all businesses have a blog, but a whopping 65% haven’t updated it within the past year.  A blog is the perfect example of content marketing at its best—especially if you take advantage of a free, easy-as-pie WordPress account. The only investment is your time spent writing and adding effective images—a key component to higher engagement rates.

3. LinkedIn Luster: It’s been about a year and a half since the professional networking site LinkedIn unveiled its Company Pages feature. Since then, 2.6 million companies have developed company pages, including all Fortune 500 companies. Many small businesses and non-profits have yet to take advantage of this free marketing tool, with valuable access to the 200 million professionals currently on LinkedIn. When you create a Company Page, invite your customers to provide endorsements, share your business news, and begin creating a buzz on a professional level. You can even advertise jobs or scout for potential new hires. For inspiration, check this post on the LinkedIn blog, with tips from the top 10 best company pages of 2012.

4. Add Polish with Pinterest:  Last summer, Mashable reported that Pinterest users were following more brands than Facebook or Twitter users. I think the main reason why, boils down to Pinterest’s focus on images. It’s easier to “see” what you like rather than “read” about your favorite brands, causes or businesses. If you haven’t yet created a Pinterest account for your business or organization—or if you haven’t added new content recently—polish your image with a free Pinterest account. Make sure plenty of your pins link back to your core marketing presence, your website, to ultimately drive traffic to your doorstep.

5. Add email marketing muscle: Don’t discount good old fashioned email marketing! It’s still a wonderfully viable way to engage with and grow your core customer base.  See the Inbound Marketing blog for their recent “23 Tweetable Stats on Email Marketing Trends” and it’s bound to put some spring into your marketing step. 

If you aren’t currently using an email marketing service, consider the following: One of the gold standards in the industry, Constant Contact offers a free 60-day trial period that’s especially helpful for small businesses since the initial free contact list is limited to 100 or fewer contacts. Otherwise, paid accounts on Constant Contact will not break your bottom line, and non-profits receive a 15% discount.  Additional budget-friendly options include Vertical Response, which has a free option for all 501 (c)(3) organizations, and Mad Mimi which offers a free base email program for up to 2,500 contacts and up to 12,500 emails per month. Make sure to dust off your writing skills as well—64% of email recipients say they open an email because of the subject line.

This post was originally written for and published by our friends at Fletcher Prince, a top-ranked DC area boutique public relations firm. Many thanks to Mary Fletcher Jones!

 

 

Handmade in PA: Foxxy Moxxy

By Karen Hendricks

Artists are fascinating and amazing people. Whether they are creating works of art from the world around them or conjuring up works of art from inside their heads… I am completely fascinated with the process. As fun as it is to write about them, it’s equally challenging to capture the true essence of their artwork via photography. And so, it was with great joy that I recently became a writer/photographer for Handmade in PA, a blog from the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen. My column, An Eye for Art, shines a spotlight on central PA artists and galleries.

I traveled off the beaten path for my most recent article, visiting Foxxy Moxxy, the gallery of Adams County artist Bobbi Becker, managed by Carol Novak. It was an inspiring visit on many levels! Click here to read all about it. I highly recommend you visit in person–but in the meantime, enjoy a virtual visit through a bonus photo gallery below. Click on any of the thumbnails to open up a slideshow.

A few of my previous articles for Handmade in PA include:

Flower Power

Exploring Brath & Hughes

At the Adams County Arts Council

If you would like to explore blogging–an excellent platform for content marketing for organizations or businesses–I’d be happy to meet with you and discuss the possibilities! Blogging presents an excellent opportunity to “go behind the scenes” with your organization or business, showing how your products are made, sharing stories that speak to your employees’ skills or providing information as a leader in your field. The written portion of blogging need not intimidate you–the tone should be light and conversational. Photography is a vital part of blogging too; blogs are a form of visual storytelling. If you’d like to enhance your business by developing a blog, contact me today!

And if you know an inspiring artist, especially someone in the Central PA region, send me a tip! Email: hendricks (dot) communications at gmail (dot) com. 

5 Tips for Business Blogs

By Karen Hendricks

Photo Credit: http://www.123rf.com Stock Images

Photo Credit: http://www.123rf.com Stock Images

Utilized as a marketing tool, blogging is one of the easiest, user-friendly and cost-effective options. It’s not just for large or Forture 500 companies either; small businesses and organizations can reap giant benefits by including a blog within the nuts and bolts of a marketing plan. I’ve had the opportunity to speak about blogging as a marketing tool several times recently and two questions keep popping up: What should I blog about? And how is my blog different from other forms of marketing outreach?

Well, assuming that you’re already maintaining a few marketing essentials, here’s how a blog fits into the mix:

  • Website: Your core marketing presence, your company website is stocked with essential information on your business or services, and links to all other marketing channels. Your website can be thought of as “home base.”
  • Newsletters: Enewsletters and printed newsletters come directly to your inbox or mailbox and contain timely news and offers through call-to-action campaigns. Subscription links should appear on the website homepage; newsletters can be housed under one of your website’s tabs.
  • Social Media: Whether you have a business page on Facebook or a company Twitter account, I describe social media as short and sweet bursts of information that keep your customers current and engaged in your day-to-day happenings. Feeds or sign-up links should appear on the website homepage.
  • Blog: Like social media, your company blog should be current. But unlike social media, it’s not limited to 140 characters or thereabouts. Not that it should be lengthy, but it’s the perfect medium for a more in-depth conversation. Yes, blogs are conversations, because they create interaction via comments and responses from your readers. But before the word “reader” scares you, let me assure you that you don’t have to be a prolific writer. In fact, photos are essential to a blog’s success. And a blog can flow right into a page or even the homepage of your company website, enhancing all other content. It’s a vital piece of the puzzle.

Ok, so now let’s address blog subjects. Here are five basic ideas to keep your company blog rolling:

1. Go behind-the-scenes with your business.  Photographs or videos are critical! Use them to demonstrate how your products are made or feature your employees. This “insider’s view” will help your customers gain a deeper appreciation for your business.

2. Inform/educate. Share tips and how-to guides, highlight partner businesses or explain services you provide. Be careful to balance information with a light, conversational tone. This gives your customers a well-rounded view of your business and all it entails and portrays you as an expert in your field.

 3. Share “success stories” through the eyes of your customers.  Accompanied by photos, feature customers using your products/services or showcase customers who’ve provided glowing testimonials. What better way to thank your core customers and create buzz at the same time!

4. Vary the point of view. Allowing different writers to contribute to the company blog will keep it fresh and provide a variety of input from all angles. This is a great way for your customers to get to know the people behind your business as well.

5. Have fun! Don’t forget to add a dash of entertainment once in a while too. Feature a YouTube video related to your business or share photos of your employees or customers enjoying a light-hearted moment. Smiles and laughter are invaluable!

Recommended Blog Links:

Handmade in PA is a blog run by the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen and includes a wonderful diversity of posts, all focused on the arts in PA, by more than 15 contributors (and I’m proud to say I am one of them!).

Whole Foods features a blog that does a great job of going behind-the-scenes with growers around the world and “feeds” readers a steady stream of nutritious news.

Robyn Graham Photography features a blog I check several times a week for inspiration. Graham showcases her work by combining beautiful images and poetry.

Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross both weave engaging stories about their organizations’ missions through their blogs. 

For fun, I’ve been engaged in a blog project, Off the Merry-Go-Round, that combines the writing talents of six women. Blogging together, we share tips and stories on family life, but in the process, we’ve also forged fabulous friendships!