5 Ways NYC Inspires Writers, Marketers, PR Pros

NYC 1

Rose sculpture and city reflection, MoMA

By Karen Hendricks

What does the phrase “recharging my batteries” mean to you? I’d describe it as:

  • Needing a boost of energy; a fresh perspective
  • Seeking a change of scenery; a change of pace
  • Feeling the need to “get out of a rut”
  • Breaking free of schedules, calendars, or commitments
  • De-stressing

Visiting New York City always always recharges my batteries and leaves me energized, ready to tackle projects anew. During a recent visit to the Big Apple, I noted the top 5 ways that I believe NYC inspires those of us in the creative fields of writing, marketing or public relations: Continue reading

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!

Giving Back: The Joys of Pro Bono Work

Photo Credit: Master Isolated Images at freedigitalphotos.net

Photo Credit: Master Isolated Images at freedigitalphotos.net

By Karen Hendricks

During the holiday season, I think there’s a natural tendency to evaluate all forms of giving, including the gifts you can share with pro bono clients.  Many clients in need of pro bono services have profound PR or marketing needs with a driving sense of mission or cause, and I’ve found that working with such clients can deliver invaluable benefits.  There is definitely a rewarding satisfaction, sometime life-changing, when a successful campaign awakens the public to their causes.

Additional benefits, beyond the feel-good, spiritual satisfaction, include:

  • Working with pro bono clients, many of which are non-profits, puts you in touch with new community contacts.  They are often community leaders, and excellent word-of-mouth recommendations for additional business may come your way as a result.
  • Your name and/or business name becomes affiliated with a worthwhile cause within the community and elevates your presence.
  • Working with pro bono clients, many of which do not have large amounts of money for PR and marketing campaigns (you’re working for them pro bono after all) stretches your talents in new, innovative ways.  Seeking free or low-cost services for them, or establishing cost-savings partnerships, helps you flex your creative muscles.
  • You may also be able to “play” with marketing tools that you normally don’t touch during your regular business days.  You may enjoy the creative freedom of developing a blog/website for a pro bono client, for example, and therefore develop new skill sets.
  • There are also tax deductible benefits!

Of course, sharing your talents and gifts are one thing; running a business is another.  Your pro bono work needs to mesh with your (paid) client workload.  Here are a few tips to avoiding pitfalls:

  • While it’s common business practice to make sure every client feels as if they are your only client, your pro bono clients sometimes need to know there are limits to your generosity.  Set defined limits, whether in hours per week or meetings per month, etc.
  • Create PR and marketing goals for your pro bono clients just as you would for paying clients.  This will help you define expectations and specific tasks which you will perform.
  • Evaluate your pro bono work on a regular basis such as annually.  Are you still enjoying the work?  Does the organization still need you?  Is there another organization with which you’d rather be donating your time and expertise?

I’ve had the pleasure of donating my time to several organizations through the years.  The one that I’ve worked for the longest has been my church, one of the largest congregations in Gettysburg, which means there is always something happening!  I enjoy the challenge of using my public relations and marketing skills to deliver Christian messages.  Personally, I have enjoyed getting to know partners throughout the community such as the heads of area non-profits who gathered recently for my publicity shot.  They were the recipients of nearly $50,000 in combined donations from our church—what an amazing message to share with the community.  I’ve also had the privilege of visiting with the talented ladies of our church quilting bee, as they worked on their 700th quilt to be donated to victims of world disasters.  It was a joy to see more than 30 youth gathered on the steps of our church for a publicity photo, as they prepared for a mission trip to New Orleans. There are many additional memorable “stories” that I treasure.

I am also thrilled to begin a new pro bono endeavor:  Handling PR duties as a board member with the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.  Habitat’s vision, “a world where everyone has a decent place to live” is a mission with which I strongly identify.  I look forward to rolling up my sleeves, but also enjoying getting to know a dynamic set of leaders and publicizing the many positive stories they are sure to generate in 2013.

During this holiday season, I encourage you to consider “giving” in a new light:  Giving of your talents and skills to make a difference in your community.

“Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow.  The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”  -Abraham Lincoln

Taking the Pulse of Social Media

By Karen Hendricks

Just as the recent election seems to have left the nation fractured, there also seems to be a great divide separating us over the issue of social media use.  I see most people–and businesses–fitting into one of these categories:

  • I know I should embrace social media but I just don’t feel that I have the time.  I have a Facebook account that I use occasionally, but I don’t use any other forms of social media.  I keep hearing about Pinterest and Instagram but I don’t have time to learn new things.  I don’t yet own a smart phone.
  • I enjoy learning about social media and recognize its significance within today’s marketing campaigns.  I have a Facebook account and several other social media accounts but I still don’t feel totally comfortable using them.
  • I LOVE social media!  I am tweeting all day long. I have accounts on nearly all social media platforms.  I am probably in my 20s, but there are a few of us sprinkled through each generation.

Social media doesn’t need to leave us feeling fractured or frustrated.  In fact, the “social” aspect speaks to the sharing of ideas, communicating in news ways and bringing us together.  With that in mind…

I’m very excited to be working on a 4-class series, “The Art of Social Media” with the Adams County Arts Council, located in Gettysburg, PA.  The holidays are upon us and while the New Year seems far away, it’s less than 50 days until 2013!  Why not make it your New Year’s resolution to be more comfortable and well-versed in social media? Whether you apply social media to business or pleasure, there are many benefits.

Here’s a preview of some of the introductory facts for the first session, especially highlighting the benefits of using social media for business:

  • —Internet users spend an average of 4 hours per day on the web (2012) compared to 46 minutes (2002).  If potential customers are already on the web, shouldn’t your business be there as well?
  • —Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S.  It’s a great case for creating a Facebook business page.
  • —There are 950 million Facebook users (Aug, 2012).
  • —There are 2.7 billion likes and comments made on Facebook every day.
  • —Instagram is at 40 million users and on track to reach 100 million users faster than any previous social media.  More and more businesses are creating accounts and showcasing themselves via photos.
  • —Pinterest is the third most popular social networking site behind Facebook and Twitter with 10 million unique users monthly.  And it’s very brand-loyal:  More consumers follow brands on Pinterest than they do on Facebook or Twitter.

Social Media Humor, Credit: Randy Glasbergen, Glasbergen.com

Communication today has become extremely multi-faceted!  Whether for business or pleasure, learn how to navigate social media channels, select the “best fits” for you, and enjoy connecting with friends, colleagues and/or customers.  The series covers:  how to set up a website or blog (WordPress), Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr and Snapfish.

Class dates are:  Wednesday evenings, January 9-30, 7-9 pm.

Update, December 13:  Registration is now open and available online via this link to the Adams County Arts Council.  Scroll down to the end of the list (they saved the best for last!) for The Art of Social Media.

I look forward to helping you discover all the ways that social media can enhance your life, both personally and professionally!

Sources:  Mashable, SocialNomics, Pinterest, Facebook

Credit: Randy Glasbergen, Glasbergen.com

The Link Between Marketing Trends and… Camels

By Karen Hendricks

Everywhere I look, I’m seeing “words” that are squished together.  I guess you could call them hybrids or creative compound words.  They don’t include proper spacing and they are not “words” in the traditional sense, but more and more of these “words” are becoming part of our everyday lives.  Maybe my head has been in the sand (pun alert) but I just recently found out this is commonly called “camel case” due to the use of both lowercase and uppercase letters, creating humps within one of these creative words.

For example:

  • iPhone
  • iPod
  • LinkedIn
  • PowerPoint
  • BlackBerry
  • YouTube

At first, I thought this was a symptom of the busy, hectic pace of life.  Maybe we’re all too busy to take the time to insert spaces between letters and words.  Or maybe marketers are afraid they’ll lose our attention if they don’t run words together.  And there’s probably some element of truth to that.  Notice how all of the “words” above are technology-related?

After a bit more digging, I discovered that the root of this recent phenomenon began with computer programmers in Silicon Valley.  Using software language, programmers had to run words together and omit all spaces.  At some point, the practice crossed over into the marketing world and it became a catchy, clever way to promote new products with entirely new names.

As a product of old-school journalism and a traditional, entirely proper grammatical approach to the English language, I’m not sure how I feel about this trend!  Although I’m firmly rooted and dedicated to good writing, oh how I love to follow the latest marketing tools and trends.  I have to admit, I’m a loyal iPhone user and I find it funny that autocorrect changes “iphone” into “iPhone.”  How silly of me to spell it wrong.

Although trends and technology go hand-in-hand, it turns out that camel case isn’t ground-breaking after all.   The ancient Greek language contained no spacing; words ran together in a continuous string.  And think of ethic surnames such as duPont or McDonald where uppercase and lowercase are combined.  Chemical formulas also mix upper and lowercase (FeO or iron oxide).

So I’ll keep watching for camels, so to speak, just for fun.  In terms of marketing, it seems like a trend mainly linked to technology.  I don’t see an established brand like Corn Flakes suddenly coming out with a new flashy logo re-positioning the cereal as CornFlakes anytime soon.  🙂

Sources:  Camel Case on Grammar Girl, Camel Case on Urban Dictionary, and you must read Caleb Crain’s 2009 article in the New York Times

Thoughts from the Road

Don’t you just love the welcome signs that greet you as you cross state lines?  My travels took me from Pennsylvania to Maryland yesterday to meet with a client and I was struck by the differences in the welcome signs I noticed on either side of the  Mason-Dixon Line.  Because I was driving at the time, I didn’t snap photos of my own.  However, I dug them up on the internet:

Credit: Christopher Wheeler, PBase.com

Credit: Misty Garrick Miller, Flickr

Ok so a few thoughts immediately come to mind:

  • The “welcome” is quickly followed by rules!
  • The top priority for each state is quite different!  (At least on this roadway)
  • Although I love my home state of PA and I hate to see litter, isn’t safety a bigger concern?
  • Kudos to MD for enacting legislation prohibiting texting while driving and informing drivers of this fact right away.
  • Currently, PA has enacted a state law against texting while driving.  Some lawmakers are also trying to pass a statewide ban against hand-held devices.
  • Will PA be undertaking a signage campaign to make drivers aware of their ban on texting?
  • Are the days of large, friendly welcome signs gone?  I miss the nostalgic, gateway-style welcome signs where travelers could pull over and snap a photo as they entered a new state.

The challenge in signmaking, as in billboard design, is to stick to the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid).  Did you know the guideline for billboard design is to include no more than seven words?  Traveling along a highway, glancing at a sign, that is the optimum number of words that the average person can read.  It drives home the point (pun alert) that our messaging, whether on signs, or within advertising/marketing campaigns, needs to be informative, effective and to the point.  Every word needs to be carefully considered so that the overall message hits the target.

Instagram: Summer Fun with Longterm Business Appeal

Social Media Trends By Karen Hendricks

Summer and photography go hand-in-hand, right?  And the relatively new smartphone photography app Instagram is riding a wave, right into the summer season, with 60 new photos added every second.  That’s 5 million photos every day.  And at 40 million users, Instagram is on track to reach the milestone of 100 million users faster than any other form of social media.  (Source:  Mashable)

And, for those of you who are reluctant to add yet another social media platform:  it’s as easy as pie.

Whether you join Instagram for purely for fun, sharing photos with family/friends, or approach it from a business perspective, you’re getting in on the ground level of the next big trend in social media, but with a nostalgic twist.

The app lets you select from a variety of filters (18, currently), many of which give your photos a retro feel.  For example, there’s the “1977” filter with a Polaroid-esque appearance.

Basically, your “feed” consists of photos from people that you follow, similar to other social media streams.  The big difference is that Instagram is 100% eye candy–simply photographs with very little text (just short captions which are optional).

Personally, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with photos from one of my favorite hobbies–gardening.  Here’s a sampling of some of my pics with “flower power.”

New businesses, non-profits, celebrities and sports teams are hopping on the Instagram train every day and adding it into the marketing mix.  What a beautiful way to showcase a brand, whether behind-the-scenes or highlighting products, events or features via photography. Some of the big, established brands so far are NBC News, USA Today, National Geographic and Starbucks (of course).  I recently discovered the Philadelphia Zoo–beautiful animal pics!

Want to learn more? Check out the Instagram Blog to take a peek at what’s being posted.  Relying on the strength of iphone, ipad and Android users, the app is free (check out http://instagr.am/).  Like Twitter, hashtags are essential to finding photos within a theme.

Do you have Instagram insights?  Share your tips or favorites to follow, below.  And feel free to follow me @karenhendricks9.  I look forward to seeing your pics!