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Backstory to the 2019 Healthy Eating Jumpstart

For the next few weeks, I’m going to document my return to intermittent fasting (IF) and provide more specific details of how it’s working for me.

I decided to kick-off 2019 with a few weeks of intensive IF to eliminate the 10+ pounds I gained when I added gluten back into my diet about 18 months ago. I say + because I probably added a couple of more pounds in December 2018, due to an unusual (for me) month of “bad carb” consumption.

My Introduction to Intermittent Fasting

I accidentally discovered the practice of intermittent fasting around 2014-15. I think my first awareness of IF as a health practice came during a time period when I was regularly listening to the Bulletproof Radio podcast.

I discovered back then that my preferred “breakfast” time in relation to my preference for early dinners sort of fit within the framework of intermittent fasting, even though it wasn’t always practical for me to eat according to my preferred schedule due to work constraints.

Once I heard about intermittent fasting and the health benefits of IF, I (sort of) began to pay more attention to my eating schedule.

I’ve been a casual intermittent faster over the past 3-4 or so years. I say casual because I’ve never made a formal effort to regularly practice intermittent fasting. I did IF fairly often during those years, but mainly because I could control my eating schedule on most days. I did not have a set practice. When it was possible, I simply had some coconut or MCT oil and butter in my coffee (far below the official “Bulletproof” quantities) and waited to eat “breakfast” when I got hungry. The timing of breakfast determined if/when I would have lunch. I usually did. What I had for lunch then determined the time for dinner and how much I ate. I never ate dinner later than 7 p.m.

My foray into intermittent fasting overlapped with my decision sometime in 2015 to give up all gluten, to the extent practical. I bought GF products when feasible and stopped eating breads. My gluten-free initiative resulted in a significant reduction in sugar consumption, as well. Most of my sugar intake over the past 15 years has come from home-baked cookies, cakes and other desserts. [I’ve never been a big consumer of any processed sugary foods, especially since the late 90s.]

The gluten-free shift + coconut oil in my coffee resulted in the loss of about 5-8 pounds without any intent or effort on my part.

Gluten In, Pounds On

I continued my gluten-free initiative until the first week of August 2017. I remember the exact date because I made a specific decision to have a BLT sandwich from the Odette food booth during the Made South weekend in Birmingham. It was delicious! [Odette is a great restaurant in Florence, Alabama.]

Since I had been so good for 2 years, I thought–that same weekend–that some of my Shine Springs Farm grown heirloom Italian peppers would be so awesome on a nice baguette from Continental Bakery. Heirloom Italian peppers sauteed in olive oil with garlic and served on a baguette is one of life’s great pleasures. I succumbed to the thought and gave in to the temptation. As a girl thinketh…..

That weekend of gluten led to a week and then a month. Then two. I backed off on the gluten in October when I realized I had very easily added about 8 pounds without even thinking about it. I say “backed off” because I ended up having gluten in home-baked foods several times during the holidays and I also ramped up my 2017 holiday baking, using gluten-free flour as well as regular whole wheat flour.

I’m talking about gluten because it was gluten that also led me to back off on the intermittent fasting practice.

During early 2018 I got back on track and started dropping the pounds again, until mid-summer when the heirloom peppers started coming in again. I was running again at that point and decided I could afford to eat baguettes again occasionally, at least on the weekends, with my beloved Italian peppers.

The problem with the summer 2018 time frame is that I started eating later in the evening and having an earlier breakfast to allow me to run earlier in the day before it got too hot.

The normal eating schedule of 3 meals a day and dinners from 6:30 – 7:30 and an overall higher calorie intake + gluten resulted in another few pounds by the time October rolled around. I ramped up my running, but didn’t really change the eating schedule or what I was eating. As of my birthday in late November I was at my highest weight ever. 🙁

The incessant rain during December combined with a rare case of the “mulligrubs” led me to a lot more snacking and relatively more processed carbs than usual, even during the holiday season. I even went so far as to make TWO batches of a maple-flavored Chex party mix using a recipe I found in Martha Stewart Living. Delicious, but definitely bad for the abs!

So all of that extra weight set up my commitment to give up gluten again, for sure. Rather than throw out whatever I had in my cabinets, though, I decided to just eat it all down as the year wound down.

2019 Game Plan

During the early part of the New Year, I decided to jump-start things by also returning to the intermittent fasting eating schedule.

Then, as I thought about it more, I decided to more or less double-down and see how long I could go without eating each day. The game plan that evolved was to:

  1. Try to eat just one meal per day during January
  2. Use up all the food I have on hand before buying more groceries and
  3. As I progress on #2 begin to move back into a more paleo style of eating.

So it’s the results of this game plan that I’m going to be blogging about this month.

I’m writing this at midday on Day 6 of plan and so far it’s going amazingly well. Perhaps better than I probably would have predicted, even though I have pretty good self-discipline when I make a firm commitment to do something health-related.

I hope you’ll follow along with my efforts. More importantly, I hope that what I share will inspire YOU to ramp up your own health commitments during 2019.

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Breath on Paper Blog Grow

Peace: The Parting Gift

The Prince of Peace showed me early on that I have no reason to be afraid or have a troubled heart, but that it's really about the absence of something we consider unpleasant.

The peace that passes all understanding….well, let’s just say it took me a while to grasp it.

Two hours after law school graduation, I embarked on my journey into adulthood in a packed-to-the brim Cutlass Olds.

Destination: Miami

18 hours later, I walked to the front desk of the small, Art Deco-style Miami Beach residential hotel where I’d lived the previous summer.

The same building manager handed me the key to my efficiency unit and I walked up 3 flights of stairs. As I reached to insert the key, the unlocked door swung open and I was greeted by an awful stench and a floor littered with trash. I eased inside, peeked into the bathroom, and discovered the source of the disgusting odor.

Clearly, the wicked had not known peace (Isaiah 57:21).

The building manager didn’t ask why when I said I couldn’t live there after all.

I was a bit nonplussed, but I’d faced worse.

I am strong. I am invincible.

Chin up.

I drove across town, booked a room at the Holiday Inn in Coral Gables, and set out to find an apartment unlikely to have been squatted by drug addicts.

It was a quick search. Lease signed, I returned to the hotel and called home to explain the change of plans.

The next morning I reported to work—an eager legal eagle ready to begin my dream job as a corporate securities lawyer. Six new associates were ushered into a conference room, where we learned we would all be doing insurance defense work for two years.

My heart sank.

Fast forward one week. I felt less than invincible but still resilient.

I knew the Lord was in control, but despite a lifetime in church and a deep faith, I was a spiritual baby. If you grew up in a church culture that focused on fire insurance, you understand.

Peace was not flowing like a river.

Two weeks in, the AC on my car retired. I traded the Cutlass for a Suzuki Samurai thinking that would raise my spirits. Of course, things don’t bring peace.

Three weeks in, I was invited to accompany a junior partner to an early morning hearing at the courthouse. I’d worked on the case, so it seemed innocuous. Afterwards, he suggested we stop in at a nearby restaurant for breakfast. Who was I to object?

The Metro train back downtown was standing-room only, and we were scrunched in tightly in the middle of the car. The only place for my hand on the pole between us was at waist level—my waist. At first, I’d thought it was just the crowded train, but with the fourth bump and grind….lightbulb moment.

After this already auspicious start to my day, he invited me to his office, where I learned my new job also came with, as they say, fringe benefits. We could go out on his boat.

A few days later, I turned in my resignation and returned the signing bonus. It was the only choice I could make.

I am woman. With self-respect.

In that moment, I felt a brief shimmering glance of infinite peace in the midst of massive anxiety about my worldly future.

I think I made the right choice, although it changed the trajectory of my life.

As the Rolling Stones sang:

You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you might find that you get what you need.

That month was life-altering for a 24-year-old, but the wisdom didn’t come quickly. Decades of refinement were required for diamonds to appear.

It turns out that peace really is about the absence of something—self.

When we let go of self, we make room for God to shine his light into our hearts and fill us with the Spirit in which we find true freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:1-6, 4:6, Romans 15:13, Galatians 6:8-10).

Simple, but not always easy. It requires daily practice.

A version of this post was originally published on BreathOnPaperBlog.com

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how side and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,..." Ephesians 3:17-18. Sheree Martin

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Professional Portfolio

Recent Freelance Articles

For a little more than a year now, I've occasionally been hired as a freelance writer to write sponsored content articles for Alabama Media Group.

These articles are published on AL.com (and possibly other digital media properties in the Advanced Digital corporate family.)

Since I'm ghostwriting these articles as sponsored content, I do not have a byline. However, I've confirmed that I have permission from the Alabama Media Group to share links to these in my portfolio.

The following is a partial list of the sponsored articles I've written:

AMG Client/Advertiser: Wallace State Community College

Fast Track to Success at Wallace State (Published May 25, 2017)

Art as Conversation, Art as Education, Art as Mirror to Understanding (Published April 26, 2017)

Get on the Road to Success With a Career in Transportation: It's Not Just About Driving a Truck (Published December 29, 2016)

From Choices to Pathways: Wallace State Helps Students Move Forward (Published November 3, 2016)

AMG Client/Advertiser: Austal USA

Revitalization of Manufacturing: Rise of Shipbuilding in Mobile (published July 1, 2016)

Link to a second article to be added later.

AMG Client/Advertiser: Royal Cup Coffee

The Transformative Power of the Birmingham Experience Known as Sloss Fest (published August 31, 2016)

AMG Client/Advertiser: Mayor Tim Kant

At the time of the article, Tim Kant was mayor of the City of Fairhope, running for reelection.

A Performing Arts Center to Inspire the City of Fairhope (published August 8, 2016)

AMG Client/Advertiser: Yulista

Building Culture: Yulista Expansion Grows Footprint and Workforce (July 22, 2016)

 

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Discover Professional

Writing, Law and More

You are a writer.

You are called to write. You feel called to tell stories and offer messages of hope that will change lives, shine light into dark places, and spark change in the world.

I know exactly how you feel.

Over the years, I have come to understand that my own calling is in the broader realm of helping others to discover, grow and shine. I've written about that many places.

Writing, blogging and other media production is a big part of that.

So is teaching, equipping, empowering. Those are the reasons I left law practice to write, earn a Ph.D, and work as a college professor.

In 2011-2012, following a year of prayer and reflection on what was next for my professional life,  I started to feel led out of higher education and into something entrepreneurial that would combine my talents, interests, and dreams into something that I loosely summarized as the “Shine Vision and Values” statement. That vision included the Shinecast® media venture and other related projects.

What’s interesting is that about 20 months ago, I began to perceive that law might be a part of the “Shine” calling, in ways that I had never anticipated. At first, this nudging was simply other people making suggestions, which I resisted. I didn’t see the connection.

Then inquiries from “outsiders” (people I didn't know personally) who had no familiarity with what I'd been trying to do. Multiple inquiries, from different (unrelated) sources.

It was, quite frankly, a difficult time for me. By March 2016, I was completely broken—self-will was demolished. My response to God during those months was that I would do whatever He wanted, just please make the first step clear and plain. That's what I thought I was doing, and had intended to be doing, when I resigned my faculty position to pursue the Shinecast venture. Nothing had worked out as expected. I was confused.

Empowerment Through Law

The light on the path started blinking: “I equipped you as a lawyer you use that knowledge to equip and empower others.”

I said, “OK, show me the way forward.”

Doors opened, opportunities arose, resources appeared. It’s been a walk of faith.

Write: Legal and the companion package, Blog: Legal, are the first resource offerings of a new venture that's intertwined with the Shinecast mission to help others shine in and through health, wealth and wisdom. I'll be sharing more about the details of the new venture and how it connects to the Shinecast vision, mission, and business enterprise.

In the meantime, just let this suffice…..

I look forward to helping you DISCOVER, GROW, and SHINE  in whatever way I can.

Categories
Discover Professional

What’s Been Going On?

It's been a long year+ since my last update on this website.  It's not that I haven't been busy (or even blogging), but my focus as been elsewhere.

I returned to the practice of law, while continuing to work on the Shine Vision as much as time would permit. From April – July of 2016, I was super-busy getting all my “ducks in a row” for my return to the legal world.

During July and August of 2016, I was also hustling lots of farm produce grown at Shine Springs Farm. We had a great mid-summer harvest of watermelons and okra.

Our Shine Springs Farm watermelons took 1st and 2nd place at the Franklin County Watermelon Festival “best tasting” competition.

My recipe for watermelon-flavored sweet iced tea won the “best flavored tea” competition sponsored by the Franklin County Extension Service (ACE / Auburn University). I'll find the recipe and share it.

Thanks to Chef Chris Newsome, Chef-Owner of Ollie Irene for buying and serving lots of Shine Springs Farm produce in 2016 (and 2014-15). It's been great to get to know Chef Chris and wife, Anna, through my farming activities.

I handled several trademark registrations and then the legal work started to take off.

My niece Allison lived with me for 8 weeks in the late Fall while she did a round of clinical training with a Birmingham PT healthcare provider for her degree in physical therapy. It was fun having a room-mate again. 🙂

It turned out to be a great year, although it was definitely not without its challenges!

God is good and He will meet our needs when we come to him in faith.

The whole return to law practice was an exercise in faith, because it wasn't something I intentionally chose to do or that I entered into lightly.

As I opened myself up to fully embrace His will and purpose in my life, the doors began to open to law in ways I had never anticipated. As I took the tentative steps in faith, the opportunities and somewhat bigger picture began to unfold.

Each week has been a continued exercise in faith as I've sought to take action in ways that serve the clients I've been blessed with, while continuing to pursue non-legal activities and work that are consistent with the Shine vision and values.

As the “bigger picture” has unfolded, I've also come to see how my background in law is entirely connected with necessary for my Shine vision to come to fruition, in part through Shinecast® media and in part through other similar-but-separate ventures.

In late February, I attended the Lawyerist's TBD Law 2 event in St. Louis.

Sheree Martin attends TBD Law 2 Conference, Franklin County Times April 2017 article

In a few days, I'll be making the official announcements, but I'm about to launch a series of courses to help creative professionals, solopreneurs and entrepreneurs with legal and business topics. The initial offerings will be through the Sheree Martin Law website, but I'll be moving them into a standalone portal later in June.

This isn't the final logo for Write: Legal but it's one of my early DIY designs:

Write: Legal (TM) a Resource from Sheree Martin // Law

June 2-3, 2017 I'll be speaking at the Southern Christian Writers Conference in Tuscaloosa. It's always a great time and a very inspirational conference.

Thanks to Cheryl Sloan Wray for including me among the speakers she featured on her blog in the weeks leading up to the conference.

Lots to do….best get to it!!

Categories
Marketing Professional

Dissecting a Failed Launch Strategy

This post is a reflection on a year of brand confusion and my failed strategy for launching the Shinecast® media brand. 

You see plenty of blog posts about success stories and how-to-succeed in digital business, but not many about the missteps. This post is an overview into a venture that didn't work out as planned in part due to strategy, in part due to execution, in part due to messaging and, perhaps, in part due to complexity and resource availability.

The best lessons often come from experiences where we don’t achieve what we thought we were going to achieve. I hesitate to call it a failure, because I’ve learned so much over the past year. This post isn’t really about the lessons learned, as such, but more about the road to the missteps.

The Shinecast® Brand

In 2015, I attempted to ramp-up and roll out the digital media business I’ve branded as the Shinecast®. 

The Shinecast® is a brand, first and foremost. It’s the brand I’m using to indicate the source/origin as I distribute the multimedia content through a variety of digital channels.

It’s easier if you think of Shinecast in the same way you think of Disney® as a brand or National Geographic as a brand. Shinecast is not in the same league, of course, but conceptually similar.

Disney website description from Google SERP reveals the scope of the Disney brand in the digital realm.

The Disney brand is an umbrella for a multitude of content, product or service categories. We have Disney movies, the Disney Channel, the Disney theme parks, Disney licensed products for children and adults, Disney vacation resorts. There’s more, of course.

As the search engine results in Google indicate (graphic above), some of the Disney brand is digital content, some requires brick-and-mortar visits to experience, some is tangible (clothing, toys, etc.), some intangible (the Disney experience at theme parks and resorts).

National Geographic began as a print magazine and later evolved into multimedia categories of branded video, digital content distributed through the internet and mobile devices. National Geographic also offers travel adventures and an assortment of branded content and experiences.

The vision for the Shinecast® brand doesn't exactly include theme parks and guided tours, at least not here in the early stages. The initial vision is heavily focused on multimedia content delivered digitally to share the Shinecast messages. Eventually, I have plans for “real world” goods and services related to the Shinecast message.

Shinecast in the Digital Realm

When I launched the Shinecast® brand, my goal was to begin with audio content distributed in podcast format through separate, distinct shows on topics related to the Shinecast message (more on that in a moment) that would help to grow the brand in the audio medium.

I also envisioned creating other digital products–initially ebooks–to share the Shinecast educational message.

Both audio and text-focused digital content would offer messages to help YOU (the audience) Discover, Grow and Shine in various areas of life (health, wealth, etc.).

Once I had the podcast and written content coming out on a regular basis across the various “channels” I planned to venture into short videos.

Niche Audiences

I started, early on, with the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast, to talk about sustainability topics, growing and preparing real food.

The second podcast I launched was Birmingham Shines, a Shinecast® show about creators, innovators and makers in Birmingham. The goal of that show was to introduce the Shinecast brand and inspirational message of living authentically and doing work that matters.

I added the Ignite Alabama podcast as Shinecast® show #3 to talk about entrepreneurship in the context of an Alabama audience. My research indicated this was an unserved niche. In podcasting, the topic of entrepreneurship in general is oversaturated, but there was no Alabama-focused podcast that I could find on the topics of innovation and entrepreneurship.

I saw Ignite Alabama, and the companion website, as the place where I could provide valuable digital resources and implement a monetization strategy that would provide the funding (and some content) for the “wealth” component of the larger Shinecast® message.

Show number 4, the Discover Grow Shinecast, was the podcast that would combine all the facets of the Shinecast way of life in one podcast for a global (or at least a national audience). I envisioned it as leading the audience along the path to health, wealth, wisdom and happiness.

The whole purpose of separate podcast shows was an attempt to distribute the Shinecast message to targeted audiences, to make it easier to get their attention, and then (I hoped) this would lead them to brand awareness, some curiosity and, eventually, build an audience for the main Shinecast website.

Well, it didn’t work out as I’d planned.

Most everyone in the Birmingham audience saw Birmingham Shines and the Shinecast brand as one-and-the-same.

In the Disney analogy, it’s as if the sum total of the Disney brand consists of The Fox and the Hound. Charming, but not the main point.

Busy, but Not Productive

The more I tried to crank out the content for Birmingham Shines and Ignite Alabama, and promote it properly, the less time and energy I had to write and produce the main Shinecast content.

Moreover, I found it extraordinarily difficult to identify and schedule great guests for the Ignite Alabama podcast. Entrepreneurs in the start-up world are too busy and the business advisers largely don’t “get” podcasting as a medium to reach prospective clients.

I pivoted on the Ignite Alabama podcast and turned to the behind-the-scenes production ideas for the monetization path, but I was ahead of the curve. Most of my pitches were received with this response: “Intrigued” or “great idea” but “not yet for us.”

No one wanted to be first in the Alabama market to spread their message through on-demand audio. Most of the internal decision-makers in Alabama businesses don’t get niche marketing through controlled digital channels  or still need the ego boost that comes with devoting most marketing dollars to mass advertising.

The Future of Birmingham Shines & Ignite Alabama

I put the Ignite Alabama podcast on hiatus last year, as I explored a rebranding possibility. I'm still mulling over whether I'll implement the rebranding and relaunch to an expanded audience.

As I approach the one-year anniversary of Birmingham Shines podcast, I’ve been exploring whether to give it a few more months or issue a fond farewell. I’ve decided my answer. Stay tuned.

Categories
Marketing Professional

Explaining Content Strategies & Tactics

In my last post, I set out to explain my approach to digital content strategy development, which ties everything back to specific business goals and objectives using the POSTT approach:

People, Objectives (as in Objectives for the Content Strategy), Strategies, Technologies and Tactics.

This post is the companion piece, where I want to further explain the Strategies, Technologies, and Tactics components.

What is a Strategy?

Strategy defines the parameters of the actions you will take to achieve your objectives.

In the simple analogy I used in the previous example, if the objective is to get to Atlanta from Birmingham for a job interview on Thursday, your strategy would be to drive to Atlanta early Wednesday morning and spend the night. That’s one strategy among several that are possible, and probably the best given normal circumstances.

The tactics would be the choices you make about departure time, which highways to follow, which hotel to stay in that’s most convenient to the interview location, etc.

Inbound Marketing Content Strategy

Inbound marketing is based on the creation and delivery of useful content to your prospects. This content is designed to help your prospects come to know, like and trust you and to move them through your sales funnel.

In this context, I prefer to craft an overall content strategic framework and then develop separate strategies for each technology channel in the mix. Hence, the extra T in my version of POSTT.

Let’s use a landscape design firm as a possible client. This hypothetical firm focuses on upscale residential landscape design.

An inbound marketing content strategy might be built around creating and publishing a series of articles on topics that address the why-and-how of various techniques for caring for turf, certain plants used in landscaping, how the investment in landscaping adds to the value of a home, how the homeowner can incorporate pollinator friendly species into the mix for eco-friendly reasons, and so on.

As I emphasized in the previous article, the bulk of the content would be created and published first on the website, for SEO benefits and to ensure that the content isn’t lost when prospects leave one digital network to join the next shiny community. Hosting and publishing the content on your own website also helps you with lead capture and tracking the prospect through your sales funnel.

I’m writing this on the premise that text (written) content will be the primary type of content you're using, but every content strategy must also include some visual elements. A client like a landscape design firm would also require lots of photos and, perhaps, even videos (even simple DIY videos shot on the fly with a smartphone are invaluable).

Some clients could benefit from an audio content strategy, either as stand-alone audio segments, longer on-demand white papers, or an ongoing series of profiles, interviews and company news updates. On-demand audio strategy and production is one way I differentiate the services I offer, but on-demand audio and podcasting isn’t right for every client. I’ll cover on-demand audio n a separate article.

Editorial Calendar

An editorial calendar will be created to identify who is responsible for creating and approving each piece of content, along with when the content will be created, reviewed, approved and published on the website.

The editorial calendar is a key part of the content strategy at this level.

Social Media Strategies

Identification of social channels where you’ll also publish the content  is another aspect of the overall content strategy.

Continuing with the example of the residential landscape design client, we might choose to use Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram as the social channels to reach prospects.

Based on the likely demographics of this client’s prospects, I would probably focus on Facebook and Pinterest, primarily because the Instagram audience skews younger and this audience might not be at the socio-economic stage to be a great prospect for this particular client.

Then next step would be to develop specific strategies for repurposing and enhancing the articles, photos and videos for publication on Facebook and Pinterest and, perhaps, Instagram (mainly for aspirational brand awareness, if the client has someone who can take ownership of the Instagram publication schedule).

Each social network requires a separate strategy that is designed to maximize reach with the target audience on that network in a way that’s consistent with the cultural norms of that social network.

The biggest failure I see in business marketing on social media is an effort by many small and medium sized businesses is to use a one-size-fits-all approach to social media marketing. [Actually, that might be the second biggest failure. The first might be simply to follow the “let me throw some stuff out there and hope someone sees it” strategy.]

Example of Simple Facebook Strategy

Let’s use Facebook to briefly describe a strategy for this hypothetical residential landscape design client.

We have a Facebook business page and the strategy is to publish a mix of photos, articles and videos on the Facebook page that target a certain demographic with the objective of brand awareness and lead capture.

Tactics for the Facebook Strategy

Next we create the tactical plan for Facebook:

The plan includes publishing 2 pieces of content each day, excluding Sunday.

We create the Facebook-specific portion of the editorial calendar. This should that identify most of the content for a 7 or 14-day window, with some flexibility to respond to weather issues, current events, etc.

All content published on Facebook will be shared using link customizers or tracking pixels to identify the source.

Possible Types of Content for Facebook

  • Content might include photos of work performed.
  • Short excerpts from the text resources created for the website with links back to the website
  • One 30-60 second video each week from a job site (without revealing the home, unless the homeowner gives written consent)
  • Three items of promoted content that lead directly to lead-capture tools on a landing page.

 

We can get a lot more advanced in the tactical stage and talk about tracking pixels, using dark posts for promoted content on Facebook, the benefits of uploading video directly to Facebook, issues with organic reach of content published on your Facebook business page, but all of that is beyond the scope of this article.

Wrapping it Up

I hope this 2-part overview of the content marketing strategic planning process helps to explain the difference between objectives, strategies and tactics.

Perhaps more importantly, I hope this 2-part series convinces you of the the necessity of crafting specific audience profiles and a plan-of-action to reach those audiences in an engaging and meaningful way to build awareness, familiarity and trust to grow your business.

The terminology is less important, in the end, than the results.

If you speak with your clients, customers and prospects as people, not demographic segments, you’re more likely to find success than if you throw out one-size-fits-all content, as a traditional media ad or on your social media channel.

Categories
Marketing Professional Professional Portfolio

How to Create a Social Media Content Strategy

 

Social media offers new channels of communication to serve existing customers and clients and reach new prospects. The challenge is this: Unless you have a meaningful plan to use social media to achieve some outcome, you're probably spending time and money in the least effective way possible.

So that's why I focused on the strategy side of social media marketing each time I taught Social Media Practices, a course I developed when I was a faculty member at Samford University.

Strategy is the same approach I take when consulting with clients or preparing a conference presentation on social media marketing and content development. I find that most people (students and business owners) like to focus on tactics–what's where the fun is.

But if you don't know where you're going or why you're doing something, you have no way of knowing if you're accomplishing anything or just spending time and money churning out noise.

This post is a part 1 of an article I published over on LinkedIn and I'm offering here to widen the distribution.

Here's the thing about social content for small businesses:

The value of social content comes when it serves a business purpose and is based on a strategy that's carefully designed to support business objectives.

How Does Social Serve One or More Business Objectives?

The first questions I ask prospective clients are aimed at helping me understand what they are trying to gain through social media. What business objective will your social media presence relate to? If they don't know, we talk through some possibilities.

Meaningful social presence and good social content can help business objectives related to sales, customer support, product/service development and enhancement, and broader market research.

The obvious (ultimate) answer is, of course, to grow your business through sales, retain and support existing customers, and find new clients who need the services your business provides. But you need to spend some time thinking specifically how social media content and engagement can serve specific business functional areas.

Quick Aside: I believe your social content must tie back to your website presence. That's a topic for another post, but everything I'm saying about social content presupposes that it is, in some way (directly or contextually) leading prospects to your website and lead capture tools. This is something Chris Brogan is known for advocating, along with most other small business marketing consultants.

Today, the digital and social sphere is usually the front lines of customer service and social content may be the first touch point for a prospect who is exploring the types of products or services you provide.

Takeaway: Before you start to develop a content strategy for social media it's imperative to identify the ways this social content will serve the ultimate business objectives.

social media marketing digital content strategy: If you don't know where you're going, how will you know if you're on the right path? Sheree Martin

POSTT Approach

Once you know where social fits into the larger business picture, you can start to consider social media on a more strategic level.

People – Objectives – Strategies – Tactics

My version: People – Objectives – Strategies – Technologies – Tactics. (POSTT)

I'm not the originator of the P-O-S-T approach, although I added a second T (for Technology, as in channels), as a wrinkle to help students in a class on social media strategy that I developed at taught at Samford University.

People: Who Are You Trying to Reach?

Before you launch into sharing content across a multitude of social channels, you MUST first identify the audience(s) you need to connect with.

It's not enough to say “new customers,” “existing customers,” or even demographically: Small business owners with more than 5 employees, or plumbing service providers, or parents of kids age 8 and up who need orthodontics.

Your customers and clients are not demographic segments or socio-economic data points.

Your people are real humans who have interests, needs and values. You may serve multiple audience segments, so you need to carefully craft the biographies of your ideal customers. These are sometimes called avatars, sometimes simply customer personae, sometimes bios.

Develop one of these avatar bios for each category you serve or want to serve. And write it like you're describing a character in a book or movie. Give each person a name, think about what they want (or might want) from you in relation to how this relates to their overall life. What are their hobbies or values or goals? Again, think of each as a real person.

If you know your customers well, you can use a few real people to develop these audience biographies.

Once you have those biographies in place, then you can start to understand more about how to reach them. More on that in a moment.

Objectives for Social Media (Digital) Presence

Before we get to strategies and tactics you need to consider social objectives that relate back to the business objectives.

Perhaps if you're a B2C retailer or provide a service like home repairs you may want to offer a social presence to help with customer service (support function) and respond to prospects who have questions (a sales function).

If you're a B2B provider or offer services that are confusing, complicated or new, you may want to emphasize thought leadership (sales) or helpful resources that educate prospects and explain what you do (business development).

Once you've defined your objectives for digital, then you can move on to developing the content strategies to lead you closer to achieving these objectives.

Strategy is Your Road Map

In my teaching days, I often had students who were confused about the difference between a strategy and a tactic, so I used this analogy:

Let's say your objective is to travel to Atlanta from Birmingham to attend a job interview.

You need to develop a strategy to get to Atlanta. Issues to consider in developing your strategy are whether to drive, fly, walk or ride a bicycle.  What's your budget? How much lead time to you have? When do you leave? If you drive, will you drive your own car or rent one? Will you take the interstate or backroads?

Let's say the strategy is to drive to Atlanta to achieve the objective of attending a job interview on Thursday. Then we define specific tactics: Leave Wednesday midday and stay overnight so you're rested for the morning interview, travel Interstate 20, etc.

The same approach can be used to understand strategies vs. tactics in developing plans for social content and social engagement.

This post is getting a bit long, so I will divided this up into a second installment, where I focus on a hypothetical social strategy and offer some tips for identifying the technologies and tactics to implement the strategy.

If you're looking for help, I'm available for consulting work on digital content strategy development and can also help you on the digital content production side.

My production specialties are writing and on-demand audio. I can help you find the right partners for comprehensive branding services and videography, if that's necessary.

Find out more about Sheree Martin here on LinkedIn and elsewhere on the internet, including:

http://birminghamshines.com

http://alabamaignite.com

http://shinecast.tv

http://teachsocialbusiness.com

Sheree Martin I solve problems. Innovative, creative, curious, adventurous

I developed my version of the POST approach based on the ideas in Groundswell, a book by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research Group. [The link is to the book on Amazon, and is an affiliate link.]

Groundswell was first published in 2007 and I used the 2011 revised/expanded version as a recommended textbook in the first semester I taught Social Media Practices. Even though the statistics and other data, along with discussions of social media practices and platforms, are of only historical relevance today, I still think the book provides a great backstory for anyone who doesn't fully understand the underlying foundation of social media marketing.

You can find better sources for tactics and best practices in 2016, but Groundwell is still a great resource for anyone who feels that they don't really understand this whole social media thing and how it relates to business. [Amazon affiliate link.]

Categories
Inspire Marketing

Impact or Reach: What Are You Seeking?

Water is a powerful force. Over time, a stream of water can carve a canyon through solid rock. A single drip from a leaky faucet can cost a homeowner hundreds of dollars in water bills.

Water will make an impact.

Words and Stories Can Impact

Whether you're a marketer, a social change agent, a rock band or a parent, you have a message you want to get in front of an audience.

Most of us want our audience to do something in response to the message.

We really want impact, more than reach.

In my own experience, though, most decision-makers start by focusing on reach.

They ask questions like what's the audience size, how many fans and followers on each social media channel, how many downloads…..as if the answers to those questions actually matter.

Few of us have both the reach AND impact of leaders like Richard Branson.

Anyone with enough money can buy reach.

Even in today's fractured media environment, if you have the financial resources you can buy reach in the form of traditional and “native” advertising. You can hire a major agency to develop and execute a promotional juggernaut to get media placements on television talk shows and cable news.

A savvy and well-financed promotional campaign can also help you conquer the blogosphere and social media channels. You can even buy social media followers.

But none of that chatter and noise has staying power.

Just because your message hits a channel with your large audience doesn't mean the audience hears it or pays attention. And that's not all…..

Even if your message momentarily resonates with the purchased audience, the effect will be ephemeral. When is the last time you intentionally set out to listen to a song by Nickleback or Creed?

We’re constantly bombarded with noise. We understand how hard it is to get attention.

In the marketing space, the communication objective is to find a way to get the attention of a desired audience. For most organizations, the objective is to get a message in front of the largest possible audience, as if the law of averages would somehow boost relevancy and attention.

I think that’s the wrong approach. I think the better way is to focus on impact and identify a small number of influencers who can help to share the message.

Floods begin with raindrops, avalanches start with snowflakes

That’s how Billy Ivey of BIG Communications made a splash through his #NapkinNotes. He shared humorous lunch bag notes to his kids that resonated with an audience of parents and soon-to-be-parents who then responded and shared with his own community.

Then Jon Acuff expanded the reach. Acuff is someone you might describe as an influencer among Christian parents with a sense of humor.

#NapkinNotes now has reach, but the initial focus was on impact. A dad writing notes to his kids.

I suspect Ivey’s kids will remember those notes long after Ivey’s career in marketing is history.

For brands, the lesson is clear:

Focus on impact and you’ll probably get the reach you desire.

Focus on reach and you’ll be chasing something that lies at the end of the ephemeral rainbow.

Impact, not reach.

 

Categories
Professional

Teaching Through Food: Faculty Shoptalk

For the Fall 2012 semester I proposed a faculty shoptalk on the topic of teaching through food, since the health benefits of real food and the economic benefits of a sustainable local food system are two of my favorite causes.

I could easily see the value of using food as a theme to connect learning across various disciplines: Nutrition classes look at the nutritional side of food, while biology classes focus on botany or maybe even the science of genetic engineering, journalism students learn to write about food and food science, lit classes could focus on food in literature, art, well, you get the picture.

We ended up making the session a panel discussion.

Here's the session promotional synopsis I wrote. I found a copy as I was cleaning out papers from my office move and figured I may as well share it:

Food—and associated issues arising out of our complex modern food system—is a topic that can (and is) being taught in a multidisciplinary fashion. Food can be approached from many different directions: Economics, marketing and advertising, the environment, health and wellness, public policy and political science, entrepreneurship, sociology, even literature and art. Items to consider when teaching food include: The health benefits of eating “real” food (personally and the societal impacts of poor eating habits), the environmental issues associated with “modern” monoculture and large-scale industrial farming, the benefits of diversified, sustainable biodynamic types of agricultural practices, food security and access to healthy foods (locally and globally), the ethics of food marketing, the cultural aspects of food and society, and the economic benefits of a local food system.

[slideshare id=14890235&doc=teachingaroundfood-121025181902-phpapp02]

Thereafter, I presented a poster on how to use social media to promote and market a sustainable farm and also gave a couple of conference presentations related to food and farming research I was doing.
[slideshare id=36961537&doc=ssawgposter-140714115652-phpapp02&type=d]

Not Everyone Gets Interdisciplinary Education

My subsequent faculty evaluation by the chair advised me to select research and scholarly activity that was more closely related to the discipline of journalism and mass communication.
Food Blog South 2012 program coverI guess I should have thought to footnote all the job opportunities students have for careers in magazine journalism related to food, the billions of dollars spent on food advertising, the massive growth in marketing organic food products, the power of food bloggers, etc. etc. etc.

I forget that some people like to live in silos.

 

Silo photo copyright 2012 Sheree Martin