Categories
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)

 

Categories
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
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.]