Archive for the ‘Project Management’ Category

Boost Your Blog with a Strategic Publication Plan: 5 Steps to Managing Your Time and Content

Monday, January 14th, 2013

If you enjoy writing, blogging is a great way to reach out and build connections with people who share your interests and who can benefit from your services. It’s also a great way to add fresh, search optimized content to your professional website and attract qualified inbound links, which improve your rankings

But it’s also a serious commitment. If you want to develop a following, you need to come up with a topic at least once a week, on schedule. You need to find time to research, write, revise and post. You need to stay on top of trends in your field and find an original angle. You need to understand your audience and what questions they’re asking.

It can seem easy at first, especially when you’re excited about launching your new blog, to find something good to write about. Without a publication plan, however, it’s also easy to run out of steam.

I’ve seen this happen time and again with clients who want a blog as part of their new professional websites. They’ll write a few posts, maybe even for a month or two. But soon, other commitments and demands of a busy schedule squeeze out the blogging, and it becomes a dated, dead-end section of their websites.

The best way to avoid that trap and keep your blog fresh and compelling is to develop a strategic publication plan. Here are the basic steps:

1. Identify your ideal client’s top questions.

What are your target audience’s biggest concerns that you can help solve? What are the questions you’re asked most often? This is the starting point for a series of blog posts. Write down the questions and group them into several main categories.

2. Develop a list of keywords that tie to your main blog categories.

You can do this using Google’s free keyword tool, if you’re on a budget, or a good paid service, like Wordtracker. You can find a lot of excellent free guidance about how to select keywords and phrases on Wordtracker.com. Keep this list handy as you develop keyword tags and headlines for your posts.

3. Plan out a series of post topics, one per week to start, for two to three months at a time.

Keep it manageable, based on a realistic assessment of your availability to write. As you plan, try to rotate your topics so that you cover the range of your main categories over a month or six weeks. I like to set this up as a table, with a column each for the post topic, the category, who’s writing the post (if you work with a team) and when the post is scheduled to publish.

4. Plan your time for research and writing.

You can tackle this in a variety of ways. If you work best on a weekly basis, set aside time for research and writing the first draft several days ahead of the publication date, so you have time to review and revise. Another approach is to set aside a day each month to focus on your blog, do all the research and first drafts, then take a few hours later that week to revise and set up a series of four scheduled posts, one for each of the next four weeks.

5. Track your traffic.

Review your blog stats to see which posts were most popular and got the most comments. Be sure to keep up with any comments in a timely fashion, to encourage interaction. Evaluate your publication strategy based on this feedback and develop your schedule for the next three months.

While some people favor writing several times a week, and even daily, to build a following, my preference is to write well, consistently, once a week. We’re all inundated with too much information every day, every hour, online. If you write something worth reading that your followers can look forward to on schedule each week, chances are they’ll read it and pass it along. And you’ll have more time to focus on the work you love most.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Extreme Web Makeover II: The Good People Fund

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The Good People Fund (GPF) is a wonderful philanthropy that supports small to mid-sized, grassroots non-profits that are finding creative, hands-on ways to help alleviate poverty, hunger, social isolation, homelessness and more in their home communities.

I should know. I’m on their Board of Trustees. I’ve also been helping GPF redo their website, which needed a major overhaul to better represent the organization’s great work. We just went live with the new site last week, which is already starting to generate more traffic and donations.

Here’s the back story:

Founded in 2008 when its predecessor foundation closed doors, GPF has been growing steadily for the past four years, carefully screening, mentoring and supporting non-profits in Israel and the U.S. that meet its criteria of low overhead and highly effective programming. The organization created a website soon after it went into operation in order to have an online presence.

The site served its purpose, providing a basic explanation of the philanthropy’s mission and vision, listing information about leadership and financials, providing links to grantee’s websites, and sharing heart-felt stories about how people benefited from GPF grants through the Tzedakah Diaries, written by Executive Director Naomi Eisenberger. The site had a form for online donations and educational materials for families and Jewish educators.

So far, so good. But as GPF grew, the site needed work. The Board agreed that there were several major issues:

  • Upgrade the website’s amateur design with a friendly, professional image.
  • Update content to better explain GPF’s mission and focus, as well as the value-added of giving to GPF (screening, mentoring, matching donors to grantees).
  • Explain the work of grantees, replacing links to their websites (which drew traffic and potential donations from GPF’s site) with clear and compelling descriptions of their work.
  • Convert the Tzedakah Diaries to a subscription-based blog, distributed via social media as well as email.
  • Create user-friendly navigation and add graphic images and videos to enhance the user experience.
  • Ensure that the Donations call-to-action has a prominent place on the site, on every page.
  • Improve search optimization.

Working with the Board, Naomi, a wonderful designer who prefers to keep his contribution to the project anonymous, and Ed Booth of Insight
Dezign, I directed the site upgrade. I came up with a new tag line, “Small actions, huge impacts,” which our designer incorporated into a beautiful new logo that expresses the global nature of our work as well as GPF’s Jewish roots. He adapted the green and blue color scheme of the original logo and created an upbeat design for the website that alludes to earth and sky, and to the Jewish art form of paper-cutting. The text is set in Verdana, a clean, web-friendly typeface, and titles are in Mrs. Eaves, adding a touch of sophistication.

Naomi and I spent many hours writing and rewriting content for the site. Much of the program description text was adapted from GPF’s Annual Report, revised for the web to make it easy to skim. I wrote all of the key marketing content for the homepage, and revised the Mission, Vision and Overview with input from Naomi and the Board. We reviewed all of the text from the old site, tweaking and tightening for readability. I conducted keyword research that guided my creation of search-optimized, branded urls for each page, as well as site content.

Naomi collected images for many of the grantees, and we added videos that were created by editing and repurposing existing footage, thanks to Eli Katzoff of Stormport Productions.

Ed worked wonders with all of the design direction, executing many rounds of refinements with equanimity and attention to detail. He tied the site into the original back end of the old website, which was a key criteria for the project’s success.

Now we are working with Ross Plotkin, Head of Paid Search for Kahena Digital Marketing, to enhance search with Google AdWords. Thanks to Ross, GPF received a Google Grant for an AdWord campaign that has already begun to generate more donations.

It’s been a huge project that has stretched over many months, but the Board is thrilled with the results, and we look forward to growing our donor base, enabling GPF to help support even more worthy endeavors.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your good work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

How to Get Your Clients to Do Your Selling for You

Monday, February 6th, 2012

How long will it take? How much will it cost?

Two questions asked about every project you take on as a service provider.

The answers, of course, depend on the details. But one thing I’ve discovered over the years as a marketing director and, now, as a marketing consultant, is this: be as accurate as you can in your estimates, but don’t cave in to the impulse to please your client with an overly ambitious project schedule and less-than-realistic budget.

In other words, under-promise and over-deliver.

Manage Expectations for Realistic Deadlines and Costs
It’s all about managing expectations. The reality is most clients who hire you don’t understand the level of detail your service entails. That’s why they’ve hired you in the first place. They don’t know how to do what you do as well as you do it, they want you to take that task off their hands, and they want you to do it as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.

It’s up to you to clarify, up front, what that means in terms of your time and the value of your service. If you overstate what you can accomplish within a given deadline, even if your intentions are good and you really want to hit that target, you’ll ultimately disappoint your client and weaken the bond of trust that’s essential to any long-term business relationship.

Plan for the Unexpected and Keep Your Client Informed
Now, I’m not arguing here to be so cautious that you pad your project deadlines to the point of inconvenience or price yourself out of the market you’re trying to serve. All of this is a matter of knowing your client’s needs and negotiating the best arrangement for both parties.

But I do find that it pays in the long run to add extra time and expenses into your project estimate for inevitable unforeseen delays and associated time required to solve problems along the way.

Keep your client informed of your progress and time used as you move through the project, so they always know where you stand in terms of your estimate, without asking. And for every project, track your time, both for billing purposes and to learn from experience, so that your next estimate is all the more realistic.

Once You’ve Set Realistic Expectations, Exceed Them
When you deliver a great product or service to your client, within budget, ahead of schedule, that far exceeds their expectations, you’ve scored a bullseye.

So, set yourself up for success by planning for enough time and a large enough budget to make that happen. You may scare away some clients who want more than you can deliver for less than you’re willing to take. But you’ll build a loyal customer base who will do your word-of-mouth selling for you. And that’s the best kind of marketing there is.

 

The Power of Persistence

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

I went to bed last night with the news that Osama bin Laden is dead, killed by American special forces in a secret compound near Islamabad. I woke thinking about the incredible effort and determination and focus that it took to reach this day. Ten years after the horrific events of 9/11, the world’s most heinous terrorist has finally met justice.

In a much more benign context, the significance of a decade’s persistence came up earlier yesterday, while I was attending a Boston writer’s conference. Author Ron Carlson, the keynote luncheon speaker at The Muse and the Marketplace, spoke of the importance of “staying in the room” as a writer—that it takes 10 years of steadfast practice to be able to write good stories.

Anything Worth Doing Takes Time and Focus
So it is with achieving any significant goal. We are bombarded daily with instantaneous information, instantaneous feedback and the constant pressure of making instantaneous decisions to keep up with the speed of global communications.

We have within our digitized universe a bounty of tools to inform our decisions, to help us analyze and be smarter about how to reach our goals. And yet, they are just that—tools.

Anything truly worth doing takes time, focus, determination, a willingness to make mistakes and learn from them, and the fortitude to keep going despite the odds.

Whether the work is the highest collective priority of securing our nation from terrorist attack, or the solitary, personal pursuit of mastering an art form—or, the focus of this blog, defining how effectively to make your good work known to the people who would benefit from it most—persistence is key.

A Lesson from the President
President Obama epitomized that lesson in his eloquent, understated address to the nation last night. He told of the intensive, behind-the-scenes efforts to find bin Laden, the secret surveillance since last August of bin Laden’s suspected compound, the thorough fact-checking that led to the President’s decision to order the attack, and due diligence to ensure that it was bin Laden who had been killed.

All of this effort took place during some of the most embattled months of his presidency, in the midst of tumultuous mid-term elections and heightened criticisms of the sluggish economic recovery. But clearly, the President stayed focused on the critical task before him, despite a multitude of distractions and detractors.

We would all do well to learn from his example.

 

On Turtles and Project Management

Monday, April 4th, 2011

During my decade-plus tenure as marketing director for a small New England college, I used to give each member of my staff a small plastic turtle. Sometimes a new hire would think I was crazy, but usually, after a few months, she or he would come to value the message, which I deemed Herwitz’s Turtle Principle. It had three parts, and it went like this:

Take the Time to Do the Job Right the First Time
Often we were under tremendous pressure to jump and do and produce, but whenever I sped up our project schedule to accommodate, one of two things would happen: we’d make foolish mistakes when we rushed, or the internal clients would inevitably change their minds about what they wanted. Or both.

So I would tell my staff to take the time to do the job right the first time around, because otherwise we would end up spending twice as much time fixing it. While this approach is counter-intuitive to today’s instant gratification culture, it worked extremely well. Our marketing materials were always of the highest quality, and we were one of the most productive departments in the college.

Let Unreasonable Demands Roll Off Your Shell
Committee reviews are often the death of creative work. We always listened carefully to our clients’ concerns, but when they asked for modifications that we knew were ill-advised—either bad design or simply the wrong way to get desired results—we would do our best to explain the issue and then proceed with what we knew would work. The successful outcomes validated our judgment and built our reputation for excellence.

Pace Yourself Through the Day
No one can be creative on demand, 24/7. I always encouraged my staff to take their lunch breaks (though I was not a great role model on this one, as I often preferred to eat at my desk) and to get up and take a short break if they needed to clear their heads. I’ve always found that a walk outside is one of the best ways to free a creative logjam—certainly much more effective than staring at a computer screen. And some of my best ideas and solutions came to me during my long daily commute on the Mass Pike.

I’m sure the little plastic turtles raised a few eyebrows among my colleagues. But they became a point of pride for my team. We knew from experience that the Turtle Principle worked to everyone’s advantage, in the long run. And as every child learns from Aesop, it’s the tortoise, not the hare, who comes out ahead in the end.

Credit: Free photos from acobox.com