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About Donna Papacosta

Writer, speaker, podcaster, communications and social media consultant, content marketer and curator. As a consultant, I emphasize the importance of storytelling and relationship-building, and enjoy helping people understand how today’s technology, combined with tried-and-true tactics, can help them communicate better with employees, customers and prospects. In other words: Share your story, build your business.

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Here are my most recent posts

Do you have questions about the business of podcasting?

As you may know, Steve Lubetkin and I are working on a book called The Business of Podcasting. Unlike other podcasting books that delve into the mechanics of creating a podcast, The Business of Podcasting tells you about the business side of the craft: the best business models for making money (realistically!), how to position clients’ expertise through podcasting, how to find clients, legal reviews, IT pushback, and much more. We will also include chapters on achieving great sound, the kinds of equipment to stock in your studio, and editing techniques, but our primary focus will be on helping you learn the best practices for making money from podcasting. Steve and I recently recorded a conversation about the book and the topics we’re going to cover. You can listen to it here. Do you have a question about podcasting? Perhaps something you really want us to cover in the book? If so, you can post your question here on the blog or email Steve and me at co-authors@thebusinessofpodcasting.com.

Yes, you have a voice for podcasting

One of the most common questions I hear from would-be podcasters is this: “I am thinking of starting a podcast, but I’m afraid I don’t have a good-enough voice. I don’t have a ‘radio’ voice.” Guess what? You do not need a radio voice. In fact, a slick delivery may turn off podcast listeners. I believe that unless you have a serious speech impediment, your voice is totally acceptable for podcasting. Besides, there is so much more to podcasting than a nice warm vocal tone and crystal-clear diction. Can you research interesting topics? Can you do a good job interviewing people? Can you structure a compelling story? Can you succeed in engaging your listeners? Of course you can capitalize on your natural vocal abilities by learning how to use your microphone effectively and, if needed, to modulate your voice. Try this: listen to yourself without being too critical. Is your voice a bit high? Try lowering it by relaxing your throat. Do you speak very quickly? You may need to consciously slow down, ensuring that you take time to breathe. Don’t rush. Be careful to not swallow any syllables. Recently I tried listening to a new podcast, but had to hit the stop button because the host kept swallowing words; I couldn’t make out what he was saying. It’s true that many of us hate the sound of our own voices. Even when other people tell us we have a good voice! How about this: let’s be analytical enough to want to improve, but not so critical that we cringe when we play our own podcast episodes. What do you think? How important is a podcaster’s voice? By the way, if you’re thinking of starting a podcast, or improving the show you already have, please check out my upcoming podcasting workshop in Toronto. Related post: Voice techniques for podcasters    

Advice for new bloggers

They say you learn when you teach, and I find this to be true. From January to April I taught Audio Journalism at Sheridan College; I’ll return next winter. This semester I’m at the University of Toronto as an instructor in Digital Communications Strategy and Social Media. As a course requirement, our students are creating blogs and publishing posts throughout the term. Watching them in action, I’m reminded of my own early days as a blogger, although the social media landscape was a little different 10 years ago, in the pre-Twitter era. Here is some blogging advice accumulated over the past decade. If you’re a newcomer to blogging, I hope you find it useful. Blog about a topic you’re passionate about and have some knowledge in. If I did a sports or shopping blog, for example, it would be pretty lame, and likely riddled with errors. You’re more likely to carve out time to blog when you care about the subject matter and you want to help others. That helpful mindset is key. Know what you want to accomplish with your blog. If it’s just to air grievances or muse about your life, fine; have fun with it. But if you want to generate leads for your consulting business, you need to publish solid, useful content. Imagine who’s reading it. Who is your ideal reader? Try to visualize him or her in your mind. What kinds of content would your typical reader care about? Keep SEO keywords in mind, but always write for human beings. Take the time to create an editorial calendar. If you plan several months’ worth of posts, your blog will have some structure and cohesion. Of course you can still add ad hoc content to discuss new developments in your industry or area of expertise. Be sure your headlines are compelling. You are competing with oodles of interesting content out there, and only your mom or your best friend will read every post just because you wrote it. Curate. In other words, your blog is not all about you. Refer to smart thinking by others, and add your own two cents. Add multimedia. Record some audio or video. Include a photo in every post, which attracts eyeballs and also makes it easy for you to pin your post to Pinterest. Amplify your blog content with social media. Only your regular readers, especially if they subscribe to your blog, will see your new content unless you promote it. Use Twitter, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, Pinterest and Facebook to share your content socially. With any luck, others will begin to spread the word and your reader base will grow. Check your stats but don’t obsess over them. It’s gratifying to see an uptick in your numbers, but don’t waste energy worrying that your readership isn’t high enough.  Your overall measurement of blogging success should not just be about raw numbers anyway. Go back to what you were trying to accomplish. Is that happening? Engage with readers. Do read and respond …Read More

Mesh: Canada’s leading digital conference

I’m looking forward to attending mesh next week in Toronto, May 27 and 28. Because of calendar conflicts, I’ve not been able to get to mesh every year, but each time I do attend it’s an experience that charges my brain and reignites my passion for the digital world and the people who make it so vibrant. The best part of mesh, to me, is the juxtaposition of digital insights and personal connections. Sure, with 38 keynotes by leading thinkers, there’s bound to be a presentation that excites you, but I can guarantee you’ll also make interesting connections during the breaks. The energy in the room and hallways is always palpable at mesh. Because I’ve been invited to help spread the word about mesh this year, I have a special promo code for you. Use VIPmeshDP when you register, and you will save $100. Check out the lineup of speakers. Whether you’re interested in media, arts and culture, social trends or marketing innovations, you’ll find something to make your attendance a must. I hope to see you there.

New workshop! Sound Matters

Have you thought about using audio on your website or blog but don’t know where to start? Have you produced in-house videos that were marred by lousy sound? Is a podcast on your marketing to-do list? Then come to the Sound Matters workshop on July 10 to get your questions answered. Some of the things we’ll cover include: Why good sound matters in audio, video and other multimedia presentations How to capture the clearest sound possible with the gear you have How to record, edit and produce audio clips and podcasts with both mobile and desktop devices Audio storytelling techniques How to write a script; when NOT to script How to read a script naturally How to marry audio and slides to produce video-like presentations, quickly and easily An overview of popular, inexpensive gear Much more! UPDATE: Please note this event has been postponed.

Spring cleaning tip for anyone with an online presence

And that means YOU! You can do this any time of year, but spring is perfect for checking ALL the links to your various web properties. Go to your profiles on each social media platform (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, etc.) and be sure all the links to your website, blog, podcast, etc. are correct. I checked mine and found a few old links! When you work in communications, it looks bad to display dead or outdated links, right?

Top 5 social media questions

Working in social media and communications, I get questions. Lots of questions. Here are the top five things people ask me, for this week’s marketing tip.  1. How can I avoid spending an excessive amount of time on social media? Social media can indeed be a time suck, in two ways. You might find an interesting link on Facebook, click through to the publication, and then spot six more things you’d like to read, then four more, and so on. Before you know it, an hour has passed and you’re not entirely sure why you’re watching a cat video. At the same time, you will be curating and sharing content. A few tricks can help you save many minutes. You can streamline your perusal of social media by limiting the time you allow yourself to freely traverse the social media world. What works for me is a half hour first thing in the morning, followed by short bursts of social media goodness several more times later in the day, then perhaps in the evening during my “down” time. TweetDeck is my preferred tool for organizing my Twitter stream so I can see my various lists and hashtag searches at a glance. As for publishing posts, I love Buffer, which allows me to queue up a bunch of items in the early morning and spool them out during the day. I always caution clients against over-automating, but Buffer can be a very handy tool. You’ll find more tips in this post on “How to find and share great content.” 2. We hired someone to set us up with social media accounts. But now we don’t know what to do with them. Unfortunately, some consultants will “set you up” on social media and then leave you hanging. Creating an account on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, Pinterest and elsewhere is merely a step in your tactical approach. You need a strategy first. Why are you using social media? What are you trying to accomplish? How will you measure success? Answer these three questions, and then create an editorial calendar. Only then can you start publishing content. Read my post on “Why social media without content marketing makes no sense.” 3. How will I know if my social media efforts are working? What were you trying to accomplish? Did it happen? Sure, look at the numbers, but it’s not all about likes and retweets. Getting 100 retweets or 500 likes may boost your ego, but if it doesn’t spark any tangible results, what’s the point? 4. Is GooglePlus here to stay? Should I have a presence there? Over the past few weeks many pundits have pronounced the death of GooglePlus, but I think they’re premature. If you judge GooglePlus as a Facebook competitor, it comes up short. But it was never designed to go head to head against Facebook. GooglePlus is a social layer, and it’s tightly integrated with Google Search. For now, I’d say it’s an important communications vehicle. I especially like its …Read More

The power of storytelling in your podcast

This is an excerpt from The Podcast Scripting Book. Suppose you want to tell great stories with your podcast, rather than conduct interviews. The best communicators share stories, not just facts. Watch just about any TED Talk and notice how the speaker weaves a tale, using rich vocabulary and honest emotion to draw you in and inspire you. Every podcast you produce may not be a full-blown story, but do consider adding key elements of storytelling to your show: Remember your audience is listening, not reading. Be sure to open with something strong to draw in listeners and give them a reason to play the whole episode. Perhaps start with a compelling question, something like: “Do you know the top three reasons why people hate your website?” Use the “you” word. This can be the most powerful word in your podcast. Remember: you’re speaking with one person at a time, not a big crowd, despite your audience stats! Bring emotion into your story. How did the principal character feel? Whether it’s an employee in your organization, a client or a customer, or you you’re talking about, don’t be afraid to incorporate emotion. Remember: If we don’t feel, we don’t act. Use repetition to your advantage. It’s OK to say something more than once. Read well-written prose, which will help you to become a better storyteller. Some of my favourite storytelling writers include David Sedaris, Nora Ephron and Anne Tyler. Get more tips like this in The Podcast Scripting Book.

Outline of a typical podcast script

Excerpt from The Podcast Scripting Book. Your podcast should reflect you and your goals. If you’re just beginning to podcast, you may be looking for ideas for structuring your show and your script, if you’re using one. Here are a few to get you started. Welcome and introduction to the show This explains quickly what the show in general is about. Don’t be too repetitive here. Some podcasters repeat their name and the show name three or four times. That’s too much! And please, don’t tell us several times how “excited” you are about today’s show. This gets old quickly. Introduction of the episode topic What’s the benefit to your audience? Be short and sweet here and give us a teaser so we’ll keep listening. Topic or interview If it’s just you talking, be sure to outline your main points so you don’t forget something important. If you have a guest on your show, introduce him graciously and generously, and point out his credentials. Then get right into the meat of the content. Wrap-up Because your listeners don’t have visual cues, it’s helpful to wrap up the podcast with a recap of main points. Do you have a call to action? Mention it now. Comments I suggest you save promos, comments, “housekeeping items” and other such content for the end. Don’t make me listen to your podcast for 10 minutes before I derive some value from it. Be sure to tell listeners where to reach you via the Web, email, phone, etc. You may also decide to add musical bumpers between segments. Get more tips like this in The Podcast Scripting Book.

Podcasters: Be sure to check out Auphonic

I just published my latest Trafcom News Podcast episode, called “Eight podcasting truths.” If you’re a podcaster, I wanted to draw your attention to something I mention in the show: a fairly new online tool called Auphonic, which allows you to effortlessly improve your audio quality. I’ve used it so far for about a dozen files in the past couple of weeks, and it works very well. The Auphonic team offers their service for free and accepts donations, so please consider supporting them. You can listen to the episode here. I welcome your comments!

Tips for writing for the ear

This is an excerpt from The Podcast Scripting Book. Writing for the ear is not the same as writing copy to be read by the eye. Here are a few tips for writing for the ear, whether your end product is a script, speech or podcast: Rely on simple words, not complex ones. For example: “Use” rather than “utilize.” Shorten your sentences. If it requires a semicolon, it’s probably too long. Round all numbers. Say “nearly one million,” not “989,320,” unless there’s a reason to use the exact figure. Use the active voice, not passive. “Our team ran the webinar,” not “The webinar was run by our team.” Use less formal language. For example, use contractions, as long as you can enunciate clearly. (“Won’t” rather than “will not.”) Be sure listeners can hear the difference between your pronunciation of “can” and “can’t.” Give auditory guideposts. Say things like: “Let’s talk about three ways to use social media to market an event. First, you need to …” Add transitions between each of your points, and a recap at the end, using your numbered list as a structure. Don’t be afraid of repetition. It’s OK to repeat important information for emphasis. Get more tips like this in The Podcast Scripting Book.      

Why your conversational podcast does not need a script

This is an excerpt from The Podcast Scripting Book. If your podcast consists of interviews or conversations between you and one or more guests, I’d suggest not using a script at all. Instead, write out a list of topics you want to discuss with your guest, and share this list with him. However, do not send the precise questions you’re planning to ask. Why not? Because some guests, believe it or not, will scribble out their exact answers and then expect to read them verbatim during the recording session. This is especially true when someone is nervous and has little experience with interviews. In my early days of podcasting, I wanted to be nice, so I would send people questions in advance when they asked for them. As a result, I had to stop people dead cold in the middle of one of their answers to say: “Wait a minute. You sound a bit stilted. Are you reading? Please don’t. Let’s have a conversation instead. You’ll thank me later.” And they did. Needless to say, I no longer email exact questions to guests in advance – just general question areas. Why am I so against this type of reading? Unless you’re a trained voice actor, you’re probably not very convincing reading your answers. In fact, it’s likely that you’ll read in a monotone and bore people to death. Trust me: They can tell you are reading. The structure of your language and the tone of your voice are giveaways. As the podcast host, if you are afraid of forgetting something, by all means write your main points down as a checklist for yourself. This includes the questions for your podcast guest. Keep in mind that your podcast will most likely be edited. In the worst case, you can record and add forgotten content later. So, don’t worry about leaving something out. In my experience, the best interviews happen when I start off with questions that are merely guideposts, and let the conversation branch off naturally, with an easy flow. Don’t worry if you ask only five of your seven planned questions, as long as the content is good, and your listeners will benefit from hearing the conversation. Want to learn more? Check out The Podcast Scripting Book.

Marketing tip of the week: How to create evergreen content

Does your website or blog feature evergreen content? This type of content has a longer shelf life than most of the information we publish. Because it’s not tied in with the latest headlines, evergreen content remains relevant for years, and attracts inbound links. As you know, Google loves sites with plenty of genuine links coming in. I’ve found that some of my evergreen posts about writing, podcasting, podcast scripting or podcasting gear have attracted traffic for five years or more. So have some of my podcasts. One episode about internal podcasting still gets traffic after more than six years. Talk about the long tail! If you’re considering evergreen content, you might include how-to videos and blog posts, white papers and “explainer” pieces. An explainer doesn’t just define something; it makes it clear and easy to understand. I’ll let you in on a secret: I sometimes mine my own outbox for ideas for evergreen content. You can do this too. If you hear the same question from umpteen clients, you know the answer could very well be turned into an evergreen blog post, podcast or video. At the same time, look at your Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. What types of content are people consistently visiting? If your blog is like mine, a few dozen posts garner the most visits. Evergreen ideas I’ll bet you can quickly come up with plenty of ideas for evergreen content. Here is some inspiration to get you started: Check your own files or your email outbox to determine the questions you answer most often for clients and prospects. Examine your Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools to discover the topics your audience wants information about. Consider writing a “how to work with____ (your profession)” post. So if you’re a freelance writer, you’d write a post about how organizations can get the most of their relationship with a freelance writer. A graphic designer or web developer could write a similar post. So could any professional. Do a roundup post of the best sources of information in your field, or a directory of the top 10 podcasts in your niche, in your estimation. You get the idea. Use your expertise and knowledge to curate information and create useful content. Evergreen creation tips As for the creation of the content itself, here are some tips: Keep written material short and to the point. People often don’t really read; they skim. Use bullets and subheads. Add a photo or graphic to attract the eye. If you produce a video, keep it to two minutes. Be sure the quality is good and the sound pristine. You can shoot yourself in the foot with a fuzzy picture and muddy audio. For text, audio or video content, be sure to keep SEO in mind when you create your meta-data. Have you had success with evergreen content? If you’d like to learn more about this subject, check out my special report on content marketing.

Marketing tip of the week: Make the most of Twitter

Are you not using Twitter yet? Some of my friends and colleagues are uneasy about dipping their toes into this micro-blogging platform. Don’t be afraid! It’s a great tool for learning, sharing and networking. To start, determine how you can complement your marketing and communication efforts with Twitter. Sign up at the Twitter website. When you write your 160-character Twitter bio, be sure to add relevant and interesting information to help people decide if they should follow you. Add your photo plus a link to your website or blog. Write about 10 tweets before you start following others. Twitter notifies you by email when someone follows you, and people usually check out the follower’s profile before deciding whether to follow back. To find people to follow; start with your own address book. Use the “Find People” tab on the Twitter website. Be sure to follow thought leaders in your industry, and follow the people they follow. Share some Twitter love by retweeting others’ content. Your Twitter feed should not be all about you. Engage with others by using the @ reply feature or direct messages (DM). Think about using a Twitter client such as TweetDeck or Hootsuite instead of the Twitter website. It will make Twitter easier to manage. Create Twitter lists of clients, prospective clients, colleagues and other people. This makes Twitter much easier to manage. The full Twitter “firehose” is usually too much to consume. (By the way, you can see someone’s tweets in a Twitter list even if you are not following them. This is handy if you want to track your competitors on Twitter.) Learn how to use hashtags and search for them. I like to define a hashtag as “the deliberate use of a keyword.” So, if I write a post about podcasting in general, I might not use the tag. But if I tweet about #podcasting, I’m letting people know that this tweet is ABOUT podcasting. Bonus: if you click on a hashtag, you’ll see the tweets associated with it. Once you are comfortable with Twitter, try using Buffer to schedule tweets. Although I am wary of over-automation, I do like to schedule tweets to appear throughout the day, not just in the early morning when I’m scouring Twitter for great content. Related content My post on “Why people don’t follow you back on Twitter.” P.S. If you’re in the Greater Toronto Area and you’d like to learn more about Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+, check out my next Hands-on Social Media Workshop.        

Hands-on Social Media Workshop May 9

Spring is in the air, at last. And so are plans for my next Hands-on Social Media Workshop in Oakville, Ontario. If you’re in the Greater Toronto area, particularly the west end, I hope you will join us on May 9. I’ve been running this workshop for a few years (although I update it every time). Many of those who sign up tell me they’re tired of trying to figure out social media on their own. In our small group, they can learn, ask questions and get expert tips. By the end of the day, they’re confident about moving forward with social media in their businesses, and can make informed choices about which tools might be best for their particular situation. Here’s what the workshop offers you: A comfortable environment where you can ask questions and get honest answers. Advice about developing a strategy for using social media in your communications and/or marketing. Up-to-date information about the latest social media tactics and tools. Tips to help you be more productive with social media (including the intelligent use of automation tools). Suggestions for resources to help you keep learning about social media, because it’s constantly changing.

Marketing tip of the week: Consider content curation

One of the things my social media friends complain about is people who constantly push out content about themselves: “Buy my book, sign up for my workshop, read my stuff.” Sure, I’d encourage you to use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and GooglePlus to share your brilliant new blog post, but if you talk only about yourself online, you’re bound to alienate people and lose followers. In my social media workshops, people ask, “Well, what should I publish then?” Here’s my short answer: Follow interesting people on various platforms, subscribe to publications in your field, and then share the best of that content with others. If you do this consciously, you are a curator, or one who consistently finds, organizes, annotates and shares the best of relevant content. Just this week, my friend Judy Gombita used the term “mindful curation,” which I love. “Mindful” means you put thought into the content you share. You’re not just blindly retweeting or reposting content. Like Judy, I’m a mindful user of paper.li, a cool tool that allows you to share content in a newspaper-like format. Among some of my friends, these papers have received a bad rap because users often generate them relying solely on the paper.li algorithm. We all see the result in our Twitter feeds: “The Bob Smith Daily is out!” Who cares? Instead, to publish the best paper possible, take the time to edit the content and move stories around. Don’t be afraid to delete content that’s not sufficiently relevant to your audience. My friend Sue Horner does a nice job of this with her Independent Communicator newsletter. After all, you want to publish stuff that compels people to say, “Wow, thanks. This is really useful!” At the same time, you’ll be helping your followers avoid the firehose of content, which offers us too much at once. Soon people (perhaps including your prospects?) will count on you to provide excellent content. Who doesn’t want to be known as a person who is smart and generous? Here are some tips to help you get started with curation. First, find great content. Subscribe to topical blogs and newsletters; use Feedly to follow them and Delicious or Diigo or another social bookmarking tool to tag and save links. Set up persistent searches in Twitter for keywords you’re interested in. Create columns in TweetDeck or Hootsuite so you can see the fresh content. Follow smart people on Twitter and subscribe to Twitter lists of thought leaders in your areas of interest. Get involved in Google+ Communities, where you’ll find plenty of insights around the topics you care about. Subscribe to other peoples’ newspapers on Paper.li; look for those that focus on subject matter that’s most meaningful to you and your followers. Flip through Flipboard on your tablet or smartphone to find interesting stuff. Now you can share that content: Write blog posts that use others’ information as a jumping-off point; be sure to add your own insights. Share content published by others on your own social …Read More

Content marketing is not synonymous with any old content related to marketing

Sometimes we communicators are sticklers for grammar and usage. When someone says he just published a new blog, for example, we really hope he doesn’t mean a new “blog post.” Don’t even get me started on “lie” and “lay.” But there’s an even bigger transgression I’m seeing more and more these days: an apparent confusion between the terms “content marketing” and “any old content related to marketing.” For the record, here’s the definition I like to use for content marketing: Content marketing is the consistent creation, curation and publication of relevant, valuable material that attracts and engages a clearly defined audience. It must have an objective. It is not sales-y. Why do people lump all the content they’ve ever written about their product, including brochures and sales sheets, into the bucket known as “content marketing”? This just confuses the issue. I have to believe they truly don’t know what content marketing is, and they’ve just latched on to what they believe is a “trend.” For the sake of clarity, perhaps some examples will help. If you’re a lumber company, your video about how to build a birdhouse is content marketing. On the other hand, your video about how your pressure-treated wood is better than Company X’s wood is content,  not content marketing, because it’s about you. If you are a professional podcast producer, your blog post about how to choose a microphone is an example of content marketing. A post about your own podcasting production services is content, not content marketing. If you’re a writing coach, your workshop about how to write a best-selling book is content marketing. A workshop about your coaching services for writers is not content marketing. (Yes, I’ve been invited to many “workshops” that are merely vehicles for a sales pitch; spare me.) Some people seem to object to the very idea of content marketing. “Why should I publish anything that won’t immediately lead to sales?” they ask. Well, I believe content marketing can be an important part of your communications because it can: Help demonstrate your thinking and your approach to business. Build your brand around a library of great content (text, audio, video, infographics, etc.). Encourage others to spread your content; people share great content. Cultivate thought leadership within your niche or industry. Improve your search engine optimization around the keywords at the centre of your publishing efforts. Ultimately generate leads. Overall, content marketing is like a magnet drawing prospects to you. Do you agree with my assessment of content marketing? For more on this topic, check out my free report on content marketing. (Yep, that’s content marketing.) Related content Why social media without content marketing makes no sense Content marketing made simple [podcast] What is content marketing? A quick introduction from Trafalgar Communications

New book: The Business of Podcasting

If you’re curious about the business side of podcasting, you may be interested to hear that my colleague Steve Lubetkin and I are writing a book on the subject. Steve is a podcasting pioneer, and founder of one of the first podcast production companies in the United States.  If you follow my blog, you know I’ve been in the communications biz for more than two decades, and podcasting since 2005. So, Steve and I are familiar with the medium and know what it’s like to not only produce podcasts for our own businesses, but for clients as well, from large corporations to nonprofits. Unlike many other podcasting books on the market that cover the mechanics of creating a podcast, The Business of Podcasting will delve into the business side of the craft, including such topics as how to position clients’ expertise through podcasting, and how to offer podcasting as a business service. We will discuss how to find clients, how much to charge, how to design a project plan and contract for a podcast series, and how to help clients deal with their IT or Legal departments, who may resist the idea of a podcast. There’s a lot more to be covered in the book! If you’re a professional podcaster, Steve and I may be reaching out to you to share your own stories of podcasting as a business. Of course you are more than welcome to contact us. Feel free to email me at donna AT trafcom DOT com. Please visit the website for The Business of Podcasting and sign up so Steve and I can let you know when the book is ready to launch. P.S. In case you missed this earlier bit of news: my publication, The Podcast Scripting Book, is available on Kindle.

Marketing tip of the week: Learn how to pitch

Imagine the business owner at her desk late one night. Sitting amid a pile of empty Starbucks cups, she has finished writing a detailed proposal and thinks she can rest after hitting “send.” After all, at the pitch meeting next week she can just “walk” the client through the written proposal, right? Not really. If she’s smart she’ll take the extra step of preparing an in-person pitch to persuade the prospect. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs and small business owners focus only on the written proposal, and treat the in-person presentation as an afterthought. That’s too bad. In this week’s marketing tip, we’ll explore the components of a successful in-person pitch. Let’s start with two key points: A pitch is not you reading your written proposal. A pitch is not a PowerPoint deck. Of course not all pitches are worthy of hours of preparation time. But if your prospective project is important, and you really care about winning the business, invest some time. Let’s assume you’ve already met with the prospect at least once (even by phone) and truly listened to their needs. You fully understand what they’re looking for. Now you need to convince them you are best positioned to take on the assignment and solve their problem. Tips for successful pitching Describe the problem you solve for your clients – in a story It’s way too easy to recite a laundry list of what your company does. It’s also boring. A much more effective approach is to share a story about how you solve problems. Help them picture you as their savior. Perhaps you can paint a “before” and “after” scenario. People remember stories, not data. Include yourself Don’t be afraid to include yourself as part of the pitch. If you developed your product or service, for example, as the answer to a pain point you yourself were feeling, share this. Such information breathes life into your story. Last week I heard a student pitch a science podcast; he told us about how he offhandedly signed up for a course in university and accidentally discovered he was an “astronomy savant.” It was a fascinating way to open his pitch and drew us right in. Be wary of visuals Rethink the idea of showing a cluttered slide. The audience should be looking at you, not trying to decipher a busy PowerPoint deck. In fact, you should reconsider the idea of using slides at all. Why not let people focus on you and your message, rather than a screen? Remember that more data is not better Rattling off figures doesn’t dazzle the audience; instead, you might lose them. Sure, keep the numbers at your fingertips so you can answer questions, but don’t attempt to cram every bit of data possible into your pitch. Stick to high-level benefits. Overall, you want to show how your product or service solves a problem in a way no one else can. Don’t read! The person you’re pitching to wants to learn something, to be surprised, and …Read More

Marketing tip of the week: Stop ignoring Google+

We’ve all heard the jokes: “Google+ is a ghost town.” “Only Google employees use Google+.” Ha ha. Well, the joke’s over, my friends. If you care about content marketing, search engine optimization, Google Authorship and communicating with your audience, Google+ has become essential, and you ignore it at your peril. A social networking and identity service owned by Google, with more than 540 million active users, Google+ has been described as a “social layer” that enhances many of Google’s products. Remember that Google owns Gmail, YouTube, Google Analytics, Google Images, Google Drive, GoogleDocs, Google Search and others.  And we know that Google’s Search algorithm especially likes content that originates in Google+. Eventually, if you ignore Google+, Google Search will ignore you. So said Google co-founder Larry Page, according to marketing and social media expert B.L. Ochman in this excellent article for Social Media Today. [UPDATE: We were not able to find the original source for this Larry Page quote, but Google's emphasis on G+ is abundantly clear.] I admit I was skeptical when Google first launched G+. I thought it was a feeble attempt by Google to clone Facebook. I was wrong. Very wrong. Today I find G+ to be invaluable for networking, learning, sharing and content marketing. I love the Communities and participate regularly in discussions with various groups, including podcasters, independent communicators and fellow members of associations. I use Hangouts all the time, and even published a Hangout on Air (and an audio podcast) about Google+ with B.L. Ochman. Here’s how to get started with Google+: Before you create your profile, know why you want to be there and what you want to accomplish. Create a complete Google+ profile. Fill in the About section. Add a nice headshot and cover photo. Name your Circles and then add contacts to these Circles. You can then share info with certain Circles, or read the activity stream from various Circles. Post regular updates. In these updates, use #hashtags to improve your findability via Google Search. Learn to format your updates. For example, an asterisk at the beginning and end of a group of words will bold them. Remember Google+ is a very image-friendly place; use photos, infographics and other visuals to your advantage. Add other multimedia, such as SoundCloud audio, which offers a player in G+. (You can see an example in the image above.) Join Google+ Communities and participate in the discussions. Be sure to try out Google Hangouts, which offer rich features to enhance your online communications. As B.L. Ochman reminded me, Google has changed its Search algorithms; engagement really matters! Try to post great content that encourages shares and +1s (Google’s version of a “like”). What has been your own experience with Google+ so far? If you want to learn more about social media to improve your own marketing efforts, check out my Hands-on Social Media Workshop on March 28 in Toronto. We’ll explore Google+ as well as the other major social media tools. Donna’s G+ cover photo credit: …Read More