Spoiler alert: I had a bit of writer’s block when preparing for this blog post. But, lucky for me, I work with professional storytellers all the time. So, what do the pros do when they’re stumped? I reached out to bloggers and journalists I admire to borrow a page from their book (no pun intended) on beating writer’s block. From research to running and photography and getting a pedicure, the responses were too good to paraphrase, so without further ado, here are some juicy tips from the pros that you can refer to next time you’re trying to get an idea across on paper:
Cori Coffin, Anchor & Producer at News Channel 5 in Grand Junction, CO: Understand Your Subject Matter.
Well my biggest thing for writer’s block when I’m completing a story is to re-read and really understand my subject matter. Reading up on all resources can help get the process flowing for new ideas or new ways to say things. Also, a thesaurus is my best friend. I can look up one word I’m trying to get across, and get a whole bunch of ideas from all the corresponding words. In regards to story generation, we are always taught to follow our beats, and continuously follow up with various experts around the community. For example, my beat is energy. So how is drilling out here on the West Slope–is it up or down since we last reported? Have any companies had and changes lately? Hirings/firings, special projects, etc. Also, the best thing when you are feeling uninspired with story ideas, is to take to the community and talk to people! Just listen to their experiences, history, thoughts and insights, they tell some interesting stories!
Alexandra Hedin, lifestyle blogger of the same name; author, and contributor to 425 Magazine: Get Your Mind Off of It.
Writers block is the pits! For me, because all of my writing is driven by something I’ve created, I think it get more of ‘creators block’ than writers block. To get out of that rut, I find a long walk, park time with my kids, or just a pedicure and a trashy magazine are enough to get out of my own thoughts and clear my mind. If I’m completely lacking inspiration, I hole up in my library with every cookbook I own and start thumbing through them. Usually I can be inspired by an ingredient, an image, or a recipe itself to create something.
Don Granese, Reporter for NBC Right Now in Tri-Cities, WA: Let the Story Speak for Itself.
We work on a harsh daily deadline mostly turning multiple stories a day. In a way writer’s block isn’t an option. Sometimes I only have 15 minutes to write a full story. I find the best way to tell someone’s story is to let them tell it. I pick out their best quotes from the interview (ones that pack the most raw emotion) and then think of how to write around those while also including all the facts that could add to the story while also keeping a flow that pushes the story forward.
If I had any tips I’d say, think back on why you originally wanted to tell the story. What was the original factor that sold you on the idea? From there, how can you take that idea and make it relatable to your audience?
For example, today I met a woman who is deaf and needs donations for an $8,000 hearing aid. When I met with her and her husband they explained that he was also legally blind. Rather than write a story about how she needs this money, the story needed to be about them. They work together to see and hear.
I began my story by having the anchor read, “We use our eyes and our ears for just about every form of communication, but for one Kennewick couple they only have one full set between the two of them. Alejandro Vazquez is legally blind and Janie Gaunt has been deaf since the age of 12. They have been together for over a decade. This week the receiver for Gaunt’s hearing implant died. They have always been each other’s eyes and ears. Now, they have to work together until they find a solution.”
Almost everyone has eyes and ears. When we imagine not being able to use them it gets us thinking. Hopefully it grabs the viewer’s attention enough that they stay with the story. Then at the end of the story I mention the link to her page raising funds. The viewer/reader is already invested and maybe by that point they will feel charitable to the woman in need.
In this way my stories have an arc. I bring them in with the most relatable or intriguing thing I can without giving too much away. Then I let the story (and my characters) speak for itself.
Angela Russell, freelance writer and blogger at The Coupon Project: Try A New Angle With Content.
Revisit things you’ve written before to see if more could be said about them, or if you could take another angle on the topic. For instance, I recently wrote a post about dandelion foraging, but it later occurred to me I could also do a post on dandelion root tea, dandelion root coffee, where to harvest dandelion, the benefits of dandelion, and so forth. If you’re having problems brainstorming new material, take a good look at topics you’ve already covered. Have you really said everything that can be said?
Christi Warren, Reporter at SaukValleyNews.com in Sterling, IL: Start in the Middle.
I just start writing words. It can be about whatever the story is about. It can be about my reaction to the story. Just the action of typing and getting thoughts out pretty much always fixes it for me. I find it particularly helpful, also, to not start at the beginning of a story. I start somewhere in the middle, a la: “and then Janice entered her bedroom and there, on the floor, was the gun she’d seen him holding earlier. The very same gun,” and then I write until the end without having introduced Janice, or the gun, or “him,” and just carry on until I’m finished and then worry about the beginning later once the story’s written itself. I also know that if i have writer’s block, it’s only because I care deeply about what I’m writing and how it could affect the people who will read it, or the people it’s about.
Katrina, fashion blogger at The Demure Muse: Go For a Run, Snap Some Photos.
I feel like I hit a bit of a wall whenever the seasons change. I know it sounds silly, but I’m one of those people who really enjoys consistency and predictability with weather. As a style blogger, the shift between seasons can be hard for the first few weeks trying to change gears for dressing for a new season.
When I’m stumped for what to wear and not sure what to write about, I like to clear my head and go for a run around the city. Seattle is absolutely gorgeous and has some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets I’ve ever seen, not to mention really interesting art all around
Whenever I go for a run, I find myself taking photos of random buildings or street art. While running, I don’t think anything of the photos, but when I get home I like to review them over a quick water break and snack. It’s during this downtime that I get inspired by the photos of the city to either come up with topics to write about to accompany outfits that are inspired by colours in the photos.
At times when running isn’t an option (to be fair, Seattle weather has been amazing on the last few weekends), I look to taking photos of packaging around my home. As someone who appreciates creative ways to add character to mundane everyday objects, a lot of style and story inspiration comes from these photos as well.
Next time you’re stumped, take a step back and look at your surroundings. Take photos of everyday scenes that you encounter and look back at them to see if there are any characteristics that you didn’t notice on first glance. These little quirks and details are what usually inspire me to write. I hope they help rid your writers block too!
Posted in Productivity
For the past few months, I’ve been experimenting with different time management techniques to try and fit more into the day. My goal is simple; maximize my productivity during my work day so I can maximize the enjoyment of my personal time. There’s all kinds of great productivity advice out there that has really helped, from smarter list-making and task-batching to morning priority setting and project reorganizing. These have been incredibly helpful for maximizing productivity, but I found that at the end of the day I still had about the same amount of free time.
Just like extra money, when you have extra time, you’ll find some way to spend it. If you create an extra hour for yourself, you’ll inevitably fill it with a bunch of small, time-sucking activities and then wonder where all your time has gone. It’s difficult for us to recognize when this is happening, because we usually don’t add a new item to our schedule when we have more time, we just increase the amount of time we spend on activities we already do.
For me, those time wasters usually consist of news/tech blog reading and social media (mainly Twitter). Whether I have 10 minutes or two hours of free time, I can easily fill it with my face pressed against my computer or phone screen. Conventional wisdom suggests we completely cut out the things that are eating up our time to remove the temptation all together. The problem is I don’t want to give these up and I really can’t in my line of work. They’re still important, I just don’t want them eating into my extra time.
So here’s what I’ve discovered: the trick to having more free time that you can actually enjoy is to fit all of the small things that tend to eat up your time into your extra minutes, rather than into your extra hours. To paraphrase an old proverb, take care of the minutes, and the hours will take care of themselves.
If your time wasters tend to be internet-based like mine are, there’s good news; there are plenty of tools out there to help you maximize your minutes. Here are a few of my favorites:
Circa: If news is your time-poison of choice, consider downloading Circa to your phone. It’s a brilliant app that summarizes the news in about four short paragraphs, often with photos and maps to add context. If you want to learn more about a particular story, all of the sources are cited at the end of the article, so you can dig in as deep as you want. Plus, you can share on Twitter or Facebook right from the app.
Feedly: I’ve talked about the Feedly Chrome app for your laptop before and how it’s a must for social media managers, but the iOS app is a must for pretty much anyone who wants an easy way to stay up to date on their favorite news sites, blogs, etc. while you’re on the go. It’s perfect for when you just have a few minutes, or even seconds, to peek in on your favorite sites. You can bookmark articles to read later, send stories to a friend via email or text, or post it to any number of your social media sites. Plus, thanks to Buffer integration, you can schedule posts without even leaving the app.
Audible: I don’t know anyone who doesn’t wish they had more time to read. I like conventional reading as much as the next person, but when my to-do list at home starts piling up, reading is the first thing to go. Thankfully, Audible allows my to read even when I’m busy. Whether you’re commuting, folding laundry or going for a run, Audible is a great tool for doing two things at once.
If you have other minute-mastering tips and tools, I’d love to hear about them. Hit me up at @Robinsonpost.
Posted in Productivity
So, anyone getting social this weekend? Either way, here’s a wrap-up of our favorite links of late ranging from (our client) Whole Foods Market taking over the country to selfie-taking mirrors, and everything in between. Cheers!
Frank Underwood Welcomes ‘Game Of Thrones’ In A Surprising Way, Huffington Post. This is how you ride the wave of another brand’s excitement and win Twitter all in one fell swoop. — Matthew
The Heartbleed Hit List: The Passwords You Need to Change Right Now, Mashable. An encryption flaw called the Heartbleed bug is already being called one of the biggest security threats the Internet has ever seen. Time to change your passwords if you haven’t already, and check out this handy checklist Mashable created while you’re at it. They recommend changing your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram passwords plus some others to be safe, but the good news is all the sites it lists that you don’t need to be worried about (I still changed all my most important ones anyway, though). — Megan
Whole Foods takes over America, CNN Money. This explains why we are so proud to represent Whole Foods Market. — Scott
This Clever Newspaper Ad Hides a 3D Kitchen in the Classifieds, Gizmodo. The coolest classifieds ad ever. — Megan
This Mirror Will Take Your Selfies For You, Business Insider. Just in case your selfies haven’t been quite up to par, there’s now a solution for that! This mirror will actually snap that selfie for you. Okay, so the world’s problems are far from being solved, but interesting technology centered around this growing trend nonetheless. — Annie
PR is 80% More Effective Than Content Marketing, Business 2 Community. According to Nielsen, PR is 80% more effective than content marketing. Check out the reasons why here. — Noelle
Posted in Friday Links
With a new social media redesign comes a flurry of social media posts complaining of the change. This happened most recently on Tuesday when Twitter announced a profile redesign. Twitter received lots of negative feedback for their changes but I’m here to give you reasons why you should rejoice!
1. The design team will owe you coffee
Did you notice that with the new header photo your Twitter background disappeared? Yes, that background you sat with the design team for hours determining the correct spacing to display messaging on the left-hand side. No more hours wasted on your custom background that no one saw on mobile. Congrats, your design team will celebrate when you send them the new Twitter header photo dimensions. Profile photo = 400×400 px // Header = 1500×500 px by the way!
2. It hasn’t rolled out on mobile… yet
Large header photo, pinned tweets and best tweets are the trifecta that make up Twitter’s new profile redesign. Does your team know what you’ll pin first? How do you utilize the extra header space? Don’t panic, you have time to figure it out. With no news from Twitter yet on when these features will roll out on mobile, you have time to adjust and test these new features.
3. Takes away hours of scrolling
When you go on Twitter where do you spend 90% of your time? Chances are you’re in the Twitter feed or curated lists. When you click on specific account, what information are you looking for? With Twitter’s new features, pinned and best tweets are created to provide you everything you’ll need to know. No more scrolling through days of tweets, asking yourself ‘what does their audience engage with?’ Now you’ll know before moving into business with them.
4. It serves as inspiration
If you roll your eyes over a change in social media, you’re in the wrong business. The number of times that social media platforms have modified or redesigned is endless. Don’t be frustrated but instead, send Twitter a thank you. This is the wake up call you needed to adjust your social media strategy. As community managers, strategists, content developers and analysts we should always be evaluating and taking notes to ensure we’re taking advantage of all opportunities on social media. Let Twitter’s redesign serve as inspiration for you to adjust your plan and get out of your regular, 5-tweets-a-day rut!
Posted in Social Media
It was a sold out crowd at Safeco Field last night for the Mariners 2014 home opener. The rain poured, the Hilliard’s beer flowed and the Mariners won 5-3 against the Angels.
I love a night at the ballpark – from the fanfare to the on-field action. Last night, those of us in the stands were treated to outstanding fanfare and great baseball. The Mariners pulled out all the stops, and brands could learn from it (yes, I did just say brands can learn a lesson from an organization that finished last season 71-91. Let me finish.).
All Customers are Not Created Equally. Treat Them as Such. You know that term, “fair weather fan?” Well, you won’t find any at Safeco Field. This has been a tough road for #truetotheblue Mariners fans. Last night, the organization found a way to show its gratitude to longtime season ticket holders who have continued to hold on to hope. They could have simply sent these folks a special thank you letter from the front office, or a fancy seat cushion. Instead, they created a priceless experience that most of us will never have. These core customers had a special starring role in the on-field ceremonies. A phalanx of season ticket holders lined up in center field, dressed in Mariners blue, to help introduce the 2014 team amidst the cheering crowds and booming fireworks.
Use Your Social Channels To Make The Experience Bigger than Any Sold-out Crowd. With every event, there is a clear opportunity to interact with those on site. For the Mariners, every sold out game offers the chance to make an impression on 47,000 people. But social channels and the behavior of social sharing allows all of these fans to share their game experience with a network of friends and family anywhere.
Throughout the game, the M’s continued to give folks the opportunity to take out their phones and share the fun. Just one example was the #SafecoSelfie. Between innings, fans snapping selfies where shown on the big screen.
You Are Judged by The Company You Keep. The Mariners hosted a pre-game celebration for the Seahawks, and Russell Wilson threw the first pitch to Felix Hernandez. MVP Malcom Smith made a surprise visit to one lucky fan in his upper deck seats. By including the Seahawks in the M’s home opener, every fan in the ballpark got a taste of victory regardless of the night’s final score.
The crowd roared with approval to see another Seattle sports team with its strong culture of winning. Hopeful fans drew comparisons between the two teams. I spotted a sign in the crowd with Wilson’s mantra, “Why Not Us?” And the media coverage followed.
I remain cautiously optimistic about the M’s this season, but l hope the home opener was a sign of good things to come.
Were you part of the fun at Safeco last night? Tweet your #SafecoSelfie to @amricard.
Posted in Uncategorized
Warm spring days in Seattle are rare. So, when the sun shines and the temperature creeps above 65, Seattleites know how to take advantage. They know the sun and all of its glory will be gone, likely the very next day. Case and point: yesterday it was 70 degrees in the Emerald City and today, a mere 58 and cloudy.
My fellow Curators and I have compiled a list of our go-to locations and activities to embark upon when the weather is warm.
In my opinion, there is no shortage of beautiful parks in Seattle, but two of my favorites include Green Lake Park and Gas Works Park. Both locations always promise great people watching (one of my favorite hobbies), and tons of grassy space, which is great for kids. My husband and I love impromptu picnic-in-the-park dinners (thank you Whole Foods Market prepared food department!) with our daughter on warm spring and summer nights.
My patio! Ellie and I have a bistro table just outside our front door on the west side of the house that’s perfect for sunny days. A good book and a good beer on a sunny day is all I need to forget about Seattle’s five months of cloud cover.
My boat. It’s getting to the point where it’s held together with duct tape and hope, but on a nice day, nothing beats it.
I could name a million places! I still love Alki Beach and Kerry Park as much as the next Seattleite, but when it’s a perfect sunny day, I always try to head over to Ray’s Café in Ballard. They have a patio over the water and a great happy hour. Plus, there’s always boats, paddle boarders and sometimes the odd jellyfish or otter to watch.
Anywhere outside, preferably with a view, and a drink in hand! On a boat or a rooftop seem to be my go-to’s.
On a sunny day in Seattle, I refuse to eat inside which is why I am always on a hunt for a good patio. Most of the time, though, you’ll find me on my apartment rooftop where there’s a gorgeous view of the Space Needle and South Lake Union!
My colleague, Noelle, who resides and works in San Diego, CA, had this to say about how she prefers to make the most of those sunny days, which happen far more often in her hometown, than Seattle – lucky lady!
One of my favorite places to enjoy the sun in San Diego is La Jolla. A stroll along the beach to check out the sea lions, window shopping in the cute boutiques, or even dining al fresco at tasty open-air brunch spot all make La Jolla a great place to soak up some rays while taking in some lovely scenery.
Posted in Culture
If you saw my previous blog post, you’ll know I spent the majority of last week enjoying the food, sun and most of all Whole Foods Market in Austin, TX.
PR professionals from across the country gathered around breakfast tacos on behalf of Whole Foods Market to share best practices, company updates, and learn from some of the best minds in the industry, including a panel discussion with Max Goldberg of Living Maxwell and Alison Roman from Bon Appetit Magazine.
I learned a lot about PR, a lot about Whole Foods Market, and even more about food. To shed some light on my experience while visiting the Whole Foods Market headquarters, here are my top 4 takeaways on some of the latest food trends:
1. Teff is the new black. It wasn’t too long ago that I didn’t even know what teff was. But, this nutrient-packed seed is quickly becoming all the rage as consumers look for new ways to add texture to their food. According to both Max and Alison, we’ll be seeing a lot more of teff in the months to come.
2. Paleo is prolific. Roughly 1 out of 10 people stick to a paleo diet. For those in the food industry, that means a greater focus on grass-fed and/or specialized menus appealing to this audience will be vital in attracting consumers.
3. It’s about the whole plant. Sections of fruit and vegetables that used to be instantly discarded, such as melon seeds, are now being saved and used for other recipes. Finding unique ways to consume the whole plant has turned into a delicious and creative outlet. Check out this Melon Seed Agua Fresca recipe from Whole Foods Market for example.
(Photo Credit: Whole Foods Market)
4. Austin has amazing food. Okay, so maybe this trend is a little less scientific. But, it’s based on my research from eating at some pretty amazing restaurants during my trip. To top the list of favorites was The Winflo Osteria. We sampled melt-in-your-mouth cheeses, learned how to make our own tonic, and drooled over flourless chocolate tortes. Check them out at @Winfloaustin.
After a successful trip, I’m more impressed with Whole Foods Market than ever – with the bright minds behind the business, the company’s mission and values, and how they are leading the industry in so many ways. Looking forward to uncovering more food and PR trends to come!
We’ve survived April Fools Day and it’s finally Friday. Check out some of the teams’ favorite reads this week–from how brands pranked us on April 1st to Honey Maid’s thoughtful response to hateful tweets to Pinterest strategy tips for your small business. What are you reading today?
April Fools’ Day 2014: The Best of the Brand Hoaxes, AdWeek. In honor of April Fool’s Day, here’s a good roundup of all the brand pranks this year. — Chelsey
Infographic: See the Daily Routines of the World’s Most Famous Creative People, FastCompany. So interesting. Darwin took three walks a day and fueled up on ‘tea with an egg.’ Separately, I hope. Which of these famous peoples’ routines does your resemble most closely? — Megan
Honey Maid: Love, Creativity-Online. If I wrote copy for Upworthy, I might tell you, “Honeymaid created this video to answer the haters who sent nasty emails in response to their inclusive ‘Wholesome’ ads. You’ll never believe what happens at the end.” (But seriously, showcasing that there were 10x more positive than negative responses was brilliant.) — Ann Marie
13 Reasons PR Girls Are Going To Take Over The World, Thought Catalog. Watch out world! The PR ladies are coming for you! – Chelsey
How Small Businesses Can Leverage Pinterest Effectively, Business2Community. Pinterest has been a hot topic with some of our clients lately. Check out these quick tips for making the most out of this medium! — Noelle
Posted in Friday Links
Next week I’ll be heading down to sunny California to see some of my favorite bands, and hopefully discover some new favorite artists at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. In preparation for the three-day festival, I’ve been doing a lot of musical research and refreshing myself on some long forgotten hits as well. I thought it would be fun to give my fellow Curators, and all of you, a taste of what I’ll get to hear while I’m down there, so I made a Spotify playlist for all to enjoy: Coachella 2014!
Take a listen and let me know who you’d most want to see or what song you’d love to hear if you were going @C_Allodi.
Posted in Uncategorized
April 1 is the one day a year when seeing isn’t necessarily believing, especially in the online world of branding and marketing. More and more, brands are playing practical April Fools’ jokes on the public with fake product launches, random press announcements and zany social media posts in an effort to set the Internet ablaze and get consumers talking. While a farce, the pranks can build brand buzz and brand affinity among consumers if executed with enough tongue-in-cheek flare.
Check out our curated list of some of the most eye-catching April Fools’ Day pranks from this year:
Love Cheetos so much that you want to smell like the orange snack food? Frito-Lay’s press release announced the entry of brand mascot Chester Cheetah into the perfume space. The press release slapped on the extra cheese, calling the perfume Cheeteau by Chester and describing it as “a prestige fragrance that celebrates the irreverent, intriguing and playful nature of the iconic feline with a scent bold enough to excite and delight.” The release was accompanied by a YouTube video, which has received 1 million views to-date. Cheeteau’s integrated “campaign” included a giveaway of 100 bottles of Cheeteau on Twitter. Fans who Tweeted a cheesy selfie with the hashtag #CheesySelfie could enter to win the perfume.
Pizza lovers everywhere were disappointed to hear that the world’s first edible pizza box was simply an April Fools’ joke from Domino’s UK. Billed as the world’s first in “snackaging,” the “Edibox“ was borne through surveys that revealed that customers “crave extra crust once they’ve finished their meal.” And the best part of the Edibox? It’s eco-friendly of course.
American Eagle Outfitters
What started out as a prank looks like it’s actually coming to fruition. American Eagle Outfitters announced a new line of matching outfits for dogs and their human parents dubbed American Beagle Outfitters. The joke included a “dogumentary” lamenting the current selection of duds for dogs. Intended to raise money for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) through the sale of gift cards, the retailer pulled our tails with a website full of canine couture. However, after receiving an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response, AE is now planning to actually launch a limited edition collection for pooches this fall.
Whole Foods Market
Even some Curator clients got into the jokester spirit this year. Whole Foods Market in Cambie, Vancouver played a practical prank on shoppers by posting “parking tickets” on 15 lucky shoppers’ cars. Hope the shoppers read the fine print – the citation stated that the shoppers would receive a $10 gift card for posing with the ticket and posting it on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #WFMcambie.
Google is known for its April Fools’ pranks (anyone remember Google Nose?), and this year was no exception. Included in the surprising suite of jokes up its sleeve was Google Maps’ video (which received 9.5 million views as of this morning) advertising an augmented reality Pokémon game run through the Google Maps app that allows users to scroll across Google Maps using their smartphones to catch different specific of Pokémon by tapping on their icons.
Google’s blog post stated: “We value employees who are risk-taking and detail-oriented, have deep technical knowledge, and can navigate through tall grass to capture wild creatures. It turns out that these skills have a lot in common with another profession—that of the Pokémon Master. With that in mind, we’ve worked with Pokémon and Nintendo to develop a new training tool to help people hone their Pokémon-capturing abilities using Google Maps.”
For Gmail, April 1 brought the introduction of the “Gmail Shelfie” or sharable selfie, which allows you and your loved ones to replace your old Gmail background with a glorious photo of your face. According to the company’s blog post, “Gmail Shelfie is built on the idea that you shouldn’t be selfish with your selfie. With just a few clicks, your mom, your aunt, or that girl you have a crush on can set your Shelfie as their Gmail theme so they can enjoy checking, reading, and writing emails while seeing your friendly face in the background.”
But perhaps my personal favorite Google rollout was Google+ Auto Awesome, which allows you to take those selfies one step further with a celebrity photobomb. Want David Hasselhoff to join you on a hike or a leisurely stroll on the beach? Auto Awesome Photobombs makes that happen.