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Why Great Writing May Not Be Enough To Win Blog Readers

The genesis of the tweet below (and this blogpost) was a realization late last night that I am my own enemy to growing my blog. Bailey WorkPlay has existed since 2004 in various incarnations. To date it contains nearly 500 posts, some of which have been featured on AllTop, The Social Customer, and The Customer Collective. Over the past few months, I was getting more and more angry about my relatively low readership and lack of general awareness.

I kept brooding that after eight years it still shouldn’t be this hard to build and keep an audience. This thinking was exacerbated lately by having a handful of people tell me – based on reading this blog – that writing is one of my key strengths. Well, if it’s one of my strengths, then why the hell don’t I have more readers?

But all of that angst ignored the fact that the problem is not “out there.” The problem – and responsibility for solving it – lies solely with me.

Here’s the question that is now driving my actions: Am I prepared and committed to doing the work of building an audience and growing my awareness as someone with expertise in marketing, branding, and customer experience?

If the answer is “Yes” then that means I need to commit to a few things if I want to win more blog readers:

  1. Post more frequently. Probably at least once per week, preferably 2x if at all possible. I can’t blame others for not being consistent readers if I’m not posting great content consistently.
  2. Improve my titles and other copywriting techniques. I’m wagering the single biggest reason why I don’t get many clicks is because I give throwaway titles to my writings. I’m opening myself to learning from smart practitioners such as Mack Collier and the folks over at Copyblogger.
  3. Bring even more “me” into each post. Tell more stories. Open the kimono just a bit more. I’d like to thank this post from Entrepreneur and this one from Amber Mac at Fast Company for the inspiration here.

But enough about me…what about you? Are you satisfied with your reach and influence as a blogger? Take it further. Is there another area in your life where things are just not where you want them to be? If so, stop looking for answers or blaming others out there. Look inside, instead.

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Five Ways You’re Killing Your Employer Brand At Job Fairs

Last week, I attended the Tech Career Expo which was held in conjunction with SxSW 2012. I persevered the driving rain, crowds of festival-goers, as well as sparse and horrendously overpriced parking options to check out what was billed as “not your normal career fair.” In the end, I was sadly disappointed to find that it actually was just. like. every. job. fair. ever. As much as I enjoy a good brew, the fact beer was served did not create a revolutionary new experience.

Before I start, let me say I fully empathize with the trials and tribulations of being a trade show exhibitor. I’m all too familiar with being on my feet for hours rattling off the same 30 second “Who We Are” pitch to countless booth visitors. I know how hard it is to maintain the same upbeat nature of the first day on days two and three (and sometimes four). But any organization should know the same rules which we marketers use for creating business with prospective customers very much apply to attracting possible job applicants. It should come as no surprise that the differences between marketing brand and employer brand are wafer-thin.

So if you’re attending or in charge of sending representatives to the next job fair to promote your employer brand, I hope you’ll find these observations from a marketing trade show veteran useful.

1. You’re damn happy and appreciative to be there.
Whatever you’re actually feeling about being there, the prospect doesn’t care. All they care about is your complete and undivided attention. If you and your booth staff are bitching about having to be on your feet all day and looking like you’d rather be anywhere but at that very spot, imagine how a potential job seeker must feel. And yes, I did have someone do this to me. I can guarantee it did nothing to endear me to him, his company, or his company’s product.

2. You know your company and what it does by heart.
Unless your company is named Dell, Apple, or Google, it’s extremely likely potential applicants will want to know more about your business. It might even be their first question. So have the 30 second pitch down cold. Know the basics: your industry, your target customers, what your product or service does, and your competition. And if this sounds like common sense, let me say that reps from at least three booths at the Expo would have gotten a failing grade here.

3. You can speak eloquently about your open positions and employment needs.
Please don’t just go through the motions…you might as well not have a booth at all. When I asked the question, “What types of positions are you trying to fill?”, I had more than one booth rep shove a piece of paper toward me and respond, “They’re all here.” Sorry, but that’s not the question I asked. I’m certainly capable of taking collateral and reading it. What I want to hear is some insight into your company and what skills/backgrounds/expertise you need to move your business forward. Sorry? Your booth reps don’t have that kind of information? Then educate them or leave them at home.

4. You can help the prospect understand how great it is to work at your company.
Yes, I know how much you like working at the company. While your perspective is important to hear, I also know you’re getting paid to say how much you like working at the company. Instead, do this: help me understand why I might love to work there. Paint the picture, not from your perspective, but from my own. Take a couple of minutes to ask me what I do, what my strengths are, where I want to go in my career…then help me see exactly why I would want to take my talents to your organization.

5. Finally, you’re a brand representative so act accordingly.
I may never, ever work for your organization. I may not possess the type of skills you need now or in the future. I may not quite fit with your culture. But that still doesn’t mean I’m a throwaway contact. Each potential job application you come into contact with at a job fair may end up being the individual who chooses your company to do business with in their next gig. Or refers an important key client in the direction of your company. Taking the short-view of any candidate’s viability obscures the hard truth that we live in a hyperconnected world.

Photo credit: KUT

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Social Media: A Modern Form Of Bear Baiting?

As much as it may offend our current animal-loving sensibilities, the spectacle of bear baiting was once a very popular form of entertainment (and in certain areas of the world, it remains an attraction). Basically, it involved tying a bear to a post in the middle of an arena and attacking the beast with large, trained dogs. It was also common to provoke the bear further by poking it with long, sharp prods. Cruel? Without a doubt.

But I argue that the very same mentality that conjured this sport into creation remains with us today. We still love to sit around and watch corporate C-Levels get skewered for their mistakes or whole brands get mauled when they screw up. And now with social media, it becomes a full participation sport. (And lest you think I’m pointing a finger outward, there are indeed three pointing squarely back at me…I’m unfortunately guilty of this behavior, too.)

So what does this actually say about us? Have we really civilized ourselves and evolved out of our barbaric and bloodthirsty selves? Perhaps not. Perhaps we still love a good show where we can easily provide instant judgment of missteps, quick criticism of poor decisions. Hopefully, we’re not doomed to this quest for base entertainment…hopefully, we have the potential to be better. Here are a couple of ideas for how we can exit the arena and leave the poor bears in peace:

Let’s interactively communicate with the C-Levels, the corporate brand managers, the folks who do exist behind the actions we’re itching to criticize. For Pete’s sake, its as if there’s no room for error anymore. One foul-up and you’re an incompetent hack who deserves to be standing on a street corner begging for some spare change. What has happened to giving space to learn from mistakes? Fewer and fewer executives and brands are going to try to be innovative if they think their efforts are going lambasted by anyone with a Twitter account or blog. So instead, I suggest we be a bit more constructive, offer a bit more feedback, try to act as part of the solution.  Yeah, it may mean we have to try to be a little less cynical. Hell, you might just be able to chalk it up to your one-good-deed-for-the-day. That’ll feel good.

Perhaps the hardest of act of all is not giving in to the pressure of instant judgment. Yes, this means going against the grain and choosing a different perspective in a hypermobilized social media world. But look at it this way: in an increasingly homogenized world where everyone is seeking a way to be unique, your decision to withhold criticism until all the facts are known could be a critical personal differentiator. So, next time Amazon deletes a book from a Kindle, let’s help them learn from this action because they’re maneuvering in uncharted waters. Or next time the CMO from a retailer forgets he’s still responsible for customer satisfaction, let’s offer not only some constructive feedback, but acknowledge that she or he is actually a fallible human being capable of forgiveness.

I’m game for making the attempt if you are. What do you say?

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