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Say Hard Things with Data Visualization

Say Hard Things with Data Visualization

No one wants you to tell them their baby is ugly. Even you.

It’s easy to be a critic of everyone else’s work, but what about your own? How can you be sure the efforts and resources you are investing for some expected outcome are actually going to deliver that outcome? And how many times do you invest months of time, effort, energy, and budget dollars only to come out on the other end completed dumbfounded it didn’t work out as intended?

In today’s business climate, you can’t afford to be wrong for very long.

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What's wrong with the "F" word?

What's wrong with the "F" word?

Not that "F" word! 

That's another post for another time. I'm talking about F-O-C-U-S in your content and messaging strategy. The ability to stay on target until you determine the campaign is a horrible failure or a raging success.

Too many give up before they give an idea the chance to succeed.

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6 steps to better digital writing

6 steps to better digital writing

The biggest mistake copywriters make is they assume the same copy can work in different channels. The default is to work toward efficiency. Write it once and then let design craft it for the desired distribution channel. Only it's not that simple.

Each channel has characteristics that make them distinct and different from the others. 

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Professional writers don't have literary orgasms

Professional writers don't have literary orgasms

I know a lot of writing hobbyists who are in love with the words and sentences they put on a page. You know who they are. They admire the work of people who have been dead of a few hundred years and lament the decline of true litrery genius in our culture. Personally, I don't think literary genius is extinct anymore than I believe the best writers are found in history books. Either way, that conversation misses the point completely.

The truth is professional writers make a living writing words for others—whether it is for an individual or business.

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5 new realities of marketing you can't ignore

5 new realities of marketing you can't ignore

Marketing will never be the same.

There was a time when desktop computing skills (remember that phrase?) moved from optional to required. Then, employees had to understand the Web. Now, no organization can afford to hire people in their marketing department who don't understand social networking and mobile engagement. My prediction is that every new hire for any professional position will one day have to demonstrate a proficiency in social and digital media.

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Integrated predictive search will make or break you

Integrated predictive search will make or break you

The discipline of content marketing is forcing businesses to become publishers and publishers to become businesses. The person who wins in this equation is ... EVERYONE.

People win because they feel empowered through knowledge to make better decisions, whether that's a local contractor for home improvement or deciding on the next ERP system to purchase and implement for your growing business. Inbound marketing changes the game in that it reverses roles. Instead of the business or vendor finding the customer, the customer finds the business or vendor.

Google is a verb you can't afford not to use.

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5 reasons why deadlines matter

5 reasons why deadlines matter

Every client wants to know three things when they hire freelance or contract creatives: 

  1. Will he or she accomplish what I need him to do?

  2. Will he or she deliver it in the form that I need it delivered?

  3. Will he or she meet my deadline?

I live on both sides of the table. I sometimes set deadlines. Other times, I am given deadlines. Either way, there is purpose and function behind every production schedule.

I have to admit I'm a litte crazy about dates.

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Better conversations begin with analytics

Better conversations begin with analytics

Analytics, when spoken, is a word that can divide a room of people. It will intrigue some and send others mentally and emotionally somewhere else believing that it is "someone else's" responsibility or simply unethical and irresponsible.

Yet every person interested in engaging others in meaningful conversations should pay attention to analytics. Every communicator wants to make the most of the opportunities he or she is presented with. But too often our game plan is based on a whim, grounded in the success of others, and left to intuition.  As is often said, "Hope is not a strategy."

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What a social media policy won’t do

What a social media policy won’t do

You can't fix stupid. Sorry. This is my fundamental skepticism of depending on corporate policies to control [sic] behavior on social media.

I'm not a huge fan of rules of any kind but especially when it comes to social media. That being said,  I'm beginning to develop an appreciation for social media policies as a way to help businesses, brands, and causes focus their work in the age of influence through digital communications. 

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Fewer messages, More distribution channels

Fewer messages, More distribution channels

I find myself saying this over and over again. The temptation for organizations is to just keep creating more and more messages while sending them across the most efficient and established models for the organization. The fatal flaw is in that logic is that the consumer controls the conversation now, not the organization. That means I can "mute" you, and you can't do anything about it. 

The lies that organizations buy into is that ...

  • They constantly need to have something new to say.

  • They intuitively know the communication preferences of others.

  • They believe everyone likes to be reached in the same way.

None of these are true.

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Write books for different readers

Write books for different readers

Not every reader is the same. Some want to digest every word slowly. Others approach books as a utility to deliver mature ideas to solve practical problems. Neither reader type is better than the other. 

Most people scan nonfiction content. I don't think this is a new development, nor do I think it represents the dumbing down of society due to digital publishing. As book publishing becomes an increasingly competitive space, publishers are now building books based on the reader's native consumption habits rather than traditional literary guidelines.

Personally, I welcome this shift.

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How to reclaim your old, archived blog posts

How to reclaim your old, archived blog posts

There are a growing number of people who have been writing blogs posts for a decade or more. If you've been doing it five days a week for 10 years, you've created 2,600 blog posts. If each of those blog posts were 500 words, you've written 1.3 million words. Wow! That's a lot of content.

The nerd in me wonders just how many nuggets of wisdom are buried in the ominous archived section of your blog. It seems an incredible waste of time and creativity if the content you share is only used once. Surely there is a way to breathe new life into latent blog post content. Don't you agree?

Content is an asset. But your ability to cash out its value depends on your willingness to reimagine new ways you might use it.

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How to make the most of every interview opportunity

How to make the most of every interview opportunity

Asking questions is easy. Asking the right questions is hard. 

When you get the opportunity to interview other people, you get to step into their world for a moment in time. The goal is to see the world through their eyes, so you can share their perspective with other people.

If this is something you're interested in doing but don't feel like you're very good at, here are some tips I've picked up after more than a decade of interviewing people in chase of the story.

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Aspiring writers should be weary of posers and hobbyists

Aspiring writers should be weary of posers and hobbyists

A professional writer is someone who gets paid professional fees to write copy. A hobbyist does not. Be careful not to confuse the two. 

People who get paid to talk about writing aren't necessarily professional writers. A professional writer is someone who gets paid to open up a blank document and start typing copy that is eventually published or utilized in some form of commerce, whether it is a direct mail campaign or a book.

Hobbyists sometimes pose as professional writers.

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9 things to make clear when hiring freelance writers

9 things to make clear when hiring freelance writers

There is nothing more exciting than working with people who help you accomplish your strategic goals. If you manage areas of your business or organization that are responsible for copy development, then you’re likely familiar with hiring freelance writers. 

Most people either love working with contractors or don’t. I find many times those who don’t have had a series of bad experiences that have colored their perspective on hiring outside talent. That’s really unfortunate because there are a lot of great writers available to brands, businesses, and causes. And that talent is easier to find, validate, and contract today that ever in history.

But communicating with freelance writers (especially for non-writers) can be frustrating.

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Nike is only half right. Just quit it!

Nike is only half right. Just quit it!

Nike is only half right. “Just do it” works until we need to “Just quit it.” Only the quitting part seems harder that the doing part. I had the privilege of hearing Bob Goff speak speak a few years ago. 

If you’re not familiar with Bob (and I wasn’t before this conference), he is an attorney with a sense of humor. Impressive! (Those are rare by the way. And, of course, my apologies to my attorney. I do appreciate you.)

One of the things Bob said that stuck with me was he quits something every Thursday.

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How to spot an experienced content writer

How to spot an experienced content writer

There are a lot of people who call themselves content writers. It seems to be the catch phrase in the freelance world. They reason, “If content marketing is in, then I need to call myself a content writer.”

This, understandably, creates confusion for those who hire content writers. After all, you can’t call yourself a doctor if you aren’t one, right? But this scenario often leads to frustration and disappointment and can throttle the openness a person has to working with content writers in the future.

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How to become an authority on any subject

How to become an authority on any subject

For those of you who don't know my complete story (and why would you), there was a time in my career when I was responsible for the marketing, revenue, and operational efforts of a multi-million dollar business unit that sold offering envelopes to churches. 

Offering envelopes are about as sexy as ... um .... NOTHING. 

Nevertheless, we managed to sell more than 130 million of them a year to more than 12,000 customers.

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Awaken the Outlaw featured on The 700 Club

Awaken the Outlaw featured on The 700 Club

I was stunned when my publisher called a few months ago and said I would be interviewed on CBN's The 700 Club about my latest book. I know I may be a big deal to my boys, and my wife loves me a lot. But I'm just "little Ben Stroup." 

This was my first TV experience. And it was live.

I was worried I would stumble and stutter. While the guest coordinator and associate producers did their best to calm my nerves, there is nothing that prepares you for that moment.

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4 sacred rules for writing case studies

4 sacred rules for writing case studies

Case studies are powerful tools that help others say things about you that you may not necessarily be able to say about your self.

An unexpected benefit of a case study is you get a great excuse to connect with some of your biggest champions and give them a chance to share their enthusiasm for you and your product or service with others in a powerful way.

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