writing

Blogging As Self Expression And Discipline: An Interview With Linda Robinson

Before I met Linda Robinson, I knew three things about her:

  1. She was super interested in and knew a lot about birthing babies.
  2. She did lots of work in other countries related to this.
  3. She had a weekly blog.

Now most people just blog when they feel like it, but Linda blogs every Sunday, whether she is in the middle of Africa or at her daughter’s house. Yes, writing is a form of self expression, but when you keep a regular publication schedule it also requires discipline.

Before blogging, Linda used to write weekly letters home, which she’s since compiled into a book “Sunday Morning, Shamwana”. She continues this practice with her blog as a letter she can write to lots of people.

In this interview, we discuss blogging and lots lots more. Full disclosure: Linda is Nicole’s landlord. Here are the links we promised you in the video:

Buy Linda’s Book on her website

Buy Linda’s Book on Amazon (note: this is an affiliate link)

Read Linda’s Blog

Check out our resources about blogging

Types of Mom Blogs

I became fascinated with mom blogging a few years ago when I was ghostwriting for a mom blogger. Initially, I thought mom bloggers wrote about “mom stuff” like toys, feeding, cute clothes, developmental concerns, and the like. Rather, I found most mom bloggers focus on a specific niche. In other words, mom blogs don’t have to be about “mom stuff.” Here are some different types of mom blogs I’ve come across:

Mom Bloggers with Multiple Authors

These blogs typically cover “mom stuff,” including pregnancy and postpartum. They have multiple regular contributors in addition to guest writers.

Babble. Babble is owned by Disney and focuses on parenting and pregnancy. Contributing writers are typically employed by Disney in some capacity. Babble features more of the “sensational” and celebrity side of mom blogging, in addition to addressing topics such as summer vacation tips and funny tweets from parents.

Example: “Kristen Bell’s Trick for Keeping Her Kids Close is One We’ll Be Stealing ASAP.

Pregnant Chicken. Pregnant Chicken was a project started in 2010 by a woman who wanted to help others navigate the world of pregnancy/parenting. Since then, Pregnant Chicken has grown to include a handful of full-time bloggers and various contributors.

The writing is a good combination of humor and brutal honesty. Some categories include the “Scary Sh** Series” and helpful tips for handling the tougher moments that come with parenting. This blog isn’t for the faint-hearted — in addition to the aforementioned brutal honesty, readers should be prepared for some coarse language.

Example: The Seven Stages of Picking a Name For Your Baby

Hellobee. Hellobee is a collection of posts from a community centered around a family (the mom used to be a wedding blogger). The blog is unique in that it’s a community forum where people can post questions and participate in conversations. However, to unlock this function of the website, there’s a fee (about $25/year).

Example: Some of Our Favorite Picture Books Featuring Animals



Maine Mom Blogs

Mom blogs by geography offer a fun, unique perspective of a certain location (local daycares, best places to go swimming, etc).

Scraped Up Kid. Published via Bangor Daily News, “Scraped Up Kid” is written by Mount Desert Island resident Cherie Galyean, and is all about the outdoors and children. I love it because I spent the first 3 years of my life living on a lakefront cabin where we had no neighbors. We spent a lot of time outside and my own kiddo is going to grow up in a similar way.

Example: Stop Making Outside a Chore (a prime example of a nostalgic read — my brother and I were outside whenever it was nice out).

Soule Mama. A blog from a Western Maine mom, author, and magazine editor, this is a great example of a blog with sponsorship. (If you look at the list of sponsors in the sidebar, you’ll see all of them have a common theme of based on the blog’s overall message.) The blog is updated fairly regularly and features topics such as gardening, farm life, homeschooling, Maine, and a recent series about yurts.

Example: Raising the Yurt, Part One (I’m a little obsessed with the idea of yurts).

Running & Fitness Mom Blogs

Hungry Runner Girl. This has been one of my favorite blogs for the past 3 years. The author has a 4-year-old and is pregnant again (I was pretty excited to hear that we are overlapping a little bit). Initially, I began reading this blog for running advice and getting tips for speed work. Now I just read it for fun/tips on juggling life with a small child.

Example: On Being a Single Mom (I loved this post when it was written in 2015/16, well before mom-hood was on my radar).

Carrots N Cake. Like Hungry Runner Girl, Carrots N Cake started out pre-motherhood, and evolved to fit the mom blogger model. While the writer, Tina, does some running-related stuff, she is also a certified personal trainer and has nutrition-related certification. She also works full time at a company she runs with another woman called Designed to Fit Nutrition.

Example: 10 Tips for Balancing Exercise with a New Baby.



Food Mom Blogs

Oh She Glows. Oh She Glows also started pre-motherhood and has continued now that the author has had two young children. Her website mainly focuses on food and recipes, although she does include some anecdotal bits about her family.

Example: Vegan Cinnamon Rolls with a Make-Ahead Option

Foodtastic Mom. This mom shares recipes for those looking to balance meal time with the demands of work, family schedules, etc. Her philosophy is that the kitchen should be a place of empowerment rather than stress.

Example: Sheet Pan Fish Tacos

Personal Finance Mom Blogs

The Budget Mom. The Budget Mom started in 2016 by a woman who went to college for Business Administration/Finance. She has also performed a lot of personal finance research on credit card debt and student loan repayment, all while raising a young child. Her blog shares tips on budgeting, debt, and how to save more.

Example: Budgeting: Income (yay) vs. Expenses (yuck)

Jessi Fearon- Real Life on a Budget: Jessi is a mother of 3 who, with her husband, eliminated more than $50 grand in debt over 17 months.  She created her blog to help others learn to control their money (rather than vice versa). She also produces e-courses and challenges that go out via email newsletters, as well as a YouTube channel.

Example: How We Paid Off $5000 of Debt in 1 Month

Moms who blog are not restricted to writing exclusively about motherhood, although that is certainly a route that some take. I’ve only shared some examples of the different things mom bloggers are writing about, but trust me, there are many more out there!



Losing the Battle Against My Circadian Rhythm

At another job at which I work, I recently had to cover for a coworker who was on a well-deserved vacation. What this meant was getting up at 4 a.m. every day for the past week in order to meet a morning deadline. Here’s what I experienced on my pre-dawn commute to work:

  • Robins. I heard them a lot. Many people enjoy the sound of robins, but to me, the sound of those filthy red-breasted worm-eaters was just a reminder as to how freaking early it was.
  • Bobbing LEDs. These are used by joggers and bicyclists and serve as a shocking reminder that some people are up at this hour by choice. Seriously.
  • No traffic. Because all the sane people are still in bed. Their warm, soft beds. Maybe with their spouses. Snoring quietly, their eyes dusted gently by the sandman, dreaming under a smiling moon and twinkling stars. 

Once I actually got to work and downed my 14th cup of coffee, I discovered something. I was productive as heck. Why is that? (Don’t say it was 14 cups of coffee because that’s a slight exaggeration.)

It’s possible that with only one or two other unfortunate souls in the office there were fewer distractions. But I also believe that my brain just works better in the early morning. I’m working faster, and my output is more accurate. Yet, after lunch, I want nothing more than to stare blankly at a blank computer screen.

So I have to ask again, why is that?



In search of answers, I read this Wall Street Journal piece that cites molecular and computational biology professor Steve Kay — a man whose job title sounds more impressive than anything I’ll ever do in my life. According to Kay, most folks who work a 9-5 job are at their best in the late mornings, and we tend to drop off shortly after lunch.

The piece also argues that we should instead organize our lives around natural body clock — our “circadian rhythms,” citing “potential health benefits.” The WSJ paraphrases Kay, stating: “Disruption of circadian rhythms has been linked to such problems as diabetes, depression, dementia and obesity.”

Then there’s this article in Harvard Business Review, makings the case for managers to schedule workflow and deadline around that circadian flow.



I never used to work so well in the morning, but that’s changed as my youth has faded. It’s not surprising that our body clock changes as we get older. That teenagers are hardwired to sleep in and work late is nothing new, for example, although there is a movement underfoot to require schools to start later in the day to accommodate that rhythm.

So how did we get here? Why do most folks work 9-5 when our body tells us to take a 3-hour break after lunch? This infographic from Podio.com provides some answers, with its roots made in the wake of the British Industrial Revolution.

My day isn’t 9-5. Rather I start anywhere between 5-6:30 a.m., depending on the day ahead, and whether I need to take time in the day to address the latest family crisis. What this means is my own circadian rhythm has me fighting the desire to eat lunch at 10 am and nap until 3 pm, at which point I start to feel productive again—right when it’s time to go home.

The lesson for me is to get as much done as early as possible because when noon rolls around, it’s all down hill. As I’m writing this, it’s 2:30 in the afternoon and I find that my productivity has dipped sharply. For example, it took me an hour to write the previous sentence. So it’s time to wrap this up.

Good night and sweet dreams.



Ethics in Marketing

ethicsinmarketing

Working for a small business that attracts some amazing clients, I’ve never run into a situation where I’m asked to carry out a task or promote something that I’m morally opposed to (and, I have the freedom to politely turn down such a project). It’s a freedom I often take for granted, until I hear stories about people who don’t necessarily have such freedom.

A couple weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast (Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette) where a woman was being interviewed about her blog (Super Strength Health). Part of the podcast that I found intriguing was towards the end, when she spoke about being approached by various brands to promote their product (a fairly common occurrence for lifestyle bloggers). Usually when this happens, the brand has done a bit of research to determine if the blog’s message meshes well with the brand’s message. As a bit of background, Super Strength Health shares very raw material about eating disorder recovery. The brand that approached her had a tagline along the lines of “guilt-free snacking.” You might see the problem here.



So, the blogger was a bit frustrated. “If you spent any time on my blog, you’d know that we were not a good fit.” Which is true. The discussion goes on to discuss the slippery slope of assigning guilt to food/eating in marketing, and whether or not that is unethical. Regardless of where you or I stand on that particular issue, it made me wonder about the messages I’m putting out there. How can I be ethical (or more ethical) in what I produce?

As mentioned before, I have the freedom to turn something down if I feel it is unethical or immoral. We never really get those clients. Usually when I think “unethical marketing,” it’s the blatantly obvious not-cool marketing, like promoting unhealthy habits, tearing down a competitor’s product or service instead of focusing on why your product/service is valuable, or ignoring glaring flaws or safety concerns with a product (think recalls). These are all easy for me to avoid (in that I’ve never encountered them).

So, instead, I thought of a few little ways to be even more ethical. Here’s what I have:

Do the Research. Make sure you know your facts, especially if others are coming to you for information.
Be Objective. Do you really think this product/service would benefit other people, or do you maybe have dollar signs in your eyes?
“Is this Something I Would Do?” If you’re having a hard time being objective with the facts, ask yourself if you would follow your own advice.
Be the Good. This is my way of remembering my bottom line: whatever I put into the internet/world should make it a little better, even if in a small way.
Get Better. There’s always room for improvement, and as someone who produces content for the internet I could in theory find a rhythm and rest on my laurels. But I could also keep an open mind and look for ways to improve my work (because this isn’t just about me).

My hope is that following these five points in a more thoughtful way will help me feel even better about what I produce, and be more helpful for our clients. (I say ‘more thoughtful way’ because I usually perform research or try to be objective, but it can be reflexive).

The cool thing about marketing ethics? Marketing Schools defines it as “less of a marketing strategy and more of a philosophy that informs all marketing efforts.” It’s not a strategy or a game-plan, but more like having a Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder asking if you believe in the message you’re about to share with the world.



 

Building a Press List

So, we’ve covered the dos and don’ts of press releases in our two previous posts. Now that you know how to write a press release, you’ve got to know who to send it to. You could scramble for a bunch of local media contacts in the days before your event or product launch. Or you could have all that information stored nice and neat in a spreadsheet and in the contacts on your email client.

Compiling your first list will require an investment of time and patience upfront, but will payoff when you’ve got to send your press release to multiple outlets quickly, and the right contacts are there at the click of a mouse.



Break out Excel; you’ve got a spreadsheet to make.

Who goes on your press list?

If you’re a small business and organization, I recommend you keep several types of lists. They include:

• Media

— Newspapers (local, regional and state)
— Blogs and aggregators
— Broadcast — TV and radio (Learn who your local TV affiliates are — those who carry network programs such as NBC, CBS, ABC, CW and FOX — and find out if they have a local newscast.)

• Trade publications

— Industry-specific regional, national or international trade magazines and newsletters

• Chambers and business organizations

— Local, state and regional chambers of commerce
— Local business development associations
— If applicable, other non-profits and anyone else who distributes community news, such as local access cable stations

What to include:

Your spreadsheet should include names, direct phone numbers and extensions as well as email addresses.

Many news outlets have a general email address for you to submit your news to. Others have an online form. These methods are often convenient for both your organization and the media outlet. But it also makes it easier your information to get lost in the daily deluge of information media outlets deal with.

There’s a workaround, but it’ll take some time and effort on your part: Getting specific.

If you’re a business, know who the business editors are at your local news outlets; if you’re a theater or gallery, know who the A&E editor is.

Also, get a list of reporters and their beats. Let’s say your TV station covers the communities of Bedrock, Springfield and South Park. If your business is based in Springfield, you’ll want to make sure your press release gets to the Springfield reporter directly from you, in addition to being sent to the business editor.

If you’re sending to business development associations or chambers of commerce, make sure you keep up-to-date with whoever is in charge of marketing.

Maintenance

Your contact list should be updated once a year. Call the paper, TV station, chamber, etc. directly and make sure your information is current. Fair warning — this project is often time consuming, but is great if you have an intern.

A couple of things to remember:

• When you write, write to capture as broad an audience as possible.

• Don’t ever assume that local media won’t want to run your press release. If you’re a local business, you’re part of the fabric of the community. Well-written press releases about local businesses are more welcome than not.

In other words: When in doubt, send it out.

Press Release Makeover

I’ve written the following press release about a fake rock band specifically as an example of what not to do. The names and events are fake but the errors in writing are all too common. Read it, if you dare, and then see how easy it is to give it some spit and polish and turn it into something publishable:

PISTOLS N’ PETALS TO REUNITE AFTER 16 YEAR HIATUS BRINGS TOGETHER FANS NEW AND OLD ALIKE AT ONE-OFF CONCERT TO SUPPORT LOCAL ANIMAL SHELTER

LOOKING FOR A GREAT SHOW? WELL THERE’S ONE COMING SOON AND YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHOSE BACK!!!!!

PISTOLS N’ PETALS FIRST TOOK THE WORLD BY STORM IN 1986 WITH THEIR DEBUT ALBUM “CRAVING FOR DEMOLITION.” IT MUST HAVE BEEN FATE WHEN LEAD GUITARIST RONNIE “CUTTER” ROSENTHAL AND DYNAMIC FRONTMAN PAUL “FUELPUMP” PETAL FIRST MET IN LOS ANGELOS! WITH DRUMMER BUCKY “TWIN-SKINS” BOOKER, THE GROUP TOOL LA GLAM METAL TO THE NEXT LEVEL!

THEY TOURED EVERYWHERE. THEY SOLD MILLIONS OF THEIR DEBUT RECORD “CRAVING FOR DEMOLITION”. THEIR FOLLOWUP, QUADROUPLE LP “THE LUNCHBOX HAS LANDED” BROKE THE RECORD FOR MOST WEAKS SPEANT ATOP THE BILLBOARD CHARTS.

EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE AN AMAZING BAND, MEMBERS WANTED TO DO OTHER THINGS AND SO THEY SPLIT UP IN 2000. CUTTER ROCKS OUT ALL THE TIME AS A SOLO ARTIST AND PETAL IS A PROFESSIONAL DIVER FOR SEA CUCUMBERS.

TRADGEDY STRUCK THE P N’ P FAMILY, THOUGH, WHEN BASSIST GIPPY “JACKHAMMER” MACDONALD DIED IN A BIZARRE GARDENING ACCIDENT, SO CUTTER AND FUELPUMP AND TWINSKINS ARE REUNITING FOR A SPECIAL, ONE-TIME ONLY REUNION AT THE 600-SEAT FARGO CIVIC ARENA IN FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA ON SEPTEMBER 1, 2016.



JACKHAMMER LOVED KITTENS. HE’D ALWAYS HAVE A LARGE BOX OF KITTENS ON THE TOUR BUS AND WE’D PLAY WITH THEM AFTER THE SHOW. THE GROUPIES LOVED THE KITTENS TO AND SOMETIMES THEY’D FORGET THAT WE WERE THERE AND JUST PLAY WITH THE KITTENS,” SAYS CUTTER. SO WE’RE GOING TO DONATE ALL THE PROCEEDS TO THIS SHOW TO THE GREATER FARGO HUMANE SOCIETY AND SHELTER. JACKHAMMER WOULD HAVE WANTED IT THAT WAY.

ITS GOING TO BE A FANTASTIC SHOW BUT DON’T WAIT TO GET TICKETS BECAUSE THEY’RE SURE TO SELL OUT QUICKLY! AND FOR A GREAT CAUSE TOO!

Awful. Hard to read. Here’s why:

• Never type in all-caps. It looks like you’re yelling. Plus, some poor schmuck is going to have to retype the whole thing.

• How long is that headline? Way too long.

• Writing style is more akin to an advertisement than a news piece.

• Where’s the lead? Why is the band’s history so prominent? Where’s the actual news? Where’s the dateline?

• Where does Cutter’s quote begin or end? That whole thing is a mess.

• How does one even get tickets for this thing?

• Who can I talk to with questions?

• When can this run? Who do I contact with questions?

OK, so let’s see if we can’t make this baby hum. We’ll shorten the headline, dig up the lead and toss all the extraneous wording and superlatives. Most importantly, we’ll make sure we include some contact and ticket sale information.

EMBARGOED

FOR RELEASE AUG. 18, 2016

Contact Bob Smith, Corporate Communications, Top 5 Record: 555-4444; bobsmith@fakedomainname.com

Pistols ‘N Petals to reunite for a good cause

First reunion in 16 years

FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA — Legendary heavy metal band Pistols N’ Petals are reuniting for the first time in 16 years in Fargo on Sept. 1. It’s all to benefit a great cause in memory of a recently deceased Pistols member.

Pistols N’ Petals took the world by storm in 1986 with their debut album, “Craving for Demolition.” Born out of the L.A. glam scene, Pistols was the brainchild of lead guitarist Ronnie “Cutter” Rosenthal, drummer Bucky “Twin-Skins” Booker and dynamic frontman Paul “Fuelpump” Petal.

The band became a live favorite, performing to millions during a sold-out world tour. P N’ P’s follow-up to “Craving,” 1992’s quadruple LP, “The Lunchbox Has Landed,” spent a record 55 weeks atop the Billboard charts, breaking the record previously set by the soundtrack to “West Side Story.”

The band split up in 2000 over creative differences. Cutter went on to pursue a successful solo career while Petal received his diving certification and now spends his days harvesting sea cucumbers.

The recent death of P N’ P bass player Gippy “Jackhammer” Macdonald in a gardening accident last year prompted the surviving members to reunite for this special, one-time only reunion at the 600-seat Fargo Civic Arena.

Proceeds will go toward the Greater Fargo Humane Society and Shelter.

“Jackhammer loved kittens,” said Cutter. “He’d always have a large box of kittens on the tour bus and we’d play with them after the show. So I can’t think of a better organization to donate our ticket sales to.”

Cutter addded: “Jackhammer would have wanted it that way.”

This is expected to be a sold-out performance and the band recommends getting tickets as soon as possible for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Tickets will be available Aug. 21 at the Fargo Community Center at 3 Main St. and through Ticketmaster.

Why this version works:

1. It flows. It’s easy to read, uses good grammar and is still compelling without including extraneous details.

2. Right off the bat, the reader has the important information: That the band is back together Sept. 1 for a charity event in Fargo. Ticket information is included.

3. Still contains facts about the band’s history to lure in a new audience and plenty of color. Quotes are tightened and improved.

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