Maria Perez

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    #ConnectChat Recap: Social Media for Writers

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011, 1:53 PM [#ConnectChat]
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    Social media has changed the way journalists, bloggers and other writers develop story ideas, manage resources, and promote their work to a wide cross-section of readers. But with the number of social media platforms increasing by the day, how can writers wade through all the social-media noise and find the ones that will be most useful to them?

    Social media has changed the way journalists, bloggers and other writers develop story ideas, manage resources, and promote their work to a wide cross-section of readers. But with the number of social media platforms increasing by the day, how can writers wade through all the social-media noise and find the ones that will be most useful to them?

    That was the focus of our latest #ConnectChat, which featured award-winning investigative reporter Dave Copeland, author of “Blood & Volume: Inside New York’s Israeli Mafia.”

    Copeland teaches college-level writing and journalism classes, with an emphasis on social media and writing for online audiences. He writes regularly about social media for the recently launched Daily Dot, and has written for a wide range of publications, including Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, London Telegraph and Boston magazine.

    Following is a recap of the chat.


    ProfNet: Hi, Dave. Thanks for joining us!

    Copeland: Thanks! I’m really happy to be here.

    ProfNet: You’ve used ProfNet many times before, so it’s nice to talk to you about something other than queries!

    Copeland: Figuring out how ProfNet worked way back in 1998 is still one of my happiest days in journalism.

    ProfNet: Let’s jump right in. Most journalists seem to use Twitter as a promotional tool, but it’s more than that, right?

    Copeland: It’s really a way to connect with sources and stay ahead of trends. Self-promotion is an afterthought. This study found Twitter can predict stock movement:  And other studies have found it’s ahead of traditional news organizations:

    ProfNet: There's so much "noise" on Twitter. How can a writer wade through all that to find what they need?

    Copeland: You need a system. Social media can take over your life. I cover social media, yet I try to keep my time on it to less than one hour a day. It takes some time to figure it out, but the key is to know what works and what doesn't before news breaks.

    ProfNet: Can you tell us a little about how you use social media in your own reporting?

    Copeland: There are lots of tools we can talk about today that will help people be efficient in their social media use. For example, when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, I wanted to pre-interview people going to the victory parade. The #bruinsparade hashtag let me "meet" people and coordinate places to meet them during the parade.

    ProfNet: That underscores the importance of using hashtags in tweets.

    Copeland: I use [hashtags] to test story ideas. If I have a hunch about a trend story, I see if other people are talking about it on social media. [Another tools is] Kurrently, a real-time social-media search to see what people are saying about a topic. It is also great for breaking news.

    ProfNet: It's pretty neat. I like it because you can search by words and terms, not just hashtags.

    Copeland: Kurrently also lets you see beyond Twitter onto other social networks, especially Facebook.

    ProfNet: I hadn't noticed that. That certainly comes in handy if you're looking to spot trends or ideas… Let's say you've decided on a story topic. How do you then manage all the info you find? It has got to be a lot.

    Copeland: You can’t keep up with everything from everyone you follow. The trick is knowing how to find the info you need, when you need it. I follow thought leaders in industries/beats I cover.

    ProfNet: Are certain social media sites (Facebook, Twitter) better for certain types of reporting/info gathering than others?

    Copeland: I use HootSuite (some like TweetDeck) to better manage my tweets and incoming social media streams; Facebook, because everyone is on it; Twitter, because smart people are on it. LinkedIn is crucial as a business journalist covering layoffs. Google+ is cool, but not enough people are on it to make it my first check. I recommend knowing how Tumblr works if you cover education – it’s fast becoming a big thing among people under 25. Reporters who cover a lot of meetings love Foursquare, as you can often tell if a person you need to speak to is there. Otherwise, use the sites you're already on and like. You can't be on every site, as you still have to do the actual reporting.

    ProfNet: Otherwise you'd spend all your time on social media and have no time for actual writing and reporting!

    Copeland: A lot of people get hung up on being early adopters. Why? You can't use every bit of info you find on social media in your stories.

    @AlyssaatUNT: Great discussion going on between @bloodandvolume and @profnet regarding social media and journalism. How prevalent is social media as a reporting tool? Has it become the norm, or is there still some resistance?

    Copeland: It’s just another tool. Some people still resist CAR and spreadsheets. I like it because it’s quick and efficient, but others are going to find it’s more trouble than it’s worth. I always stress, use what you’re comfortable with. There are no right or wrong tools, just right and wrong ways to use them.

    @AlyssaatUNT: Very true. Thank you!

    ProfNet: Do you think reporters should have separate social media accounts, one for personal and one for work?

    Copeland: It’s personal preference. So many of us work for multiple organizations these days, I find it easier to manage one account. I have a separate Facebook profile for work. But most of my reporting info still comes via my "regular" Facebook page.

    ProfNet: Do you think social media is more effective for reporting on breaking news than on everyday stories?

    Copeland: Is the telephone more effective for reporting breaking news or everyday stories? It’s just another tool to connect with people and sources, so it can work for all types of stories.

    ProfNet: In your webinar, you also discuss best practices for tweeting as a journalist. What are some of your tips?

    Copeland: 1) Be interesting. There were 6,000 tweets per second during the Virginia earthquake last month. Do you really need to be tweet No. 6,001? 2) Don’t be vain. I get more value from the quality of people I follow than from the number of people following me. 3) Know what you’re doing. @sree once said, “When the plane lands on the Hudson, it’s too late to figure out how to use Twitter.” 4) Good tweets invite a response, share info and start a discussion. To do that, I keep them under 120 characters, and always try to include a hashtag, link and @ mention of another user. That increases the chances it will be read/shared. Remember, most people won’t read most of what you tweet, so the trick is to increase the likelihood by making them useful.

    @LeslieWimmer: What’s the most challenging part of teaching social media to students?

    Copeland: Keeping up! Also, that they have to pay attention to privacy. They don't want to know everything about you and vice versa. Some are very resistant, and feel like you are invading their world. I avoid Facebook for that reason. Finally, they can't get too bogged down in social media. They still need to focus on the basics of reporting and writing.

    ProfNet: In your webinar, you also go over some of the tools reporters can use to manage all of the info they find. Can you share some of those tools? What are your favorites?

    Copeland: I love HootSuite to manage Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I can schedule tweets and it’s easier to tweet pages I like. helps me keep track of links I share and organizes them by tagging them with the hashtag I used. Twistory backs up/shows me what I’ve tweeted, right in my calendar program (it works with most major calendar apps). 14 Blocks helps you figure out when to tweet to increase the odds of it being seen. Twiangulate can help you figure out if you have a mutual friend with that source you desperately want to interview. I keep a frequently updated list of these tools, with a section for journalists, at my blog, Cope Writes. (The direct link to the newsroom tech list is here.)

    @AlyssaatUNT: Any tips for public relations professionals wanting to connect with reporters on social media?

    Copeland: A lot of the same: We're all storytellers, and this is just information that helps our audience better understand. That said, I like a relationship with my PR person before they start messaging me via social media. And PR people need to give and share in their tweets too. All pitching all the time makes me hit unfollow.

    ProfNet: Is building trust ever an issue when reporting via social media? If so, how do you build trust via social media?

    Copeland: The trend of email/social media interviews by some news organizations scares me. There’s no way to know you are talking to the person you think you are. I use them as tools to connect and reach out, but always prefer a phone or in-person interview.

    @GnosisArts: How best should a PR person approach/get to know you on Twitter?

    Copeland: I would rather we connect, talk, share info and links before someone lays into a pitch. E-intros are fine. But just in the course of this chat, I've been social-media-pitched by someone I have never worked with/heard of before.

    ProfNet: I guess that would be like someone going up to you at a dinner party and pitching a story w/out knowing you...

    Copeland: The other thing is people "know" a lot more people in social media. You can't assume I'll always remember you, as sad as that is. If your story is worth my time, you can write an email or pick up the phone. Less than 140 characters makes me feel cheap. :-)

    ProfNet: Will social media ever be a suitable replacement for traditional forms of reporting, or just another platform?

    Copeland: No. People call themselves “social media experts.” It’s like going back 40 years and saying you’re a touch-tone dialing expert. Social media is just another reporting tool -- a powerful tool -- but not a substitute for sourcing and interviews.

    ProfNet: Since time's almost up, tell us about your next webinar.

    Copeland: It’s 90 minutes, covering everything we discussed here and then some, on Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. EDT: The recording will be available for anyone who registers but can't make the live webinar.

    ProfNet: Dave, thank you so much for joining us! You definitely shared some helpful tips and tools.

    Copeland: It’s been a lot of fun. Hope it was helpful, and hope people who were hanging out with us will follow me!

    ProfNet: And thanks to everyone who participated in the chat! And don't forget to follow @bloodandvolume and to check out his next webinar: We now return you to our regularly scheduled tweets. #ConnectChat over.

    Upcoming #ConnectChat: Social Media for Writers and Journalists

    Thursday, September 8, 2011, 9:29 AM [#ConnectChat]
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    Our next #ConnectChat will take place Tuesday, Sept. 13, and will focus on social media for writers and journalists.

    Join us as award-winning investigative reporter Dave Copeland explores how writers can use social media to develop story ideas, report more effectively, and promote their work to a wide cross-section of readers.

    The author of "Blood & Volume: Inside New York's Israeli Mafia," Copeland teaches college-level writing and journalism classes with an emphasis on social media and writing for online audiences, as well as ways to improve journalism education and student media production.

    Since 2004, Copeland has worked as a freelance writer. He writes regularly about social media for the recently launched Daily Dot, and has contributed regularly to the Boston Globe's business desk since 2008. His work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, London Telegraph and Boston magazine.

    For more on Copeland, visit his website at

    To join the chat, just follow the #ConnectChat hashtag to view all updates from @bloodandvolume, @ProfNet and the rest of the chat participants. We'll start off the chat with a few questions for Dave to get the conversation going, but feel free to ask away!

    If you do not have a Twitter account or won’t be able to make it to the chat, you can find a recap on ProfNet Connect the following day. To view past #ConnectChat recaps, click here.

    #ConnectChat Recap: Secrets for Freelance Success

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011, 11:25 AM [#ConnectChat]
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    With all the changes in the media industry – publications shutting down, laying off long-time staff writers, etc. -- more and more writers are opting for the freelance route. Whether you’re a new or established freelancer, there are things you can do to ensure success.

    That was the topic of our recent #ConnectChat with freelance writer Robert McGarvey, whose newly issued e-book, “25 Secrets for Successful Freelance Writers,” explains how writers can make $75,000 a year by freelancing.

    Following is a transcript of the chat, held July 19 on Twitter. (To view transcripts from past #ConnectChats, click here.)


    ProfNet: I’m pleased to welcome Robert McGarvey (@rjmcgarvey) as our guest for today’s #ConnectChat. Robert is a prolific freelance writer who has penned more than 1,500 articles for many of the nation’s leading publications. He has also written 10 books, including 2001’s "How to Dotcom," and is an expert on the Internet and social media. Robert covers cooperatives and credit unions, high tech, real estate, meetings and the energy sector. He is a correspondent for Credit Union Times, primarily covering corporate credit unions. He also blogs frequently for on new media and Internet issues, and for on tablets and smartphones. He has written a column for Porthole Cruise for 12 years, and wrote Mile High Tech Blog for Continental Airlines via Wired in 2010. Robert also recently issued an e-book, “25 Secrets for Successful Freelance Writers,” and that’s the topic of our #ConnectChat today. I’ll start off with a few questions. Feel free to jump in with your own questions for @rjmcgarvey at any time. Welcome, Robert! Thank you for agreeing to be our guest today!

    McGarvey: Hi. Thank you for inviting me. It will be fun.

    @GnosisArts: Hello, ProfNet folks. I have a little time today, so joining into #ConnectChat.

    ProfNet: Let’s jump right in. What led you to write the book?

    McGarvey: I wanted to do a short e-book, and noodling on the changing freelance landscape seemed an ideal topic. Thus the book.

    ProfNet: Did you set out to be a freelancer, or was it by necessity?

    McGarvey: I’ve turned down a lot of staff jobs over the years. Wanted to freelance. Really.

    ProfNet: What about freelancing appealed to you?

    McGarvey: I get to follow my interests, pretty much wherever they take me, with no safety net.

    @suddenlyfrugal: How has changing technology made it easier or harder for you to be a freelance writer?

    McGarvey: Good question. Tech lets me be much more productive. I typed eight books. Yikes.

    ProfNet: Ah, the good ol’ days. ;-)

    McGarvey: Technology also lets me research at home, easily, cheaply, quickly. No library trips. No microfilm.

    ProfNet: What is this "microfilm" thing you speak of? (Kidding. Kidding.)

    @suddenlyfrugal: I know. Remember those trips to the library?

    McGarvey: I used to spend one whole day a week at the Santa Monica Library.

    ProfNet: What is the biggest hurdle freelancers face when they first start out?

    McGarvey: Breaking into ever more slender pubs. The key is: Go with your passion. You have to WANT to do this today. Getting the first, good clips is the biggest hurdle. I talk about some strategies for getting there in the book. Mainly what I preach is, follow your passion. That has become critical today. It will also make getting started much easier.

    ProfNet: So pretty much: Write what you would want to read about?

    McGarvey: Sure, that’s one way to think about it. Write what interests you.

    ProfNet: Say someone wants to be a freelancer. How do they get their foot in the door at a publication they want to write for?

    McGarvey: If you *know* a pub, you will know what you can sell it.

    @daniellewriter: Any tips for setting rates for freelance work? I don’t want to outbid myself, but don’t want to leave money on the table.

    McGarvey: Rates today suck, to be frank. But I still think you ought to go in high and see what happens. I used to think $100k per year was easy -- now I am preaching $75k. Reality. It stinks, but this is where we are. Don’t even think about writing for pennies. Tell the SEO and content mills to shove it. Ditto for #HuffPo. Hit the road, Arianna. Can you imagine paying editors market rate and writers bupkus? You can do better.

    @SusannaSpeier: I noticed you’re having a rates conversation and thought this might help:  I’ve actually been told by several hiring managers what I’ve reported is the low end. The current Writers Market Guide is also helpful.

    ProfNet: Robert, your book talks about making $75k a year as a freelancer. Can you give us a little tease as to what’s in it?

    McGarvey: Here’s one secret: Fire your least profitable client. Do it as soon as you can.

    ProfNet: What do you mean by profitable? Straight up $$, or in terms of how much time you have to put in, too?

    @suddenlyfrugal: You mean the PITA (pain in the a$$) clients that take up too much time and don’t pay enough to make up for that time.

    McGarvey: It’s all about time. That’s all I have to sell. Sometimes the "high" payer is the business killer. For me, PITA mainly is folks I just plain don’t like, an indulgence I can afford as a freelancer. Another secret: Know what you will and won’t do. I don’t write for women’s magazines. I tried. I was no good at it.

    @suddenlyfrugal: As a newbie freelancer, I found conferences that let you meet editors are helpful for making connections.

    McGarvey: I don’t know if conferences *still* work. So many newbies, so few pages. They’re maybe OK for writers with special skills, backgrounds.

    ProfNet: @suddenlyfrugal: Can you share some examples?

    @suddenlyfrugal: Magazine Writers Conference in Chicago (on hiatus now), Travel Classics conference, etc. You want one-on-one opportunities with editors.

    @bscarter: How do you decide what content to publish yourself (blog, etc.) vs. what to pitch to a pub?

    McGarvey: I don’t blog for myself, not really. Too lazy, I suppose. I did self-publish the book, though, so I am not against writing on spec.

    ProfNet: What is a typical payment for a freelancer? Is it $xx per word, $xx per story? Or does it depend on the publication?

    McGarvey: Today, payment seems always to be by the story. It’s probably easier for publication budgeting.

    ProfNet: Do freelancers typically need to secure experts in order to get an assignment, or does that come later?

    McGarvey: Personally I don’t need experts to get an assignment, but I hear of pubs that want the interview list beforehand. ProfNet, BTW, has been useful to me since Dan Forbush ran it out of SUNY Stony Brook. I remember faxing queries to Forbush -- probably around 1992.

    ProfNet: I started only a few years after that, but I still remember getting faxed queries.

    @GnosisArts: Wow. You two are old skool!

    ProfNet: I’m not sure if it’s old-school or just old. ;-)

    ProfNet: Robert, you’ve been doing this a long time. Do you even need to pitch anymore?

    McGarvey: I pitch very little. The truth is, skinny magazines don’t really need that many pitches. I got two assignments today just opening email.

    ProfNet: As a columnist for several publications, I imagine you have free rein over what you write, yes?

    McGarvey: Not exactly free rein. Usually I submit a list of topics -- headlines -- for approval. Columns have to fit into the lineup. For newbies, it is probably harder to get started than it has been in 25 years. The secret is, follow your passion.

    ProfNet: Freelancers often work on more than one story at a time. How do you manage multiple assignments?

    McGarvey: Time/project management are key skills for self-employed freelance success. I talk about this in the book.

    @bscarter: Do you ever do much ghostwriting? Is that a viable area? How would one promote such a service without "outing" clients?

    McGarvey: I have done ghostwriting. It is profitable, but it has always come to me. Sorry. I have no idea how to find it.

    ProfNet: @bscarter This might help: How to Break Into Ghostwriting:

    @bscarter: Thanks! This has been very useful.

    ProfNet: Speaking of your book, what else can you tell us about it?

    McGarvey: Another secret: You will succeed better/faster if you have editors for friends. It has really been a key for me.

    @editorev: What are the best/worst parts of freelancing?

    McGarvey: What’s best is that for 30+ years, I’ve been paid to write about my ever-changing interests. How cool. What’s worst is that -- honestly -- pay sucks these days. That’s just reality. $100k used to be easy; now I’m saying $75k. I mean, I’ve written for Hustler, Women’s Day and Boys Life -- maybe in the same month. If that’s not cool...

    ProfNet: Hopefully not the same article... ;-)

    McGarvey: Hah. No, I was never that good at spinning multiple sales out of one idea.

    @editorev: So is it possible then to really make a career out of freelancing if the pay sucks?

    McGarvey: Oh, absolutely possible for this to be a career. You just need to be creative about sourcing income. You can’t be hung up on pedigree. Today I do corporate work – didn’t used to. I write for a trade pub – didn’t used to. Be flexible and the $$ follows.

    @GnosisArts: $75K isn’t a bad salary. That’s a good living in most places in the U.S.

    McGarvey: I agree. It is pretty good $$ in most of the U.S.

    ProfNet: You’re pretty active on Twitter. Do you think it’s now a requirement for journalists, especially freelancers, to be here?

    McGarvey: Twitter is a must, unless you are a contract writer for The New Yorker. Twitter keeps you connected to what matters.

    ProfNet: How do you use it? Do you look for story ideas here, or is it mainly a promotional tool for your stories?

    McGarvey: I mainly use Twitter for ideas, and to connect/talk with folks. It is not proving to be good for source acquisition. Twitter is also good for promoting published stories, yes indeed, So are Facebook, LinkedIn.

    ProfNet: You mentioned before that freelancers need to be flexible regarding outlets. Is that a challenge for some writers?

    McGarvey: Yes. I think some are locked into what freelancing *should* be. It’s not just newsstand magazines anymore. It’s also not just big newspapers, as much as I like them.

    ProfNet: What are some options beyond papers, magazines? You mention corporate writing. What else should writers consider?

    McGarvey: User-generated content -- like this -- is an increasing presence that sucks up reading time. Paid writing has to be more engaging. Other options: ghostwriting, corporate writing, "sponsored" journalism, there are lots of ways to make a living at this.

    @bscarter: Are there any online communities or resources you’d recommend (MediaBistro, Poynter, etc.)?

    McGarvey: I like MediaBistro’s Freelancers Marketplace. I have made much $$ via it. I subscribe to Freelance Success. I belong to no groups.

    @blogbrevity: How does "sponsored" journalism work?

    McGarvey: "Sponsored journalism" is another phrase for advertorials (a word now in disfavor). Advertorials used to be big business for me – Harvard Business Review, NY Times, Fortune. That’s been *slow* for three years. Sigh.

    @blogbrevity: Thank you for the explanation!

    ProfNet: I remember we used to see a lot more queries for advertorials than we do now. Why the downturn?

    McGarvey: The same reason for fewer ad pages. Skepticism about credibility of the format. They’re not coming back soon, either.

    ProfNet: We’re almost out of time. What’s the No. 1 piece of advice you’d give to a new freelancer? And an experienced one?

    McGarvey: Advice for both: Write what you want to write. Always. Forever. And don’t pick unnecessary fights, but don’t back off. You do this work because you want to. You won’t get rich, but you can make a living. You should have fun. If you’re not, why not?

    ProfNet: That’s good advice for everyone, not just freelancers.

    @blogbrevity: Thank you! Enjoyed the chat. Will check out the book!

    ProfNet: This has been really interesting! Anything else you want to add before we sign off? #ConnectChat

    McGarvey: Buy the book, review it on Amazon, you feel better about life. (I hope.) It’s less than a latte, and fewer calories too.

    ProfNet: Thank you so much for joining us. It’s been an insightful look into freelancing. And thank you to everyone who participated in the chat. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. #ConnectChat out.

    Upcoming #ConnectChat: Secrets for Successful Freelance Writers

    Thursday, July 14, 2011, 3:11 PM [#ConnectChat]
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    With changes in the media industry, more and more writers are choosing to go the freelance route. Whether you’re a new or established freelancer, there are things you can do to ensure success.

    That will be the topic of our next #ConnectChat, Tuesday, July 19, featuring freelance writer Robert McGarvey, whose newly issued e-book, “25 Secrets for Successful Freelance Writers,” is available in the Kindle Store:

    A busy freelance writer for 30 years, McGarvey has written over 1,500 articles for many of the nation's leading publications, from the New York Times to the Harvard Business Review. He has also written 10 books, including 2001’s “How to Dotcom,” and is an expert on the Internet and social media.

    McGarvey covers cooperatives and credit unions, high tech, real estate, meetings and the energy sector. He is a correspondent for Credit Union Times, primarily covering corporate credit unions; blogs frequently for on new media and Internet issues; blogs for on tablets and smartphones; and has written a column for Porthole Cruise Magazine for 12 years. He has also contributed to corporate histories of Oppenheimer Funds and Continental Airlines (75th anniversary), and wrote the "Mile High Tech Blog" for Continental Airlines via Wired Magazine in 2010. He is currently working with Benchmark Hospitality on a 30th anniversary book, and is on the advisory board of Learning Streams.

    Please join us for our chat, which will take place from 3 to 4:30 p.m. EDT. To participate, just follow the #ConnectChat hashtag to view all updates from @rjmcgarvey, @ProfNet and the rest of the chat participants. We'll start off the chat with a few questions for Robert to get the conversation going, but feel free to ask away!

    If you do not have a Twitter account or won’t be able to make it to the chat, you can find a recap on ProfNet Connect the following day. To view past #ConnectChat recaps, click here.

    #ConnectChat Recap: Marketing to the Green Consumer

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011, 1:21 PM [#ConnectChat]
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    While green marketing involves many of the same principles as any other marketing discipline, there are specific things businesses should consider when marketing to the green consumer.

    That was the focus of our recent #ConnectChat featuring Shel Horowitz, copywriter, blogger, award-winning author, and environmental and social justice activist.

    Following is a transcript of the Twitter-based chat:

    ProfNet: Welcome to #ConnectChat! Our topic today is “Marketing to the Green Consumer.” Our featured guest today is Shel Horowitz (@shelhorowitz). Since 1972, Shel has used his marketing skills for a number of environmental and social change organizations. Shel also founded the Business Ethics Pledge, a moral code of business ethics based on honesty, integrity and quality. He is the author of eight books, including 2010’s “Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green,” co-authored by @LocalGuerrilla. I’ll start off w/ a few questions for Shel. If you’ve got a question for him, make sure to use #connectchat so we see your question. Welcome, Shel! I’m so glad you could join us today!

    Shel: Great to be here. Looking forward to seeing my book-cover picture in Times Square.

    ProfNet: Me, too! Ok, let’s jump right in. How big is the green consumer market?

    Shel: Growing about 29 percent a year. It’s much more mainstream than just a few years ago.

    ProfNet: What are some of the main differences between green and "regular" marketing?

    Shel: Green customers are very sensitive to hype, and they want to make sure you walk your talk as an advertiser. If they see a disconnect between your messages and your behavior, you lose them FAST. They want specific, verifiable claims.

    ProfNet: So if you’re going to make a claim that you’re a green company, you better follow through...

    Shel: Not just follow through -- you have to really walk your talk!

    @Cstratinc: "Green" is such a broad term. How do you efficiently market to a more specific "green" and "natural" audience?

    Shel: You can sub-segment ad infinitum. For instance, people who have dietary issues, protecting their kids, concern for future generations, social justice -- you market differently to each. You can also sub-segment by other factors, such as demographic. Wal-Mart will sell organic food differently than Whole Foods.

    ProfNet: What’s the biggest mistake companies make when marketing to green consumers?

    Shel: Greenwashing: Speaking in generalities, platitudes or unverified/demonstrably false claims … either something that isn’t really green, or isn’t really true. In the book, I discuss how Nestle got hauled into court for failing to understand this, and how a few simple wording changes would have kept them out of trouble.

    ProfNet: So this ties back to what you were saying about walking the talk...

    Shel: Absolutely! And the good news is that it’s actually pretty easy to do. For instance, you don’t say you’ve achieved complete eco-compliance. You note that you’re on the path, making progress, but still have farther to go.

    @elysepetroni: What are the primary motivators for consumers to go green?

    Shel: Primary motivators will vary. For some, health. For others, their kids. For others, doing the right thing. For others, saving the planet, e.g., reversing climate change. For others, profit motive.

    ProfNet: In your book, “Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green,” you say market share is the wrong metric. What metric is better?

    Shel: Profitability. If my business is at its capacity, what does it matter to me that you also have customers? Often, the pie is big enough, but revenue has to exceed expenses.

    ProfNet: You also say competitors can be among your best allies. Can you explain?

    Shel: This is a really cool and wonderful thing. When you get out of the market-share mindset and into what I call the “abundance mentality,” you open up worlds of possibility to collaborate. Example: How is it that USPS guarantees Express Mail? Answer: They have a partnership with FedEx. FedEx understands how to move and track packages. Thus, USPS doesn’t have to offer thousands of refunds, because FedEx will get it safely to the destination airport. Another example: IBM, Motorola, Apple joined forces to create the PowerPC chip of the 1990s. Everyone wins. Locally in my area, 11 florists joined forces on a huge Mother’s Day ad in the local paper. None could have afforded it alone.

    ProfNet: Ahh, those are great examples!

    @Cstratinc: What advice do you have on pitching green medical alternatives to the green community?

    Shel: How to make the green community aware of alternative methodologies will vary to some extent based on what we’re actually talking about. For instance, homeopathy can be marketed as harnessing the body’s natural defenses, while chiropractic would be more about therapeutic approaches that don’t involve medicine.

    @Cstratinc: Thanks for your insightful answers on green #marketing.

    @PKECreative: How do you feel about recent reports that say consumers are too concerned with the economy to care about the environment?

    Shel: This is a huge opportunity for green marketers who can position themselves as price leaders. Example: Marcal, 100 percent recycled household paper products, price competitive with any brand. In fact, you’ve hit on one of my favorite themes: When you combine personal benefit with greater social good, you win.

    ProfNet: OK, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. What are some strategies for green marketing?

    Shel: Well, since I just mentioned Marcal (are you listening, @marcalsmallstep?), they dubbed themselves the official sponsor of fall foliage. And they ran a photo contest. That took some chutzpah but they got lots of press. It’s important to remember that just being green isn’t news any more, just like publishing a book isn’t news anymore. So we, as marketers, have to be creative. Instead of talking about going green, we can talk about such things as how much fuel we help save, how many thousands of gallons of water are not polluted, how we put money back into people’s pockets.

    @PKECreative: Very helpful, thank you!

    @MarcalSmallStep: @shelhorowitz Always listening to you Shel!! Hope all is well.

    ProfNet: So I’m with a company that has a green product, or some kind of green news. What’s my first step?

    Shel: The first step is to identify what aspect of your product/service is green, what core benefits you provide -- and then create upbeat, sexy marketing messages focused on this benefit (or downer ones focused on problem, but I recommend the former). Most press release writers don’t understand this. They use a 1950s AP-type headline that’s all about them, and wonder why they get no media coverage.

    ProfNet: I just looked at my chocolate wrapper to see if it’s green. You don’t mind if I eat chocolate while I type, do you?

    Shel: As long as it’s organic and fair trade, not a problem. Chocolate is a great example of the need to be systemically green. We need to be aware of the impact our choices have on others and on the planet. Several years ago, I found out how much child slavery was involved in the traditional chocolate industry. I didn’t want to be a party to that, so I immediately switched to fair trade, which guarantees fair treatment of the harvesters and other good stuff. The market has greatly expanded in the intervening years, and now it’s easy to find high-quality fair trade chocolate. And most of that is also organic, which then has health benefits for we who eat it, for the growers and for the earth. For a chocoholic like me, I can rest easily knowing that the large amount I consume is good for the harvesters and the planet.

    ProfNet: So as long as it’s fair-trade, I can eat as much as I want, right?

    Shel: Yup! Con mucho gusto.

    ProfNet: With so many companies in the green market, are consumers getting overwhelmed? Is “green” losing its value?

    Shel: Green is GAINING value, but the landscape has shifted. Pretty soon, if you’re NOT green, you simply won’t be a credible player. People will stop doing business with you, because the green bar is being raised constantly. Also, consumers are justifiably confused by the welter of competing claims, certifications, etc. They are bewildered. Thus, the most successful green marketers will be able to differentiate themselves with comprehensible and verifiable claims. But as to the bar going higher, think about the water industry. Ten years ago, people thought they were going green if they brought in bottled water. Then we began to hear about how much water and plastic and oil that wastes, the effect on the

    watershed from too much drawdown by large-scale bottling, and a bunch of other issues. Now, a green meeting planner makes a point of bringing in filtered tap water!

    ProfNet: What kinds of companies benefit from using a positive message vs. a "downer" message focusing on the problem?

    Shel: Negative messages are crucial to bring attention to an issue -- but then, unless accompanied by positive steps, leaves people feeling disempowered and helpless. So yes, we need awareness about climate change, about the problems of nuclear power, etc. -- but then what do we DO about it? So, for instance, when I talk about climate change, I talk about the fantastic work of people like Amory Lovins. When you can show how he saved the Empire State Building $4 million a year in energy costs, people are a lot more willing to hear that they can have a role in solving the problems. Similarly, I’ve been blogging a lot at about the problems with nuclear power, especially since Fukushima. But if you read today’s post, you won’t just see doom and gloom. You’ll see a call to action to shut down the nukes, and a promise that in the coming days I will be posting some specific things people can do.

    ProfNet: So what I’m getting from that is that it’s not enough to say you’re green, but also have a call to action.

    Shel: Yes. People want to feel like they’re part of the solution. They WANT to be asked to help. Maybe this is another area where the green market is different. That might be less true in, say, the sale of 60-inch TVs. :-)  The problem-solution formula is way more empowering than problem, problem, problem.

    ProfNet: As a marketer, do you reach out mainly to environmental publications, or general-interest ones?

    Shel: I reach to both camps, but with different messaging. Right now, for instance, my syndicated Green And Profitable column runs in a local newspaper here in Massachusetts. My query to them was about the need for their readers to be more informed on the green aspects of business. But it also runs in a green trade magazine in Malaysia, and an environment/politics website in Australia. To them, I focused more on the business aspects of being green instead of the reverse. In my book, “Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green,” I talk quite a bit about this kind of segmentation.

    ProfNet: How did you get into green marketing?

    Shel: The environment and marketing have been two strands of my life all the way back to the 1970s. In 1999, I spearheaded a local campaign to block a monstrous inappropriate development on our local mountain abutting a state park. We won, BTW. That campaign used everything I knew about both marketing and community organizing, and harnessed my (and a lot of other people’s) knowledge of both the business world and the environmental world. I think that’s when I realized I could braid the two strands of my life together and actually forge a career on that intersection. It’s very exciting and fulfilling! It’s also an expansion of the work I’ve been doing on #bizethics. I think you cannot be an ethical company without paying attention to the environment.

    @editorev: Great chat. One question: What are some regulatory/legal challenges for green marketers?

    Shel: Of course, green marketers, like all marketers, are bound by the new FTC rules. Fortunately, telling the truth eliminates that as an issue. :-) Again, the big caution is not to claim things you can’t document, to see yourself as progressing rather than achieving the goal (and to position your company that way in marketing messages).

    ProfNet: One last question, if you don’t mind answering: Do you have any regrets? Anything you’d do differently now?

    Shel: I wish I had really understood on a deep level much earlier how much power there is in harnessing the energies of people from very diverse viewpoints. That was one of my real takeaways from Save the Mountain -- that we can reach outside our own constituency and build consensus society-wide, and momentum for change.

    ProfNet: Sadly, Shel, we’re out of time. How can people find out more about your great work?

    Shel: Please visit – it has info on my consulting, speaking, the book, my blog, and my syndicated column, as well as the upper right-hand corner where you can sign up for my monthly newsletter. My phone is 413-586-2388 – that’s 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time.

    ProfNet: Great! Thanks for being with us, and for the great info. And thanks to everyone who listened, RT’d and chimed in.

    Shel: Maria, thanks so much for having me as the featured guest on #connectchat. Both you and the audience asked great questions.

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