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Jun 30, 2010, 11:03 CDT
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- Title:Director, News Operations
- Area of Expertise:ProfNet, ProfNet Connect, media, PR
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Friday, April 26, 2013, 11:02 AM
With all of the information and data available online, it’s more important than ever for journalists to filter through the noise. For our next #ConnectChat, Linda Bernstein will discuss social curation for journalists, including some of the available tools.
To participate in the chat, just join us on Twitter on Tuesday, April 30, 3 to 4:30 p.m., and follow the #ConnectChat hashtag to view all updates from @wordwhacker, @ProfNet and the rest of the chat participants. We'll start off the chat with a few questions to get the conversation going, but feel free to jump in with your own questions at any point.
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.
About Linda Bernstein
Linda Bernstein teaches social media in the continuing education program at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. A writer and editor with over 35 years of experience in all corners of journalism and publishing, Bernstein received a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University and had a career in academia before she moved to journalism. She was editor of Sesame Street Parents, Scholastic Parent and Child and Modern Bride Connection magazines, and has published hundreds of articles on dozens of national and international magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times. Bernstein currently is a contributor to PBS’ Next Avenue. In addition, she is a speaker, social media consultant and conference organizer. Her own blog, GenerationBSquared, is an active voice for the baby boomer generation.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 2:21 PM
With the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) holding its annual conference in a few weeks, we thought it would be a good time to catch up with Alexandra Owens, executive director of ASJA, to get the inside scoop on the conference and what’s going on at ASJA. [Full disclosure: ProfNet is a sponsor of this year’s conference. We hope to see you there!]
Alexandra, I know I’ve told you before that I am a huge fan of ASJA. For those who might not be familiar with it, can you tell us a little about the organization?
ASJA is the professional organization of independent (freelance) nonfiction writers. It was founded in 1948 as the Society of Magazine Writers, but has grown to include nonfiction freelance writers of all kinds.
What are some of the ways in which ASJA helps writers?
ASJA was founded to let writers help one another, and that's still an abiding principle. ASJA members share information about their work, especially what they're getting paid and about markets -- strengthening all.
The ASJA Monthly is a taste of what members can learn: ow.ly/jU94f
And now, with the ASJA Educational Foundation, we're broadening our scope to help all freelance writers, not just ASJA members.
What is the biggest issue facing freelancers today? More competition? Low pay? Something else?
Probably the biggest is the changing industry itself. With the traditional media industry struggling to find a new business model, freelance writers are being tossed about. It's not as simple as low pay or more competition; it's all changing and freelance writers, like everyone else, have to adapt. The good news is that freelancing is, by definition, being able to adapt.
What is the state of payment for freelancers? Are rates getting lower?
That's an interesting question. I'd say rates are not getting lower so much as pay models are changing completely. In some ways "rates" are lower, and in others, they're better. The truth: New media models don't fit into traditional per-word pay metrics. So what are "rates"? Per-click, per-view, per-hour, per-project, and retainer pay models are gaining ground. Writers who know how to navigate them can absolutely improve their income. Traditional media pay rates have not gone up, that's for sure, since 1960 or before.
Should writers ever work for free? Is it ever worth it to do a job for “exposure”?
Ahhh, the HuffPo question! There may be situations where it makes sense. Does a carpenter ever work for a charity, or contribute to a design house? Of course. If the writer has something to gain (besides "exposure," which kills people), donating one's writing may be profitable. But working for free so someone else can profit is, most of the time, simply foolish. It's a personal calculation everyone makes, every time they are asked. But pros get paid for their work, by definition.
If someone is thinking about becoming a freelancer, what should they have in place before even starting?
A financial cushion is critical. Freelance income is uneven in the best of circumstances. Probably the best tool a new freelancer can have these days is a very full basket of connections. Social media is critical. Work comes from many sources, but the No. 1 source is through personal connections and referrals. Don't burn ANY bridges.
We hear a lot about content marketing these days, and we’re noticing more ProfNet queries for corporate writing. Are you seeing that on your side too?
Content marketing, or writing for corporate entities, is nothing new really. There are two things happening now to bring it to the forefront, though. News organizations need new sources of revenue, and offering branded content can be a big one. And brands are seeing opportunity in social sharing, for which they need content to exploit. ASJA is talking about it, for sure. It's part of this upcoming conference, for example. And you'll be hearing about another event taking place later this year focusing completely on content marketing.
Speaking of the upcoming conference, can you tell us more about it?
Of course! #ASJA2013 is our 42nd annual conference in New York, always focused on freelance writing. There are two days open to the public, crammed with educational sessions on a wide variety of relevant topics. Attendees can also have personal mentoring sessions onsite. More than 600 writers, editors, agents, and industry thought leaders will be there to learn from one another.
On Friday, April 26, we have @ajjacobs speaking at the luncheon, who will be wildly entertaining.
Is there anything new for this year’s conference?
We've slowed things down a little; the sessions are longer and breaks are too. People will have time to make friends. We've added field trips, too: On Wednesday, April 24, there's a trip to the New York Public Library for a behind-the-scenes look, and a great walking tour of Grand Central Station is on tap too. (Sign up soon at www.asjaconference.org)
Oh, and ProfNet will be hosting a sponsored session on Friday on "The Art of Sourcing," on how writers can find, pick and work with experts.
Oh yes! We will have yours, as well as sponsored sessions from others. Follow #ASJA2013 for details.
Do you have to be an experienced freelancer, or are there sessions for newbies as well?
All of the sessions at #ASJA2013 are accessible to anyone. People who are new to freelancing may benefit the most, in fact. On April 27, there is a whole track called "Beginners Pluck" on intro issues, and a session geared for former staffers. Anyone can attend just one day, too, making it an affordable -- and extremely valuable -- career investment.
Programming on Thursday, April 25, is limited to ASJA members, but people can still apply and join in time to attend. See what it takes to join at t.co/xshvrweflu. Apply by Monday, April 15, to be an ASJA member by April 25.
Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email -- all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 3:11 PM
With the popularity of content marketing on the rise, more and more companies are turning to freelance writers. Have you been thinking about breaking into the world of corporate writing but aren’t sure where to start? In our latest #ConnectChat, held March 5 on Twitter, writer Susan Weiner discussed the ins and outs of how writers can break into the corporate market.
Weiner writes and edits articles, white papers, investment commentary, Web pages, and other communications for leading investment and wealth management firms. Her Investment Writing blog is popular with advisors who want to deepen their connections with clients and prospects. Articles she has written, edited or ghostwritten have appeared in Advisor Perspectives, Boston Globe, Bottom Line/Personal, CFA Magazine, Financial Planning, Louis Rukeyser’s Mutual Funds, Wealth Manager, and other national publications.
Weiner is also the author of “Simply Irresistible: Writing Financial Blog Posts People Will Read” (forthcoming, May 2013), which is based on her well-regarded class for financial advisors. You can sign up for her monthly newsletter, which has useful tips for financial writers and more.
Following is a recap of Weiner’s chat:
Why should writers consider writing for corporate markets?
Corporate markets can pay well and are growing with the rise of content marketing. [Companies] need journalists' skills, like understanding the "hook" and clear writing.
What’s the biggest difference between writing for publications and writing for corporations?
Writers need to consider corporate goals. Clients often don't think in terms of word count, and may be new to working with writers. Your sources may be all inside the client company. Pay and terms can be much better.
Is the pay comparable to writing for publications?
The pay is better in my experience. Also, I can get a 50 percent down payment when I charge on a project basis -- a big advantage!
What is the pay cycle like? How quickly can a writer expect to be compensated?
I think 30 days to pay is typical. Some big companies have longer pay cycles. You can't get a down payment with a traditional publication; you can with corporate writing.
What are some of the different types of corporate work that are available?
My favorites are articles and white papers. I describe white papers here: ht.ly/ihcPK
Websites and sales materials can also benefit from a journalist's eye. There are forms of copywriting that require more advertising flair, too.
What's the best way to encourage more corporate clients: letters of introduction (LOIs), in-person meetings, phone calls?
Personally, I prefer one-on-one networking to learn about needs before I pitch my services. Try to identify people in hiring roles, such as director of marketing/PR/etc. LinkedIn can help.
How can writers find out who is responsible for making corporate writing assignments at a particular company?
It takes research to identify the folks who hire. I find the hiring managers mainly through word-of-mouth and networking. There are common titles, too: director of marketing, editorial director, PR head. The paid version of LinkedIn can also help identify folks in key roles. I compiled a list from business directories at the library.
Do you recommend sending LOIs to the individuals you mentioned. Have you had luck with that?
LOIs work for some people. They haven't worked for me. I've tried postcard campaigns with little luck. I think follow-up phone calls may be the key. [Consider] offering a free report? In my case, I had teaser copy on the front and then a Web address to download a free report.
What's the best way to get your foot in the door with these managers, outside of word-of-mouth?
Social media gives you incredible access. Interact with prospects in a discussion, not promoting yourself at first.
Which social media platforms are best for that?
Many prospects have found me through my participation in LinkedIn Groups for my industry. I like LinkedIn best for my industry, but I have one great client who found me through Twitter. Putting out my own blog content on social media also positions me with prospects.
There are so many LinkedIn groups, even in specific industries. How did you decide which one(s) to participate in?
I experimented. Also, I looked to see where people I respect participate.
What do corporations look for in writers? What skills/experience should you look to highlight?
Companies want clear, fast writers who understand their businesses. Learn about an industry you like. I found that companies liked my track record of writing for trade publications. The work is similar.
So if you write mainly for health publications, would a good strategy be to reach out to health companies? Or does it not matter?
Great question! It makes sense from a corporate viewpoint, but it raises ethics questions. Editors may worry that you'll lose objectivity. But it makes sense to have a specialty. Specialists can charge more.
If you write for a corporate client, can you still use them as a source in your articles for publications, or is that a no-no?
I suggest asking the editor about that. Disclosure is essential.
You mentioned white papers. What’s a typical time frame for producing a white paper?
Four to six weeks to complete a white paper -- but a lot depends on how quickly the client gives feedback. For projects like white papers, it's important to designate one person to coordinate the company's feedback. Also, specify how long the company has to respond. Otherwise, it can drag on forever.
After the work is done, are writers expected to do anything else (like help promote it), or is it strictly writing?
In my experience, it's strictly writing. But, one of my newer clients has hired me to write social media updates regarding new pieces.
With companies doing more content marketing, some are hiring ghost bloggers. Have you done ghost blogging? Any tips?
I’ve ghost-blogged for a couple of firms. In one case, I'd written a white paper for them, and then plundered the white paper for blog posts, spinning the content in new ways. With another client, I blogged about a topic I knew well.
That’s a great way to get the most out of content.
I try to re-purpose whenever possible. More companies should take their complex content and re-purpose it into shorter pieces.
In my industry -- financial services -- it has bounced back since 2008-2009. With the rise of content marketing, the demand for writers will continue in corporate world.
Do you recommend targeting certain industries? I know education and healthcare both have seen cutbacks.
I've been successful targeting industries, but it's tough when times are tight there. Sometimes cutbacks boost business for freelancers, as companies cut in-house staff.
What are some of your big “don’ts” for aspiring corporate writers?
Don't pitch story ideas. Instead, listen to what their needs are.
Don't expect immediate results. The sales cycle can be a lot longer than in journalism.
Here's a "do": Do ask questions about their needs and focus on the benefits they'll get from your work. I used to trot out my portfolio in in-person meetings. Then I learned to focus on asking questions. Ask, "What problem can I solve for you?"
Whether you're writing for a publication or corporate project, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. Send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, or get timely experts and story ideas by email. Both are free! Need help getting started? Email us at email@example.com.
Thursday, February 28, 2013, 9:09 AM
Have you been thinking about breaking into the world of corporate writing? Join us for our next Twitter chat on Tuesday, March 5, as Susan Weiner, a chartered financial analyst and freelance writer, discusses the ins and outs of finding corporate clients. She’ll discuss how you can find corporate work, how companies like to be queried, the do’s and don’ts of corporate writing, and more.
To participate in the chat with Weiner, just join us on Twitter on March 5 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. EST, and follow the #ConnectChat hashtag to view all updates from @susanweiner, @ProfNet and the rest of the chat participants. We'll start off the chat with a few questions to get the conversation going, but feel free to jump in with your own questions at any point.
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.
About Susan Weiner
Weiner helps financial professionals increase the impact of their writing. She writes and edits articles, white papers, investment commentary, Web pages, and other communications for leading investment and wealth management firms. Her Investment Writing blog is popular with advisors who want to deepen their connections with clients and prospects.
Weiner has spoken and written about finding corporate clients for the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Before becoming a freelancer, she was director of investment communications at Columbia Management Group, a trustee at Batterymarch Financial Management, and a staff reporter for a weekly mutual fund publication.
Articles she has written, edited or ghostwritten have appeared in Advisor Perspectives, Boston Globe, Bottom Line/Personal, CFA Magazine, Financial Planning, Louis Rukeyser’s Mutual Funds, Wealth Manager, and other national publications.
She is also the author of “Simply Irresistible: Writing Financial Blog Posts People Will Read” (forthcoming, May 2013), which is based on her well-regarded class for financial advisors. You can sign up for her monthly newsletter, which has useful tips for financial writers and more.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013, 11:57 AM
Producing an engaging and successful blog means coming up with new ideas while staying energized, but how do you find inspiration, and generate creative and fresh ideas, time and time again?
Susan Getgood, vice president of influencer marketing for BlogHer, shared her strategies and tips during a recent #ConnectChat, our series of Twitter chats that focus on issues relevant to communications and media professionals.
Getgood has been involved in online marketing since the early ‘90s, and watched the Web evolve from the first browsers to the interactive communities we participate in today. In 2010, she joined BlogHer, where she connects social media influencers with the brands they love through mutually beneficial business and advertising opportunities.
Getgood writes about social media and marketing strategy on her professional marketing blog, Marketing Roadmaps. Her first book, Professional Blogging For Dummies, was published in July 2010, and she speaks regularly at social media conferences like BlogHer, Mom 2.0 and New Comm Forum. She is a co-founder of ethics initiative Blog With Integrity and appeared on the “Today” show in April 2010 to talk about respect and responsibility in the blogosphere.
Following are highlights from the chat:
Can you tell us a little about what you do at BlogHer?
Basically, I bring brands and bloggers together in mutually beneficial ways. My job is to develop sponsored programs that are authentic and engaging for our bloggers and meet the brand’s marketing goals.
We send quite a few queries from bloggers looking to work with brands. What are the benefits for the brands?
The blogger = their customer. It is word-of-mouth marketing at its finest. Bloggers also filter at the front end -- they don't work with brands they don't love and authentically want to engage with. I can't think of anything more powerful than a brand connecting with a customer over something they mutually care about.
What are some of the benefits of blogging, both as an individual and as a brand?
The benefits of blogging depend on what you want to get out of it. For some, the main benefits are community and self expression. For others, establishing a brand or expert reputation are the benefits.
What are some ways to establish an expert reputation?
Write on the topic with authority. Attend conferences and ask smart questions; try to get speaking gigs. And network, network, network.
What are some of the things to consider before starting a blog?
Begin with the end in mind: What do you want to achieve with your blog? Don’t be afraid if your goals evolve, but do not let the possibility prevent from setting down goals. Otherwise, you will never get going.
A main consideration is whether and how you want to monetize your blog. Ads? Affiliate programs? Sponsored opportunities? Or is your monetization strategy more about expert reputation, speaking engagements, consulting, maybe getting a book deal?
What are some important steps to take before creating a blog?
- Define your objective/goals.
- Find your niche.
- Have an editorial mission, a blog “charter” that lays out the roadmap.
- Start design and development.
Make sure you are writing blog you want to write! Make sure your blog meets your objectives and the needs of your audience, whether 1 million or 1. If you do the hard work upfront, it makes it easier to evaluate opportunities down the road.
Is it better to write on a broad topic or narrow your niche?
The niche is really key. Where/how are you unique? Who are the competitors, friendly or otherwise? Do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).
How often should the blog be updated?
I wouldn't try to post every day any more. A few times a week suffices, in my opinion. I like a model of one long and two short posts per week, with the long post being more feature-like and the two short posts being news or trend-related. Long-form posts are the ones where you strut your stuff. Short-form posts are more about paying attention to what's happening in the world and making commentary.
I saw you speak a couple of years ago at the annual ASJA conference. One of your suggestions was to set up an editorial calendar. I must say, that has helped me immensely with my own blogging. What are some of the other ways bloggers can find inspiration if they’re having trouble coming up with ideas?
- Have an editorial calendar to give structure to your content -- what types of content and how often.
- Do a roundup of favorite posts.
- Re-read comments and see if there is something there you can build on.
- Check out what’s going on in your field. Read the paper, books, magazines.
- Interview someone.
- Reach out to a fellow blogger and ask if they’ll do a guest post.
- Watch the news, and even TV shows. Some of my most popular posts are ones where I talk about what marketers can learn from “Firefly.” Writing about TV is good. People love TV. See my post yesterday about Super Bowl ads. Relevance? Check. Pop culture? Check. A little controversial? Check. The recipe for a good post.
- Keep a notebook of ideas. Use social bookmarking sites to tag posts.
- Really stuck? Go surfing. Stumble around. Read random stuff from Facebook. If your blog is about your hobby, do it instead of writing about it.
- Predict and don’t be afraid to be wrong.
What are some ways to promote your blog so people read it? I could be writing the best blog ever, but if no one sees it…
Building off and linking to the work of others is great way to establish your blog in a community. If you can, get your work noticed by and commented on by someone influential in your niche that introduces you to new readers. Use your social graph, respectfully and sparingly.
Syndication, where your posts are featured on other higher-trafficked sites, is a great way to get your name out too. Just be cautious about doing too much for free. In my experience, you rarely get paid by someone for whom you worked for free. I am not arguing that you should never volunteer or do pro bono, but if you would like to work for money for someone, think long and hard about helping out for free. It rarely pays out.
Are these strategies different if you’re blogging for work or about, say, a hobby?
Whether you are blogging for work or a hobby, the same general rules apply. Objectives are the secret sauce to success. The more professional you treat your blog (indeed, your whole social media presence), the better off you will be.
Can blog analytics help bloggers come up with ideas?
Analytics are a great source for ideas. You can revisit popular topics, and when you are stuck, do a roundup of popular posts.
This has been really helpful. Any closing thoughts?
For me, it always comes back to objectives and audience, and making sure you have something unique to share. If you are a blogger, you want to be the unique blog on topic X, not the 50th (5000th) blog about something broad. In other words, don't be a jack of all trades and master of none. Find your special sauce -- because those are the blogs we want to read, right? We want to read blogs that have a delicious and unique spin on a topic we care about.
We're almost out of time. Before we go, tell us a little about your book.
A lot of the advice from this chat comes directly from the book, available at libraries everywhere: Professional Blogging For Dummies.
Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a free ProfNet query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents at once. Ready to get started? Fill out the query form at bit.ly/findexperts or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.