Shannon Ramlochan

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    • Title:Online Community Services Specialist
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    5 New Journalism Trends to Expect in 2016

    Tuesday, January 19, 2016, 12:44 PM [General]
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    We rely on journalists to explain how and why the world around us is evolving, so it’s only natural that the practice of journalism evolve with it. New technology and consumer behavior drive the biggest impact as shuttering broadcast and print mediums make way for digital competitors. Advancements in technology show no signs of slowing down and neither will its direct effect on journalism. Here is a roundup of insightful think pieces on what changes we can expect in 2016:

    More journalists taking content marketing jobs

    Content marketing is only effective when the content itself is high quality. Professional writing and editing skills are in-demand, and marketing budgets are able to shell out for them. Joe Lazauskas, editor-in-chief at Contently, predicts that more brands will hire full-time editorial employees.

    Read more:

    News aggregators threaten advertisers

    Though journalists are venturing into content marketing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all brand marketing is thriving. This blog post by Corporate Executive Board (CEB) notes that news aggregator apps such as Flipboard “separate content from advertising, and make it harder for brands to reach an audience.”

    Read more:

    Product management is the new journalism

    With regards to news technology, Cindy Royal, associate journalism professor at Texas A&M University writes “In the next year, media organizations will seek to better understand these emerging roles and consider the journalistic qualities that should be present in decisions associated with technology products, particularly as related to the audience’s civic and democratic participation.”

    Read more:

    Drone journalism

    Safety and privacy regulations considered, there’s no doubt that drones have very useful applications in journalism, particularly when covering natural disasters and other scenarios where a birds-eye view adds another dimension to storytelling. For the Poynter Institute, Benjamin Mullin writes:

    “It's difficult to convey the scope of damage wrought by a tornado or hurricane with street-level photography, but the loss becomes clear from 50 or 100 feet in the air. These visuals can be used to create maps of disaster areas and combined with data to explain how different sections of a community fared after a storm hit.”

    Read more:

    Videos on a shoestring budget

    Videos inform and engage viewers by bringing stories to life, and the arrival of 360◦ videos and virtual reality aim to intensify that experience. However, as discussed in the Reuters Institute’s Journalism, Media, and Technology predictions 2016, “Not all publishers have the time and resources to invest in teams or expensive equipment, so expect to see a host of inventive ways to keep costs down in 2016 while keeping volumes up.”

    Read more:

    At ProfNet, we’ll be closely watching how these trends unfold as the year goes on. Check back on our blog every week for new content. Or, consider submitting a free query to find expert commentary or the latest research:

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. All you have to do is fill out a quick form telling us what you’re looking for, your deadline, and how you want to be contacted, and we’ll send it to the appropriate experts in our network. The best part? It’s free! Get started here.

    Tips for Pushing Your Creativity in 2016

    Wednesday, January 13, 2016, 12:45 PM [General]
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    Think you're not the creative type? Think again! Creativity is an essential part of problem solving and becoming memorable to our customers, readers, or other stakeholders important to our business. We recently held a Twitter Q&A with creativity and innovation expert, Laura Ryan, president and founder of LAMA Innovation where she explains the difference between creativity and innovation, tips on how to produce better and bolder ideas, and creativity trends that we can expect in 2016. Check out the highlights from our chat: 

    Tell us more about LAMA Inc.

    [We do] training and facilitation of creativity, innovation and strategic planning. We love what we do! Proud graduates of #ICSCreativity

    How do you define creativity?

    [The] ability to set aside judgement & inhibitions to propose, select and implement most novel and valuable ideas to solve a problem. Let’s look at five other definitions of creativity:

    1. Creativity is imagination inseparably coupled with both intent and effort #alexosborn
    2. Production of ideas or outcomes that are both novel and appropriate to some goal -@TeresaAmabile
    3. Making a change within a given context that sticks for a while @pucciogj
    4. An associative and playful process that stimulates new and valuable thinking - @JohnCabra
    5. Creative thinking is more than new ideas; it’s living life open authentic and curious. It’s a mindset and approach to everything we do - @Cyndiburnett

    Look at creativity in a broader way. Consider the 5P’s of creativity: person, process, press, product, persuasion. 

    Interesting -- can you elaborate on the 5 P's of creativity?

    PERSON: We are all born creative and we are [our] best creative selves when we are imaginative, open, take risks, and accept mistakes.

    PROCESS: It’s a repeatable framework to solve problems and make change.

    PRODUCT: It’s what evolves from creative people working in creative process. It’s the creative product service or process. 

    PRESS or environment. Both the physical and emotional space in which you work where creativity can thrive.

    PERSUASION: Creativity doesn’t happen in vacuum. If big change is going to occur collaboration and consensus building are important.

    Can you tell us what inspires your creativity (and what might help others)?

    Everyone’s creativity is inspired differently. The first is ambiguity; I have a (trained) high tolerance for ambiguity. When faced with a problem, I accept that I don’t immediately know the best solution. Letting go of desired outcome, I allow time for incubation and divergence of multiple ideas before I choose one and move it forward. The second is curiosity; I have been called “the Riddler.” I’m inquisitive because responses to questions stimulate new ideas and solutions to problems I will encounter at another time. The third is celebrating mistakes: that is a critical component of the creativity process. I grew up with parents who allowed and encouraged mistakes. It liberated me to be creative without judgement. Do the same for your children and for your employees -- it’s a gift.

    Is there a difference between innovation and creativity?

    I am quick to point out that creativity and innovation are not synonyms. Creativity is generation of a novel and valuable idea; innovation is when that idea is accepted. In a for-profit company, that translates to revenue. In order to have innovation, you must first have creativity.

    Good point. What is the difference between people who are "creative types" and those who are not?

    We are all born creative. We display our creativity in different ways. An artist paints and sculpts. The researcher finds the cure. The engineer creates a new design. A teacher finds a way to get through to the kid who is struggling. A cashier finds a faster process to get people through checkout. A plumber finds the means to fix a leak when no one else could. These are all forms of creativity.

    We have the ability to measure our style, preference and level of creativity. We are ALL creative. And we have evidence-based research showing that we can increase level through creativity training.

    Why is creativity important to problem solving and strategic planning?

    When we engage in creativity thinking we use two types of thinking: divergent and convergent. Divergent is when we go for the reach and consider a lot of options Convergent thinking is choosing the best solutions, using our critical, evaluative and analytical thinking skills. The gold is mined when you strike a balance between divergent and convergent thinking. Otherwise you risk ideas on a shelf that go nowhere or choosing the first idea that comes to mind not necessarily the best one.

    Isn’t it wiser to plan a strategy based on quantitative analysis?

    Absolutely!  And…we need creative thinking too. There is a higher likelihood of innovation if your strategic plan emerged from creative thinking. If strategic plan emerges from solely analytic and quantitative thinking this decreases likelihood of innovation & divergent thinking w/ absence of convergent thinking can result in overconfidence or reckless change. From creative thinking comes new value, dynamic future and my favorite…breaking the rules!

    How do you inspire your clients to think creatively?

    When organizations embrace a common language, repeatable process, and systems approach to creativity. they become an increasingly innovative powerhouse. When in facilitated session we use several metacognition tools=thinking about what you’re thinking about. Brainstorming is one tool in a box of many. We also use brain writing, highlighting, forced connections, excursions, stakeholder’s analysis, and many more. @Mind_Tools is the best resource I have seen for creative thinking tools

    What is your advice for combatting the pressure to outshine competitors in creativity?

    I agree, it is absolutely competitive. Companies that embrace creativity are never completely satisfied with where they are today. Tirelessly look at who they will become in future. This instinct is cultural. It’s embedded into an organization’s DNA. Creativity is more likely when action is rooted in purpose, change, or cultural evolution -- then it’s intentional.

    And there are ways to enhance our creativity. Be deliberate in your creativity practice. Use problem solving model such as CPS, Design Thinking, or de Bono to move you through the phases. Agree to participate in balance of divergent and convergent thinking. Agree to be a risk taker by trying out wild ideas. Take time to think. Deliberate and incubate. This quiet time is invaluable.

    How do you balance creativity with risk?

    When we design and test new products and services in market, it’s an inherently expensive and risky. And we know that mistakes and failures are part of the creative process. A creative culture is one that recognizes that risk taking (within reason) is part of the creative process and that the first ideas are not necessarily going to be the best ones. When people fail, that represents learning, and the incremental improvements that can ultimately lead to innovation. Plan for the cost of failure ahead of time.

    Can you give an example?

    I work with one organization who is particularly committed to creativity and innovation. They boast 20% of their total sales come from new products. It can be incremental improvement of an existing product or a new, ground-breaking product. At any given time, eight innovation teams were assigned to areas where the company believes they can grow company. Such an idea can be generated by anyone, at any level in the company.

    Ideas are catalogued in a database and dispositioned depending on review. The people whose ideas are deemed good enough to gain momentum are compensated financially. All employees are encouraged to participate. Innovation teams are project-focused and cross-functional, reporting to a nine person strategy steering team of the company’s top executives. Each quarter, two out of the eight teams present a “deep dive” to the steering team. A decision is made to continue or de-resource. If de-sourced, allocation of funds and personnel are redirected to a new innovation project. This example of strategic innovation is sophisticated in theory but very practical in execution – balanced risk!

    What are some habits or exercises we can adopt to think more creatively?

    Next time you are called to be creative (any time you are faced with a heuristic problem), pause and take a breath. Lean into the complexity and ambiguity and shift your thinking. Come up with as many ideas as you can. Then when you’ve run out of ideas, push yourself to double your original number. Think you can’t do it? Take a walk, a drive, or a bath and try again. Look at the evolution of your ideas. If you go for the deep stretch, you will see the ideas move from obvious, to novel to sophisticated and novel.

    What are some creative trends we can expect in 2016?

    Organizations are realizing the value in being more deliberate in their efforts to be more creative and innovative. Some are hiring CIOs (Chief Innovation Officers); I am getting asked more and more of ways to capture and vet ideas within an organization. This effort can be very cumbersome. The platform @imaginatik is one of most powerful I’ve seen. Organizations large and small are using it. It’s a commitment and maybe several nuggets of gold to be mined with such deliberate efforts. 

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. All you have to do is fill out a quick form telling us what you’re looking for, your deadline, and how you want to be contacted, and we’ll send it to the appropriate experts in our network. The best part? It’s free! Get started here.

    Upcoming #ConnectChat: How to Push Your Creativity in 2016

    Thursday, January 7, 2016, 1:25 PM [General]
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    In the spirit of the New Year, we are kicking off our first #ConnectChat of 2016 with some creative inspiration! Creativity is the cornerstone of problem solving, regardless of whether or not you consider yourself to be the “creative type.” It involves taking chances and learning how to get out of your own perspective.

    As content creators, there’s always the pressure to set the bar higher, so we sought the help of Laura Ryan, creativity expert and business consultant at LAMA Innovation, for her advice on how can writers, brands and other innovators can resolve to be more creative in 2016:

    “New Year’s is a time for fresh starts and doing things better. In 2016 resolve to be more deliberate in your creativity practice. Here are three new habits to cultivate in the New Year: 1) Make sure you have time to just think; take walks. 2) Learn to be more accepting of risk, begin by taking a low-stakes risk, and move up from there. 3) Learn to accept failure and mistakes as part of the creative process. Celebrate mistakes and do an honest post-mortem so that you learn from each one.”

    For more expert tips from Ms. Ryan, join us on Twitter next Tuesday, January 12 from 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. EST for our #ConnectChat on “How to Push Your Creativity in 2016.” To submit a question for Laura, simply join the chat using the hashtag #ConnectChat or send me an email at

    About Laura Ryan

    Ms. Ryan is the president and founder of LAMA Innovation Inc. (  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University and a Master of Science degree in Creativity and Innovation from the International Center for Studies in  Creativity at Buffalo State College, SUNY, furthering her education as a creative problem solving and strategic planning facilitator.  In addition, Laura hold certificates in Six Sigma, Lean Practices, Polarity Management, and FourSight.  Laura began her career as an engineer with United Technologies working domestically and in Europe.  She has an entrepreneurial spirit that has led her to start several companies. Ms. Ryan’s most recent experience has been in facilitating strategic planning and training in deliberate Creativity for several clients including PepsiCo, ComEd, Ingram Micro, Unifrax, and UBMD Pediatrics.

    Having worked extensively in Asia and Europe, Laura is the founder and principal in Creativity-International  (, serving organizations and teams from around the world who want to learn a common language and process for deliberate and sustainable innovation. Recent clients have included: Tunghai University, NIPA Korea, Universidad de La Sabana, University of Dammam, and King Saud University.

    4 Ways Experts Can Help Content Marketers Plan for 2016

    Tuesday, December 8, 2015, 2:04 PM [General]
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    As we enter the home stretch of 2015, marketers are busy planning and budgeting for another year of content creation. Beyond the normal stumbling blocks of content planning, the pressure is on for brands to take their creativity up a notch as more companies experiment with different storytelling techniques, formats and cutting-edge platforms. Teaming up with experts for next year’s content efforts can help alleviate some of the pressures of creating enough content with a high level of quality. Here’s how:

    Experts can help you prepare for changes to come.  

    Technology and consumer behavior are two things that never remain the same from beginning to end of the year but impact almost every type of business. For example, in 2015 mobile devices caused shifts in how consumers shop during the holidays and even how they receive healthcare. Experts who forecast trends can provide critical insight to help businesses prepare for change and create content that will fit these contexts.

    Experts can help breathe new life into outdated content.

    The New Year doesn’t have to mean your content planning has to start from scratch. Refreshing older content with new research and insights from experts is a great way to make the most of limited resources while staying on top of the new trends.

    Guest article contributions fill content gaps.

    For smaller teams, planning an editorial calendar can be a tough job, whether that’s coming up with enough story ideas or finding enough people to write them. Contributed articles from third-party experts brings fresh perspectives that keep readers interested in your content -- and can sometimes be more persuasive than if a brand were to deliver a particular message.

    Experts can make or break the attendance of in-person or online events.

    People attend conferences for the networking opportunities and to learn from great speakers. However, if you wait until the last minute to secure speakers, they might not necessarily fit the bill in terms of content or audience interest. Getting a head start on securing speakers and building relationships with them will be reflected in the quality of your event.

    Enlisting the help of experts at the planning stages of your content strategy will be well worth it in the execution stage. If you need help finding experts to forecast new trends, update your research, contribute guest articles or speak at upcoming events, consider submitting a query via ProfNet. It’s easy and it’s free! Click here to submit a query now

    Holiday Life Hack: How to Manage Out-of-Office Emails

    Tuesday, December 1, 2015, 4:03 PM [General]
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    The inbox from hell is a recurring nightmare journalists are all too familiar with, but it is an especially rude awakening when getting back to work after a relaxing holiday vacation. Managing a seemingly nonstop barrage of emails is one of the reasons why many of us can’t stay off of our phones, work longer hours, or even forgo taking a vacation at all.

    To prepare everyone for the holiday travel season, I consulted Alexis Steponanko, former executive assistant to the CEO of PR Newswire and a productivity guru in her own right, who shared a few simple tips for organizing your email inbox to save you both time and stress when returning from the holidays:

    1. Trim the fat. Immediately delete the clutter you notice at first glance before digging for the most relevant emails.
    2. File emails by person. Create a “People” folder and then additional subfolders named after the individuals you correspond with on a regular basis.
    3. File emails by topic. Create a general “Topics” folder and then micro-organize into subfolders the subjects you regularly discuss (for example: article pitches, editor’s notes, etc.) 
    4. Set up automatic rules. Explore your email settings to create a rule that will automatically move incoming emails by sender or keywords into its corresponding folder. This can be helpful for items that aren’t spam but not something you need to see every day, such as promotional emails.  Or, if you are expecting responses to a call for experts from ProfNet, include a keyword you would like the sender to use in the subject line so that your filters can organize it. 

    1. Prioritize your responses. Think of your emails as a “to-do” list and tackle items based on deadlines, group emails of the same subject and anything marked as urgent.
    2. Jot down notes throughout the day. For tasks that might not take first priority but shouldn’t slip through the cracks, jot them down with pen and paper to help you remember to get back to them while also separating those tasks from looming digital clutter.
    3. Use your ProfNet Inbox. Those deadlines will creep up faster than you know it once you’re back in the office. So if email clutter is a problem for you, use the “cloaking” option for your email address so that responses from experts to your queries are immediately archived to your ProfNet Inbox online – which is one less thing to have to worry about organizing!

    Hopefully these simple tips will make the holiday season a bit more enjoyable. As you prepare to leave for vacation, consider getting a head start on finding sources for your upcoming assignments by submitting a free query to ProfNet:

    Have any other good email organization tips or general life hacks? Leave a comment below! 

    Controversial News: 3 Ways Experts Can Help Tell the Story

    Tuesday, November 17, 2015, 4:34 PM [General]
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    Controversial events can generate a slew of misinformation that, if a writer is not careful, can result in false reporting. While it’s not uncommon for some writers to skew towards a particular point of view in times of uncertainty or speculation, any unsubstantiated claims put that publication at risk of being untrustworthy.

    Search engines, databases and books are a great starting point in the research process, but interviewing an expert such as an analyst or data scientist adds another layer of credibility for stories covering controversial or difficult topics. Their body of knowledge can offer insights on real-world issues based on information that can be easily overlooked, such as:

    Historical context

    Part of an analyst’s job is to gather as much information about the past to make sense of present events and informed predictions about the future. The breadth of knowledge that an analyst has on a particular subject is more thorough than what can be gauged in a few hours of research; as part of their jobs, analysts are expected to regularly publish their research in academia, written reports and public presentations.

    Data trends

    When a controversial event occurs, the most immediate reaction is to understand the underlying reasons or facts that led to why it happened. Analysts develop and test theories, using information from any relevant sources -- such as interviews, periodicals, case law, historical papers or statistical sources -- to connect the dots. An analyst’s unique ability to interpret and translate the meaning of this information to others is another reason why including this third-party perspective is critical when covering controversial news.

    The intersection of social, political, and economic events

    Controversial events rarely happen in a vacuum, and analysts often consult with research agencies, the media, government officials and other stakeholders regarding issues that are important to the public. This exclusive access to resources lends further credibility to a story that includes commentary from analysts.

    When the public goes to the media with questions about a controversial or difficult event, it puts the pressure on newsrooms to deliver accurate information quickly. Third-party experts like analysts, professors, or researchers whose daily lives are immersed in deconstructing issues that affect the public are a reliable source for answers.

    ProfNet can help writers covering controversial topics connect with analysts, researchers and other experts for free. Click here to submit a query.

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. All you have to do is fill out a quick form telling us what you’re looking for, your deadline, and how you want to be contacted, and we’ll send it to the appropriate experts in our network. The best part? It’s free! Get started here.

    Building Relationships Through Storytelling

    Wednesday, November 11, 2015, 12:07 PM [General]
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    When audiences find information helpful or inspiring, they share those messages through social media, emails, instant messages and more. There are many ways to be heard, yet it’s just as easy to be forgotten due to the volume information out there. But the common denominator among the content that gets heard above all is connecting with the audience on an emotional level -- a key principle of effective storytelling.

    So, how can brands utilize the power of storytelling to create emotional relationships with their consumers?

    We recently hosted a Twitter Q&A on the topic, featuring expert tips from Joe Lazauskas, editor-in-chief at Contently.

    Following are highlights of the discussion:

    From your experience, what do you wish more people understood about being an editor-in-chief?

    Being an editor-in-chief at a tech company is new. But we're editorially independent. We aim to cover our industry. In many ways, it’s the same as working at a digital media company for me. Except I have more resources!

    What is the number one way you personally build relationships through storytelling? (via @szumowskim)

    I try to use my personal #contentmarketing successes/failures in my articles. (A lot)

    Good advice! Contently owns three blogs: one for brands/publishers, one for freelancers, and one for the greater good; how do you manage producing enough original content for three blogs that focus on three very different audiences?

    The contently platform helps a lot with efficiency! Plus great freelancers/editors. We're blessed. #blessed? We're also just constantly brainstorming. Our Slack is ridiculous. It's often hard to not publish more.

    When your company gets a new client/brand, how do you go about picking what style of content to create for their audiences? (via @szumowskim)

    We look at brand objectives, resources, opportunity analysis in content marketplace to form a strong strategy

    What systems or workflows do you have in place to keep your content strategy running smoothly?

    We use @Contently analytics to optimize across channel/format/topic/persona/etc. Humans + robots #ftw!

    You’re also a contributor to Fast Company. What’s different about writing/editing for a brand versus writing for a publication?

    Not much. My work here is pure edit. In general, brands have more restrictions, more conservative. It really varies though. Some brands want press releases. Others want real stories!

    What analytics are the most important to measure performance of a piece of content? (via @ThePowerGrp)

    Annoying answer: it all depends on goals. But average finish, attention time, return rate = pretty universal

    What is the most challenging part of being editor-in-chief? (via @B_Schuerger)

    Probably being conscious of our conflicts of interests and disclosing them. Also when the beer runs out...

    What are your go to resources for storytelling? Inspiration, tools, techniques?

    Love @buzzsumo and @coschedule's analyzer. @Awl, @Digiday, also industry partners with sick data. The best resource is other smart people. That newsroom mindset is key.

    Contently sometimes covers controversial topics. How do you know when this is a good idea or not?

    My job is to push that limit, if it's worth reporting. It's other folk’s job to push back. In my opinion, all companies need this balance. Give your editor room to run, but have rules in place.

    What are your #contentmarketing pet peeves?

    Where to start? Self-promotion. Marketing managers as editors. Not investing in good creative folks. Not having an opinion ("you should buy our product!" isn't one). Playing it safe. I could go on. Actually I will: A lot of brands don't think audience first. Serving your audience is goal #1.

    How do you feel about infographics? (via @ThePowerGrp)

    Great for engagement. They rock for us. They just need to be high-quality/tell a real story.

    Is there a certain medium you like writing more for?

    I love writing for print. We put out a giant quarterly mag and it's my favorite thing.

    What has been the most successful piece of content from @Contently and why was it successful?

    Depends on the measurement of success, but probably my five content marketing playbooks. They just filled an audience need.

    How do you target your ideal audience? Do you use buyer personas?

    Yes, buyer personas. But reader surveys tell us a lot too. A big fan can be insanely helpful. Even if they're not your "buyer persona," a big-time reader can be a huge help.

    Do you think it's safe to eat snackable content on a daily basis? (via @JordanTeicher)

    I mean, what is snackable really? If your meal is 3 steaks, is a burger a snack?

    A lot of your content seems more like#journalism than #contentmarketing. Contently even won an award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors (@ASJAhq). How do you balance creativity with content that ties into business goals?

    We believe reporting on our industry = great marketing. But also, we optimize for biz results. But when you think audience-first, great things happen. If it’s interesting, tell that damn story. Also: @ContentlyOrg is a separate foundation run by Brad Hamilton. Can't take credit for the ASJA Award.

    What are some essential skills to have on a content (strategy) team? (via @zanerazane)

    Real editorial experience—someone who's built an audience before.

    As editor, how do you like to be pitched for new content ideas? (via @ThePowerGrp)

    A thorough 2-paragraph pitch that clearly lays out the story/unique angle. Also clips to show your chops!

    Do you have any advice about how to make content go from good to great? (via @szumowskim)

    Focus on big projects that make a difference. So-so content barely makes a dent. No search/social love

    How does content from third-party contributors benefit the Contently blog?

    I mean, from a source perspective, we love using @ProfNet to boost our reporting :-) Our freelancers are huge for us. I can't say that enough. They let us to really scale our game, go big.

    If you're a writer looking for contributors to your blogs you can submit a query:

    What are some emerging blogging, content, or marketing trends that you’re excited about?

    The omni-platform world. It’s so easy to reach people: LinkedIn, email, Facebook, etc. Especially with paid content distribution. 

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. All you have to do is fill out a quick form telling us what you’re looking for, your deadline, and how you want to be contacted, and we’ll send it to the appropriate experts in our network. The best part? It’s free! Get started here.

    Upcoming #ConnectChat: How to Build Relationships Through Storytelling

    Thursday, November 5, 2015, 2:19 PM [General]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    When audiences find information helpful or inspiring, they share those messages through social media, emails, instant messages and more. There are many ways to be heard, yet it’s just as easy to be forgotten due to the volume information out there. But the common denominator among the content that gets heard above all is connecting with the audience on an emotional level -- a key principle of effective storytelling.

    So, how can brands utilize the power of storytelling to create emotional relationships with their consumers?

    Contently is a marketing technology startup that has also solidified itself as a publishing powerhouse, having earned an award for investigative reporting from the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA). The company leads by example in helping brands do content marketing at scale by producing three blogs, each with a distinct audience focus: for brands-turned-publishers, for creative freelancers, and for investigative reporting education.

    It is clear that Contently has built a content model that others can learn from, and the company’s editor-in-chief, Joe Lazauskas, exclusively tells ProfNet why “those who tell the stories rule the world”:

    “When you enter the Contently office, the first thing you see is a proverb plastered on the wall: ‘Those who tell the stories rule the world.’ It's an old saying, attributed to the Hopi Indians, but in many ways it's never been more true, particularly in the business world. Stories are the means through which we build relationships, and brands have never had a greater opportunity to use stories of all kinds to build relationships with people.

    “We live in an incredible, connected, omni-platform world. The challenge, however, is to tell stories that matter -- ambitious stories that take a stand, cut through the noise, and surprise and delight readers; stories that aren't safe and self-promotional, but instead serve the reader in hopes of making her see the world in a new way. I'm excited by the opportunity we have right now. Instead of bombarding people with cheap ads, let's build relationships with rich stories.”

    On Tuesday, Nov. 10, from 3 to 4 p.m. EST, Lazauskas will join ProfNet for a Twitter Q&A sharing exclusive insights on how Contently created its editorial structure, how to find the stories that matter to your audience, and what’s in store for the future of content marketing.

    Audience participation is encouraged! Tweet us your questions during the chat using the hashtag #ConnectChat or shoot me an email at

    An Academy Award Winner's 3-Step Guide to Storytelling

    Tuesday, November 3, 2015, 3:57 PM [General]
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    We use stories in every facet of life to create emotional bonds with friends, family or new acquaintances. The ability for stories to connect us with other people is why content marketers are moving past traditional advertising in favor of creating meaningful relationships with consumers. However, storytelling is a craft that doesn’t come naturally to all people.

    At Conductor’s 2015 C3 Conference in New York City, Academy Award-winning screenwriter and co-founder of the Trevor Project, James Lecesne, gave his step-by-step process of how content marketers can find the hidden stories within their organization. “Your audience is looking for accountability, transparency, and relatability from your brand,” says Lecesne, “how do you prove that what you are proposing is right? That the value you put forward is going to win?” The answer, he says, is to be invested in a conflict that looks familiar to everyone.

    Lecesne used his experience as a consultant for Clean & Clear's "See the Real Me" campaign as an example of the steps one should take to find their organization's hidden stories. He explains that there are five standard types of conflicts:

    • Innovation vs. tradition
    • Mind vs. body
    • Past vs. future
    • Freedom vs. convention
    • Adventure vs. convention

    To help Clean & Clear figure out what messages would connect with their adolescent audience, he guided their marketing team through the following three-step process:

    Step 1: Make a list of the qualities or values you want your company to represent – this will be called list X. Create a second list (list Y) of the qualities that are in conflict with those listed in list X. Conflict doesn’t necessarily mean “the opposite,” but rather what qualities fight against the ones you want to be.

    Step 2: For both lists X and Y, create corresponding lists of what barriers keep you from being who you want to be.

    Step 3: Combine both sets of lists to reveal a multifaceted narrative of conflicts that you and your audience can both relate to.

    As Lecesne explains, the point of a story is not to tell the audience what to think, but to give them the author’s point of view with clues throughout the story that will persuade.  

    At ProfNet, we provide a free service that helps writers tell their brand’s stories by connecting them with experts who can provide critical context and factual accuracy. We also connect writers to real subjects, who offer personal stories that can help readers relate to the stories that they read. Click here to submit a query

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. All you have to do is fill out a quick form telling us what you’re looking for, your deadline, and how you want to be contacted, and we’ll send it to the appropriate experts in our network. The best part? It’s free! Get started here.

    How to Build a Thought Leader Community

    Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 11:46 AM [General]
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    Content needs to have unique insights to provide value to your audience, but in order for that content to been seen, brands need to consistently populate more than one channel with original information. Keeping up with that demand can be difficult, especially for smaller content teams. However, building a thought leader community with insights from experts beyond your organization could be the solution.

    We recently hosted a Twitter Q&A on the topic, featuring expert tips from Fay Shapiro, founder of, a popular content hub for tools, trends, and training for PR, IR, marketing and advertising pros.

    Following are highlights of the discussion:

    How did you get the idea to start a thought leadership community?

    CommPRO, a community of 80,000+ c-suite professionals, is the result of collaboration between an extraordinary team of innovators. @ToddFabacher was the architect behind CommPRO. His @DigitalPome team is guiding our redesign, launching next week. The late Bruce Merchant was a key member of the CommPRO family. He was with us from the beginning, sharing his wit and wisdom with all. Without Bruce’s unstinting loyalty, devotion, creativity and hard work, CommPRO might not exist today.

    How would you describe a thought leader community?

    Tough question; subjective, too. My definition: A thought leader community is composed of innovators, ready to share their point of view with the masses.

    What are some tips for others on how to start building a thought leadership community?

    The most important tip is to listen to your community. Listening is a lost skill that needs to be embraced. Another tip: Build long-lasting partnerships.

    What are some of the things you do to listen to audiences?

    We ask our community to share their points of view. We use all CommPRO channels. We do outreach via the website and daily email, and we post queries to get conversations going with influencers via ProfNet. Seriously, @ProfNet is a great resource for thought leader engagement.

    How do you help your thought leaders find their own voices?

    We share examples of content that works, then go through an idea exchange. The idea exchange helps our partners organize their message.

    What about encouraging them to take a risk/stand on a topic. How do you help them own a position?

    Great question. We encourage honest, open expression of a point of view. It's about professional conversation. Keep emotion out. We are not afraid of negative commentary. Our mission is to present both points of view. And if you're asking about "bad" content submissions, we work with contributors to get them engaged.

    What steps can one take as a PR professional to establish a thought leader community?

    Get yourself out there and start sharing your POV. Focus on a certain area and engage, e.g., CommPRO, LinkedIn.

    How do you differentiate to stay above the noise?

    Staying above the noise happens because we stay different. We get new thought leaders. We do a 1lot of listening and collaboration with our partners.

    How should PR pros determine which trends to pick up on and which ones to skip over?

    CommPRO doesn't shy away from the tough stuff. A communications professional needs to pick an area and engage. No fear.

    What's the biggest PR lesson you've learned as a thought leader?

    For CommPRO, crisis management is an ongoing conversation. We're constantly amazed by the lack of preparation.

    Thought leaders are often associated with their brands. Do you have recommendations for when the two interests conflict, or for how to avoid conflict?

    Here again, we engage both sides to share their points of view. We bring them together for webinars, for online posts. When dealing with conflicting POVs, we offer a professional platform for conversation.

    I guess a better question is, how do you convey an unpopular message?

    Is the unpopular message relevant to your audience? If yes, then we present it as info. It's a point of view. It's important to remember we cannot shy away from the bad stuff. Think about what is relevant.

    Why is it important to share content by other businesses or thought leaders on your site?

    It’s about education through collaboration. This keeps the content rich -- new energy from new thought leaders.

    How do you choose the right thought leaders to feature on your site?

    We do constant outreach, including wonderful resources like ProfNet. Eyes and ears are always open. In terms of the thought leaders we work with, we do "vet" them. This is a 24/7 research process.

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