3 Blogging Hacks for Non-Writers

Photo credit: GraphicStockBy now you’ve probably heard how important having a blog is for your business. People buy from people they know, like, and trust. A blog is the perfect way to help people get to know you. But it also serves as a resource for people who are looking for your expertise. To write a congenial, informative, and entertaining piece of at least 300 words takes time and (possibly) research. While you want your blog to showcase your expertise you also don’t want it to sound like an egotistical diatribe. Citing other credible sources will help back up your argument or assertion, while it also drives additional traffic to your site. This type of in-depth writing takes time and who has that? Use these hacks to get the most done in the least amount of time. Use What Others Say This is not a license to plagiarize. You should never use someone else’s words without giving them credit and you should never copy someone else’s blog post in its entirety (even if you give them credit) and slap it on your site without their knowledge. If you want to reference their content, do so with a link or a quote. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, there is nothing wrong with elaborating on someone’s post, showing a different side/argument, or going more in depth with the information they presented. You can introduce the piece, provide a link to its inspiration, and then give your take. This type of post saves time because you didn’t have to think of the content, you’re using someone else’s idea for the basis of yours. (Hollywood does this all the time with spin-offs of popular shows or prequels and sequels to movies). Plus, when you link to others, they are notified and may take a look at your blog. That’s one more set of eyes, which is always a good thing. Incorporate an Event or Popular Culture Reference One of the easiest ways to get someone’s attention is through channeling a popular show or event. It’s a great way to incorporate something you like personally with your business. It shows a human side and gets people excited about your content. Popular topics from the past include things like “How to run your marketing department like Don Draper” or “What the Walking Dead taught me about teamwork.” Create a Theme People Can Look Forward To A popular hack in content idea generation is creating a weekly or monthly theme. This could be a product spotlight every Monday or a question from the “mail bag” every Tuesday. It doesn’t have to be stuffy and doesn’t even have to be relevant to what you sell. If it’s interesting to your audience and personable it can become something you’re known for such as a weekly book review or a weekly Top 10. Don’t put off writing a blog because you don’t like to write or don’t think you have the time. Some of the most interesting blogs are the ones where people incorporate parts of their lives in their storytelling and those kinds of posts are easy to write because they flow from your experiences and passions. Commit to a consistent schedule, one you can keep up with, and look for content that inspires you. Keep a folder or electronic file of ideas so you always have topics. And remember you’re not writing for your English teacher. You’re writing to connect. You want to share of yourself so that people will know, like and trust you. This style of writing should be in the way you speak, easy and not forced. Go ahead. You can even start a sentence with a conjunction.   Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager’s Blog. She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.  

28 March 2013 Legislative Update – PERS Reform Update

  OSCC Legislative Update        THERE IS NO CONFERENCE CALL THIS WEEK. “LIVE FROM THE CAPITOL” CONFERENCE CALLS WILL RESUME FRIDAY APRIL 5 at 2:00. Update on PERS Reform Senate Bill 754 is real reform. Senate Bill 822 is not. The Governor’s proposal. Governor Kitzhaber put the first PERS reform proposal on the table prior to the 2013 legislative session. The Governor’s proposal is modest, but also does some good things with respect to freeing up over $850 million in taxpayer resources that would have otherwise been spent on PERS payments in the 2013-2015 state budget. The Governor’s proposal does two things. First, it limits the PERS cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) to the first $2,000 of monthly benefits ($810 million in savings). Second, the Governor’s proposal eliminates the extra PERS payments that are added to cover the cost of Oregon taxes for out-of-state PERS recipients ($55 million). Total effect of Governor’s proposal: Reduces total PERS unfunded liabilities by $4.7 billion, and saves $865 million in taxpayer money for the 2013-15 budget and beyond that can now be spent on added school days, additional teachers, and added public services instead of PERS payments. Senate Bill 754. This proposal, introduced by the Oregon School Boards Association, is the proposal that is endorsed by AOI and business groups. It is a comprehensive proposal that will free up at least $1.2 billion this biennium to fortify school budgets and public services. Senate Bill 754 has five components. (1) Like the Governor’s proposal, it caps the COLA to the first $2,000 in monthly benefits. (2) Like the Governor’s proposal, it also eliminates the state tax remedy for out-of-state PERS recipients. (3) It prohibits “spiking” of final average salary used in determining benefit levels. (4) It reduces the assumed interest rate in money match calculations. (5) SB 754 re-directs employee contributions from employee accounts into the pension fund. Total effect of SB 754: Reduces total PERS unfunded liabilities by up to $6 billion. Immediate budget savings in the 2013-15 state budget of between $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion. Senate Bill 822. This proposal is the newest proposal introduced by the Democratic co-chairs of the Ways & Means Committee – the legislature’s chief budget architects. It is a scaled-down proposal that relies on missed PERS payments to achieve $805 million in savings in 2013-15. Senate Bill 822 has three components. (1) It has a scaled down COLA limit that is tiered by income. COLA reduced to 1.5% for incomes between 20k and 40k, 1% on PERS incomes between 40k and 60k, and 0.25% for PERS incomes over 60k. (2) Eliminates the state tax remedy for out-of-state PERS recipients. (3) Directs the PERS Board to set aside $350 million in government employer increases that were supposed to be paid into the retirement system over the 2013-15 biennium. This is the exact same thing as skipping a mortgage payment! Total effect of SB 822: This proposal reduces PERS unfunded liabilities by $2.5 billion. It saves $805 million in the 2013-15 budget, but does so simply by skipping a $350 million PERS payment. This is a harmful accounting gimmick that simply pushes extra PERS costs on to future school kids and school budgets. The long term budget savings are $455 million, which only puts a dent in future cost increases. For more information on SB 822, read the March 26th Oregonian editorial “This isn’t real PERS reform.”http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/03/this_isnt_real_pers_reform.html#incart_river The message from local chambers is simple: The Legislature needs to pass SB 754. To add teachers, reduce class sizes, add school days, and help restore local government services – SB 754 is the only bill that will achieve this. Skipping PERS payments – like SB 822 does – is not real reform and simply makes for bigger budget problems in two years.  

2013 Shining Stars Scholarship Recipients Named by Tigard Chamber

Ashley Schroeder and Pélé LaFrance named 2013 Tigard Chamber Scholarship RecipientsThe Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce (TACC) is pleased to announce the 2013 recipients of the Shining Stars Scholarship Award, each receiving a $1500 scholarship sponsored by Pride Disposal and the members of the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce: Ashley Schroeder, Tigard High School Pélé LaFrance, Southridge High School Please join us in congratulating Ms. Schroeder and Ms. LaFrance for being named recipients of this highly competitive scholarship.  Applicants were judged based on career plans, extracurricular and/or work activities, scholastic achievement and letters of recommendation.  Ashley Schroeder is a senior at Tigard High School and is already a leader and entrepreneur in the Tigard community.  Her avid interest in photography led her to open her own photography business, which now works with three modeling agencies and shoots around 50-75 senior portraits a year.  She shares her expertise with her fellow students by serving as the TigardHigh School photography editor. When not spending time developing her business, Ashley has immersed herself in extracurricular activities.  An active musician, she is a leader in the high school choir and has won numerous awards in both solo and ensemble competitions.  She is passionate about S.T.U.D.D. (Stop Tigard Underage Drinking/Drugs) and is an active member in the organization.  She is also involved with the Young Life club, a faith-based school club, and has traveled twice to Tijuana on mission trips.  This last year she was also a Rose Court Princess finalist, placing in the top 10% of all applicants. Ashley has been on the Tigard High Honor Roll all four of her high school years and is a member of the National Honor Society.  She maintains a cumulative 3.65 GPA and a weighted 3.78 GPA.  She plans on pursuing an undergraduate degree, majoring in Business/Public Relations with a minor in Missions, and sees her career leading to a Public Relations position at a successful company.   Pélé LaFrance is a senior at Southridge High School and a budding entrepreneur whose dream is to open a bakery.  She has already acquired the necessary licenses and kitchen space and is currently applying for vendor stalls at local farmers markets and has been accepted as a vendor at the Tigard Area Farmers Market. Her plan is to participate in local farmers markets while she attends college, and open a storefront after receiving her degree. During her tenure at Southridge High she has enhanced her leadership abilities through involvement in programs like the People to People Ambassador program and the National Student Leadership Conference, both of which offered travel opportunities in and outside the U.S. for increased leadership development.  She is also active in the high school drama program; serving on the Theater Board and collaborating with parents and students alike, and acts as stage manager in school productions. Péléhas been a member of the National Honors Society for the past two years, maintaining a cumulative 3.57 GPA/3.83 weighted GPA.  She will attend Willamette University this fall with plans for a graduate degree in Business. The scholarships will be formally presented with other Tigard volunteer and business awards at Tigard’s 2013  Shining Stars Community Awards Celebration, sponsored by Platinum Title Sponsor Washington Federal and held on Friday, April 26th from 5:30-9 p.m. at Embassy Suites – Washington Square, event location host. With a theme of “Wild Wild West”, this western themed dinner event includes dinner, silent auction, dessert dash, awards, and more. Tickets are only $35/person, dress is casual, country western.  So cowboy/cowgirl up and come join us to celebrate Tigard! For further details about Shining Stars, please contact the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce at 503-639-1656 or at info@tigardchamber.org  or go to our webpage at www.tigardchamber.org       Ashley Schroeder    Pele LaFrance

2012 Tigard Shining Stars Community Awards Ambassador of the Year Named

The Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce (TACC) is pleased to announce that Jacqueline Triem, Loan Coordinator with Washington Federal of Tigard is the 2012 Shining Stars Ambassador of the Year.  The Ambassador of the Year Award is presented to an Ambassador volunteer who significantly affects a positive perception of the Chamber through active participation, an optimistic attitude and solid business practices.  The recipient is active, involved, interested, and enthusiastic about making the Tigard Chamber a great organization! Jacqueline exemplifies these characteristics with her cheerful attitude, welcoming smile to visitors, guests and members and her wide spread involvement in chamber networking events including  the annual Chamber Golf Tournament, Speed Networking, Holiday Luncheon, After Hours and any other activity that she is asked to do.  There is no hesitation in her “Yes I can do that” response.   She has been a member of the chamber since 2010 and a chamber Ambassador since 2011. Upon joining the Ambassadors, Jacqueline became the Ambassador Secretary of this group of ambassadors and has gone above and beyond her duties. She is an exemplary ambassador and a great role model for others in the group.  Jacqueline immediately stepped up to be the secretary of the ambassadors and has been diligent in keeping all of us informed as well as helping the Ambassador Chair in coordinating many functions. She always has a smile and a positive attitude no matter what the task or obstacle. Jacqueline is a true example of what a chamber ambassador should be. In addition to her volunteer activities Jacqueline is a Tigard resident, a Wife, a Mother, a Grandmother (lovingly referred to by her grandchildren as G.J.) and so much more.  She has a heart as warm and as big as her smile.  All of  this and more is what makes Jacqueline such an outstanding person, and a valued member of the Tigard Chamber and the Ambassadors. The Ambassador of the Year award will be formally presented with other Tigard volunteer and business awards at Tigard’s 2012 Shining Stars Community Awards Celebration sponsored by Platinum Title Sponsor West Coast Bank and held on Friday, April 27th from 6-9 p.m. at Embassy Suites –Washington Square, event location host.  With a theme of “Escape to a Night in the Caribbean”, thisCaribbeanthemed dinner event includes dinner, silent auction, steel drum music, limbo, awards, and more.  Tickets are only $35/person, dress is casual, tropical.  Come Join Us and celebrate Tigard. For further details about Shining Stars, please contact the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce at 503-639-1656 or at info@tigardchamber.org  or go to our webpage at www.tigardchamber.org  About Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce (TACC) The TACC, established in 1955, is a forward thinking membership organization which provides opportunities for consistent and sustainable long-term business growth!  The TACC is creating a strong, interconnected business community where strength through collaboration and power through partnerships makes Business Soar.  We do this by building a strong local economy, providing business networking, being involved in our community and representing the interests of business with government. About Washington Federal Washington Federal believes that banking is more than a series of financial transactions.  It is a commitment to building relationships with clients, shareholders and the community at large.  Each and every transaction holds a deeper meaning — an opportunity to own a home, a deposit toward a future goal, an investment in a thriving business.  We believe a good bank understands this and provides a secure financial foundation that helps our clients accomplish their goals so that all can benefit.   That kind of business model takes a long-term perspective and a commitment to the communities we serve. It means we are truly “invested here.”  Find out more at www.washingtonfederal.com  

10 Easy Ways to Increase Sales

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / olivier26 One of the most obvious ways to boost revenue in your business is to make more sales. Here are ten ways you can start doing that today: 1. Do You Have A Sales Strategy? Most businesses think they have a strategy, but they don’t.  Now is a good time to develop one.  You need to consider who your ideal customer is and what are the products and services that provide the best return for you.  The sales strategy should be a brief one-page roadmap that encapsulates: what you want to sell  who you are going to sell to where you are going to sell  how you are going to sell  when you are going to sell  Keep it simple and keep referring back to it. 2. Are You Missing Opportunities? You could best sum this approach up as ‘preach to the converted’. Your current customers are likely an excellent source for new business.  You may have a product or service that they may not know about that might suit their business.  Essentially, the first port of call should be the clients that have already bought from your business. 3. Back to Basics Chambers mentor businesses that have sales issues all of the time.  Oftentimes the problem is businesses have veered from their target market and fail to realise it.  Take an honest look at what your market is and where you are at the moment.  If sales are not at a level that you would like you might need to ask yourself some tough questions such as ‘Have I focused too much on one sector of my business?’ or ‘Have I deviated from my sales strategy and forgotten about my target market?’.  The second question is quite a common question.  In struggling economies many businesses survive by ‘throwing everything at it.’ But the economy is largely picking up now. It’s time to assess the business and get back to selling the right products to the right customers. 4. Customer is King Simon & Garfunkel knew this 45 years ago when they sang ‘Keep the Customer Satisfied’.  In an age when almost anything can be bought or sold online at any time of the day or night by anyone, the need for excellent customer service has never been greater.  Some businesses have built their reputations on looking after generations of families.  Your business can do that too by ensuring that staff are properly trained and that customers get consistent excellent service every time that they deal with your business. 5. The Price is Right Have you considered how your product or service is priced?  What research have you carried out to make sure that it is competitively priced and that overheads and margin are factored in?  It is very easy to sell too cheaply just as it is very easy to end up broke. 6. Be Ruthless What you are not selling is as important as what you are selling.  Take a look at the products or services that are simply glued to the shelves and get rid of them.  Don’t be reluctant to retire certain products or services.  One of the secrets to success is being able to detach yourself from the emotion of a business decision.  If something is not selling don’t stock it and don’t waste money marketing it. 7. Open Your Eyes The first quarter is a very good time to take a look at what your competitors are doing. It is also an excellent time to look at similar businesses in different geographical areas to see how they are trading and to see if lessons can be learned.  Tip: Use events such as the Chamber networking events to meet new people and to gain market intelligence. 8. Raise Awareness You know all about your business, as does your family, but never presume that your target audience does.  Think about how you how can market your business.  Go back to your sales strategy in point 1 and identify your ideal customers and then target them where they are. 9. Look the Part When was the last time you looked at your branding?  Branding isn’t just a logo or a website. It is everything from an auto signature on an email to letterhead to company vehicles.  There are more options available now to help you to get your branding right.  There are countless examples of how you can carry out a brand audit online.   10. Stay in Shape Just as much as the New Year provokes people to get back in physical shape, the first quarter should also be a time when you identify training needs and areas for professional improvement.  There’s a good chance your local chamber can help you with training through networking and other learning-based events.  They are also a great resource on what your community offers. Every company needs sales to be successful. In order to do so sales and marketing strategies should be reviewed periodically to ensure they are the most effective for your business. Adjusting your tack every so often is the best way to stay on course.     Brian Cleary is the Chief Executive of Clonmel Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest business services organizations in Ireland. He’s also the past director of Chambers Ireland. He writes for a number of online publications and is a regular co-presenter of the ‘Small Business Show’ a syndicated radio program broadcast on a number of stations throughout Ireland and available as a podcast.