Category Archives: Article

15 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer, Even If You Hate Writing

If you do a lot of your own marketing for your business, you need to be able to write. But before you start worrying about what that looks like, consider it’s a lot less formal than when your high school teacher talked to you about persuasive essays.

Today, it’s all about connections.

You don’t need a marketing degree to be a good copywriter nor do you need a degree in creative writing to be a good writer. You can learn the tricks of good, written content creation on your own. Here are 15 web writing tips to get you started.

Write Better for the Web

#1. Write Like You Speak

Ditch the fancy talk unless that’s what is required by your audience. Instead, write as if you were speaking to them. Good spelling and grammar are important but using five-seven sentences in each paragraph is not.

#2. Don’t Write Like You Read the Cliff Notes to an Executive MBA

Don’t use business school jargon in your writing. You know the words like circle back, bandwidth, zero-sum proposition? When in doubt check this list or re-read #1.

#3. Keep It Simple

Keep your sentences as simple and short as possible.

#4. Ditch What You Know About Essay Writing

What they teach you in school is business essay writing. It’s boring, overly complex, and repetitive. Today’s skimmer wants bullet points, conversations, and short paragraphs.

#5. Use Pull Quotes

If you have something really important to say, place it in your article’s body but also add it as a pull quote. A pull quote is often seen in a magazine where a line of text is set in a text box on its own. They are larger size and font than the body text and get lots of attention because they stand out.

#6. Add Value-based Headlines

Headlines break up the text and should be used at least every 350 words. When writing headlines, try to use keywords and a reason your audience should be interested. For instance:

“Use Google Ad Words for Greater Exposure.”

Another option is to use teasing headlines like:

“The One Thing You Need to Know About Ad Words But Don’t”

#7. Use Bullets

Bulleted lists are easy to skim, making your audience happy and giving them the information in a very efficient manner. The trick here is to make sure they are all the same type of phrasing. Don’t do this:

3 Things to Do In Town

  • Swim
  • Hike
  • Go Fishing

Just write “fish.” It fits in better.

Also, make sure you’re answering the question in the form it’s asked. For instance,

3 Things to Avoid This Summer

  • The Beach
  • Your in-laws
  • Don’t stand in lines

While you want to avoid lines for a more fun-filled break, you don’t want nouns (the beach and your in-laws) in a list that also features a command. If you’re creating a list make sure all the words or phrases are written the same way and answer the question in the same tone. If you’re using nouns, keep it flowing and don’t mix up the directives.

#8. Talk to Your Audience

You know how as a child you spoke differently to your teachers than when hanging around with your buddies? You likely still do it. How you speak to your friends varies greatly with how you converse with your boss. Understand who you’re writing for and use the way they speak and their interests to flavor your writing.

#9. Keep it Short or Long

The length of your writing depends on your audience and what they prefer. However, the current trend is opinion pieces are shorter, while informational articles are trending towards longer complete guides. But feel free to mix it up as long as you don’t see a big dip in your readership.

#10. Use Active Words

Without going back to English class, better writers write in active, not passive, voice. The easiest way to explain that is by saying active verbs paint a picture better than passive ones do. Example:

I fired him.

versus

I was wanting to fire him, so I did.

#11. Appeal to Their Interests or Concerns

Being a better writer often just means covering areas of interest to your ideal customer. When people are reading about something of interest that is helpful and valuable to them, they will think you are a better writer.

#12. Stop Writing About Yourself

If you’re writing for business, you probably want to talk about your business. But it’s more beneficial to you to provide solutions for your audience than to make it all about you. Just as in conversation, you want to engage the other side and not just talk about yourself.

#13. Say Things in an Interesting Way

Show your personality in your writing. If you tell jokes, use them in your articles and blog posts. If you make up your own words, continue to do the same. Reading your writing should help bring people closer to you; help them know you better. They should read your articles and “hear” you in them.

#14. Tell Stories

People connect with stories so share what’s going on in your life such as things you’ve learned or experienced. Tie your information into something personal.

#15. Use Images and Content

Okay, so this doesn’t make you a better writer per se, but it does make your writing more enjoyable. People love seeing images. You can use image quotes, images that convey meaning, or even GIFs that add humor to your text.

Also, whatever you write should always have a second life. Share a quote from the article on Facebook. Create an image quote out of a part of it. Update the statistics in it at some point in the future and publish an updated version. Stitch it together with several other articles and create an ebook. Build onto the article, going more in-depth, and create a free giveaway. Add a little of the content or a question from the article in your newsletter to pique interest.

When it comes to business writing, never stress about the grades you got in high school English class. Those have nothing to do with your ability to write for your business. Today’s business writing focuses on building connections not formal, persuasive arguments. Think about it as a written conversation you’re having with clients or customers. It’s an ideal way to help them out and assist them in getting to know you better.


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 WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.  

20 Skills to Learn in 2019 to Improve Your Professional Life

The business landscape changes on a near daily basis and that drives almost a constant need for professional learning. Never before has it been more essential that you not only keep up with the details of your own job and industry but others as well. If you don’t, there’s a good chance your business will struggle.

If you want to stay on top of your industry and continue to attract new customers while retaining old there are a few key skills you should master this year.

Skills That Will Improve Your Professional Life and Your Business

#1. Basic Facebook skills.

You must know basic Facebook skills even if you have a marketing department supporting you. There are times where you may be at special events or other parts of your life that you want to share with your company following. If you have to run it through the marketing department and have them do it for you, you’ll lose critical time. It’s also possible that they won’t be with you and there’s no way to second-hand a live stream event.

The basic Facebook skills you should master in 2019 (if you haven’t already) are:

  • creating live stream videos
  • using pixels and Facebook advertising
  • posting to your page and to your company page
  • understanding insights

#2. Google analytics.

Again, even if you have a marketing department and a data analyst supporting you, it’s important that you understand the basics of the analytics on your site. If you don’t, you are at the whims and desires of the marketing department and you’ll need to rely on them for reporting. If you don’t understand what those reports are saying it’s difficult to make executive decisions.

#3. Creativity.

While it’s widely debated about whether this skill can be acquired or if you’re born with it, like anything else, you can become better at it even if it doesn’t come naturally. It’s essential to business growth and management these days.

#4. Market analysis.

If you’ve read the book Blue Ocean Strategy, you know about the importance of low-cost differentiation. Even if you have somebody else doing the research for you, you want to ensure you understand the market you currently serve and any potential market you might serve in the future. Be creative with thinking about new markets but research them thoroughly.

#5. Employee culture.

Your business will only be as successful as your least disgruntled employee. Said another way, an unhappy employee cannot provide good customer service. Learning the basics of good employee culture and boosting morale can help you be more effective as a business leader.

#6. Understanding social listening.

A critical part of social media is listening. You must understand that listening for the benefit of your company involves more than just what you sell and your company name. You may also want to include things people would search on to find you, problems you solve, and services you offer in the city you service.

#7. Website visitor experience.

Even if you have someone designing your website for you, that person likely doesn’t know your ideal customer the way you do. They may be thinking about design and not about your unique website visitors. You need to be the one to tell them what your customers are looking for and what’s most important to them. Together you can design a great visitor experience. Make sure this includes the mobile experience as well.

#8. Basic coding.

It’s important these days to know just a little bit of coding. While most website design is drag and drop, basic coding can help you fix minor problems that still crop up. If you have the skills, you likely can make changes on the fly on your timeline and not need to wait on someone else.

#9. Marketing automation software.

Marketing automation software allows you to stay top-of-mind with your customers and potential customers. By scheduling periodic communications, you can provide them with the needed resources and become known as a valuable partner in their success. Marketing automation software also allows you to be more efficient in your communication. You can schedule emails to send based on activity saving you lots of time.

#10. Blogging.

Many people are under the wrong impression that to be a blogger you must be a writer. It’s probably better that you aren’t because blogging is more about conversation. If you follow a typical business essay structure your audience will fall asleep. Develop your own style in blogging, one that appeals to your audience. There are few marketing activities that are better at helping your audience get to know you than blogging.

#11. The basics of SEO.

The basics of SEO are a moving target. You cannot read one article and master it. But you can read a definitive guide and understand the basics of SEO for this moment in time. In order to truly understand the basics of SEO, you will need to make learning about it an ongoing task as things are always changing. However, understanding the basics will help you reach your audience organically and keep the search engines focused on your content.

#12. Tax changes.

This is an area you likely have a professional handling for you. But it’s a good idea at the beginning of every year, or even the end of the previous year, to meet with your tax professional to understand the changes that may affect you this coming year. It can help you make buying decisions, hiring decisions, and freelance decisions among others. Planning your expenses can save you considerably on taxes. Since these things change year-to-year it’s important to understand what’s tax deductible and what isn’t before you spend the money.

#13. Video.

Now that we all walk around with cameras in our pockets, it’s easy to use these tools to build a following. Just as you need to learn the basics of social media and live streaming, it’s important to also know the finer points of video. Some of these things include basics of lighting, sound, the tools you’ll use, editing, and tagging as well as meta descriptions.

#14. Creating experiences.

Many people think that experiential marketing is for Fortune 500 companies. But that doesn’t have to be the case. There are simple experiences you can provide your customers. For instance, a spice company can host a cooking demonstration or better yet, a tasting opportunity. If you find the right experience for your audience, you may even be able to charge for it and create an additional source of revenue for your business.

#15. The basics behind increasing low-cost staff.

There are many business needs that can be filled through freelancers. if you do a good job in communicating with them and selecting them for their skills they can be an inexpensive way to get specialized services completed. The key here is to ensure you provide them with all the information they need including information about your market and your ideal customer. You will get exactly what you put into it. If you are vague, they will fill in the details. That will not always be to your advantage. There are many sites where you can bid out your project and peruse portfolios of services. These sites include Fiverr, Upwork, among others.

#16. Public speaking.

It’s essential that today’s business leaders embrace a public persona. If you are doing anything of note in your industry, at some point, you likely will be asked to speak about your experience. Learning the basics of good public speaking will ensure you’re ready when you get that call.

#17. Technology.

This is a broad term and can apply to almost anything from your smartphone to your laptop to any of the software you use. But the reason it’s included is that it’s no longer quaint among today’s business leaders to not understand the basic tools the world is using. If you refuse to at least learn the basics of common daily technology, you’ll end up like a once cutting-edge filmmaker who locked himself away from society only to reappear with an old-fashioned viewpoint. You’ll think you’re leading a cutting-edge movement in your business and you’ll really be behind the times.

#18. Networking.

Even with the advent of digital marketing, business still gets done through networking. It’s still who you know that matters. In fact, people want to buy from businesses they know, like, and trust. Networking both in person and online is essential to this. If you don’t feel comfortable networking, find a public speaking group, a chamber of commerce, or other networking organization that can help you feel more comfortable and master the basics.

#19. Appealing to what’s in it for them.

It doesn’t matter how well you know your product or service, if you are still selling features and not things that benefit your audience in a direct way, you’re leaving money on the table. Master speaking to your customers about what’s in it for them. All of your copy should be focused on your audience; what they need, what they want, how they see themselves, the problems you can solve for them, and what they will receive by doing business with you from their standpoint.

If you sell based on features, you are asking your audience to make that correlation of how the features can help them. That’s a big jump for someone who likely is only spending minutes getting to know you, if you’re lucky. On the other hand, if you tell them exactly how you can help, not only does it spell out the issue for them but it also makes them feel like you understand their needs.

#20. Learning from others.

When you’ve been in one business for a long time there’s the possibility of stagnation, especially if you’re an operation of one or employ people who have been with you from the beginning. In order to stay fresh, you should constantly look for new experiences in your professional and personal life and encourage your employees to do the same. This can take the shape of attending professional conferences, insisting everyone use all of their vacation, and / or being part of a mentor or mentee relationship. It’s amazing what other people can teach you about your business even if they’re not in your industry.

If you don’t have time to attend conferences and other networking opportunities, you must be a voracious reader or consumer of podcasts, audiobooks, or other online learning. Avoid stagnation by learning from others.

2019 is likely to bring a lot of new opportunities to your business. One of the best ways to capitalize on this is to ensure you’re always acquiring new skills and ways in which you look at your business.

What are we missing from this list? What do you plan on learning this year?

Developing a Mission & Vision Statement

I’ve been doing some background work for a strategic planning session with a board committee which will include reviewing and updating our chamber mission statement and crafting a vision statement.  I’ve helped develop both in my career, but was looking for a tool that could help guide our process as I’ve used templates and tools before for this. 

I found this great 4 page worksheet that is simple and helps you develop those two strategic statements.  As many businesses are developing their next year plan I thought I’d share it.

This worksheet is free to download at this link.  

Hope you find it helpful!  Debi Mollahan, CEO, Tigard Chamber

How in the World Do I Increase Employee Productivity?

It’s holiday time as I write this and countless employees across various industries have told me they aren’t in the mood to work. Sound familiar? Even if your employees haven’t been so brash as to tell you this, it’s likely their struggling. And if they’re struggling, your business is too.

But you don’t want to come off as Ebenezer Scrooge!

So how do you get your employees more focused and productive without alienating them and decreasing morale? It takes a balance but these productivity and motivation tips can get you through the holidays and all the other times as well.

5 Ways to Improve Employee Productivity and Motivation

First, decide what it is that your team and culture are lacking. Are they meeting customer needs or exceeding them? Are they adhering to their job description but not doing anything that is wowing you? Is it an individual or the whole team that needs help? Understanding the source and the depth of the productivity/motivation issue is essential to curing it.

For instance, if it’s one person and nothing you try is changing it, the solution may be as simple as switching out that person. However, if it’s an entire team, the issue is much deeper than a single hiring situation.  

Communicate Expectations

Often job expectations can be found in the job description, but not always. If your culture is one that the employee should pitch in to help anyone who needs it, this should be communicated ahead of time. If the customer is always right, this too should be communicated. Whatever expectations you have for the team should be addressed early and often.

Knowing what’s expected of them will help them achieve their goals and feel like a valuable part of the team. On the other hand, having certain expectations that they don’t meet because they didn’t know about them, only serves to alienate the employee and bring on feelings of failure. That doesn’t make anyone more productive. 

Provide an Inspiring Work Environment

A safe, naturally-lit, comfortable, and clean workplace with few distractions is best for productive employees as a general rule. But it also can benefit you to know how your team works best. While studies have shown open workspaces aren’t the key to productivity for most people, especially introverts, they might be perfect for your group if they love brainstorming and creative collaboration. Talk to them and find out how they work best. Also, find out what’s important to them around the office. Sometimes a snack machine can make all the difference.  

Clear the Obstacles and Provide the Right Tools

A manager or boss’ job is two-fold, helping with professional development to make them the best employee possible and clearing the obstacles that impede employees from doing their jobs. Doing this will keep discouragement at bay and make them feel like you have their back. People work harder for those they feel protected by.

Deal with Issues Immediately

Never ignore a productivity issue believing it will go away. If you think a productivity issue exists because one of your employees is dealing with a personal problem, take the time to speak with them about it and find out if there’s anything you can do. In some cases, they may be eligible for leave while they straighten things out. While that’s not ideal, it’s better than having someone at your business who is bringing others down because of their lack of productivity and what others assume is you not addressing it.

If it’s seasonal, it still must be dealt with. Every day that you have an uninspired employee working for you is one more day a customer sees that lack of motivation as a reflection on you and your company. You can’t afford an off day so make sure everyone understands the importance of their role and how they fit in. This can be very inspiring.

On the other hand, if it’s not a personal problem but rather a bad attitude, you need to address it quickly before it begins to bring others down too. Don’t assume it will rectify itself. After all, misery loves company.

Give Rewards That Mean Something (to your employees)

Don’t assume what you love is what they will love. If you’re rewarding someone for doing something amazing, find out what means the most to them. Some love cash, while others want a day off.

Whatever they prefer, make sure you also recognize them in public. Yes, some people find this embarrassing but it’s necessary so that everyone knows why they are being singled out. It sets an example for the team.

If you’re struggling with employee productivity, it’s time to take action. Get to the bottom of the issues, clear the path to doing their job, and deal with issues decisively. When employees trust youo take care of matters, they will respond with more interest and desire to do a great job.


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 WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.  

Christina is an introverted writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

10 Things to Check Before Posting to Social Media

One of the most embarrassing things you can do on social media for your business is to mess up a post. For some of us, that might be a spelling or grammar mistake, for others, it may involve a humiliating auto-correct situation. For others still, it might mean giving away a company secret earlier than intended. Whatever it is that you’ve done or might do, you can ensure it doesn’t happen again with this handy social media post checklist.

Social Media Post Checklist

Very little can be taken back on social media. A mistake in a post can be embarrassing or deeply troubling to your PR department. It can alienate customers or cause them to question your professionalism. Before hitting send, post, or tweet, run your potential post through this handy checklist.

  1. Proofread before sending to avoid silly mistakes. We all love spell check but it’s not always enough. Spell check doesn’t always catch homonyms (words that sound alike but are spelled differently) and depending on your settings, it may not catch a misspelled word if you have it in caps or it is capitalized. Don’t forget to double-check auto-correct issues, especially when sending from your phone. However, never blame autocorrect for your mistakes as it usually only corrects your words with frequently used ones.
  2. Be funny, not offensive. Humor is great but not if it alienates customers, vendors, or partners. You can lose lucrative relationships over something as simple as a tweet. You’d be surprised how few second chances are given on social media.
  3. Use sarcasm sparingly and obviously. Are you saying what you mean? What is your tone conveying? Is that the only way it could be interpreted? Sarcasm is very difficult to master in print or on social media. Just look at Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal where he <satirically> suggested eating children in order to solve the problems of famine and poverty in the early 1700s. Many believed his idea to be a serious proposal. It is much better to use the strong words you mean than to post something in jest. Meaning can be lost in social media unless you accompany it with some emotional clues like emojis.
  4. Check stats and claims. If you’re quoting a source make sure you haven’t transposed numbers or wrongly attributed a claim. Ensure you use a “not” if that’s what you mean. After all, there’s a big difference between 3 billion and .3 million as well as 83% of adults are on Facebook or 83% of adults aren’t on Facebook. There are also a lot of people on social media who enjoy correcting people.
  5. Check your quote. Quotes, especially image quotes, receive some of the biggest shares out there. However, before you attribute something to a famous person, check the sources. There are entire books written on this subject and some very famous quotes are often misattributed. For instance, Gandhi never said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” and George Washington never claimed, “I cannot tell a lie, even on the internet.”
  6. Test the link. Always check your link by copying it into another tab and double-checking that it works. When you’re copying and pasting, it’s easy to copy and paste the wrong one or leave off the last character so checking is always advisable.
  7. Double check the image. When you’re using an image from elsewhere, wherever possible give attribution through a tag. Not only is it the polite thing to do, but it can help your business. It will call attention to your post and the original content creator will be made aware of you. They may even share your post. Even if you decide not to tag the original content creator, watch for watermarks. If there is one or you’re reposting something that’s been shared by multiple sharers, go to the original site mentioned in the post before you share it. You don’t want to share content that one of your followers could follow back to the original poster only to find it’s an unsavory group.
  8. Use scheduling software. If you use scheduling software, you’re not going live immediately. We all know there’s something inexplicable about posting. Your post looks perfect until you hit the post button then magically all of the errors are visible. (At least that’s how it seems.) If you use a scheduler instead of going live immediately, you’re creating a buffer that will help you see mistakes before they’re in someone’s stream. Many schedulers also have spell-check features.
  9. Use with permission. If you’re posting to social media, always use attributes for quotes and materials. Give the content creator credit for saying/writing it in the first place. That’s common courtesy. However, this becomes much more important when your posting is posting to a blog and not merely a quote. If you’re using a cartoon, song lyrics, more than 10% of a printed work, or an image, and you’re publishing it on a business blog, you should seriously consider getting permission from the content owner. If your usage is for educational purposes, the rights holder may be more lenient. But if you stand to make money off of it, don’t be surprised to receive a cease and desist letter. Grammar rules have become less enforced with social media. Copyright law has not. 
  10. Look at the published post. After you post your item, always double-check it again. Click on the links. Take another look at the spelling and grammar. Some social media platforms (like Facebook) allow you to edit your posts so you could save yourself some issues if you’re the one who catches it.

Finally, if after all of this checking something still escapes your attention and causes someone dismay, remedy the situation quickly. If it’s grammar thank them for their attention to detail and get it corrected. If it’s a public relations issue, consult the appropriate decision maker about how it should be handled. Remember, doing so quickly is your best course of action. That’s why so many businesses have a protocol in place on how to handle a social media faux pas. If you don’t, you should consider making those decisions ahead of needing them.


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 WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.  

Christina is an introverted writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.