Jessica Wicks

Editing Published Content

Jan
16

N.B. This post was originally posted in 2012. I’ve updated it slightly, but it continues to reflect my personal opinion on the topic. 

Let’s face it. The internet is a swamp of spelling and grammatical errors. Generally, when one is about to publish content (such as a tweet or blog post) they do a quick once over and send. Then it’s out in the universe, errors and all.

The problem is that this content represents you and your organization. Gone are the days of ‘breathing time’ before publication. Gone are the days of an editor who reads over every public message.

In a social media course I attended, an instructor said that the authenticity of online content relies on the fact that people do not go back and edit. As much as possible, he stated, you should leave things as they are. The reasoning behind this is that if someone visits your content twice and notices a change, they would feel the content is illegitimate.

I’m going to disagree.

I believe that although you should check everything you send out before you publish it, mistakes happen. Facts that content are based on change.

Instead, on any platform possible, I believe it is our responsibility to correct information as often as we can. We should collectively try to clear up the mess that is the internet for future generations. Blogs are perfect for this.

Schedule it in your calendar to read through your old posts and make notes or edits as necessary. Link to newer content, or explain why you’ve changed your previous opinion.

For those of you who happen to visit a blog post of mine a second time and notice something has changed: I do not apologize. I am simply fulfilling my duty as a contributor to the world wide web.

I hope that future generations will thank me.

Five Good Reasons to Start a Blog as a Professional

Feb
15

Can’t think of any good reasons to start a blog? Let’s see if I can change your mind, shall we?

I remember the first friend I had who started blogging. This was back in 2002 and it seemed really strange. Keeping your journal online? Sounds like a good way to attract stalkers to me.

Now that it’s become mainstream, I’ve come to embrace the idea. It might just be that I’ve found a lot of good information from blogs in the past. Or that if you find the right person to follow, your day can get just that much brighter when you see a new post.

I might not be the best at keeping up with it, but I do get why it is worthwhile. Especially for those who are working toward a long-term career.

Benefits of having a blog as a professional:

1. You practice your writing. Often. Writing is a skill that is useful in just about any professional position, whether you are writing for an audience or just shooting off an email. Blogging might be extremely casual in comparison, but the repetition will help make you a better writer in the future.

2. You have a web presence. No matter how big or small, you can be located online and use your blog as an opportunity to connect with other professional bloggers. This is networking in the early 21st century.

3. Your work is published. Self-published maybe, but you’re ahead of those who aren’t. You’ve taken a leap and put yourself out there, and you never know if your next opportunity might come from one of your published posts.

4. You share your wisdom. Maybe you learned a quick tip that made your life a thousand times easier. Share it. Someone, someday, will be grateful. You also get the perk of becoming an authority on your passion or topic of interest.

5. You establish yourself as someone who knows what they are talking about. This can give a potential employer the little nudge to choose you over the other applicants for a job, or potential clients to reach out and hire you.

(By the way, to any potential clients or employers reading this: I am always looking for a great opportunity, should you think we might be a good fit. You can contact me here.)

To Schedule or Not to Schedule

Jun
29

When blogging and tweeting, there’s a divide between pro-schedulers and anti-schedulers. The argument is simple to understand for each:

Pro-schedulers
Having the ability to write multiple posts in a single day and provide them to people on a regular schedule can help a writer maintain consistency and still take days off.

Anti-schedulers
Blogging and tweeting are about expressing ideas and sharing content in real time. The beauty of following a blog or micro-blog is seeing subtle changes in opinion and watching someone explore the world or industry they write about.

But why not do both? In my opinion, this is the strongest way to approach your followers. You might choose to regularly schedule your posts to maintain consistency plus write when something really gets your attention and you just have to share. One marketing blog I follow regularly is sent out every day, but on occasion, there is a second post delivered at a different time. While I love those insightful regular posts, on those other occasions I know that the post was inspired by something in the real world and shared with an enthusiasm that I can’t ignore.

The regular posts keep me hooked and keep me in touch, which is a benefit that should not be ignored.  But I read those second posts much more regularly than I read the scheduled ones because they come from a different place within the writer that I just know will be worth my time.

Combining Personal and Freelance 

Mar
28

As a freelancer, my job is to help create and shape other people’s businesses to reach their goals. My clients are a full-time job, meaning that my remaining waking hours are spent between working on my business and trying to keep up the appearance of a personal life – as a mother, sister, daughter and friend. While I love the freedom that my career path has brought, that freedom has been met with stress, deadlines, waiting on invoices to be paid, and little time to do anything but work and sleep.

Lately, I’ve been tossing around the idea of melding personal and work life a little more. One thing that I’m attempting is to get out of my home office at least one day a week, whether for work or play. For instance, today I’m ‘working’ from the local coffee shop and although I’m not necessarily getting as many billable hours done, I’m catching up on news that’s not related to the niche blogs that I write or my profession. I’m meeting other freelancers who just need to get out of the house and discussing topics on everything from health care to upcoming IPO’s while breathing in the aroma of freshly ground beans.

It’s pretty much the opposite of “work-life balance”, but in my experience that balance takes too much effort to maintain.

So for a while at least, expect a few personal touches to my writing and social media. It’s a public experiment and one I haven’t been entirely comfortable with in the past. I tend to be a behind-the-scenes person who likes to keep my professional and private life separate. But when a client hires me, they’re hiring all of me. My name is my brand, and if I know anything, it is that people like to work with brands who share their stories.

Inspiring Customer Loyalty

Jan
16

I read an article today that said one of the most incredible achievements of Steve Jobs was inspiring loyal customers. And I have to agree. I am an Apple user and am not ashamed to say so.

It’s an interesting phenomenon I’ve often thought about – how Apple users are so fanatic. Even when I try my best to turn down the excitement level, if someone asks me about my iPad (which still happens astonishingly often), I can’t help but open a number of the apps and show off how easy it is to use.

And this is one of the most important reasons, in my opinion, that Apple has been so successful. There is no need for salespeople when consumers are doing the job for you. Even in the stores, Apple Geniuses are not there to sell but to inform and advise.

But what exactly leads to this level of dedication from consumers? And how can it be replicated in another business? Obviously, Apple has a line of products that are considered to be top of the line in quality, but so do other manufacturers of many different products.

Let’s take a look at another brand that manages to inspire faithfully loyal customers – Starbucks. They promote the fact that their coffee is premium, made from 3% of the world’s best coffee beans. But is that quality the driving factor that keeps people coming back for more?

I would argue the recipe for success that both of these companies uses is one of personalization and community. Being a Starbucks drinker and an Apple user lets you say: “I am an individual in a group of like-minded people.”

For Apple, it is the way you can customize your product easily in a way that reflects your personality and what you use it for. Originally thought of as a creative person’s device because of this customization, they were able to tap into the fact that everyone likes to stand out just a little. And when you build a community for a computer, those creative and tech savvy folks are exactly the people you want. The trendsetters, the idea people.

Starbucks also brings customization into the focus. Where else could you spend ten minutes ordering a coffee just the way you like it, and not be scorned by the employee behind the counter? But I think the beauty of Starbucks comes from the fact that they want their stores to be busy. They gave customers free wifi before it was popular because they want people to lounge and work during their visit. They encourage this behavior so much that they’ve recently implemented a rewards program where loyal customers get free refills throughout the day for hanging around.

The documents for the program state that Starbucks would like to reward the people who spend longer periods of time in their locations. How could this be profitable, you might ask? It helps deepen the sense of community in their shops, for starters. Already, regulars are rewarded with a personalized experience where the baristas know their orders and often let them skip the line altogether. But think of a trendy coffee shop bustling with patrons working on their laptops and tablets, while jazz music plays in the background. Doesn’t this help to say to a newcomer “this is a place you want to be a part of, too.”

The rewards program has other benefits, however. Even with free refills, customers who often spend extended periods of time at a location would feel awkward not paying for another product. Or at the very least, leaving a tip meaning those baristas are a little happier about their jobs.

Now that I’ve talked about two well-known success stories, why don’t I tell you about a small business you’ve never heard of? My father owns a small independent gym in a mid-sized town. The competition is fierce, with large chains offering memberships at a rate so low they are losing money, just to squeeze out the competition. There are clubs with all the frills, equipment, services and classes. Even the city operates three centers at rates meant to be affordable and subsidized through the tax payers.

There is absolutely no way that a small gym owned and operated by a single person should be able to stay afloat in this type of market. Yet he has. For thirteen years, he has managed to keep his members happy.

He offers no-contract memberships and has never put a member in collections for non-payment. His facilities are outdated, but he has a greater selection of equipment than any other competitor. And most of all, he has built a sense of community in his club that I doubt could be matched anywhere. If a regular doesn’t show up for a couple days, you can bet one of the other members will call (often on the gym phone) to see of everything is ok. There is everyone from the lulu lemon wearing marathon runners to the body builders to the average joes in torn tracks. Everyone is welcome and everyone fits in.

I’ve talked to the people in his gym, trying to discover what the secret to building this type of loyalty and community is. The best answer I can get is that it is my father that keeps people coming back. He cares about them, remembers their name, offers them help and advice for things in the gym and in their personal lives. I had one of his members tell me that he had been lured away about five years ago to a fancier club offering better prices, but what brought him back was bumping into my father at a grocery store. My father remembered his name and the name of his wife. He asked about what they’d been up to. He showed genuine interest in this person and made him feel like an important individual – unlike member number 6443 at his existing gym.

So what’s my point? I guess my point is that while offering an exceptional product or atmosphere is part of the equation to inspiring loyal customers, it’s really making them feel important and like part of a community of unique individuals that makes people enthusiastic. When the majority of your sales come from referrals, and the majority of your users are genuinely excited to refer you, you’re bound to do well.

Businesses need to put time and effort into training their employees to be knowledgeable, not only about their own products and services but about the industry that they are in. They also need to encourage them to offer exceptional service, which can be done by helping employees feel they are an important asset to their employer.

Employees are your number one public, the gatekeepers between your business and your customers. When cultivated carefully, they become the reason your product or service is top notch and your customers are loyal.

A note:

As I sat here at the Starbucks I drove across town to get to, typing this blog post on my Apple iPad, I was approached by another Starbucks customer wanting to know how I liked my iPad and if I recommend it. Instead of a quick yes or no, I took the time to go through the features with her. If that’s not loyalty, I don’t know what is.