2018 SPARK! Awards Finalists

Are you ready to earn your star on Charleston’s marketing walk of fame?

The results are in! This year, 158 exceptional entries were submitted. Do you see your entries among the finalists?

Entries were judged by the board of directors of AMA Reno-Tahoe with assistance from Stewart Law, past president of AMA Oklahoma City. The top 3 entries were selected as finalists in each category. In the case of tied scores, up to 5 finalists were selected. Marketer of the Year nominations were judged by a select committee of AMA Charleston’s past chapter leaders. We thank all of our judges for their time and assistance to make the Spark! Awards a success.

Join us on the red carpet at the 2018 Spark! Awards on March 8 at Harborside East. You’ll see the work of the Lowcountry’s best and brightest marketers on the silver screen. Mix and mingle with Charleston’s creative moguls and starlets, and find out who will take home this year’s Spark! Awards. The theme is Old Hollywood, and special prizes will be given to the best-dressed attendees – so turn up the glamour and get ready for a star-studded night!

Get your tickets at sparkawards.eventbrite.com.


Best Print Ad

Brays Island Plantation, Rawle Murdy

Certified SC Grown “Fresh on the Menu,” Chernoff Newman

Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches “Uncommon Character,” The Brandon Agency


Best Copywriting

Advantage Magazine Spring 2017, Advantage|ForbesBooks

Island Magazine “Sea Turtle Hospital: A New Chapter,” South Carolina Aquarium

“Where…” Campaign Print Ads, Town of Mount Pleasant


Best Website

Island Coastal Lager, Obviouslee Marketing

Medal of Honor Museum, Chernoff Newman

Redux Yoga, Shannon Caulk Designs


Best Commercial Photography

frogg toggs, The Brandon Agency

Island Coastal Lager, Obviouslee Marketing

Lowcountry Pet Specialties “Outdoor Lifestyle Creative,” Andy H Photo


Best Illustration

Frothy Beard Brewery, Tami Boyce Design

Italian Spot Illustrations, Andrew Barton Design

YALLFest, Timothy Banks


Best Direct Mail

Catesby Campaign, The Gibbes Museum of Art

Hatman New Year’s Mailer, Andrew Barton Design

Inc. 5000 Illustrations, Advantage|ForbesBooks

npNEXT Invitation, Blackbaud

Where else but Charleston?, Charleston Wine + Food


Best Collateral

Authority Summit Program, Advantage|ForbesBooks

Balsam Mountain Preserve, Rawle Murdy

Charleston Allergy & Asthma, Trio Solutions Inc.

Gibbes Street Party: Food is Art, The Gibbes Museum of Art

Where else but Charleston?, Charleston Wine + Food


Best Corporate Identity

Charleston Parks Conservancy, Obviouslee Marketing

The Guild, Obviouslee Marketing

Nirenblatt Orthodontics, Andrew Barton Design


Best Promotional Video

Charleston Wine + Food Festival, Charleston Wine + Food

Island Coastal Lager, Obviouslee Marketing

Terminix “Customer Stories: Cockroach,” Rawle Murdy


Best Outdoor Signage

Sea Turtle Care Center, South Carolina Aquarium

Piggly Wiggly, Chernoff Newman

Charleston Airport Wall Wrap, Chernoff Newman


Best Corporate Blog

AdvantageFamily.com Blog, Advantage|ForbesBooks

Luxury Simplifed Retreats, Luxury Simplified

Mount Pleasantries, Town of Mount Pleasant

Take Maggie’s Word for It, Black Book Marketing


Best Book Cover

Finding the Heart in Art, Advantage\ForbesBooks

Hope in the Darkness, Advantage\ForbesBooks

Interrupted Entrepreneurship, Advantage\ForbesBooks


Best Logo

Betty Carlton Kitchens, Katie Biondo

iParent, Andrew Barton Design

The Shay, Obviouslee Marketing


Best Event Marketing

Charleston Beer Garden, Fisher Creative LLC

Redux Yoga Eclipse Party, Shannon Caulk Designs

Volvo Car Open, Obviouslee Marketing


Best Social Media Campaign

Certified SC Grown “SEWE Social Countdown,” Chernoff Newman

Dewees Real Estate, Lovingood Media

The Unfair Advantage, Advantage\ForbesBooks


Best Non-Traditional Marketing

#LoveALocal, Lowcountry Local First

Dumas & Sons 100th Anniversary, Obviouslee Marketing

NYC Media Biscuit Class, Charleston Wine + Food


Best Public Relations

Charleston Wine + Food, Charleston Wine + Food

Dave & Buster’s Grand Opening, The Brandon Agency

Here, There and Everywhere with Parker Bear, Fisher Creative LLC

Scotty’s Ride for Water, Touchpoint Communications


Best Branding

Certified SC Grown “Roots,” Chernoff Newman

Island Coastal Lager, Obviouslee Marketing

Palmetto Brand Week, Palmetto

USC Health Sciences “Degrees of Health,” Chernoff Newman


Best Rebranding

Blackbaud Visual Rebrand, Blackbaud

South Carolina Ports “Seeing is Believing,” Chernoff Newman

Together SC, Trio Solutions Inc.


Best Facebook Presence

Charleston International Airport, Chernoff Newman

The Footlight Players, Fisher Creative LLC

Lowcountry AIDS Services, Fisher Creative LLC


Best Twitter Presence

The Footlight Players, Fisher Creative LLC

Lowcountry AIDS Services, Fisher Creative LLC


Best Instagram Presence

Charleston Wine + Food, Charleston Wine + Food

South Carolina Aquarium, South Carolina Aquarium

Southeastern Wildlife Expo, Obviouslee Marketing


The Giving Award

CreateAthon, Trio Solutions Inc.

Junior League of Charleston, Katie Biondo


Chapter Volunteer of the Year

Courtney Little

Charlotte Woodward

Amanda Culver Wynns


Marketer of the Year

Jenny Dennis, Trio Solutions Inc.

Colleen Troy, Touchpoint Communications

Chris Zoeller, The Post & Courier


AMA Charleston Announces Spark! Giving Award

The American Marketing Association, Charleston Chapter (AMA Charleston) is pleased to announce a new category in this year’s Spark! Awards, recognizing the outstanding creative achievements of Charleston area marketers. The Giving Award will commend the work of an individual or company based in the tri-county area that has donated a marketing service(s) to a nonprofit organization.

In addition to The Giving Award, AMA Charleston’s Spark! Awards include a wide variety of categories intended to recognize the outstanding work of area creatives and marketers, including categories for individual projects, overall marketing campaigns, and social media channels. Additionally, the winner of Charleston’s most prestigious marketing award, Marketer of the Year, is announced at the Spark! Awards gala.

Maggie Mills, president-elect of AMA Charleston, explains the motivation for this new award. “We wanted to showcase the kindness and generosity of our creative community. So many people generously give of their time with no reward other than the contentment of a kind heart. It’s time to recognize this special type of philanthropy.”

Entries may be submitted until January 31 at charlestonama.org/spark. See the website for more details. AMA Charleston encourages nonprofit organizations to nominate donors of marketing services. Individuals and companies may also apply on their own behalf. Submission fees are waived for this special award category.

In conjunction with the launch of The Giving Award, a new sponsorship opportunity is available for any person or company who would like to support The Giving Award. Contact Amanda Culver Wynns for details (Amanda@charlestonama.org).

The Spark! Awards gala is being held March 8 at Harborside East and is open to the public. For tickets, go to sparkawards.eventbrite.com.

Are you chasing away your customers?

“How much is too much?”


Do you find yourself wondering, “How often should I send out an email? How many times in one week? When will they opt out?”


The answer to all of those questions is, “It depends.”


Never send out an email unless you have something to offer. Do you have new inventory? Are you having a sale? That is information of value to your recipient. “Come shop in our store.” Or “Call me to make an appointment,” is not enough to capture someone’s attention.


eNewsletter – once a month. Include at least one picture. You can use eNews to talk about schedule changes, upcoming specials, events, or sales. Newsletters also provide an opportunity to recognize milestones for employees and customers – like birthdays, anniversaries, and awards.


Value Added – once a week. Recipes, Tips & Tricks, DIY projects. Give your subscribers a reason to open the email and continue reading.


Events – Major, once a year events can be promoted four months or more in advance. This is especially helpful to people who are traveling for the event. It assures that your event gets onto their schedule ahead of others, and allows guests time to make travel and hotel reservations.


Small gatherings should be promoted at least two weeks in advance.


As the event becomes closer, increase the frequency of email and social media notifications. Always include a link to register for the event. To build anticipation, include pictures of previous years’ events.


Send out “warning” notices for event registration, and include the timeframe in the subject line. “Only 2 days left to get your tickets.” “Join us tonight!” Always send out notices the day before and the day of an event. Include helpful information in these last-minute emails, such as suggested parking in large cities, and any directional information that isn’t provided by GPS, such as, “Entrance is in the rear.” “The hall is on the third floor.”


If you have a lot of content, you may consider segmenting the type of emails you have. Many email programs allow the recipient to choose the frequency or types of emails they receive.


Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing tools you can implement. Remember to add it to your editorial calendar and make sure the content is consistent with your other channels.


Maggie Mills is the founder and CEO of Black Book Marketing and president-elect of the Charleston AMA.


Get Elevator Pitch Ready

With the Southern C Summit fast approaching, it might be helpful to review your elevator pitch since there will be many opportunities for networking. In my work at the William and Mary Mason School of Business MBA program, one of our focuses is getting the students to answer that initial question in one sentence. You might be thinking to yourself, “That’s impossible!”  With a little bit of practice and using the tips below, you will be prepared to make a lasting impression.

Let’s make a few things clear up front; the answer to “what do you do?” is not your job title. If you have read some of my past articles, you might have a head start if you have already discovered your WhyHow and What. The answers to these branding questions apply to your personal brand as much as your business brand. If you want someone to be interested in you, you must be relatable, authentic, energetic, clear, concise and most importantly, leave them wanting more. That’s a lot to swallow, so let’s break it down.

In a networking environment, the best way to start a conversation is to ask someone “what do you do?” Keep in mind, that even as you wait to answer back, it is important to be truly engaged and interested in what the other person has to say in order to set the tone for an authentic exchange.

When the tables turn and they ask you what you do, be prepared with one dynamic sentence or compelling statement.

  1. Be clear and concise: Instead of saying “I am a Account Manager” say “I am in business development in the accessory market where I help match clients with the products they need”. As in the case study of one of my Artist clients, she now says, “I create lasting memories for clients through my medium of texture, color and fabrics”. Both of these options help the receiver visualize what you do.
  2. Be prepared to back up your statement with an example: The next question usually is “Can you give me an example of what you do?” If you are prepared with what I call “short stories” of your accomplishments, this step will be easy. You do not need to recite your resume. Practice by writing down some of your major accomplishments in a concise manner, being specific on why and having an example of what you do. And remember, it is all about the benefit sell. If you have been listening to the person asking the question, you will be able to relate your experiences and examples to their area of interest. For instance, if you are in Business Development, talk about how you were successful in matching clients with appropriate products and how they were happy with the results. Or, in the case of the Artist, she could talk about how she created a pillow out of a fond memory that created a heirloom for an family.
  3. Practice: If you practice, the answers to these questions will role off your tongue in a relatable, authentic, energetic, clear and concise manner. Try it out on friends and family before you come to the Summit and get feedback.
  4. Leave them wanting more and know how to follow-up: The Summit is all about connecting, collaborating and creating. Know your industry and try to leave your audience with an interesting fact. It could be a new trend, or something you read about their industry. If you have your audience asking questions and wanting more, then you need to have a follow up strategy. Suggest connecting through the Summit app, or set a time to catch up for coffee during the Summit. Even better, follow-up after the summit with a handwritten thank you note.

Practice makes perfect as they say. Be ready and be interesting as you arrive at the Summit. There are many new friends and lasting relationships to be made, both personally and professionally, if you are an engaged listener and prepared with your story.

Written by Louise Pritchard for The Southern C Blog.



Louise Pritchard is an experienced professional with progressive leadership roles and a successful track record in cross-industry strategic market development, relationship management and business problem solving Ms Pritchard brings her creative problem solving and critical thinking approach to each client. Her passion and drive is evident in helping each client to discover the “ah-ha” moment when new ideas and strategies transform their brand strengths into results for their company, Ms. Pritchard founded Pritchard Volk Consulting, LLC, in 2001 after nearly 30 years in the business arena. Her experiences with FORTUNE Magazine, as Southeast Division Manager, Director of Marketing of Holiday Inn Worldwide, Director of Marketing of Egleston Childrens Hospital and other high level marketing positions helped her form the philosophy and process for her consulting business. She is also an Executive Partner at the Mason School of Business, College of Williams and Mary MBA program.

She is a Auburn University graduate and an avid SEC football fan. With four grown daughters pursuing their careers in various part of the country, she and her husband enjoy their off time visiting them in Charlotte, Savannah, Atlanta and LA.

Charleston Listens With Silence

Silence is a powerful tool that can enhance our listening abilities. Many of us, though, are uncomfortable with silence entering our conversation. This awkward feeling compels us to jump in with a story to match theirs or a witty comment to bring a laugh, especially if the topic is emotional. Rarely, do we sit with the silence that passes between us.

I saw a friend at the grocery store. She was having a difficult day. She started to vent. I wanted to add my story. Then I remembered. Silence. I put my finger over my mouth to remind myself to keep it closed. I listened. I said “Wow, that sounds tough. Tell me more about that”. I became her sounding board. She paused and I was tempted to interject. Then, I recalled my finger over my mouth. I waited. It seemed like forever. I thought that at any minute she would look at me and say, “What?” But she didn’t. She continued her train of thought with a deeper clarity. When she said goodbye, she thanked me for my wonderful advice. I chuckled since I had given her zero advice. I gave her more important gifts: my ear and my time.

Combining silence with other components of reflective listening can build connection and trust. The five components are 1) attending behaviors, 2) acknowledgements, 3) door openers, 4) silence, and 5) reflectively responding. The first three components are discussed in previous columns of the Moultrie News. Not all of these ingredients are necessary in every dialogue, but each conversation needs to be wrapped with empathy to have the maximum effect.

This compassionate silence is not the cold shoulder or punishment. It is the exact opposite. It is walking beside the other through their trials and joys, putting ourselves in their place long enough to imagine what it’s like to be them. It invites the speaker to go deeper with their thoughts, pain, excitement, etc. without us redirecting the conversation. It is stilling our minds as well as our voice. One way to quiet your thoughts is to imagine your mind as a white board and practice wiping it when you begin a conversation.

Silence and reflectively listening can be highly effective when someone is upset with you and needs to vent. This is a real challenge, for many times we feel attacked and want to retaliate. If we do not take the first 15 minutes of the conversation personally, the speaker’s emotional level will return to equilibrium and their logic will be restored. Then, and only then, can a productive discussion occur.

I invite you to practice silence this week and see what happens. Some people, myself included, find silence extremely difficult. For months, silence was the only skill I worked on because I knew that being quiet was hard for me. I purposefully refrained from taking ownership of the conversation so others could be heard. I gave people space to solve their own problems in my presence.

If you catch yourself forgetting your homeworking, lightly cover your mouth with your finger to remind yourself of the gift you are giving by being a sounding board. It will be hard not to tell someone what to do, but worth it, when you participate in their growth. Finally, wrap all communication with empathy.



Julie Chapman is a facilitator for a community based communication skills training class, which is offered for free by a nonprofit, Our Community Listens. The content was developed by Barry-Wehmiller University; a leadership training facility for Barry-Wehmiller, Inc. Charleston is one of five communities in the U.S. that is piloting the life-changing curriculum to see if employing new skills can change communities. Contact Leigh Ann Garrett for information regarding upcoming classes: Charleston@OurCommunityListens.org

Managing Your Corporate Blog Marathon

For those of us in marketing who sigh and mumble under our breath, “if only I had MORE hours in a day I definitely would pay MORE attention to our company blog” – we secretly already know there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I believe the super successful lifestyle bloggers can attest that “blogging,” and actually doing it really well, is indeed a full-time job. That’s right, it takes a lot more time than you actually have to create and maintain the kind of blog you’d like – one that catapults your company to the top of the SEO heap and garners thousands and THOUSANDS of followers.

But, this doesn’t mean that you should just become discouraged. This is about celebrating the things you are doing right, and offering a couple of “tick boxes” that could easily help you up your blog game. And, if you already HAVE a corporate blog … well then you’ve already checked box #1!

Start a blog. Adding a blog to your company website is a no-brainer. After all, a blog is the easiest way to establish yourself as a “thought leader in your industry” – and isn’t that the goal? Be perceived by an expert at what you do + share knowledge = phone rings and clients call.

  • So, if it was as easy as that – then we actually would turn our blog writing INTO our full-time job. But, after you have established your blog, it’s what you do with it next that matters. You have to SHARE it out.
  • This just might be the easiest part. Is your company active on social media? Share it there. Post it to twitter, facebook, Google+, Linkedin. Post it when it’s new – this is the equivalent of “shouting it from the rooftops.” But hey, you clearly have expertise in your field, you spent the time writing it, and don’t you want someone besides your mom to read it? Send it out via email to your clients and followers. Add it to your company e-newsletter. There is NO limit to the places you can and should share out your blog.
  • Offer it up for inbound links. If you think your blog would be helpful as content that other like-minded businesses or vendor partners could benefit from, send it to them and invite them to link to it in their blogs or share it on their social media platforms. This is the “more the merrier” approach – and good relevant content can benefit others in their content goals.
  • Be consistent. When I get asked, “how often should I be blogging?” I always say, “there’s no right or wrong answer here.” Since Google’s algorithms reward you in search for MORE content pages on your site, you should shoot for more. A lot more. But if you are blogging only 1x per week, that’s totally fine. But that means, DO that – blog 1x per week. Don’t skip. Be consistent. Allow your followers to learn that they can expect that at least once a week, they are going to receive a big ole’ dose of really good, really relevant and fairly entertaining content from you – delivered straight to their inbox.

These tips are really just the basics, but if you apply any of them, you already might be doing more than the next guy. Managing your corporate blog is definitely a marathon, not a sprint – so don’t be too hard on yourself.

Written by Mary Moore.

So You Want to Start a Blog

You’ve decided to create a blog, or maybe you already started one, but you’re not quite sure how to get people to pay attention to it. Most bloggers struggle with getting their content in front of as many eyes as possible. So, how exactly do you get people to pay attention to your blog?

Although I’ve learned a lot about blogging over the years, I’m sad to say there is no easy answer. There is no special sauce when it comes to blogging.

What works for one type of website, will never work for another. In terms of audiences, certain industries can only reach so far regardless of what they do, while there is no ceiling for others. Plus, we are all at the mercy of many uncontrollable components. The fads, tastes, attention spans, and technology in our ever-evolving culture make many of the so-called “tips and tricks” obsolete or inconsequential in the blink of an eye.

This isn’t to say that everything comes down to dumb luck, or that there’s nothing you can do to gain a bigger or more consistent following. Although dedication, hard work, and the ability to evolve are incredibly important, I’ve found that the following simple guidelines can help bring your blog to the next level, regardless of industry, scope, or focus.

  1. Write for yourself – This has been my number one guiding principal when I’ve done any type of writing project. You absolutely need to know who your audience is and listen to their feedback, but don’t forget that you are  also part of that group. You have tastes, preferences, likes, dislikes, and opinions too. So, think – are you creating something you would like to read? Would you be entertained by what you are posting? Write for yourself first and foremost. If you like what you are writing/creating, it will likely be reflected in the end result. I’ve found that audiences like when bloggers are genuine and it’s clear the writer loves what they are doing. If you like what you created, chances are many others will too. You can always edit and fine tune after, so write for yourself first.
  2. Interact with your audience – You need to be more than a brand. Social media and the internet are meant to be social. People like when their comments or questions elicit a response. It shows you value them. It can add another level of entertainment for the viewer and usually results in repeat visits. Interacting can add a human element to your avatar or logo and people will be more likely to support you. You’d be surprised how a simple “Thanks for commenting” can earn you a fan for life. Interacting with also helps you better understand your audience, which can be invaluable as you move forward.
  3. Be consistent – Audiences dislike blogs and brands that disappear for long periods of time or stray from what they believe their content should be. There are so many other blogs and different types of entertainment out there and your followers can quickly forget about you or move on. However, if you keep putting out content, you’ll stay in their rotation. It’s up to you to decide how often you should post. Some blogs are not suited for constant updates, so don’t think you have to post every single day. Decide what’s appropriate for your brand and stick to it.
    Consistency also relates to what you are posting. If you have a food blog, your followers probably don’t want to read your political opinions. If you run a blog about your corporation and the goings-on within your industry, your audience likely isn’t foaming at the mouth to know about your last Tinder date. It’s ok to try new things, but it’s likely not a good move to stray too far from what your audience likes. 
  4. Content is still, and always will be, king – Flashy websites with beautiful photos and cool features are obviously awesome, but if they are not bringing anything of value to the audience, they won’t be coming back. Believe it or not, it’s perfectly fine to start out with a humble-looking blog. Make it easy to understand, simple to navigate, and full of useful or entertaining content. There is always time to upgrade your site’s capabilities and improve its aesthetics, but if the content isn’t worthwhile, people won’t be returning regardless of how pretty your blog looks.

There is certainly a lot of good advice out there, but I’ve found that the guidelines mentioned above are valuable regardless of what stage your blog is at. From there, each brand will require much more specific advice, but I believe these will get you started on the right foot and will help you to remain relevant as your journey continues.

Written by Christian Senger.

Blog Startup: Beginning the Conversation

Who’s going to read my blog? Why would anyone read my blog? I post enough on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Do I even have time to blog? These are just a few of the many questions and considerations that took place in my head when deciding whether to implement a blog on my web site. If you can identify with any one of these questions, I understand.

In my experience, it’s not enough to get started, but you want to start right – with the best strategy possible.

Thoughts to Consider:

  1. What is the purpose for my blog?

The key here is not just knowing what you are saying but also who you are talking to and why you are talking to that person or audience. This is important because if you lack focus when starting you will lack direction when moving; which means you will either hit and miss your target or both at any time.

Tip: If you are unsure of what your audience is expecting from you or what the value is that you offer…just ask! I always say, listen twice as much as you speak. Trust me, your audience will tell you.

  1. Define your voice.

Because blogging is a part of social media it is important to make your content conversational. To achieve this, you must know what type of conversation you are engaging. Are you personal or professional? Are you inspirational or educational?

If you write personally, don’t be afraid to be transparent. Personal is what you define it to be. Focus on content that you are comfortable sharing.

Tip: If your voice is professional, remember to be personal – people connect with people. Also, it is awesome to educate but don’t forget to inspire.

  1. Be visual. Pictures are worth 1,000 words!

Share your message with photos and videos. By using imagery, you can embed a push-pull strategy right within your content. No, this strategy does not just work for Instagram, Snapchat or Pinterest, but it’s a great way to enhance your wording. Use imagery that will illustrate what you are sharing. Stock photos from Google™ are great or create your own by simply using your smartphone camera and editing apps.

Tip: I recommend Canva and Aviary by Adobe™ as great mobile applications for photo editing. In addition, one my favorite web-based editing sites is Pic Monkey. Also, use Pic Resize for quick photo resizing for those extra-large high-resolution photos that you struggle to load on your site.

  1. Allow yourself space to elaborate.

Your blog is the place where you can offer something “deeper” than your other social media channels. You may express or illustrate a thought on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or even Facebook. However, with your blog you can express, illustrate and elaborate that thought. Give yourself time and space to be multi-dimensional.

Tip: Not everyone is skilled in conversational writing. Try speaking your entries using a recording device and then transcribe them. Yes, it may take more time and effort but the results will be rewarding. Also, don’t forget to edit! A resource such as Grammarly is excellent to use when writing and even has an app for Mac users which works right from your desktop. You can also install the app on Google Chrome.

  1. Keep your blog alive!

Your blog should be a moving component to your brand or company. If your blog is included on your company or personal web site, you will want to make sure that it is consistently updated. No, you don’t have to blog every day or even every week. However, you want to make sure that your audience can see movement when visiting your web site. Having recognizable, updated content is a way to show that you are regularly engaged.

Tip: Never launch an empty blog! If you are just announcing your blog, make sure that people can view content when they visit for the first time.

Measure your movement by gauging the effectiveness of your engagement:

Give yourself time to see results and have a system of measurement for your engagement as well. Make sure you are using your other social media channels to pull traffic back to your blog. You can also use your blog to drive traffic to your other channels.

Google Analytics is one of the main tools that writers are using to measure their engagement. In addition, social media channels now have built in analytics as well. The use of all your analytics resources together will give you the best picture of your audience interaction. If you’re sharing blog marketing content on your other social media channels you will want to make sure you are including those engagement analytics in your measurement analysis.

Lastly, if you have the desire to grow and enhance your blog and are overwhelmed with the DIY approach, feel free to hire a consultant. Sometimes, just asking the right questions to get the right answers can give you the power start you need. Even if you consider yourself a blogging professional, there is nothing wrong with giving yourself an update from time to time!

 Written by Elliot Carlyle

The Makings of a Successful Blog from Content Curation to Performance

Blogs can be one of the easiest ways to reach your audience. But getting started can be nerve-racking if you’ve never done it before. Figuring out where to start, what to say, how to say it—it’s a lot to consider. But it doesn’t have to be scary.

With a few simple things to keep in mind, you can create a blog that resonates with your audience and achieves your goals.

Getting Your Message Out

First things first: think about what you want your blog to say then outline how you’re going to convey that message. With so much competition, it’s important to pick a topic that you can become the go-to expert on that your audience will actually find useful.

Once you’ve determined your topic, blogging is a lot like writing a paper. Start with an outline and build from there. Here’s an example breakdown:

Title: The title for your post carries a lot of weight. It’s the first thing people will read and should be short, use keywords, and define the topic. Remember that you’re writing for digital—not print— and people will be able to search. The title should include keywords that relate to the post and have high search rates (more on this later).

Introduction: Your intro should be captivating. State the main point of your post and provide a quick overview of what you’ll be discussing. This is where you hook your readers. Give them just enough information to pique their interest so that they continue reading and want to know more.Having a hard time getting started? Work on the main body first and come back to the intro. Just because it’s one of the first pieces readers will see doesn’t mean it has to be your starting point when writing. By working backwards, you can ensure that the sections within your post align.

Main Body and Proof Points: Have supporting statements that back up your main message. The more the better (fun fact: posts with more than 1,500 words outperform shorter posts). Make your blog easy to read by breaking up paragraphs and including bulleted lists if it makes sense.

Wrap Up: Bring everything together. This is a good opportunity to summarize your message and point readers to take some kind of follow-up action. If you’ve got additional pieces of collateral like a webinar or report, share it. Not only will it further prove that you are a subject matter expert, but it will also help you build relationships and pull in leads. Win-win-win.

Knowing Your Audience

As important as knowing your topic, so is knowing your audience and speaking their language. It sounds simple enough, but this will help you determine how much (or little) detail you need to go into on a topic. Use tools like Moz and Google Search Console to understand what your audience is searching for and what keywords to include that have big opportunity with small competition. These keywords should be used in the title and throughout the post.

The Nitty Gritty Details

Here are things to keep in mind for a successful post:

  • Drive Traffic: How people find your blog should go beyond a good SEO (search engine optimization) strategy. Make sure you have supporting pieces like emails, social media posts, and updates on your website that lead to the blog. These should meet the needs of your audience, pertain to the sector your targeting, and compliment your overarching business goals.
  • Measure Your Audiences Behavior: If you’re not paying attention to how your content performs—how long someone stays on a page, where they go after, and what action they took on the site—it’s nearly impossible to understand what’s working. You have to look beyond the vanity metrics to understand who your audience is and what kind of content resonates and drives action.
  • Look at the ResultsGoogle Analytics is a quick, easy tool to use that can show you how well your blog performs and all it takes from you is including a tracking pixel. Use it to create dashboards, track visits, measure overall performance, and

Lastly, don’t forget to proof your post. There’s nothing worse than working on a great blog post only to find typos and grammar errors. Things like that not only throw readers for a loop, but you lose credibility. Ask a coworker or friend to read behind you. Not only will they be able to point out an errors, but they can also tell you if your post makes sense or not.

Written by Rachel Croyle. Special thanks to Madeline Turner for her help with this post.

Six Horrible New Communication Practices …and They’re Catching On!

Despite protestations from my yellowing birth certificate, I am no fuddy-duddy. I don’t talk about “these kids today” or complain about TwitFace.

But it is difficult to ignore the evidence that all the new doodads, gizmos and anti-social media have created ways of doing business that have made the world safe for stupidity and rudeness, and have created The Dumbest Generation.

Truly, I adore my College of Charleston students, but they are communication majors who literally don’t know what news is, what it should look or sound like, how it’s made or how it’s different from advertising.

I won’t regale you with the mortifying details. I have other mortifying details to regale you with! The details about the stupidity and rudeness that I mentioned previously.

woman stiff-arming man trying to discussBehold, the burgeoning number of people who:

  1. Refuse to communicate via certain methods and media – Some people will text but not talk. Some won’t listen to voice mail. Some only email; some never respond to emails. It’s like you need a database to keep track of how to communicate with friends and business associates. More communication options have made communication – worse!
  2. Ignore you as a method of communication – This one is the worst and it is spreading like kudzu. For an increasing number of people, including CEOs, rudeness is a communication tool. You could be carrying on a business relationship, but if you ask them a question that they don’t want to answer, they will ignore you, no matter how many times you leave emails and voice mails. After three weeks, you are expected to conclude that they’re not interested, even if they don’t exactly know what they’re not interested in.
  3. Maintain asynchronous communication – You know those people who will never respond to your outreach if you need them, only if they need you? These people don’t answer their phones, so you can only communicate when they want to. They feel the need to put you in the position of supplicant all the time. It’s not the basis for friendship.
  4. Use social media to speak, not listen – A growing number of people ask you to support their cause, patronize their employer, etc., but never reciprocate, or even read your posts.
  5. Can’t understand why the rest of the world matters – They can recount their friends’ episodes of belly button lint, but couldn’t identify New Zealand on a map if you spotted them Australia. They literally don’t know what is going on in our community, across the nation or around the world – unless Saturday Night Live parodied it. Andy they vote. God help us.
  6. Consider themselves informed because they read a Tweet – Americans have never been particularly well-prepared voting citizens, but now “informed” people only go headline deep or live in a political echo chamber. The paradox of the information age – and the endless presidential election – is that the more information available, the less informed we are.

When you add all of this up, Americans are becoming willfully ignorant jerks. Was that the purpose of the Information Age? Maybe you can tell me…when you return my call from three weeks ago.