Monday, May 29, 2006

10 Ways To Create Content For Your Weblog

From Sheila Ann Manuel Coggins
These are some GREAT recommendations!

You know that feeling... the awful sensation that you just can't possibly blog about anything. Nothing inspires you enough. Everything seems too mundane. And, the more you think about blogging, the less you are inclined to blog. Indeed, if writers can get writers' block, then bloggers can get bloggers' block.

What do you do in moments like these?

1) Check your Inbox.
It's a great place to find fodder for blogging. Answer an email or two in your blog. React to a piece that you read from an email newsletter. Review a link or product that was recommended to you.

2) Start Blog Hopping.
We all do it on a regular basis - reading blogs from our blogroll. However, this time, read your favorite blogs with the purpose of finding ideas to write about. Also, try to follow links to weblogs you don't usually visit. Start asking questions like: "What are my fellow bloggers interested in at the moment?" or "What is the most popular topic that people blog about? Do I want to write about it too? Or perhaps, I can blog about something that is not too popular." Doing these things may spark something in your 'blocked' blogging brain.

3) Comment in Your Own Blog.
Yes, this idea is related to item #2. When you visit other weblogs, use your own blog when commenting on another blogger's entry that catches your attention. Or, if you post a short comment on someone else's blog, think of ways on how you can expand the idea.

Oh, and don't forget to use trackback, if your blogging system allows you to do so. (Although many blog software and/or hosts do not automatically support trackbacks, offers a free tool.)

4) Read, Listen To, or Watch the News.
Even if your weblog is not about news, politics or current events, you will still benefit from finding out what's going on in the world. To give you a refreshed view, why not check out news sources that you don't usually refer to? For example, if you're a CNN person, check out BBC this time around. You might even want to try watching news in a foreign language.

5) Give Memes or Collaborations a Go.
Even if you're not too crazy about memes or collabs, you might still consider trying it out. Give it a different spin if you like. Say, instead of creating "100 Things About Me" - you can write "100 Things About My Company's Staff."

6) Create Lists.
This is an endless source of blogging ideas. Some possibilities: "Top 10" lists, "Favorites" lists, "Worst of the Bunch" lists, "Things To Do" lists, "Wish" lists, etc. These lists may be on any given topic such as movies, books, music, people, paintings, food, sports, and activities, among
many other things.

Here are the Ten Top 10 lists.
#1) Top 10 Favorites. You know this kind of list. Your favorite lists can be just about anything - books, movies, videos, music, actors/actresses, artists, writers, hobbies... You get the picture.

#2) Top 10 Dislikes / Peeves. Same thing as the 'favorites' list. Only on the nastier side.

#3) Top 10 Destinations. Or Top 10 Places To Avoid. These destinations/places can be anywhere in the world - even in your own neighborhood. Even if you're not writing a travel blog, these lists are always interesting reads.

#4) Top 10 Things About.... You, your pet, your crush, your interests... Whatever the topic, you can write Top 10 facts that you may wish to share with your readers.

#5) Top 10 Tips. Whether you're an 'expert' on knitting, surfing, or chess, you're bound to have some words of wisdom to share with your readers about your field/s of expertise/interest.

#6) Top 10 Ideas. This is another catch-all Top 10 idea with a twist. You can list anything here, but they should be categorized as "ideas." For example, you want to give ideas on how people can combat global warming. So, you can come up with "Top 10 Ideas on How To Fix The Problem with Global Warming". Or, something to that effect anyway.

#7) Top 10 Things That Excite / Sadden / Delight... You. Change the feelings, if you must. Other ideas that you may consider are: things that freighten you, things that anger you, things that make you fall in love, etc.

#8) Top 10 Things To Do. Or even Top 10 Things That You're Avoiding to Do.

#9) Top 10 Memories. Whether you're writing about the top 10 memories you have of your wedding day or that job interview you just had, listing things that you remember will help you preserve these moments.

#10) Top 10 Random Things. So, you're not in to organizing ideas and themes in a neat little package? Why not list random things that you just happen to think about? Just go for it!

7) Play Games, Answer Surveys, or Take Quizzes.
If you're not the sort of person who likes posting quiz or survey results as weblog entries, remember that you're not limited to the "usual route" of blog quiz-taking (i.e., find a quiz, respond to questions, and post the results as a blog entry). For example, after you take a quiz, you can write about particular items asked in the quiz. Or, you can write about other ideas you may have for a game, survey, or quiz for bloggers.

8) Blog at Random.
There are different ways you can blog at random. One way to do this is to pick up a dictionary or encyclopedia, open to a random page, and then write about a word, phrase or sentence that you find on that particular page. Another way is to flip through one of your photo albums (or boxes, if they're not in albums yet), and pick a random photo to write about - be it a memory, a fictional idea, or a non-fiction piece. You can also turn on the TV or the radio, then write about the first thing you watch or hear about. Another thing you might like to try is to find a journal writing software and/or book with creative writing prompts and pick a topic at random to write about.

9) Be a Sleuth!
Are there things that you've always wondered about but never found the opportunity to get the facts? You might have asked yourself one or more of the following questions at one time or another: "How do you build an igloo?" "What are the different species of spiders?" or "Who is the richest woman in the world?" Well, now might be a good time to get your detective or research skills in to action. Check search engines, almanacs, and other sources of information. Then, start blogging your findings!

10) Do Something New.
If not something new, any activity other than blogging or computer-related stuff will do. Sometimes, all you need is a little break. Go to the mall, watch a movie, go for a walk, visit the beach, or call a friend. Just get out there and live your life.

There are other ways to come up with blogging content other than the ones mentioned here. Go ahead and experiment! Just remember that living a full life is a surefire way to kick bloggers' block out of the picture.

In other words, live life, don't just blog about it!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

ASAE Marketing Idea Swap - Website Feedback

From: Jeff Hoffman

Hi everyone,

Twelve of us signed up to share feedback on each others' web sites.
So that everyone's site gets covered without a lot of work, I've
divided us up into 3 groups of 4 with the thinking that we share
comments within our group. Of course if you wish to review more
than the 3 sites in your group, feel free. I hope this system works
for you. See you at the next Idea Swap!

Best, Jeff
Jeff Hoffman
Director, Association News Briefings
Information, Inc.
7700 Old Georgetown Road
Bethesda MD 20814

I can't wait to hear these other Group's website
critiques as well!
-- Missy

Group 1

Dr. Coralee Van Egmond
Director of Professional Development
International Chiropractors Association

Anita Popwell
E-Commerce Director
Consumer Data Industry Association

Steve Doran
Director of Marketing
National Association of College & University Business Officers

Jeff Hoffman
Director, Association News Services
Information, Inc.

Group 2

Del Baker-Robertson
Marketing Manager
American Association of Museums

Kathleen Neeson
Marketing Coordinator
American Association of Homes & Services for the Aging

Ellen Kim
Creative Director

Dawn Rhine
Managing Director
Synergy Forces


Ok, I've reviewed my assigned websites. Just let me say
in advance that I appreciate the opportunity to provide
feedback AND receive feedback. Please remember, every
criticism is given in a constructive vein.
Here is my 2 cents....

Group 3

Reginald Beckham, Jr.
Marketing and Membership Manager
National Association of Housing Cooperatives

The homepage is "busy"; I had to scroll down 3 times to view the
entire page. The calendar is not eye-appealing; borders are heavy;
lots of blank space, too. Logo is difficult to read; consider white text
over the photo versus black text. I love the pics on your top banner,
though; gave me a visual of what your association is.

Pages load easily, links open quickly and pics are not too large;
great for busy web users! Good use of video, although I would
suggest using a still clip from the video in addition to the text link
for more eye appeal. LH Sidebar format changes between pages
(some page sidebars seem to be wider than others); text align-
ments are "off" and sometimes hard to follow. Same thing with
pages; some are formatted to be much wider than others. There
are some alignment issues with text within a page, too. Ex: BOD,
Site Map and Member Association pages

Maybe you should check the site in several different browser
settings and on different desktop computers and laptops to assure
good format no matter who is looking at the site. Make sure your
site works well on a small format, too. The use of handheld browsers
is exploding; I know that I surf the web on my Treo all the time!
Some of your site, esp. your logo, is very hard to see in small format,
for instance.

IMPORTANT! Be sure all of your links, whether PDFs, DOCs or
other websites, open in a new browser window. One of your docs
locked up my IE, and one external link was one of those websites
that "steals" you; I couldn't get back to your site without going into
my history.

Perhaps consider easier navigation tools; add a "back" button on
every page; have a "HOME" link at the top of every page along with
your other main tabs (rather than at the bottom of every sidebar).

Every main tab page is very text heavy; consider dividing into sub-
tab pages and using just one important thing on the main tab page
with links to the sub-tab pages. Add photos to break up the text.

Some pages just seem to go on and on after the text/content ends...
check your HTML on those pages. Ex: BOD page

FAQ page: since answers are so text heavy, consider listing the
question only and providing a link to the answer; visitors may lose
interest before they read through to find their question.

No staff listing or bios; the web is an impersonal place and the only
way to personalize it is to put a human name and a human face on it;
same holds true with our organizations.

You really should have your copyright, current date (or at least the
current year) and contact info on the bottom of every page; do you
have a privacy notice? should have a link to that as well on every page.

I like your Glossary setup with the "back to top" link on every item.
Consider using that at the bottom of text heavy pages, too. Would be
great to have a button as well to return the visitor to the last
page visited.

Check your Search feature; it took me to a separate Google page with
lots of ads, etc. on it; visitors may get lost there.

Also consistent fonts are important on the web. Your font type and
size changes between pages; and sans serif is preferred for better
eye appeal.

You've got a lot of info to share on your site!

Amy Melrose
Client Services Specialist
Walton Thomas International

This was my favorite site of the three. Very eye-appealing, easy
to navigate, easy to read and understand. Pages load easily, links
open quickly and pics are not too large; great for busy web users!

There was a bit of wasted space on pages, esp. the homepage.
Homepage said "we-me/feature" rather than "you/benefit" to me
when reading it. Now I'm all for "white space" but it can be over-
used, too.

The top banner is very good. Good use of the logo. I also like your
tag line "Classic Service. Contemporary Vision" and would use it on
the bottom of every page! I like the fact that almost all of your
pages are one page, no scrolling! Good - no excellent!- graphics,
good font usage, too.

Great staff page! Faces!! I feel like I know your organization and
its people. But add an email link to each one and/or a phone num-
ber, whichever is your preferred contact method. I know, I know...
the old argument about spammers. Well, with the tech-savvy spiders
today, the only way you can avoid them is to NOT use your email
address or phone number anywhere on the web, not even filling out
online forms. But, then you run the risk of legitimate contact being
difficult. I'd rather deal with a little junk mail, then to miss a valid
business contact or opportunity. Use an alias email if you want;
good way to track where email contact is coming from, too. A visitor
shouldn't have to search for a way to contact someone. Need some
sort of contact info on every page, too.

Suggestion: instead of clumping testimonials on just one page, make
use of your blue "white space" in your RH sidebar and add a testi-
on each page. On the testi-only page, add a pic or graphic, whether
an organizational logo or, better yet, a pic of the work described!
Make the connection - Show the benefit! On the web, we read
graphics much more readily than loads of text. The graphics draw
our eye to the text.

Great GSA page; very informative, but again no contact info. Those
in the gov't definitely won't do much searching to find the appropriate
contact; you have to make it easy for them.

You really should have your copyright, date (and/or current year)
and contact info on the bottom of every page; do you have a privacy
notice? should have a link to that as well on every page. Make sure
visitors know your site is current.

Good use of links and they open in new browser windows! Great!

Great resume submission page!

Your site works well on a small format (handheld), too.

No search feature? No site map? Not sure if you really needed
either, though. Your info was succinct enough to navigate without.

Your site gave me just enough info to understand what you're all
about, but with the desire to learn more and the inclination to make
the call!

Jonathon Sper
Sales Executive
Election Services Corporation

I like the use of white text on blue background; very easy on the
eyes and easy to read. However, check consistency between pages;
the font type and size changes from page-to-page. Directions page:
font is much easier to read; I would use this throughout.

All pages, esp. the homepage, are too text heavy. Need some
graphics, pics and/or some color to break it up. Also, your main
tab links are a little too high on the page. I browse using a full-
screen browser and had trouble clicking on them. Good use of the
logo top banner on every page.

Good bottom of the page info on the homepage, but it needs to be
carried through on every page. Remember, you never know where
people will "land" when visiting your website. Be sure to update your
year to reflect the current year; this indicates that the website is up-
to-date; no one cares when it was started, just that the info is current.

Good use of links and they open in new browser windows! Great!
You have no issues with page widths; looks good!

Make sure your site works well on a small format, too. Your site is
almost totally illegible on my handheld. Looks like very tiny outlines
of white text on a white background.

On your "Markets Served" page, some on the list had no links. I
would have been interested to read about the markets listed that
had no further explanation like the live links did.

Contacts: could you list the address of both your SF, CA and DC
offices, too, in addition to your NY HQ?

Our Team: no contact info-email or phone. Add an email link to
each one and/or a phone number, whichever is your preferred
contact method. I know, I know...the old argument about
spammers. I'd rather deal with a little junk mail, then to miss
a valid business contact or opportunity. Use an alias email if you
want; good way to track where email contact is coming from, too.
A visitor shouldn't have to search for a way to contact you. Need
some sort of contact info on every page, too. (I think at least one
of your Team was blank, just a name.)

Competitive Advantage page: text heavy; consider using bullet
points instead of complete sentences and paragraphs.

Election Process: consider adding color to the flow chart.

No search feature? No site map? Would have been useful.

Suggestion: instead of clumping testimonials on just one page, make
use of your blue "white space" on your pages and add a testi on each
page. On the testi-only page, add a pic or graphic, better yet an
organizational logo! Make the connection - Show the benefit! Perhaps
logos would lend an identification factor/affiliation appeal with the
website visitor considering using your services.

Hope this helps and I look forward to hearing comments
on our website. If you can stand the abuse (LOL), I'd be
happy to re-visit any sites that have been altered for a
second pass. Hey, I look at marketing this way:

There is not right or wrong, only opportunities for


Putting Friendship to Work for You,

Missy Blankenship, Director-Sales and Marketing

P.S. I'll be sure to pass along more critiques and
feel free to post your own here!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Putting the I in Your Team

I read about this very cool premise and book from Apryl Motley, CAE, who was the managing editor of ASAE's ASSOCIATIONS NOW, published in February 2006. Thanks, Apryl!

At your next staff meeting, ask all of the innovative people in the room to raise their hands. Chances are you'll be met with confused stares and perhaps a few cautiously half-raised hands. Most people associate innovation with the next big idea or some invention that will change the world as we know it. Get a grip!

"Innovation is not about discovering fire or reinventing the wheel," says Breakthrough Management Group CEO David SilversteinSilverstein. "It is a core competency that can be taught and measured within your association."

Silverstein is a co-author of Insourcing Innovation: How to Transform Business as Usual Into Business as Exceptional (Breakthrough Performance Press, 2005), which argues against the common practice of organizations looking externally rather than internally for innovative capabilities.

An organization's best innovators are usually in your staff, but they must be empowered to take risks and make their ideas known. Silverstein talks about the importance of organizations cultivating their ability to innovate from within.

He draws a clear distinction between creativity and innovation. In his blog, Silverstein writes the equation for innovation success as follows: "creativity + structure = innovation success.

Most organizations do not have an infinite amount of time to explore infinite ideas. There must be a process for sharing ideas in an organization. However, organizations that engage employees in brainstorming with no end-game in mind cause frustration for staff. There must be a process in place for ideas to be evaluated and put into action.

Silverstein recommends a convergent approach to idea generation. "It's important to take staff through the process of narrowing the universe of ideas and then converging on the best--perhaps the most economical or time-sensitive--ones," says Silverstein. Within this structure, staff is empowered to bring ideas to life.

One of the first steps toward insourcing innovation is to free staff of intellectual baggage--help make people feel comfortable taking risks. Silverstein emphasizes the importance of understanding that everyone in an organization has the potential to create. But creativity must be fostered among the entire staff. The job of leaders who want innovation in their organizations is to let people make mistakes and learn from them.

Silverstein suggests some additional strategies for leading an organization out of inertia and into innovation:

**Know when to step in and when to step back.

**Focus on one or two people. Make them your top idea generators or innovation athletes. They can help motivate the rest of the organization.

**Help people understand their own psychological inertia or 'comfort zone'. Become more aware of your own limitations. You'll be more conscious of them, and this will help you think more freely.

**Establish more frequent staff rotations. Move people around so they have fresh perspectives.

**Reward people who take risks.

What does the future look like for organizations that fail to innovate?
According to Silverstein, failure to innovate throughout your organization is "a formula for commoditization of whatever you do." Competitors will converge around the same ideas that you have. You must have a self-preservation motive: Grow or die.