Erik Deckers

About Erik Deckers

Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency He co-authored four social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (3rd ed., 2017, Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.

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Here are my most recent posts

How To Write Impactful Travel Blog Posts That Get Noticed

Every so often, I will feature guest posts from writers who actually have important and interesting things to say. Joel Syder is a freelance writer and travel blog writer, a topic which is near and dear to my heart. So I wanted to feature his article on travel blogging.

Writing travel blog posts involves so much more than simply stating ‘Hey, I’m here!’ In fact, with so much noise in the travel blogging niche, it’s becoming more and more difficult to get noticed. Yet to those who pen their travel blog posts in the right way, there are ample means to get impactful results, be that a following, or click-throughs if you are supporting a product or service. With that in mind, here are some tips to producing travel blog posts that actually get results:

Use an interesting title

It all starts from the beginning, which in this case is your title. This is a one-off chance to hook the reader into your travel blog post. Make it unique, interesting and quirky if possible. Entice them to read more.

“Sometimes choosing the right title can take almost as long as the blog post itself. It’s essential that it reflects your post but that it reels the reader in. You want them to think ‘What’s this all about?’” remarks Trudy Carlton, a travel blogger at Writemyx and Brit student.

Find a different angle

Joel Syder, travel blog writer

Joel Syder

It can be tough to do, but your post also needs to pitch something slightly different too. In a crowded space this may seem overwhelming, but often it entails simply looking at things from a different perspective, i.e. the local people, for example. The great thing about travel is that it involves so many things: sights, people, culture, food, music, language and so on. It doesn’t have to be a huge innovation at all, just look at things through a new set of eyes, and there’s your angle.

Write engaging content

In this day and age of SEO, keyword placements, link building and so on, what can be overlooked is the fact that something still needs to be well written. In fact, this is probably truer than ever with all of the options that are available, and with audiences’ patience on the wane. Start strongly, and never let off, using clear, concise language that is proofread for mistakes. And let your personality shine through – no one wants a robotic piece that could have been written by bots! Tell a story that people want to hear, and to do that, put yourself in the shoes of the reader.

Take your own pictures

Pepper you piece with unique shots you have personally taken on your travels. Stock photos are easy to spot a mile off, so use personal shots with all their inherent flaws (no one is looking for professional pics) and this adds charm and a genuine reality to your piece: ‘this person has actually been there!’

“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to take tons and tons of pictures. And take them of absolutely everything: the food, the landscape, the people (with permission of course), and get yourself in there too, although refrain from the cheesy selfies!,” advises Robbie Wainscroft, a cruise ship worker at 1day2write and Nextcoursework.

Look for niches within the niche

It’s important to find a niche too. Of course, travel writing is a niche itself, but as already stated, within this field there are so many sub-categories that the list is almost endless. So, think about exactly what you are aiming for before you start, and who it would appeal too. As an example, organic food production is already a popular topic, but told within the confines of a trip to Southeast Asia, it takes on a whole new angle. When you look at it like this, the possibilities are limitless.

Jot down everything when you’re traveling

Remember that everything can give inspiration, but if you are sitting on your sofa trying to recall it, the whole experience becomes a lot more difficult. With that in mind, just keep writing down stuff as you are in the middle of things, or use a dictaphone to make remarks. No matter how mundane they may seem at the time, just having these words as a reference will inspire memories, smells and sounds and a later stage.

Consider SEO

Writing well is the key, but if this can be performed in conjunction with SEO principles, then you really are on to a winner. Research keywords and think about synonyms and related phrases. Gone are the days of stuffing, but natural placement of a few integral words will certainly boost the piece on those all-important search engine rankings. But the difference is, nowadays it doesn’t need to come at the expense of quality, which is great news for serious writers.

International travel agent and travel writer Joel Syder loves nothing more than sharing his experiences and the things that excite him in the world of travel at Academic Brits and Phd Kingdom. He is a regular contributor of articles to Originwritings.

How to Work With a Ghostwriter

I’ve been a ghostwriter for over 10 years, working on blog articles and even books with people who have a story to tell. I’ve worked with dozens of clients and have written over 3,500 articles in that time, as well as eight books, including my new novel, Mackinac Island Nation.

My clients have ranged from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to entrepreneurs running one-person operations, both in the United States and overseas, in a staggering variety of industries. I’ve been able to learn from all of them, and — I hope — they’ve been able to learn from me.

For those of you who are thinking about working with a ghostwriter, whether it’s for corporate blog articles or even your own memoirs, there are a few things you need to realize before you start.

It’s going to cost money.

A photo of hands over an old Compaq keyboard, like a ghostwriter.

You can tell this is an old photo (from 2004) just by the Compaq logo in the bottom corner.

Writers need to eat. We have to pay our mortgages. We have to take care of our families. We don’t write for the promise of royalties or the exposure. This is not a hobby, this is our job. And just like any skilled position, the better the writer is, the more it’s going to cost. Things will get done faster and they’ll be done better than if you go with the less expensive option.

So while many people who want to write a book have a fascinating story to tell, a good writer is not going to want to spend 3 – 6 months working on your book in the hopes that they’ll get something from your efforts. It’s impolite to even ask, so if this is your plan for paying them, either save up your money or start writing it yourself.

Typically, a ghostwriter will ask for half up front and half at the end, but my practice has been to ask for half of the fee up front, one-fourth when we reach the halfway mark, and the remaining fourth when the final chapter is delivered and/or the manuscript has gone through one or two rounds of edits. For corporate ghost blogging clients, I typically work on a retainer basis where there will be a set number of articles written each month, and the client is invoiced on the 1st.

Be prepared for some give and take.

This is a collaborative process, and the manuscript will be evolving and changing. When the ghostwriter gives you the first draft, that’s so you can make the big changes, like rearranging sections, clarifying details, and rewriting problem sentences. This isn’t the finished product, so don’t get upset that your writer just handed you a pile of garbage. Your job now is to go back and read it and make sure everything is correct and you’re satisfied with the direction this is going.

That first stage is also not the time for fixing typos and punctuation or spelling errors. That will come later. Like I tell my clients, there’s no point in polishing a turd, let’s make it a not-turd first. Make all the major revisions and changes before you start fixing the tiny errors.

Similarly, you will have to call it done at some point. Yes, you want this to be perfect, and you want it to be polished to a high sheen, but that’s not always going to be your ghostwriter’s strong suit. Their job is to write the manuscript, make some revisions, and get it to a reasonable state where a copyeditor could take it over.

So be sure to work out in advance how many revisions and changes you can ask for. No writer wants to spend 12 months polishing and changing your manuscript, so save your revisions for one major passthrough rather than trickling them in. Typically, you should be able to get to the copyediting stage with no more than two revisions. If you’re not getting there, then one or both of you are the problem.

Leave the mechanics to your writer

There’s a very good chance that you’re good at punctuation and grammar, but there’s a very good chance that your ghostwriter is a nerd about it. That means that they know whether the grammar rules we learned in school are totally bogus..

For example, I was working with a client who tried — rather smugly, I thought — to correct me on a preposition I had used at the end of a sentence. So I explained to him:

This is a rule that should never have been in existence in the first place, but it had been created by an 18th-century Latin scholar named Robert Lowth in his book, A Short Guide to English Grammar. Lowth had read a similar admonition in a commentary by a 17th-century poet and scholar named John Dryden.

The problem was Dryden and Lowth were applying Latin rules to English, even though English didn’t actually need a few of those particular rules. It has been unnecessary for centuries, and most grammar nerds will never expect someone to contort their sentences just to follow that rule.

I could tell by the reaction from the client that he hadn’t expected any of that.

“Oh,” was all he said, and he never brought up grammar issues again.

The moral of the story: When someone starts spouting 400-year-old grammar history knowledge, he probably knows when you can break the rules.

So let him.

Don’t feel guilty that you’re working with a ghostwriter

Look, if you could write, you’d be a writer. If you had the time, you could do this yourself. But chances are, you’re working with a ghostwriter because either writing is not your forte or you just don’t have the hours and hours to put in the work.

This is the same reason you don’t change your own oil, fix your own leaky plumbing, re-roof your own house, or do your own taxes. You want a professional who’s good at what they do so you can look great at what you do.

Once, when I was ghostwriting a speech for a client, they felt embarrassed to have someone writing for them, like they weren’t important enough to need a speechwriter. I told them it wasn’t a question of being important, it was a question not having the time.

“Do you have four hours to devote to this project?” I asked.

“No, I barely have four hours to do anything,” said the client.

“Well, I do,” I said. “This doesn’t make you too big for your britches, it keeps you from looking unprepared when you give this speech.”

This is true whether you need a speechwriter, blog writer, or book writer. It’s not a question of whether you’re too important or have more money than sense. It’s a matter of helping you present your best story, whether it’s in a book, your company blog, or even a speech.

You need a professional who understands the subtleties and nuances of language, can tell your story in a clear and compelling way, and can do it in a timely manner.

So if you ever need to work with a ghostwriter, be clear and upfront with your expectations, and ask your ghostwriter to do the same with you. Don’t get bogged down in the process and let them do their job, while you do yours.

Photo credit: hobvias sudoneighm (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

How to Use Storytelling on Your Social Media Campaigns to Increase Your Engagement

Every so often, I will feature guest posts from writers who actually have important and interesting things to say. Patrick Bailey is a professional freelance writer, working mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He wanted to write about storytelling and social media, so I let him take a crack at it. At 1500+ words, I think he knocked it out of the park.

Patrick Bailey, a writer who specializes in mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He wrote this piece on storytelling in social media.Even before civilization came to be and nothing was in print, humans were hard-wired to listen and tell stories. Stories became the backbone of many ancient cultures because they were passed on from generation to generation through verbal means. Traditions were built through sharing stories. Stories were written as books, and they became the time-enduring classics.

Now, we have the capacity to share and record stories in the digital world. With the use of the Internet, blogging became an avenue for ordinary people to share their stories whether it was something personal or related to their business. After blogging, social media became a tool for people to share the mini-stories of their lives.

That is just one side of the coin — in fact, there are many facets of storytelling that shows how much power it holds to influence others. In marketing, storytelling plays a big role in capturing the minds and hearts of readers and viewers.

What is storytelling in social media?

Storytelling in social media is quite different when it comes to those found in books, magazines, or even blogs. Since people have a shorter attention span when browsing through their social media feeds, it is important that our stories are concise yet captivating. Here are some of the characteristics of an engaging story in social media:

  • Stories should start with an attention-grabbing headline or first statement. The stories you post in social media should be interesting from the beginning. This is the hook that makes readers or viewers stay engaged.
  • Stories should be concise. Unlike blogs, people don’t have the patience to read page-long stories about you or your brand. It is important to be concise and only state important details in your story.
  • Stories should be accompanied with other multimedia forms. Although text can be engaging in itself, it is proven that multi-sensory experiences in the digital world can help users retain far more information: Include images or videos with your story.
  • Stories should have a strong call-to-action at the end. Before even creating a captivating story in social media, you need to think of your primary goal why you are setting up the campaign in the first place. Do you want people to visit your website? Do you want more email subscribers? Do you want them to purchase your product? Think about your goal and start making your story from there.

Now that we understand the characteristics of an engaging story in social media, how can we create one from start to finish? Here are some steps you can take.

Think about your audience persona.
Some stories may be interesting for a particular group, and yet some wouldn’t really bat an eye on the same topic. When formulating your story, think about the type of audience that your platform or business serves. This is called your audience persona, which means personifying the archetype of audience that you may have. Think of your audience persona based on the following characteristics:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Cultural background
  • Where they live
  • What they do
  • What their problems are
  • What they look like
  • What things do they need

These considerations can help you create a story that will be interesting to your target audience. Without building an audience persona, you may end up formulating a story with full effort and no engagement.

Remember the rules of capturing attention.
One of the most popular copywriting formulas called AIDA, which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. These four pillars of effective copy can also be incorporated into storytelling. Now that you have established your audience persona, it is important to place yourself in their shoes. What would be a story that can capture their attention?

Many marketers would go for the first-person story technique. They can talk about their personal struggles which make them relatable to their target audience. This is very effective because people want to know others’ story and how they have succeeded.

For example a company called Mountain Springs Recovery focuses on addiction rehabilitation. They use storytelling campaigns through testimonials of others’ struggles in rehabilitation and how they have succeeded through the help of the company. This is a great way to tug to your audience’s heartstrings and make them read the rest of your story. Other attention-grabbing techniques include:

  • Sharing a short case study of your previous client. Ask permission from a previous client to tell their background and how they have achieved success through your business.
  • A story about someone who benefited from your business’ advocacy. If your business supports an advocacy (e.g., helping cancer patients, providing scholarships, etc.), share a short story of how these people have benefited from your business, and how others can support them by supporting your business as well.
  • Your own before and after story. If you are a professional who has experienced the same problems as your target audience, you can use your own story as a marketing tool. For example, a fitness coach can post his or her before and after results while sharing a story of their struggles and triumphs in the weight loss journey.

Remember what your teacher taught you.
Do you remember in literature class when your teacher would remind you of the parts of the story? Mostly, an engaging story or a narrative would include the characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. You don’t have to elaborate too much when creating your social media posts. All you have to do is to keep them present when thinking about your story. Make it clear by introducing the main characters of your story (Is it you? Your client? A person you know?), where and when it happened, the premise, what the problem is and how the problem is solved.

Remembering these elements can help you create a formula that would always be engaging to your target audience in mind.

Experiment with multimedia.
Engagement is not just about using one form of media. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter have different tools to help create engaging stories.

This is where you can start experimenting. If you already have a small audience you can work on, try to create different types of content. Start by crafting your story accompanied by a photo, and in some instances you would want to shoot a video.

When you create social media accounts, engagement is counted as the amount of views, likes, shares, and comments in your content. If you notice that one form of media is more effective than the other, you already know what format of stories you would want to post in the future.

Essentially, focusing on the story format that your audience wants is the key to gaining engagement and social proof. As other people see that you have likes, shares, and comments in your stories, the more that they will be curious to see what your business is about.

Build trust — don’t rely on click bait.
Unless your ultimate goal is to get views for your business merely in your website or social media accounts, don’t exploit people’s attention through click bait. Clickbait is when writers over-sensationalize stories in order to get views.

It is best not to rely on this technique as it may cause people to lose trust in your business — resulting in bad comments, poor feedback, and eventually dwindling attention. Make sure your stories are genuine, and if you do promise something, be sure you can deliver. Do not simply make up stories in order to get future clients to sign up, then setting them for disappointment.

Utilize call-to-action buttons.
As mentioned earlier, an engaging story in social media must be built with a goal in mind. This goal is realized by creating a call-to-action. For blogs and websites, a call-to-action is usually done by posting a link or a sign-up form. However, social media is a little different because you can use buttons when you make sponsored posts for your stories.

A clear example would be Facebook sponsored posts. When you boost a Facebook post, you’ll notice that they will give you an option to place a button at the bottom of your sponsored post. Below your story, you can create a button that can make the users:

  • Message your Facebook page
  • Contact your business number
  • Visit your website
  • Shop in your built-in store

Whatever your call-to-action is, make sure that it is clear to your audience and they can easily access it through these buttons.

Create stories, engage your audience.
With so many businesses vying for people’s attention is social media, you can stand out by following these actionable tips in creating engaging stories.

Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. Find him on Twitter at @Pat_Bailey80.

Social Media for Seniors: Find The News You Want

Every so often, I will feature guest posts from writers who actually have important and interesting things to say. My friend, Daniel Bell, is an up-and-coming copywriter based in Orlando and has written a few blog articles I’ll include on this site.

You can do a lot of things on the Internet. Play games with strangers around the world, check e-mail, take an online class, laugh at funny videos. But most seniors do not want t get wrapped in all of that. They’re keeping up with family on Facebook, but that’s about it.

So what if you wanted to get your favorite news, whenever and wherever you chose, in the places you want it?

Here are a few tips on how to make that happen:

1. Open A Social Media Account

The first thing is to learn is what a social network is: It’s basically a site where you can share, read and search public information. You can also interact with people both privately and publicly. You’ll have the ability to do this once you have created your own profile with your own information about yourself.

According to Elise Moreau, a social media expert and contributor to Lifewire.com, the top 5 social networks that people use are Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Every one of these can be accessed through a laptop or a mobile device. You can use a website or even the network’s own mobile application.

Every site is easy to join and they have help right there to help you get started. Just follow along and you’ll be fine.

2. Follow Your Favorite News Stations

News stations are constantly sharing breaking and slower news online. And because people love to use social media, news stations have created their own profiles that people can follow. It’s a great way for people to see what news they have first before anything else. And you can build your entire social media stream to contain nothing but news.

For example, let’s say you wanted to follow your favorite news station on Facebook. I live in Orlando so I might want to look for the local FOX station.

On Facebook, you would need to search in the Facebook search bar, like this:

Social media for seniors: Facebook search bar, looking for WOFL Fox 35

Facebook search bar, looking for WOFL Fox 35


After you press enter, you will see the top results. More than likely, the top one will be the news station you’re looking for, like this:

Fox 35's Facebook results
To actually get the content the station posts on their Facebook page, you need to click on the “Like” button.

Repeat this for as many news sites as you would like to receive the news from, and any time they post news stories, you’ll see them.

You can do the same thing on Twitter, although you would click the Follow button instead of the Like button. Search for your terms in the Twitter search bar, and visit the profiles that come up.

Social Media for Seniors: The WOFL FOX 35 Twitter account.

Understand What Trends Are

A trend is something that is widely mentioned or discussed on the Internet, especially in posts on social networks. Basically, a trend is a topic that is popular on the Internet at the present time. It could be a sporting event like March Madness or the World Series, or a particular political event or current event.

Breaking news is a good trend to follow, because random stations will post their own #BreakingNews hashtags. You can get news from all over, and you don’t have to follow any particular stations to do it.

If you put #breakingnews (don’t forget the #) in the search bar of your favorite social media sites, different profiles that post breaking news with that hashtag will appear. You can search for it occasionally and see what new news is coming up, and it’s like having your own 24-hour breaking news newspaper at your fingertips.

There’s a lot more to the Internet than just searching for news, but this is a good way to get started, to keep up with what’s happening in the world, and to learn how you’re going to use it all so you can navigate it and see what it has to offer.

Building Authority Through Guest Posting

Every so often, I will feature guest posts from writers who actually have important and interesting things to say. And since this is a guest post about guest posting, I liked the whole meta vibe, and decided to publish it, especially since she’s a fellow word nerd.

Ellan DineenEllan Dineen is the Marketing Associate at Design Wizard. When she’s not hard at work in the Marketing Department, Ellan can be found en route to foreign lands with a book in her hand and a podcast in her ear. With a Master’s in English and Diploma in Social Media Marketing, she knows the importance of staying up-to-date with the industry’s latest trends and insights and is keen to pass these tips on to her readers.

Want to establish your online presence? Want to be the “go-to” expert in your niche?

It’s time you finessed this thing called guest posting.

Guest posting allows you to reach a wider audience by posting your articles on related authoritative websites. It strengthens your brand and gives you a massive boost in credibility.

Like with anything when it comes to digital marketing, however, there’s a right and a wrong way to do it.

In this article, we take a look at what you should do, what you should not do, and what kind of quality content you need to be posting.

Identify Your Value

You won’t be able to build authority if you don’t bring any value to the table. The only reason a website will allow you to publish an article on their website is because it offers both them and their audience a massive amount of value.

No value = no guest post.

There’s another reason why value is important. As well as educating audiences, solving their problems and positioning yourself as their go-to expert, the Google algorithm also prefers valuable content.

According to research, long form content gets more traffic than any other type. This is content that contains more than 1,000 words, and which offers in-depth, valuable and actionable information to the reader.

Each time you pitch an article to another website, identify your value first. This will make it so much easier for the blogger to say yes to you.

Don’t focus too much on your ‘tips and tricks.’ Show them how your valuable content is going to benefit their audience.

Ask yourself:

  • How is your content is going to benefit people?
  • What issues are you addressing and solving?
  • Are these issues that people care about?

Solid content by itself won’t work if no one can see where the value is.

Research The Websites You’re Targeting

You can’t build authority if you don’t do your research. Unless you know enough about the websites you’re targeting, as well as their audiences, your content might miss the spot.

Take a look at your target website’s audience and ask yourself some questions:

  1. Will they benefit from a link to my web page?
  2. Will my infographics be of use to this audience?
  3. Will this audience buy from me?

Find out who is engaging with a particular website and whether or not this is an audience who will appreciate your article and advice.

To build authority via guest posting, it’s also a good idea to take a look at the content a website has already published and stick to the format. For example, do they capitalize their subheadings, do they use images in their content and if so, how do they credit the images?

When you follow the format of a website blog you are giving the editor less work, and that is very hard for them to say no to.

A big no-no when it comes to guest posting is to fail to do your research. If you identify 30 blogs and send them generic emails with your pitch before doing any research, you’ll be wasting your time.

Always take your time to learn more about who you’ll be pitching to. Then, you can adjust your content and send out hyper-personalized emails accordingly.

Top tip: Avoid spelling and grammar errors in your emails. Use Grammarly and other tools to catch these mistakes before you click send.

Produce Your Best Content

It goes without saying that if you want to position yourself as an expert, your content has to be brilliant. Each time you produce a guest post, ask yourself “is this my best piece of content?”

To this end, you need to produce long-form content (1,000 words minimum) that offers unique insights to the reader. Your advice needs to be actionable, as different as possible to what has come before, and it needs to be of use to the target audience.

A huge no-no is to spend most of the article discussing things the reader already knows. The key here is understanding who your target audience is and what stage they are at in their journey. For example, if you’re writing an article about the do’s and don’ts of digital marketing to an advanced reader, don’t waste people’s time discussing what digital marketing is. They already know.

Your content needs to be readable, shareable and it needs to be as up-to-date and relevant as possible. This means understanding the latest trends and including links to recent stats and research (as opposed to information from 2014).

It’s also a good idea to write from personal experience. After all, you’re the expert here. If you’re writing about a subject you know intimately, don’t be afraid to write from your personal experience while making sure that your personal examples are relatable to others.

Your best content will need quality images and graphics, too. If you’re not sure where to source images from, you can use a tool like Pik Wizard. To spice up your graphics so that your content is as professional, engaging and eye-catching as possible, meanwhile, Design Wizard is your friend.

Absolutely do not go into this thinking that you can get away with posting below par content. Impressive content that educates, informs and engages people is the best way to establishing your authority and boosting conversions. The ultimate aim of guest posting is to grab more traffic from other sources and you can only do this by producing your best content.

Don’t hold back on the value factor. Yes, you’re doing this for free in the sense that you don’t get paid for a guest post. But the ROI will be worth it when you start to build your authority.

Moreover, the more awesome content you produce, the more chance you’ll have of securing a guest post with a super high domain website, such as Forbes or the Huffington Post.

Conclusion

All in all, building authority through guest posting comes down to identifying your value, identifying a related website’s audience – before producing as much valuable, usable content as possible that the audience can take action on. Focus on quality, not quantity, do your research and don’t hold back when it comes to value. Educate, inform but also engage.

What a Beef Stroganoff Recipe Teaches About Bad Blogger Outreach

One of the problems with having a blog about content marketing is that people want to constantly post guest articles on my website. And just like the spam connections I get on LinkedIn, these all follow a certain formula.

Dear NAME,

I enjoyed reading your blog post at URL, and thought you might be interested in an article about TOPIC.

We just wrote an article about SIMILAR TOPIC and thought you might want to post it on your blog.

And don’t forget to include the backlink that will boost our skeezy client’s Google search ranking and possibly help affiliate sales. [I’m paraphrasing that last part a bit. — Erik]

And no, I’m not exaggerating. I get two or three of these messages per month. They all follow the same formula, they all want to publish something that is sort of tangentially related to what I write about (content marketing and writing), and they all praise an article they never actually read.

But I got an email last week that may qualify as Worst Email Ever. I could tell that not only was the entire process automated, the author hadn’t actually read any of the information he purports to have read. This is what I got.

Dear Editor, [My name is literally all over my website. —Erik]

My name is [J—] and I’m the Editor at [Unnamed Website]. I was doing research on beef stroganoff recipes and just finished reading your wonderful blog post: https://problogservice.com/tag/content-marketing/

In that article, I noticed that you cited a solid post that I’ve read in the past: http://beefandboards.com/

We just published a delicious beef stroganoff recipe complete with step-by-step pictures and detailed instructions. You can find it here:  [URL that I will not dignify with a backlink]

If you like the recipe we’d be humbled if you cited us in your article. Of course, we will also share your article with our 50k newsletter subscribers and followers across our social platforms.

A plate of beef stroganoff. I looked and looked at it, but it teaches me nothing about blogger outreach.

Besides, my mom made the best beef stroganoff!

Four issues told me that J— hadn’t read anything.

  1. The “article” he supposedly read is a Tags link on my blog. You can click a tag on any blog and read all the articles that have been tagged with that keyword. So it’s not an article, it’s a whole list of articles. He would know that if he had even briefly skimmed that page.
  2. The “solid post” he’s read in the past? It’s a URL for Beef & Boards Dinner Theater. Beef & Boards used to be a national chain of dinner theaters that closed down. The only one left is in Indianapolis, Indiana. The URL is to an entire website, not a single blog post.
  3. The article he wanted me to link to was about how to make beef stroganoff. And why? Because I wrote an article about a place called Beef & Boards. Again, if he had read my blog, he would see there are no recipes; if he had read the actual article I wrote, he would have seen there’s no mention of food.
  4. This was the first and only article I ever wrote on this blog where I mentioned Beef & Boards, and it was based on an interview I did with an actor in a show at that theater. I was a travel writer for several years, and I wrote about Beef & Boards shows on other blogs, but I never did a theater review on my work blog. J— would have known that if he had read other articles; he clearly didn’t.

So I wrote back to J— and said that while I was not interested in publishing a beef stroganoff recipe on a blog about writing and content marketing, I would make sure his request appeared on my blog rather soon.

And now it has.

A Plea to All PR Flacks and Content Marketers

To those of you doing blogger outreach, please please PLEASE write individual letters to your contacts, not form email.

Don’t find a way to automate this so you can do more faster. This is not something where you want to pump out hundreds and thousands of emails every week. If you’re only going to get a 1% success rate, the trick is not to send out more spam, it’s to give your efforts a more personalized touch. Reduce the number of people you contact, and don’t waste the energy and effort on contacting people who aren’t a good fit for what you do.

Look, you already have a job where you sit down all day and the only things you move are your fingers. Don’t find a way to be more lazy about it.

Instead, just try these simple steps:

  • If you say you read an article, make sure you actually read it. Quote something from it. And not just the opening sentence. Talk about why that article is important to you.
  • If you’re going to send any links, copy and paste them into your browser and then test them. Make sure you grabbed the right link, and that it actually works.
  • Tell the other person why you think your article would make a good fit on their blog. It shows that you read more than one, which means you’re actually interested in them. They’re more likely to accept your request that way.

Blogger outreach is tough because you’re writing to people who aren’t likely to write you back. But that doesn’t mean you should take shortcuts or automate the process to make it easier. I’d be willing to wager that you’d get a better response if you wrote 10 individual emails per day than sent out 100 automated messages.

Photo credit: JeffreyW (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

Stop Selling to Me on LinkedIn

Are you married? When you first met, did you walk up to your prospective spouse and just pop the question?

Or are you in a long-term relationship? How did you start it? Did you say, “How would you like to form a long-term relationship? My strengths are that I have good manners, love my mother, and am kind to dogs?” And then did you follow that up with a list of past significant others who can vouch for your good character?

Of course not! That’s clearly no way to enter into any kind of relationship.

But when people connect with me on LinkedIn, it turns me off when the very first thing they do is ask if I need their web services, followed by a 500 word explanation of everything they can do, the companies and projects they’ve worked on, and a request to hop on the phone for a 15 – 30 minute conversation about what they just sent me.

(Not to mention that every message looks nearly identical. They’re either all copy-pasting each other’s sales pitch, or it’s just one company creating thousands of profiles with the same message.)

Oh, I know, I know. Some of you are saying: “Hey, it works. We get clients this way.”

Can of Spam. This is what you're sending people on LinkedIn if you pitch them without starting a relationship.I’m sure you do. And there are stories where people agreed to get married after just one date. In fact, there’s a TV show where people agree to get married the moment they meet. That doesn’t make it a sound strategy for building a long-term relationship.

And neither does you hitting me up about your services the very instant I accept your connection request. It’s rude, presumptuous, and desperate. I ignore the people who send me those messages. Maybe I’ll tell them “no thanks,” but usually only if they insist on repeating the same request a couple weeks later — you know, in case I missed it the first time.

The practice is so pervasive that I get at least two of these a week with the same copy-pasted sales pitch all asking for my hand in business marriage.

Part of my problem is that I can’t just refuse to accept people’s connection requests. I’ve written a few social media books, and people often connect with me after reading them. So I don’t want to be a jerk and snub a reader, but it’s getting harder to accept a request because I just know I’m going to get burned.

I can usually spot most LinkedIn spammers though. They tend to have a title that says “Business Development.” They live in a city or country that I have never been to or rarely visit, and yet they’re connected to 5 – 30 of my friends. And they usually work for some sort of web, SEO, or marketing agency.

I stopped accepting connection requests from people who fit that profile because I know what will be cluttering up my inbox 24 hours later.

More importantly, I’ve begun disconnecting from people who spammed me with their first message.

LinkedIn is for serious business connections, not a way for lazy salespeople to spam other people they’ve never met. And that’s what you’re doing: spamming people.

The only difference is you’re calling it business development and you’re (hopefully) doing it by clicking on the mouse yourself, instead of using the automation software that’s infected Twitter. I don’t care if you think it’s not spamming, or you tell yourself that you’re special and you’re not doing what those other people are doing, because you totally are.

You’re sending the same unwanted, unasked-for crap we get in our email inboxes. The only difference is you’re doing it on LinkedIn as if that somehow makes it okay.

Not only do I disconnect with these people, I will also occasionally report them to LinkedIn by clicking the “I don’t know this person” link or marking them as spam. If enough people do it, their account will be suspended or even terminated. And then maybe they’ll get the hint that this isn’t acceptable.

If you’re one of those people who uses LinkedIn instead of the phone to place your unwanted cold calls, why don’t you try some relationship building first? Start a conversation with people. Find out about them first. Don’t try to close the deal on the first date, don’t try to propose entering into a business relationship the moment you meet someone.

And I’ll make you another deal. If you buy a copy of my book and email me a photo of you holding it, I’ll agree to a 15-minute phone call with you about your company. Because if you’re going to make demands of my time without actually investing anything into the relationship, then I’m going to make a demand of my own.

Put your money where your mouth is. Invest in the relationship first, and then we’ll talk about what your company does.

(And then read the book. Maybe you’ll learn a better alternative to the “Married At First Sight” strategy.)

Photo credit: Qwertyxp2000 (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)