Tag Archives: Internet

Telling Stories to Connect and Find Your Way

EARLIER: Actor’s Express presents an enduring ‘Liaisons’

storiespicMy parents required my three sisters and me to attend Sunday school and church every week until we turned 12. They weren’t particularly religious, but they told us later that they primarily wanted us to “know the stories” — of the Bible and Moses and Jesus — that are so woven into our culture and collective consciousness.

Later, I decided to become a writer because I found that telling stories connected me to other people — those I wrote about and those who read what I wrote. I didn’t realize then how starved I was for that connection and how important storytelling would become to my identity and my place in the world.

I’m thinking about this right now as Shane Snow of Contently is presenting on the power of storytelling at the Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland.

Those thoughts lined up for me listening to Shane share observations like, “Stories help us build relationships and feel connected.”

It’s all lined up for me before. But amid talk about case studies and ROI and Instagram campaigns, I’m again grateful for the lifelong connections and identity I’ve received through stories.

Shane Snow, Contently, Content Marketing World, Content Marketing, Cleveland, conference, Joe Pulizzi, brand journalism, storytelling, Jay Croft, Atlanta, storycroft

Shane showed this slide, a photo from his office. (I Instagrammed it at the top.)


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11 Ways I’m Terrible at Writing Blog Titles!

53564334Among the key lessons I’ve learned about blogging is the importance of writing a great title. (Or is it a headline? Either one, I guess.)

I’ve written blog posts here that I thought would burn up my page-view counter … and then… crickets.

I can’t say why for sure, of course. But it’s occurred to me that my titles need some work. I looked around the blogosphere for tips, and analyzed what I was doing vs. what worked and didn’t work. Here are 11 tips I’ve found or learned on my own.

If you’re reading this, maybe that means I’m catching on, right? Send me more. I need all the help I can get!

  1. Use numbers in titles. For examples, the one on this post… Content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi says using two numbers is even better. I tried this recently with How 5 Friends Reinvented Themselves, and 6 Resources on How You Can, Too. The results were good, but not great. (What gives, Joe?)
  2. Controversy sells. Maybe, but I’m uncomfortable with being deliberately provocative. Should I have titled this post, 7 Reasons Why You’re Wrong to Focus on Titles? I could have put “suck” in this title, but that’s borderline vulgar, isn’t it? My mother reads this. Damn it.
  3. Use keywords if you can, but don’t be obnoxious about it. Try to optimize for SEO.
  4. Keep it tight and punchy, with bold words and maybe even a little attitude.
  5. Find the right length to maximize on the channels you use to share. Stop at least 10 characters short of Twitter’s 140-character limit so it’s easy for followers to retweet you. “I try to shoot for 70 characters or less in my titles so they don’t get cut off in most emails and search engine results,” says Corey Eridon of hubspot.com.
  6. Some punctuation is OK, like question marks and even exclamation points, which I usually hate! (I double-dipped on this one: Does Exercise Make You More Creative? Go Take a Walk and Let Us Know!) More problematic are special characters like @ and #.
  7. Be topical. I had success with this (‘The Normal Heart’ and How a Story Evolves) because I wrote it the week “The Normal Heart” debuted and was receiving media attention. It wouldn’t have worked months before or later. 
  8. Start with the title in mind and then write to it. This seemed counter-intuitive to me at first. But I caught on pretty quickly, like with this one, 11 Ways to Keep Balance in Your Life.
  9. Be Clear about What You’re Offering. This was one of my best performers: 16 Easy Ways to Write Better.
  10. A blog post is not a newspaper article. I used to write headlines for a living, and I was good at it. But this is not that.
  11. Odd numbers are better than even. So they say…

How’d I do? Here’s a link to a dozen more resources on writing better titles. Check ‘em out.


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Friends Weigh In: How to Choose Which Book to Read Next — PLUS: 3 Quick Recommendations

How do you decide what to read next, books, reading, novels, Believe Me, Michael Margolis, a storytelling manifesto, Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch, ask Facebook friends

So many books, so little time… Sometimes I just go to one of my shelves and find something I haven’t picked up yet.

Tony blames it all on “The Goldfinch.”

For me, Donna Tartt’s divisive novel deserves only half the fault.

But we’re both in the same place, stalled in trying to figure out what to read next.

My friend and I are good, steady readers with broad interests, usually going from one book to the next. But lately we can’t find our groove. We both realized this when we tried to read “The Goldfinch” at the same time, after some positive early buzz but before the Pulitzer. We are fans of literary fiction, and I had enjoyed Tartt’s debut, “The Secret History.”

But each of us sheepishly admitted we weren’t enjoying this one, and we eventually gave up before page 200, or about a quarter of the way through. It was just such a slog, almost unreadable – and then we heard from more friends who had the same response.

How do you decide what to read next, books, reading, novels, Believe Me, Michael Margolis, a storytelling manifesto, Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch, ask Facebook friends, from gutenberg to zuckerberg, John Naughton

Micro-reviews of some of what I have been reading lately….
From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: Disruptive Innovation in the Age of the Internet, by John Naughton. Sort of like a Malcolm Gladwell book, this traces the history of innovation, starting with that famous Bible all the way up to the most famous social network. Naughton draws fascinating parallels and shows how changes in communications lead to profound changes in everything.

How do you decide what to read next, books, reading, novels, Believe Me, Michael Margolis, a storytelling manifesto, Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch, ask Facebook friends, Tweet Naked

Tweet Naked: a bare-all social media strategy for boosting your brand and your business. Levy’s an engaging writer and this is a highly readable primer on getting started. The faux provocative title just means: Be transparent.

 

How do you decide what to read next, books, reading, novels, Believe Me, Michael Margolis, a storytelling manifesto, Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch, ask Facebook friends

Believe Me: a storytelling manifesto for change-makers and innovators. By Michael Margolis. Short, smart, thought-provoking. And free online. Get it, read it over a cup of coffee, talk about it with a friend or colleague over a couple more.

The experience left Tony and me both oddly unable to get back on track with something new. Tony says he’s baffled by reviews now, and I admit my attention span seems shot – challenged, at least – by my focus on digital communications and social media.

(I have been reading books about those topics, though, as they relate to content, storytelling, branded journalism and such – just for different reasons and with different rewards.)

So I asked Facebook friends, How do you decide what to read next? Is it reviews? Cover art? Oprah?

The result has been a lively discussion, an edited version of which I want to share. Please join in, through the link at the top of this post. Let me know what works for you and what you’ve been reading lately, especially if it’s good. Or even “The Goldfinch.”

Stephen Bell Miller: I troll bookstores, take suggestions from reviews or interviews I hear on NPR; I look to biographies and mystery series; and the classics are always on my list.

Priscille Dando: Recommendation from someone I trust is the biggest influencer–friend, librarian, independent bookseller, reviewers at Booklist, publishing reps that know my taste. I do pay attention to Buzz books and awards but a book jumps the line if someone I know loves it.

Scott Pierce: My latest was The Circle by Eggers. I got it at Church Street Coffee & Books (in Birmingham, Ala.) for two reasons: I’d read Eggers before and loved him, and I trust Carrie to stock great reads.

Peter Rubin: I read a lot. They are cotton candy for the brain type books. If there is a CIA black ops, political intrigue, super spy thriller then I read it. If I like the author — then I binge read all his/her books. I know people who like the same types of books and ask them if I have run out of new ones to read. So, in essence, word of mouth from a trusted source.

Kelly Pierce: I mostly pick books up and flip to a random page. If I like that passage, I buy the book. Not very scientific. Sometimes I get heads up from friends or hear or see an author interviewed that sounds interesting.

Connie Ogle: Sometimes it’s something so simple as the cover or the description. … I read Fourth of July Creek recently and ended up reviewing it bc a colleague had suggested it. I do read reviews, too, of course, though I never trust Amazon reviews (what if it’s the author’s sister???) I get ideas from Twitter #fridayreads, too, and just looking at hashtags for books to see what people are talking about.

Michael Van Ausdeln: For me, it’s reviews. NYT Book Review plus Amazon Best of the Month.

Question: What was the problem with Goldfinch? I liked it thru the lens of grief. It was the reaction of seeing your mother die. It worked for me.

Connie again: It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read, The Goldfinch, but I only got about 200 or so pages through and was annoyed throughout. I swear, a book is set in NYC, and all the NYC literati lose their minds. Good grief. When I heard how it ended I was even more glad I bailed out.

Nunzio Michael Lupo: Nyt book review. Sometimes being interested in a subject and hunting around for it. Like right now I’d like to find a good one on the politics of the Second Vatican Council and one on the 1968 Democratic convention

Phil Kloer: Goldfinch seems divisive. I thought it was amazing, Dickensian. Franzen is also divisive but I have loved his last two, I go by reviews (NYT, NPR, even sometimes Amazon), FB word of mouth, but in most cases the author’s track record.

Cara Neth: My neighbors put up a little library across the street so I tend to wander over and grab whatever looks good when I want something new. I just read “Great Expectations” for the first time because it was there. Otherwise, I focus on working my way through the stacks of books that I’ve bought over the years and never got around to reading…I want to get through those before I read the latest hot novel. I thought “Secret History” was overrated, so I haven’t had any interest in “The Goldfinch”…but if it shows up in the little library, I’ll probably pick it up.


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TV News Report on the Internet from 1981

1981 TV Report on Internet, KRON, San Francisco Chronicle, newspapers, prescient, no one knew what was coming“Imagine, if you will…” So begins this FASCINATING TV news report about the Internet, or a very early version of it… Everything about this video is absolutely enthralling. And it’s refreshing to see the anchor’s snark-free delivery. Good story — like something from a time capsule, so innocent and prescient. Wow.

 

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