she writes.


Introducing: the DIYPR Series

So, what is it that you actually, like, do?
– The Question

I’ve been playing around with a few different ways to describe what it is that I actually do. I’ve called myself a “digital marketer”, a “content developer”, “content marketer”, “digital content marketer”.

I try not to take this naming stuff too seriously and just focus on the work. But it’s become a bit of a game – a challenge I’ve accepted to try and find the perfect way to describe what it is that I do.


The long story goes something like this: I love ideas, worked in the PR industry for a few years, and have some front-end web development skills, so what I do is a combination of all of those things.

Then one day I got an idea. It started in my brain like: “Wouldn’t it be great if I could create something that could perfectly describe what I’m trying to get at? Maybe instead of trying to come up with the perfect phrase, I could just draw a picture.”

So I came up with something…

DIYPR_FINALgraphic (2)

The idea behind it is that this “stuff” — public relations, creating content, social media, marketing — can be easy. Especially for entrepreneurs, business owners, freelance consultants, independent-types who pretty much do everything (if not almost everything) on their own.

The key takeaway in this series of posts is:

PR opportunities are everywhere. Use those opportunities to build your social media profile and develop content that you can use and reuse.

If you’ve got a small business or you’re an independent consultant, and you’re going to host an event, do a talk or some other thing where you’re the centre of attention, make it a habit to get and track content from that event.

Keep in mind when creating content that the best stuff is content you can repurpose. If you create a blog post, presentation or video, create another piece for repurposing that you’ll keep. This way you can share something immediately and you also have something you can use in the future. Maybe use a calendar to pick a date for repurposed content, so that you don’t post something when it’s past the “expiration date”.

The big content guys do stuff like this all the time. They’ll have a webinar (the PR part), live tweet during the webinar (social media) and then have some type of content on their sites to connect with the webinar, such as a blog, or they’ll just post the webinar itself on YouTube or their website. Then sometimes that content will be reused in some way, maybe via a presentation or short infographic.

The "Basic" DIYPR.
The “Basic” DIYPR.

What to expect.

So over the next year, I plan to publish one or two DIYPR Series posts a month. I picked twenty business or organization types and described a PR tactic that could be used for that business in a particular scenario. Then I made up some ideas to show how each initiative could translate to social media and creating content.

Here’s what each post will look like:

  • business / organization type (ie. bakery, farmers’ market, etc.)
  • scenario: not applicable in most but I tried to include common scenarios, like a film festival or book release
  • the idea: could be considered “traditional PR” (ie. an event or campaign)
  • digital + content: ideas on creating content out of the idea, stuff that can be used for your website and would be easy to share on…
  • social media: I tried to go beyond “share photos on Twitter” for this section

What’s the catch?

There is none. The graphics, ideas and everything else associated are under a strict Do-Whatever-The-Hell-You-Want [Forever] License. Feel free to take and tweak as much as you like.

Just like with anything else though, the ideas shouldn’t be used in isolation. Feel free to use them as part of a plan you have already, or as a way to kick/jump-start your own efforts.

So with that out of the way, next week in the DIYPR Series: The Basics.

Internet-Things for Writers.

Here’s a random list of online resources that are great for writers and content-creators. Make graphics, pair fonts, and come up with ideas for stories, blog posts and websites – mix all these apps and tools together to write something tasty!

Being creative

| Sarah Selecky’s Writing Prompts

These writing prompts are awesome. Each day you get a random prompt (“Write a scene that involves overcooked spaghetti on the floor.”, for example) that you can use as inspiration to write for ten minutes. One of these writing prompts inspired me to write the story on the 404 Page.

Grammar + Readability

| Hemingway App

Though it’s been around for a while, earlier this year the geniuses behind this app released a desktop version for Mac and PC. At $6.99, the price is a somewhat wrong if you ask me, but if you’re a heavy user it might be worth the money. And of course, the free version is available as long as you have an internet connection.


| Canva, + Pixlr

Need to add a little graphic design, create infographics or edit images for a blog post or site? Canva, and Pixlr make it easy and fun to take your ideas and make them reality. Also, this for stock photos.


| What Font App +

Here are two apps that can help you save time when trying to figure out how to pair fonts. And Google Fonts, obviously.

Writing Your Business

| Copyblogger’s Marketing Library

If you don’t already have an account with Copyblogger you’re going to have to get one for access to their online library of ebooks. Free Ebooks on copywriting, content marketing, research and general ‘how to make money’ topics. And it’s free. Did I mention it’s free? Ok, well. It’s free.

There are thousands of free things online that can help you improve your writing skills and bring visual interest to your posts and websites. Add your favourites in the comment box and let me know what you think!

DIY PR: media monitoring for free.

Knowing what’s going on in your industry is essential. Knowledge really is power. (Or power is power, if you’re Cersei Lannister.)

One of the things PR people “do” is media monitoring: tracking, reading, analyzing and… monitoring… media. Anyone can start media monitoring for any real reason: if you’re looking for a job you can start tracking coverage that mentions potential employers, or if your a small business owner you can monitor media for coverage related to your industry and competitors.

What it is

Media monitoring is basically reading the newspaper everyday, except your focus is on articles that cover your industry, competitors, market, etc. Sure you could assume that if there’s big news, you’ll hear about it, but chances are the most important information to you will be in articles that aren’t on the front page.

How it’s done

First, decide on your terms, because you can’t monitor without knowing what you’re looking for. There are probably hundreds of terms you can use for your business, but the more terms you have, the more time you’re going to spend on each one. Instead, pick a few that are most relevant.

Here are a few places to start:

  1. Competitors. Stick to one main competitor or get them all, depending on your needs. The more local the better, and the more direct the better.
  2. Industry leaders. Are there people, groups or organizations that make, or can make, a big impact on you or your business?
  3. Customers. This might be harder to drill down to one term, but consider also monitoring for anything related to your clients. Business clients are obviously easier, but social media can be used to monitor for information relevant to your personal clients as well.
  4. Yourself. Include your personal name or ‘online’ name, the name of your business and any organizations you’re a part of. Google yourself regularly – it’s fun.
  5. Relevant trends, popular stuff, events, things that are making an impact either in your industry and/or globally.

Once you have a list of terms, the searching is easy. Google and Bing are fine for this. But to find articles and content in between (or instead of) searches, set up Google Alerts for each term to get an email whenever coverage related to your search term pops up.

Once you get set up on Google Alerts you can almost-literally sit back and just check the articles that come in.

If you just want to find media coverage you can restrict each alert to just send you media or news alerts. Otherwise Google will attack your email with any blog post and mention that includes your terms.

Set up a folder in your email and, if you can, inbox rules for your alerts to keep your main inbox free of random clutter. Then check that box regularly, or whenever you have time.

About Social Media

Monitoring on social media is a little more involved. Thankfully you can learn nearly everything you might need for a basic monitoring program online. Here’s a link to some social media monitoring basics to get you started. Search for more information and you’ll get results for days!

Below is a list of free resources that can make the whole process easier as long as you have the right terms.

Traditional Media Monitoring:
Social Media Monitoring:

Write me or leave a comment below if you have any questions or need some help! General ideas and opinions are welcome too 🙂

Using survey results to start a conversation.

In my past life as an associate at a PR agency, I was on the account team for a major credit card company that did a survey of Canadian small business owners every quarter. After the survey was complete and results compiled, I was responsible for pitching local and national media outlets to let them know about the results. The CEO was involved in the whole survey process, so it was natural to have him speak to media.

After my third or fourth round on the project, I asked more senior co-worker on the team if there was another way we could use the results. My mistake may have been speaking off the cuff, because when my coworker asked: “what do you mean?” I didn’t have an answer.

Well now, I have one… or a few.

With so much time and money invested in creating a survey, getting respondents, compiling results and everything else, there has to be a way to get more ‘bang for the buck’.

Here are a some ideas on how survey results can start conversations and be used to share information with an online audience.

First, tracking and getting involved in relevant conversations or groups online before the survey starts and while it’s underway can be a great way to prepare for when the release goes out. The last thing you want to do is start talking to your audience only to push a product or your company.

Then once the survey’s out, start a conversation:

  1. Ask followers and fans what they think. Is there a topic covered in the survey that could be of interest to your audience? Or a certain segment of your audience? Take the opportunity to ask for general opinions and get feedback.
  2. Go beyond spitting out a stiff, scientific list of results and tell some stories. How did you and your team come up with the idea? Did anything interesting come out of the survey that didn’t make it into the release? These juicy bits are great to share in a blog post or podcast.
  3. While Twitter and Facebook might be great to ask a question + get an answer, consider using forums if you want more of a conversation. Especially if you want to reach out to a network that might not be familiar with your company or products.
  4. Are pictures or music important to your survey? Consider making a song list or posting images to Pinterest. For example, a Songza list connected to a survey that finds people work out best to music that’s over 180 beats per minute. Or linking a list of recipes on Yummly using the foods in this survey that ranks 41 superfoods according to health benefits.
  5. This one is a stretch from #4, but it could be interesting. There’s a big app world out there. Maybe there’s an app that’s easily connected to some aspect of your results. Say you’re reading a blog post about this study that found many food trucks beat out restaurants when it came to food safety. Wouldn’t it be great to find out in the same post there’s a Street Food App?!

For more reading, check out this post on why ‘most social media marketing strategies are garbage’.

And it’s a little… sell-y, but here‘s a blog post by SurveyMonkey on surveys as conversations.

Happy surveying!

Twitter for people who don’t like blogging + noobs.

If you’re an entrepreneur, solopreneur, freelancer, or you own a small business and you don’t like blogging, here are some steps you can take to build your profile on Twitter. It’s one way to engage with your audience that’s more interactive than blogging or emailing and doesn’t require intense writing.

  1. Follow people. Find customers and clients, potential customers and clients, business partners, competitors (yes.), thought leaders in your field / industry, people you admire, companies or groups you want to partner with someday, friends, family, pancake houses. In other words follow as many people as you can who are relevant to you and your business. Everyone you follow will get a notice telling them that you’re following them.
  2. Carve out five – ten minutes in your day to check what’s going on with the people you’re following. When you see something you would have said, retweet, or if you see something you like, fav it. If you find something interesting or have a comment about something someone else tweeted (and you don’t mind it being public on the internets), respond.

These two things really make up half the battle. The best thing is if you just follow others and retweet / fav / respond you’re building engagement without tweeting anything yourself. But chances are if you follow people, people are going to follow you. And once you start building engagement you’re going to have some things to say…

  1. If your business relies heavily on dates / schedules (fitness studio or gym, for example) time your tweets to coincide with this schedule. If you have a big event coming up, consider telling your followers about important milestone dates leading up to the event (space or performers booked, sponsorships, etc.). Put all this in a calendar, if that makes things easier.
  2. Following that, tweet about your events! Sales, classes, talks, special appearances by celebrities, even personal things like graduating from school, finishing a program or taking a trip to attend a conference.
  3. Share stuff. Yes, there’s a lot of “noise” out there. A lot of people saying a lot of stuff about a lot of different things. But this doesn’t mean no one wants to hear what you have to say. Share things you find online, things you overheard or events that might be of interest to your followers.
  4. Share YOUR stuff. Take a picture of a new product your company is developing, a new shipment of clothing or accessories to your store, something cool happening right in front of you. Maybe you own a fitness studio and someone in your class is mastering a move for the first time. Get their permission to send a photo out to the universe and share it.

As with anything else, you determine how much (or little) you’ll get out of using Twitter. I’ve been on it for a couple of years and I know I can do a better job of being more engaged. But that’s the great thing about it – it’s easy and quick to join the conversation when you’re ready.