Creative writing vs effective business communication

Ernest Hemingway would have been a terrible proposal writer.


There are two faces to the craft of writing.

On one side, you have the creative writer, head in the clouds, flirting with the muse of inspiration.

On the other side, you have the technical writer, the copywriter, the business communication professional. Still dreaming with creativity but tasked with a specific goal. Often with a crunchy deadline.

These are two equally important skill sets, and they don’t often reside in the same brain. They typically require different environments, different tools, and different approaches.

Why do you need to recognize this difference?

If you’re hiring a “writer,” you certainly need to know which type will suit your requirements best.

  • Are you going to enforce quick deadlines?
  • What’s the reading level of your audience?
  • Is the person going to work in a team environment, or solo?

If you’re sitting down to write, you need to consider the end goal.

  • Can you bust out your flowery adjectives or do you need to keep it simple?
  • How much time does your reader have to absorb the piece?
  • What’s the context? Is your piece going to be part of a master communication plan that requires a specific voice or message?
  • Are you trying to entertain, educate, both?

If you’re teaching someone to write, you must think about both facets of the craft.

  • Are you going to assign your student a timed essay or have them polish and edit a piece over a long period of time?
  • What tools will they use? Pen and paper? Professional writing tools like Scrivener, Evernote, or something else?
  • Who are they writing for? What’s their mission?
  • Will they be required to come up with their own topics, or will they be assigned writing tasks?

Which writer are you?


Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for Social Strata — makers of the community platform. Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

Featured image via Flickr CC: thierry ehrmann

How to Discover Your Own Writing Ritual

Woody Allen’s Olympia portable SM-3 typewriter has been used to type everything he’s written since he was 16 years old.

Stephen King sets up a specific tableau to get his juices flowing:

“There are certain things I do if I sit down to write,” he said. “I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning,” he explained. “I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.

“It’s not any different than a bedtime routine,” he continued. “Do you go to bed a different way every night? Is there a certain side you sleep on? I mean I brush my teeth, I wash my hands. Why would anybody wash their hands before they go to bed? I don’t know. And the pillows are supposed to be pointed a certain way. The open side of the pillowcase is supposed to be pointed in toward the other side of the bed. I don’t know why.”  Lisa Rogak, Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King (Thanks to St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books and

As for me?

Mornings are best, after two cups of coffee, on my laptop, before I head in to the office. I usually marinate on my chosen topic for a few days without writing anything down. Then when I sit down with the intention to write, I am already mentally organized.

Problogger published a great list of bloggers’ daily routines. Do any of those sound familiar to you?

Discover Your Own Writing Ritual

You may already have a routine, but you haven’t noticed it yet.

Here’s a method for uncovering and fostering your own ritual:

Step 1: Document your writing habit for a month. In a notebook, jot down time of day, location, and general mood you were in, each time you write a blog post or article.

Step 2: Review the notebook data. Is there a pattern? Can you correlate your best posts of the month to specific locations, times of day, or other environmental surroundings? Think about the last time you felt “in flow.”

What was your environment?

Was there music, or silence?

Did you outline first, or just start writing?

Step 3: Create “flow” on purpose. If you’ve determined that you feel “flow” most often in the evening with a glass of wine and soft music playing, try replicating that environment for the next few weeks. Experiment with various factors to find the ideal “tableau” that supports your best writing. Do you work best on an empty stomach, or after a full meal? Do you need to be alone, or in a busy Starbucks?

The key is to be mindful, and notice your ideal writing conditions, so that you can create “flow” at will.

Featured image via Flickr CC: Heather

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for Social Strata — makers of the community platform. Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee


Freelance Writing – Guide to Inspiration

Freelance inspiration

By Jessy Troy


I have spent several years in the wonderful, strange world of freelance writing. While it is a blessing in many ways, it can also have a downside. Mainly trying to maintain inspiration and motivation when writing for such a large number of publications. From magazines to newspapers to webmasters, there are so many projects that can sap your time and energy.

Because the topics are always the same, and they are almost always on subjects you have to come up with, it can be difficult to get that spark of artistic genius that leads to a successful, interesting article.

While common sense would dictate that taking a hiatus to clear the mind would be the way to go, such as with novelists, that isn’t an option for the freelance writer. This is the job and if you don’t do it you don’t get paid.

But all is not lost, whatever despair you may feel. Keep this list of ways to keep your creative juices flowing, to look at whenever you find yourself stuck.

Freelance Writing, a Guide to Getting Inspired

  • Get away from your computer and do something relaxing, such as go for a walk, get a cup of coffee or take a long shower or bath.
  • Move on to something else for a while and go back once you feel more clearheaded.
  • Ask someone’s opinion. This can be anonymously on the web, or from someone that you know personally. Just make sure all direct quotes are properly credited.
  • Find sources on a topic. You should obviously never copy these sources, but using them for ideas can be a great way to bump start the brain.
  • Go back to old ideas. Remember that article you were thinking of writing three months ago that ended up as a hastily written sticky note pressed to the side of a filing cabinet? It might be time to get on it.
  • Check out some local places and see if anything strikes you as interesting. Maybe speak to a local business owner about the latest news, or ask around about any interesting developments in your area.
  • Get a community calendar or join a website with a local community focus. This will often show you upcoming benchmarks in time for your city, state or county. Take some time to research an upcoming anniversary such as when your area was founded, and write something interesting and educational to commemorate it.
  • Check out sites that host press releases, especially those about trending topics.
  • Use real time search engines to see what people are speaking about right now, to see if there is anything interesting you could look into.
  • Use your own life. For example, I am a writer and I frequently struggle with trying to come up with ideas for articles when I have been writing all week. I am now writing an article to discuss that, and to give other writers the benefit of my brainstorm on the subject.
  • Write an article based on a numbered list. For example: Five Ways to Get That Summer Look in November.
  • Ask for help: There is a free community for people to brainstorm together!
  • Go out for a night on the town with no set plan of what you are going to do, in an area you don’t know. Ditch the car so you can walk around and learn about new restaurants, movie theaters, galleries, cafes, etc.
  • Find a client or publication that is looking for a specific topic to be researched and written about.
  • Get writing! You will be amazed at what can come from a stream of consciousness.

How do you keep yourself elevated and inspired? Please share your tips!

Author’s Bio: Jessy Troy is a creative writer and editor at Social Media Sun. She Tweets as @JessyTroy.

5 Great Guest Blogging Topics for Healthcare Providers

by Mickie Kennedy

Managing a successful, interesting blog is of great benefit to a small practice as most people begin their health-related research online.

This can be incredibly tricky and time-consuming; HIPAA rules and increasing government regulations have seen to that.

Providing reliably accurate information is absolutely essential: not only so your readers and potential patients view you as a trusted source, but also because providing incorrect information could result in your website being removed and even a huge fine levied against your practice.

But blogging on your own website can get lonely, especially when you’re just starting out. One great way to get in front of a new audience is to guest post on another blog.

Start by offering a guest blog post to a colleague or partner.

Or take a poll and find out where your colleagues and patients get their information online and ask to write a guest post there. 

Not sure what to write about? Here are some topics to get you headed in the right direction:

  1. Medical Research
    Share some news on the latest advancements either in technology or medicine to give readers better insight when it comes to making health-related decisions.
  2. Conferences and Events
    If your company is attending a conference or promoting a health event, write about it. You can also do a giveaway of any conference or event swag.
  3. Share a Personal Story
    Write about a health experience that you have had personally or get permission to share another person’s experience. (Always be very aware of HIPAA rules!)
  4. Common Problem
    If there is a common problem (like allergies) that your practice sees often, blog about. Patients looking for an allergy doctor will see you as an authority on the subject. You can also research comments on the blog to see what readers have questions about most often.
  5. Infographics
    Health information can be a lot to process and infographics can help! Share one that your company has created or another public infographic on health issues.

There are many other topics will result in a successful guest blogging experience, which helps to build your practice’s credibility. Some other thoughts to keep in mind as you pursue writing opportunities include:

  • Research
    It is imperative that you know the blog that you are writing for and are familiar with their readers. It is near impossible to be granted a writing opportunity from a cold call or email.
  • FAQs
    If they have a frequently asked question section on their page, review it for potential guest topics. Is there a particular subject that your practice deals with regularly?
  • Recycle
    Look at previous posts from either your blog or theirs and find topics that you can explore more in depth.
  • Crowdsource
    Ask your readers which topics they want to know more about or take a look at trending health topics through Google or Twitter.

As you know the medical field changes rapidly so choose your topics with care, especially when covering subjects like new technology or emergencies; be sure to state your qualifications up front to prove your great track record; and be sure to add a call to action at the end of your guest post so that their readers can follow you as well.

Do you have any other tips for writing practices in the healthcare field? Talk to us in the comments.

Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases, offers Free Whitepapers and eBooks for businesses of all stripes.

Featured image via Flickr, Creative Commons:

5 Sites that Boost My Creativity Each Time

By Jessy Troy

No matter what field you are in, there is no doubt that creativity and inspiration play an important part in helping you finalize a project or two.

This may be especially true for writers and those in the Arts who rely heavily on sparks of aha! moments to get their creative juices flowing and create something extraordinary.

Yet surprisingly, we have heard many stories about how they often get their inspiration for their masterpiece from a totally different field. A fashion designer can get ideas from a marvelous piece of art and an architect may base his latest innovative design on a great photo of nature.

This proves that inspiration is out there just waiting to be seen or experienced. Thanks to the Internet, we can now have access to such sources with a click of the mouse.

Here are some of those awesome websites worthy of a look should you be suffering from a writer’s block.

1. Book Of Joe


This website gives you your daily dose of interesting news and the latest innovations in almost any field you can think of. From fascinating statistics to delightful photographs, you can spend the whole day reading each and every article.Be amused by the lamest invention or be bewildered by amateur video clips. If it’s trending, you’ll surely find it inside the Book of Joe.Bookmark: Book of Joe

2. Web Urbanist


Web Urbanist is another website that you can surf through and not notice that an hour has passed. The features are categorized into Art, Architecture, Gallery, Urban, Tech and even Graffiti. This is useful should you like to get your spark of creativity from a certain field only, or see what’s up everywhere.The titles of the articles are well worded, so you can readily click to read more on those that are relevant to you or those you find interesting. The writing is concise and topics are unique.Bookmark: Web Urbanist

3. Print Me Poster


One of the biggest collections of photos that can be turned into posters. Or you can upload your own image and create a poster too!I love browsing the site and I often buy new posters to match my current mood. The site adds something fresh to my interior which always boosts my creativity.Bookmark: Print Me Poster

4. Moodstream


Moodstream is a delightful website that plays music and images according to your well, mood. You can choose from a list of emotions including stabilize, simplify, intensify or excite to get the mash up you need.So if you are among those people who prefer this visual and audio compulsion, then Moodstream is the site to visit. You can always opt to customize your mood with the settings if you want to be more precise. Doubles as a meditation!Bookmark: Moodstream

5. 99 Percent


Inspired by Thomas Edison’s saying that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, this site offers interesting articles on how to best help yourself and provides tools on coping with the usual life challenges including facing your critics.The topics are varied and range from technology and writing to graphic design. The site also focuses on works related to collaboration and self-marketing. It’s also great for budding entrepreneurs who require that extra push toward creativity and effective business planning. You can follow them on twitter or sign up for the newsletter for their latest inspirational piece.Bookmark: 99 Percent

I am sure you have lots of other great free sources of inspiration to share!

Author’s Bio: Jessy Troy is a creative writer and editor at Social Media Sun. She Tweets as @JessyTroy.

The magpie and the docent – a tale of two writers

Magpie – a person who collects things, especially things of little use or value, or a person who chatters idly.
Docent – a person who acts as a guide, typically on a voluntary basis.

The Magpie

The magpie flits from branch to branch, picking up shiny objects (the latest app) and sharing them randomly (G+ one day, Tumblr the next).

She has no routine writing schedule, and her audience/customers have no idea what to expect next.

She occasionally shares something brilliant, and then disappears for weeks at a time.

The Docent

The docent has a clearly defined area of expertise.

She shows up on time, and is able to clearly teach her audience within her niche.

Her customers rely on her as a resource and trusted guide.

She leads her readers in an engaging conversation about the chosen subject.

Your Writing Style

If you want to build something of lasting value, consider yourself a docent, not a magpie.

Whether you’re writing for business or pleasure, there should be a thoughtful through-line in your work. Your audience will recognize you from a mile away if you do it correctly. Further, they will grow to rely on you. And trust is the foundation of every successful business relationship.

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for Social Strata — makers of the community platform. Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

How Are Guest Articles Different From Guest Posts?

By Mickie Kennedy

So you heard that one terrific way to attract new traffic to your site can be to drop a few well-written articles on other popular websites or blogs. Seems pretty straightforward, right? You write an article full of useful advice, a potential new client or fan reads it, surfs over to your webpage, lands in your funnel and — boom! — your follower base expands.

At first glance, guest articles on online websites seem very similar to guest blog posts. However, while similar in quality content, they differ in how they are written, the editing process, and their place on the website.

So before you go sending off a dozen emails to leading blogs in your space, check out these rules and tips.

Guest Articles

Guest articles are usually more formally written for an online publication like a magazine. They also have a more formal review process. Most likely, you will be working with an editor who may have significant changes for your submitted work. In addition, a guest article may have a permanent place on the website or a link from the main page to your content.

Guest Blog Posts

A blog post is slightly different in that it is more informal. You are still presenting quality information, however, the review process is usually, but not always less stringent. The blog creator or their staff may have a few changes or might want to write an introduction for your post. In addition on a blog post, as new posts are added, your post will fall down on the page. Your work will still be incorporated on the website, but it will not have a permanent position. So for example, you couldn’t just send someone to the main blog URL and expect it to be there.

Best Practices for Guest Writing of Any Kind

To write for both of these, however, you will still be following quality writing guidelines. Things to keep in mind while writing either a guest article or a guest blog post:

  • The headline needs to reel people in. You want to keep it short, interesting and factual. It should be between 60-80 characters ideally, so that it’s easily readable in search engine listings.
  • Know your audience. Do they respond to anecdotes or do they like ‘just the facts.’ Don’t be afraid to ask the blogger or editor for any guidelines or to give feedback on the piece.
  • Another important feature of guest blog posts is the call to action. This is especially important if you are trying to get your product in front of a different audience. You want them to be able to go to your website and either by your product or sign up with your service, so make sure they know who you are and what you want from them.

Remember that in either situation, you want to send quality work to these websites. Refrain from using too many links or veering off topic in your posts.

Have questions about writing guest posts? Ask us in the comments.

Author’s Bio: Mickie Kennedy is author of the PR Fuel blog and President of eReleases Press Release Distribution.

Quotes that work (and don’t work)

By Mickie Kennedy

A solid quote can round out a press release or blog post in ways nothing else can. Not only can it encapsulate what you’ve been trying to say throughout the whole of your content, but if the quote is from the right source it can also add an air of authority to the piece. Not only this, but a well-placed quote from the right source can put a face on what may have otherwise been very dry material, and make the reader take notice.

But just throwing in a random quote from your CEO won’t work. You have to be very careful with the quotes you use in your press releases for several reasons. Here are a few examples to give you an idea of what to do and what not to do.

Press interview with microphone

The Boring Quote

Ugh! This is absolutely the worst thing you can do. If your quote is dull, uninteresting, or otherwise pointless, it’s dead before it’s even left the ground. This is the textbook example of just inserting a quote simply for the sake of doing it:

“Our new Apple Corer 5000 will certainly core your apples, so you should probably buy one,” says President Bob Yawnsville.

This quote says nothing, essentially – it’s just there for filler. If the person reading your release doesn’t stop reading right then and there, you’re lucky. What’s more, the statement is just a thinly disguised plea for a sale. It’s not even a pitch. At least a pitch can be interesting.

If you’re going to put a quote in, make it worth the reader’s time.

“The Apple Corer 5000 uses brand-new coring technology invented in a lab deep inside the Earth’s core while our scientists listened to metalcore. At Apple Town Inc. we fully embrace the word ‘core’ in all its uses, and we transfer this thinking to each and every corer we release,” says President Ted McCool.

This quote does two things: it adds new information describing the mentality of the company, and it also gives a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the products. It’s not just slapped in there.

Bottom line: quotes should add their own unique angle and perspective to your content. Here’s a trick. Read your piece with the quote, and then read it without the quote. Have you lost any information, any interesting context? If not, then it’s time to get a new quote.

Controversial or Standout Quotes

Not to overstate it, but quotes have to be in your press release for a reason. This also goes for the actual content – if the material in the quote is there just for the heck of it, you’re better off leaving it out. This goes doubly so for anything controversial or something you know will stand out.

For example, let’s say that apple corer business has a rival that’s been known to invest in overseas interests. They could call the rival out by attacking them for not investing in American interests with something like:

“We’re extremely proud to be an all-American company, keeping our production and profits tied to American interests rather than shipping jobs and money overseas — unlike some other coring businesses I know,” says CEO Jan Appleton.

See how that comes off as a little snarky? Even though it may sound a little snarky, going after your rivals is perfectly fine, and it certainly draws attention. Use caution and common sense, though. Going on the offensive for the sake of a few more eyeballs is going to do nothing but hurt you in the long run. Make sure you have a leg to stand on and some ground to defend before launching an all-out assault.

The same goes for outright controversial quotes, like using current events to make your point. Something like:

“The latest ebola outbreak only plays up the global need for higher apple consumption” says CEO Barb Corringstone. “If people were getting their fair share of phytonutrients and vitamin D from apples, the world would be a safer, healthier place.”

Is this really necessary? Does it add anything or are you just trying to stir up a hornet’s nest? This can truly backfire on you if you’re not careful. Remember Barilla Pasta CEO Guido Barilla’s homophobic comments on Italian radio? That sure did earn Barilla quite a bit of attention – but for a company that (a.) is famous for its penne and not its politics, and (b.) had previously expressed no opinion on matters more controversial than the proper diameter of campanelle, the attention wound up seriously injuring the company. So use your head.

As with every quote, make sure you’re putting it in your content for a good reason, as readers can detect when you’re being disingenuous. Bottom line: quotes should add their own unique angle and perspective to your content.

Here’s another trick. Read your piece with the quote, and then read it without the quote. Are you needlessly going to rankle the wrong people for the wrong reasons? If so, strongly reconsider replacing your quote.

Do you often use quotes in your press releases?

Author’s Bio: Mickie Kennedy is author of the PR Fuel blog and President of eReleases Press Release Distribution.

Blog (a verb)

By Lisa D. Jenkins

“Others may be talking about the same thing, but they aren’t talking about it with your voice.”

How many times have you heard this when people are encouraging you to blog?

A lot? If you’re like me, it’s a lot.

Here’s how it happens in my head:

  • I have a thought about something timely.
  • My brain takes a walk along that thought path and reaches a conclusion.
  • I consider blogging about it and then I think there’s no need to write what everyone else has already published.

Why clutter up the internet, right?

fly with a tiny microphone

Now, the Husband doesn’t do work that’s remotely related to mine. In fact, his sole concession to getting anywhere near what I do for a living was to open a Facebook account six months ago – and we’ve been together for almost 8 years.

So you can imagine my surprise when he was sitting next to me last week and started asking informed questions about big data, segmenting, conversions and other magical things that make my nerd heart sing.

He was reading a blog – a blog I love. He continued to read through that blog for a number of days. Clicking ever deeper into the content and looking at me every so often like I was a supernatural being because these were things I not only knew but used. He asked questions, I answered and that went on for a while, so I pointed him toward three more blogs that feature similar content. These blogs are also on my not-to-be-missed roll.

Aaaaand here’s how the lesson of the opening statement from this post was driven almost painfully home for me.

He read a couple of posts from each of the new blogs and dove right back into the first one. Why? Because the voice, style and format of the first blog made the content easier for him to consume and relate to.


It’s almost like all those people who’ve come before me – those people I look to for guidance and advice – know a little something about this world of online business. Weird.

Now, I’m open about not blogging for myself. But I don’t for a second advocate that strategy for you – partly because I don’t know you and your business. And partly because it’s almost a given that the people who will love what you do need to hear what you do, and why you do it, from you. In your voice.

So lay it out there. Write what you’re thinking. Write about what you do. Write about the tools you use. Write about how you solve people’s problems. Let people read you. Blog.

Author’s Bio: Lisa D. Jenkins is a Public Relations professional specializing in Social and Digital Communications for businesses. She has over a decade of experience and work most often with destination organizations or businesses in the travel and tourism industry in the Pacific Northwest. Connect with her on Google+
Photo Credit: Adam N. Ward via Compfight cc

Writer’s Block. The Pain and Panic are Real.

By Lisa D. Jenkins

There’s nothing quite like that feeling of knowing you owe the readers of your blog several hundred words and realizing you’ve got no idea what to write about. The realization that you can write on just about anything only makes it worse. It mires your brain in some sort of one track spiral that does nothing but turn around and around on itself.

Sorry, there are no blogs coming out of the station today.

So you take a walk. You open up the Google machine and surf around. You browse your book collection. You check your blog roll. Hoping for some sort of inspiration to drop an idea into your head.

Been there?

We’ve all seen the lists of X Ways to Beat Writer’s Block and there are often some great bits of advice in them. The problem is sometimes when you’re so stuck you can’t string a cohesive content thought together to save yourself, light prompts usually don’t cut it. You need serious, focused help.

Enter the blog topic generators of the world!

They aren’t perfect, they won’t write for you and they can’t be held responsible for everything, but topic generators have saved me more times than I can count. Here’s a look at 4 blog topic generators you can use to get writing, right now.

BlogAbout by Impact Branding & Design

“BlogAbout was an idea born out of frustration.”


Start by clicking the refresh button in the center of the screen until you find a prompt that strikes a spark.

Clicking it 5 times has given me:

  • preparation
  • the customer experience
  • customer service
  • a challenge
  • saving money

I’ll use preparation.

Now, click the Next button that generates a fill-in-the-blank phrase you can use with your own keywords. Hit the refresh button to get a new phrase or hit the heart to save a phrase to your notebook.

Here’s what I got:

  • When It Pays to
  • Why __ Timing is Everything
  • 7 Things that Really Great X Do
  • 7 X Tools No X Should be Without
  • 4 Ways to Make Your X More Successful

And that’s how I ended up here with a post on blog topic generators no blogger should be without. How great is that?

Here are a few more generators for you to check out.


Enter in a single keyword and click Get Ideas. Pages of existing headlines come up and all you have to do it choose whether you want to see 10, 20 or 30 ideas at a time. Use what you see as inspiration for you own post.

Portent’s Content Idea Generator

Enter your keyword and click the arrow to get started. I’ll use content. Next, you’ll get a title with helpful descriptors. Don’t like it? Hit refresh for another, and another. Here’s the second title I was given:
That’s workable, right?


Blog Topic Generator from Hubspot

You’ll need three nouns for this. When you’re ready, hit the Give Me Blog Topics button. I used content, productivity and business and was given these 5 blog topics.

Hubspot content generator

So. I’m not saying these generators will fix everything but they’ll get you focused on a single thread that’s more likely to turn into a blog post or article than, say, aligning your writing utensils from left to right in order of frequency of use will.

And now I give a round of applause to Impact Branding & Design, Portent, Content Forest and Hubspot for helping us all to find our way out of the desolation that is writer’s block.

Author’s Bio: Lisa D. Jenkins is a Public Relations professional specializing in Social and Digital Communications for businesses. She has over a decade of experience and work most often with destination organizations or businesses in the travel and tourism industry in the Pacific Northwest. Connect with her on Google+