Category Archives: work life

Here’s what I’ve been working on

Whew! How is it the second half of 2014 already? Doesn’t January seem like yesterday? But also so long ago when I look at completed projects for the year!

I can’t wait to see where the rest of 2014 takes me!

In the meantime, I’ve been working with two corporate clients – one on sprucing up the copy on an outdated website, and another on some engagement strategies for social channels. Seriously fun stuff!

I’ve also been working on fun projects for my favorite pet industry mag, Pet Age. Natural lifestyle topics are near and dear to my heart, and I was honored to write the entire Natural Supplement for them. Check out the digital version here.

I’m also taking the first coaching course I’ve ever joined – and loving it. I will share insights from the course as it unfolds.

Finally, I started moving many of my clips over to Pinterest. I love how visual and interactive that platform is for showcasing a portfolio. You can find my lifestyle writing and pet writing there!

As we prepare to move from Louisiana back to our home in Indiana, I’ll be taking some time off – all of next week, actually! But I’ll be ready to hit the ground running from our new (old) digs in beautiful Bloomington. Have a wonderful weekend and week ahead!

Here’s what happened at BlogPaws

I had a fabulous time at the BlogPaws conference last week. I learned so much about behind-the-scenes social media planning and content strategy, and I spent the entire time surrounded by a brilliant group of women. I tried to soak up everything I could over those four days. As I combed through my notes on the flight home, I realized a few key themes emerged.

BlogPaws 2014 recap

Here are my top three takeaways from BlogPaws 2014:

1. Tell a story. This point was made in numerous sessions. Readers want a story. Even if you’re writing a product review, turn it into a tale. People want to be entertained, so find a way to turn every blog post, tweet, and status update into a story.

2. Diversify. Don’t build your house on another man’s land, right? This holds true for social media platforms. After Facebook’s big algorithm change, a number of content developers experienced a hit. If you’re diversified and have a presence – and, ideally, an audience! – in several spaces, changes like that won’t impact you as negatively. However, your main hub has to be your own website. That’s your land.

3. Collaborate. This point wasn’t ever overtly stated, but so many speakers mentioned that, as writers and bloggers, many of us work alone. Ok, so our dogs are our colleagues, but they’re not particularly helpful when it comes to WordPress widgets or social media strategy. One speaker suggested finding an accountability partner. Another said to assemble a tribe – either online or off – who will give you honest feedback. One of the more techie speakers suggested finding local meetups of folks who are working on the same platforms as you are so you can share tips and tricks. Whatever route you take, it’s important to find someone you trust.

Overall, the conference was incredible. I learned a ton and met some amazing people. I hung out with old friends and made many new friends, too! I already can’t wait until next year.

What makes an expert?

As a writer, I frequently interview experts in various fields because their in-the-trenches insights help explain complicated concepts, or they’re the first to know the latest advances or changes in a given industry.

Then, imagine my surprise, when I’ve been called a handful of times this year to be an expert source for an article, a radio show, and on another blog! I was shocked that someone dug me up on Google and though that I had the credentials to be a source.

But, of course, that’s exactly how I do it when I’m looking for someone to interview.

So, how do I know who to call on? What makes an expert?

The first place I start is, of course, Google. First, I look for published articles. Experts are often published in scholarly or professional publications. Or, in many instances, if someone has been quoted in other mainstream articles, I can assume they’re versed on being interviewed.

Next, I look for social media presence. This varies widely by field, but if someone is active in the social space, I can usually count on that person to be responsive and able to convey ideas for a general audience.

Third, I seek out a personal or professional website. Honestly, these days, if someone doesn’t have a website, I discount their expertise. Even a single page that lists highlights and contact info is sufficient.

Finally, I toggle over to LinkedIn and check out the person’s profile.

Those four points give me a great indication if someone is widely published or cited, if they’re able to convey their ideas well, and if they’ll be responsive to working with the media.

Those are all “soft” criteria, of course, but it’s worked well for me. Time and again, by eliminating potential sources who don’t meet those elements, I wind up with the perfect person for the piece.

How do you seek out sources to interview for your stories? Any points I’m missing. Tweet @maggiemarton your suggestions!

Travel schedule 2014

Conferences and meetings and trade shows… Oh, my!

I’m still nailing down a few dates, but I wanted to share my travel schedule (so far) for 2014. I’d love to meet in person. If you’ll be in any of these cities or at any of these events, please email me so we can get together!

Indianapolis and Bloomington: I just returned from a week in Indianapolis, but I’m going to be there again – and in Bloomington – in April, August, and October. I’m working to finalize dates, but if you’ll be in the area, let’s meet!

Global Pet Expo: March 12-14 in Orlando. I haven’t attended this particular trade show before, so I’m super excited to see what it’s all about. I’ll be attending this one as press, representing a mix of clients as well as my blog.

BlogPaws: May 8-10 in Lake Las Vegas. I’ll be attending this conference again. I was so disappointed to miss last year’s event, so I can’t wait for this one!

BarkWorld: October 30-November 1 in Atlanta. This is my second time attending this conference, and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with friends and meeting new brands.

Those are the definite events for which I’m already registered and have booked travel. There are a few more to come, so I’ll keep you posted. But, if you’ll be at any of those events, let’s meet. I love the online world, of course, but nothing beats meeting your online friends and colleagues face-to-face!

Around here lately: What I’m working on!

I’m lucky. I work with the best people around. My editors and clients are all incredible people who achieve amazing things, and I’m honored to play a small part in their work. Here are a few things I’ve been working on lately with these wonderful people:

Newsletters and web content: I’m challenged to work on an exciting communications strategy with a consulting company that links stateside businesses with overseas partners. It’s been a fun consulting gig, and I’m thrilled I get to work with women leaders on this one.

Pet retail trends: I adore Pet Age Magazine and my editor, Michelle. This is one of the most fun articles I get to write every month. If you’re not familiar with the magazine, go check it out! My latest article is live on the digital edition of the magazine.

Pet products: Oh, how I love finding new and exciting pet products. Every month, I dig up a few new products or roundup where to buy the best pet products in stores for Shoptopia. Such fun! Check it out here.

Book reviews: Whooo, boy. My “to-read” pile has grown enormous, which makes me so happy! I have a couple flights coming up, so I plan to power through my stack while traveling. I have reviews slated to appear here, on OhMyDog!, and on Goodreads.

I’m also waiting on the ink to dry on a couple new, exciting projects, which I’ll announce as soon as I can.

What are you working on these days? I hope your work plate is piled high with fun projects!

Does a work/life balance really exist?

Recently, I was combing through the January 2014 issue of Real Simple. I love this magazine. It feeds my obsession with cleanliness and organization.

Anyway, there was a piece about balance (I didn’t save the mag, so I’m sorry I can’t cite the author). Several contributors gave their definition of balance.

My overwhelming takeaway?

Balance means something different to everyone, and the important thing is to figure out your definition and aim for that. And – gasp! – it doesn’t necessarily mean putting in the exact same amount of effort with your kids as you do at work while maintaining a well-stocked, alphabetized pantry and a closet full of perfectly-tailored clothes.

I don’t know my definition yet – it has something to do with feeling professionally fulfilled while having plenty of time to walk and train with my dogs and hang out with friends and family – but I’m working on it.

So, does a work/life balance really exist?

Yep.

You just have to figure out what it is for you then work toward that.

On brand loyalty

My grocery store, which is a less-than-10-minute drive with almost no traffic, sells several types of kitty litter. Many are name brands. Some are low-cost store brands. There are at least two different sizes of bags.

Yet I will drive all the way across town, through a ton of traffic on a stoplight-riddled road, just to buy one specific brand of kitty litter. 

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Why?

Because I’m loyal to that brand. I believe in the company’s mission. I believe in the product. They also email me coupons and respond to my tweets. So I make an extra effort to purchase their product.

So, what makes a customer loyal to a particular brand? This is a question I’ve been discussing with a client who’s trying to increase brand loyalty. When a product is a commodity – there are tons of options at tons of price points – what separates those who get repeat sales from those who don’t?

I think the answer lies in our discussion from a couple weeks ago. It’s all about honesty and authenticity.

To me, the single most important question is this: How does your product/website/Facebook page make people feel?

I purchase this kitty litter because it makes me feel like I’m doing something good for my cat and good for my planet.

I buy my favorite soap over and over again because the packaging makes me feel happy.

I spend more money on certified humane eggs because it makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing.

As you work on your 2014 marketing and branding strategies, ask yourself that question. How does your product make your customers feel?

Ask your customers that question.  Ask yourself that question about your competitors.

Strategize accordingly.

Total Pet Expo Fall 2013 Recap

I’m finally home after a whirlwind trip to Chicago with pit stops in Indianapolis and Houston. There’s always so much to do to catch up after time away, but I wanted to recap a few trends I spotted at the Total Pet Expo. (Note: These are from the business/editorial side. If you’d like to read about trends in pet products, check out  my recap on OMD!)

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  1. The pet industry is huge. It’s growing. It’s long been touted as “recession proof,” which may not be true. Everyone I spoke with said orders were down at this show. One reason? Nerves over the possibility of a government shutdown, for one. Plus, there wasn’t much new at this show. (It’s smaller than other shows, which could be the reason for that.) Regardless, a conversation I had with a woman in line for coffee captured it. She said, “People sure are grumpy this time around.”
  2. Editorial is highly valued. Obviously this is reassuring to me as a writer. But it’s also interesting from a business perspective. Brands strongly desire editorial coverage, which means that managers are looking to publications to stay on top of trends. This drives home just how important it is for writers and editors to stay on top of what’s new and hot. A fun challenge! I accept! :)
  3. Pet industry professionals are nice. That may seem irrelevant at first glance, but we all want to work with people we like, right? From friendly and helpful PR reps to the knowledgeable sales reps to the product designers, everyone comes from a shared passion – pets – and it’s evident in their work.

If you’re in the pet industry, do you see these signs in your day-to-day? If you’re in another industry, what can you take from these trends?

Attending Total Pet Expo

Today and tomorrow I will be attending the Total Pet Expo Fall 2013 in Chicago.

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Tradeshows provide so much value for planning the year ahead, and y’all know how much I love planning. I’m hoping to:

  • reconnect with friends and colleagues,
  • learn about new companies, products, and innovations,
  • gather ideas for the year ahead.. I’ll be covering pets for Pet Age, Shoptopia, my own blog, and many more (exciting details to come!) so I need to constantly learn new things, and
  • put the finishing touches on the Oh My Dog! Holiday Gift Guide.

This will be my first time attending this particular tradeshow, but from my National Geographic days – when we attended Atlanta twice a year, High Point, Vegas, NY Textile, and many more – I’m an old pro at making the rounds. I’m confident that I can achieve all my goals!

Hope to see you there!

What are your core values?

In her book Make a Name for Yourself, Robin Fisher Roffer writes, “Successful brands are built on core values and during their lifetimes constantly build on and reinforce their core values.”

I like to think I operate my business from a value-minded position, but the reality is that I never took the time with a notebook to write out my values. So I started thinking, and here’s what I came up with as my brand’s core values:

  • compassion
  • service
  • passion
  • community
  • initiative
  • eco-consciousness

I posted these on my blog for all to see and to make sure I’m accountable! And, as I prepare for my 2014 planning session, it’ll be so helpful to have these on hand so that I can assess every new project against these core values. If they don’t align with one (or more), then I won’t take on the project!

What about you? Have you taken the time to define your core values? If not, I strongly encourage the exercise. You might find that it’s incredibly revealing!