A Response to the Reader Who Made Me the Angriest I’ve Ever Been

freedom of expression

“I hate rude behavior in a man. Won’t tolerate it.” ~ Capt. Woodrow F. Call in Lonesome Dove

Most who read my work, know that while I’m opinionated, I’m about the easiest going guy in the world.

I’m also a professional. I’ve been paid to write my entire life, have 170 collegiate hours, two degrees and have published articles in two professional journals on the topic of communications law and ethics. And as a professional I have a VERY thick skin.

My work is out there for public consumption. I put it out there every day, and with that, comes any reader’s right to make fair comment and criticism. I welcome your critique, in fact. Make a claim I’ve failed to be objective. Say I’m in error some way. I’m okay with that. I’m here to defend my work, and if you prove me wrong, I’ll acknowledge it and do the right thing.

But there’s one thing you don’t do to me, or to any other person in this profession if I’m around.

You don’t question my RIGHT to freely express an opinion or publish an objective article. You want to fight? Just question that right, and we can stand toe to toe until the last man stands.

At 4:30 a.m. today (August 23, 2012), I made an objective post resulting from an interview I did with Rev. Jesse Jackson. Jackson was in my hometown yesterday leading a peaceful demonstration about the circumstances in which a young man committed suicide in the back of a patrol car. You may view that post here: http://wp.me/p2bjEC-C6

Jesse Jackson is a lightning rod, especially here in the South. People love him, or hate him, and it’s all totally beside the point. When it comes to free speech, Jackson has a right to do what he damn well pleases, and so do I.

Following my typical pattern for a worthy story, I reposted during lunch for the benefit of those who might have missed it in the early morning.

And moments later, a reader publicly posts on Facebook: “…no need to keep stirring this mess up,  Steve.”

He sucker punched me.

I turned red, and actually felt my body twitching. My blood boiled. Them’s fightin’ words.

It’s the one thing you don’t say to me. This mess, dear reader, is one of the critical issues of our time, and it’s now in my backyard, and in yours. Bury your head in the ground. It won’t solve the problem. It won’t go away.

It would have been so much better if you had just questioned the legitimacy of the story. We could have enjoyed a civil debate, as men should, and likely, would have come to terms to simply agree to disagree. But rather, you questioned my very right to freely express. We live in America, do we not?

FYI, critical reader, the messy post to which you refer, was read by more than 200 people on five continents, and was Google-searched internationally more than 30 times. I can make a case it had some redeeming value.

But the mess isn’t the issue here, sir. Forget the “messy” content that makes you so uneasy. (Though I guess you’re right in some regard: It would have been so much better if Woodward and Bernstein had avoided that whole Watergate thing altogether. It was SOOO messy.)

Step back, critical reader, take a breath, and remember that thing we call the First Amendment. I believe it has something to say about a thing we call freedom of expression.

And so I’ll express what I damn well please.

If it makes you uncomfortable, I’m glad. Black people and white people are at odds in this town for no good reason. I hope it makes us all squirm.

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How to Tangle a Blog Reader in a Carefully Woven Web: A Case Study in Thinking Like a Search Engine

Perhaps you’re a blogger who’s in this game for the purity of great writing. It’s admirable, and I love you for it, but if so, this post may not be your particular brand of vodka.

If you’re all-in for platform building, growing your readership, and if you get a thrill from every “hit” like me, this may be helpful.

You can strategically design your posts to tangle a reader within your blog for multiple page hits, but it takes a good bit of study and experimentation. This is more about the science of blogging than the art.

To pull this off, there are certain things you must know, and it’s knowledge that comes only with time, so keep the faith. But once learned, certain strategies can help you create a daily post that snares a reader for multiple page hits on your site.

It all begins with an intimate knowledge of your followers’ reading habits.

After 150 posts in four months, here’s the most important thing I’ve learned to help build a strategy for maximizing hits – and it’s simple: Certain days are better than others for getting your reader’s attention.

The metrics prove (in order of best to worst) that these are my best days (not necessarily yours) for strategic posting: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Friday, Monday, Sunday.

As a fundamental strategy for blogging, there’s power in that knowledge.

And so, with that knowledge, I rarely miss the opportunity for a Tuesday blog post and a strategy to manipulate entice the reader to surf my blog for at least more than one hit.

Here’s a world-view look at yesterday’s results, and this is a pretty average Tuesday for me.

stevenwwatkins blogThere were 146 hits on every continent except Africa. Darn it! For the time being, I’m satisfied with that daily hit count. It’s going to require a Freshly Pressed breakthrough or a RT from Justin Bieber to make a significant jump, so I’ll wait patiently.

Now, here’s breakdown of post hits and the strategy that went into making this happen, this particular way. If it sounds a bit convoluted, message me later and we can talk it through.

steven w watkins

Fifteen of my 150 posts were viewed yesterday. That’s not bad, and it’s only possible after an extended period of blogging with frequent posts – so again – be patient and keep the faith.

Because Tuesday is a strategic day designed for “hits,” I usually think carefully about what I’ll write. I tend to write serious, objective-type posts, but also enjoy taking a stab at the humor category now and again. And so that was the focus of yesterday’s foundation post … because people like to laugh and smile.

I chose to write about 15 things I’m “so over.” Among them was the health food candy Nutella. The Nutella people have done a great job at marketing their hazelnut product, but it’s time to get real.

Out of the 15 things I’m “so over” I chose to include Nutella in the headline because I figured it would have the highest SEO ranking.

Now, here’s where the math starts to get a little fuzzy, but stay with me on this, because it works.

***

Monday night, I drafted a post for my secondary blog at www.latitudeone.wordpress.com The strategy was to publish the post there Tuesday morning, and re-blog it immediately to the primary blog. There are HUGE benefits to a secondary blog, but that’s for another time.

And here’s the third prong of the web-entanglement strategy, and it’s something I love about being part of the WordPress community.

Each Tuesday, I’ll surf my reader for a really good post. Yesterday morning I found a particularly interesting post from www.momentmatters.wordpress.com. Its topic was the history of bathing, and I thought it was really neat, so I pressed that to my  primary blog as well.

There are multiple benefits to pressing a fellow blogger: it’s a nice courtesy, a high compliment, a way to build relationships/strategic partnerships, and ultimately, brings more hits to your site.

The result of all this madness is three posts on my primary blog on my highest reading day. The posts were complete by 5:30 a.m., and from that point, you can only wait to measure the results.

Another tip about multiple posts on a single day: Include short links to every other post you’ve made that day. Readers will inevitably click and click again, and you, fellow blogger, get more bang for your buck.

Now, about those clicks. Here’s a visual of what happened in yesterday’s three-post web.

steven w watkins blog

All the short links included in yesterday’s three posts resulted in 10 additional clicks, and who knows where it went beyond that? That’s good for my blog, and for other sites as well.

There were clicks to my secondary blog, certain photos I’d tagged in previous posts, the blogger I reposted, a related article and the site of an Ecuadorian land developer with whom I have a business relationship at http://www.latitudeone.wordpress.com

All that intertwined linkage is good for everyone and maximizes SEO potential for us all.

Now about those search engines and the power of SEO referral. This is always interesting to study.

steven w watkins blog

The vast majority of my hits came from FaceBook posts. But there were also results from Google image and term searches, as well as Yahoo, Bing, email and from my secondary blog. This doesn’t necessarily mean each search was directed specifically to yesterday’s posts. Many of them were aimed at previous posts. Again, this is process that’s built over time.

Don’t forget the huge benefit of “thinking” like a search engine. Look at these terms searched in the 24 hour period.

blog steven w watkins

You never know who’s gonna search what, or where they’ll end up. Creative tagging is important and a learned skill, but you also have to think like a search engine. The searches above are pretty random, but they did get readers to previous posts I’ve written.

You may have the greatest prose and the snappiest title on the blogosphere on a given day, but if you don’t include some frequently used search terms, your results will be diminished. Note the key words in the title of this blog: “blog,” “web,” “case study” and “search engine.” More than likely, those terms will result in a few extra hits.

Did you know “Justin Bieber” is one of the highest ranking Google search terms? It’s the ONLY reason I included his name in this post.

Hope this helps. Blog on, baby.

(Steve Watkins is a journalist and author of the developing non-fiction series: The Trilogy of Light. For information about writing or blog coaching, and a free 45-minute consultation contact him at: stevewatkins71@yahoo.com)

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Taking a Break from Breaking News

 

From 8 to 5 or so each day, I have the privilege to work with a tremendous group of people.

With about 30 or so employees, we are small in number, but significant in influence. The work we undertake has a positive impact on nearly 2,000 companies internationally.

As it exists, our work environment is male-dominated. Ninety percent of our staff is men, and it creates a certain culture, particularly since every individual is entrepreneurial, driven, vision focused and committed. It also just so happens that we all get along really well. It’s a great place to work.

Our shared personality traits make for a dynamic work environment where we focus corporately on the task and hand, and we also have a lot of fun.

And, on a fairly frequent basis, we have some pretty intellectual conversations.

At mid-morning yesterday, one of my bosses, an intellectual, worldly and thoughtful man, handed me a daft letter he’d composed as a letter to the editor for our local newspaper. Seems my boss had become (I’ll use the word disillusioned) with the media coverage of the Trayvon Martin case, and the inflammatory nature of its portrayal, particularly in the television broadcast arena. It pushed him to his tipping point, enough so, that he took time out of his day to communicate his utter frustration.

And for what it’s worth, I agree with him.

The news stresses us out.

Just last week I read three local newspaper accounts of a local police chief charged with sexual assault of a minor, a pastor from my hometown who had kidnapped and assaulted a minor, and another law enforcement official 10 miles down the road involved in an internal department scam. A bloodpressure spike is a great way to start the day.

How does a news junkie like me control the natural tendency to stress over the news and its impact on my local community.

Later in the morning, I had lunch with another work colleague. We often talk about our life’s journey, the challenges we face, and give encouragement to one another to keep moving forward.

As we talked about the news, he shared an interesting experience.

Years ago, he said, a study in which he was engaged suggested a weeklong “news fast.”

His study indicated that a morning dose of the daily news, with all its negativity, hype and hoopla could subconsciously get our day off to the wrong start.

It can mean the difference between being outwardly impacted, or inwardly focused.

Isn’t that interesting.

I’ve always felt a need for the news. For many years, it’s been my livelihood. The need to be informed, is crucial, I’ve thought.

Or is it?

I’m thinking about taking a break from the breaking news.

This will be interesting.

The Best Business Advice I Ever Got?

When approaching a new business venture don't bite off more than you can chew. Take things one small bite at a time.

I’ve been blessed with a diverse career in journalism, publishing, fundraising, marketing and branding and even owned a small business for a period of time.

In the process there have been some magnificent opportunities to be around some great men who were willing to impart wisdom and share their secrets to success. Oftentimes I think a certain fear wells up in us to approach an older, more seasoned veteran of the trade, but my experience has been when I am well prepared, passionate and curious for helpful knowledge some of the greatest businessmen in my area were more than willing to give me a block on their busy schedule … and it has been invaluable to me, whether I took their advice or not because lessons have been learned.

It all got me to thinking about the realm of advice I’d been given, and so I wanted to share a few tidbits of that wisdom and then offer a few personal observations. Here are the Dirty Dozen I can recall:

1. YOU’LL NEVER GET ANYWHERE WITHOUT THE SIGNIFICANT HELP OF SOMEONE ELSE. When I was going into business for myself I sought out some self-made men. Two of them (who happened to be great friends) but were never partners in business told me this identical thing. And I believe it to be true. I can think of no significant thing I’ve ever done when someone didn’t lend me a hand. And I don’t mean a staff or a personal aide. I’m talking about someone more successful that you or me who would help make a connection, or send a deal your way or buy something from you when they really didn’t need it just because. They did it for me, and I certainly hope to do it for others one day.

2. THE ONLY RULE IS THAT THERE ARE NO RULES. Well, I struggle with this one. I have a natural bent toward rule breaking and almost despise rules and doctrine. It was a great newspaper publisher who shared this with me, and in journalism, for the most part, you can get by with it. There’s a fine balance between being really good to employes and allowing them to take advantage of you. In my brief stint as an independent business owner, there were no established guidelines for vacation or time in and time out. Just do your job. Maybe that’s why it went down the tubes. On the other hand, the church I attend most regularly operates from a business model guided by a “constitution and bylaws” which I find disturbing in that particular venue. Seems to me the guidelines are already there in the best-selling book in the history of the world, but I digress.

3. DON’T BURN BRIDGES. It’s a good rule. Things always come back around. I’ve been there, done that. Sometimes, it sure feels good though. Ninety-five percent of the time, burning a bridge is wrong.

4. THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. I once worked for a man who had previously served as an agricultural liaison to President Clinton. It was a cush political job, but just because he was the President’s buddy, he carried a pretty big stick. He told me the first few times he walked into an Ag Cabinet meeting, he just sat in the back of the room, wearing a special lanyard and never said a word. They had no idea who he was or what he was doing there, but they were scared to death of him.

5. YOU CAN’T SPEND WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE. I think it’s baloney. Anyone with a vision and drive and passion can find the money for whatever they want to undertake.

6. A PART OF SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN ALL OF NOTHING. I currently work for a local company that employs only around 30 people. Three entrepreneurs founded the company and have developed strategic partnerships all over the world. With those partnerships they prove that pennies multiplied by volumes in the millions adds up to real money. Had I understood this lesson years ago, I might be wealthy myself. Oh, the humanity.

7. YOU MUST HAVE A VISION. Without a vision, the people perish, and so it is in business. And just as a vision carries you forward, you continue to see ahead. I cannot believe how fast the world is changing every single day.

8. KEEP A CLOSE INNER CIRCLE. Right on. Jesus had the 12, but He also had the three. There is no better scenario than having two or three companions with whom you can share your heart, and who will not judge you, no matter your mistakes. The freedom to be transparent is real freedom.

9. TEST & MEASURE. Almost nobody gets this. I’m amazed at how most business people spend advertising dollars having no idea of the amount of revenue that it directly generates. I’ve been blogging for about two weeks now. One of the great things about WordPress is that the ability to test and measure is at my fingertips. If you regularly analyze your hits, it’s a piece of cake. I can tell you exactly what topics will draw what number of readers and the day AND time of day when they are most likely to read my material. Generally, if my work’s not published by 8 a.m. you can forget it. My posts usually go out around 6 a.m. And this post is a test in itself. It will hit around 1 a.m. CST, so it will be interesting to see what happens this go around.

10. CONNECT. And I don’t mean as in FaceBook or Linked In. Connect with real people you can touch and with whom you can shake hands and look at the pictures on their office wall. My rule of thumb is if you don’t make a connection within the first minute of a one-on-one meeting it’s not gonna happen. This is more art than science, more innate than learned. I once coached a small restaurant owner who had previously worked in sales. She had a great story about how difficult it was to get past a gatekeeper to a potentially huge client. A little behind-the-scenes research showed her the guy liked to play cards. Each week for three weeks she sent him an Ace in a simple envelope. First the Ace of Hearts; next the Ace of Clubs; and then the Ace of Diamonds. The fourth week she cold-called the guy and the secretary gatekeeper said no way. She simply replied, “Tell him the Ace of Spades is here,” and she walked in and closed a huge deal. Beautiful.

11. ANSWER THE PHONE NO LATER THAN THE SECOND RING. Yep.

12. FALL ON THE SWORD. I’ve had countless times when I was accosted by an angry client or co-worker and just let them rant and rave as long as they want while I stay quiet. And my typical response will be, “You know, you’re right and I’m sorry.” It’s amazing how you can disarm someone with an apology whether it’s deserved or not. But who wants the hassle of a fight. Not me.