Four things Elizabeth Gilbert taught me about writing

Posted March 4th, 2014 by in

Me and Liz

Me with Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s not often you get the opportunity to meet someone you admire.

But this week I had the pleasure of meeting my one of my favourite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert.

Seven years ago I picked up a copy of Eat, Pray, Love and couldn’t put it down. Strangely, I discovered the book after returning from a 6-week trip to Europe, my first solo journey abroad. As expected, I related to the story well because I was in the right head space at the time of reading it. But I also found myself appreciating Gilbert’s talent for writing in such an eloquent yet concise manner. I feel I have learned a lot from reading her prose.

Elizabeth Gilbert signed my 7-year-old copy of Eat, Pray, Love.

Elizabeth Gilbert signed my 7-year-old copy of Eat, Pray, Love.

I went along to an event held in Melbourne which turned out be a lovely evening of music and conversation between Gilbert and her good friend Rayya Elias.

Gilbert shared some particularly insightful advice on what has influenced her writing and writing habits. Here are the key things I learned from her:


1)   
Write for one person only

While Gilbert couldn’t offer pointers on how to structure a book, such as using a specific formula or technique, she did offer an interesting piece of guidance.

“Writing for only one person, so you can engage the reader on an intimate level, is my best advice,” she said.

When you write with intentions to help or serve a large and diverse audience, it becomes a difficult task to fulfil.

Instead, write for an audience of one and you will be able to engage on the deepest level possible, advised Gilbert.


2)   
Be wildly ambitious

Gilbert said her ambition allowed her to be fearless when sharing her writing with others and when pitching her work to editors.

At the age of 18, Gilbert started sending short stories to editors at magazines and newspapers to get published.

“I was never afraid to be ambitious,” she said.

But don’t confuse ambition with being competitive, warned Gilbert.

She spoke of her ambition as her motivation, drive and eagerness to succeed but equally understood that ambition is closely aligned with challenges and requires effort.

“Learn early on that neither rejection nor failure nor criticism will kill you,” she said.


3)   
Manage your creativity

Gilbert said she commits to a single project at a time so she can give it her full creative attention.

She also believes that creativity is on offer everywhere you go.

Gilbert said a single moment or idea can offer inspiration but that it’s up to the individual to commit to it to make something of it.

Gilbert said creativity is best executed when it can be collaborated, whether that be with another person, in the form of a piece of art or, in her case, with her writing.

“Creativity and inspiration is a living force and we co-habitat with it,” she said.


4)   
Narrow your focus

Gilbert said she never doubted becoming a writer. “It (writing) was my one source of stability,” she said.

For Gilbert, the writing path has been straight and narrow, and she refers to her love for her work akin to the kind of love mothers have for their children.

In many ways, this narrow focus worked in Gilbert’s favour because she admits she was not distracted or pulled in different directions by other talents or interests.

“I’m very lucky because I’ve only ever wanted to do one thing with my life and I’ve only ever been good at one thing. I’m not interested in anything but writing and I’m not good at anything but writing.”

 

What is the most helpful thing you have learned about writing? Share it in the comment section below.

 

Twitter for journalists

Posted April 28th, 2013 by in

twitter-bird-white-on-blue

Last week I had the privilege of attending a workshop at News Ltd which focused on the effective use of Twitter for journalists.

In an earlier post, you may recall I wrote about how Twitter was the number one online tool for journalists. I still think it is. I use it every day to engage with my followers, share news and find stories.

We were fortunate to have experts from Twitter present the workshop. Twitter’s Director of Market Development Mike Brown and Twitter’s Manager of Journalism and News Mark S. Luckie shared some valuable tips on how journalists can use Twitter to build their following, improve their engagement, and effectively share information.

Here’s what they shared:

‘Tweet your beat’
When it comes to sharing information on Twitter, journalists should connect with their beat, or news rounds, to ensure information shared is relevant to followers. “Journalists are the experts in topics they cover, and should bring that same knowledge to Twitter,” says Luckie. This doesn’t mean journalists shouldn’t tweet about things that don’t fall within their beat or news rounds – but data has shown that journalists see the highest level of engagement and growth in followers after sharing tweets that relate to their core coverage areas.

Live-tweet events
Live-tweeting at events such as meetings, conferences and forums, where interesting information can be obtained and shared with your followers, is a great way to boost engagement. Journalists who post a concentrated number of tweets in a short space of time see follower growth increase by 50 per cent.

Develop a story ‘out loud’ on Twitter
Consider sharing a developing story with your followers to encourage conversation, generate sources for stories and use it as part of your newsgathering process. You don’t have to give away the ‘punch’ or sensitive information – think of it more as writing points in your notepad. It also allows you to build a readership as the story develops and create an audience who is already primed for the story.

Share your multimedia
Tweets with media (images, video etc) receive, on average, 3 to 4 times more engagement than those without media.

Use Twitter handles or @mentions
Using Twitter handles or @mentions in your tweets increases engagement and encourages follower growth. Luckie says it shows people that you are using Twitter in a native way and that it’s a great way to expand the reach of your story or information, as mentioned users could respond or retweet your tweet to their network of followers.

Twitter chat
Initiate a chat on Twitter to encourage interaction and conversation with your followers. Sometimes, these can be planned ahead if you know you are going to interview a sports star, celebrity or industry expert who can answer questions on Twitter for a specific period of time. This will give your followers access to valuable information while showing that you have expertise in a particular area. “Twitter allows you to not only promote your work but have conversations,” says Brown.

Use hashtags
Using hashtags can increase engagement almost 100% for journalists, and 50% for news organisations or brands. Hashtags not only allow you to categorise tweets or put them into context but also give you the chance to be part of the same conversation by using a common hashtag. For example, when Australians engage in a conversation about politics on Twitter the hashtag #auspol is commonly used to indicate they are part of the same discussion. “Use hashtags to have your message be part of a broader conversation,” says Brown.

Use the re-tweet button
Tweets that are re-tweeted in full using the automatic Retweet button are shared three times more than tweets that are quoted.

Share content other than your own
Twitter is not just about self-promotion. Share what you’re reading with your followers. Chances are, they’ll find it interesting too. Journalists who share content from sources outside their own organisation see higher engagement levels overall.

Know your market
Do you know when your followers are most active on Twitter? This can determine when you should be sharing information and engaging with your followers. Perhaps they check Twitter at 8am on their morning commute to work, during lunch breaks, while watching television late at night or on weekends when looking for updates on sports games.

 

 “Think about what you’re already doing on Twitter – it should help you do the work you’re already doing.” – Mark S. Luckie.

 

For further tips on how to use Twitter effectively follow @TwitterForNews or visit https://dev.twitter.com/media/newsrooms


Are you a journalist, writer or someone who works in the media that uses Twitter? Do you have any more helpful tips on how to use the social media channel more effectively?

LMFF: The Fashion Media Landscape Transformation

Posted March 22nd, 2013 by in

The Fashion Industry Forum 2 – The Fashion Media Landscape Transformation, part of the business event series at the 2013 L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Week

The Fashion Industry Forum 2 – The Fashion Media Landscape Transformation, part of the business event series at the 2013 L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival

 

A handful of Australia’s leading fashion writers and editors gathered this week to speak about how the changing media landscape has impacted on fashion journalism.

As part of the business event series at L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, the Fashion Industry Forum 2 – The Fashion Media Landscape Transformation invited the industry influencers to share their thoughts on the topic.

From highlighting the fundamental expertise and skills required to succeed in the current fashion media marketplace to the challenges they’ve faced with the introduction of digital technology, the experts shared an interesting perspective on the current state of journalism in the fashion sector.

Speakers included:

  • Damien Woolnough, currently Fashion Editor at The Australian (soon to be Deputy Editor of the new ELLE Australia)
  • Edwina McCann, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Australia
  • Janice Breen Burns, Fashion Journalist and Author
  • Melissa Hoyer, Fashion and Media Commentator
  • Kim Wilson, Executive Fashion Editor at Herald Sun
  • Rae Begley, Found and Director at Little Hero PR

Here are three things I learned about fashion media:

1. Traditional journalism will prevail

Damien Woolnough opened the conversation by saying newspapers are “no longer the monolithic voice” in the media landscape. “But there will always be room for an authoritative and respected voice in the media.”

In this changing media landscape Breen Burns is going back to her grassroots of fashion writing – quality editorials and long form journalism. With the launch of her new online publication Voxfrock she feels “getting away from the idea of the bedroom blogger” and opting for authenticity will succeed. “Traditional journalistic skills are going to be as important now as they ever were,” she said.

Hoyer still borrows skills and techniques from her old newspaper writing days and said that even though online is growing, “we still want short, sharp fixes of news today”.

While the panel said that graduates don’t have to come from a specific media course to be a journalist, they all agreed that traditional education is still important for landing work in the media.

2. Measuring audience engagement is difficult

Media, including fashion journalism, now relies on being instantaneous and interactive. But publishers and publicists are struggling to measure and interpret the value of online activity and readership.

Begley said there aren’t yet tools available to measure the value of social media and admits that is it is a challenge managing clients’ expectations when it comes to new media. “They don’t always understand the power it has,” she said.

Some clients also have the misperception that social media is the only channel that matters, adds Begley, pointing out that traditional mediums such as print, TV and radio are still among some of the strongest voices in the media landscape.

Across the board, the panel agreed that one of the biggest challenges in their business is communicating to clients what the return on investment (ROI) is on purchasing advertising space and being present on social media platforms.

Is a ‘like’ or a retweet more valuable than a page impression?

3. Journalism is not dead; it’s changing.

Hoyer said she was “sick” of hearing people speak about changes to the media industry in negative ways.

Media is exciting, she explained, because we are now working in an industry that is reacting to what our readers or consumers want.

“Media and journalism is not dead. It’s just the way we produce and consume it that has changed,” she said.

McCann agreed and noted that one of the biggest changes for publications nowadays was that they have to think carefully about what the value is for the reader – it’s not just about ticking boxes.

Editorial staff also have to be more accountable, in terms of keeping up with the latest technology and trends, added McCann.

For Vogue Australia, today’s editorial team works across the print magazine, its digital editions and the website. Journalists have become ‘multitaskers’ who know how to analyse data and produce content across a range of platforms.

Wilson said her role at Herald Sun has changed “dramatically”. Gone are the days where she could file copy purely for newspapers – now it’s all about creating stories for multiple platforms in what has become a continuous news cycle.

Although Wilson technically works part-time, she described her role as “a 24/7 job”. She’s tweeting, instagramming and checking international news feeds all before arriving at work on an average day.

But Wilson said she is excited “to be part of this new wave” even though she doesn’t know where it’s going to take her. “Having the dialogue with people that are interested in what you’re doing is fascinating,” she said.

Did you attend this Fashion Industry Forum? How have changes to the media industry impacted on the way you do journalism?

Zoe Foster talks beauty writing

Posted November 21st, 2012 by in

She’s enjoyed ten years working in the beauty industry. She’s had an outstanding magazine career and worked for publications including Cosmopolitan, Harper’s BAZAAR, primped.com.au and Mamamia. And she is an award-winning novelist.

She is Zoe Foster.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Zoe at a beauty workshop held by Revlon at Myer, Melbourne. I took the opportunity to have a chat to her about her career as a beauty journalist.

Beauty guru Zoe Foster speaking at the Revlon/Myer makeup workshop. | Photo: Sharon Green

Beauty guru Zoe Foster speaking at the Revlon/Myer makeup workshop. | Photo: Sharon Green

When Zoe first started out in her journalism career she did not know that she wanted to be a beauty writer. She studied media and communications at university and on graduating she landed her first magazine gig at kid’s title Mania, before moving on to Smash Hits. She was then approached by Mia Freedman and asked to work as a beauty editor at Cosmopolitan, which Zoe says came about in an interesting way. “The reason Mia hired me was very telling – she said ‘you don’t know anything about this [beauty] and that’s going to bring a great tone to the magazine’.”

Zoe admits that this was the best way to start out with beauty writing, by knowing nothing about it at all, because it forced her to research harder and find out more about products. From her experience working in magazines, Zoe unveiled her passion for beauty and her willingness to share that information with others.

“I started my blog Fruity Beauty back in 2005, and blogging was very primitive back then. But it seemed to me like a good way to have a one-on-one conversation with women, because you learn so much as a beauty editor. You meet so many experts in the field and you learn so much. I just didn’t find there was enough space in the magazine [to explore all of this] so I took it online. You’re learning, you’re learning, you’re learning and as you go, you change what you think about things. So you’ve got to pick and choose what you think works for you.”

For those wanting to break into beauty writing Zoe advises keeping on top of the latest beauty trends, and attending makeup workshops and events is a great way to start. She recommends speaking to makeup artists as they are an excellent resource that aspiring beauty writers have access to at a makeup/beauty counter or at a department store. “A makeup artist can teach you so much, if you just sit down and have your makeup done. There are so many things you can learn from them.”

Zoe also believes it is vital to stay abreast with what is happening in the beauty industry. “Just keep writing. And keep reading – there are so many good blogs out there that you can read. To be a good writer, you’ve got to be a good reader.”

Me with the lovely Zoe Foster. | Photo: Sharon Green

Me with the lovely Zoe Foster. | Photo: Sharon Green

Following an exciting career working in magazines, Zoe seems to have carved her niche. She’s forged her own path, made a name for herself, and is now enjoying working on independent projects. “I’m always writing. I’m writing my sixth book at the moment. I’ve always wanted to have a column and write books and I’ve finally moved that way. So beauty is something I do for fun now. I write on Fruity Beauty and just have fun with it.”

Her book Amazing Face is a bible documenting all the tips and tricks Zoe has learned as a result of working in the beauty industry. “I wanted to realign how everyone was thinking about beauty. And it’s kind of got me back to basics. But a lot of women just need to get back to basics.”

But what is it about Zoe that makes her so likeable? Her quirky writing style, bubbly personality and impressive career undoubtedly have a lot to do with it. And, perhaps, the fact that she is taking things in her stride and is, as she puts it, “just having fun with it”.

The publishing microbusiness: tips to get started

Posted August 2nd, 2012 by in

Do you have an idea for a publishing microbusiness? | Image credit: blogupnorth.wordpress.com

Last week I attended a class organised by General Assembly London on how to launch your publishing microbusiness. The session was presented by British digital producer and journalist Adam Westbrook and looked at ways journalists, writers and producers can identify opportunities in entrepreneurial journalism and online publishing. It specifically looked at the microbusiness approach – that is, starting an intentionally small business.

Westbrook describes a microbusiness as “usually consisting of one or two people, working from home or from a shared workspace, being frugal, minimising overheads, concentrating on pleasing a small but loyal customer base and, as a result, being impressively profitable”. The idea of the microbusiness is to work quickly and with flexibility. It is nimble and experimental. There are generally no investors or shareholders in a microbusiness either, meaning decisions can be made faster, giving you the ability to please your audience or customers. The biggest problem mainstream media has is that they’re too big to adopt change quickly. Because a microbusiness is intentionally small they can be far more flexible in their approach and change as the markets do.

Because audiences are now segmented, there are opportunities to reach out to smaller and more interested readers, viewers and consumers. Westbrook said when he found that talking to smaller audiences online excited him more than broadcasting through mainstream media, he knew he had to explore the microbusiness approach.

Here are the top ten tips on how to launch your publishing microbusiness, as shared by Westbrook at the General Assembly session:

 

1. Find the intersection between:
– your passion/what you love
– what you’re good at (you need aptitude)
– the market

2. Help others
Your business idea needs to be about helping people. Does it inspire people? Does it give them confidence? Does it make their lives easier? Who is it that you’re going to help?

3. Have a manifesto
Have a view, vision or way of seeing the world that inspires others. Give your tribe/following something to believe in. Have a why – why do people need your product or service?

4. Scale up, then scale back
Turn your microbusiness idea up a notch and make it more ambitious and more exciting. Do something worth noticing. Then scale it down by asking yourself: what is the simplest way of achieving this goal at its rawest level?

5. Build a loyal tribe or following
People who have experienced success with their publishing microbusiness always have something in common: a community of followers built up over a period of time. This is the tribe they speak to and share information with. This tribe has also become loyal and they trust the person they follow because they see value in them or the information they provide. However, there is no shortcut to gaining this tribe or following – you can’t buy them or trick your way into it. This is a long-term gain but once you know who your tribe is you’ll know how to market to them.

“The secret to successful online publishing is to establish a viable, loyal tribe or following,” says Westbrook.

6. Product or service?
Define whether your publishing microbusiness idea is going to be a product or service. Products, such as e-books or online magazines, are more tangible and can have its advantages because it’s separate from you as an individual. Services, such as copywriting or video production, are quick to set up and mean you can offer your skills and expertise for hire.

7. Multiple revenue streams
Have as many streams of revenue as possible so you can make your microbusiness profitable. Can you sell a product, offer a service, charge a subscription fee, gain advertising or sponsorship, provide training, and hold events? Get creative in thinking about ways you can make a living from your profession.

8. Be a boutique, not a supermarket
Do one thing, and do it well. You’re better off focusing your efforts into doing one thing well than multiple things with poor effort. This is about quality over quantity. Nobody will be interested in your product or service if it lacks energy and enthusiasm.

“Do less but do it better. Publish something amazing every month/quarter rather than something average every day,” says Westbrook.

9. Bootstrap in the beginning
In the early days of launching your microbusiness try to do things as cheaply as possible. Avoid investors and debt – as soon as you have investors, you have the obligation of answering to them instead of focusing on your own goals and the needs of your audience. Westbrook suggests investing in assets (equipment, tools) and yourself (skills, education).

10. Have faith
You don’t need to know everything about your microbusiness and how it might evolve when you start. The important thing is to get it going. The perfect time will never come along so it’s best to get the wheels in motion sooner rather than later. You’ll also need the courage and commitment. These are two key ingredients for having a successful microbusiness. Courage means you might be scared of your idea but you do it anyway. And are you willing to commit to your business even through the tough times?

 

Adam Westbrook has written extensively on entrepreneurial journalism. Here are some great pieces of advice on getting your microbusiness started:
The rise of the microbusiness and why journalists should embrace it

Meet the Micropublisher: an interview with Thom Chambers

 

Why the future of journalism is entrepreneurial

Posted April 19th, 2012 by in

The future of news is entrepreneurial, not institutional. I believe journalists must become entrepreneurs
– Jeff Jarvis, American journalist and associate professor of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

The idea that news, and journalism, is moving into the entrepreneurial space is nothing new. Since the introduction of web journalism and online news, the way in which we create and disseminate content has changed. American journalist Jeff Jarvis and many others have shared this sentiment and spoken about the shakeup of the structure of news moving away from being dominated by large corporations and making way for new and smaller startups. This is not a discussion about the fate of news and journalism but rather one that looks to the optimistic future of it and how it will be built. Today, it’s not uncommon to come across many journalists that once worked for “the institution” but have now moved on to freelance careers or started their own business based on their newsgathering and production skills.

Broadcast journalist and TV presenter Marverine Cole. | Image credit: Clive Blair Photography

British broadcast journalist and TV presenter Marverine Cole says gone are the days where journalists start at a mainstream media organisation and stay on for 20 to 30 years. She sees future journalists with a mix of experience on their CV, with long and short contracts across a range of media. “Jobs are so few and far between these days that it’s inevitable people will have to be innovative about the way they get work and not be so choosy about what they do,” she says.

“The field of broadcast journalism is so much tougher out there now, so being multi-skilled is essential. Generally you’ve got to be a chameleon. It means then that you’ve a better chance of maintaining a source of income in one area if and when a contract ends elsewhere.”

Cole enjoys the variety of work that comes with freelancing. She runs an award-winning beer blog, presents TV news programmes, produces radio documentaries, conducts PR and media training and manages her own promo video company Funf Media with her husband. “It’s a big difference from when I was in a staff post as a Grade 5 Broadcast Journalist at the BBC where I was told what to do, what not to do, and when to do it. The freedom is great and I’m earning a great deal more than a Grade 5.”

Callum Scott, an associate professor at Melbourne University and Deakin University in Australia, has been freelancing for a number of years and teaches creative entrepreneurship to media and communications students. Scott enjoys the dynamic pace of the freelance lifestyle and hunting down the work himself. “I like working as a freelancer because I’m not a team player and freelancing is wonderfully unpredictable, which keeps me on my toes.

“I was simply sick of working for people and having to play by their and the company’s rules. Freelancing affords me the luxury of never having to compromise.”

Scott believes there are many opportunities available for the entrepreneur but warns that “it’s not a game for the faint hearted”. A freelancer needs to learn to think creatively, as well as critically, he says.

Multimedia journalist Adam Westbrook. | Image credit: vimeo.com/adamwestbrook1

Adam Westbrook, a multimedia journalist, blogger and media lecturer based in London, left his mainstream media job in September 2009 to embark on a freelance career and hasn’t looked back since. Westbrook enjoys the freedom that comes with being self-employed and having the opportunity to work on multiple creative projects simultaneously. “Being self-employed I’m in total control of what work I do and who I do it with, and in control of almost every minute of my working day. If I’m not excited by a project or a story I don’t have to do it. I think a lot of people end up freelancing as a stop-gap while they look for a ‘proper’ job, but they’re overlooking an opportunity to use this freedom and control to create something remarkable doing what they love.”

While Westbrook never considered himself to be much of “a business person”, he started exploring entrepreneurship because he was excited by all the opportunities he could create.

“This is a unique time we’re in where anyone can start a web-based business for less than $100 and the audiences and communities that you can create are growing. And when you start at it, you realise that entrepreneurship and journalism can sit side-by-side: they’re both extremely creative, and at their best are about helping people.”

Almost three years into freelancing and Westbrook is not only making a decent living but also living the lifestyle he wants. But despite his own success, he warns that taking the entrepreneurial route is not for everyone. “It’s always a risk, and you have to be comfortable with uncertainty, and the fact that most ideas fail. And that’s not for everyone.

“But if you don’t think you have a business mind, that doesn’t mean you don’t have the potential to create something. Five years ago I didn’t think I had a business bone in my body. If you have an idea for a project that you can’t get out of your head, just start, and start small. You’ll learn everything you need along the way. As Chris Guillebeau says: “Failure is a real possibility. Regrets are optional”.

 

 

What are your thoughts on the future of journalism as entrepreneurial? Have you taken the plunge and gone freelance? Did you succeed? Feel free to share your story in the comments section below.

My cover story for Autumn 2012 issue of Geelong + Surf Coast Living

Posted March 23rd, 2012 by in

Geelong + Surf Coast Living cover – Autumn 2012 issue. | Image credit: Geelong + Surf Coast Living

I recently had a feature published in Geelong + Surf Coast Living. It was the cover story for their Autumn 2012 issue and, appropriately, focused on the surfing history and beach culture Torquay has become renowned for. Fittingly, the Ripcurl Pro Bells Beach annual surfing competition is due to commence in a few weeks making it the perfect time to think about life on the Surf Coast.

I wrote this piece in the middle of a cold and dark London winter, which naturally left me pining for the sun and the sea. At the time, I hadn’t seen the ocean or smelt the salty air for almost six months. Perhaps, then, it was the perfect story to come my way. The countless summers I’d spent at Torquay and surrounding beaches meant I was able to write the piece with a sense of familiarity and a mind flooded with images of weekend trips spent along the beautiful Great Ocean Road.

Preview of feature story in Geelong + Surf Coast Living – Autumn 2012 issue. | Image credit: Geelong + Surf Coast Living

I’ve always had a fascination with beach culture and a quiet admiration for surfers. And for the very first time in my life, I’ve had to come to terms with living (very far) away from the ocean. For now, I’ve traded the coast for the big city. I grew up in a town that was walking distance from the seaside and even when we moved further away, we were still only a short ten minute drive from the closest beach. So to suddenly have this element absent from my life has been a hard change to get used to.

Writing this feature, if anything, confirmed my love for the sea and allowed me to learn a thing or two about the surfing history in this part of Victoria. There’s nothing more satisfying than working on a story you’re completely engaged in and inspired by. And for me, this article gave me the rare chance to combine both. Be sure to grab your free copy of the Autumn issue of Geelong + Surf Coast Living to read my feature. Alternatively, you can view it online, here.

 

Do you have fond memories of the beach? Have you had to live away from the ocean after always having it close by? Will you be going to Bells Beach this April to watch the surfing competition?

2011 career highlights and what I’ve learned this year

Posted December 26th, 2011 by in

The road ahead: what will 2012 hold for you? (Photo: Flickr/ tiggerlover169)

Each year I like to take the time to reflect on what I have achieved and what I have learned along the way. Often we’re so busy working away at meeting our goals – and deadlines – that we rarely stop and take a few minutes to think about how far we’ve come and how much more we still need to learn. So, I’ve put together a snapshot of what I’ve achieved, mostly for myself, but also as a way to share what I’ve learned with my readers.

A Busy Year…
I must admit, 2010 left me feeling rather burnt out – I squeezed a lot into the year that saw me work full time while completing a Master’s degree (at full time study capacity). I then decided to give up my day job in marketing to devote my time entirely to journalism, the very career path I had been working towards for the past couple of years. In early 2011, I bravely took on the freelance world with no guarantee that it would work out. But fortunately, persistence, timing and a lot of hard work helped me to take the biggest steps of my career. I was commissioned by leading Australian publications including The Age, Bride magazine and Melbourne City Newspaper. I landed a contract with Fairfax Media and completed a host of reporting for their weekly newspapers distributed across Melbourne’s west. It was here that I quickly learned about the dynamic of a newsroom and was rewarded with the responsibility of filling my own masthead, the Point Cook Weekly, for several months. This role taught me a lot about creating quality content for a local audience and gave me the confidence to select and drive the editorial independently. Between juggling these various working commitments, I maintained my feature writing role with Onya Magazine and had the pleasure of attending L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival on behalf of the publication and wrote various other features that reflected Australian life.

Big Move Abroad
In late June I embarked on an overseas trip to Europe and spent two whole months visiting inspiring cities and spending quality time with some very special friends. Part of a personal ambition of mine for 2011 was to travel and take an extended period of time off work. I wanted to rest and spend a couple of months enjoying the things I love most in life: feeling the excitement of boarding a plane, eating delicious food, being exposed to new and interesting cultures. My love affair with travelling doesn’t seem to want to disappear although, I’m certain my bank account wishes it would. For me, it’s an addiction as much as a necessity. From my years of travelling I have always taken so much more from it than I ever imagined. I always learn something new, about other people and myself. Travelling has forced me to be more open minded and has allowed me to see life from a fresh perspective. These are the very qualities that I believe have indirectly helped me with my writing, both allowing me to recognise different stories and inspiring me to come up with new ideas.

My choice to settle in London for an undecided length of time has come as part of this adventure. As one of the biggest cities in the world with one of the largest media industries, I always felt that a move to Great Britain would be necessary for career progression and the chance to acquire international work experience. Arriving in the UK in the midst of its worst unemployment in 17 years has proved difficult. I spent two months unemployed and very much doubted my decision to move here. After many stressful weeks I managed to win my first commission with a UK based publication and wrote a feature for Edge magazine about the challenges faced by young leaders in the workplace. Shortly after, I was hired full time as an online journalist at International Business Times at their London office. In a little more than two months I have written about one hundred articles and have been challenged with the pressure of hourly and daily deadlines. I was also selected as a video reporter for the IBTimes online TV channel – the first time I’ve experienced working in a TV studio and writing reports for an audience that is watching, not reading. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning new skills and expanding on my journalism experience across a new media platform but I think I still have a long way to go with the video side of things. There are so many elements I never considered with creating reports to camera such as body language, tone of voice, hand gestures, presenting information required to inform a visual audience, ideas for putting video packages together to ensure it is interesting and entertaining for viewers etc. Mastering all of this will certainly be my challenge for 2012.

Building a Small Business
With the growth of my freelance journalism and copywriting business, it has prompted me to think about creative ways to market myself and my services. I’ve been freelancing consistently for two years now and have enjoyed seeing my small business flourish as I bring new skills and confidence to it. This year I’ve welcomed new clients, had private assignments commissioned to me based purely on referrals, and seen past editors return for ongoing editorial pieces. All of this has been hugely rewarding and I’d like to think that it’s the result of years of hard work. I decided that 2011 was the year to give back to my business to help it grow and to give it some exposure. I have come to realise that freelancing is not simply about me putting my writing skills to use – it demands a host of other skills including the ability to sell myself, market my services and do all the ad-hoc tasks associated with running a small business.

Earlier this year, I hired the services of digital marketing agency Assemblo to create a professional brand and logo for my business, which I have replicated across my business cards, website and other marketing collateral. In May, I launched sharonjgreen.com – a professional website showcasing my portfolio of published work and a platform through which I can blog about current topics in the media industry. Around the same time I created a Facebook page solely dedicated to my profession. It is here that I share all my published work with my readers as well as any behind the scenes photos of my work in the media. It started slowly but over the months I have managed to build a humble following of more than 120 page ‘likes’. My Twitter has continued to grow too and with more than 1,600 followers I have a consistent audience interested in engaging with me. In the past year I have recognised the value of social media in supporting my journalism and this is an area I am keen to learn more about in 2012. In early November I purchased an advertising spot in SourceBottle’s e-newsletter as a way to market my services to a network of people in the marketing and media industry – a fitting audience who may find my skills useful. I had a great response and attracted some new clients as a result.

While I haven’t had much of a marketing budget to spend on promoting my services, I’ve done my best to allocate the money to areas that I felt would work best for me. These combined tactics have all produced small gains but are the foundations of what I require for a growing business. I can now begin 2012 with an established reputation in my industry and will continue to look for new and interesting opportunities to market myself and my business in the coming year.

 

What have you achieved in 2011? Have you been proud of those achievements and what have you learned? Did you start a freelance business to put your creative skills to use and if so, have you had to think about original ways to promote yourself and your skills? I’d love to hear about your experience.

How journalists can make the most of LinkedIn

Posted October 19th, 2011 by in

Credit: www.linkedin.com

Credit: www.linkedin.com

LinkedIn operates the world’s largest online professional network with more than 120 million members worldwide, including more than 6 million members in the UK and more than 2 million members in Australia. So how can journalists, in particular, make the most of this medium to attract work, promote themselves and their services, and build their online presence?

Australian LinkedIn expert Raz Chorev | Credit: www.razchorev.com.au

Australian LinkedIn trainer and author of 8 Steps to LinkedIn Success, Raz Chorev, says LinkedIn is not only a place to display one’s CV online, but a way to connect with other professionals, keep in touch with colleagues, clients and other business associates, and keep up to date with industry trends. LinkedIn, like most tools, requires practice in order to maximise return. “The more you use it, the better results you’ll get from it – whichever results you’re after.”

Journalists can use LinkedIn to contact sources and experts directly for interviews, says Chorev. “Using Introductions, Add Connections, or InMail (premium account feature), allows you to reach anyone on the LinkedIn network. Use it to expand your reach and influence.” Journalists can also get new ideas for news articles and features by observing what other people are interested in, talking about and sharing via LinkedIn. “You’ll be amazed at the depth of information your connections will share,” notes Chorev.

Journalists can keep up to date with the industry or topic they are writing about by connecting with companies, groups and contacts in these fields. According to Chorev, your network will share stories and articles which interest them and the most popular stories will appear on your home page, as a sample from LinkedIn Today’s news aggregation service powered by your LinkedIn network.

According to Chorev, freelance journalists can increase their chances of finding work by using LinkedIn to connect with editors at relevant publications and getting to know them through this online platform. Editors will often turn to their network when working on a story or when seeking contributors across certain topics. “Jump in and put your hand up when the opportunity arises,” advises Chorev. Another way to attract work via LinkedIn is to constantly update your profile. This keeps you “front of mind” in your network and means that when opportunities present themselves, editors or clients will be more likely to hire you because they remember that you’re there.

But all of the above advice would be futile without a proper, 100% completed LinkedIn profile notes Chorev. To take full advantage of LinkedIn you need to clearly state who you are and what you do in the header, include a professional head shot, list your professional experience, ask for recommendations from your connections, add skills and specialties, write a succinct career summary and don’t forget to include your contact details in the contact details settings.

UK LinkedIn expert Michelle Beckett | Credit: www.linked2success.co.uk

According to Michelle Beckett, partner of UK marketing and social media sales company Linked2Success, journalists can find new jobs or paid work through networking on LinkedIn. When it comes to seeking work or freelance commissions, Beckett suggests using LinkedIn tools to actively network. Features such as Groups, Advanced Search, and Q&A forums can assist in putting you in touch with people in your industry. On their LinkedIn profile, journalists can also choose to display whichever skills and past expertise will portray them in the best light to seek new work, adds Beckett. “Being bold enough to connect directly with potential new employers means that journalists can take control of their careers, using LinkedIn as a powerful tool.”

Beckett shares her top 5 tips for journalists using LinkedIn:

  • Make sure your profile or “global shop window” tells the viewer succinctly about your expertise and background
  • Build a substantial WIDE network – the more 1st degree connections you have, the more individuals you will be able to find for whatever reason you need them e.g. sources, experts, new clients etc
  • Join LinkedIn Groups and become known for commenting as an expert in a particular field you may wish to focus on. For example, you may be a medical journalist with specialist knowledge on that sector – use that knowledge to position yourself as a valuable contact within that sector
  • Use Advanced Search tool to source experts for comment and to find new work. Use it to create that “wish list” of whoever you need to “shake hands” with at that particular moment in time. E.g. editors, media recruiters, companies that outsource work to journalists etc
  • Use the Network Status updates to share links to your own articles as well as other relevant articles. “This will build visibility and help you attract new work”.

For further tips, journalists should view How Journalists Use LinkedIn or join the group LinkedIn for Journalists.

 

Have you had any success using LinkedIn as a journalist? Have you secured freelance commissions, found valuable contacts and experts, or other useful information on LinkedIn to assist you in your work as a journalist?

 

Civic journalism and why it matters

Posted October 12th, 2011 by in

I attended a public lecture at City University, London yesterday to hear Heather Brooke speak about civic journalism and why we need it.

What is civic journalism?
Before we jump into the key points made at the discussion, I want to clearly define what civic journalism is. Civic journalism, at its heart, is a belief that journalism has an obligation to public life – an obligation that goes beyond just telling the news or unloading lots of facts, according to the Pew Centre for Civic Journalism. It follows the notion that journalism can help empower a community or disable it. Civic journalism provides the people with the information they need to function in a democratic society.
Democracy Place defines civic journalism as “an effort to reach out to the public more aggressively in the reporting process, to listen to how citizens frame their problems and what citizens see as solutions to those problems… and then to use that information to enrich news stories.”

Heather Brooke | Image credit: http://heatherbrooke.org

Modern media is “morally bankrupt”
Heather Brooke opened the discussion on civic journalism and why it matters with this bold statement: “journalism is suffering an identity crisis.” She’s accused the modern media of being “morally bankrupt” and having lost touch with its core function of holding the powerful to account. “The ultimate moral bankruptcy of modern journalism is it’s forgotten its core purpose of informing the public.”

Journalism is one of the most important ways to change society and challenge power, noted Brooke. But she argued that “proper” journalism has been usurped by marketing, PR, and selling products, and journalists no longer look at courts, schools, and local councils – the very things that comprise civic life. “When profit becomes the main reason for journalism, journalism loses its public purpose,” she said.

Brooke said there is a real lack of “challenging journalism” today, highlighting the lack of reporting of justice in courts, as an example. The Royal Courts used to have 25 dedicated reporters. Currently there are only 4, and 2 at the Old Bailey (Press Association). Today, journalists in court are often treated in low level disdain, said Brooke.

Brooke cited another example: The Guardian, unlike politicians, used court reports to analyse the people behind the UK riots. However, they found it extremely difficult to obtain information on people who were charged during the riots because the [court] clerks wouldn’t allow access to court records. The Guardian eventually gained access to some of the datasets via the Ministry of Justice and cross-referenced addresses of those charged with riot locations. Prior to this, the court registers had never been requested before. Does this mean that the bureaucracy prevents journalists from holding power to account? It was discovered that police incidence reports, fire inspection reports, and parliament reports are still not public. Brooke questioned: why is this case? She expressed her outrage at this and asked how the UK media, who are supposedly aggressive, could not be asking these basic questions. “Journalists are meant to be finding out where power exists and challenging them with questions.” Because of these factors, said Brooke, people don’t feel like the media represents their interests anymore.

“If you really want to be a journalist, you have to invest in fighting for the information that’s in the hands of the powerful. If the information was easy to get, everyone would have it.” –  Heather Brooke.

Brooke said the growth of new media, where everybody is now a journalist or can be a journalist, makes it hard for readers to know where to go to find a trustworthy and reliable news source. So how did we get to this state in journalism? “We treat journalism like any other business, like a widget in a factory… News is just not like that,” answered Brooke. Readers now seek out news sources that have proved reliable and have stopped going to sources that have failed on this front. Brooke also noted that professional journalists, who are needed now more than ever, can differentiate themselves through their brand and their reputation to verify news. Only then can the public turn to media they know can be trusted. As a reminder, Brooke cited the tagline of The Uptake, a citizen-fuelled online news gathering organisation: Will journalism be done by you or to you?

Where to from here?
Importantly, journalists will lead the way with change. We’re seeing shifts in the way people are thinking about power. Brooke reminds us that as journalists, we need to remember our public purpose. “Journalists will lead the way if they stay close to the people. We need to remember the public,” she said.

 

What are your thougths on the importance of civic journalism in today’s society? Do we need it now, more than ever?