Setting up email newsletter

Happy New Year! I love trying new things and here I go again. I’m trying a new way to stay in touch with people: an email newsletter. Check out the upper right area of my website and you’ll see this little green form:

Now I Have a Newsletter!

Now I Have a Newsletter!

I’m not going to send out emails every day or even every week. I have one email scheduled a month, highlighting different fun activities, books and events I’m offering to kids and families. I’ve sent out a few so far in the end of 2015 and had a nice response, including book sales and inquiries from local schools about my workshops. That’s success!

I’m looking forward to learning more about what families want to hear about from a local author, about healthy eating and encouraging their kids to read.

I use social media effectively to stay in touch with readers but an email newsletter is an easy way to reach readers when social media channels change their rules. We now that not everyone reads every social media channel and it’s better to come to your readers where they are and not wait for them to come find you. It’s also a good way to catch readers when they are not skimming through their feed for entertainment.

If you’re an author or small business looking to use email newsletters to reach your audience, feel free to get in touch with me. I’m available to work with you to set up your email newsletter, write content and schedule emails.

So sign up to get my newsletter and stay in touch!

The Secret of Social Media

The Secret of Social Media

Right now, I’m working with the U.S. part of a major corporation to plan their social media strategy for the next twelve months. We’ve identified buckets of topics to discuss, like insider info on their brand, fun contests, debatable questions and lots, and lots, and lots of photos. We’ve selected people from the various departments in the company to contribute content so it’s not all one person. But after developing all that social media content, I told the client we were only half done.

“Half?!”

My client was a bit upset.

“What more do we need??”

“You need someone that you trust to listen and reply to every comment, every retweet, every mention, every question. Social media is a party. Sometimes it’s a business party, sometimes it’s a cocktail party, sometimes it’s a Sunday afternoon football watching party. When you go to a party you don’t stand there and shout out all your thoughts. If you did that, you’d be called a jerk and never invited back. You need, as a brand, to have conversations. And that’s the secret of social media.”

“What? What is the secret?”

“Listen, and then let your customers know you heard them.”

social media secret

Good listening is hard.

Why brands and businesses are like little children

This client conversation was especially important to me right now because I am having the exact same conversation with my children. I am trying to train my children on the art of conversation and building relationships with people, including their family members. And that means when someone (like Mom) speaks to you, you acknowledge that you heard (‘Yes, Mom”) and answer the question (“Yes, Mom I was the one who unrolled all of the toilet paper. I was trying to see how much was left.”).

The secret to social media is simple. Talk to your customers the way you would -hopefully- talk to people in real life. You would listen to what they say and reply.

Many brands are not practicing good listening on social media. A recent study by Simply Measured showed that 98 of the top 100 brands on Twitter tweeting daily, but only 54% replied to messages. Like my little children, this makes it seem like they are simply not listening.

Good listening is hard. Really, really good listening is a learned technique. It involves certain body postures and skills like repeating back what you have heard someone say to validate their comments. It can also involve asking more questions instead of jumping to the conclusion that you already know the real issue. Lots of adults are not good listeners.

I’m not saying parents are the best listeners. But I am saying when you’re looking for someone to manage your social media, it’s not really about whether they understand ‘the technology.’ The secret to social media is to find a skilled listener.

Thank You Notes from Kids

thank you kids thank you notes

Good habits start early

Do you send thank you notes?

Have you ever forgotten to send a thank you note?

I volunteered at our elementary school this month helping with an assembly and the launch of a new school activity, Kids of STEEL. Kids who join this program will get to run together once a week and learn about healthy eating. It’s right up my alley.

But after the assembly ended, our PTO president and principal realized they had forgotten to unroll the giant thank you sign they had created for these kinds of events.

“There’s just so much going on,” lamented our PTO president.

So I opened my big mouth and made this suggestion: “Let the kids take over saying thanks. Have the student government put together a gratitude team, and they can write thank you notes to volunteers and guests.”

We discussed photographing the large thank you sign and creating custom thank you cards. The principal is taking the idea to the teacher who advises student government, and I am hopeful they will give it a try.

The PTO can still write notes or send emails, but I think involving the kids has so many benefits. Writing thank you notes as a kid is almost as important eating healthy and exercises. Writing thank you notes is a physical, active way to help my children develop a strong sense of gratitude. I know that feeling gratitude can go a long way toward helping a child feel happy and satisfied in whatever path they follow in life.

Gratitude and Thank You Notes

I recently finished local Pittsburgh author Britt Reints’ book An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness. Reints dedicates an entire chapter to the science of gratitude. She cites research that argues when we feel and express gratitude, we are happier. She also emphasizes that gratitude is not the same as feeling indebted, and I am working hard to help my children understand the subtle difference there.

Working with volunteers gives me many times to feel and share my gratitude. Over the past ten years, I have often found myself struggling to find ways to express my gratitude that matches the value of the gifts these volunteers have shared. I collected a list of the 100 most creative and relevant ways I’ve said thanks to volunteers and these ideas are available to you as an e-book called Thanks! 100 Ways to Appreciate Volunteers.

Should you force it?

Some families don’t have a habit of writing thank you notes. I often give my grandmother credit for building the habit for me, but really my mom was just as influential. She would often say, “Write the thank you note, or we’ll never hear the end of it from your grandmother.” I guess they had a pretty effective good cop/bad cop system going because even now I say those things to my children.

Technology offers lots of ways to say thank you now beyond the traditional handwritten note. And my family has used a variety of them, like the photo at the top of this blog. But we never abandon the thank you note completely. I do agree that the way we say thank you isn’t as important as remembering to do it in the first place. A true, heartfelt “thank you” is all we need to offer.

I have two requests for feedback here:

Do you value handwritten note more or less than other ways of showing gratitude?

What creative ways you have helped your children – or you have used yourself – to express gratitude?

Twitter and Women: The Right to Vote

Before Thanksgiving, I was excited to be a panelist at a meeting of the International Association of Business Communicators of Pittsburgh. The topic was “Applying Traditional Communication Skills to Social Media.” I do love using social media and I’m a firm believer that skilled communicators of any age can be effective on many different social media platforms.

Being a panelist was fun, but I was more excited to hear the questions from the audience. Other people’s questions spark some interesting ideas in my brain. Sometimes I blurt out those interesting ideas. And I did that at the IABC event.

A gentleman in the audience asked, “What historic events would have been different if we had social media when they happened?”

Before anyone else could answer, I said, “If we had Twitter, women would’ve gotten the right to vote a lot earlier!

Here’s why I think that.

Twitter and Women

Women and men like using social media, but trends show that women use it a bit more than men. A colorful info graphic on socialmediatoday.com states that 71% of women use social media sites. 62% of Twitter users and 58% of Facebook users are female. The ladies would totally rock the vote using these platforms, but especially Twitter.

Herland feminist utopia

Imagine if women could read this as an e-book.

I’m a historian by training and the Progressive Era was the focus of my studies. I know how hard it was for women to organize, travel and communicate back then. We’re seven years away from the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and it’s still hard for women to organize, travel and communicate. But social media makes it a lot easier for women – whether at home, at work, wherever- to share ideas with other like-minded women and to get educated. I like to think there would’ve been tweets like “Fed up with the federal gov’t! Suffrage Now! #SenecaFalls” and “The U.S. doesn’t yet include US #Suffrage.”

Twitter users tend to have higher levels of education and higher income. I’m not saying that makes them better than non-Twitter users, but I do believe it’s likely they’d have more free time and financial resources to begin the organization and advocacy for the right to vote. And women working their butts off to make ends meet wouldn’t be able to take off work for marches and sit-ins and fancy conferences, but they’d also be able to engage in the debate, send tweets to elected officials, get donations, and raise awareness through social media.

So there are a few simple reasons why I think Twitter would’ve lead to women getting the vote quicker. I also think that Twitter would’ve made it harder for suffragists to jettison African-American’s right to vote. While many women fighting for the vote back in the 1920’s argued that giving white women the vote would counteract giving black men the right to vote, 25% of Twitter users are African-American and there’s no way their equality would be undermined if Twitter was a part society back then.

So what historical events do you think would be different if social media had existed when they happened? 

 

How to Thank Volunteers

It seems very simple to thank volunteers, but as I learned today, “every ‘thank you’ is your next ask.”

I’m working on the annual report for a Pittsburgh-area non-profit and the design team is exploring the role of the annual report. Is it just to thank last year’s donors? Or can it somehow mobilize the people who read it into action?

As we prepare to thank volunteers who contributed to the non-profit during the season of giving, the holiday season, this agency is eager to encourage donors to get involved in a second season of giving during the spring when their donations and support wane.

So can we thank volunteers and encourage them to take action more than once a year? Can one little annual report really do all that?

I’m an idealist so I think it can. During the brainstorming meeting I was tossing out ideas left and right.

  • QR codes so people can scan and donate! (Shot down because QR codes are ‘out.’ Ok, so what’s in?)
  • Tear out calendar.
  • Pages that people can write on and take notes about their volunteer ideas.
  • Tear-out action cards.
  • Tear-out thank you notes so people can thank volunteers they work with.
  • Tear-out thank you cards that people can send to motivate new volunteers!
thank volunteers

Don’t Forget to Thank Volunteers

I think some of those ideas might get used. The team was interested in a lot of them. We’ll see what the budget can hold. In the meantime, if you’re looking for ways to thank volunteers, consider picking up a copy of my e-book Thanks! 100 Wonderful ways to Appreciate Volunteers. It’s the season of gratitude and maybe it’s time some volunteers in your life could use some thanks!

Three ways to thank teachers (or anyone) on National Teacher Day

Thank you note written by a child, thank teachers

Keep it simple.

Tomorrow is National Teacher Day – time to thank teachers! My oldest is in second grade and he wanted to write a real thank you note.

“But what should I say? I can’t just write thanks,” he panicked.

So I told him a thank you note is easy to write if you keep three things in mind: keep it simple, specific and special. My eight year old wrote a great thank you note following those guidelines, and you can, too.

Three keys

Simple: He didn’t use fancy words or phrases. He just used the word thanks.

Specific: He was specific about what he was thanking her for: being his teacher, teaching him things he didn’t know before second grade.

Special: What made this teacher special? Her sense of humor. He loved her funny jokes. Mentioning this special trait of hers is a great finish.

As you can see, there are small mistakes in his note and the lines aren’t perfectly straight. But no one (not even a teacher) is going to worry about those things when they are focused on the huge sentiment this letter conveys.

It’s important to me that my three children take time to thank teachers. I’ve learned that saying thank you is an important life skill, whether it’s between family and friends, a business and customers, or a non-profit and volunteers. I created Thanks! 100 Wonderful Ways to Appreciate Volunteersa guide that makes it easy to say thank you to anyone.

 

Zagat Rates Pittsburgh Food?

Zagat will be rating Pittsburgh restaurants in 2013. According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, “Currently, the only reviews for the Pittsburgh-area on Zagat.com are for chain restaurants that were taken from their recent National Chain Restaurant Survey.”

Why is Zagat so popular? I think it’s because people like to hear what others think is good, go try it themselves, and get in a big huff when they don’t agree.

People have a lot of opinions. And people have a lot of opinions about food.

A close friend of mine recently shared how he was having lunch at a popular new spot and the chef asked his group how they enjoyed a new menu item. Even though these people had no experience owning or running a restaurant, everyone felt they were qualified to give an opinion.

Restaurants are businesses that serve people and thrive on loyal customers. Want to build a loyal customer base that loves your services? Listen to the opinions of your customers, your audience. Show them you respect their input. You don’t have to promise to deliver everything they ask you for, but you have to at least give some time to listen.

That’s why I created My Food Notebook for my most important “business” – my family. I don’t run a restaurant, I’m not even that great in the kitchen, but I know how to build strong relationships! My Food Notebook lets my kids to give feedback on the food we prepare and serve. It helps me learn what they like so I can offer a variety of foods that are similar to their favorites. They get the comfort of familiarity and I help them learn how to tackle new things in life.

I’m launching My Food Notebook at Marty’s Market on December 8, 2012 at 12 Noon. All are welcome! We’ll be encouraging kids and adults to try some new foods and give their opinions. We’ll have some prizes, too!

Try it in your own life. No one like to have their opinions ignored. What might be easier in your life if you simply gave people a chance to express themselves?

 

Fiction and Non-Fiction Creative Writer

children's book author, writer, social media coachWelcome!

I’m Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan. I’m best known as a fiction and non-fiction writer for children. I’ve written for magazines like Highlights for Children, Appleseeds and Family Fun.

Recent awards:

I love working with children and I am available for school visits, classroom and community workshops.

 

In addition to my children’s writing, I also provide freelance services including:

  • Editing and e-book production
  • Creative consultation and promotion
  • Business writing and blogging
  • Social media coaching

Creative writers get ideas from many places. As a runner and triathlete, I find that a tough physical challenge is a great way to spark incredible ideas.

As a mom, I know the value of humor and patience. My own children keep me on my creative writer toes and offer endless inspiration. Need help with grumpy kids? Picky kids? Want to dance with a dinosaur? Grab a book below!

Contact me at 412.837.9499 or onesweetwriter[at]gmail.com if you need:

I’ve written for magazines for adults including Family Fun, PTOToday, and Thrive. I’ve also written for websites like SchoolFamily.com, PopCity, Kidsburgh and mom.me. I also write for and e-newsletters like Writer’s Weekly and Children’s Writer. My poetry has appeared in Leading Edge Literary Magazine.

I have my MA in American History and have been a science educator, stage performer and worked with non-profits for over 10 years. When I’m not training for an upcoming road race or triathlon, I’m exploring the world with my husband and three children. I’ve been to 31 out of 50 states and 3 continents and counting!

I tackle each writing assignment with enthusiasm and would love to apply my skills to your project.

I encourage you to review my extensive writing samplesview my testimonials, visit my Amazon.com Author Page, and visit my LinkedIn profile.

Adults like stories, too

 

The Bumpy, Grumpy Road

Take your readers on a journey!

In 2012 I published my first children’s book, The Bumpy Grumpy Road. It’s a metaphor intended to help children understand that they are in charge of their emotions, actions and reactions.

As parents bought the book for their kids, I heard more than one time “This book helps me, too.”

And when you read the story behind the creation of this book, you’ll understand why I’m not surprised. The metaphor was easy for my preschooler to understand and to remind me when I was driving down my own bumpy, grumpy road.

Adult readers don’t need fancy multisyllabic words to engage them. Adults need a strong message with a compelling storyline that gives them something useful for their daily challenges. Next time you’re writing for your co-workers, your manager, your current customers and your potential customers, make sure you’ve told a good story.

Do you have trouble focusing?

In a two-hour delay at LaGuardia, I wrote up a 400-word interview, 2 blog posts for my business and one for my personal blog. I had a little trouble focusing because I was worried about my toddler who was rushed to the hospital earlier that morning due to an asthma flare-up. But if you have trouble focusing on your writing day to day, if you struggle to find the right words, and you just don’t know how to get started, you probably need a professional writer who can focus and deliver under any circumstances. Give me a call, let me see how I can help!