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Tips for Writing Better, Faster Blog Posts

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Tips for Writing Better, Faster Blog Posts

Blogging is more than just a popular pastime, it’s becoming an increasingly important part of brand building and business development. Whether you’ve committed to a daily, weekly or monthly blog, regularly fueling its appetite with quality content can feel like a looming task on your to-do list.

So often we don’t stay consistent with publishing to a blog because we feel it’s too time consuming. Before you throw in the towel – and risk losing all the benefits of your blog – begin with these tips for writing better, faster blog posts. The easier and less time consuming this tasks becomes, the more likely you are to find a good routine and stick to it!

Let’s take a look…

Keep a running list of potential blog topics

It can be challenging when you know you need to write a blog post, but you simply don’t have any ideas come to mind. You may waste valuable minutes trying to come up with a topic that doesn’t motivate you to write and the result is a painful writing process that leaves you frustrated and drained. Overcome this hurdle by keeping a running list of potential blog topics. You never know when an idea will strike you, but it’s not likely to be during an ideal moment to sit down and write. Throw the topic into a word doc and then come back to it when you’re prepared to take on this task.

Save a folder of photos and quotes for inspiration

Inspiration comes in all shapes and forms. You don’t even need to have a particular topic in mind, but so long as a photo or quote sparks your creativity, it’s worth keeping in a folder for future use. Then, when you’re ready to write, browse through this folder and see what new ideas come to mind. I love pulling from quotes for inspiration. Most importantly, take a new spin on a quote to make the blog post original.

Start with the title and closing question

Staring at a blank word doc can be enough to signal anyone’s writer’s block. Once I open a new document, I immediately slap a headline up there and also write the closing question (you’ll see these at the end of every blog post I write). This gives me an immediate sense of productivity and also helps to set the tone of my blog.

Outline your sub headlines

Once you have a main headline, continue to outline the core pieces of your blog post with the sub headlines that shape the flow of your article. Many of my posts are lists of some sort, so I use this step to establish how long my list will be and what it will include. This helps me to visualize the full scope of the blog post and ensure I’m not missing any major components.

Leave your intro for last

You read that right. I’m suggesting you write everything else about your blog post then go back and do your introduction. This may seem backwards, but once you do it a few times you’ll see the major time-saving benefit. Once you have written all the other content within your article, you will have a better understanding of how to “preview” your main points in the introduction. Starting here cold will take you much more time to gather your thoughts, plus what you write may not even be relevant by the time you are done shaping the rest of the blog.

Write it all out, then proof read

For this particular technique of “speed writing a blog post,” you don’t want to take any more breaks than is necessary. I know I’m personally guilty of stopping after reach paragraph to proof read my work before moving it. This is a sneaky procrastination trick that we often don’t know we are doing. My rule of thumb for pumping out a quick blog post is to write everything out as it comes to mind and then switch to my editor’s hat and proof read the entire article at once. This is much better for efficiency and should also result in better overall editing.

Write several blog posts at once, when the mood is right

If you find yourself particularly inspired or with a good chunk of time to dive into writing, don’t stop with one blog post! Keep writing as many as you can. Once your writing muscle is warmed up, it’s a great opportunity to stock pile some blog posts for the future. Pay attention to when your creativity and quality of writing may start to wane and call it quits for the day. But push yourself a little further to write more than what you were planning, should you have the motivation.

Short and sweet works for everyone!

Finally and most importantly, avoid the pitfall of making writing a blog post into a far more daunting task than it needs to be. I, too, can get longwinded at times and before I know it I have wasted 2 hours on a blog post that should have only taken me 45 minutes to complete. The end result is a longer, but not necessarily better article. I actively try to get my thoughts out in a paragraph or two per sub headline. If I find I want to dig deeper into that particular topic, I note it as a potential blog post of its own in the future. Trust me, everyone will appreciate a short and sweet blog post that gets straight to the point!

Do you struggle to write quick and quality blog posts that don’t consume too much of your time? Share your challenges by commenting below and I’ll personally offer you an answer!

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Posted by on October 2, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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3 Qualities of a Great Photograph

Photography, just like any other form of art, is subjective. Individually, we each have our own preferences which can be seen in the type of photographs we take as well as the art we choose to hang on the walls in our homes.

So how can you select an image to represent your business or brand that will appeal to the majority of your target audience?

Speaking from a public relations and marketing perspective, there are three common qualities that make up a great photograph that you should keep in mind when selecting the images you use to grow your brand. Take a look!

Lighting Quality

Lighting is critical to taking a great photograph. When possible, opt for natural lighting to create a soft ambiance. Flash photography can also produce some stand out images when used correctly. After all, photography literally means “painting with light,” so learning to master your lighting is key to producing a great photograph.

For this photo, lighting is part of the object itself, making for a unique shot!

For this photo, lighting is part of the object itself, making for a unique shot!

Composition and Attention to Detail

The best photographs have an element of visual balance. Guidelines like “the rule of thirds” are helpful for knowing how to spot an image with great visual balance. Why does composition matter so much? Because it helps to create an image that is stimulating and captivating. When seeing such an image, your audience will spend more time looking at it which means a greater opportunity for them to connect with your brand. Once you know “the rules,” you can also choose to strategically break them to capture an photo that is different from what we’re used to seeing, thus making it more memorable.

This photo follows the "rules of thirds" which results in a great visual balance.

This photo follows the “rules of thirds” which results in a great visual balance.

Your Subject Makes a Statement

Finally, a great photograph does more than just capturing the image of an object or scene; it makes a statement. Some of the simplest photographs, when shot creatively, tell a story far more fascinating than a lesser-quality photograph of something far flashier. It’s really not so much what you’re photographing as it is how you photograph it. Dare to look at something from a new angle, position it in a unique way and make it something someone wants to know more about!

An image like this is great for sparking interest and getting readers to want to know more about what it represents.

An image like this is great for sparking interest and getting readers to want to know more about what it represents.

Are you a beginner to intermediate photographer? Did you find these tips helpful? Please let us know by adding a comment below!

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2016 in Photography

 

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4 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

This week’s blog is written by the newest member of Bennis Inc, Danielle Gouger. Click here to learn more about Danielle’s passion and expertise related to PR, photography and writing!


2016-05-24 20.19

4 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

As the daughter of a talented writer, I believe I may have gotten the creative writing gene from the person I admire the most, my mother. Throughout my life I have always had a way with words and the ability to let them flow onto a page naturally, as I enjoyed journaling from a young age. English was always the subject I excelled in throughout my education, however it became clear to me later in life that If I was not passionate or excited about what I was writing, I would sometimes struggle more through the process.

This past year I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime. I was given a job/mentoring offer that would allow me to merge my creative side with writing, all while learning and navigating the fascinating world of Public Relations. Here is a look at some of the lessons I have learned throughout this process and would like to share these tips in hopes they can inspire someone else to also become a better writer.

Find Your Rhythm

Finding your rhythm in writing is not always about finding your voice. In fact, I believe that the most important components to being a better writer have a lot to do with your environment. For me, I need to have a peaceful and inspirational space to be able to thrive when writing. I can write to my full potential when I have little to almost no distractions and a specific time that I can set aside just for writing. This may not be the same for everyone, so explore different environments and note that ones that help to get your creative juices flowing.

Write, Write and Then Write Some More!

Consistently writing is probably one of the most important things I have learned this year in my new position as a Public Relations assistant. There is a lot more writing involved in my position than I originally predicted, but I am always up for a challenge! Just like with any other craft or skill, they say “practice makes perfect.” I have found this to be most definitely true with writing. When you can get going on a good writing streak, don’t stop! Keep writing regularly, daily if possible, and you’re far less likely to hit a writer’s block. But if you do…

Break Through That Writer’s Block

I have found that the biggest obstacle that a writer can face is the infamous “writers block.” There are many different ways to go about trying to overcome this hurdle in the daily life of a writer. What I have found to be most helpful, if I am stuck on where to begin or where to go with my writing, is to take a step back. You won’t break through your writer’s block by sitting there and pounding your head through it. Rather a little time and space from your writing will give you a fresh mind and renewed patience to approach the task from a different angle.

Find Your Confidence

I have always been told how articulate I am, but sometimes have had a hard time believing that in myself. The more I write; the more confidence I find not only in my writing, but in myself as a person. Putting your thoughts and feelings into words for countless others to read is enough to conjure up securities in anyone! I have gained confidence by writing like I was talking to a close friend. Rather than trying to write something that will please a huge audience, I write to relate to just one or two people I know. The end result is writing that is genuine, relatable and accurately reflects my inner voice. Who wouldn’t be confident in a finished product like that?

What other tips do you have for becoming a better writer? Share your insights by commenting below so we can all improve our writing skills!

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Why a Basic Knowledge of Photography Will Improve Your Public Relations

Why a Basic Knowledge of Photography Will Improve Your Public Relations

Photography is a powerful tool that can help you convey a message or establish a brand. Specifically in the Public Relations industry, one great image can be the difference between having your press release picked up or not. Although photography won’t make up for poorly crafted content, visuals can go a long way toward making quality content that much better.

So what are the basics of what PR professionals should know about photography? Here are for instances when photography can help to improve your business’s PR strategy.

No Image No Story

Without an image, your story feels incomplete. People want to see something in addition to reading something (even if the visual is the title of the article, like we often do here). It captures a reader’s attention and stands out more than just all words. It also makes it easy for a reader to get a sense of what the story is about before reading it.

Depending upon your resources and how large a PR company you have, you can often outsource or hire a professional photographer to work on projects. There are times, however, when there is no budget to outsource or you have multiple projects and not enough employees to cover all your events. In either situation, this is when having a basic knowledge of photography skills will be a huge asset. You can dive right in and capture some great images yourself!

Even a simple, stock image can help your article to look more interesting and polished.

Even a simple, stock image can help your article to look more interesting and polished.

Stock Image Gallery

As we mentioned in the previous point, sometimes you can afford to outsource your work to a professional photographer for certain projects. And creating a stock image gallery for your PR Firm is one of the most valuable ways to utilize professional photography again and again. Quality stock images can be used on your website, social media, marketing materials, blogs, newsletters and much more. Most importantly, they are exclusively yours. No one else will have them and you won’t have to worry about copyright issues.

This stock image was shot by our own photography, Danielle. There are countless ways we can use this for future promotions and best of all, it's uniquely ours!

This stock image was shot by our own photography, Danielle. There are countless ways we can use this for future promotions and best of all, it’s uniquely ours!

Clients and Events

Often in the PR field, you will be asked to photograph important clients or events, meaning you need to have a basic understanding of photography to capture these moments with quality shots. During events, people won’t often pose for multiple photographs (or pose at all), so it’s important to capture usable images on the first try – you won’t get a second chance. It’s highly disappointing to both you and your client if you host an incredible event without a single good photo to promote your work.

This image was captured at a client's charitable volunteer event. An action shot really helps to tell a story more so than a posed shot.

This image was captured at a client’s charitable volunteer event. An action shot really helps to tell a story more so than a posed shot.

Blogging

We know that blogging is a powerful marketing and branding tool that is valuable to your business is so many ways (we’ve written about it a lot). When it comes to a great blog, you need at least one image to draw readers in and help them connect with your message. Especially when your blog is shared on social media, this visual will create a much more aesthetically pleasing post that stands out in newsfeeds. Even the most catchy title and creative description will get lost in the noise without a photo to complement the words.

Do you work in PR or use PR strategies to grow your business? If so, let us know if this was helpful by commenting below!

 
 

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How to Use Natural Lighting When Taking Photographs

How to Use Natural Lighting When Taking Photographs

Last week on the Bennis Inc blog, we wrote about why the best photographers use the manual settings on their camera. Among the benefits, was that you gain a lot more control over lighting and are better able to harness the power of natural lighting. To keep our “photography theme” going, we’re now focusing this week’s specifically on how to (and why you should) use natural lighting!

When taking a photograph, one of the most important things to consider is the quality of your lighting. For example, balanced soft light helps set the scene for a beautiful portrait. Simply put, the right lighting can turn an ordinary image into an eye-catching work of art. But you have to first have (even just a basic) understanding of how to make the most of your natural light, as this will be the most common lighting you’ll have at your disposal. Take a look at these helpful tips!

Manual Settings

Knowing how to change your settings on your camera to adapt to your surroundings can play a big part in achieving a well-exposed photograph, especially when using natural outdoor lighting. Aperture and shutter speed are the most important settings to consider when working with natural lighting. Using these manual settings is imperative so that you can chose how little or how much light to allow into your lens. When it comes to exposure, F numbers are what control your aperture. It may seem lightly counterintuitive, but the lower the number, the more light you let. For shutter speed, the faster the setting, the less light that will enter in your lens.

Direction of your subject

The next step toward using natural lighting to your advantage is to know where to place your subject in regards to the sun. When photographing a person, it’s important to not have them facing the sun for several reasons. Doing so will impact your exposure and it will also cause your subject to squint, which doesn’t help produce a great photo either! Instead of facing into the sun, use your natural outdoor lighting as your back light by placing your subject with their back against the sun. Another way to creatively use natural lighting to your advantage is to play up the sun by creating shadows. You can create flattering shadows by using shade and/or shooting a “peak-a-boo” effect by photographing behind another object such as a flower or plant.

Using Natural Lighting Indoors

Some beginner photographers might think the only way to use natural lighting is during an outdoor shoot. This is simply not true, as there are ways to take advantage of natural lighting when shooting certain subjects indoors as well. The best locations for using natural lighting indoors is in a room where you have large, open windows to work with. Once you have found your ideal spot, place your subject a few feet away from the window to take full advantage of this type of natural lighting. Another expert tip is to have your subject face directly into the window or at least turn a 45-degree angle so that the shadowing appears softer and more gradual.

Editing Process

Once you devote a lot of time and energy into capturing hundreds (if not thousands) of shots, the idea of post editing all of these images can be a daunting task. This is all the more reason to pay special attention to your lighting and to use natural lighting to your full advantage. It will save you a lot of post editing work!

You photos will still need some editing to achieve their full potential, and that’s to be expected. When shooting a photograph on an overcast day, it is almost always necessary to touch up your lighting with editing software post-shoot. Don’t be afraid of the editing process! Tweaking your lighting ever so slightly can really make a difference in the quality of your final product, making the time you put into capturing and perfecting it all worth it.

Are you a photographer who likes to use natural lighting when shooting? If so, please share your best practices by commenting below.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2016 in Photography, Technology

 

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Why the Best Photographers Use Manual Settings

Why the Best Photographers Use Manual SettingsAnyone can purchase a DSLR camera and photograph a basic picture using the auto button (or “the little green box” as some photographers call it). This doesn’t, however, ensure you’ll capture the best possible picture. Experienced photographers most always agree that you need to think outside that little green box and venture into manual settings to capture high quality images.

But what if you’re just beginning to dabble in photography? Learning about the different settings on your camera can be quite intimidating. This is all the more reason to push yourself outside the (green) box! With some time and patience, even the most amateur photographer can pick up on essential techniques for using manual settings to enhance the quality of their photographs. If you can relate to wanting to improve your photography skills, here are three reasons why you shouldn’t wait to learn how to use your manual settings!

Taking Control

Manual settings give you ultimate control. Even the top-of-the-line cameras on the market today can still produce images that are off focus or have dark shadows if left in auto mode. In fact, technology can work against you, especially if you’re trying to capture an artistic shot. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the various manual settings. After you have a basic understanding of what each setting does, this is the best way to practice. Even if you take thousands of terrible photographs to get to a half decent one, there’s no cost to learning through trial and error.

Lighting

When shooting a photograph under different lighting situations, understanding manual settings can be key to capturing a great image…or none at all. Lighting has a huge impact on your images. Too much is just as harmful as too little. If you don’t know where to begin, start with lighting. Knowing how to adapt your settings at least based on lighting can be one of the best tools you possess. As a photographer, you will not always have the benefit of choosing your setting, especially when photographing an event. Being able to manipulate the manual settings of your camera can really help save the day!

Allows you to be creative

Shooting with manual settings really allows you to be the most creative when capturing an image. Don’t be afraid of manual mode, embrace it and push yourself to create something outside of the green box. You can manipulate lighting to cast a cool shadow or focus on distant object, rather than one that is in the forefront. Sure, this may result in some awful images at first, but once you learn the ropes, it’s also likely to result in far more inspired images in the future!

What’s your opinion about using the manual settings on a camera? Do you agree or disagree with our viewpoint? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 

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How to Work From Home with a Child

Sometimes food is a necessary incentive to keep the kiddos quiet long enough to make a phone call!

Sometimes food is a necessary incentive to keep the kiddos quiet long enough to make a phone call!

Working from home can be hugely beneficial to growing your business, increasing efficiency and saving money. Where things can get tricky is if you’re not the only one at home during the workday. Yes, I’m talking about those pint-sized “coworkers” called children that can’t yet understand the difference between work time and play time.

For some parents, balancing work and childcare from home is the only way they can make it all happen. If you’re among the lucky ones who can enroll your little one in caregiver program at least 2 days a week, even if just for a 3-hour block of time, you can get a ton done in these golden hours! But what about the other days when your child is home with you like snow days, sick days or holidays? These seem to pop up during the most inconvenient times, turning what should be a simple work task or conference call into an extremely stressful balancing act.

The good news is with a little creativity and flexibility throughout your day, you can indeed find balance in this work situation. Here are some tips to make working from home with your child a success!

Create Fun Activity Kits for Your Little One

Even if you only have a few hours’ notice that your little one is going to be at home with you on a workday (i.e. a stomach bug or big snow storm), you only need a little time to put together some activity kits that will keep those tiny fingers busy (and independent of your attention) as you tackle your most important tasks

For example, bust out the play dough and give them an “assignment sheet” of the shapes or objects you want them to try to create. Create a “craft kit” with all the necessary tools and ask them to create something specific, like a birthday card for a relative. Another idea is to assemble a dress up box with fun clothing items and accessories you have lying around the house (bonus points if it’s something they haven’t seen before!). If you have multiple kids at home, create a contest for the best costume that you will judge once you’re off your call or done with your project. Don’t forget about educational DVDs! Sure, some people may try to make you feel guilty for all that “screen time,” but when you’re in a pinch and just need an hour or so of peace and quiet, you do what you have to do!

Block Off Time for Undivided Attention
Have you ever been wrapped up in an assignment, trying to concentrate, but your toddler is literally tugging on you and begging you for some attention? This is when you know it’s time to take a short break from your computer or phone and give some undivided attention to your little one. Take time to get down on their level and play with your toddler for a while. Yes, this is time you aren’t getting work done, but by investing even just 20 minutes or so into making your kid feel noticed and loved, your reward will be a content child that is happy to play independently again until you can return to him or her.

Utilize Family

To say it takes a village to raise a child couldn’t be more accurate! When you have a young family, you quickly realize the importance of trusted family and friends who live close by. If you can foresee a big project coming up at work or an assignment that will need your full attention, don’t be afraid to ask for help with your little one

A family member, neighbor or friend who is willing to take your child on a walk or simply be an extra set of hands for you in the house, if worth their weight in gold! Not only will you feel calm and at ease while getting work done, your child will also enjoy some one-on-one time with a new “friend” who will make them feel like the center of their world. Even if you don’t have family nearby, build a network of friends and fellow moms who are willing to help you out in an emergency situation. You never know until you ask! I have found people are more than happy to help out a busy mom and give her a few well-deserved moments of peace.

Do you ever have to balance work and childcare on the same days? Share your personal thoughts by commenting below!

 

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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