A Dalhousie story – Don’t write something you wouldn’t want your grandmother to read

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Like many newsies and feminists alike,  I have been following the story surrounding the Dentistry school at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Amidst a time of Canadian sex scandals and rape culture awareness these men chose to be sexist, misogynistic and downright rude regarding their female colleagues. From a personal standpoint, I find  their choices to be awful and am glad to see that these men have been suspended. Their wild lack of professionalism should earn them nothing less.

That being said, this post is not about the punishments awarded to these men.

I plan to discuss the fact that this group of people chose to use social media as a place to share these thoughts.

When I was a teenager, I was told, quite emphatically, never to put into writing something you wouldn’t want your grandmother to read. I cannot remember who gave me this piece of advice, but I owe them a lot of thanks. As social media has expanded it is much easier for unwanted text comments to gain public scrutiny. As I have both of my grandmothers as Facebook friends, my mother following my Facebook, Twitter as well as all the other social media accounts I manage and many other family members able to access everything I say and do online, I tend to choose my words wisely. I try not to swear too much, substituting “effing” for more crass wording and generally keeping my profile clean of overwhelming smut.

These men ignored this protocol so spectacularly it makes my head spin. What these men did can be loosely classified as “hate speech” as defined by Random House Dictionary (speech that attacks, threatens, or insults a person or group on the basis of national origin, ethnicity, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability). moreover, now they have left written proof. As we all know, Facebook owns everything we put on their site and almost nothing is ever truly deleted. These awful statements made about their once and future colleagues can and will come back to haunt them.

I have always loved the old tattoo adage, think before you ink. the same principle applies to writing. We have all made off-colour jokes in our time – most of us are smart enough not to put it in writing.

AI

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Contract Social Media – Becoming an Authoritative Voice in an Unknown Land

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Writing It’s a brave new world, my friends.

Since Nov. 8, 2014, I have been providing social media services (mostly Twitter and blog content) for Hogg Mechanical, a company  based in Kitchener, Ont. When I began this contract I wrote a post on this blog about my fear and how it kept me motivated. After two weeks of hard work and a lot of research I finally feel like I have a better idea of what I need to do to create effective content. I have received positive feedback from the company and am having a meeting to discuss a more aggressive approach to their social media campaign. I would say these are all very good signs that I am doing what is expected of me or more.

There is one hitch, though: I still know very little about HVAC as a trade.

This was the basis of my fear when I took over the social media contract; I was worried that my writing would show lack of knowledge. I was tweeting and blogging for a company with over 130 years of experience – I had to sound like I knew my stuff. Knowing this, I started researching. Over the past two weeks I have learned more about this trade than I ever expected in a lifetime. I read, I searched infographics, I went to the library, I Googled every little thing. I checked and double checked my information. It was stressful as sin but it worked. I was able to produce meaningful content with an air of familiarity that I didn’t quite yet feel.

The next thing I did was relied on my social media know-how. I know people react more to funny tweets than serious. I know a picture of a puppy in a parka will get more retweets than plain text. I know that people like bright infographics and links to interesting videos. Sifting through the junk can be a trial but it is so rewarding once you find that perfect piece of media.

I started interacting, asking questions on the twitter feed and on Facebook. I inquired what people wanted to know more about. Crowdsourcing gave me at least a month worth of blog topics.

Relying on your skills is wildly important. Research can’t be topped when it comes to the hard facts and as always, remember that social media is exactly that – social. Question your audience so you can give them what they want.

It has been a crazy couple weeks but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I am writing with passion and confidence while learning about something I never would otherwise.

I would love to hear your stories about new contract jitters! Leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter (@idlehands85) and share your experiences!

AI

Stress and Delight – the hopes and fears of starting a new contract

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Hello all,

This week has been a good one for me, freelance-wise. Due to an impressive portfolio and a glowing review I managed to land a social media contract with a local HVAC company. I was (and still am) ecstatic about the new opportunity, but I am also absolutely terrified.

See, this is the problem faced by many freelance writers…

I know nothing about the HVAC industry. I know that when I turn on my air conditioning unit my home gets colder and that when the furnace kicks in things heat up. The intricacies of the industry are still a mystery. Needless to say my last few days have been crammed with large amounts of research. I will tell you now it is a lot to take in.

I am not complaining. One of my old professors once told me that the great thing about journalism is that you get to become an authoritative voice in something new every day. It is one of the things that drew me to journalism in the first place – no two days are ever the same. Picking up this contract is no different. Yes, I will be writing about heating and cooling systems regularly but there is no way I will be able to learn everything about an industry that has been around since the industrial revolution in such a short time. I will have to learn continually, do my research and keep up with developments in the trade. I am fortunate (and odd) enough to enjoy research so that is not a big issue for me.

I started by looking at trade magazines to give me an impression of the business, but since I am helping manage the social media aspect of the company I have been using a lot of social media to learn more. I have to figure out what will be effective and what won’t, media-wise. Always learn from those who came before!

The three main resources I have been using are:

Twitter – If your contract holder is using twitter, this is one of the best places to start. Search for similar companies, equipment companies and other groups that hold stock in the industry. See what is being tweeted about, what is being retweeted and what kind of hashtags are being used regularly. Figuring out the best way to tailor your tweets will give you an automatic leg-up.

Blogs – These are a fount of information. They make great links (especially if they’re by notable names or companies that your contract holder is associated with) and can teach you more about your contract holder’s industry. Even competitor’s blogs can give you useful information – just make sure you aren’t linking competitors when you are tweeting or adding Facebook posts.

Pinterest – I was actually floored by how much this site helped me. I typed HVAC into the search bar expecting nothing more than a few infographics to pop up in the results. I was so wrong! I was greeted with links to infographics, blogs, energy companies – you name it, it was there. I am still sifting through the information and probably will be for a long time.

There is endless information out there. This contract is a great opportunity for me and damned if I am going to let something as trivial as lack of knowledge slow me down!

Don’t let it slow you down, either.

AI