Case Studies/Content/Writing

Case Study: DKA Architecture – Contributed Articles Boost Awareness For Architect Firm

Posted by M. Sharon Baker
Case Study: DKA Architecture – Contributed Articles Boost Awareness For Architect Firm


Increase Awareness of Green, Sustainable Practices; Responsible ReUse Practices

As the world began building green, Seattle’s DKA Architecture decided to launch a major branding and positioning campaign.

The 25-year old architecture firm, known largely for the work of its founder Donald King, wanted to establish its name as a leading green player but also distinguish itself from the green hype.

Marketing director and managing partner Rico Quirindongo wanted the campaign to demonstrate DKA’s “commitment to building community through responsive design – design based upon the awareness that one does not build in a vacuum, but within a set of resources, cultures, practices, and values that radiate beyond the individual project.”

Quirindongo also wanted to keep DKA’s name prominent in what was becoming a very competitive marketplace as the recession and credit crunch hit.

Overnight projects were shelved, scrapped or canceled sending the commercial construction industry into a tailspin. DKA Architecture didn’t suffer much of a dent in its business because it operates in a different sector of the marketplace: working on nonprofit, government and school projects.

But competition for those projects increased greatly as those operating in the commercial sector started bidding on government projects. The increased competition made it even harder to stand out.


Establish Expertise in Local Publications with Bylined Contributed Articles

Part of Quirindongo’s branding and positioning plan included showcasing DKA’s good works in the community with contributed articles.

Writing articles about green practices and DKA projects on a regular basis increased DKA’s visibility and established the firm as a green expert. The articles showcased the firm’s green design skills, detailrf cost savings, and showed how much care and thought around culture, values and core functions DKA considers when tackling a renovation, remodel or new construction.

As a licensed architect who also juggles several projects as well as DKA’s marketing and new business development efforts, Quirindongo was extremely busy. While he enjoys contributing articles to industry publications, he knew tackling additional writing chores as part of the branding campaign would be way down on his weekly to-do list.

Asking DKA project managers to take on the task wasn’t a viable option due to their busy schedules.

So he turned to M. Sharon Baker, a freelance writer who was helping DKA write articles for a client newsletter.

“After doing a great job on Seattle Public Schools BEX III capital projects articles, it was easy to see that Sharon was the logical choice to work with us for articles on our rebranding,” said Quirindongo.

“Sharon has an excellent writing style that communicates easily,” he said. “As a journalist, she has relationships with local and regional editors and understands what is needed to create a good story while at the same time advancing our messaging.”

Baker also know where and when to place the articles that best fit DKA’s target audience.

Quirindongo liked that he could convey information in brief phone interviews, and that Baker didn’t need a lot of hand holding and was good at guiding the process from beginning – brainstorming ideas to writing the article with minimal revisions, to gathering photos – to end, which involved working with a publication’s editors and alerting company executives when articles ran.

The resulting articles ran in Seattle’s Daily Journal of Commerce, The Puget Sound Business Journal and Northwest Construction, among other publications. The articles included:


“Sharon’s contributions were a key part of our achieving our goals for our branding and positing campaign,” Quirindongo said. “In addition, we had Sharon write two press releases as part of our 25th Anniversary campaign and pitch that news to several local newspapers and trade publications.”

DKA received many calls from past clients, partners and potential new customers every time an article or press release ran. And DKA earned ongoing recognition that Quirindongo knows further established DKA as a major player in designing, building and managing sustainable green projects.


Learn More about M. Sharon Baker’s Contributed Article and  Case Study Services  


ACRS, NAAM  Photos © DKA Architecture

Content/Content Marketing/Journalism/Marketing

Why you should hire a Corporate Storyteller or Reporter, not a “Brand Journalist”

Posted by M. Sharon Baker
Why you should hire a Corporate Storyteller or Reporter, not a “Brand Journalist”

David Meerman Scott first started talking about brand journalism back in 2009.

He urged companies to hire what he calls a “brand journalist” to help companies tell their stories and help them become content publishers. 

Last month, Scott again urged marketers or companies who struggle to write great content to hire journalists to do what he calls “brand journalism.”


I love Scott’s idea, but dislike his phrase “brand journalism.”  I’m not alone.


When it was introduced, Scott’s concept touched off a flurry of debate from journalists claiming that no internal employee would ever be about to investigate their employer and write about them objectively.

Journalists worried Scott was advocating writing “advertorials,” a concept created by advertising departments to sell ad space filled with corporate product-based copy thinly disguised as editorial content.


Those attacking the concept missed the point of Scott’s idea, partly because he uses the word “journalism” which is misleading and inappropriate.


Ditch “Brand Journalism”

I’d like to propose that Scott ditch the term “Brand Journalism” and adopt a phrase more appropriate, such as “Corporate Storytelling,” which could be performed by “Corporate Reporters” or “Corporate Storytellers.” Or perhaps he could use Corporate Content Development, Branded Content, or even Custom Content Production.

I’ll admit those names aren’t as sexy. But they are less emotionally charged, not misleading and are more appropriate.

 Here’s why:

Journalists abide by a code of ethics that demands objectivity, independence, and accountability solely for the public good.


Coupling the word “journalist” with “corporate” or “brand” is an oxymoron, and an affront to practicing journalists, as Scott has learned. (And most likely enjoyed the controversy and traffic it has produced.)

I agree what journalists can do is of great benefit for marketers and companies adding content development to their marketing toolkits.

Journalists are great storytellers, fountains of ideas, and bring outside perspective and objectivity that is different than that of a customers or competitor.

They have a different mindset that starts with the audience – or for companies, that of your customers.

They write tight, have a nose for what’s newsworthy, and understand how to write for readers. They know how to turn jargon and convoluted concepts into clear prose, and relish the challenge of rendering simplicity from the complex.

Journalists know how to write quickly, how to meet deadlines and how to juggle multiple tasks and projects. When they write, they include context – why something matters, and they write about people, not products.

It’s not Journalism

Several companies are already benefitting from hiring corporate reporters, including Eloqua, which hired Jesse Noyes, who formerly worked for the Boston Herald and Boston Business Journal; and Bob Evans, formerly of InfoWorld and now communications strategist at SAP.

Other corporate reporters or storytellers include Xilinx’s Mike Santarini, Cadence Design Systems’ Richard Goering, and more recently,  Metro’s Nick Christensen, a reporter who now reports for Portland, Oregon’s regional government instead of reporting on it.

But these folks aren’t practicing journalism, they aren’t journalists, and all three would be the first to say so. They are corporate storytellers, and corporate reporters creating content that provides insight, analysis and expertise for their audiences.


Hey David, would you consider changing your sexy term to something more appropriate? Readers, what do you think?


9 Things I learned at Marketing Prof U’s Marketing Writing Bootcamp

Posted by M. Sharon Baker
9 Things I learned at Marketing Prof U’s Marketing Writing Bootcamp

During June I attended Marketing Prof University’s Marketing Writing Bootcamp, an online conference lasting two weeks.

I decided to do this because:

  • I wanted a better handle on what problems marketers face since they are my target customer.
  • I wanted to brush up on my marketing knowledge since most of my knowledge comes from practice, observation, and one or two marketing classes in college – and that was eons ago.

Many of the points made about marketing writing were similar to what I already  know and do due to my journalism training: 

  • Keep things simple
  • Use active verbs
  • Write for your reader
  • Be very specific
  • Tell stories
  • Write great headlines and
  • Write in short, bite-sized chunks

These familiar tools are already in my writing toolkit.

Because of the varied corporate work I do writing case studies, articles, white papers, and other online and public relations content, I knew a lot about the different subjects being covered.

However, I did pick up nuggets that will make my work even better.

Here are 9 nuggets I learned from the MPU bootcamp experts:  

1)  Everyone wants to be happier, smarter, healthier, richer, safer, more secure, more attractive and more successful, and you need to include at least one in your marketing copy.  A good reminder from Bill Schley.

2) If you operate in a commodity-like service area, get yourself a dominant selling idea. Bill Schley. 

3) Get buyoff on the outline of a white paper, which speeds the time it takes to create a first draft. Get several people to look at the outline to get additional feedback.  From Stephanie Tilton.

4) When creating content, think of the frequently unasked questions and answer those. From Ann Handley.

5) Infographics are great ways to mix things up. But I haven’t had time to find any good tools.

Anne Handley gave us five tools or sites to check out, and Marketing Prof’s Veronica Maria Jarski created a cool infodoodle of Ann’s ideas, shown at left.  

The info-graphics sites are:

6) What does great content looks like? Anne Handley and others gave me a good list of companies they think are creating great content.

 I hope to check out and review some of these sites, and do another post. Here are a few: Marketo, ExactTarget, Open View Ventures, Daxko and Solany.

7) Find yourself a content buddy. Friends and colleagues can point out content ideas you miss because you are too close to a situation, concept or story. Regular conversations can spark great ideas.

I’ve actually done this with Carol Tice, my writing buddy. Simple conversations have turned in to blog post ideas for both of us. From Mark Levy.

8 ) Free writing can help you see fuzzy things clearly and helps you see options you may have missed, or content you could create, says Mark Levy.

9) Take a look at things you normally dismiss, examine them and ask “Who loves this and Why do they love it?” Your answers can reveal hidden content ideas, says Mark Levy.

I haven’t listened or read all the sessions, and I’ll share additional nuggets as I find them.

Are any of these nuggets new to you? What’s one marketing writing lesson you learned recently, or rediscovered? I’d love to hear from you.

 Infographic: Veronica Maria Jarski, Marketing Profs

Content/How To/Writing

What Should You Write About? Five Blog Post and Website Content Ideas to Explore

Posted by M. Sharon Baker
What Should You Write About?  Five Blog Post and Website Content Ideas to Explore

One of the biggest problems small businesses and solo professionals have when they start to blog is figuring out what they should write about.

The second is what they should write about after they run out of ideas from their initial list.

As a writer and a journalist, I was trained to constantly come up with ideas. (My problem is finding time to write for me rather than for clients – but that’s a good problem to have!)

I am currently blogging about small business for, a new site launched earlier this month by Lending Tree.

 As I looked over the posts I’ve written, I noticed several patterns that you can use to generate new blog post ideas of your own.

You can use these ideas to generate content for your website as well.

1) Write About Lessons Learned From a Book

I recently checked out Tim Ferriss’ book, the Four Hour Work Week. While most of his plan is a bit unrealistic for me, I did learn a few tips about time management, which I turned into a post called How to Work Less By Working Smarter.

Anything you learn from a book is good fodder for a blog post, whether it be nonfiction or fiction, related to your profession or not.

2) Steal an Idea From a Topic Discussed By a Group

Sales is not my forte, so I joined 100 for 100K, a group created by Sales Detective Lori Richardson and her partner in crime Peter Notschke of Score More Sales. My blog post called 5 Ways to Gain Trust and Grow Sales was generated from the group’s discussion of that very topic.

Think about the groups you belong to and examine what’s important and what’s being discussed. Write about what you learned or about shared observations.

3) Interview Experts to Share Their Expertise

As you connect with people, and learn about what they do, I’ll bet you are learning something new that others might be interested in too. Why not honor your new connection with a blog post that can help them establish their expertise while at the same time teaching others? Ask them what they’d like to share and then interview them.

Lori Richardson/Score More Sales

That’s what I did with Lori Richardson and Diane Bridgwater of Visual Communication for blog posts called Three Reasons Your Small Business is Failing and Are Print Marketing Materials Dead?

I have two more blog posts penciled in on my calendar, one on webinars, the other on promotional give away items based upon this idea with two more new 100 for 100k connections.

4) Review a Cool Site, Tool or Resource

A past client of mine created a cool site every retailer should know about, especially small businesses needing financial help during the recession.

ROI is a Cool Financial Resource for Retailers was a no brainer post for me to write.

Think about tools you use or sites you dig – although you may think everyone knows about them, I’ll bet half or more of your audience doesn’t. Write about a site and let people know why you like it and why they should go there.

5) Write about What You Know, Ideas Related to Your Expertise

Every small business that wants to increase their website traffic or increase their exposure to the media needs to create great content.

 The following four posts ideas were Ice Cream Cart for Sale photo by M. Sharon Bakergenerated from my own expertise and based upon the case studies and white papers I write, the content I develop for others and based upon my experience as a journalist.

Create informative posts about your industry or services you offer in a generic way.

Don’t talk about the services you offer but why something might be beneficial or how something works.

 A good example of this is the post Use Customer Stories to Grow Revenues.

This post doesn’t talk about my love of writing case stories or why you should hire me to write them.

It talks about why case studies are important, it gives you a couple of examples, and I give you the basic four-part formula to write one.


Tell Me: How do you develop new ideas for blog posts? Do you have any tips to share?

Ice Cream Cart Photo: M. Sharon Baker

Content/How To/Writing

Great Content Idea: How to Work with Me

Posted by M. Sharon Baker
Great Content Idea: How to Work with Me

Biasto Restaurant's Orange Confit by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures

Do your prospects know how to work with you?

Creating “How To Work With Me” content for your blog or website may give prospects the information they need to hire you, shortening the time it takes to hire you.

I’m creating How To Work With A Writer content for my website, and case studies that demonstrate what benefits my clients have achieved by working with me.