A Writer's Life/Behind the Words/Writing

What I’ve been Reading: Books on Writing Well

Posted by M. Sharon Baker
What I’ve been Reading: Books on Writing Well

Living within walking distance to a university has many benefits, including acceBooks for postss to a large library and a college bookstore.

When I went with my daughter to buy books for fall semester, I browsed the bookstore stacks and found two books on my wish list I thought were out of print: Ogilvy on Advertising and Hey Whipple, Squeeze This.

If I remember correctly,  well known copywriter Bob Bly  mentioned those two books long ago, and that’s how they landed on my radar.

Any writer working with commercial clients should pick up a copy of Luke Sullivan’s Hey Whipple – it’s full of how-to’s for coming up with and refining ideas, looking at things from a different perspective, and writing for television, radio, print and social media.

Finding it was timely for me because I recently landed an assignment writing a brochure, something I haven’t done in a while. The book has earned a place next to Roy Peter Clark’s books on my primary writing reference shelf. I’m re-reading a book from that shelf as well: Jack Hart’s Storycraft. I’m knee-deep in a developing profile article and Jack’s advice on narrative storytelling has given me many angles to consider as I pull the many pieces together.

CWU small I also added To Show and To Tell by Phillip Lopate, but it is seemingly more academic and harder to read.

Stephen King’s On Writing has made many a writer’s recommendation list so when I saw a copy at my local bookstore, I bought it.

The first part is autobiographical and the second contains pointers on writing – many I’ve heard before but not quite in the same way.

I haven’t cracked Ogilvy on Advertising yet, but I will have to soon as it, Storycraft and Hey Whipple could  soon be on my other daughter’s required reading list since she’s a comm major at Murrow.


Tell me – what have you been reading lately?





A Writer's Life/Behind the Words/Writing

What I’ve Written this year: B2B Content Marketing & Journalism

Posted by M. Sharon Baker
What I’ve Written this year: B2B Content Marketing & Journalism

Like many freelance writers, I’m extremely busy working on client projects which leaves little time for me to update my own blog. And I see I haven’t posted anything of value since February. I’m not surprised as I’ve doubled my business so far this year.

New prospects often look at my website before calling, and since I generally wait six months or more to post new samples of my work, I find it easier to create blog posts from time to time outlining what I’ve been doing to give them an idea of the types of work I do.Horizon Story Cover July 2015

This list also serves as a reminder for me to grab links and copies of my work after an appropriate time has passed as much of what I do has a certain shelf life and value to clients whether it be lead generation, website traffic generation or marketing awareness, for examples.

What follow is a list of what I’ve been doing since February of this year.

I’m looking for new business for late October through the rest of the year, so if you are looking for a writer, give me a shout.

B2B Case Study Work

After years of writing business stories for newspapers and magazines, I find I still love writing business stories, only for most clients that entails writing case studies. I write case studies for companies in many different industries.

So far this year:

  • I wrote a case study on how fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) technology is saving a school district thousands of dollars and reducing their energy needs
  • I wrote five case studies for Cloud-based ERP Sofware as a Service Provider about how companies are streamlining their accounting and financial systems
  • I wrote a case study for a Healthcare Software & Hardware Provider, which makes it easier for healthcare firms to use technology

B2B White Papers and Thought Leadership

 Many companies continue to use white papers and thought leadership articles to establish their expertise, educate customers and as lead generation pieces for their marketing automation campaigns.msft case study clip

This year, I’ve:

  • Reworked four white papers and two infographics for large software company on sales and worker productivity
  • Wrote a white paper for the same software firm on debunking cloud myths
  • Wrote a 17-page Sales Coaching whitepaper
  • Wrote an 8-page  whitepaper on self-service BI (Business Intelligence) and business analytics on how they are going beyond spreadsheets
  • I’m currently working on a research-intensive enterprise white paper comparing Cloud Database technologies

B2B Sales Materials

I’ve worked with a number of content marketing agencies and companies working in the B2B sales space this year, completing projects of different kinds. Examples of my work include:

  • 15 Sales data sheets for new services a Cloud-based Sales Platform company launched this year
  • Three Contributed Articles for a nonprofit on trade secret protection on Intellectual Property or IP based on their new white paper
  • Blog posts for a number of firms, including posts on email archiving, B2B sales practices and business intelligence
  • Two infographics on sales and business productivity

Freelance Writing Coach, Book Editing

I’m a moderator at the Freelance Writers Den where I also serve as one of several hosts for weekly Thursday podcasts. As a veteran freelancer, I answer many questions in the Den forums, and schedule podcast guests. I also help several women in sales with their book projects, serving as writing coach and editor.

Here are some of the topics we’ve covered on weekly Den Podcasts:

  • How to set writing fees
  • How to work with agencies
  • Word Press updates to add to websites
  • Work-life balance
  • Social media sites like TSU, and Instagram
  • How to surviving financially as a freelance writer
  • Basic Google Analytics
  • How to handle sales conversations
  • Traits of highly productive writers
  • Ask an Editor

I’m also serving as a writing coach and editor for a book on B2B sales, and we’ve just finished the first three chapters.

Journalism and other Articles

I miss being a full time business journalist. It’s really tough to make a decent living solely writing business features for Alaska Story Cover Spread July 2015newspapers and magazines given the low rates and third-world payment terms that many magazines – not all, thank goodness – continue to insist upon. So my list of journalism projects isn’t as long as I would like. I still like to tackle assignments from time to time. My recent work includes:

  • Second Home Buyer feature story for Alaska Airlines
  • Retirement Home story for Horizon Airlines
  • Financial column on Retirement for Alaska Airlines
  • End of the year planning for Horizon Airlines
  • Article on Engineering Discovery Days for University School of Engineering

In between times, I’ve moved to Central Washington, prepared and sent three children to college, and I’m acclimating to 100-degree desert living and days of smoke filled stagnant air due to fires burning in north central Washington and Idaho. I’m wondering how much water it will take to establish Kentucky Blue grass and choke out and replace the previous lawn of prickers now that we are connected to the local irrigation system.

My current pet project: I’m gathering strings for a profile on a high tech executive making international waves.


Tell Me: What have you been working on this year? I’d love to hear about your projects in the comments below.


Content/Content Marketing/How To/Writing

Demystifying Epic Content For B2B Marketing

Posted by M. Sharon Baker
Demystifying Epic Content For B2B Marketing

One of Tom Douglas' new restaurants is the Dahlia Workshop Biscuit Bar where fresh pastries are made from scratch every day.

Sonia Thompson authored a great article last week, which was published on Jon Morrow’s Boost Blog Traffic site.

It was called Demystifying Epic Content: How to Actually Create It (Not Just Jabber About How Important It Is)

The article was a whopping 5,200 words, but the basic outline went like this:

One of Tom Douglas' new restaurants is the Dahlia Workshop Biscuit Bar where fresh pastries are made from scratch every day.

Epic Content:
• Is valuable to the reader
• Includes specific details
• Is different and unique
• Taps into reader’s emotions
• Includes great design or visuals, or both

How to Achieve Epic Content

• Research the hell out of your subject
• Provide case studies that show people “how” to do something
• Break the rules – look for flaws in conventional thinking and find a better way
• Become a mind reader – know your customer and what they crave
• Get Naked in Public – share challenges you’ve faced or your company has conquered

Thompson did a great job of explaining the steps to create great content. Read her post if you want to learn more about what it takes to create Epic Content, a word choice stamped on content marketing’s conscious when Hubspot’s Joe Pulizzi used it to title his book, Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break Through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less.”

(Here’s an excerpt from the book Joe shared about Epic Content Marketing’s Six Principles.)

Epic Content for B2B Content Marketing

While her post pertained to blogging, I’d like to add a line item or two to the outlines for B2B Marketers.

Epic Content:

  • Motivates readers to take action beyond simply tweeting or bookmarking or Liking

Great content marketing should motivate readers to take action, such as digging deeper into your content well, forking over their email to sign up for a newsletter or white paper, or calling your company to learn more about your services or products. Bookmarking or Liking doesn’t move you a step closer to a conversation with you.

Additionally, To Achieve Epic Content in B2B Content Marketing, there are two steps that happen before you begin research:

  • Buyer persona development
  • Content marketing strategy

Epic Content isn’t a one and done. Marketers need to figure out where this content fits into their strategy and continuum of content and lead nurturing. To figure that out, you need to have a full understanding of who your buyers are, and what steps and decisions they go through as they move through the buying process.

Only with buyers in mind and a strategy in place can you begin to brainstorm what Epic Content will look like for your customers.

Where have you encountered “Epic B2B Marketing Content?” Please share your thoughts and links about who is doing great work in the comments below. Or, tell us how you are working towards producing Epic content.

Content Marketing

9 B2B Content Marketing Sins to Stop Today

Posted by M. Sharon Baker
9 B2B Content Marketing Sins to Stop Today

Content is not king if it fails to ignite any interest or engagement from your customers. If it fails, your B2B content is noise and easily forgotten.

In her new book, Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content & Strategies that Drive Results, Ardath Albee outlines 8 ways (I added one ) your content practices are making your content, and thus your company, irrelevant and ineffective. Are you committing any of the following sins?


  • A website visitor fills out a form and you instantly send the lead to sales
  • Sales immediately contacts the website visitor, who isn’t a qualified prospect
  • You send emails to people who haven’t indicated they want them
  • You create content simply to keep your company top of mind
  • Company newsletters only tout company events, achievements, products and new hires
  • Your corporate Twitter profile only tweets company-focused blog posts and offers
  • Ditto for your corporate LinkedIn profile, with no discussion about or after your post
  • The most updated part of your website is the press release page, cluttered with self-promotion
  • The webinars you hold are simply product demos

If you are a B2B Marketer committing any of these sins, stop today. Realize that your organization is company-focused, not customer-focused. In today’s competitive world, company-focused content marketing doesn’t cut it. No one likes a blowhard.

Buyer Personas, Strategy before Content Creation

To reverse course, you need to change your mindset and figure out who your best customers are at a deep level, learn how they progress through the buying cycle, and learn what motivates them. You also need to create a strategy to engage prospects, turn them into buyers, and then into advocates. Only then can you create content that delights and engages prospects, turning them into customers. While it sounds simple, it’s not easy.

Many B2B marketers commit the sins above because they simply create content skipping the buyer persona and strategy work. Yes, it’s difficult, but very necessary.

Ardaths book jacketLuckily, Ardath shows B2B marketers how it’s done. Her principles not only work for enterprise companies with complex sales but any company that wants to become customer focused. Buy the book – I’m only through the first chapter, but I will devour the rest.

If you aren’t familiar with Ardath, you might want to check out her Marketing Interactions website, which is stuffed with great content.


(Full Disclosure: I’ve worked with Ardath. But I purchased the book, and she did not solicit a review or this post.)

Tell me: What problems have you had changing the mindset at your company? Please share any tips or resources that could make it easier for others. Or, if you like this post, please share it using the buttons below.


My Latest Freelance Articles in Horizon Airlines, Other Magazines

Posted by M. Sharon Baker
My Latest Freelance Articles in Horizon Airlines, Other Magazines

In addition to writing B2B content for corporate clients, I continue to flex my journalism muscles from time to time.

Redefining Retirement photo

I wrote a fun article about what Baby Boomers are doing in their retirements for Horizon Airlines, which published in its December issue.

From moving to Mexico, to landing patents and starting a business, to becoming an artist, this story covers a lot of ground.

I posted Redefining Retirement here for you to read.



Another ArticleComfort &Value at Home

I’ve been remiss in posting a previous article I wrote for Horizon called Comfort and Value @ Home, which I’m including here as well.

The story is about how homeowners are renovating their homes for sale or to better match their lifestyle needs.

Click to Read: Comfort at Home Horizon Story.



Flying the Friendly Skies in 2015

I’m happy to report I’m writing two more articles:

  • Being Financially Fit in 2015 for Alaska Airlines
  • How homeowners are adding green items to their homes, for Horizon


My story for Seattle Business on Evluma, a fast growing Seattle firm you probably haven’t heard of, was recently published as well.

Check out Evluma Shines with Streetlight Retrofits here.