Sunday, April 8, 2012

Writing in a digital world

Carol Doane addresses Vancouver Writer's Mixer. Photo: Chris Martin.
Writing for a community website is different than writing for a national website, different than blogging, obviously different from fiction writing that many of my friends do, and different from writing for a print publication.

I came out of a print background. For two decades I sold and wrote advertising copy. The messages were short, targeted, timely and compelling. Very much like social media.

As I engaged in social media, I could see that the goal of a friend’s social media message wasn't to sell me something, but it had the same components as advertising – short, compelling, timely or targeted, but more entertainment oriented.

My Facebook friends shared what they observed and experienced – and made me laugh out loud.

Work is no laughing matter
I wasn’t laughing much in my day job. Our company struggled for survival; our subscription base was eroding as well as our advertising stream. We were deteriorating. The reorganization benefits of Chapter 11 offered the life raft to start the arduous task of digging the company out of bankruptcy – which ultimately we did.

Our incremental corporate moments of success brought cheers around the office, but relief came from online. People I knew told me about places I loved and their short, pithy messages made me laugh. It rekindled friendships and coffee dates soared. That brought more online discussion, and not just on Facebook, but spilled over into Twitter, blogging, Foursquare and many other social media sites. I could go online and be entertained and expand my friendship circle.

Social media became a place to meet local people, get them off the computer and bring them into real life.

Working for a community website is just the opposite – taking real life and putting it back on the computer, making it digital.

The Tabasco of work life.
To get a foothold in the digital marketplace – you can’t be bland.

If you want to write for a community website you have to find a way to have an edge, but because it’s local it can have consequences. A story I wrote elicited a letter to be boss asking me to apologize to our corner of the state – or be fired.

I’ve shared the story I wrote with other writers and they shake their heads. They don’t get it. If you aren’t vested in the subject matter it doesn’t engage your full emotions. If the story threatens your home, your fence line, future job potential it pulls hard on your emotions. You read emotions into a story you're emotional about.

Point of view, though, is what alternative news sources need to survive. It can’t be a boring read, it can’t be like reading the minutes of the last board meeting. It has to have content with an engaging delivery.

I find that print is more about properness – proper form, proper paragraphs, while online you might break a paragraph up because of how it looks visually on the screen or how it wraps around a photo.

It's less about being perfect. It's more about discovery
What I’ve discovered in the past year in a start-up is to take everything on. Be surprised. Be willing to discover you may not have been doing it right, but you're willing to morph and move as the mystery unfolds.

And above all, be willing to learn.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Writer and website wrangler Carol Doane to appear Sat. April 7

For a couple of decades Carol Doane worked in the land of print media leading the advertising sales team of the largest newspaper in Southwest Washington.

Not content to paddle solely in the inky black of newsprint, she dove into online and has spent the last year figuring out how to help create a new voice in the local media landscape and launch a community website.

It’s been a year since the first article -- a year that has seen almost 400 posts and just as many comments, has earned the website’s video team two Telly Awards, and earned multiple mentions in the local media.

The momentum is building steam in Southwest Washington. It has virtually made a celebrity out of a forensic accountant who a mere six months after her appearance on the community website was being interviewed by National Public Radio. In addition, after being featured in one of the website's videos, a local political blogger earned a national award, and the award winning web editor Doane hired was recruited away to be the National Director of Content for the ASPCA.

All this to say the little, local, community website is making celebrities left and right – but mostly right.

Find out why Carol Doane is at work every day at 6:30 am, which article she wrote that solicited a letter to the editor demanding she apologize to all of Southwest Washington—or be fired, how she juggles a hectic media life with raising an incredible teenager, and what the future holds for the media manager.

In the middle of the muddle will also be an inspiring message to get up and write like your life depended on it. Join us, Saturday!

Cover to Cover Books
Saturday, Apr. 7, 5:00-6:30 pm (PT)
6300 NE St. James Rd. Suite 104B
Vancouver, WA 98663

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

'Journalist' receives first hate mail

I have now been called a journalist and have received my first hate mail.

One of my friends who formally worked at a newspaper and who truly has journalism training writes, "Get used to it, unfortunately."

Here is the problem, I am extremely complimented that someone thinks I'm a journalist.

The down side is that they compared me to a sports reporter -- 'sarcastic and lacking in self esteem.'

The person also suggested I get a job in marketing.

If you knew me, that last line would be funny.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How to write a resignation letter

This time last year, I was mentally preparing to walk into my boss' office and give notice.

I'd spent a good deal of time crafting what I felt was a straightforward resignation letter. What took so much time was working through all the verbiage that, momentarily, would make me feel triumphant, but would be less than professional and not reflective of my career.

I'd invested a lot in the company – probably over invested myself – so I wanted a sense of dignity to hallmark my exit.

Here's what I said:

It is with utmost appreciation that I celebrate the talent gathered here and am so grateful for the resources that have been invested in me for both professional and personal development.

I am resigning my position as Advertising Saies Manager and look forward to gathering what you need from me in the final days of my tenure ending January 14, 2011.


Carol Doane

Here's what I felt:



It's been an educational year. Not what I'd expected.