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5 factors that affect a content creator’s mental health
by Chantelle Sukhu One in five Canadians experiences mental health issues in any given year. This year in particular, we’ve experienced events that have not only changed our daily routines but also how we look at the world. During these challenging times, content creators are being asked to exercise a high degree of emotional intelligence while ensuring that their pieces are relevant, memorable, personalized and can perform well. This balancing act can start to take a toll on your mental well-being, especially if you’re directly impacted by the subject you’re writing about. As a collective of content practitioners, freelancers and marketers, it’s crucial that we bring awareness to the different issues that may affect our community. Now more than ever, we need to pause and acknowledge elements that may affect our mental health as writers,* either as part of the current climate or in general as part of the craft. Below, you’ll find five factors that could be signal for you to take a step back: 1. Emotional burnout You may be in a position where your role is to deliver content on heavy topics, either as a third party or as a member of the community impacted. You might start to feel drained or overwhelmed as you communicate on behalf of the people you’re representing. Psychotherapist Jelum Raval says you could be experiencing ‘burnout’ as you continually use a great amount of emotional energy to create these pieces. She asks writers to think of their emotional energy like a ‘cup.’ Every time you sit down to write, you’re ‘pouring’ from your cup. You don’t have an infinite amount of emotional energy, so it’s important that you give yourself space to process your feelings and ‘refill’ your cup before diving into writing again. Raval recommends having an emotional practice to refill your cup, like a relaxation activity, or connect with people that will act as your emotional chargers. Also, lean on your colleagues to take over a piece if you need a break or ask for an extension. 2. Sleep troubles Some of us can relate to wordsmithing in the dead of night, perhaps as a way to find peace and quiet or to meet a deadline. Others could end up in their beds on time but have trouble falling asleep as thoughts circulate their mind. Regardless of the scenario, our sleep quality and duration can affect our mood or acuteness the next day. One-off nights aren’t a cause for worry, but troubles falling or staying asleep several nights per week can start to affect your mental health or lead to insomnia. The Canadian Sleep Society recommends several helpful tips to reorganize your behaviours around sleep. From a writing perspective, try not to write directly before bedtime or plan an activity to help you relax after your writing session. If you are staying up late to write, try to practice good sleep hygiene by avoiding caffeine or using your bedroom as an office. 3. Performance anxiety Anxiety from writing is more common than you think. Did your heart race when you hit the publish button on your first online post? Were you nervous about joining a new company with distinguished writers? Do you feel worried when checking your analytics for a post? Whether you’re writing for digital, print or performance, all writing is consumed by an audience. With that knowledge, some of us may feel ‘performance anxiety’ associated with our pieces (also known as ‘social anxiety’). The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) says feelings of anxiety are very natural and can range from mild discomfort to panic. There are many strategies online to overcome performance anxiety, such as meditation, breathing exercises or making use of mindfulness apps. However, when anxiety is frequent, intense and interferes with your daily activities, it might be a sign to ask for help from your healthcare practitioner or seek therapy. 4. Isolation Writing, by nature, is a very solo activity. Even if you’re working with many contributors, the act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is still done by an individual. During the COVID-19 lockdown, feelings of isolation have been amplified. Previously, you may have squatted at your local coffee shop or huddled in your favourite meeting room with colleagues. Even as places start to open up, routines have dramatically shifted. Collaborative spaces are limited and most companies are still operating completely remote. If you’re feeling the effects of isolation or adapting to a more solo routine, check out these coping tactics CAMH has put together. Try to adjust your working environment by switching up where you write or recreating a familiar ritual like mixing your favourite signature coffee or tea before you start writing. Stay connected to your colleagues or community by sharing what you’re writing about and asking for support if you’re feeling lonely. 5. Catastrophizing We can all relate to an experience we’ve had with writing that didn’t go so well. One bad experience can lead you down a rabbit hole of self-doubt and self-criticism. Raval says that these waves of emotions are normal and healthy, and are relatable to any profession. Feedback (either from your boss, a publisher or your audience) contributes to our validation and sense of personal accomplishment, in addition to being a source of motivation. When we encounter an unfavourable event, it’s important not to catastrophize: the act of generalizing a negative experience to our self-worth (e.g., I’m the world’s worst writer). Instead, Raval invites writers to think about what they’ve learned from the situation, accept that it’s normal to want the best outcome and remind yourself why you value writing in your life. The factors above are meant to guide you in recognizing when your mental health may be suffering. It’s important to note that these factors are not mutually exclusive to writers, nor is every writer affected by them. Mental health is a broad spectrum and individuals can be affected by many different causes unrelated to their writing. Regardless of where you are in your mental health journey, remember to be kind and patient with yourself. When we nurture ourselves, we nurture our content - which means we can be of better service to our team members, customers or the community we’re passionate about helping. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please contact 911 immediately or present to your nearest emergency department. * In this article, the word “writer(s)” is used synonymously with “content creator(s)” and can encompass many job titles. About the author Chantelle Sukhu is a Communications Manager at TELUS Digital. She uses her skills in content strategy, marketing, and UX writing to transform digital content for a 100-year-old telco. Prior to working in tech, Chantelle gained experience in medical technology and public health, working at companies such as General Electric Healthcare and the Ontario College of Family Physicians. With a B.A. in Health Studies, she uses her passion for writing to drive meaningful conversations about mental health in the tech community. In her spare time, you can catch her blogging, biking or stirring up a good cocktail. To follow Chantelle: https://chantellesukhu.wixsite.com/portfolio & https://www.linkedin.com/in/chantellesukhu Photos credit: by Thought Catalog, Tim Gouw, Quin Stevenson, Kelly Sikkema, Alex Ivashenko, Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash
Writer's block? A content marketers guide
Have you ever stared at your computer screen for hours waiting for the words to just come to you? When describing the role of a content writer to friends and family, I often find that people make comments about their lack of creativity and the difficulty they face when trying to get words down on a page. Even though my job revolves around that exact task, I struggle with that every day! Over time, I’ve developed my own tool kit to rely on in those times when the words are just not flowing. In my role as a Sr. Content Specialist at Leonardo, I’m responsible for creating long-form content for hotel websites centred on a robust SEO strategy, developed by our research team. Sometimes I get to write about fancy hotels in major cities with tons of supporting information, but I am also tasked with creating engaging content about places or topics that might be less well-known, and in those times it can be hard to write those 300 SEO-friendly words for each page. Here is my list of tips that I rely on when I am tasked with turning my blank screen into dynamic and engaging web content. Just keep writing When we’re tasked with writing a long-form piece of content, it can be difficult to summon the inspiration to begin typing an intro sentence. I find that if I am in a writers-block state of mind, the only thing that can get me out of my funk is it just putting words on the page. Grab a cup of coffee and sit down at your computer and just start typing. Once you’ve gotten yourself into the zone, it will be easier to start churning out that winning content! Determine the most important information first Sometimes we are assigned with creating dynamic content that can have so many different angles and ways to describe the main point, it’s hard to know where to start. Assess what you are looking to write about, and then put yourself in the reader’s shoes. What is the first thing you’re going to want to see on this page? Make some notes about the main points of your piece at the top of the page and then start to build out the additional story around that. Get some inspiration I have been working in my role for over 2 years and still, I will be writing a new accommodations page and think to myself, “how do I even start this paragraph?” I like to draw inspiration from my previous work and see how I was able to craft a particular sentence and apply it to the new projects I’m working on. Additionally, I regularly chat with my colleagues to learn more about new content strategies they are working on or any new tools they are using to become more efficient. Give yourself a time limit When you approach a new project, it can be helpful to segment the work you will need to complete into individual time slots. For example, when approaching a new website project I give myself one hour to write and proofread each page I am writing. With that in mind, I am able to manage my time efficiently, not only by providing my team members with an accurate timeline for a project, but also by allowing myself to put all my focus on the task at hand for one full hour before moving on. Don’t overthink it! When I first started at Leonardo, I was so concerned about how the content I was writing would come across. I would read it over and over again to ensure everything was perfect. Now, having written content for dozens of websites, I’ve learned to trust myself and just keep on writing. The more we overthink each individual piece of content we create, the more we tend to nit-pick and create unnecessary issues. You’ve been hired to create exceptional content, trust the process and get it done! Creating content can be stressful, time consuming and tedious, but the feeling of publishing your written work makes it all worth it. I hope these tips help as you tackle your next big creative project! *Photo credits: Steve Johnson, Green Chameleon, Veri Ivanova and Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash
GOOD ADVICE: 8 Ways to Build Your Career Brand
Rebecca Perrin is a strategic communications professional, but more specifically a career consultant for women in growth mode. She helps women find leadership positions, earn higher incomes and become senior leaders at work. Here, she outlines a few steps to help you play to your strengths: 1. Define the real you One of the first things my clients want to talk about is how they can promote their accomplishments and unique strengths without feeling like they’re being boastful. We are Canadian, so we’re all concerned about coming across as arrogant, so it’s important to figure out how to balance promoting your accomplishments with Canadian modesty. The first step is to have a conversation partner—this can be a boss, a coworker, a partner, a friend, someone who you can sit down with and ask in earnest: “What am I best at?” and “What makes me effective in my position?” What you’re looking for is honest feedback. This can be how quickly you do your job, or your approach to copywriting or to creative problem-solving—something that you do differently. It’s important to understand your particular value, what you’re most skilled at. 2. Put pen to paper Now you’re ready to write your LinkedIn profile or an About Me or an elevator pitch about who you are at work, something that can later become a bit of a timestamp of your career brand. A lot of people make the mistake of writing their LinkedIn summary about their job, when it needs to be about what you do differently and what it’s like to work with you, what your philosophy about your job is, what you’re passionate about for the future, what you’re ambitious about. It’s not: “I did this, I did that, I’m really good at Excel.” No one cares. 3. Examine your style While you’re summarizing, make sure to include information about your approach to management. If you’re the manager of a team, outline what your management style is—whether you have a democratic approach or take full charge of your team. How do you delegate tasks? How do you celebrate the accomplishments of your team? Maybe you’re more of a mother hen than a drill sergeant. Prospective clients and/or bosses want to know this. Companies and clients want to hire contractors or employees who are going to fix the problems they have and that is often based on management style. Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash 4. Blow your own horn In terms of your career brand, get good at marketing yourself. Know what you believe in and what your key messages are. Have an idea who your ideal market is. As marketers, we know these kinds of things about our clients, we work it every day, so adapt that same marketing model and communication strategy to your own self. 5. Join the conversation Whenever people research you, they go to Instagram to see if they like you, and they go to LinkedIn to see if they trust you. Whenever people research you, they go to Instagram to see if they like you, and they go to LinkedIn to see if they trust you. I get hired to do LinkedIn channel management for CEOs. They know that it’s no longer acceptable to not be active or engaged. There are things you can say about news, innovation, leaders, things that are happening in your industry that you should weigh in on. Put your two cents in and engage with your community. Share things, spread the news and comment on things you care about. 6. Share your bigger ideas To disseminate the info, I urge people to take advantage of LinkedIn Publishing. Write an article on something you care about. Say you want to write about a special type of leadership. Try writing a small article every week about your leadership philosophy. Try that for even five weeks. People on LinkedIn will follow along. You are training this audience to understand what type of leader you are. You create an association with yourself and this style of leadership. It’s content marketing for you. LinkedIn Publishing is free, it’s got an algorithm attached to it, and the articles stay live on your profile as tools of evidence. I coach my clients to think of everything they publish on LinkedIn to be a reason for hiring you. You’re building a defence case. 7. Don’t get too personal Don’t mistake Instagram for a personal news feed. Instagram is so much more sophisticated than that now. If you’re still sharing overly personal things on Instagram, that’s very 2010 of you. Instagram is a business marketing tool, a public-facing, edited version of who you are. You need to have a public account. It’s where people look at you with a critical eye to discover something about you. If you want to publish wild antics for your friends and family to see, have a private account. But if an employer or client or potential business partner goes to research you on Instagram all they find is a private account, that sends a closed-off message. When people can’t discover more about you, that’s not your best strategy. 8. Move up in the world Sometimes an internal promotion is a classic case of needing to rebrand. All your coworkers have an idea of who you are and what you do. They think you’re the guy from the mailroom, but you’re trying to become an account manager. You have to do something to make people start thinking about you differently, to change the perception of you. It’s all tied to how you present yourself to people internally—it’s a bit of new clothes, new visual content on Instagram, topics of conversation on LinkedIn—create a PR campaign that works to promote your ideas. Sometimes an internal promotion is a classic case of needing to rebrand. All your coworkers have an idea of who you are and what you do. They think you’re the guy from the mailroom, but you’re trying to become an account manager. You have to do something to make people start thinking about you differently, to change the perception of you. It’s all tied to how you present yourself to people internally—it’s a bit of new clothes, new visual content on Instagram, topics of conversation on LinkedIn—create a PR campaign that works to promote your ideas. Learn more from Rebecca Perrin at her website: www.brandeditor.co. Main photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
6 Marketing Tips from the Top
Rachel Hilton, Managing Director of the new Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in the Junction Triangle, shares her top advice for marketers looking to stay ahead of the curve: 1. Get out of your own head Not only that, get out of your own organization and talk to other colleagues, even if they’re not in your particular field. When I worked in the theatre world [Stratford Festival], I liked talking to people who worked in broader entertainment sectors, like people who worked at Disney or other big film companies. They always had a lateral but very different perspective on things than I did. You can always learn from big business, even if you work for a non-profit and don’t always have big resources to play with. People are usually willing to offer you advice. And beyond that, they’ll start charging you. 2. Never underestimate the importance of data And how you can collect it, what you can learn from it, how you can harness it and use it to your advantage—whether that’s to spend money more wisely or spend money differently or spend no money. I’m talking specifically about data to do with your audience, and how easy it is to collect it and use it, either qualitatively or quantitatively. People look at social stats which is great or at web stats, which is also great. But what kind of data can you gather about your audience that will give you info that relates to the experience they’re having with your product? It’s one of those more qualitative measures that has nothing to do with what percentages are engaging with your post. This is often overlooked, and it’s where growth can come, or where some of the innovation or differentiation from other products can come. 3. Revisit your vision When you achieve your goals, you need to re-envision them. Always make sure you’ve got a new destination in mind. This is a good company plan and a personal career plan. It’s broadly applicable. 4. Push your limits My philosophy has been to always look for that thing that’s just beyond your grasp and stretch to it. If you want to do good work or great work, strive for things that are beyond your reach, things you have to learn more about or things that are totally new. Personal and professional growth only comes when you’re stretching to places you’ve not been before. 5. Rethink your approach I don’t think email marketing has the same effect that it once did. I think events and experiences are other ways to talk to people and break through the clutter. Younger demographics are looking for experiences that are much more curated and more personal than before. How you deliver on that is really important, other than with just social posts. Things move so quickly and there is so much online clutter right now. 6. Extend your reach Here at MOCA, we work across contemporary art forms, so even though we’re a museum that specializes in visual art, we also work with people from different mediums—dance, spoken word, performance—so we can widen the aperture on our audience and bring in new people and new followers.
Uberflip's Randy Frisch talks Fuck Content Marketing at Content Talks Toronto
Big-picture thinking drove the discussion, with Frisch summarizing the early days of Uberflip and how it landed in the place it is now, before going places we can all relate to. Here is a brief rundown of the night—and a few good words to work by. EVERYTHING IN CONTEXT “There is no point creating all the content we create if it’s not going to be used. Apparently, 70% of the content we create goes unused… You can create an amazing blog post, an amazing video, but putting it on your website doesn’t mean people are going to find it. When was the last time you went to Google and actually went to page two of the search results? “We have to put [our content] in context to the audience we’re working with. We have to line up content the way people expect to consume it, like Netflix and Spotify.” LOST IN SPACE “What’s new to someone today, may be new to someone else three months from now. You can create more content if you want to be a thought-leadership website—for some of you, that may be important, you may need that regular cadence of content. But there are other [objectives] to guide buyers through a sales call and in those cases, the most relevant content might be something you created six months ago. The problem is: That asset lives on page 6 or 16 or 72 and we expect readers to find it. And if they do find it, or we direct them to that asset, they may think: I really liked that piece of content, so they go to the next piece—but the next post may no longer be relevant… Your website may not be set up in the way that the audience wants to consume it.” IT’S THE JOURNEY “We’re starting to see personalization everywhere. There’s that expectation today… LinkedIn is a curated audience and the news that’s fed to me is also curated to my interests. I find myself going there for just five minutes, and 25 minutes later, I’m still there. We have to figure out how to emulate that experience, how to get people to land on our content and say, ‘I’m not leaving.’ “A lot of us have been trained that success is just one click. ‘I got engagement!’ But how many click on seven things at once or flow through seven different assets? To me that’s success, that’s the way we accelerate sales velocity.” SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE “Give thought to what is going to be suggested next, at the bottom of the post—what is next? The argument for dropping people into a collection of assets is that some of us are selling into large buying groups… One piece of content may not be relevant to another group. We had to create content, to arm our team with different assets, to be ready for all the different buyers. Think about all the different people weighing in, other than just the champion.” CAN I TRUST YOU? “We’ve made it necessary for someone to say Accept, and we all just click Accept, it’s just a hurdle. There’s a great opportunity to do a better job. The key is to make us more responsible for what we do with data: 1. Having the right systems in place to guard data. 2. With that data comes both great responsibility as well as great opportunity. “We just expect Google knows I want the Beer Store near me… These companies are taking the ability to track us and adding value. Are we using the data we have in a responsible way and also in a way that adds value? If you don’t use the cues that are making visits a personalized experience, [people are] very quickly going to make a mental decision whether or not to trust you.” THE CONTENT MANAGER ROLE “Where does the job of the content marketer begin and end? You need to understand the audience you’re writing for, create content and figure out what content is working—I think that’s a lot to take on in itself. “In smaller organizations, content marketers to do more. The real question is: Who should the content marketer be matrixing with to make sure the content is being used effectively? Content marketers have to think about how they’re going to play inside the activities that are driving revenue.” To see the full conversation with Randy: