Make a Blog Zing by Sharing Your Humanity

Posted By on February 10, 2014

Back in 1958, according to Pew Research, 73% of Americans said they believed most of what their government told them. In 2014, only 19% do. This pervasive distrust hurts more than the politicians, It has a truly negative effect on businesses trying to sell products and services. And naturally, it hurts people who want to make a blog that attracts a following.

So what’s a business to do in the face of consumer cynicism and mistrust at “being sold?”


Channeling an Exec: How to be an Effective Ghost Blogger

Posted By on February 4, 2014

On his blog, Bill Gates lets us see who he is and what he cares most about--helping people around the world live quality lives. This photo of Bill and Melinda Gates talking with Nelson Mandela is just one example. (Unknown photographer. Published Dec. 6, 2013 on thegatesnotes. )

On his blog, Bill Gates lets us see who he is and what he cares about most–helping people around the world live quality lives. This photo of Bill and Melinda Gates talking with Nelson Mandela is just one example. (Unknown photographer. Published Dec. 6, 2013 on thegatesnotes. )

Executive blogs can be as entertaining and informative to read as Lifehacker. Honest. That’s because CEOs and other C-knighted business people have a lot to share. They know their companies inside and out, and their industry in general. Then there’s the fact that most of them are characters.

What I Learned About Content Strategy Basics from Taking a Ride on the WayBack Machine

Posted By on January 28, 2014

Way, way, way back, I coded the Internet Explorer 2.0 site and was also its editor. I always think that gives me impressive bragging rights. But to be honest, in 1996, coding consisted of mostly applying HTML bold and italic tags, and being an editor meant filling a page with a bunch of words.

Content strategy, design and UX have come a long way since then—that’s obvious if you just take a look at screenshots of the Internet Explorer site in 1998 (Courtesy of the Internet Archive WayBack Machine) and its current incarnation.

 Internet Explorer Site

                      1998                                                              2014                                     

Internet Explorer website in 1998 and today

How far we’ve come! To the left is the Internet Explorer site in 1998. To the right, the one today.


Group Photos: Don’t Make it Mass Murder

Posted By on January 21, 2014

group photo ex. using 4 people with varied height and expressions
If you’re a regular business blogger, chances are you will be assigned to write a story about a great group of people. You’ll craft your draft and then realize–whack-on-the-forehead!–there are no good group photos of these folks. What to do in a word where stellar visuals make the difference between posts that are shared and ones that aren’t? Try these group photo tips I’ve learned by trial and many errors. (more…)

Brand Management: Create a Brand Expression Guide to Avoid Brand Creep

Posted By on January 14, 2014

brand management image examples of healthy lifestyle

Brand management starts with defining what your brand is. Swedish Hospital’s Brand Expression Guide shows imagery that represents “the return to a healthy lifestyle.”

Emily and I are often called on to provide brand audits for clients. We’re amazed at how often companies who have spent big money to develop their brands fall prey over time to what we call “brand creep.” That’s when communications that started out with a consistent look, feel and message fall apart into chaos. The easy solution for good brand management is to define what your brand is–and isn’t–with a Brand Expressions Guide (sometimes called a Style Guide). (more…)

Classic Content Strategy Mistake: In Which I Share My Red Face and Moment of Shame

Posted By on January 8, 2014

scarlet letter awarded for content strategy mistake

Everybody has their moment of shame. Emily Warn shares her content strategy mistake in creating a taxonomy that ignored context.

I’ll explain my blunder, but first a little background, which I’ve generalized for client privacy.

The Assignment: Developing a Content Strategy for a Worldwide Sales Organization

The client is a sales team within a global corporation. Almost 80% of the people are deployed worldwide with the remaining 20% working at headquarters. The people in the field depend on the people at headquarters to deliver the right content at the right time. This busy sales force has no time to search for a presentation or anything else when racing off to a pitch meeting. (more…)

The Top 5 Content Stategy Round-Ups for 2013

Posted By on December 24, 2013

komodo dragon with tongue

You can’t deliver great content strategy if you try to appeal to all tastes. Review the top content strategy trends of 2013 and keep ahead of the beast. Photo copyright Cynthia Hartwig 2013.

Right about now my blogger brain is groggy from having cranked out content for the past 51 weeks (Ok, Cynthia posts more than I do). To prevent further dopiness, I’m turning to an easy topic (I thought) that all media outlets pull out this time of year–the best XXX of 2013. But I’m going meta. I’ve curated a list of the lists-—the round-up posts that proclaim the best 2013 content strategies, blogs, content marketing themes, etc.

Get out your reading glasses for top content strategy trends.

Seven Reasons to Start a Blog, All of Them Selfish

Posted By on December 19, 2013

Why you should start a blog recap

Of all the reasons to start a business blog, establishing authority is the most important.

    1. The number one reason to start a blog is that it’s in your self-interest.

A blog does great things for your reputation, your brand, and done consistently, it will increase your value in the marketplace. With almost three years of blogging under our belts, Emily and I have experienced so many benefits, we decided to give you an early Christmas present: a recap of why you should start a blog so doing that will be your number one New Year’s resolution.

Create a Blog: Two Heads are Better Than One

Posted By on December 9, 2013

Just get it down and we’ll work with it.
Maxwell Perkins

Business people in our classes don’t just want to know how to create a blog—they want to know how to blog fast. Time is short. Writing something worth reading can be a long process.

Our advice to writers is to multiply by two.

Don’t go solo. At Two Pens we believe using two heads rather than one is more efficient and effective.

two sculptural heads by Patty Warashina

Two heads are better than one in blogging. Emily Warn and Cynthia Hartwig share editing duties on the Two Pens blog because it makes our content better and more distinctive. Sculptural heads shown are by Seattle artist, Patti Warashina, from the Bellevue Art Museum retrospective of her work. Photo copyright 2013 Cynthia Hartwig; shot at BAM’s kiddie play wall of Warashina cut-outs.

When Emily finishes a first draft of a blog post, I review it and suggest edits. We go back and forth until it’s got the Two Pens’ zing. When I’m on deck, Emily does the same for me. (more…)

Why You Should Have Your Staff Blog

Posted By on December 5, 2013

One winner of 37Signals "WorkCanWait contest in which they invited people to lampoon a recent Microsoft marketing campaign. Guess which company won and why?

One winner of 37Signals “WorkCanWait contest in which they invited people to lampoon a recent Microsoft marketing campaign. Guess which company won and why?

Imagine Clark Kent ripping off his business suit and walking out of the phone booth wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a tatt on his bicep.
Hip, approachable smarties are the superheroes of social media. They work at your front desk or test software in a cubicle in the back or are out planning a company event. Put the right ones to work on your business blog and your social media presence will come to life—the life of your company’s. Here’s how one company is building its business through a home-grown blog.