Behind the Headlines With Karen Paff

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Journalists can see right through your mass emails – and they’ll ignore you if they suspect you aren’t tailoring your pitches.

Karen Paff, senior vice president at Ogilvy Public Relations, recommends doing your research and learning as much as you can about the journalists you target before you pitch them your story.

In this interview, Karen shares how thinking like a journalist will help your media relations strategy, why following up on pitches is so important and what to do before jumping into a career in public relations.

What are some key components of a successful media relations strategy?

Strategy is the key word in that question. We must be strategic in the outlets we target, in the way we target the outreach and in the timing of the outreach.

For example, is this a wire or a print story or both? Should there be a broadcast element to the strategy?

It is also important to know the difference between the best media angle for a launch versus the best media angle to sustain the momentum of that launch. Success hangs in the balance of the actual thinking behind the media relations plan.

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How does your background in journalism give you an edge in managing media relations?

A journalist pitches numerous stories to their editor on a daily basis. That skillset gives them an advantage in the PR world as they know the facts needed to develop a pitch that is compelling and newsworthy.

In addition, they have been trained to write pieces that gain mass appeal. As a communication professional, you will be drafting media pitches, key messages and all sorts of copy. In a world where content is king, this is a key asset.

They have also been trained to dissect complex issues and pull the headline from large amounts of information. When a brand hands a former journalist large volumes of content, we have a good idea about what will resonate most with audiences.

How does social media play into your media relations strategy?

The two are companions. Every media campaign should focus on a strategic mix of the two in order to drive influence, decisions and desired outcomes.

How can communication professionals increase the likelihood that a journalist will respond to their pitch? What are some of your top pitching tips?

Journalist-Relationship

Remember that journalists are people. Would you be offended if someone came to you asking for help at work but didn’t understand your job? Read what they are writing about and react to it.

Avoid selling your product in the first line. Ask yourself, “What’s at stake if the world doesn’t know about this brand or product?”

First, set up the issue with real facts. Second, establish credibility for the brand or product. Third, give them a reason to cover it immediately.

Lastly, pick up the phone. I rarely get a rude person on the other end.

What do you think are the biggest media relations mistakes communication professionals make?

In my experience, the biggest mistake is a lack of follow-up. Not many are willing to pick up the phone or even circle back on an email.

What is one of the most important lessons about PR you’ve learned throughout your career?

I think the most important lesson that I have learned is that I am a brand. Everything that I say and do in front of my clients and colleagues gives them an impression of my brand. With that said, always represent yourself well.

Do you have any advice for those looking to begin a career in PR?

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Yes, I would recommend thinking hard about the type of PR you might like before jumping into the application process.

For example, do you want to work in travel or financial services? Do you want to work at a PR agency — which means that you are likely going to be tasked with representing several brands — or are you someone who is interested in representing one brand?

If it’s the latter, an in-house PR role may be the best fit for you. Asking myself these types of questions has been a good way for me to approach the process.

Rapid Fire Round

1. My biggest pet peeve is…when the two-word phrase “a lot” is spelled “alot.”

2. My daily newspaper of choice is…the major dailies in the morning. I spend the rest of my day looking for news via Twitter

3. If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be with…my husband and children.

4. My hobbies outside of work include…reading and running. Sometimes, I like doing both at the same time thanks to audiobooks!

5. I laugh most at…work meetings. I think laughter spurs innovation.

6. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…the sound of one of my children waking up.

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Images via Pixabay: 1, 2, 3

Kitchen and Bath Remodeling More Common Than Ever in 2015

As part of National Home Remodeling Month, the following analysis focuses on the most common remodeling jobs performed in 2015. This data was collected from the National Association of Home Builder’s Remodeling Market Index (RMI) survey, which measures conditions in the remodeling market. In 2015, the top two most common remodeling jobs were bathroom remodeling (81 percent) and kitchen remodeling… Read More ›

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17 Things People Absolutely Hate About Your Website

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One of the tenets of inbound marketing is to not annoy people. So why is it that many websites are still chock full of the elements that so many visitors have bemoaned over and over?

Perhaps with the sheer excitement (or terror, depending on your personality) that comes with designing your own website, all of the user experience quirks that have driven you crazy over the years escape your mind.

But poor user experience can cause high page abandonment rates, low visitor-to-lead conversion rates, poor organic search listing positions, and a plain ol’ bad reputation. Download our free collection of brilliant website design examples here. 

So we compiled a list of the 17 most annoying things we’ve seen on websites to act as a sort of guide for what not to do when designing your website. Let’s take a look at the worst offenders!

17 Reasons Visitors Hate Your Website

 1) It takes forever to load.

Our shortening attention spans are not just making us check our phones several hundred times per day; they’re also making us really impatient when it comes to waiting for websites to load. According to a KISSmetrics report, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, and 40% abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. Even a one-second delay decreases customer satisfaction by about 16%.

Slow loading time frustrates your site visitors and affects conversion rate and brand perception — especially for mobile users, who are sometimes relying on slower cellular internet connections when browsing the web. How does slow load time impact brand perception, you might be wondering? According to an Ericsson study, the longer it takes a website to load, the more website visitors blame the content provider instead of their mobile service providers.

But if you want people to stick around your website, you’re going to have to put optimizing your site’s load performance at the top of your to-do list. Page load time can be impacted by image size, code, videos, and other factors. Learn how to monitor and improve page load time in general here, and learn more about improving the page load time of your mobile website here.

2) It isn’t optimized for mobile.

When browsing the internet on a mobile phone, have you ever been forced to scroll from side-to-side to read copy on a website? Or have you had to pinch-to-zoom because the words or buttons on a page were way too small? These are all examples of the painful UX people can have on websites that aren’t optimized for mobile. 

Google announced a major mobile algorithm update in summer 2015 that penalizes websites that aren’t mobile-friendly, and it announced it would strengthen the ranking signal from mobile-friendly websites starting on May 1, 2016.

A big part of why Google continues to make these changes is to improve the web browsing experience for mobile users. So if your site isn’t optimized for mobile devices, you’ll likely lose out significantly in the organic search rankings. Can you really afford to miss out on all that traffic and all those sales? It’s unlikely. Learn more about choosing a mobile optimization approach here.

(HubSpot customers: The HubSpot Website Platform uses responsive design, has automatic image compression, and is backed by our CDN for loading your website really quickly — so you don’t need to worry about these things.)

3) It offers poor navigation.

When someone lands on your site, do they know what to do? Where to go? What their next steps should be?

While this might seem like a no-brainer, research by Small Business Trends suggests that 80% of small B2B business websites lacked a call-to-action — as recently as 2013. They weren’t missing out on leads and sales because their CTAs were poorly written; they were missing out because they simply didn’t provide any direction on their website or ask people to click around.

Include clear headline copy, jargonless page copy that explains the value of what you do, and a clear primary call-to-action that shows visitors how to take the next steps — whether that’s subscribing to your blog, getting a free trial, watching a video, or any other action you hope visitors will perform on your site.

As for your actual navigation bar, read this blog post to learn how to nail down the perfect website navigation, including how to phrase your navigation copy, how to analyze visitor flow, and more.

4) It uses excessive pop-ups.

Excessive pop-ups that disrupt the reading experience can be seriously annoying — especially when the CTA copy is made to guilt-trip you. You know, the ones that include a button that says something like, “No thanks, I don’t want to improve my website.” Can’t they just let you live your life?

If you’re going to use pop-ups there is a right way:

  • Use them in moderation. That way, you aren’t constantly bombarding your visitors with content they may not be interested in.
  • Make them “smart.” Smart CTAs let you display a different pop-up (or no pop-up at all) to different types of visitors based on whether they’ve visited your site before, or whether they’re at a certain stage in the buying cycle. (HubSpot customers: Learn how to create a smart CTA here.)
  • Track them for effectiveness. Assess the number of views and clicks on each pop-up CTA, along with how many submissions the pop-up actually leads to. If you find it isn’t performing very well, consider editing or removing it to create a better user experience for your visitors. You can also run A/B variation tests to test out various copy and offers. (HubSpot customers: Learn how to run an A/B test on a pop-up CTA here.)
  • Use delightful copy. Far too many sites use language meant to guilt-trip visitors into taking the desired action. Don’t follow their lead. Check out the example below in the exit intent CTA Make My Persona, which uses polite language in the “no” option. 

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An alternative to pop-ups altogether? Slide-in CTAs, which are small banners that slide in from the side or bottom of the page with a call-to-action. They tend to be less obtrusive, providing users with more information while still allowing them to continue reading the piece of content. This one from Wait But Why says it all:

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5) It contains multimedia content that autoplays.

Shhhh … I wasn’t supposed to be on this site at work!

If someone’s enjoying what they thought was a silent browsing session and they’re bombarded with your theme song or a talking head on a video for which they didn’t press “play” — especially if they can’t find the button for “stop” — what do you think they’re going to do?

Some might fumble for their mute button … but I can more easily locate the back button in my browser than my computer’s volume controls. Although Facebook and Twitter now autoplay videos in our feeds, note that they’re always on mute unless users choose to unmute them.

Extend the same courtesy to your visitors by not forcing your multimedia content on them. Either let them choose when to play it, or at the very least have it start with the sound off.

6) It boasts disorienting animations.

You’re probably familiar with the blink test by now. You know, the three seconds users have to orient themselves on any given web page before they click “back” in their browser.

Animations, autoplay videos, blinking and flashing paid advertisements, and other interactive entertainment may seem really cool, but if they’re too obtrusive or disorienting, they can detract from a visitor’s focus during those critical three seconds.

Keep any animations on your website simple, like the one below from this blog post

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This is a simple animated GIF that catches the reader’s eye without being too distracting. (If you want to learn how to make animated GIFs like this one using Photoshop, here’s a simple tutorial.)

7) It’s littered with generic or cheesy stock photography.

You may already know that using images is great for your inbound marketing. So when it comes to adding images to your website, you go browsing and … find this gem:

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Hmm. Are we supposed to believe these people work at your company? And are they always that happy about work?

This is an example of a bad stock photo. Bad stock photos are generic at best, and ridiculous at worst. Images are helpful if they clarify something for a visitor, and generic stock photography doesn’t help visitors or your business. 

It’s much better to show real pictures of customers, employees, your company, your product, and your location. If you don’t have any of those, browse this list of the best free, non-cheesy stock photo websites. If you’re particularly design savvy, you can create visuals yourself that directly relate to what you do. (Download this beginner’s guide to visual content creation if you need some extra guidance.)

8) It contains a contact form, but no additional contact information.

A ‘Contact Us’ form may seem like an easy way to generate an opt-in email list, but it’s really the least valuable form of lead generation for you and your site visitors. Not only is it terribly generic, but it also doesn’t indicate whether or not the contact actually wants to receive ongoing communications from you. It’s more likely that they have a one-time problem or request that needs to be addressed.

So, let’s say they do in fact have a one-time request. There’s nothing wrong with having a “Contact Us” module on your site, but it should never be the only means of communication between you and your customers. If your visitor or customer needs help, they want it now. They don’t want to fill out a form and wait to see when, if ever, they get a response.

Let people get in touch with you via email, the phone, and social media, and make that information available on your website. (Read this blog post to learn more about how to create a great ‘Contact Us’ page.)

9) It has an unintelligible ‘About Us’ page.

Does your ‘About Us’ page explain what you do in business babble, or using the words and phrases common to the general population?

Let’s play a translation game using HubSpot’s ‘About Us’ page copy. Our ‘About Us’ page doesn’t say this, but read the copy below and think to yourself: Would you know what HubSpot did if it this was what it said?

HubSpot assists organizations across multiple countries reduce churn by backfilling the sales pipeline with highly qualified traffic that generates leads that convert into customers with high lifetime value. We achieve this through leading-edge software that integrates all marketing channels for a synergistic view of the data that determines and prioritizes the high-value marketing activities.”

Uh, what?

Instead, we chose to tell a story on our ‘About Us’ page. Here’s an excerpt from our company story:

People have transformed how they consume information, research products and services, make purchasing decisions and share their views and experiences. The customer is more in control than ever — and tunes out traditional sales and marketing messages more than ever. Yet businesses still rely on the same sales and marketing playbook they have used for more than a decade. This mismatch in buyer behavior and company tactics is what led Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah to start HubSpot in 2006 and create the vision for the inbound experience.”

Ahh, that’s better. Why? Because it’s written in a way that people actually speak. It doesn’t make your brain hurt like the first iteration did. 

Check out this post for 12 great examples of ‘About Us’ pages.

10) It doesn’t clearly explain what your company does. 

In the same vein as a bad ‘About Us’ page, it’s really frustrating to click around a company’s website and not get a clear sense of what the company actually offers.

The best webpages clearly explain who they are, what they do, and/or what you (the visitor) can do there. If you’re a well-known brand or company (i.e., Coca-Cola) you may be able to get away with not having to describe who you are and what you do. However, most businesses still need to answer these questions so that each visitor knows they are in the “right place.”

Steven Krugg sums it up best in his best-selling book, Don’t Make Me Think: If visitors can’t identify what it is you do within seconds, they won’t stick around long. Here are 15 examples of great homepage design from companies who did this particularly well.

11) It contains keyword-stuffed copy.

Remember back in the early 2000s when you went to a website and saw paragraphs and paragraphs of copy? Aside from being visually overwhelming, if you read that copy you’d find nothing more than a bunch of keywords meant for crawlers, not humans.

Unfortunately, some websites are still writing for bots, even though Google’s algorithm is far more sophisticated at determining a page’s relevancy than it was 10 years ago. Stuffing your content with keywords is one of the most common search engine optimization (SEO) mistakes marketers make. While keywords are crucial to driving SEO success, Google will penalize your website in search for keyword-stuffing.

Even more importantly, keyword-stuffed copy makes for a bad reader experience. So instead or cramming a keyword in every chance you get, read this blog post to learn the five parts of your website where you should optimize for keywords.

12) It’s missing social sharing buttons on content.

If you’re writing for humans, you probably have some really interesting content on your site — content that people want to share on social media, perhaps. That’s why it’s a huge disappointment to scroll up and down looking for a “Tweet This!” button, only to realize there aren’t any social sharing buttons on your website.

Social sharing buttons make it easy for your readers to share your content on social networks because they don’t have to manually copy and paste your URL and compose a tweet. And easy social sharing options means your content gets more visibility, which means more site traffic, better search engine rankings, and more lead generation opportunities. 

Read this blog post to learn how to create social sharing and follow buttons for the major social networks. 

13) It doesn’t have a blog.

If you don’t have a blog, you’re missing out on an opportunity to provide your visitors with a ton of valuable information. (And you’re missing out on ranking opportunities, too.)

These days, consumers are empowered to perform in-depth company research on their own before ever contacting a salesperson. If they find answers to their common questions in articles on your company’s blog, they’re much more likely to come into the sales process trusting what you have to say because you’ve helped them in the past. (This is one of the many benefits of business blogging.)

14) It employs titles and headlines that are incongruous with your content.

If you’re an avid content creator, you know how important a well-crafted title is. Great titles are what cause people to click through to read what you have written. But if they’re met with content that’s unrelated to the title you provided, you’ll disappoint visitors — and they’ll often abandon your site.

This is why click-baity headlines aren’t a very fair way to get people to your site. They take advantage of our natural curiosity. If you’re going to use that tactic, you’d better deliver content that excites as much as the title. If not, you’ll just annoy people. 

The lesson: While it’s important to capture peoples’ attention in titles, make sure it isn’t misleading and your content can actually live up to what you promised you’d deliver.

15) It displays call-to-action copy that doesn’t align with the offer.

Along the same lines, your calls-to-action should align with what visitors receive when they redeem your offer. There’s nothing more frustrating than being promised a 50% off coupon in the call-to-action copy, only to redeem it and find there’s a caveat that says you must first spend $1,000. On select items. In-store purchases only.

This is not only insulting to your visitors, but it will also hurt your reputation — not to mention your conversion rates.

16) It contains internal linking that isn’t user-friendly.

When done correctly, internal links are helpful for readers and website alike. They point readers to other relevant information, and help you improve the organic ranking for important pages on your own website. But some websites seem to have trouble executing internal linking correctly, pointing users to irrelevant pages, linking strange phrases within the copy, and overdoing it to the point of making content unreadable.

Include internal links only to relevant pages on your website that will enhance a reader’s experience, and include that link on the anchor text that makes the most sense. 

(Pro Tip: Be sure to have all links open into a new tab in your browser, not the same window. Visitors may not be done reading the content on this page, and you don’t want to navigate them away while they’re still reading!)

17) It displays image sliders that take forever to load.

Image sliders, also known as image carousels, serve as a way to showcase multiple images in a space-efficient manner. But you have to be careful with these because there’s a right way and a wrong way to use them.

The right way: Your slider loads images quickly and doesn’t require a new page to load every time a user clicks.

The wrong way: Every time you click the arrow for the next image, your page loads an entirely new web page. This can increase page load time by several seconds as the entire webpage reloads.

Remember: The longer it takes a webpage to load, the more people will abandon it. So make sure yours loads quickly and doesn’t require a reload. You’ll also want to accompany the visual elements with written copy above or below the slider. Many readers are scanners and wont’ invest the time to click through every image in the slider.

(HubSpot customers: Read this post to learn how to include an image slider on a page using HubSpot.)

What website components drive you nuts? Share them in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

50 examples of beautiful website design

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Sun News Names Stephanie Pedersen Executive Editor

The Sun News

The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has named Stephanie Pedersen executive editor. Pedersen comes to the paper from the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus and is replacing Carolyn Callison Murray, who retired last October.

For news in and around Myrtle Beach, follow The Sun News on Twitter.

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Multifamily Spending Continues Record Breaking Pace

March multifamily residential construction spending had significant gains from one year ago. NAHB analysis of Census Construction Spending data shows that total private residential construction spending for March increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $435.5 billion, up by 1.6% over February’s revised estimate. Meanwhile nonresidential construction spending declined 0.4% after two consecutive monthly increases. Within private residential construction… Read More ›

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11 Helpful Resources for Improving Your Business Skills

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Whether or not business school is worth the investment is a hot topic these days. But regardless of where you stand, you don’t have to go to business school to gain a better understanding of how businesses work.

“Business” is quite a versatile topic with many components. There’s a lot that goes into becoming more business-savvy, whether it’s learning the “softer” skills (like people management and public speaking) or mastering the “hard” skills (like accounting and finance).

Aside from studying for a formal degree, where can you go to learn about and practice these important business skills?

Turns out, there are a whole lot of resources, both online and offline, where you can hone your business skills, learn new strategies, and make sure you’re staying on top of the ever-evolving business world. Here are 11 of the best resources out there to help you become more business-savvy.

11 Helpful Resources for Improving Your Business Skills

1) A Mentor With Business Experience

Having a career mentor (or a few career mentors) with business experience is a crucial part of your professional development. Opportunities are attached to people. Your mentor can provide you with support and advice when you need it — and, if you choose wisely, they’ll learn how to deliver that support in a way that makes sense to you.

One key to finding a great mentor is to have some clear goals in mind for the type of experience you want your mentor to have. Are you looking for someone who works in an industry you’re interested in learning more about? Someone with experience in raising capital for a new business? Someone who’s senior to you at your current company?

Once you have a goal or two in mind, there are many ways to actually find a mentor. Don’t just go straight for the most visible and well-known (and probably busiest) people. Instead, take a look at your own network and keep an eye out for folks you respect with relevant experience. You can search your network on LinkedIn — which means you’ll first want to update and clean up your own LinkedIn profile. If you find someone who isn’t a direct connection, send a personal message with your connection request, or ask for an introduction from a mutual connection.

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But sometimes, it’s as simple as asking your friends and peers who they think would be great for you to talk to. Then, you can ask for an email introduction.

My last tip here? Keep it local. While online mentorship is great, relationships grounded in quality time in-person time are usually a lot more effective. Even better, get out of the office and into an environment that’s more conducive to relaxing and candid conversation, like a coffee shop or a lunch place.

(If you’re on the other side of the mentor-mentee relationship, read this blog post to learn how to be an amazing mentor.)

2) Harvard Business School’s Reading List

While content is getting more and more snackable these days, there’s still a whole lot of power in a great book. The research and writing and editing required to publish a book — especially a best-seller — is far more impressive than what goes in to an article or podcast. 

But, of course, there’s an overwhelming number of business books out there for choose from. And given how much time it actually takes it read a book from cover to cover, you’ll want to make sure you’re making the most of your time.

So … where better to go for the best books on business than the plethora of syllabi from Harvard Business School? To help you narrow down your search, my colleague Lauren Hintz combed through these syllabi for the 11 most intriguing books on HBS students’ required reading lists. I’ve listed a few of these books below, but read her roundup for the full list with summaries.

3) TED talks, Graduation Speeches & Other Recorded Speakers

One way to learn from experienced business leaders and innovators who have first-hand knowledge of the business world is to find and watch recordings of their talks online.

TED, for instance, has some really compelling talks about business strategy you can watch for free. Here’s one from Bill Gross, a man who’s founded many startups and incubated many others, on why some fail and others succeeded based on data from hundreds of companies:

There’s also a lot you can learn about business from graduation speeches, from Michael Lewis’ speech at Princeton about the profound connection between success and luck, to Marissa Meyers’ speech at Illinois Institute of Technology about the importance of asking the right questions, surrounding yourself with the right people, and finding the courage to do things that are uncomfortable. Here’s a list of eight inspiring graduation speeches with valuable business lessons you should definitely watch.

Finally, we have recorded lectures series from graduate business schools, featuring top business and government leaders from around the world. These may not be as exciting or glamorous as TED talks or graduation speeches, but many of them get into the nitty-gritty details of business strategy — the hard skills that the other types of talks don’t tend to get into.

While most of the live lectures are closed to non-students, many of them are posted online later. Here are a few speaker series to get you started:

4) Toastmasters

Let’s not beat around the bush here: Public speaking is a required business skill. There’s a critical value in being willing and able to communicate effectively with your team, investors, customers, and so on. A research study showed that 70% of employed Americans who give presentations agree that presentation and public speaking skills are critical to their success at work. Some say the other 30% just don’t know it yet.

You can start by reading about public speaking, like in this helpful guide of public speaking tips, or this uneasy speaker’s guide to confident public speaking. But this is one skill where practice is crucial — which is why you should join some sort of public speaking club or group if you’re serious about making measurable improvements.

Toastmasters is probably the best public speaking club out there. When you join, you’re put on a track where you can regularly deliver speeches, get feedback, lead teams, and participate in improvisational speaking games in a super supportive atmosphere. Plus, these clubs are all over the world — more than 15,400 different Toastmasters clubs in 135 countries worldwide, to be more precise — and you can use their “Find a Club” tool to find the one closest to you.

5) Improv Classes

If you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone, there’s actually a lot you can learn from improv about business. It can teach you how to react and adapt to new situations, how to become a better listener — perhaps most importantly — how to stop fearing failure.

Improv classes are offered in cities and towns all over the world. Try searching on Google for “improv classes” + the name of your city, like “improv classes Boston.” (Here are some more Google search tips to help you narrow it down.)

If you need some more inspiration, check out the INBOUND15 Bold Talk below by Dave Delaney, a seasoned improv performer and author of New Business Networking. In it, he talks all about how improvisation can improve your networking, creativity, communication, teamwork, and leadership skills.

6) Khan Academy

There are a lot of resources for soft skills in here. But what about the hard skills that are so critical to business knowledge, like finance, accounting, marketing, and operations? For these skills, which require absorption of new information, repetition, and practice, we recommend taking more formal approach.

There are plenty of places you can pay to take online business classes. Coursera, for example, has a four-class specialization package called “Wharton Business Foundations,” which includes four online classes from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in accounting, finance, operations, and marketing.

But if you’re looking for a high-quality resource for online courses that’s free, well … Khan Academy is the easy winner. Their whole mantra is that you can learn anything for free — and, like Facebook, they claim their services will always be free.

Their courses are a myriad of lectures, interactive exercises. And their businesses courses include, but are not limited to, courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, finance and capital markets, and entrepreneurship. Simply go their homepage and click “Subjects” from the top navigation bar, choose “Economics and finance,” and then click the topic you want to study.

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But their business-related courses aren’t limited to the ones in these categories. Use the search bar to find specific course topics — from the fluffier stuff, like “Turning a Hobby Into a Bright Business,” to the more complex, like “Derivative and Marginal Cost.”

7) Investopedia

Another great place to learn hard skills like investments and accounting is Investopedia, a site dedicated to educating people about finance. There’s great content everywhere on their site, but I want to point your attention in particular to Investopedia’s “Guides” section. This is where you can find a whole slew of guides on everything from accounting basics to valuing employee stock options to how to write a business plan.

Their dictionary — which is how Investopedia started, by the way — is also a great resource for when you come across finance-related terms you aren’t familiar with. When you educate yourself on what an Angel Fund is, or how to invest capital back into your business, you’ll all a lot more value. 

Each definition page includes a sentence or two defining the term, a breakdown of what it means, a list of related terms (for example, on the page for “leading indicator,” you’ll find a link to “lagging indicator”), related content like blog posts, and any related videos.

8) HubSpot Academy

Whereas Investopedia and Khan Academy cover more of the accounting, finance, and operations-related material, HubSpot Academy is a great place to go for marketing and sales skills. Taking the time to hone these skills will allow you to better understand how businesses work and oversee areas of a business, even if you don’t completely master them.

HubSpot Academy offers a few online certification courses that are free and open to anyone, whether or not you use HubSpot’s software. Each class includes training videos, helpful documents, quizzes, and a final exam you need to pass to get your certification.

  • Inbound Certification: A comprehensive marketing course that covers the core elements of the Inbound Methodology. The self-paced curriculum introduces the fundamentals of how to attract visitors, convert leads, close customers and delight customers into promoters. (Learn more here.)
  • Email Marketing Certification: An advanced email marketing course that’ll teach you how lifecycle marketing, segmentation, email design, deliverability, analytics, and optimization come together to create an email marketing strategy that grows your business, and your career. (Learn more here.)
  • Inbound Sales Certification: A series of five classes that introduce you to the Inbound Sales Methodology. From identifying potential buyers, to developing outreach strategies, to building personalized presentations, this free certification covers the basics of what inbound sales is all about. (Learn more here.)

Bonus: You can also get a Google Analytics certification for free by taking Google’s GA proficiency course online, and then passing the Google Analytics IQ exam. 

9) Podcasts About Business & Entrepreneurship

Business podcasts serve as a great way to stay informed and inspired when you’re on-the-go, like on a run or during your commute. You can tune into everything from one-on-one interviews with today’s top leaders to recaps of the day’s most pressing business news.

To save you some time, here’s a list of some of the best business-related podcasts out there:

  • HBR’s Ideacast: Weekly episodes under 20 minutes apiece covering a range of executive-level topics, from an interview with Evernote CEO Phil Libin on the new ways we work to a discussion about how CEOs are succeeding in Africa
  • The $100 MBA: A daily podcast offering quick, 10-minute, no-fluff lessons on topics in business, marketing, technology, and more.
  • APM’s Marketplace: A must-listen podcast from American Public Radio that’ll catch you up on all the important business news from the day.
  • EntreLeadership: A podcast focused on sharing lessons, tips, and tricks from some of today’s top entrepreneurs. It’s named after Dave Ramsey’s concept of “EntreLeadership,” which explores how businesses can use effective management to create ventures that grow and prosper.
  • How to Start a StartupA recording of Stanford Professor Sam Altman’s class about starting a business, which teaches lessons like how to manage, how to build products users love, and how to raise money.
  • The Growth Show: Weekly episodes in which we (at HubSpot) sit down with one of today’s top executives to unpack how they’ve been able to grow and build a world-class business.
  • Read to Lead: Weekly interviews hosted by award-winning broadcast industry veteran Jeff Brown with today’s best nonfiction authors on leadership, business, marketing, and entrepreneurship. Notable guests include Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, Daniel Pink, and John Lee Dumas.

(Here’s a list with even more business podcast suggestions.)

10) Twitter Lists

Carefully crafted business content is great, but sometimes, getting business news, opinions, and quotables in the form of a quick tweet is exactly the kind of snackable information you’re looking for. If you want to just see the content from your favorite Twitter users separate from everyone else, you can create a Twitter list or stream.

  • Learn how to create a Twitter list and add specific users to it here.
  • If you’re a HubSpot user, learn how to create streams in the Social Monitoring tool here.

Now that you’ve made your lists … whom do you add to them? There’s a lot of crap out there on Twitter. It’s best to narrow down people tweeting out the best of the best content about business.

For that, I turn to Kavi Gupta, an investment banker for Merrill Lynch who’s spent some considerable time narrowing down the top Twitter profiles for business content. Here are four of his favorite people to follow on Twitter for good business content:

Simon Kemp (@eskimon)

Managing Partner in Asia for We Are Social, Kemp tweets out research he finds on social media, mobile penetration, and internet-related behaviors all over the world — especially in South East Asia. In his tweets, he likes to single out the most important slide from a given slide deck rather than making followers sift through an entire presentation.

Subrahmanyam KVJ (@SuB8u)

Subrahmanyam (or Subbu for short) is Gupta’s Wall Street Journal, Economic Times, and Reuters guy. He has a knack for finding the best business information from these media sources, while also adding his own, summarized insights from whatever article he’s tweeting. He also tends to screenshot the most quotable parts of a post to draw readers in to the full article.

Cynthia Than (@NinjaEconomics)

Than’s content on Twitter is refreshingly novel. Instead of sharing what everyone else is sharing when news breaks, she tweets out stuff like cool data visualizations, charts, and link that showcase a fresh perspective. She’s also a master at summarizing content in her tweets in a way that’s helpful and interesting to her followers.

Tiffany Zhong (@tzhongg)

A VC at Binary Capital and a former employee at Product Hunt, Zhong tweets out a collection of “stumbled-upon quotes, advice, and musings on the current business landscape,” writes Gupta. What he likes most about her Twitter style is that you don’t have to click out and away from your feed to get her content — because, most of the time, she’s tweeting visuals, statements, and thoughts without many links.

11) Harvard Business Review

You know as well as I do how much content there is about business on the internet these days. Some of it is really good, and some of it is crap — and both sides of the quality coin can be found on the same website.

But if you’re looking for a resource that constantly puts out high-quality content about business, Harvard Business Review (HBR) is your source. Their articles, both online and in print, are always written by experts, and their most popular topics include managing people, leadership, strategy, communication, innovation, technology, entrepreneurship, and other business topics.

If you like reading and you have some extra money to spend, some of the material in HBR’s online store might be worth the investment. For example, editors at HBR created a box set of “must-reads” from combing through hundreds of articles and selected what they believe are the most important ones to help you maximize both you and your organization’s performance.

Which resources can you add to the list? Share with us in the comments.

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The Pros & Cons of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Other Social Networks [Infographic]

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Nowadays, social media is one of the main channels used by companies to reach their target audiences. But with so many different social networks available, how do you choose which will work best for you?

It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

For example, recent research has shown that teens and millennials are moving away from Facebook and into other social networks like Instagram and Snapchat. So if you’re primarily targeting teens, you may want to focus your resources on building a stronger presence on those networks.

To learn more about each social network’s strengths and weaknesses, check out the infographic below from Visage. It’ll cover the key stats, pros, and cons for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Snapchat. Acknowledging these can help you create and publish the most engaging content possible on the networks that work for you.

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Jackie de Crinis Steps Down at USA Network

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Jackie de Crinis is leaving her role as EVP of original programming for USA Network. She is moving within parent company NBC Universal to Universal Cable Productions, and will oversee the forthcoming drama Eyewitness as an executive producer. De Crinis has been with USA since 2000, and has overseen many of the network’s signature original series, such as Mr. Robot and Monk. The move comes as a result of recent reshuffling at the top of NBC Universal; Bill McGoldrick now oversees USA’s original programming, in addition to sister networks Syfy, E! and Bravo. Follow USA on Twitter and ‘Like’ on Facebook for updates on the network’s programs.

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