Tag: blogging

BlogHer 2011: Video Storyboarding and Scripting for the Writer

Published in: Just For Fun

BlogHer 2011: Video Storyboarding and Scripting for the Writer
Speakers from the left: Corinne Leigh, Sarah Lane

This class and that one on writing the other day were absolutely my favorites of BlogHer 2011, but I missed the first 30 or so minutes of this one, which, based on the part of the class I actually was present for, I’m assuming was the part that covered storyboarding and scripting. 🙂

LOL! I may have missed the titular topics, but I was present for a really fantastic discussion on video blogging.

The two speakers are very accomplished video bloggers/podcasters, and I think I might try to connect with them again.

Here’s a video from one of the speakers, Corrine. Isn’t it fantastic?

She has a whole bunch of great DIY videos up on her Tumblr page.

The other speaker, Sarah, has a background in professional broadcasting and is a Producer/Host/Writer/Editor at TWiT, where she hosts a show called The Social Hour.

The speakers…

Sarah Lane

Producer/writer/editor at TWiT, co-host of iPad Today, Tech News Today & The Social Hour. Formerly of Current TV, Revision3, G4TV, TechTV. Catwoman.

Corinne Leigh

I am a DIYer by nature. You can check out my past projects on Threadbanger and new projects in my Craft Closet.

Video Workflow Tips

These are just some general tips. There are of course an endless number ways to produce videos and different styles, but I was really interested in doing voiceovers of the style like Michelle Phan.

Once you know what kind of video you want to make, check out some related ones online. You’ll get ideas for lighting setups, what an appropriate duration might be, where to position the camera, what the speaker’s hands are doing, does she use background music, does she have a jazzy intro, how are her on-screen titles handled (are they easy to read?), does she speak clearly? — things like that.

  1. Here’s a time-saving tip for filming how-to’s with a voiceover: Sometimes it helps to do a run through of your project first, before filming, to rehearse what you’re going to do when you film the actual video. Do the project all the way through at least once beforehand. Then, do it again while filming, and it can help to have a friend who can move the camera around for you, because it can be tough to peek through a viewfinder while you’re trying to do something else.
  2. If you know how to use an editing program like Apple Final Cut or Adobe Premiere, shoot more footage than you need, so that you can pick and choose your best stuff later.
  3. After filming, sit down and write out a script describing what you did for the project. When you’re done, read and record what you’ve written. You can use your same video camera, but all you’ll be using from this step is the voiceover (audio) track. In your editing program, extract the audio and lay it over the video you recorded in the previous step.

For voiceovers, it can help to film the entire video first after doing a quick run through. Some people then put the video into their editing program’s timeline as a “rough cut,” which they then watch as they read and record their script into a new track. (NOTE: You can use any video camera to record a voiceover track, so you don’t need a dedicated microphone, although a good mic doesn’t hurt. If you’re using a video camera to record your voiceover, just extract the audio track and delete the video.)


Live, off-camera, conversational — you’ve seen all kinds of different interviews before.

  1. For easy interviews where you’re going to be off camera, ask the person to repeat each question you give them first before answering, like, “How do I find the best beauty bargains? I look through the weekly drugstore ads that I get in the mail, and the ones that come with the Sunday paper.”
  2. Ask the people you interview to sign a simple release form, which protects you in the unlikely event that the person you’re interviewing later says that they never gave you permission to film them. Here’s an example form.
  3. With standard interviews where you’re talking back and forth with someone, you want to be conversational, make good eye contact, and be really engaged with the person. You do want to have your list of questions in mind, and with you in a notebook, but you don’t want to rely on it like a crutch.

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BlogHer 2011: Perfecting Product Reviews

Published in: Just For Fun

BlogHer 2011: Perfecting Product Reviews

The second class I took here at BlogHer was on writing product reviews, something I’ve done a few thousand times, but there’s always room to grow. 🙂 The class was sort of dominated by questions related to the business of writing product reviews, rather than actual writing techniques and mechanics, but I think I still got a little something out of it nevertheless.

The speakers…

Stacie Haight Connerty

Mom of 3, Writer, Social Media Consultant, Foodie, Lifestyle & Travel Blogger, Into Marketing & PR, Groupon Addict, Food Truck Stalker, TV Junkie, Follow Back

Amy Bellgardt

Wife, Mom, Blogger, Business Woman, Social Media Addict & Founder of MomSpark.net, MomSparkMedia.com, & MomMadeThat.com

Niri Jaganath

Social Media Junkie and Founder of MommyNiri.com and MommyNiriCares.com

1. How do you get free products to review?

This question seemed to dominate the conversation in the class. In one form or another, it was asked several different times. Here’s what the panelists had to say.

  1. The best way is to just start blogging about the products you already buy, own and like because the brands are out there looking and watching. They have staff members monitoring social networking sites, have Google Alerts set for specific words and use Twitter search to find people discussing their products. The companies do sometimes contact new bloggers when they come across reviews of their products that are getting large numbers of readers engaged, either in the comments on the blog or elsewhere.
  2. Try to attend as many in-store events, brand-sponsored classes, conferences and release parties as you can, and while you’re there, introduce yourself and your blog to any company reps and PR people present (bring business cards with you!).
  3. Send pitch letters. A pitch letter is basically a brief email (no more than a few short paragraphs) sent to a company rep or a PR person where you introduce yourself and — to be blunt — usually ask for something, be it a free product that you’d like to review or give away to your readers, or some other type of partnership.

    First things first — brands are in business, and they want positive publicity. They need help getting the word out about their brands and new products, and they know that blogs are one way for them to do that, but they can’t afford to just ship out free products to everyone who asks.

    PR reps sometimes receive hundreds of email pitches per day. They’re busy people, and what they’re looking for are established sites with active readerships. They didn’t mention this in the class, but I think it’s easier to get a foot in the door if you have thousands of readers per day (versus hundreds), and thousands of followers, fans and subscribers. The reps will want to see your blog traffic stats, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, YouTube Chanel subscribers, etc. — basically, they need to be able to gauge your level of influence online.

    They also want to hear some specific ideas, and not just “I would like to hold a giveaway on my blog,” so propose something new in a short bulleted list, and try to be different.

2. How do you handle negative reviews when you have a relationship with the company that provided the product?

Above all, be honest and fair in your reviews. No relationship with any company is ever worth the loss of your credibility.

Try to find the positives when you’re doing a review because people want solutions. Remember that even with a product you didn’t really like, there may be other people for whom it works better, so be fair, and try to look at the product from all sides.

When something really doesn’t meet your expectations, it might be worth it to contact the company directly for a response. They may already be aware of the issues you had with their product and have tips or suggestions to improve its performance. Those would be great to share with your readers, along with any alternatives that you think might also work better.
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BlogHer 2011: The Write Brain | Essential Writing and Editing Skills

Published in: Just For Fun

BlogHer 2011: Essential Writing and Editing Skills
Speakers from left to right: Jane Byers Goodwin, K.T. Bradford, Polly Pagenhart

Talk about fantastic! My first of two BlogHer sessions here today was one of the most interesting classes I’ve taken in a while. I love it when the instructors actually sound like people you’d like to get to know in real life. I actually laughed out loud a couple times!

As you can probably tell by the title of this post, the first session I attended here today was about writing and editing, two very important aspects of not just blogging, but also day-to-day life.

Most of us probably have the need to convey something clearly in print, and so I hope that even if you aren’t a blogger, you’re still able to take something useful away from this.

The speakers…

Jane Byers Goodwin

Social Media Specialist, Writer, Speaker, Internet Watchdog, Absentminded Professor, Education Advocate/Critic, Mommy

K.T. Bradford

TechGeek, ChicGeek, Just Plain Geek — Writer at Notebooks.com and Android Central

Polly Pagenhart

Utterly unable to contain myself to 140 chars. But will try valiantly. Wish me lu-

Here are some tidbits I grasped and managed to jot down. These shouldn’t be taken as direct quotes, as I was repeatedly distracted by all of the stylish looking girls in the room. 🙂

K.T.: The biggest thing I’ve learned is that writing is rewriting. My biggest message today would have to be that the first draft you put out there might be pretty good, but you shouldn’t be afraid to rewrite.

K.T.: Most of us have learned these skills [about grammar] at one point, but they get pushed aside because we’re busy, etc. The purpose of this session is to help you tighten up your prose so that it makes the fullest impact.

JANE: Often the first draft is the one that comes out that’s closest to our hearts, but people will notice your grammar and your spelling before they notice your message. Often if your spelling and grammar aren’t good, your message will be lost. With my students, I call this the trust factor.

K.T.: What underpins good writing? Voice does have quite a bit to do with it, but having an authentic voice isn’t necessarily about writing the way that you talk. It’s more about making sure that the things you’re passionate about are being delivered clearly. Try not to let grammar rules trip you up too much.

K.T.: Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, is really an excellent book. In it she has a chapter called Writing the Sh*tty First Draft. You should never be afraid to write a sh*tty first draft. Don’t be afraid to let that first draft come out in your natural voice. The first draft is where you want to let your authentic voice shine through without it being blocked by editing. The best way to preserve your voice is to just let it out.

JANE: Spell check is not your friend. Spell check hates you. Spell check is your enemy. Use it for a once through, but it doesn’t know the difference between affect and effect.

JANE: Serious pieces require serious checking. Little folksy pieces, not so much. Never use a four-syllable word when a two-syllable word will do. It makes us sound pretentious, and none of us need to do that unless we’re writing about fine wine.

BlogHer 2011 Essential Writing and Editing Skills
Spell check was here…
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The Beauty of Blogging: A Reader Q&A

Published in: Just For Fun, News

The beauty of blogging

It’s been such a long time since I posted anything about blogging that I thought this excerpt of an e-mail exchange with reader Juli might be interesting to someone trying to build an existing blog or thinking about starting one soon (any kind of blog; not necessarily one about makeup and beauty). 🙂

A lot of people out there know much more about blogging than I do, so please take my responses with a grain of salt. If you find this helpful, I’ll try to post similar things like it more often. Just let me know.

And if you do have a blog, please include a link to it in your comment. I’d love to check it out. Let me know what prompted you to start your blog and what it’s all about.

JULI: I know time is one factor, and since 2007, you’ve had plenty of good quality posts, but what other methods do you use to get traffic [to Makeup and Beauty Blog] and rank so high in Google?

KAREN: Well, thank you for saying that about my posts, but time is a major factor, actually. I spend at least 60 hours/week blogging and have for some years. A lot of it is attention to detail. If it takes an extra two hours to retake a batch of pictures that didn’t turn out quite right, I’ll take them because, like everyone else, I appreciate sharp, vibrant pictures when I browse the web. Early, when I started the blog, I also read a number of e-books about search engine optimization (here’s a great source on the subject) and implemented the lessons from there about post titles and page design. One obvious factor that helps is having a domain name that includes your keywords in it, in my case makeupandbeautyblog.com. But that’s only one factor.

JULI: How did you let the world know about your blog? I know one good method is writing guest posts.

KAREN: Wow! Brace yourself for a long answer, but a lot of it just took time. I attended industry events, had business cards made, had t-shirts made that I would wear to events, emailed hundreds of companies, telephoned PR people, wrote guest posts, wrote and published press releases (I recommend prweb and prleap), took classes on writing, took classes on photography, took classes on Photoshop (I highly recommend the video tutorials on lynda.com), read books on HTML and CSS, did some freelance writing for magazines to hone my craft — all while continuing to write 1-5 posts/day. I think it also helped that when I started in beauty blogging, it was a less competitive time, and I had a loving partner in El Hub whose day job allowed me to take some risks I may not otherwise have been able to take (like quitting my day job to blog full time).

I think it’s important to remember, though, that I didn’t do everything at once. I’m always learning, but I love blogging and helping and entertaining people. Because it’s like magic to brighten someone’s day, that drives me to do it and get better along the way.
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The Beauty of Blog World 2009: A Beginner’s Guide to Web Traffic

Published in: Beauty Tips, Just For Fun, News

The Beauty of Blog World 2009: A Beginner's Guide to Web Traffic

Even though Blog World wrapped up last weekend, I wanted to talk a little about traffic building because it was one of the most discussed topics at the event.

Assuming it’s one of your goals (it doesn’t have to be), the experts had a lot to say about building readership/viewership to websites and blogs. Today I’m going to gloss over the jargon and give you some tips you can implement on your own.

Previously in The Beauty of Blog World

  1. The Beauty of Blog World 2009
  2. The Beauty of Blog World 2009: How to Earn More Money from Your Blog
  3. The Beauty of Blog World 2009: How to Make Better Videos

Tip #1: Produce desirable content

This one’s the most important tip but also the hardest to define. “Content is King,” the traffic experts say, but what do they really mean? Answer: If you think about it, what draws you to your favorite makeup counters, stores, websites and blogs? In my case, I visit MAC counters because I’m *obsessed* with their makeup; I read Zen Habits because it helps me relax. Ultimately, we visit the places that give us what we want.

As a practical matter, I think it’s harder (although not impossible) to attract readers to personal journal blogs because, let’s face it, our lives usually aren’t as interesting as we think they are. But when we blog with passion about specific topics (keeping in mind that no one owes us their time), we tend to attract people with similar interests.

Tip #2: The power of key words

What words would someone use on Google to find your blog?

Whatever they are, those are some of your key words, and you want to use your key words in as many places as you can — in your domain name (i.e. lipstickeyeshadowandgloss.com, catsinuniform.com), in your URLs (i.e. catsinuniform.com/cat/uniforms/catuniforms.php — the parts between the / slashes), in your post titles (Cat Uniforms Under $10, My 5 Favorite Lipsticks of 2009, Don’t Gloss Over These Lipsticks, etc.), within the text of your posts and also within the text using HTML header tags (h1, h2, h3, h4). The more you use your key words, the more credit your blog will get from Google and the other search engines for searches using those terms.

Tip #3: Links

Not only do links translate into direct traffic to your blog, as they get clicked wherever they appear, but they also contribute to your placement in the search rankings on Google.
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