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For the last year, I've been working to fulfill my MLK Day pledge.

As a company, we've made strides in featuring people of color and from other marginalized groups in our content marketing and brand journalism projects, including words and pictures. We're not where I'd like to be on this yet. Our biggest need right now is people of color in healthcare: HR, marketing, population health, healthcare technology and nursing. Send me your connections!

I've also made presentations on diversifying newsroom staffs and finding more diverse sources.

How Diverse Thinking Produces Better Reporting from The Word Factory - B2B & B2C content marketing, brand journalism and consulting

Diverse Sources: How to Get Them from The Word Factory - B2B & B2C content marketing, brand journalism and consulting

I'm re-committing this year to continue these efforts. I hope you'll join me.

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Get Organized!

Strategies for organizing your writing

Getting organized isn't just a matter of clearing off your desk, filing papers or making better to-do lists (although those are important activities). Organizing our thoughts makes us faster and more effective writers.

Flip through this slide deck to review a set of pre-writing strategies that help us organize our thoughts and capture key requirements for our content.

Smart Starts: Strategies for organizing your thoughts from The Word Factory - B2B & B2C content marketing, brand journalism and consulting

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Do you use email marketing? See the elements of a successful and creative marketing email from 1-800-Got-Junk.

I'm a shameless promoter of 1-800-Got-Junk. Having used them in multiple cities over multiple years, I can vouch for the quality of their work helping me declutter or clear out spaces. I can now also vouch for their content marketing.

Like me, I'm sure you were flooded with year-end emails of all kinds from your current vendors and those prospecting for your business. It takes a lot to stand out in that kind of crowd.

The content team at 1-800-Got-Junk hit a home run with this fun year-end email.

What's good about it: The headline is everything. It caught my eye even as I was scrolling through my inbox on my phone. And what you don't see here is the gif that initially hides the header. It features thumbnails of the items mentioned in the piece, each disappearing to reveal the headline. The header and subhead are effective, and even if you don't scroll or click, you're reminded of the company's key message ("we'll take pretty much anything") right up top. I also really like the punny descriptions. Humor can be really hard, so choosing a genre where expectations are low (we all secretly love to groan at a bad pun) gives you plenty of room to fail without harming your reputation. Don't feel like reading? The photos are an enjoyable scan.

Screen grab of 1-800-Got-Junk email newsletter on The Word Factory blog

What would make it better: While the photos are linked to the actual blog post, the descriptive subheads are not. That's a missed opportunity to get people to click earlier instead of hoping we click a pic or wait till the bottom of the mail, especially since the font color looks like it might be hyperlinked.

An example of effective email marketing from 1-800-Got-Junk on The Word Factory blog

What's missing: A hard sell. And I like that! Instead of jumping on the end-of-year/New Year's organizing bandwagon and urging me to call them to haul off my stuff, the sell is softer. I don't currently have need of their services, having completed a major de-clutter earlier this year with their help, but I read the email and the post, and it made me like the company even more. That's a clear win. You don't want to always send emails with no sell, but breaking it up is refreshing for your readers, and done well (as this one was) doesn't have a downside.

Think about this example as you look at your upcoming email topics. What can you take from this model and employ in your own way?

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Top tips from 2019

The World Factory's manipulated photo holiday card designed by Margot Carmichael Lester

One last thing before we close out 2019: a quick look back at our most-read posts of the year:

Infuse more empathy in your content marketing.

Since noting a trend toward empathy in the sessions of Content Marketing World 2019, I've been putting processes in place to help us write with more empathy for the audience. Check out the strategy I developed to make adding empathy intentional and easier.

Be a more effective writer and editor.

As the editor-in-chief of our merry band of brand journalists, a content producer and a writing coach, I know both sides of the equation. Learn a few simple tricks for revising and editing your own or someone else's work.

Do these things before quitting your job to go out on your own.

A quarter of a century ago (OMG!), I left my job at a top 10 business school to hang out my shingle as a business owner. Read my advice on things you need to consider and tasks you need to complete before you ditch your full-time gig.

Deploy SMEs to amplify content.

We provide a lot of extra services for our clients. One of the easiest things we do is send links to published content out to the SMEs who contributed encouraging them to share it socially. This simple tactic extends your reach, improves credibility and drives thought leadership.

Support small businesses. The smaller enterprises in your ecosystem benefit greatly from your help, whether that's sending them work, discounting your services to them, or promoting their business to your community. One of the most popular posts this year delivers actionable tips on how larger companies can support their smaller counterparts.

photo by Margot Lester of a tissue box at the Newseum's 9/11 exhibit
Newseum 9/11 Exhibit © 2014, Margot C. Lester

I'd also like to take a moment to note the closure of The Newseum, a wonderful asset that's suspending operation today. It will continue, however, to showcase front pages from around the country via its website.

Here's hoping it's resurrected in 2020.

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Happy Holidays from Margot Lester & The Word Factory Team

Last thing before we turn out the lights and turn on the yule log, here are our top posts for Q4.

Tune in New Year's Eve for a look at the most-read posts for the year!

Thanks for reading our stuff. Best wishes to you and yours for the holidays!

And now, our take on the yule log.

video by Margot Lester
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