Letters to a Young Poet on Creative Content, Part 1
Last week a poet, musician, graffiti artist, and recent graduate (bachelors in English) asked me, “What are all these creative content gigs about?”
I thought this might be something that other people are thinking about. So here it is. Thanks for reading.
First, I want to admit that I’m no Tim Ferriss or even Brian Clark (http://www.copyblogger.com/about/). However, I know a little bit about this stuff. In addition to the usual skills and writing experience you’d expect from a dude who teaches college English, I’ve been working with “creative content” for a long time now. I’ve blogged here, at Critical Margins, and even for Jane Friedman (the former publisher of Writer’s Digest). I’ve produced and hosted radio shows and podcasts for KDHX (a station that has over 82,000 listeners per week) and Critical Margins. I’ve created the copy, the products, and the press releases that have landed coverage in as diverse publications as Riverfront Times, ESPN.com, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Now, let’s get back to the poet’s question about creative content. Every large company has somebody writing the words that appear on their website. Some smaller companies and non for profits do this as well.
Q: What’s all this about SEO and copywriting?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a game where you try to load as many key words into an article or the headings and titles of the articles to make that article return at a higher place in users search results. The algorithms that underpin search results apparently attend to the frequency of keywords as one of their variables. The best way to optimize search results is to consistently put up good content. I’m not the first to say this. All the tricks in the world aren’t worth as much as good, honest, thoughtful, and frequent writing that comes from a perspective that feels like a human wrote it.
Q: If I was a producer of online marketing content, what would this actually tangibly look like?
This depends on the company and the contract. Some gigs are for a jack-of-all-trades who can create internal materials (employee newsletters, CEO speeches, training materials for new employees…) and external materials (customer facing web copy, press releases, infographics, podcasts, videos…). Some of these gigs might want you to do just one or two of these things. There are gigs that people do from home and then some gigs where they’d have to go in for. Some of those tasks I mentioned above quickly become other job descriptions (and fields of study) of their own at larger companies: public relations, advertising, instructional design, audio and visual production, and even technical writing.
Like kung fu, all the rhetorical skills you’ve learned as an English major can be used for good as well as evil. Some companies might want you to write them out of a corner or explain away certain mistakes with your exceptional storytelling abilities. Theranos is a health tech company that, according to The Wall Street Journal, lied about their blood tests and then covered up their problems. Wired just wrote a story about how Theranos is looking for a writer to spin this (http://www.wired.com/2016/02/theranos-is-hiring-a-writer-to-solve-its-problems/?mbid=nl_2516).
Q: Content writing seems like a growing field. But what are the long-term career prospects for this (plus the salary/benefit/ full time vs. part time situation)?
Until you craft something big that sets you apart or get experience with top-level clients, you’re competing against an international computer using, English speaking mass of people who aren’t spending US dollars to live. They’re spending rupees, pesos, or duckets. They can afford to work for less than you can and still pay their rent. This is not an argument for or against outsourcing. You want to know about the economics of a situation, that’s all.
Q: Does getting a gig in this field require knowledge of HTML or programming?
Learning a little bit about HTML and CSS is easy. Spending two or three hours at codecademy (www.codecademy.com) will be useful to you know matter what you end up doing (as long as you’re not going off to a mountain to be a yogi or something). If you do creative content marketing HTML will come in handy sometime. Same goes if you become an English professor. HTML is just a mark up language. It isn’t a functional programing language. The functional stuff is more of a challenge. But surely not beyond your big brain.
“Almost the Last Man on Earth” a love poem with zombies in the background
is ready for you at Jersey Devil Press
Here’s how to disguise your ADD as just being a renaissance man.
The good people at Squalorly know a thing or two about making people talk. Seth Piccolo and Kristina Pepelko cornered me on my way home from church (yeah right). They roughed me up, put some drinks in me, and started asking some questions. I let the whole cat out of the bag on this one, see.
Do You Love to Make Out?
Then I’ve got a poem for you.
First Pushcart Prize Nomination
Thanks to the great people at the Lowestoft Chronicle, I just received my first Pushcart Prize nomination for the poem below!
Just incase you’re still thinking twice about clicking the link, I tell you a bit about the poem. It is called “Time Dilation Case Study” and it has the usual features like Nikola Tesla, the CIA, geo arbitrage, Belize, reggae, the AAA, and turtles all the way down.
Sure maybe it’s a little egotistical to say first, implying that there will be many. But if you are offended, chances are you might not be a fan of my emphatic style anyway. I’ll still say thanks for stopping by!
James Bond poem with Audio
Love James Bond and poetry but have a hard time putting them together? I did it for you here.
Two Poems about Guatemala just published at Squalorly
And one of them is kinda sexy
Games Not Grades: Is Codecademy the Only Future of Online Education
Provocative title and all, this post of mine just went up at critical margins.
If you haven’t been by codecademy, you might want to stop by there first.
Western Illinois University
I’ve moved to Macomb, IL to teach full time as a member of the English faculty at Western Illinois University. If you happen to be in the area on October third, please come by the reading in the University Art Gallery. I’ll have CDs, jokes, and smiles for everybody. And I’ll do my best to keep it from becoming too serious.
Twenty Avocados Published
A well-traveled poem of mine about Guatemala, the people you meet in hostels, and avocados just went up at Outside In Magazine.
I wouldn’t be mad or anything if you clicked on the link to check it out.
AUTHORS UNBOUND: THE RISE OF THE MAKER AUTHOR is up a Critical Margins
Authors like Matt Kindt, Jenifer Egan, Geoff Schmidt, Ander Monson and more are pushing past the printed page and into the third dimension.
Find out how Author’s can get in on some of that Maker action!
Edwardsville Intelligencer’s Feature Story on Homophonecheck.com
Corey Stevens had this to say:
Their is going to be a new way to edit your class assignments online. Or is it they’re? There?
Jason Braun, an English composition teacher at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, has released the world’s first homophone checker. Homophones are words that sound alike, but are spelled differently, and cause a lot of confusion for many beginning writers.
Read more at:
The Belleville News Democrate Features Homophone Checker on Front Page
By JAMIE FORSYTHE — News-Democrat
A Southern Illinois University Edwardsville graduate student has created a website application to help other dyslexic students like himself. Jason Braun, 35, of Edwardsville recently launched an online “homophone” checker.
A homophone refers to words that sound the same, but are spelled differently, and Braun’s web application, http://www.homophonecheck.com, allows writers to proofread for errors that word processing software can’t find.
For example, spell checking a document won’t find an error if you use ‘there’ instead of ‘their’ or ‘they’re’ or ‘know’ instead of ‘no.’
Homophone Checker and the Cult of Correctness in The ALESTLE
The Alestle giving some props to the Homophone Checker and making some good points about the “cult of correctness” that follows around English professors, teachers, and majors.
At Critical Margins: LITERACY IS FOR THE CYBORGS, OR HOW I SPENT NEARLY TWO YEARS READING A ONE PAGE BLOG POST
In an attempt to redefine literacy for the cyborg future, I have annotated Benson Schliesser’s article “Court Approves Nortel’s Sale of IPv4 Addresses to Microsoft” that appeared at CircleID.com.
Read more at:
Read Makers If You Write Or Create Anything
As the editor in chief of Wired, Chris Anderson has championed 3D printing since the beginning. This book is a harbinger. This book is a prototype of your future life. This book was sent back from 2042 to the digital shelves of Amazon to stop other machines from killing your dreams.
Anderson compresses recent and future innovation as seen from 20,000 feet: “The past ten years have been about discovering new ways to create, invent, and work together on the Web. The next ten years will be about applying those lessons to the real world” (17).
Whittle, paint, write, repurpose, tinker, code, copy, manipulate and share–but whatever you do, do not stop.
Anderson, Chris. Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. New York: Crown Business, 2012. Print.
The Homophone Checker Makes The Chronicle Of Higher Education
Lucy Ferriss tells it like it is. The Homophone checker is not perfect, but it is a start. Check it out at:
Fulbright Scholar and Blogger, Kola Tubosun had this to say about the Homophone Checker
“My friend, Jason Braun, has launched the world’s first free Homophone Checker app at Homophonecheck.com!”
Read more at: