PR Newswire’s ProfNet Connect team recently hosted the first installment of ConnectChat, a series of live Twitter chats to foster active and engaging conversation between communications professionals, experts and the media. Titled “How to Increase Visibility and Showcase Expertise,” the session featured Francine McKenna (@retheauditors), a freelance writer and expert with over 25 years of experience in the finance and accounting industries. Francine shared with us how she used her expertise to launch a career as a writer, as well as tips for increasing visibility and SEO for your blog.
We’ve put together the following highlights for those of you who weren’t able to make it. (We’re also hosting a FREE webinar today at 1:00 ET on the same subject!)
@profnet: Welcome to #ConnectChat, our new monthly conversation with members of the media/PR industry. Please send your questions for @retheauditors. Tonight’s #connectchat will focus on “How to Increase Visibility and Showcase Expertise.” We will be chatting with @retheauditors. Francine is an expert with over 25 years of experience in finance and accounting industries.
@retheauditors: Hi everyone!
@retheauditors: And not sleeping much.
@profnet: Hi, Francine. First question: Why did you decide to leave the corporate world to branch out on your own?
@retheauditors: Well, after 25 years and a not-so-satisfying experience at my last firm, I decided to write a book. That was four years ago. No book yet. I’d worked at two large accounting firms, other companies and other firms. All professional services. I also worked outside the U.S. I just started writing on the blog. Didn’t wait for anyone to give permission. Started on Blogger in October 2006. The audience found me via the magic of Google search. It was amazing that the first readers who contacted me were outside the U.S.
@dianalynnnguyen: As a blogger, how did you find your audience? Or did they find you?
@tedskinner: How did you get your first writing assignment? Do you think you’ll ever get to that book?
@retheauditors: My first paid writing assignment didn’t come for two years. But then, I never pitch. My site is critical of the industry. I have a certain style — irreverent and pretty direct, blunt. You have to want me.
@retheauditors: I will get to the book. Now, more than ever, I have to, before some real journalist scoops me. The auditor issues are en vogue.
@profnet: Interesting that your audience found you based on the content, and that it was outside the U.S. Did you have any contacts in media?
@retheauditors: The blog is an example of niche content. The audience is larger than you think. They find you via consistency and focus, variations on theme.
@dianalynnnguyen: How much of your time is dedicated to writing vs. other activities that contribute to your blog?
@retheauditors: I write longer pieces. It has ended up very investigative. I spend a lot of time on phone, research. Then I write in a blitz, usually 4-8 hours, and revise as I go. I am my own editor usually.
@retheauditors: I’ve been writing a lot about litigation and that’s an interest, but I’m not a lawyer. I lean on a lot of lawyer friends to check me.
@retheauditors: I get a lot of comments. Some posts have up to 500, but I moderate every single one personally. Most, 99 percent, are anonymous.
@tedskinner: Time to get personal. How often did u get rejected before your first article was published? How did you deal with it?
@retheauditors: I did not get rejected until I got strong suggestion to write an op-ed for a major pub. Went nowhere. I had a strong sponsor, but the timing was off. My industry is reported in the major media only when something big happens. I still rarely pitch. Almost all the work, including now the Forbes blog, is them coming to me. bit.ly/9Oy41M
@profnet: Do you continue to work as a consultant in the industry?
@retheauditors: I do work as a litigation consultant. I cannot work for many companies because of potential conflicts and my rep now. I work so I can write, not write so I can get consulting work. I’m not buying many pairs of Louboutins these days.
@profnet: What do you enjoy more: being a writer or being an accountant?
@retheauditors: I don’t enjoy doing the work as much as writing about it anymore. And talking about it. I’m doing speaking engagements. I like working with lawyers. The first one found me via Google, on a Madoff-related case. “You’re writing about what we need to know.”
@editorev: How did you get your first writing assignment?
@retheauditors: My first paid writing assignment was from a trade pub in the UK that wanted an American take on the impact of Obama’s election on accounting.
@retheauditors: More comments: Take stands; write what matters to people, not to you; challenge conventional wisdom; be prepared to be wrong.
@gnosisarts: I’m going to have to spend some time reading your blog. Can you point to a post that received the most criticism?
@publicrelate: Francine, do you have a favorite legal book or site for releases (for photos, etc.), and do you have a favorite source for images?
@retheauditors: I use Google Search on images. I always add photos, music video, movie clips to illustrate my points and make it fun. Sometimes I want to use a video or music, get an idea in my head for a theme, and write around it. It just flows then.
@tedskinner: Do you have any secrets on how to get more people to comment on and link to your posts, as it helps SEO?
@retheauditors: I write the same themes over and over. No one else is writing consistently about them. No major media had an accountancy reporter. The Wall Street Journal just named a full-time accountancy reporter, a great guy — Michael Rapoport. I will get some competition!
@retheauditors: The key to self-taught SEO: focus, consistency, variations on the same theme. Niche is holy grail, but timing right niche is gold. If you focus on a quality, relevant, niche topic, you almost don’t need SEO. The SEO is intuitive. It comes from following others’ success, watching StatCounter constantly, seeing the impact of actions.
@retheauditors: Connect with those who write about similar topics. E-mail them about the blog. I find them via the StatCounter.com tool. I use LinkedIn as a professional connector. Having contacts is currency to help others. I came on Twitter almost three years ago. I use it to distribute content and raise awareness of my writing. Twitter has been very, very good to me. I’m myself, show interests — varied, eclectic. Folks then are interested in my writing. I am not on Facebook. Was there; had bad experiences. It’s too social to me — not my focus.
@retheauditors: Yes. That, Google Alerts and Twitter keep me current.
@profnet: Can you give us a teaser on your Wikileaks blog post? How is it related to the audit firms?
@retheauditors: My Wikileaks blog post is not closely related to audit firms. The Forbes column is called “Accounting Watchdog.” The column was written because of speculation about which bank Assange is targeting next. I’m writing about banks a lot. As a result, I have strong opinions about vulnerabilities of the banks and also which one would give Assange the biggest bang. The Forbes column is teaching me much about audience, connecting my interest with what people want (investment info) and timing.
@profnet: Are you planning on getting an agent when you start your book? Is one needed?
@retheauditors: I would like an agent now to book more speaking and TV. (I’ve never done TV, but have done lots of video.) An agent is necessary for the book. I had an agent interested in a very early book proposal, but have not followed up. I need to revise the proposal. Much has changed in three years.
@tedskinner: How do you come up with original content? Where do you get your ideas?
@retheauditors: 25 years of experience, voracious reading while waiting for Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now.
@dianalynnnguyen: We’re talking about blogging still, right?
@retheauditors: Well, I’m single, I have a Rottweiler, love Mexico, in Chicago.
@dianalynnnguyen: Ha! You have just made a fan tonight!
@profnet: LOL. Nice personal ad.
@retheauditors: Not really on the hunt, but love meeting new, interesting people. The blog and Twitter have really enriched my life.
@gnosisarts: She’s single, fellas, but “You have to want me,” she said. Whoo!
@retheauditors: An acquired taste. Like single malt scotch.
@profnet: Have you ever considered blogging about other subjects?
@retheauditors: BTW, photo is key. I waited two years on photo on blog (same as Twitter avatar). Geez. Can’t tell you the impact. Puts a face to the words.
@retheauditors: So much more to say. But in general, just do it. Open tools mean there’s no barrier except your own ambition and skills.
@profnet: What a great ending! Thank you so much for being a fabulous (and first) guest. I hope you have all learned a ton! I hope all those involved with our #connectchat will follow @retheauditors for more great blogging examples. Thanks to all who participated.
@retheauditors: Thank you all for great questions and conversation. It was fun. Time flies!
Authored by Maria Perez, director-news operations, ProfNet.
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