Pen to paper. (Or fingers to keyboard, as it were.)
As you compose your Pultizer-worthy prose, you should be efficient with your time and effective with your writing habits. The tips I’m about to suggest may seem excessive, but, as I’ve said before, we are trying to create good habits for ourselves. Over the long run, these good habits and tools will make us more effective with our time and therefore more productive than our competitors.
Here are a few tools I have picked up since becoming a writer that may help you speed up the process or focus in on your writing . . .
Before you write down a single word, you should plan out what you will write, how you will write it, and how long it will take. This 5 minutes of planning can save you hours of staring at a blank screen figuring out what’s next. Use an app like MindManager, Mindo, or Popplet. All three of these are just apps for brainstorming or thought-clouds. You can use them to plot out the themes and resources of your post and they are all available for the iPad or iPhone. So you can do this on MARTA, ordering your food at lunch, or just waiting on the elevator. This takes all of 4 minutes for me and I usually do it while I am waiting around for a sandwich or the elevator. Once this is done I am ready to attack the article and bust it out in a few minutes.
Who are you writing to? Who will read this post? Why are they looking for your information? When will they look for it? This is what I call “targeting” for your posts. You have to figure out 1) who your readers are, 2) what they are looking for, and 3) when they will be looking for it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a tool to help you with figuring out the “who.” Use your brain. The other two are much easier.
Google Analytics and Alexa will show you traffic patterns and search patterns within your niche. Google Analytics has a benchmarking tool to show you the traffic patterns of searches and web traffic in your industry. Alexa pretty much does that same thing. The “when” part is slightly more complicated, but there are some great, free tools for Twitter and Facebook that show when to post for maximum exposure to your followers. We will cover that when we go over social media.
When you are going to start writing, you need to eliminate all your distractions. Focus on effectiveness and being efficient with your time. If you are looking up every two minutes at the “bing” of your Outlook, that article is going to take you 3 hours. Bust it out in twenty minutes of straight-forward, focused writing. Then you can go focus on your emails, phone calls, etc. 20 minutes of sustained, intense focus on writing will be more productive than two hours of multi-tasking. You lose all momentum and thought-synergy when you stop to jot a quick email.
I use OmmWriter . It’s a cool iPad app that has serene backgrounds and soft music to keep you focused. Two other highly recommended apps are Manuscript and q10. They both do the same thing as OmmWriter, but Manuscript is a little more robust with built in Google, Dictionary/Thesaurus, and Wikipedia on the page. So you can seamlessly integrate your post with info from the web and you can check your wording. It comes with a price ($6.99!!!) where the rest of the apps are free. q10 is basically the same as OmmWriter but has a little different user interface. So you may prefer that to OmmWriter depending on your screen, noise, and color preferences.
So now you have your wonderful article ready to publish, right? Wrong. Now you get to fill it with images and great links that add value to your reader.
Check back with the APJ for our next post where we will discuss where to find and download useful and FREE images for your post. Later we will be discussing the right link architecture for your posts and how to set them up as efficiently as possible.
To continue our discussion of best practices in writing for a CRE site or blog, let’s discuss content.
I have been asked about what types of information to reveal and what types of knowledge to share. I don’t think there is one answer to that question and it certainly depends on several factors. For instance, if you work for a law firm, you may need to be very careful about your opinions and the insights you share. King and Spalding may not appreciate you telling about their unreasonable practices with their billable hours (I’m sure their hours are reasonable and fair, by the way).
But I will say that, in general, more sharing is better. In fact, I would go ahead and advise you to tell your secrets and best practices.
The reason I say that is pretty simple: Readers like interesting content. Reusing the content of others is fine, but nothing will drive content to your site like original content. And I would argue that the most interesting types of original content are “insider knowledge” and “trade secrets.”
If you don’t believe me, think about your favorite articles. Are they news posts? (This deal happened at this property.) Are they product reviews? (I like this widget for business.) Maybe.
My favorite articles are the ones that give me an inside look at something or a little known secret of the industry. I once read a great article from the New Yorker about elevator malfunctions and a history of people being trapped in elevators. The article was like 15 pages long and took me the better part of a half hour. But it was fascinating and I loved it. I read it 3 years ago and I still remember it.
Those articles draw eyes. And lots of them . . .
Telling secrets, sharing insider knowledge, pointing out what everyone else has missed, those are the articles that really distinguish your voice as interesting and insightful.
I can already hear the push back:
Duke, if I tell all my secrets, I will have no competitive advantage and my readers will take deals from me.
Two things wrong with that feeble complaint.
First, I never said tell ALL of your secrets. If you found the greatest way to source equity in the history of the planet and no one has figured it out but you, then by all means protect your intellectual property. If it is that revolutionary, patent or trademark it and make money off it. You can patent it, then write about it, and then charge others to use your idea.
But the vast majority of secrets and best practices are known and shared by the top tier of professionals in a niche. So you really aren’t sharing anything all that revolutionary. You’re just taking info from the upper echelon and distributing it to everyone else.
In essence that’s what most journalism entails. Since none of us sit in the White House every day, we watch CNN to hear what their reporters gather from the upper echelon of politicians. These politicians are part of an exclusive circle of information and we depend on reporters to find out what they are talking about and what they are thinking in order to remain informed about the direction of our nation’s politics. Your CRE post is no different. You are sharing privileged information with the masses.
So don’t think that sharing little-known information is new or controversial. Reporters and journalists do it every day and we eat it up.
The second problem with your intellectual property conundrum is that you probably overestimate your audience both in size and retention.
The whole point of a blog is to share interesting information with a group of like-minded people. They don’t want to come to your site for info they can get elsewhere. They want original insights and great information. Chances are you won’t have a billion people reading your post; just a few interested parties. The APJ caters to commercial property professionals in Atlanta, GA. How many people is that? A few hundred? Maybe a few thousand? However many it is, I’m not sure it’s enough to change the planet forever with my tricks on how to get a loan or how to manage multiple brokers.
I think that’s why TentBlogger has tens of thousands of followers. Not only does he tell you how to create great content for your site, but he also tells you how to monetize it. He even told his readers how much money he makes blogging and how he makes it! That is proprietary knowledge that he is sharing with thousands of potential competitors. Have any of them put him out of business? Nope. Will they? Probably not, because he has established a reputation as a knowledge leader and knowledge dispenser. I just mentioned him on this site and linked to his articles. Because he was so forthcoming with info, I mentioned him, linked to his site several times (boosting his SEO), and recommended you read his work. Sounds to me like telling secrets has helped him a great deal . . .
ProBlogger does the same thing. It’s a blog that makes money while teaching others to make money . . . blogging.
In fact, thousands of people use this method. Paula Deen isn’t afraid of being out-cooked by someone who buys her cookbook. Eric Schmidt isn’t afraid Google will be overtaken by rivals with the publishing of In The Plex. I doubt Ted Williams was afraid of being out-slugged by some young hot shot when we co-wrote The Science of Hitting.
All of these people are achievers who shared insights about themselves, their companies, or their recipes. Did they fear being overtaken by a rival by sharing this secret or privileged information? Probably not. There is a huge difference between “knowing” and “doing.”
I have read Good to Great by Jim Collins at least 3 times in the last 2 years. In a debate on Corporate Strategy and Business Excellence, he would destroy me and make me look like a child. If there were a moderator in our debate, his response to my comments may be something like this:
All kidding aside, it’s a little silly to think that the consumer of information can match the distributor of information. If you learn a trick, share it with the world, and then are overtaken by those who read your trick, then I would assert that they would have overtaken you eventually anyway.
Think about the people you know who still cling to best practices from 1985. Are they industry leaders and market drivers? Absolutely not. The best of the best are constantly learning, changing, and adapting. If your secrets, tricks, and insider knowledge are the same as the secrets, tricks, and insider knowledge you possess in 10 years, then you will have already been passed by.
Sharing a secret/trick/insider tip you have about the best way to conduct a property visit, or the best practices for stream-lining construction loans , or 5 tips on obtaining equity financing, will NOT hurt you in the long run and I would argue that it will only help your reputation with your audience and followers in the short run.
So, if sharing secrets and insider knowledge doesn’t hurt you in the long run and only helps you in the short run, why are you still protecting that intellectual property? Share it with the rest of us, let us tell you how smart and wonderful you are, and then we will forget it and you can still be the expert. Just teach me something interesting and I promise I will come back hungry to learn more. Teach me something I could learn elsewhere and I will just go wherever is easiest or best looking.
Secrets and insider knowledge make your posts unique and interesting. If you don’t share them, then (eventually) someone else will and I will just hang around on their site.
Ready to start writing for your commercial real estate blog?
Yes? Super duper!
. . . go ahead . . . .
. . . right now . . .
. . . any time . . .
. . . we are waiting . . .
Need some ideas where to start? Well, I would suggest that you review our previous posts about the 5 Steps to Posting on Your CRE Blog. After that, you probably need an idea.
We can help you with that.
In my mind there are a few basic types of articles to write for CRE specific sites: quick notes on news, reviews of other people’s articles, a curation of resources, opinions (my favorite), product reviews, interviews, or data interpretation.
Let’s take them one-at-a time:
1. Quick Notes on News
This is one of the quickest and easiest posts. You simply take some news that’s published elsewhere and post it on your site. You are adding value to your readers because you are saving them the time of finding these articles themselves. I like to put comments or observations with my links, but it is more than sufficient to simply repost and add links to current news. Curbed does a good job of creating posts around news and Llenrock does a great job of simply reposting articles (or videos, in this case).
2. Reviews of Other People’s Articles
This is slightly different than notes on news because it involves opinions. In this type of post, you are commenting on a post someone else made by agreeing with or disagreeing with their view on Subject X. You can also use this type of post to draw attention to a post that you like and what it did for you. You can say “I saw THIS post at THAT site and it helped me do THIS for THAT thing.” That way you are validating the article, but also taking it one step further to its application in your life/business/career. If you read an article on TentBlogger about coworking space, you could talk about how it made you realize the sudden demand for that type of office product in the city and then muse for a few paragraphs about the finer points of that trend. (Tip – Be nice here. The internet is written in ink and people will never forget when you call their opinion stupid or ridiculous.)
3. A Curation of Resources
This is one of my favorites to read, but not necessarily my favorite to write. It’s basically just a huge list of resources for a given category. These posts save your readers a massive amount of time and energy in research. If you have all of the latest and greatest resources in one place, they don’t have to waste their precious time looking for the right link. DailyTekk is one of the best on the planet at this and Duke Long has great posts about people to follow on LinkedIn, CRE blogs to read, or CRE people to follow on Twitter.
Think that building is ugly? Are all traffic engineers idiots? Is TSPLOST the best thing to happen to Atlanta since the Olympics? Write it down, defend it, and prepare for a fight. Nothing gets comments going more than a strong opinion article. I love this type of writing because . . . I’m opinionated (scandalous revelation, no?). I have strong opinions and I like sharing them. There are so many facets to our industry and our city that these topics are almost unlimited, and as long as you remain cordial and respectful of the opposing view, these are some of the most interesting articles to read. Coy Davidson does a good job on these posts.
5. Product Reviews
Did you just try to CoStarGo app? Have you found some flaws in ARGUS? Did you just visit a recently opened property? Review it (them) and share in your post. As I mentioned above, you are saving time for your readers here. Readers like this for the same reason they like to check Rotten Tomatoes. They want to see what others are saying before they form their opinion. CRE-Apps is the winner in this arena.
Sit down with a local executive and ask him 3/5/10 interesting questions. There are very few rules when you’re writing for a blog instead of a newspaper, so feel free to be creative with your questions because creative questions will create interesting responses. I would caution you thusly: be respectful of their time and send them the questions ahead of time. Execs are very busy and have many demands on their time. Don’t come in asking for an hour. Ask for 20 minutes and be grateful when you get it. Also, let him or her read the questions ahead of time. That way they aren’t caught off guard and they can prepare witty or pithy replies. Make them look smart and they will like you. Then publish it and let me read it!
7. Data Interpretation
The census just published some good data or the government just provided voting trends for the city? Pick through it, find a trend, and comment on it. This can be time-consuming and (if the data isn’t easily sortable) tedious. But these posts are VERY interesting and thought provoking. You can drive a ton of traffic to your site with an original trend idea that you noticed from the data. Maybe 94% of unmarried Asians in Atlanta vote against TSPLOST in July. Why did that happen and why should I care? That would be an interesting article worth a read.
There may be more types of posts and the more creative you can get the better. But those 7 listed above are by far the most common and highly read types of posts on blogs.
Think about the types of posts that you read. Would you agree that most of them fall into these categories? Do you prefer re-packaged information like 1,2,3 & 7? Or do you prefer more original content like 4, 5, and 6? Let us know in the comments!
As part of our ongoing discussion about commercial real estate sites and blogs, here is a quick and dirty guide on how to post on your WordPress blog.
There are many different ways to do this and best practices are constantly changing, but this is the best way that we at the APJ have found to do it.
(*Note* – We included the estimated time required to complete each step so you can plan for your posts accordingly)
Step 1 = Write (Time – 5 minutes to 2 hours)
This may be obvious, but the first and most important part of the post is the writing. What you say and how you say it is what will keep readers coming back. You can dress it up with fancy pictures and put some neat links in the article, but if it is confusing, amateurish, belligerent, or just weird, readers will be put off and will get their info elsewhere. Take your time. Write it well. Be concise and be interesting. A good starting point for beginners is here.
Step 2 = Link (5 to 10 Minutes)
After you have written and edited your text, you need to make the text alive with links. You can link to posts or pages within your own site, but you should also link to exterior articles and pages. Readers want a quick way to digest your information and also want to have access to more information at the click of a mouse. The way to provide that ease-of-use to your readers is to hyperlink sites or articles to words and phrases in your text. It’s very easy. You just highlight the text you want the reader to click for a link, click on the chain-link symbol in the middle of your WordPress Post Box, and then type or paste the URL of the link into the field “URL”. That’s it. Once the reader clicks the word (which will now have changed color), she will be redirected to that page. (We will discuss link architecture later.) You can also take this time to “Tag” your posts and put them into categories, but that is part of your SEO strategy and we will discuss that in a later post.
Step 3 = Insert Images (2 Minutes to 1 Hour – depending on if you need to find the images or if you already have them)
You have great content and you are linked to other great content. Now you need to catch the reader’s eye. I like to put an image before my text and one inserted into my text. I find the two-image model works well for aesthetics, but doesn’t distract from the text of my posts. Others use more images and it looks great. This is a way you can customize your posts to your personal preferences and if you monitor site analytics you will eventually figure out what your readers prefer. To insert an image, you simply click on the “Upload/Insert” icon(s) above your WordPress post box. WP will then give you a pop-up window that will allow you select an image from your computer or the web, insert it into the post, create a caption, create a link, and format the image to your liking. We can discuss later where to find great images and the ideal setting for your inserted images. For now, start playing around with these inserted images and their placement.
Step 4 – Preview and Edit (5 Minutes)
If you’re like me, you will miss a couple typos and grammatical errors on your first (and second) time through writing. I always like to hit the “Preview” button at the top right of the WP Post Page to see how it looks in my theme and to proofread it one more time. I always end up catching a misspelling or typo and usually end up rewording a few phrases. Remember, your goal with this post is to provide as much value as possible in as few words as possible that are as easy to read as possible. If you find any choppy sentences or phrases when you preview, now is the time to edit them before the final publish. I also take this time to shorten the post and eliminate any superfluous words or phrases. This is your final “polish” before the publish.
Step 5 – Publish it (10 Seconds)
It sounds good. It looks good. It’s concise. It’s pithy. It’s interesting and it’s packed with great links. Share it with the world! This is as simple as clicking the blue “Publish” button on your post page. Once you do, it will be on your site for the whole world to see and enjoy.
Of course, the journey of your post isn’t over here. You need to send your baby all over the interwebs via social media . . . but we will cover that later. For now, here they are again:
The Five Steps to a CRE Blog Post:
3. Insert Images
4. Preview and Edit
There it is. Pretty easy, right? Have you found a better way of doing it? Do you like to put in images before you link? Let me know in the comments.
As part of an ongoing discussion about blogging and sites centered on commercial real estate, a question continues to present itself:
What makes a great blog post?
There are dozens of resources and opinions on the topic, but I want to distill my answer into what I think are the 5 most important. My answers are below.
1. Get the headline right
The headline is the first thing a visitor or searcher will see when roaming the interwebs. If your headline doesn’t tell the reader what the post is about and why they should care, they will keep skimming elsewhere. Create a line that balances the thrust of your topic with something that will grab a reader’s attention. For instance, instead of titling your article “How to Improve Cyber-Security at Your Data Center” call it “Keep Hackers Out of Your Data!” See how they both show the theme of the article but the second one makes you want to click?
2. Have images
Readers like pretty stuff. Notice the nice image at the top of this post? That isn’t an accident. Get good-looking images in your post and people will stay on the page long enough to read your content. Dry text is . . . dry. Spice it up with great imagery.
3. Be brief
Hopefully it goes without saying that you should have interesting topics on your site. I would argue that HOW you say it is almost as important as WHAT you say. Never take five words to say something you could say in two. Readers highly value their time and have a few seconds to read your junk. Be short and to-the-point. The sweet-spot for SEO and readability is 200-500 words. Aim for that.
4. Have great links
Posts are more than words and pictures. They should be connected to other posts in your site and resources outside your site. That way you are providing additional content for readers and corroborating evidence for your post. Give readers something to click and learn outside of your site and they will come back.
5. End well
Posts should end with a call to action or conversation starter. If you want someone to engage with your site, ask them what they think about your opinion. How is their experience different? What resources do they use? When is the best time to . . .? Get people commenting and they will come back to the site to see how others have responded to their comments.
Is the APJ great at all of these 5 tips? Not yet. But we know the goal and we are getting there. We learn more every day about the art and science of writing for the internet.
If you have any tips, advice for us, or general comments, please let us know in the comments below.
I have been asked several times over the last few weeks about the setup of my site and how someone else could do it. So let me take a few minutes to let you know what I did and how you can do it for yourself.
Step 1 – Choose a Name
The first step for me was choosing the name of my site. Even before I started deciding whether to use WordPress.com, WordPress.org, Blogger, Google Sites, or any one of a half dozen other website platforms, I needed to decide what to call the site. I chose AtlantaPropertyJournal.com because it was easy to remember, broad enough to cover anything that interested CRE pros, and, most importantly, available for purchase. I will take you through the specifics of domain names and hosting elsewhere, but for now I just want you to know that I chose the name of my site before I ever considered a platform.
Step 2 – Choose a host
Maybe I should have done more research into blogging platforms before this step, but I wanted to make sure I had a place to buy my domain name and host all of the security and warranty stuff. I happened to choose Bluehost for mine (they have been great), but I could just as easily gone with 1-and-1 or iPage or any of about 1000 other hosts. Almost all of them integrate well with a WordPress blog.
Step 3 – Install WordPress
The nice thing about Bluehost is that they have a control panel with software called “SimpleScripts” that allows you to customize and install things into your site. I simply ran the WordPress simple script and Bluehost installed it for me. I was then given a login page and asked to create a WordPress account. That took about 30 seconds. Once I confirmed my account through email, I was up and running with my new and secure WordPress Site.
Step 4 – Customize
This is by far the most difficult and time-consuming part of the process. I created the site in about 15 minutes. I have been customizing it for more than a year. WordPress comes with a default “theme” and some goodies, but I wanted to make mine look customized. There have been volumes written about how to customize WordPress sites and I would recommend this one as one of my favorites. But, for the scope of this post, let me just talk about themes.
A theme is basically just a way to tweak the appearance of your site. You can change the color scheme, site layout, text display, fonts, and pretty much anything else that has to do with the appearance of your site. This is extremely important because, as CRE pros know, layout and aesthetics matter. If the site is too “busy” or sloppy or confusing, no one is going to hang around and discover your brilliance. So you want to find a theme that fits your content, is nice to look at, stays simple, and displays your content well. In fact, that could be a good little checklist for you.
When looking at a theme for your WordPress CRE site ask yourself:
1) Does this site fit my content? Pink bunnies don’t jive with retail leasing trends. Make sure it is professional.
2) Is it nice to look at? Pretty straight forward. People don’t like looking at ugly stuff and if it caught your eye it will catches someone else’s.
3) Is it simple? If you throw too much on there, people will get distracted and the thrust of your content will be lost. I am guilty of this from time to time, so don’t think I’m preaching.
4) Does it display your content well? Since the content is the most important part of your site, make sure that it is well-displayed. Don’t let it be dominated by headers, links, or photographers. People will come to your site and stay there based on your content. Make it pop.
You can tear your hair out over how many columns to have, where to display your RSS feeds, and a dozen other minor tweaks. But if you get the theme right, you will have a step on the competition.
Where do you find themes? Great question.
As I get into customizing your site, I will explain more. For now, just know that there are literally thousands of themes to choose from. Some are free and some cost $20- $50. A good place to start is WordPress.org’s Free Theme Directory. There are 1500 free themes here for you to compare and answer the questions above.
My favorite paid themes (or “Premium” themes) are on ThemeForest.com and WooThemes.com. Both have thousands of great themes that make your site look more professional and improve its performance. If I had to recommend one premium theme, I would point you toward the Standard Theme by 8bit.io. I know the head of 8bit. He is a stud and so is his product. Check it out.
So that’s my quick and dirty WordPress and themes intro for all of you who are looking to build your own CRE site. I will follow up with a series of more in-depth discussions on customizing and optimizing WordPress and its themes. For now, hit me up in the comments!
Lightning struck my brain this morning (figuratively) and I had an epiphany. It’s not really all that rare since I do some of my best thinking on my morning jog. But this one has stuck with me so I thought I would share it.
The Internet is commercial real estate and commercial property deal-makers are uniquely suited to succeed in creating a web presence.
I’ll start with the first half of the idea. At its most basic level, the internet is just a collections of places where you can see, do, and buy stuff. It is a collection of places for commerce, learning, working, and interacting. Sound familiar? Define commercial real estate . . .
Do I really need to draw a comparison between a shopping mall and Amazon.com?
The point is: The entire theme of the internet is placemaking. You want to create a space where people want to be. It’s the exact same concept as commercial property.
We, as CRE geeks, ask questions like:
- How can I get traffic to my property?
- How can I make visitors want to stay on my property?
- What can I do to the layout of the property to optimize the visitor/tenant experience?
- How can I entice shoppers to spend more money in my mall?
- How can I give tenants easy access to my building from their commute?
The web geek version would be:
- How do I get traffic to my site?
- How can I make visitors stay on my page?
- What can I do to the layout of the site to optimize user experience?
- How can I get visitors to spend more money on my site?
- How can I get visitors into my site easily from their natural web-surfing patterns?
Do you see that these are the EXACT same questions that require the EXACT same mentality and need the EXACT same skill set?
We spend our entire careers figuring out how people interact with places and that is exactly what web traffic is about.
I would even go so far as to contend that there is no group of people on the planet better suited to innovate on web traffic patterns and user experience than commercial real estate professionals. It’s our entire career. It is how we have made our living for every year of our professional life.
Need further convincing? Ok.
Web addresses. Do you know why every site builder and designer wants a “.com” address? Of course you do. Same reason all of the office buildings in Atlanta want “Peachtree St” addresses. Everyone knows it and everyone goes by it.
Why is blinds.com a better web domain than woodblindsofatlanta.com? For the same reason that “Atlantic Station” is a better label than “that brownfield development on the old Atlantic Steel site off the connector.” It’s short, pithy, and people remember it.
Why do web designers spend so much time on their tags and categories? For the same reason you spend so much time studying the demographics around your retail center. You want to know what your target customer is looking for.
Is this exciting to anyone else?
Hopefully, those three examples didn’t teach you anything. You already knew the concepts because you’re a CRE pro who understands a customer or tenant’s interaction with property.
So, what I’m telling you is very simple:
If you are in Commercial Real Estate, you are ALREADY very well equipped to succeed in creating a web presence.
It’s all the more exciting because deals and properties are finite. As the saying goes “They aren’t making any more land.” Well, apparently there’s a fresh supply of internet. We may be hindered by geography, financing, capital markets, or something else in commercial property. On the web, you are limited only as far as the human mind is limited. If you can imagine it, someone can probably create it.
So, here is the real question:
What are you going to do about it?
I’ve just told you that you have an unparalleled skill set that makes you uniquely suited to succeed in a limitless environment. You have a chance to be utterly dominant at building a corporate brand, expanding your influence, growing your skill set, and yes, even making money through the web.
What are you going to do about it?
Hit me up in the comments.
Let’s take a moment to discuss pseudonyms and three reasons I use one.
I wouldn’t say I’m a huge Dave Ramsey fan. I certainly like the guy and think his mission to stop the debt-happy insanity in our country is admirable. But I’m not really his target audience. I’m a finance guy that hates debt. His messages don’t add much value.
I do love my wife. And she wanted to take Dave’s Financial Peace University before we got married. Long story short, we took FPU for 8 weeks at Wieuca Rd Baptist. As I suspected, I didn’t get much out of it in terms of financial tools, but I did get a great book recommendation.
Ramsey tells a story of talking to the wealthiest man he knows, a multi-billionaire, and asking for the man’s recommendation for “the greatest book on investing someone can read.” The billionaire’s response is one of the only things that stuck with me from those 8 weeks.
This nameless billionaire claimed that the greatest investing book of all time is . . . .
“Cool. But, Duke, why are you writing about Dave Ramsey and children’s books in a post about pseudonyms?”
Because, kind stranger, I write with a pseudonym because of The Tortoise and the Hare. The theme of tTatH is “slow and steady wins the race.” I agree with that wholeheartedly, but I would amend it slightly:
The best way to go far is to NEVER go backwards and NEVER stop.
The tortoise won the race because he never stopped, never slowed down, never deviated from his path, and never took his focus off his goal. That’s my intention for my career. A thousand small, steady, focused steps toward my goal.
A legal battle over postings on a website could fall under the category of “step backward.” A pseudonym tacked on the end of any post allows plausible deniability to any author and places any legal burden on The Atlanta Property Journal and the parent company that owns it. Both the APJ and the parent company have excellent legal counsel and can protect themselves from nasty words like libel and slander.
If you have read any posts on this site, then you know we aren’t in the business of talking smack or trashing anyone. This is a forum for ideas, discussions, book reviews, trends, and anything else interesting that affects commercial property in Atlanta. This ain’t TMZ and I’m not Perez Hilton. But I have been around long enough to know that there are plenty of unethical people and ambulance chasers who will sue you just for fun. So, I protect myself and the writers of the APJ.
I have access to every account that runs through this site and can claim that any author of the site could post under any name. So all liability comes back to the company and never to the author. It may seem like a small distinction, but it is the difference in the company paying $20,000 in legal bills and my friend paying $20,000 in legal bills. That’s a big difference to me.
So, the main reason I write under a pseudonym is to protect myself and my authors from legal liability. I never want anyone associated with me and my business to be forced to take a step backwards in their career because of some article. That’s the main reason, but there is another reason:
Writing under a pseudonym allows an author to feel more free and open in her writing. If you know that you, your family, and your employer are all protected legally from your writing, you can be totally open and honest with your work and not feel the need to pull punches or water down your content. It may just be a subconscious trigger, but people who are comfortable with writing the truth tend to write more truthfully.
And I can promise you this: More open authors are more interesting authors. And more honest content is more interesting content.
The APJ was created to foster an environment where people can come to be real and truthful about whatever vexes the CRE world. Keeping the attorneys away from everybody will help nurture that. Tip-toeing around the truth for fear of hurting anyone’s feelings leads to overly-vague and philosophical content. If you can’t get specific and detailed about something you end up sounding too general. On the other hand, if someone wants to come in and start talking noise and being terrible . . . they’re blocked. Piece of cake and I sleep like a baby.
The third and final reason I use a pseudonym is humility. Maybe I am the only one who struggles with this, but I can be a tad prideful. I like to think how smart I am or how great my accomplishments are and that gets me into trouble. (In moments of clarity I actually believe that anything I accomplish is simply because God allowed it, but that is another post for another time.) Whenever my focus starts turning to accomplishments I lose focus and become the hare.
So, I don’t want my name on this site. If this site and it’s affiliates have success, I want the success attributed to them not me. Otherwise I might start thinking how great I am and trying to “promote my personal brand.” I’m not that great. My friends and partners are great. They deserve to be lauded.
Anyway, those are my three reasons for using a pseudonym. Do they make sense? Do you think I’m crazy? Tell me in the comments.
- A peaceful spot to write something . . .
I find that I get a little push-back on writing (see: blogging) about commercial real estate. I hear excuses about “not enough time”, “nothing to write about”, “preserving intellectual property”, blah blah blah.
Ok. Maybe those are true, but I doubt it.
I won’t say that every other industry has embraced the blog as a viable form of information delivery, but several very mature industries have not only embraced but even openly encouraged blogs centered around the industry’s trends, challenges, and news.
And I would argue that the industry is the better for it. The constant flow of information and ideas from these two sites alone can change the way a person or firm operates and interacts with the financial industry.
So, let’s bring it back home.
Writing is wonderful and beneficial. Neato. But why should you write about CRE?
Here are five (not-so-obvious) reasons why (and I am going to assume that you are a commercial real estate professional):
This may be obvious to you, but when I first started writing online I didn’t realize how much I would need to connect with the online CRE community. Through research for articles and building my social media profiles, I ran across some tremendous resources. Learning from people like Coy Davidson, Duke Long, The CRE-Apps Team, and the 42 Floors guys has VASTLY increased my knowledge base on the fundamentals of global CRE. I can’t imagine any other way that I would have been able to grow my tool kit as quickly or thoroughly as I have through gaining connections with the online CRE community.
This plays heavily into Connectivity, but I want to point out that through my direct research for articles I have been forced to understand concepts that I may have glossed over in business. Just taking the time to research bankruptcy has made me decently knowledgeable on the differences between Chapters 7, 11, and 13 in US bankruptcy court. It has been both fascinating and rewarding and I’m not sure I would have taken the time to study it if I hadn’t wanted to present it clearly and concisely on my site. Maybe the best way to say it is that directed research for an article is the best way I know to gain depth (as opposed to width) of knowledge in a subject.
One concept I have come to understand is that true thought leaders on the web don’t repackage information. They aren’t just regurgitating news from the local paper. Thought leaders create new, original, and interesting content in a palatable, concise format. To do so, they have to read, interpret, and understand the news and information that crosses in front of them. They need to gain an applicable understanding of the subject in order to present it well. I think that leads to retention (it has for me). It’s very similar to school. Remember, those advanced statistical questions you had to memorize for calculus? Yeah, me neither. What I do remember is the papers I wrote and studies I did that forced me to take the info, interpret it, and bend it to my thesis. I retained that knowledge and could discuss it today. Memorization is intellectual junk food. You don’t retain knowledge that you memorize or redeliver. You retain knowledge that you interpret and apply. So I have found that creating original content will make unique concepts stick with me for substantially longer than news stories that I retweet.
This one goes hand-in-hand with brevity. Web-based articles shouldn’t be novels. They are brief, fact-filled, and to-the-point. The web isn’t a friendly place for rambling. So to create good content, you need to develop the ability to present ideas clearly in as few words as possible. That forces you to think clearly about the concept and find a creative way to present it with brevity. What you will find is that you will start forming opinions and thoughts through this process that are clear and concise. Think of the brightest people you know. Do they drone on and on about subjects they discuss with you? Probably not. They have clear, pithy truisms that they dispense quickly and sharply. I aspire to that. I want to present quick sharp thoughts eloquently and I find that the more I wrote and opine on my site, the clearer and sharper my opinions become. I want you to have that as well.
This is an open forum. Write about what you want to write about. As long as you aren’t bad-mouthing anyone or being overly profane, spread your wings. I’m not your momma. Do what you want. As long as it pertains to CRE, rock on. How many other forums in your career allow that type of freedom and creativity? Not many, I’m betting. I find it very satisfying to know that there is a forum with very few rules where I can create new ideas, projects, or concepts for my industry. It’s a lot of fun.
So, there it is. My 5 not-so-obvious reasons why you should write about CRE. Can you think of any others? Think I am off my rocker? Let me know in the comments!
photo Courtesy SXC user Ydiot
Just ran across this site last night and I love it. Check it and and let me know what you think.
CRE Apps is a site dedicated to commercial real estate technology and software applications.
Some of my favorite articles are:
Keep up the great work and we will add CRE-Apps to the RSS feed on the right!