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Sound Safety Solutions Come from Detailed Accident Investigations

Man with hardhat and safety vest to demonstrate the importance of accident investigations

Originally Published by Cole Publishing
Nearly all worksite injuries and fatalities are preventable. John Brengosz, Loss Control Consultant for R & R Insurance, says one way to prevent workplace incidents is to determine the underlying causes and correct them. This requires a thorough incident investigation.
“Ideally, we would want to prevent somebody from getting injured. But at the very least, we want to learn from an injury so it doesn’t happen again and again,” Brengosz says.

Prepare a Response Strategy

OSHA encourages organizations to investigate all worksite incidents that result in injuries, plus close calls in which workers escape injury. Organizations are required to notify OSHA within 24 hours when incidents involve an amputation, loss of an eye, or admittance to a hospital.
Conducting a thorough incident investigation requires forethought. Injuries can occur at the most inconvenient times, so organizations should prepare an incident-response strategy in advance. Brengosz recommends developing several topic areas and questions based on the types of injuries that typically occur. Using this list, organizations are prepared to gather information, even in hurried or stressful situations.
In addition to this list, organizations also should fill out a standard incident investigation form. The form should include the injured employee’s name, time and date of the incident, department, and description of the incident.
“We don’t need to know the (employee’s) birth date, the hire date, or the rate of pay, for it has nothing to do with how this person got hurt,” Brengosz says. “We wasted a whole bunch of time just filling in boxes, and we haven’t even gotten to the investigation.”

Question Witnesses

Brengosz recommends investigating an incident as soon as possible, after medical care is provided, but while the incident is fresh in the minds of the people involved.
“You have to go out and talk to people and look at the scene as soon as you can,” he says. In addition to interviewing the worker involved in the incident, investigators also should interview witnesses.
“I rarely see any witness statements when reviewing completed investigations,” Brengosz says. “Maybe it’s a case that, ‘We’ve had enough.’ By the time we talk to the injured party, we think we’ve already ‘wasted too much time on this’ and just want it to be done. I understand that. I don’t like it, but I get it.”
A supervisor or lead person should complete the investigation report, not Human Resources or a Safety Committee, Brengosz says.
“Those folks can answer questions or help that person do the investigation, but it really should be the supervisory person to take responsibility for the injury and the fix,” Brengosz says.

Ask For the Injured Employee’s Account

In addition to answering the supervisor’s questions, injured employees should write their own version of the incident as a stand-alone document.
“It’s good to get their unfiltered description of how they were injured in case the story changes two years from now when we’re at a work comp hearing,” Brengosz says. Realistically, the supervisor’s and employee’s descriptions of the incident should be a close match.
“If not, you have to go back to the drawing board, and there’s more work to do,” he says.
Investigations can be tricky if the injured employee or the supervisor broke a safety rule or operational rule. They won’t necessarily jump in and admit it.
“The best way to address that is to have other people reviewing the completed reports,” Brengosz says.

Conversate, Don’t Interrogate

He tells supervisors to take a friendly approach when conducting an incident investigation.
“It’s way more effective if the supervisor can make it a conversation and not an interrogation,” he says.
He also suggests recording the interview, as long as the employee agrees to being recorded. A recording allows for a free-flowing conversation. It also creates an audio file that can be reviewed by others in the future. The conversation should begin with the employee describing what occurred. Afterwards, the interviewer can ask questions and gather details.
“If you’re just talking to them and having a discussion and asking questions, you don’t have to spend all this time writing things down and potentially missing important things that they’re saying,” Brengosz says, referring to the benefits of a recorded interview.

Avoid Sarcasm, Blame & Threats

Brengosz recommends using a tone of voice and mannerisms that invite employees to open up.
“Go in with the attitude of ‘We’re not doing this to trap you. We’re really doing it to find out what happened,’” Brengosz says. Avoid sarcasm, blame, and threats. Instead, investigators can encourage collaboration by asking employees for solutions: “What are your ideas to prevent this from happening again?”
“That gives them a chance to weigh in, too,” Brengosz says.
If investigators don’t think employees are being completely truthful, Brengosz recommends revisiting the facts.
“If the story changes, use tact and try to clear that up,” he says.

Get Everyone Involved to Review

In addition to filling out reports, investigators should take photos and videos to document the conditions at the work site.
Once the initial investigation concludes, the next step is a management incident review. The injured employee, supervisor, safety committee rep and human resources rep should meet with a high-ranking person in the company.
“I’m a huge fan of letting top management see those reports so they know what’s going on and also what we’re doing to stop the constant repeat of the same injuries,” Brengosz says. “I think it’s important for people working for your organization to know that you’re diving into this stuff and solving it.”
After reviewing the incident together, the management group should discuss what changes and training need to occur. Brengosz also recommends that safety committees review the incident investigation reports.
“Maybe somebody in that safety committee has seen a similar type of an injury or situation. They might know something that nobody else knew or realized to help the situation,” Brengosz says. “I don’t think this gets done enough.”

Learn and Take Action

The final step in the incident investigation process is to learn something from the incident and take corrective action.
“Don’t complete these reports, throw them in a file, and they never see the light of day again,” Brengosz says.
Although it’s easy to blame the incident on carelessness or failure to follow a rule, it’s better to determine the underlying causes of an incident. Then, identify what changes need to be made to prevent further incidents.
“It’s very common for me to see an organization that has all sorts of injuries related to lifting and material handling. I will ask them, ‘Hey, do you do training on material handling, lifting, use of hoists, etcetera?’” Brengosz says.

Accidents Are Costly

Preventing incidents from happening is a key to productivity and job satisfaction. A safe workplace also saves an organization money. Accidents can be costly. Brengosz estimates that organizations paying $1,000 for a worker’s compensation claim actually pay double in other “hidden” costs.
Organizations can demonstrate their commitment to workers’ health and well-being by maintaining a safe workplace, prioritizing safety training, and thoroughly investigating incidents. Incident investigations help organizations determine the root causes of an incident, so they can develop solutions that prevent the incident from recurring.

Gavel and law books depicting employment law

Pay Attention to Emerging Employment Law Changes

Gavel and law books depicting employment law

Originally Published in Dig Different

Employment laws change with time. Employers and Human Resource leaders who follow the latest directives not only avoid lawsuits and fines but also maintain a healthier, happier workplace. Over the last year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission acted on three labor regulations that affect U.S. employers. The EEOC enacted the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2023, published a technical assistance document regarding artificial intelligence’s impact on employment discrimination, and accepted public comment regarding the elimination of noncompete agreements. Let’s take a look at each of these three, labor-related matters affecting today’s workplace.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2023 took effect in June. This law requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for qualified employees and job applicants with temporary physical or mental limitations due to pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions.

Brian Bean, Executive Claims Consultant at R&R Insurance, says the new law builds upon the coverage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which prohibited discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical conditions.

“This act is just a step further and requires an affirmative right for accommodation. It’s not just discrimination, but providing reasonable accommodations,” Bean says.

Examples of pregnancy accommodations include flexible work hours; a parking space located close to the work entrance; opportunities to sit down; additional break time to rest, eat, drink water, or use the bathroom; appropriately sized safety apparel and uniforms; leave or time off to recover from childbirth; and the ability to be excused from strenuous activities or activities that involve exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy.

Bean says that many employers were already offering these accommodations, and the 2023 law now legalizes these common practices. “It treats pregnancy like a disability,” he says. Pregnant workers are subject to the same analysis as an Americans with Disability Act reasonable accommodations request.

Artificial Intelligence in Hiring

The second change in 2023 was the EEOC’s anti-discrimination guidance publication related to the use of software, artificial intelligence, and algorithms in employment selection procedures. Current labor law prohibits the use of discriminatory selection procedures and employment tests. The EEOC’s guidance on this matter doesn’t carry the weight of federal law, but employers are smart to take note of it, nevertheless. 

“You better believe, if there are lawsuits … courts are going to look at this document,” Bean says.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can streamline the hiring process by more easily advertising jobs, reviewing applications, screening candidates, and testing. AI is the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to mimic human intelligence to reason, learn, self-correct, and perform complex tasks.

“AI is supposed to be an excellent tool to help overworked people narrow down and screen employees,” Bean says. AI becomes problematic if it disproportionately screens out a protected class, like women, minorities, or people with a criminal record.

“If you have a very legitimate business reason for the selection criteria that excludes people that might be discriminatory, it’s OK,” Bean says. For example, recent drunk driving convictions might exclude job candidates from being hired as service technicians if the technicians would be driving a company van or truck.

However, employers without a legitimate reason for using selection criteria that excludes a protected class can get in legal trouble. For example, facial recognition software can be deemed discriminatory if it’s used to analyze job candidates’ emotions for desirable traits and assigns more negative emotions to minority candidates.

Bean cautions against implicitly trusting technology and AI shortcuts. He tells employers who want to purchase AI products and services to carefully screen the vendors first. Evaluate all business-operating software before purchasing, he says. He also advises employers to audit their hiring practices or hire a third party to conduct employee selection audits.

“Ultimately, the buck will stop with you, no matter what data you use, what program you use, no matter what,” he says. Labor laws apply to AI processes just like they apply to traditional employee selection procedures.

“Is AI the savior of HR? Well, maybe,” Bean says. “It’s a great tool in some areas, but man, it’s going to require some oversight, a lot of audits, and a lot of reviews. The biggest issue is, you better proceed with caution.”

Noncompete Agreements

The final labor regulation is a proposed, nation-wide elimination of noncompete agreements. Noncompete agreements restrict workers who leave a job from starting a competing business or working for a competing employer. Traditionally, state governments have determined the scope of noncompete agreements. Some business leaders argue that noncompete clauses should remain under state governance. They contend that the federal government would overstep its bounds by enacting a U.S. law prohibiting the widely accepted practice.

In a Notice of Proposed Rule Making published in 2023, the Federal Trade Commission says noncompete clauses are an unfair method of competition. The FTC accepted public comment in 2023 on its proposed ban of noncompete clauses. According to the FTC, the clauses significantly reduce workers’ wages, stifle new businesses and new ideas, exploit workers, and hinder economic liberty.

“The argument is these noncompete agreements have gone too far. They affect workers that they really shouldn’t be used against or restrict where they go or what they do,” Bean says.

Whether the FTC’s proposed rule will take effect remains uncertain.

“Just because they draft it doesn’t mean they’ll enact it,” Bean says. He encourages employers to submit their comments to the FTC and keep an eye out for what’s happening on the federal level.

“Make sure you’re at least compliant with the state you’re in,” he says.  

Stay Educated

Remaining compliant with noncompete clauses and labor laws protects workers’ rights and safeguards businesses against legal challenges. When labor law and business practices align, employers save time, money – and their reputation.

Some employment law is easy to understand, while other regulations are more complex. Bean says a common mistake employers make is not asking for help in complicated employment matters. He advises employers to check with an attorney or insurance agent for guidance when faced with confusing employment regulations and governmental guidance.

“You want to put procedures in place and learn about discrimination and other employment issues to avoid problems,” he says.

Employers are subject to at least two sets of rules related to fair employment: federal and state laws, and potentially, municipal labor regulations. Education is the key to keeping up with the latest employment rulings and legal precedents, Bean says.

Man with sore back to demonstrate worker's comp claim

Navigating the Legal Pitfalls of Worker’s Comp

Originally Published in Plumber Magazine

To run a successful operation, employers must safeguard their greatest asset – their employees. The unpredictability of accidents and injuries in the workplace requires employers to be ready at all times to respond to any given situation. As soon as they hire their first employee, employers assume a wide range of legal obligations. One of these legal obligations involves worker’s compensation claims. Every state has its own worker’s compensation act, with differing laws and legal precedents.

Brian Bean, Executive Claims Consultant at R&R Insurance, says worker’s compensation requires a different way of thinking than other personnel management practices.

“Worker’s comp is in its own little world. It operates by its own set of rules, its own set of principles, its own set of laws,” he says. “Employers who figure that out quickly function better in it. Employers who resist against it tend to have a lot more problems in claims management.”

Bean warns employers not to take a smug, know-it-all approach to work-related injuries.

“Anytime you think there’s certainty about worker’s comp, you really shouldn’t think that way. You need to get to the facts. Feeling less certain about it is actually a healthier way to deal with it. It makes you investigate more and get on it quicker,” he says. Don’t ignore a situation, he advises.

“The faster you ask questions, the better to find out what’s happening. People are the most honest right after things happen. That’s when you have to try to lock in statements and testimonies and get it to an adjuster,” he says.

The Rules of Eligibility

Employers can avoid common pitfalls related to worker’s compensation by understanding when their employees are covered by a claim and when they’re not. Basically, employees are covered when they are in the course and scope of employment. What exactly does that mean? Some of these examples may surprise you!

An employee who is on the clock is presumed to be in the course and scope of employment. However, they can be off the clock and still be considered to be employed in a usual and customary way.

One of the most puzzling claims for employers involves employees who have a little too much fun on the road. Whether they’re traveling for work or attending a business conference, employees who are intoxicated and injured are likely to have a legitimate worker’s compensation claim. Courts have ruled that just because employees are drunk, they aren’t removed from the course and scope of employment if they are participating in an employment-related activity. Although they are likely to be eligible for worker’s compensation, they probably will get hit with a reduction in an indemnity for safety violations.

However, an employee who is drunk at the workplace will likely be deemed to be deviating from the course and scope of employment. Thus, the employee would not be eligible for worker’s compensation, if injured.  As always, there can be exceptions.

Even a terminated employee can be eligible for worker’s compensation. For example, terminated employees are covered when they come to the workplace to collect a final check or participate in an exit interview. If injured, the employee likely has a compensable claim.

The Personal Comfort Doctrine

Another compensable claim involves an injury or accident that occurs when employees leave the workplace to go to a coffee shop next door during a paid break. Although they are off-premise, they are on a paid break, so they’re considered to be in the scope of employment. Paid lunch breaks off-premises would also be considered in the course and scope of employment. Contrast this to an unpaid lunch break in which an employee slips and falls or sustains an injury at a nearby café. The employee wouldn’t have a compensable claim.

Then there are examples related to the Personal Comfort Doctrine which covers work-time breaks for using the bathroom, smoking, snacking, and drinking water. Injuries or accidents that occur during comfort breaks fall within the course and scope of employment – even for employees working from home who fall and injure themselves on their way to the bathroom.

Personal Comfort claims are routinely covered by worker’s compensation. Sports-related injuries also may be covered for employees who are injured while playing sports during a work break.

“Basketball hoops are a good example. If you play a pick-up game, then there’s a chance someone will get hurt,” Bean says. “It’s better not to have that stuff around, because if you put it up and leave it up, it’s pretty good evidence that you’re condoning it. It becomes usual and customary, and you’re going to have a worker’s comp case you didn’t expect.”

Business or Pleasure?

That brings up the question of off-premises recreation and social events.

“You’ve got to have fun, but don’t take unnecessary risks, and choose your activities carefully,” Bean says.

Courts have upheld a number of claims related to injuries that occurred away from the workplace. Employees have received worker’s compensation for injuries sustained at a donkey basketball community fundraiser, a baseball game given as a reward for meeting a sales goal, and a school dance in which a teacher chaperone was injured doing the limbo.

Yet employees aren’t covered at every off-premise location or employer-organized event, only those in which the employer derives benefits other than just improved morale. If attendance isn’t mandatory, then employees are less likely to be covered at the event.

“What you need to do as employers is make it really clear that it’s truly voluntary. There are no repercussions for not going to it,” Bean says.

On the Road

The use of company vehicles opens up a lot of liability issues and worker’s compensation risks. Bean advises employers to develop clear policies for company-owned vehicles. Policies should define when workers are using the vehicle for employment (a compensable claim) or personal travel (not compensable).

In a related example, an employee injured while on the commute to work or to a job site isn’t covered by worker’s compensation. Employees participating in employee-sponsored carpools aren’t covered, either, as long as participation in the carpool is voluntary, and the sole purpose is transportation to and from employment. However, if the employee is running an errand requested by the employer, then the employee is covered, whether the employee is in a personal or company vehicle.

Traveling employees also are covered by worker’s compensation. They receive door-to-door coverage from the time they leave home to the time they return. The exception is when they deviate from their business activities to engage in an activity for a private or personal purpose.

These scenarios are just a small sampling of the incidents that employers encounter. Understanding the intricacies of worker’s compensation helps employers manage their claims sensibly and effectively. Bean advises employers to be attentive to their state’s labor policies and relevant legal precedents. He also emphasizes the need to investigate claims quickly and thoroughly.

“You need to find out what’s going on, so proper decisions get made whether you defend a case or fight a case or accept a case,” he says.

Every employer who makes safety a part of the organizational culture promotes a sense of order that safeguards their workforce. By proactively fostering a safe work environment, employers can reduce the number of on-the-job injuries and subsequent workers’ compensation claims.

PCI Compliance: Protect Your Small Business from Cyber Threats

woman at hotel accepting a credit card to represent PCE compliance

Originally Published by Prosperity Bookkeeping

Does your business accept credit cards? If the answer is Yes, is your company PCI DSS compliant? If your answer is, “What does that mean?” then read on. PCI DSS is short for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. All merchants who accept credit cards for payment are required to follow certain guidelines – the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. The PCI Security Council develops and promotes these global data security standards to support safe transactions for everyone.

Is My Small Business Required to Be PCI Compliant

You’re probably wondering if you, as a small business owner, need to become PCI compliant. PCI DSS pertains to all organizations that process card payments, regardless of the organization’s size or transaction volume. You might use Intuit QuickBooks applications to process credit card payments. QuickBooks is secure and PCI compliant. However, other factors aside from QuickBooks can compromise the security of your payments. Using QuickBooks payment services isn’t a silver bullet to become PCI compliant.

What are the Requirements of Becoming PCI Compliant?

PCI standards cover 12 requirements related to the secure handling, processing, and storage of sensitive credit card and debit card data. Read the 12 requirements to learn about QuickBooks PCI data security services.

Why is Compliance So Important?

Protecting your customer’s payment information is important because hackers are a real threat. Cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive data can protect your small business from a data breach. If a data breach occurs, your company may be liable for fines, penalties, legal fees, and remediation. The increased security of being PCI compliant helps ward off this threat.

What Services Offer Compliance & Validation?

For some Prosperity Bookkeeping clients, this isn’t their first time hearing about PCI Compliance. Intuit recently sent a reminder to active QuickBooks Payments clients. As part of the Intuit Terms of Service, businesses are required to be PCI compliant. Additionally, credit card companies like Visa, Discover, and MasterCard also require PCI DSS compliance validation. More reasons to check out PCI compliance! Several cybersecurity companies offer services that lead to becoming PCI compliant. Intuit partners with SecurityMetrics and offers a partner discount to active Intuit QuickBooks Payments accounts.

Can My Company Become PCI On Its Own?

If you’re like most small business owners, you don’t welcome an annual fee for PCI compliance validation. Fortunately, you can become PCI compliant on your own. Start by completing a Self-Assessment Questionnaire that fits your level of credit card transactions. Next, review the 12 requirements of PCI DSS compliance. Complete the requirements, and keep documentation of your compliance efforts.

Where Do I Look for More PCI DSS Information?

PCI DSS compliance certainly takes time and effort, but a strong data security foundation benefits your small business in the long run. By protecting customer payment data, you prevent data breaches that can potentially put your company out of business. PCI Security offers multiple data security resources for merchants. For more information about credit card payments and other accounting practices, contact Prosperity Bookkeeping, a Wisconsin company providing professional bookkeeping services to manage day-to-day business finances, contributing to an organization’s stability and prosperity.

Summer Bookkeeping Strategies for Small Business Owners

family on the beach to represent summer vacation.

Originally Published by Prosperity Bookkeeping
Summer is a great time of year in Wisconsin. Because of the warm weather and longer days, we have more opportunities to spend time on the beach, on the water or at the campground or ballpark. Now that the kids are out of school, it’s the perfect time for road trips and summer vacations. Unless your small business is super-busy in the summer, business owners can use summer downtime to relax and recharge. Everyone needs a break once in a while. Vacations help business owners lower their stress, resulting in a more positive outlook and renewed energy for their work. For many Wisconsin companies, business demands decrease in the summertime. Here are some ways to take advantage of the summer slowdown to propel your business forward.

Catch Up on Your Bookkeeping

Summer is a good time to tackle the tasks that you have been putting off. Busy business owners often let their bookkeeping slide. Maybe it’s been a few months since you reconciled your accounts. By keeping your accounts up to date, you won’t have the stress of recreating the past 12 months for year-end reports. QuickBooks makes it easy to reconcile accounts. You can set up your books so multiple accounts, like a savings account, checking account, and line of credit, automatically feed into QuickBooks. Reconciling the books is easier when you can see all of your accounts, current balances and the most recent transactions.

Dig Into Your Business Financials

We’re half-way through the year, so take some time to evaluate your finances. With a few clicks, you can view QuickBooks Online reports to compare the current financial year against the previous year. Have profits grown? QuickBooks enables you to create custom reports to evaluate key financial benchmarks. To do so, select a period, like a month, quarter, or year, and compare it with the matching time period from the past. For example, if your receivables are significantly lower, try to determine the cause. Are you behind on billing for the period? Did you lose a primary customer or experience weather delays? You won’t necessarily know these things unless you have a report system in place.

Explore Technology and Automation

Summer is a good time to assess your current bookkeeping systems and research technology and automation to streamline your business-finance tasks. Look for products that will speed up and improve the bookkeeping process. Test out the latest in artificial intelligence: Chat GPT, Bing Chat or Google Bard. AI can assist you with industry research, brainstorming, marketing content, and data entry. An AI virtual assistant can understand voice commands and perform tasks that make the business run more efficiently.

Declutter Your Office

Bookkeepers consistently put things in order, and your office is no exception. Cleaning and decluttering your office will make paperwork easier to find and your workspace a more welcoming place to spend your time. Reinvigorate your work space by deep cleaning your desk and office. Sort through the papers that have piled up. Discard any that no longer provide value, and scan and file the important documents before recycling or shredding. Organize your desk drawers by weeding out the extra pens, notecards, and office supplies. Place the most-used office supplies within easy reach. Discard or find a new home for anything that doesn’t belong in your office. Wipe down all surfaces, including the phones and computers.

Let Prosperity Bookkeeping Handle Your Finances

Summer gives us a golden opportunity to slow down and recharge, yet tackle some side projects, too. The Prosperity Bookkeeping staff is here to handle your bookkeeping when things get hectic. Contact us to manage your financial statements, payroll, and business advisory needs.

Will AI Tools Replace Me? 6 Reasons Humans Beat AI in Marketing

Wonder Writer Joan Koehne at her computer writing about AI vs. human murketing.

I just participated in a webinar that shocked me: “Will AI Tools Replace Salespeople?” AKA “Will AI Tools Replace Content Marketers like Me?” If it takes 15 minutes to write a blog versus 2 hours, why write a blog? Artificial intelligence allows you to type in several prompts which the bots use to churn out a first draft in moments. With a few more prompts, AI edits the blog to your liking. It’s like having a copywriter at your side – a writing assistant with access to more knowledge than you could ever comprehend.
My mind raced: Should I use AI to write marketing content? Why not? How? But the thought that shocked me even more was this: Will my clients use AI instead of me? Is human writing, either ghostwritten or byline copy, now obsolete? Will I be out of a job?

AI Churns Out Marketing Material

In case you’re new to AI, its use is already widespread. The webinar I watched focused on ways AI is used in sales. AI completes tasks like researching prospects, developing personas, and taking notes at virtual meetings. Additionally, AI produces content marketing material. For example, AI drafts emails, website content, social media posts, customer letters, product descriptions, blogs, proposals, marketing presentations, and on and on. AI can develop everything from a catchy subject line to a 600-word blog. Where does that leave me? Instead of fighting AI, it’s best to leverage it instead. Let computers do what they do best, and humans do what we do best. Instead of comparing my worth to a computer’s, I need to look at what value I bring to the table as a human being.

The Value People Bring to Marketing

First of all, as a professional writer, I understand the nuances of language. Because of this quality, my blogs and website content have a conversational tone. My writing encourages readers to settle in for a good read and hopefully, join the conversation. Words aren’t used out of place, which is a telltale sign of computer-generated text. Second, my instincts allow me to write and structure text in a way that flows, transitions, and reaches the audience on a personal level. After 15 years working in journalism and marketing, I developed the intuition for writing in a way that people want to read it.

Original, People-First Content Writing

Third, my writing is original, not duplicated in hundreds of other places online. The anecdotes and brand messaging are mine or my client’s, not computer-generated and impersonal. Google loves helpful, reliable, and people-first content. According to Google, original content is one of the key best practices to improve a website’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and ranking on Google Search.

Creativity & A Personal Touch

Fourth, creativity is another advantage I have over a computer. Of course, marketing content isn’t written like a poetry book or spy novel. Yet compelling creative writing trumps automated text every time. A human touch helps to engage a human audience. Along those same lines, a human writer builds rapport with an audience. From what I see, AI language models are getting really good at word flow and tone, but AI always struggles with personalizing content for a small businesses and organizations. Unlike AI, I can have a conversation with clients to get them thinking about a target audience, theme, and first-person accounts. I know my clients and their businesses, so I offer them a personal touch. Truly, that’s a big advantage I have over AI. AI can’t understand the person or organization I’m working with the way that I can.

Trustworthy & Authentic Interactions

When readers see my byline month after month, they feel a connection. As a writer and reader, we form a relationship. Of course, anyone in business knows the value of relationship-building. Computers can’t show empathy or camaraderie like we can as humans.

Lastly and probably most importantly, is trust. Trust plays such an important role in starting and maintaining relationships. People buy from brands they trust, and authentic, personal interactions build that trust. AI isn’t always good at differentiating between true and false information. I can ask AI to write an article, but the information in the article might be totally wrong. Erroneous information damages a client’s credibility and destroys trust.

AI is a Tremendous Tool But Not My Replacement

So, despite my knee-jerk reaction, I’m confident that I won’t become a dinosaur in the age of artificial intelligence and machine learning. AI presents tremendous tools for small business marketing and management, but AI isn’t a replacement for the human marketing teams – or little ol’ me. That’s a relief! Let’s get together, human to human, to talk about content marketing.

Lent: A Time for Change

Lent

What are you giving up for Lent? That was a popular question when I was a kid. I was pretty good at giving up treats like chocolate or ice cream. After a while, I decided to stop giving up and add instead. One Lent I prayed the rosary on my drive to work. Another Lent, I attended Mass at the local Catholic school each week.

Do Something With Love

A couple of years ago, I was struggling to decide what to do for Lent. It was Ash Wednesday, and I still hadn’t hit on the right thing. That’s when Fr. Judah Pigon at St. Pius threw out this suggestion. Instead of giving up something, why not do something with love instead? That question got me thinking. What could I change in my faith life to be more loving? Then the answer came to me. I would stop being antsy and pushy when it was time to leave for church. My worry about getting to church on time spoiled the Sunday morning drive. Plus, my stressed-out attitude didn’t get me to church any earlier.

Developing a Calm Attitude

Obviously, people have different concepts of time. For some, being on time is arriving 10 minutes early. Others routinely arrive fashionably late, and that’s acceptable. Clearly, my husband, Bill, and I didn’t share the same perspective regarding time. So, I decided to change the before-church rush during Lent. Instead of nagging or rushing Bill, I would be calm and relaxed. I told him, “I’ll be in the car.” I have to admit, for the first few weeks I sat in the car and stewed. After a while, things started to change. I didn’t mind waiting. By the end of Lent, Bill was getting to the car before me! Not exactly the miracle of Easter, but I was surprised.

Lenten Practice Brings Peace

I realized I wasn’t just loving Bill more that Lent, I was loving myself. I let go of the needless Sunday morning stress and felt better. I’m happy to report that this Lenten practice had long-lasting effects. Bill and I decide on an appropriate time to leave for church, and I don’t pressure him out the door anymore. Our rides to church are more peaceful, and we always arrive early. I learned a valuable lesson about love and patience that year.

What will you do this Lent to show love?

content marketing

Why Content Marketing Fails – and Making Sure Yours Doesn’t

content marketing

Where have you been all my life? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you published one article or launched one email campaign and people flocked to your business to buy your product or service? You were a godsend – just what they needed at that very moment. Instead, your message is greeted with silence. Don’t be discouraged, because one and done isn’t going to cut it. You’re in this for the long-haul, because content marketing is all about building relationships over time.

Be Patient

Here’s how content marketing makes an impact. As prospects see more articles, emails, and posts, they begin to view you as an expert. You’re someone to trust. They grow familiar with you over time and learn more about your brand. They read more of your articles and see themselves in your stories. Instant gratification certainly would boost egos, but that’s not what typically happens with blogging or email campaigns. Relationships take time to marinate. Realistically, you don’t just meet someone one day and propose the next.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

In content marketing, what’s important is putting yourself in your prospects’ shoes. What do your prospects struggle with? What are their pain points? Once you have identified their struggles, you can craft a response. What solution or “cure” you can offer to ease their pain? Similarly, what information can you share that will make their lives easier? Instead of talking about your business, write about what’s happening in theirs.

People don’t mind reading emails or articles as long as the topic is interesting and relevant. Above all, you want a prospect to sees themselves when they read your newsletter, email blast, or blog. Essentially, you tell their story better than they tell it themselves. Therefore, focus of content that’s enriching, more than selling and promotional. Remember that persistence pays off.

Content Marketing Makes an Impact

So, if your team is struggling to find the time or the right words to connect with prospects, consider calling in reinforcements. Writer to the Rescue is a content marketing professional with experience in writing and marketing. Consider taking content marketing off your plate and calling a writer to your rescue. To read more about content marketing, check out How Good Content Builds Your Customer Base.