Mark Harbeke is Winning Workplaces’ Manager of Content Development. In this interview he discusses the writing and editing experiences that have shaped his career so far, and describes the goals of our information clearinghouse for small and midsize businesses.
Tell us about your writing and editing background.
I earned my bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from Drake University in 2001. While at Drake, I took advantage of the opportunity to gain experience through internships. I interned at Meredith Corporation’s Midwest Living magazine and at Family Life magazine, then a part of the Time, Inc. family of publications. These experiences taught me that creating publications is like an assembly line: every job and every piece is equally important.
After college I was hired by a custom publisher of e-zines to manage all editorial operations – writing, editing, desktop publishing, planning the editorial calendar – for three music-related e-zines. I’m an avid music lover and songwriter, so this was great fun. But it was also challenging, in part because of the size of our office: we had only five people on staff. This was an entrepreneurial venture in the truest sense. It meant more creativity and freedom in my daily tasks than I might have experienced elsewhere, but it also meant sharing responsibilities and being more concerned about the bottom line with less of a hierarchy in place. This experience was a good deal like that of many of the entrepreneurial ventures that we write about. In this role I was most proud to have interviewed Elvis Presley’s guitarist, Scotty Moore. In that and other interviews, I learned the power of listening well, taking good notes that I could decipher later and when to be quiet. You’d be surprised at how open people can be if you ask the right questions and give them room to speak their mind.
In 2002 I moved to the Chicago area and shortly afterward began proofreading for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, a nonprofit pharmacy organization. That was a bit of a shift in gears from the writing and editing I had been doing, but it was an extremely valuable experience nonetheless. I learned how to communicate more effectively within my department as well as with staff from other departments. The experience taught me that as a communicator, you need to be clear with your co-workers and, ultimately, your audience. In other words, don’t leave any details to chance.
What brought you to Winning Workplaces?
I found out about Winning Workplaces in late 2005 and was hired earlier this year. Its mission seemed to have a lot of applicability, affecting for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises and crossing industries. We focus on practical and affordable strategies that leaders can literally take to the bank, and in the process they get the added benefit of strengthening their staffs’ ties to each other and to the organization’s mission and core values. I enjoy being part of an organization with a clear sense of purpose and having the opportunity to shape its progress.
Your “leg” of the operation is the information clearinghouse, which involves the website as well as the monthly e-newsletter. What are your goals for the website and the newsletter?
I recently set website traffic and newsletter subscriber goals for the next three years and we’re definitely on track to meet and, I hope, exceed them. Our site visits have grown 21 percent over the last three months, which is very encouraging, but there’s still room to grow. Overall, I’m looking at what other nonprofits are doing, especially those that cross paths with what we do, to reach people and get them interested in their missions. It’s an ongoing but rewarding creative process.
We’re devoting time to examine the habits and experiences of our site visitors so we can better serve them and, in doing that, grow the number of unique visitors. This corresponds with one of my overall responsibilities: draw attention to the other parts of our business – namely, our Best Bosses recognition program and our affordable consulting practice for small and midsize businesses. To do this, I’ve introduced new features like web polls and opt-in e-mail updates of our latest workplace “Articles in the News,” which subscribers receive every Friday. These are both features we’ve introduced within the last two months and they’re quickly gaining traction.
Also, we just switched website hosts. Among other benefits, this will allow us to implement an online forum. This will differ from our Work Trends blog in that visitors will be able to both respond to predetermined topics and post new topics. It’s our hope that the forum will allow us to spark some meaningful dialogues, which could range from employees at different companies comparing their work cultures to a having visitors give us meaningful feedback on past newsletter articles as well as their suggestions for workplace best practices or small businesses they’d like to see covered in the future.