Friday, May 19, 2017

Better Headlines + Better Content = Better Reader Action

Headlines matter. Unless the point of your content is JUST to get clicks, the article that follows the headline needs to be good, too.

Here are 3 good articles on headlines from some content leaders: 

Dam good headline.
A recent post from reminds us why the big picture (whole content enchilada) matters.

Sort of on the flip side, however, is the classic approach - the essentials, in a nutshell, I learned in my Advertising 101 class. Important note - this addresses advertising headlines.

Betteridges' Law (and Columbia Journalism Review) reminds us that headlines - especially headlines in the form of questions - can be too clever. Especially when you need readers to get past the headline. Because it's CJR, the article also offers some exceptional advice, as applicable to writers as it is to readers: “You’ve always got to question what you read.” 

The bottom line: Good copywriting attracts and keeps readers.
Need a writer who thinks about your readers? Get in touch.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What Ghostwriters Write (Hint: Everything)

A lot of titles in the business world are misunderstood. Most of them, I would argue. That said, if you ever meet a copywriter with a big chip on his or her shoulder, I hope you'll cut her (OK, me) some slack. 

Most copywriters could also be called "ghostwriters," and although neither is a particularly lofty title, in our information-laden world, writers of all ilks* deserve some more…consideration, for starters. (More compensation, too - but I'll leave that topic for another day.)

What Do Ghostwriters and Copywriters Write? Everything

In the past year or so, I've written about employment placement services, OSHA regulations, e-parking apps, replacement windows, agricultural dust control products, hand-crafted jewelry, landscaping services and bulk mulch products, mobile pet grooming services, PeopleSoft implementations, escape room games, marketing automation, keratin hair straightening processes, online accounting services, floral arrangements, appointment-setting software, lead paint remediation products, snow plowing and ice management techniques and a variety of medical conditions, surgeries and treatments, and reimbursement systems affecting both patients and providers. 

Over approximately the same time period, my work has also appeared in three Forbes blogs, The Huffington Post, and a couple of other places I can't mention.

Do Ghostwriters Create Policies and Procedures? Some Do

I've written policies and procedural manuals for employees of companies where I've never been employed. And by written, I don’t mean wrangled someone else's words, but written meaning created and developed the policy (after discussions with several company principles or department head) and then re-written, for stakeholder approval. I have not written public policy but many a hired-gun copywriter has. Sorry if that ruins your romantic notion about politicians and other public servants but hey, they're busy people. (Do you have any idea how much time it takes to raise enough money to run for office?)

My point? Information is a tricky thing. Regardless of the expert's name on an article or the name of the publication, it's quite possible the piece you're reading was written by a copywriter with a basic journalism degree in his (or her) back pocket, an unimpressive balance in his (or her) bank account, and a whole lot of secrets. 

Professional Ghostwriters are Not in the Fake News Business

This rant about ghostwriting/copywriting is absolutely not intended to be a jab at journalism, public relations, corporate information, business blogs or any other form of writing. Quite the contrary. Journalists are trained to research, investigate, interview and quickly disseminate information - real, helpful information. Not "just the facts," but the facts plus context

When you need to provide accurate, clear, helpful information to a particular audience, you need a professional communicator. Now, maybe you won’t be afraid to say “ghostwriter.”
*Like copywriters, ilk is a word that doesn't get a lot of respect. (While many modern spell-check programs don't recognize it, Merriam-Webster does.) I love how internet retailer Woot uses "ilk" in an ad for a bag that's definitely not elk. 

As long as I'm using Woot's image, I should point out that the company appears to "get" copywriting and all forms of marketing/communications. Kudos to Woot, Ghostwriters, and Elks everywhere.  

Monday, April 17, 2017

Marketing, Customer Service, Operations, and Why United Airlines Might Want to Call Me

I'll spare you a review of last week's United Airlines debacle. I'll even go out on a limb and say that I understand and agree with the policy that required (yes, required) the passenger to lose his seat on that plane. But I haven't written about regulatory policy in a couple of years, so I'm not going to focus on that.

Here's the most important take-away from the whole fiasco: MARKETING, OPERATIONS, AND CUSTOMER SERVICE MUST WORK TOGETHER - OR THEY WON'T WORK.

Here's a link to follow in case you live under a rock and missed the United Airlines customer bump brouhaha.

Here's another, in case you'd like to work with a marketing content manager who understands business, operations, and customer service.

Let's all try to straighten up and fly right this week, eh?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Employee Communication 101 - Think Like a Customer Service Manager

An article recently posted on LinkedIn by David Ward, a risk management advisor, struck a chord with me. 

In the post, Ward pointed out that safety procedures - and therefore safety communications - are too important to be left open to interpretation. 

Ward used some specific examples related to roofing professionals, many of whom spoke English as a second language. (For what it's worth, some of Ward's post was related to a specific OSHA regulation.)

Certainly, there's no room for error in a roofing operation or myriad other occupations that are physically demanding and potentially very dangerous. Proper instruction and clear communication, of course, is vital. 

In one example he shared, Ward put it like this: "In practical terms, this means that an employer must instruct its employees using both a language and vocabulary that the employees can understand."

But I argue, why do we need regulations to specify that employee instruction must be clear and understandable? 

Improved Safety Communications = Better Results

Why don't  we view employee training (which necessarily includes employee manuals and other communications) as critical to the customer service function? 

Because, of course, it is. 

The better your safety communications, the safer your workers, the more productive the team, the better results for customers ... 

Oh, don't get me started. 

Great Examples of Internal Communications

Instead of citing dozens of examples of how not to handle employee communications and training, l'll just say this: Offering clear and understandable communications to employees (AND CUSTOMERS) will position a company heads-and-shoulders above most of the competition. Any company, any industry. I believe communication is THAT important. 

I'm sorry it still needs to be said. 

Rather than offering a lot of bad examples of communication, I'll ask you - do you have any examples of great communication that has helped your company stand apart from the crowd (in a good way)? 

I'm all ears! 
Feel free to leave a comment here, or Tweet it out. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Don't Have A Webinar if You Have Nothing to Say

I sat through a 17-minute webinar last week. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of presentations that are brief-and-to-the-point. 

This was more like a fluffmercial. Please, don't be that guy. 

I'm going out on a limb here to say that webinars are gonna be huge (HUGE) in 2017. There are oodles of video tools to make webinars fast, cheap, and fairly good-looking. We're accustomed to watching videos to learn how to do almost anything. 

If you're reading about marketing trends (especially while drinking KoolAid) then you know hosting a webinar is on the top of the list of cool, must-do marketing tasks for 2017. They're also practical, and not complicated. You create helpful content - or reuse what you already have - wrap it up in a nice audio/visual package, and smile as you collect information on all the prospects who sign up to see your presentation. 

It's practically perfect - assuming your presentation is worth the audience's time. 

Make Your Webinar Better Than That

The mercifully brief webinar I watched last week wasn't worth my time, and I suspect most of the audience could say the same.

Here are the top 3 things that were wrong with it: 

1. The headline promised a whole lot more than the webinar delivered. In fact, the headline was almost as informative as the rest of the webinar! Grrrr. (This is how people get jaded, btw.) 
2. The last minute of the webinar focused on signing up listeners for the next webinar. I did the math: that's nearly 6% of the content worthwhile only to the company that produced it. And, I'm betting, it wasn't effective. #LoseLose
3. The way-too-general, way-too-brief presentation gave me the impression the company is absolutely NOT an expert in its industry, ergo, I am much less likely to do business with the company now than I was before I attended the webinar. I think we can safely call that an "unintended consequence." #oops

So the Point Is: Say Something Useful

Content Marketing is a great idea if you actually have content, that is, something to say that is useful to your audience (prospects). Whether it's a white paper, webinar, email campaign, brochure (remember those?) or website, your content needs a purpose. 

'Nuff said. 
Looking for a jaded marketing consultant to help you hone your message, look like an expert, and get your useful content to the right audience? Here I am

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Excellent Example: Content You Can Use from MailChimp

Kudos to MailChimp for sharing a LOT of helpful data that allows companies to realistically evaluate their email marketing results - whether they are MailChimp customers or not.

Is It About Time You Tried Email Marketing? 

The piece I'm referring to includes bounce and open rates for several dozen industries (most of which, I'm guessing, are of the B2C variety). What's more, MailChimp sorts the stats by company size and industry AND offers tips to improve your email marketing program, from message creation to timing. 

Honestly, most white papers aren't this informative, and this piece is not gated in any way - it's available to view without coughing up so much as your email address. Nice. 

By the way, it's current - the company's benchmarks were compiled in 2016 and updated in January 2017.

What Makes This an Excellent Example of Marketing Content? 

This is an excellent example because good content educates prospects -- as this does -- without a hard sales pitch. At least in the middle of the sales cycle. 

Of course a sales pitch - even a strong one - can qualify as great content, but it's all about timing. The pitch usually comes at the end of the sales cycle, or up front for a different type of product. More on that in another post. Right now it's time for us to both make good on those plans to make better use of email marketing in 2017. 

New to email marketing and still learning the lingo? More help from those content-marketing monkeys: Soft vs. Hard Bounces and what it all means. 

Not doing email marketing yet, but think it's time to start? I can help.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Clickbait Makes for Great Writing Prompts

I don't write fiction but if I did, I think I'd see writing prompts everywhere. 
In fact, with delightful inspiration popping up on nearly every web page I visit, I just might start writing fiction. 

Stay amused, my friends.