Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Communications Need Operational Backup

Ever take a coupon to a store only to find out the check-out clerks know nothing about the offer? I hate it when that happens.

And trust me, so do your customers. So don't let it happen on your watch.

Words have meaning and can create actions. With a little luck, they'll bring customers into your store! But once an offer sends shoppers into your store, operational screw ups can drive them away. Be smart: if you can't fulfill it, don't offer it.

The same rule should apply to everything your organization puts in writing. If the "one-click unsubscribe" hotlink at the bottom of your e-mail campaign offers doesn't work, you'll have achieved name-recognition and retention for the wrong reasons, the wrong way, with the wrong people. Really ticked-off people.

Case in point: Viacom e-mail advertisements
Over the past three years, I have unsubscribed from about a dozen e-mail "newsletters" I didn't intentionally subscribe to from Viacom's MtVN division. I've repeatedly visited the one-click unsubscribe page to see the promise, "you'll be unsubscribed, please allow ten days to process." And not only do I continue to receive some of the newsletters, I get new ones!

Surely you've heard the advice, "under-promise and over-deliver." Maybe Viacom just didn't understand. But you should.

Be sure your communications get it right, both in writing and on the operations side.

The Best of Bad Writing

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, named for the creator of the "dark and stormy night" stuff made famous by Snoopy, honors the best worst first sentence of a novel.

This year, a University of Wisconsin professor earned the award with a sentence about dead birds and dead-end thinking. Or something like that.

If you aspire to similar heights, learn more about the contest here:
http:// bulwer-lytton.com

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wasted Writing: When the Offer isn't Worth the Ink

Personally, I have never been asked by a client to create a "worthless" e-mail campaign, Facebook offer, or other ad copy that isn't worth the ink. If I ever am, I think - and I hope - I'll be tough enough to reply, "is that the best you've got?"

Some campaigns (sorry, Starbucks) really aren't worth bothering customers about. The ads amount to worse than wasted time and money for the company. They also add to the general clutter of our collective consciousness and increase the likelihood that "subscribers" (and some firms use that term very loosely - are you listening, Viacom?) will just hit delete.

Case in point: Starbucks rewards card e-mail campaign, July 18-22
The "big news" was that the retail stores are reinstating the "Treat Receipt" offer. How big is it? You decide:
Bring your morning receipt in after 2 p.m. at participating stores and we'll serve you up a cold grande beverage for just $2.
Yep, that was the lead offer. The only offer, in fact - followed by seven (7!) advertisements, none of which included money-savings offers.

I'm not sure how these things get through multiple marketing department decision makers. I like to think I would have spoken up in the corporate boardroom and said, hey, now that there's a Starbucks on almost every corner and penny-pinching is everybody's new favorite hobby, offers need to be a lot more attractive than "spend disposable income here twice in one day and save a buck."

Maybe they wouldn't have listened to me. I hope my clients will.

- - - - - - - - next: Make sure your communications have operational back-up - - - - - - - - 

Need a writer who speaks her mind - even if it upsets the apple cart? I never lose sight of my customer service and marketing background, and believe it's my job as a writer to make sure your message is the best it can be. I don't waste your ink or your time, and I do everything I can to give your customers and prospects something worth reading. Contact me for a free consultation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Guest Post: Salvo or Salve?

Salvo or Salve?
One vowel. Big Difference.

The words we say or write can hurt or heal. Whether we lob a salvo or offer a salve is our choice. 

In the era of cell phones, texting and other immediate communication, quick responses are expected. But, hasty, knee-jerk reactions have consequences. To skip an intermediate step to contemplate the impact of our words, and instead allow our raw emotions to shape what comes out of our mouths or appears onscreen unedited, can be costly to our personal and business relationships.
Do we intend to demean a subordinate by spewing an insult?
Do we intend to reassure a child with a calm explanation?
Whenever the opportunity arises, we can choose to use statements that empathize, not terrorize; expressions that heal, not hurt.
Why? Based on our own experiences, we know that positive salves and negative salvos can have lasting, residual effects. Each of us probably can recall vividly the caring or damaging exchanges we have had. When Word Hugs™ were shared or pains were inflicted, those memories lingered. Both repeated kind and unkind remarks are particularly unforgettable.
We should be aware of whether our speech or writing helps or harms others.

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I'm delighted to have this guest post from Carmen Ambrosio! I met Carmen in May, when she was enjoying some well-deserved recognition at a meeting of Ohio Professional Writers.

After earning a journalism degree from Michigan State University, Carmen gained extensive experience in corporate marketing communications. Now, she pursues her own writing and art full-time. Her first book, Life Continues: Facing the Challenges of MS, Menopause, and Midlife with Hope, Courage, and Humor, was published in 2010. 

 Learn more about Carmen, her work, and Word Hugs™ at http://www.ambrosart.com where she also shares a little about her writing philosophy, and life.
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"We all need the daily emotional nutrition provided by positive, supportive communications of friends, family and others we encounter on our paths." ~~ Carmen Ambrosio

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summertime freelancing

The #1 reason I love freelancing is because it allows me to work around my kids' schedules. But in the summer, I feel like I'm visiting my office more than I'm actually working there.

I'm not complaining - well, yes, I am. Long story short: I welcome guest posts especially in the summer.

Any takers? If you've actually found time to work this summer, can you give the rest of us harried freelancers some tips?

Friday, July 1, 2011

You wrote what? Dream writing jobs and diaper duty

I've written catalog copy, Facebook status updates for clients, a mission statement, a tag line, captions to create a photo essay, and a few other things. But I've never written anything intended to appear on a diaper.

Yes, some people get paid to do such things. Check out Marcia Yudkin's Marketing Minute post today to find out more about diaper captions and other unusual writing opportunities.

If I could pick my dream job right now, I'd have to say penning all the data on those interesting little Pokemon character cards or developing names for Bakugan Brawlers. When I took my first copywriting course in college, I thought my dream job would be creating descriptions for Proctor & Gamble products. Instead, these days I'm writing stuff that's a lot closer to legal disclaimers for websites. Which I have not written, but I've edited. And you know what? As jobs go, it isn't that bad.

How about you?  

What's your dream writing job? 
Please leave a comment below or send a note via Twitter or Facebook. Oh, come on! I'm pretty sure you're sitting in front of a keyboard right now, and you probably like to write. Right? So... what do you dream of writing?