Friday, December 30, 2011

MagPo Gets the Last Word in 2011

Magpo (Magnetic Poetry, for the uninitiated) is great fun for word geeks and, well, everyone, based on a really poorly designed study of all of the guests at my house.

Magpo is one of those genius ideas that made me mad, in a why didn't I think of that/people really spend money on that? sort of way. It's so much fun to use, though, that I couldn't stay mad for long.

Concrete poem
I bought a set, then another, and... ok, one more, and darn it, I'm glad I did. This is not a paid endorsement; I'm just having fun. Imagining I'm a poet. Communicating with my refrigerator door. Whatever. Magpo makes me happy! Bonus tip: buy three sets - they'll cover so much of the surface area of your frig, you won't need to clean it again. Just the exterior, mind you, but still: whee! Magpo is a hoot!
See what I mean...

True dat.

Some writers are better than others. Some wrangle words in an attempt to seem profound. Some, well, I don't know. (See 'drunk vision, ' above.)

Write on, anyway!

3/8/12 >>> THIS JUST IN >>> 
Four free Magpo apps (great if you need help procrastinating on deadline) from

Friday, December 16, 2011

Employee newsletters not just for employees

Done right, your company newsletter can deliver value to your employees.  But if your company newsletter is just a vehicle to post sales figures, next month's target accounts, and list employee birthdays and anniversaries, you're missing the point and wasting time on your newsletter.

To make your newsletter truly valuable to your employees and create a useful tool for your organization you need to spend a few minutes in deep-think mode.

  • What's really important to your employees? 
  • What makes them happy? 
  • What makes for a bad day at the office? 
  • What's your corporate culture?  (I know that word is terribly overused, but it's important!)

Whatever the answers to those questions, you get the idea, right? Your employee newsletter should have a personality. It must be unique because your employees are, and it better sparkle if you expect them to shine.

How can you go from ho-hum-here's-this-month's-newsletter to hey! lemme see that newsletter?!

Maybe you should design it to be read by your employees' family members, even include some content for kids. How 'bout including a tongue-in-cheek humor piece (or photo) by an employee with each issue? Perhaps holding a monthly contest, like offering a prize for the person who finds the most typos in your employee handbook, would keep things interesting. (OK, that last one won't go over big in most companies, but I'd sure give it a shot!)

The bottom line is, done right, newsletters are worth your time. In fact, they can pay off big time.

26 Things to Know About Customer Newsletters
Five Reasons Client Newsletters Rock

The last word -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Did you bag your employee newsletter because no one was reading it? Or started one, but didn't have time to keep it up? Let me help! I offer a free consultation and brainstorming session for organizations that want to find the best way to say what they need to say, to employees and other important people. Call me ... we can get your message to those people!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Proffreading? Who needs it?

Sometimes the headline just says it all, but when has that ever stopped me?

I recently pointed out a few typos and grammatical errors in a chiropractor's website. A half dozen or so, just on one page. The doctor said, oh, thanks. I'll add that to the list. Seems the professional firm that created and maintains the site had yet to fix a phone number the doctor had pointed out (months earlier) that was also wrong. Phone numbers, you know, are kind of a big deal, even when they're wrong "just" because a couple of digits are transposed.

Look, it's easy to make mistakes. Everybody does it. Good news: it's pretty easy to fix 'em too.

Here's the bad news: while just about everyone makes typing errors and grammar mistakes, most people don't correct them.

That's why proofreading is not going out of style, folks. If you don't catch or correct your own mistakes, you can still fix 'em by inviting a proofreader or copy editor to make you look good.

Look, I proofread and edit stuff for other people all the time. I even get paid to do it :D but guess what? I make mistakes, too. Catching and correcting them is what sets me apart.

The last word -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I can fix you up! Don't send embarrassing errors along with your employee newsletters, contract renewal notices, or other business correspondence. I bet I work faster (and cheaper) than you think. Try me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Confounding Corporate Greeting Cards

Speedbump comic from the Official Site of Dave Coverly
Should you or shouldn't you?

Many small- to mid-sized organizations send Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or catch-all Season's Greetings cards, quite often simply going along with the personal preferences or habits of the company owner. Others ditch the December dilemma and send Thanksgiving or New Year's cards instead. The brave (or truly conflicted?) send no cards at all. Whatever you do, you're sending some sort of message. 

I opt for Thanksgiving cards. This year, I'll admit, I'm intrigued by the idea of Haikus for Humbugs. Funny, but I'm pretty sure it won't catch on with the corporate crowd.

So let's get back to business. Should your organization spend executive brainpower (and salaries) even contemplating something as seemingly superfluous as greeting cards? 

Um, have you heard of Black Friday?

Like it or not, 'tis the season to capitalize on the gift-giving tendencies of ye average shopper. Even if your business isn't affected by retail's seasonal spikes, it's hard to look the other way when a surprising number of businesses are determined to spend every last penny in their budgets before year-end. And while it's nice to demonstrate customer appreciation, there's the environment to consider.

Do corporate greeting cards spur sales? Do you risk losing customers if you don't send cards? What about e-greetings?

Robert Felber, MAS, and President of Felber & Felber Marketing, says it all comes down to relationships, and those know no season. As he explained earlier this week:

I do not think sending or not sending cards dramatically impacts your return business. Is it a nice touch, yes. Does it burn a lot of energy, paper and postage, absolutely. My real challenge is our large database. If we tried to have a touch with everyone in our database, postage alone would cost thousands. So, many opt for email. Again, the thought is nice, but does lack personalization. I recently saw a holiday email that was addressed to two people in my company, but used an "or" between the names. That was tacky. I cannot imagine anyone keeping score on who sent them a card, but perhaps some people have that kind of time.

I do like the Thanksgiving approach, as it does stand out. In the end, if you enjoy it, have the budget and time, address away. Otherwise, find as personal a way as you can to thank your clients at this time of year and all year long. Tickets to their favorite event, remembering special anniversaries or perhaps a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant would make a welcome gift. Oh, and if you want to send me a card, specify if you are expecting one back!

Sit down with Rob and find marketing at Felber & Felber Marketing. Actually, you won't catch Rob sitting down very often. In addition to running a busy firm, he's a volunteer firefighter and  Relay For Life: Twinsburg/Macedonia 2012 Chair. Even when he's on the run, he's quick to return calls - if not greeting cards.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Guest Blogger or Ghost Blogger?

Much has been written about the value of blogging. If there's one aspect of online marketing all the 'experts' agree on, it's that blogging has value, and lots of it.

Beyond that, the opinions are like belly buttons. Everybody seems to have one that's just a little bit different from his neighbor's. So, if you want to "prove" that ghost bloggers are the best way to use your marketing dollars, and save your staff's time, you can find plenty of experts who agree with you.

And if you want to argue that having a blog authored by none other than the CEO is the best way to go, well, ditto. You can probably even come up with a study on it.

I take most studies with a grain of salt, and on this subject especially, I listen to my gut. My gut says blogs, like belly buttons and opinions, are unique. (Or at least, they ought to be.)  Meaning you probably know the answer to the question - which is better, guest blogger or ghost blogger? - and even if you don't, you can't go too far wrong... as long as your blog is up to date, on topic, and not too long.

I'm pretty sure that's my cue to stop typing.

The last word -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Need someone to help you meet your blogging goals this year? I can guest or ghost blog on a variety of topics including corporate communications, customer service, marketing, promotions and public relations. Twenty-plus years of experience and a long list of satisfied clients say I can write about almost any industry, but for the record, I've written most often for organizations offering business and legal services, and those involved in the health and medical industries, manufacturing, and  technology. And oh yeah, I know a little bit about hiking and other things to do in Ohio. Need to keep your blog up to date? I can help.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What should a writer do for the holidays?

Recently, I've seen several articles listing opportunities for photographers to use their cameras for good and I thought, of course writers can do that, too. Many of us do, providing pro bono copywriting for charitable causes, not charging for author presentations at our children's schools, writing press releases for our local parks system or library levy campaigns, or simply by polishing up a friend's resume gratis.

But writing for free is a great way to make no money. And besides cheer and glad tidings (and good intentions, like doing pro bono work) the holidays bring bills. Lots of bills! So what can writers do to manage, and make good, on their good intentions while not ending up doing ALL charity work?

One solution is to put your offer in writing. If you're a professional writer and have great resume writing skills, too, a note to a friend, like this, might be very well received: "Dear Tom, I know you're looking for a job. Can I help you polish your resume this year? I'd consider it an honor, and a gift to you."

Similarly, if you'd like to do more to help out at church, but aren't able to tithe quite as much as you'd like, you might contact the church secretary with an offer to polish resumes for job-seeking church members, and suggest that those who can pay for the service should donate (your hourly rate) to the church.
Hint: I'm sure you have a big heart and all, but if your congregation is very large you should consider putting a limit on this offer, say, good for the first 10 or so folks who contact the church office.
Maybe you can start a Twitter account, manage a Facebook page, or create some Google+ buzz for a charity or one of your favorite organizations that hasn't done so yet.

What else can you do as a writer? Quite a bit of good, I bet. Words are powerful tools. I'd love to hear about how you're wielding them.

The next-to last word -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Highly recommended reading; found it just before publication. Kismet!
 Give back & get new business - from All Business

The last word -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Add your pro bono work and charitable intentions to your business plan. Make time for it so it gets done, and so it doesn't undermine your primary business goal (whether it's to make money or finish that novel) in 2012.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Especially in Headlines and Subject Lines, Characters Matter

Consider the work involved in sending an e-mail newsletter to hundreds of thousands of newsletter subscribers. Or even to a few hundred subscribers or a handful of prospects.

Besides maintaining your list, compiling the basic information, editing html tags, crafting a captivating headline, honing the copy and proofreading every word - please, tell me you proofread - do you really have to count characters? Well, no. But you DO have to consider where the line breaks might occur, especially in headlines and subject lines.

Want an example? Here's the subject line from a message that just landed in my in-box:
                  Help protect yourself and your assets

It's clear and relatively concise. So far so good. Unfortunately my mail program cut off the last three letters in the headline. 

Guess which word (that the author never intended) I'll remember from the newsletter?
  __ ___ ___ ___ __ __ ____ _ __  __ 
Do you need a proofreader?
Would you like some help crafting your employee newsletter, or anything you send to clients or prospects? 

((Contact me soon - special prices in effect for newsletters ordered through Q1 2012))

Friday, December 2, 2011

Copywriters: Good question

Thanks to Bruce Felber for sharing this article. The question I focus on is not, is advertising a respected profession, but is it a profession at all? I worry about this question because I don't want to see a rush to certification programs. Sure, many certifications indicate education has taken place or experience/success has been earned, but rarely do certifications - or any letters following a person's name - tell you anything about a person's character, abilities, or professionalism.

Writers??? Please join the discussion, here or there ->Fuel Lines: Is Advertising a Respected Profession?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Guest Bloggers on the Top of My List

OK folks. December is here. December, I think, makes us all writers. List writers.

Am I right? The to-do list becomes a little more pressure-laden this time of year. Any way you look at it, December 31 looks like a SERIOUS DEADLINE.

So what's on your list?

I'm a list nut. About this time of year (ok, before Thanksgiving if you must know) I start compiling all of my lists, from grocery lists to gift lists to the ever-more-complicated Christmas (or should we say Holiday?) Card list to the seemingly endless to-do lists, rediscovering that frantic feeling that seems to come, guaranteed! no purchase necessary! with the last month of the year.

But this is about writing, not my neuroses. SO, among my writerly goals this year, somewhere in-between getting 100 followers on Twitter (help?) and reading more fiction (I'm failing miserably; thanks for asking) was getting more guest posts on this blog.

Would you like to offer a post here? Please consider it, or, heck, don't think about it at all! Just raise your hand and jump in before you talk yourself out of it! Drop me a line, tweet, link up with me on LinkedIn, send up a smoke signal even, and tell me what you'd like to write...about writing. Or about writers. Or writers with neuroses. Hey, some guy even wrote a book about lists. (I'm reading it now.) I'm really open to guest blog topics. Try me.

I've been absolutely delighted with the variety of guests who've graced this blog this year, and I think my readers have been happy to have a break from me and my fascination with lists, ellipses, and other neuroses. 

Well, clearly it's time for me to stop typing. And it's time for you to start! Will you be a guest blogger? Please?