Monday, December 31, 2012

A Few More Favorites in 2012

It's always hard for me to determine which article is my favorite in an issue of CJR, and this time it took longer than usual. Drum roll, please... it was this one. Most of the Nov/Dec issue focused on celebrity coverage and publicity - a faction of the trade that's not often esteemed by the newsier types. But CJR, not surprisingly, managed to address the bias, admit it, explain it, and go beyond it.

Which is why I love CJR.

And yet I'm not ready to call it my favorite magazine. It has some pretty tough competition for my reading attention as it sits next to National Geographic on my nightstand, on the car seat, and bleachers throughout the year. We're also known to pick up an issue of Scientific American or something (just a little) lighter so there's some darned fine writing at my fingertips wherever I am.

What about you? If you had to, could you pick ONE favorite thing, or o ne favorite writer, to read?  I doubt it. Look, it's practically 2013 - so how 'bout for the new year, you pick 3 (if you want to show off) or 13, and share them here. Tell me why you love them, and why the writing lands on your favorites list and your reading table.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Writing off Facebook

Ever hit enter and say, "whoops?" Or felt hoodwinked by one of Facebook's oft-changing rules?

Yeh, me either.

But seriously, folks, there's a stunningly simple way to avoid those online blunders. Pick up a pen and put it to paper. Good old-fashioned journals are cheap and far more private. 

Here's something else to think about: you might have to learn to live without Facebook as your emotional outlet in 2013. At least one industry pundit says it's toast

Look, you can do whatever you want - but journals are cheap and I could use some practice in the handwriting department.

More reasons to revive old-fashioned journals in 2013

Ever been tempted to lie on Facebook? 
When you twist the truth in your journal, we call it "creative writing."

Embarrassing misspellings won't be shared with the world.

If you want to share, you can. This falls under the purview of the 24-hour rule, one of my favorite aunt's best pieces of advice. As in, if you still want to post it on your Facebook wall 24 hours after you've written it in your journal, you can.

Feel like you just have to share? Then by all means, do. Please, start with a link to this blog ;D

 Peter Walsh you.organized College-Ruled Leather Journal, Gray w/Gray (Google Affiliate Ad)

 Geek journal (Google Affiliate Ad)

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Words Are About to End (on 2012)

Uh-uh. The world didn't end but this is bad. Really bad. I have a new favorite blog and it's not mine. Oh well. Fellow word-lovers, you're gonna love this.

There are a lot of retrospectives and last-words-on-2o12 articles out there, so if you've still got time to procrastinate when you're done with the Worldnik blog, I highly recommend today's Onion, which is packed with them. If anyone accuses you of wasting time at the site, just tell 'em you read it for the news.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

If You Write it, it's Right Enough

I have some very unprofessional advice for you. (My friend Sherry's gonna love it.)
Write something to someone for Christmas. Don't wait for inspiration to strike, and don't sit on it until it's perfect. Just write it. 
This year has been too full of reminders that we’re all going to die someday. I have a strong suspicion that most people leave things unsaid. Undone. Unwritten.
Don’t be that guy.
I don’t mean to suggest that you hide behind your keyboard for the next three years typing the next great American novel. This "assignment" is different. If you’ve ever thought about writing something nice to a child, spouse, parent, teacher, dear friend, or cousin, but stopped because you weren’t exactly sure what to say or how to say it, just say (or write) it. Now. 
Perfect - even if it isn't perfect. 
I know it sounds really simple, but you can’t do it until you get out of your way. Here’s how: Give yourself permission to do it less than perfectly.
When you’re gone, and – let’s not be morose! – long before that, the recipient of your words will appreciate your thoughts and that you cared enough to write them down. And while I can’t offer a money-back guarantee on this, I’m pretty sure they won’t even think about correcting your grammar or punctuation.
See, sometimes it really is the thought that counts. Sherry Richert Belul, my aforementioned friend and the author of Simply Celebrate, encourages her clients to create Love Lists for all occasions. Sure, Christmastime seems like a good one; but in fact Tuesday is good enough, too. Any occasion is a good time to make a Love List, or just write a few nice words to someone you love. 

Photos courtesy of
For several years, I let nearly a ton of pictures gather dust in the “craft room,” all the while promising myself I was going to make Beautiful Keepsake Scrapbooks for my daughter. I’m not crafty, though, and I’m reallllly good at procrastinating, so a few more years went by before I finally gave myself permission to make Just OK scrapbooks. Being a writer, I added a few notes along the way. Being a writer, I should've done a better job on those notes. I could've crafted them into a story format, or at least made them neater, nicer, and more organized. 
But when I gave the books to my daughter, she didn’t say, “Wow mom, you could use some practice on scrapbooking, huh?” 
Instead she cried and hugged me. She said she loved the scrapbooks - and I’m not even dead yet. They might mean more then. But I digress. The point is, it’s easy to use “I’m not sure what… or how…” as an excuse.
Look, this time, you’re not preparing a manuscript for publication. You’re not sending a report to the boss. You’re writing a few loving words to another person. Your words don’t have to be perfect, but they do have to be written (or at least spoken) to be given away.
If you die with the words inside you, don’t blame me. 
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some very mediocre scrapbooks to finish for my son.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Whee! Hop on the Media-Go-Round to Promote Your Book

Welcome and thanks to guest blogger Janie Reinart, who shares her recipe for making the media notice your book and support your sales.  

Janie Reinart’s first book, Love You More than You Know, is a collection of stories from 45 mothers of U.S. service men and women. They open their hearts and share what it feels like when your son or daughter leaves home to fight a war.  Some were stunned when they learned that their “baby” had enlisted. Others had long been familiar with military life. But all of these mothers knew their world had just changed the day their child called home and said, “Mom, I’m being deployed . . ..” Anyone who reads their stories will admire their faith and courage–and better understand the sacrifices made by our U.S. service men and women and their families.  ________________________________________

How to Jump on the Media-Go-Round by Janie Reinart

Promoting yourself as an author isn’t getting any easier because of the many local bookstores that are out of business. It is time to be creative and find other venues for meeting the public.  Connecting to people with the stories we write makes the world go round, like this chain of events poem.

In the paper
On my blog
LIKED on WordPress
Opened door
Worked together
Book signing
In real world


I read an article in the Chagrin Valley Times about local musicians helping soothe the loneliness of our deployed soldiers by giving them the gift of music. Warren Henry Music is collecting old guitars and refurbishing them free of charge thanks to co-owners Aimee Zeller and Warren Henry. The USO of Northern Ohio is shipping these guitars overseas to our regions deployed service members.


This turned out to be a perfect post for my blog. Warren explained, “One of our instructors is a veteran and told us how helpful it was to have his guitar to play while deployed. Our troops and their families sacrifice so much. This is our way of thanking them for their service to our country.” The Help Fight the GI Blues Campaign was launched.

Shortly after my post about donating guitars, I received a comment from a band, Select Start in Tampa, Fla: “We have a day off in Bainbridge on May 15, during our month long District Lines sponsored Go Radio headlining Tour. We plan on dropping by to donate a guitar to Warren and the USO.”

I said, “You guys rock!”
Select Start replied, “As does Love You More Than You Know ) We ordered two copies this morning. One of the books is to be a gift to the mom of a family friend, whose son is being deployed with the USMC to Afghanistan soon. God bless all the troops and their families.”

With the exciting news of a donation for the program, I walked downtown Chagrin Falls and paid a visit to Warren Henry Music. Aimee said, “You were so enthusiastic when you walked in that I thought I should know you.” It was the first time we met.

I told Aimee about the band and the guitar donation. I explained that I was the mother of a veteran and showed her my book, Love You More Than You Know Mothers’ Stories About Sending Their Sons and Daughters to War. Then I took the plunge asking if she and Warren would consider a book signing at the music store as we were all working together to help our deployed troops. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of my book is donated to charities benefiting wounded veterans.

They liked the idea! Together we selected a date and time. We are collaborating on writing articles to publicize the event, which is also going to feature a live local band besides the book signing.

Continuing to learn, I use the media to promote this latest book signing, posting information about the event on: Booktour, Facebook, Twitter,, my blog, and the local newspapers. Warren Henry Music is posting on their website and emailing information to their customers. The local band is also promoting the event on their site.

Round and round we go. Jump on the media-go-round so that you can grab the brass ring connecting with people and sharing the stories you write. Make those connections through the Internet and face to face. Hope to see you at future book signings. Come around and say hello.

Click here to enter free giveaways of Love You More than You Know eBooks in honor of our Veterans and their families.  ______________________________________
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Love You More than You Know is donated to charities benefiting wounded veterans, including, a Bob Woodruff Foundation initiative for injured service members and their families, as well as to the Semper Fi Fund.

Reinart is committed to continue bringing you true stories of our heroes in uniform, sharing with you the bravery and sacrifices that our troops and their families make everyday for all of us. You are invited to share your story about your soldier here at as a guest blogger. Send stories to

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Content is important

This probably won't be one of 2012's most stunning revelations:
Your media plan should include content.

Content is the blanket that wraps up your company's image.

Don't mess up your image. (But try the recipe.)
To make a messier metaphor of it, content is the cornflour that wraps the whole enchilada, and without a good recipe, the whole thing falls apart. The guts of your company might be perfectly sound and sensible, but when the lettuce and shredded meat is hanging out for the world to see, your company looks like a gooey mess.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Coffee at 9. Fries at 5. Write that down.

Usually I eschew fast-food, so I’ll admit I’m a bit out of my element at a drive-thru window. Last week, however, the stars aligned and I visited two different McDonald’s restaurants. On Monday at 5:30pm, I ordered a children’s meal. On Wednesday at 9am, I ordered a coffee. In both cases, I was asked to pull into the lot and wait for my order.

“We’re just waiting for the fries,” was Monday’s explanation.

“The coffee will be up in a minute,” I was told on Wednesday.

Sometimes I try to quiet the customer service/operations manager voices in my head. Sometimes I chalk up experiences like these to bizarre coincidence. But other times, I have to say, they blew it.

Like, both of these times. In what world is it hard to imagine McDonald’s customers wanting coffee in the morning and fries at dinnertime?

Business Writing Must Serve Readers

There's writing lesson here, folks, and I can sum it up in one word: Anticipation.

Sometimes it’s good. (Cue Carly Simon.)  It’s good when the WRITER ANTICIPATES WHAT THE READER needs to know.

Other times it's bad. It’s bad when your readers are thinking, “why doesn’t it say…?” Because if your audience doesn't find what they want to know, on rare occasion they will call you. But much more often, the audience will move on and get what they need from someone else. 

Whether you’re writing a return policy, employee handbook, or a stop sign, the most fundamental part of your preparation is to anticipate what your reader needs to know - and provide it.

And just in case you’re wondering: no, thanks. I don’t want fries with that. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bloppers, or why you need a little help

Recently seen in a real magazine, with ellipses placed to protect the identity of the writer:   
"They made there first record... and I was fortunate enough to do their first official shoot." 
(I couldn't help thinking, if they're really fortunate, you won't be their English teacher.) 

Look, if you don't make mistakes, you're not human. But the reading public - meaning your customers and prospects - will judge you by your mistakes. 

You can argue some mistakes are OK - if they get you noticed, for example, and you're of the any-attention-is-better-than-none mindset. Of course in business, that's a pretty lame operating principle. 

Sure the bible's had several famously flawed editions, and we're still reading those.* While you can take a few cues from religion and history when you're developing a PR and marketing strategy, I highly recommend you toss in some tips from folks with more practical industry experience

*Copywriters, note: word has it the biblical scribes were flogged or otherwise severely reprimanded for their errors.

-~ -~ -~ -~ -~ -~ -~ -~ -~ -~ -
~Diane Stresing                             

Some mistakes are more expensive than others.

Know any copyeditors who charge $25,000/minute? Now there's justification.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"I'm sorry this is so long. I'd have written a shorter blog post but I didn't have time."

Or so I paraphrase what many have said before (some in fewer words) - and what is one of the most telling bits on writing ever written, IMHO.

Which brings me to Twitter, Reddit, and the all-too-human tendency to search for a more complicated answer when a perfectly good - if unbelievably simple - answer is sitting right there, in plain sight. SMH.

In a weak moment, I waded in to the silly media stories of the day to find out if Twitter has The Magic Formula for social media success and What Newspapers Can Learn from Reddit and was disappointed in both. The Twitter article disappointed me more, because it points out how myopic many (most?) advertising industry pundits are. It's possible people read/like Twitter because it's short and easy to read, right? No, that's too easy. Let's search instead for a new, improved, 2012 answer because it's no longer fashionable to use the 2010 answer. It's also possible people respond to Twitter's ads because there's a higher proportion of good ads and/or they're targeted and/or timed better and/or they're not lost among quite so many distractions as Facebook, where you can plan your family reunion, have a virtual high school reunion, lose your job, and run your own business? Augh. Sometimes a cigar is a cigar. And when it's not a cigar, it shouldn't take a semester's worth of discussion to figure out what it really is.

The second article, about newspapers and their impending doom (not) ticked me off because the headline is a sell-out for an article that's quite worth a read.

Here's my crazy, all-too-simple answer for the industry watchers: news outlets that offer news - aka important information that has nothing to do with what Snooki named her baby or how Nicki Minaj will vote - will have an audience. Advertising that's good, and seen, will work. In the newspaper, on the evidently nearly dead Facebook, or on today's SM darling.

If your ads are good, in front of the right people, when they're not too terribly distracted, they'll work.

I repeated it because that ups the odds that you'll get the message.

Which is something that was once taught in advertising 101, before distractions were born, right after Al Gore invented the internet.

Hey I read it online. It's gotta be true. Source? I don't need no stinkin' source. It was on ABC News, and they got it straight from Twitter.

So back to ads on Twitter, or anywhere.  Here's a tip: No matter how good your ads are, they won't return well this month/quarter for folks interested in the DNA ENCODE reports or cool photos of Mars. Those are called distractions. Both of which are undoubtedly better and probably more important than one election on a planet that supports more than one country.

Thanks for reading and by all means keep thinking out there. I'll edit this down to 140 characters when I get a round tuit.

~ the links, in case you want them ~

The short of the DNA ENCODE story:

The long of it:

And the medium but digestible for the liberal arts crowd version:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How much? It depends.

How much does a freelance writer charge?  

You know the saying, 'words are cheap?' Well, that may be true - but writing skills have tremendous value. And the wrong words can be extremely costly. But don't worry - my fees won't cost you an arm, or a leg. I promise. 

 My charges are reasonable, and I'll often work on a 'per project' basis. That way, clients know what to expect from the start.  In other words, the answer to "how much?" is, "it depends." Call me; we'll figure it out.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- 

Ok, that little ditty is still true - it's how I handled the question on my website before I revamped the pages. It seemed like a good idea to get a little more mileage out of those paragraphs here...

But if you're a freelance writer, you know "it depends" isn't quite the right answer. Too often, the answer to "how much do you charge" is "not enough." Scope creep is alive and well and you'll find it drags out almost every project. 

To be fair, when I feel that way about 9 of my last 10 projects, I know what I should do: it's time to raise my rates. 

The last time I felt this way, however, I tried a different tactic. Instead of taking a deep breath and preparing a "my rates have changed" speech, I created a list of questions to ask clients before beginning a project. My hope is that, if we answer those 5 little questions, neither one of us should be surprised by a project that morphs into something completely different. 

Well, a girl can hope.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Local Gets Social: It's about time

When it comes to media, messaging, social media, branding and business communications in general, I think there are several distinct, parallel universes. (Corporate giants may qualify as a couple of different animals in their own right.)

I also think most of us will agree - by us, this time I mean consumers - that the question isn't IF a small business should use social media, the question is HOW?

The short answer is, just (about) like anyone else. If everyone on the 'net is all a-twitter about Mother's Day, you probably should be too. But your comments don't need to trend worldwide. They need to reach your local audience, your followers, and entice them to share. (In case you're so busy running your business you haven't noticed, in 2012 "share" means "recommend." And "recommend" still means "new business.") 

If you're a worldwide brand, maybe your Mother's Day comments should ride the coattails of a celebrity story, a la "Do you admire Angelina Jolie's maternal style?". If your business focuses on a 25-mile radius, though, leave Angelina alone. You can focus on something much more personal, much more real.  A bring-a-friend offer is the ideal engagement tool for you and your customers. For example, "Bring a friend who's like a mom to you" or "tell us what your mom did that drove you crazy, that you do now and both of you get 20% off your next service."

See? It's easy. And it's important, because no matter how small your business, you don't want it to get any smaller! The hard part about any form of marketing is finding the time to do it. The next Local Gets Social Tip will focus on finding the time to reach your market and attract new customers.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _
Don't let the Pepsis and Cokes of the world define your marketing plan. Yours is probably better, anyway. Need a little help getting on the right social media track? Find out what a professional copywriter can do for you.
  << it's a safe! Isn't that cool?!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Say it in Pictures

Is Slideshare the new content marketing king? And if a picture on Pinterest is worth more than a thousand words, what's Panasonic trying to say?

 Social media expert?
Yeh, well, I don't know either. I've about reached the point that I automatically discredit anyone who claims to be a social media expert. (Really, how long can a person claim a title like that? Twenty minutes?)

Repeat after me: don't confuse the tools with the trade. Marketing, advertising, and brand identity still have more to do with words and customer service than they do with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Foursquare or even MySpace. And you can +1 this, or pin that to your wall.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pucker up and remember

This is personal. It's about pickles, and perception.

When I was young, my mom made refrigerator pickles, all the time. We loved to eat them. Opening the refrigerator and grabbing a forkful of the sweet, tangy cucumber slices on a hot day, particularly after having roasted and splashed away the afternoon at Mt. Air Swimming Pool, defined summer.

Or maybe not.
Proof! That's my mom's handwriting on the recipe.

40 or so years after this memory was recorded, I found out I'm the only one in my family who remembers "refrigerator pickles." 

But we ate them all the time. Every day, we'd come home from the swimming pool and ...

"I'm sorry. I don't remember them," my dad told me.

"Well mom will," I replied rather haughtily.

She didn't.

And so I came face-to-face with the revolting fact that some memories are invented, or at least embellished. My memories. It was so disconcerting I decided to quit thinking about it.

At least I have the recipe for those pickles, and mom's kind assurances that yes, she probably made them more than once.

Manufacturing Memories

In an effort to recover from the jolt of realizing my sweet memories may be more pixie dust than pickles, I've made those pickles three times this summer already. I'll make them again, too, because they're every bit as good as I remember. Or at least I think they are.

To set the record straight, I should point out that they're not even real pickles. They're "Pickled Cucumbers." (The injuries continue.) Now when I crunch them, made-up memories swirl in my head with nagging little questions. Questions like, what kind of memories will my kids have 40-odd years from now? I hope they're sweet and tangy, like mine. Even if they're mixed up with a little imagination.

Most moms I know beat themselves up frequently because they're not providing their kids with the idyllic childhoods they (the moms) remember.

But what if the recipe for a delicious, tangy childhood is really easy? What if it's based on selectively embellished memories? Wouldn't that be a relief?

Sweet Hope

Maybe the reason I don't remember my mom griping about driving back and forth to the pool and everywhere else my friends and I wanted to go is because she didn't complain. But I doubt it. Do you know any moms who don't complain about the driving and other humdrum tasks that comprise summer activities? Maybe I don't remember Mom's complaints because the pickles and a few other sweetly embellished memories (however inaccurate) crowded out the everyday grumbling.

The idea gives me hope. Maybe my kids will remember me as a little sweeter than I really am, and my cooking as a little better than it is. I sure hope so.

For posterity, then, here's the recipe that inspired my somewhat inaccurate but quite idyllic summer memory. In case you're wondering, my kids didn't exactly love these at first bite. But I'm hoping they remember these pickles - or something else, whether I actually made it or not - as the absolutely perfect summer treat.

Pickled Cucumbers with Dill

1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
2 medium cucumbers
2 tablespoons fresh dill

Combine vinegar, sugar, water, salt and pepper in a saucepan. While you bring it to a boil, use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to remove strips of peel lengthwise from cucumbers, leaving alternate strips of peel intact. Slice cucumbers and place in bowl. Add vinegar mixture. Sprinkle with dill. Toss gently. Cover and chill at least two hours. Add memories and enjoy. 
This personal essay is included in Dumb Things We Say to DogsA much more scientific explanation about how memories are distorted and invented can be found on PsyBlog.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Warren Buffet Believes in Reporting

"I believe newspapers that intensively cover their communities will have a good future" -- Warren Buffet, June 2012 message to employees of the newspapers he owns.

Apparently Moody's doesn't share his view, at least as a short-term investment.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs

It's a pangram, not a personality disorder. A pangram or "alphabet sentence" contains all the letters of the alphabet, and I've had the great pleasure of reading them while shopping for fonts lately.

The Dancing Pen Calligraphy website lists a bunch. Consider it your silly online procrastination tool of the day. (You're welcome.)

Of course I've added Pangram Developer to my list of dream writing jobs, next to Captcha Writer,  Pokemon Card Copywriter, and Bakugan Namer.

Well, that's why they're called "dream" jobs...

OK, on a slightly more serious note: smart font choices can make your website work better, your presentations more memorable, and you the envy of all your friends. Mmmm well, two out of three are proven.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

If Your Business is Local, Why Go Social?

Does your small business need a social media presence? Yep. If you don't have one, you've already lost more than a handful of sales. Don't waste any more time asking this question.

Phone books are dying (faster than newspapers; at least something is) and if a quick search doesn't result in a nice, clean page or full-blown site about your business, your prospect moves on to a business that does. Click, click is the opposite of clink, clink - the money drops in someone else's jar.

The good news is you don't need much. A Facebook page will do. So will Twitter, or another free/low cost option. But it's gotta be all YOU. Your business, that is.  If 'everybody' in town knows John Doe has the best cheese biscuits, that's great. But your personal Facebook page isn't going to introduce others to your talents, snag the catering order, or be top-of-mind when the gang's going to lunch. (Unless the gang's office is next door to your biscuit bistro.)

Case in point: a friend of mine was looking for a craniosacral massage therapist. She'd heard of one in town. A quick online search didn't reveal the local practitioner's name, but it listed several others. My friend called a therapist across town - 35 MILES across town - and has been there several times. That's called a lost opportunity, and it shouldn't have happened.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 
New to Fan Pages, need help managing yours, or determining how to use the right keywords in the right places? want to establish a free website or establish your business presence on Twitter? It's time - get started now.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 
If your business is local, HOW should you use Social Media? < next Local Gets Social tip.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Kerpoof! You're an author!

Kerpoof is one of my new favorite sites for budding authors. The Disney-owned site is surprisingly non-commercial, and it's really and truly FREE to use. The registration process requires a parent's email but in my experience, I can honestly say I haven't noticed any spam as a result of our use.

Why I like it: the storybook feature gives kids a chance to create their own illustrated books online, and as a bonus, they're getting great keyboard practice at the same time.

If you need to take your kid to the office this summer, I highly recommend sitting them at the keyboard and sending them to Kerpoof. Then, make sure you take a break to read what they're writing. You just might find you've got a talented writer in the family, and the next thing you know, you'll be sending out query letters and learning all about the publishing industry.

Hey, worse things could happen. :D

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What's your newsletter done for you lately?

How many newsletters did you read this week? One from your local winery? bike shop? Did your corporate wellness program send you one? And did you read them?

I'm guessing you received more than you think; you read (at least the headline and possibly first graph of) almost every one. And even if you "just" touched delete on your slick phone screen, you thought - for a brief and shining moment - about the sender.

That's called mindshare. Get enough and you've got a brand. Do it right and you've got a valuable brand. 

But newsletters can do so much more than occupy an atom of your prospect's mind for a moment.

What else can newsletters do? 

Glad you asked.

Well-crafted newsletters can help train and develop employees, get new customers, retain your current clients, and improve your employee satisfaction rates - for a song.

Now I sound crazy, right? Well, give a crazy idea a chance. Done right, newsletters can help you reach your goals.

Regardless of their intended audience, the most effective and cost-effective newsletters are both timely and evergreen. Sound like a tall order? Well, I invite you to stretch with me.

Your newsletter can (and should)...

Be practical and just a tad inspirational. Employee newsletters reinforce (and sometimes replace!) training initiatives and remind everyone on the team that they are part of something bigger than themselves.

Increase sales. Newsletters directed at customers can increase sales, encourage referrals, and deliver coupons. Beyond that, they educate your clients, reduce unnecessary calls, and remind customers why they chose to shop with you in the first place – why they, too, are part of the team. But customer newsletters aren't the only newsletters that should add to your bottom line.  Employee newsletters can also increase sales. How? Have you ever been convinced (or just plain pressured) into buying an extended warranty for a new product, because the salesperson simply wouldn't take "no" for an answer. Maybe that contest was in his company's newsletter. Maybe he wants his name in the next newsletter under the "winners" column. And maybe, just maybe, an underperforming salesperson (or two) will read the list of winners and think, hurumph. I can do better than that.

Newsletters can tell stories, and stories build relationships. Remember newspapers? I bet you read the features, didn't you? The ones with a photo and a headline like, "The Reason I Became a Bottle Washer." Good stories - ones that ooze good news about your brand and have a human interest factor, to boot - are likely to get shared. Go viral, in other words. Another word to say viral advertising is "free" advertising. I bet you see where I'm going with this. Maybe you'll even share it :D

Do you have a newsletter? If you do, is it current? Is it working for you?
If you don't have a newsletter - does your competition?
Related & really interesting
Does anyone read that long copy? Marcia Yudkin settles the long v. short debate.
Do you need a newsletter or a discussion list? One author vs. many contributors - it's your call.
Want a newsletter, but it's just too much work? Get help, get it done.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Celebrate Earth Day the Write Way, Every Day

The point of celebrating Earth Day annually, I suppose, is to make us all a little more aware of and kind to our environment every day. In a guest post for The Urban Muse, I offer a few tips for writers who want to be a little greener and reduce their carbon footprint while they write about rising gas prices, organic gardening, or anything else.

Copywriters, take note: if you don't subscribe to The Urban Muse, I highly recommend that you do. I've gathered many great tips from the blog over the years, and I bet you will too.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Curriculum Resource for Children's Writers

Readers of my reading blog know I love The Why Files, now here's a reason for writers to love it too:  the awesome science team at University of Wisconsin-Madison recently highlighted its Classroom Activity Pages in its newsletter, and what a line-up! From amoebas to tsunamis, children's writers are sure to find those pages an excellent resource.
Link not working? Here's the URL:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Matriculate Monday: Google this

The last of ten Vocabula quizzes is all about search. 

In case the link doesn't appear above:

And as a bonus, in case you're in need of a very snarky response to almost any question:

(But let's be nice out there, ok?)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How many professional organizations do we need?

I understand and feel the sadness shared by many as the American Press Institute closes, but I challenge those who were so quick to jump into the OMG, it's another nail-in-the-coffin discussion.

Is it? Or perhaps should at least some of those headlines be rewritten to include the word merge? This is one of the many times I want to jump up and down and scream, "what were we taught in J-school, anyway?!" See, API didn't whither away; it merged with NAA. And the merge wasn't a last-gasp; API had five years (at least) of operating expenses in the bank when it merged with NAA. Five years to re-invest, reinvent itself, or look around and realize that there are a dozen or so professional organizations offering education, direction, and memberships to journalists and maybe it makes sense to combine the talents of those organizations.

I think that's how I'd write the story.

On a related note, at least one astute Washington Post reader asked a question I'd like to hear the paper's response to. Why did that article run in the Lifestyle section? File that under "things that make me say, hmmm."

Look, API was a highly respected, unquestionably professional organization, and much as it will be missed, I repeat, it just might not be needed - thanks to several other, similarly professional and well-respected organizations. RIP API. RIP, indeed.
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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Winning Words: Mneme all over again

Last week the 2011 UT-San Diego Spelling Bee champion became the 2012 champion by spelling "mneme" and several other words I can neither spell, pronounce, or use correctly in a sentence.

Congratulations, Snigdha Nandipat - and best of luck in DC, where the Scripps National Spelling Bee is slated for May 30-31. 

Speaking of Scripps, the program offers a unique school fundraiser that emphasizes (get this!) academics. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Matriculate Monday gets technical

Vocabula Quiz number nine takes on technology. Wishing you every bit of luck you'll need.

The link, in case technology fails somehow:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Matriculate Monday: Science, take 2

Put away your microscope; everything you need to know to ace Vocabula Quiz number eight you (should have) learned in eighth-grade English.*

*hey, eighth grade wasn't my best year

Monday, March 12, 2012

Matriculate Monday: AS TO Politics

Thanks to my very astute friend Janice, who lamented the lack of a quiz last week, Matriculate Monday is back. If you're very astute, you'll know which one of the quiz questions I missed.

Vocabula quiz number seven takes on politics (and recent history).  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

When an Apology Isn't an Apology

Today's post was inspired by Rush Limbaugh, this week's poster child for what every mother doesn't want her kid to grow up to be. Not the first time he's had the distinction, but this time, the radio talk show host illustrates an important point, or two: words can hurt, and sometimes an apology really isn't one at all.

If you haven't had enough yet of the ridiculous hoopla Limbaugh started by publicly berating a Georgetown law student advocating that birth control pills be included in employer health care coverage, here's what ABC news posted Saturday afternoon:

The labels Limbaugh trumpeted so loudly and illogically* last week weren't impromptu or thoughtless. They were scripted. Just like the apology he issued on Sunday, which read in part, "My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices." 

Sincerely? I doubt it. For a man who makes his living in words, this was a poor excuse for sincerity and if the apology was an attempt at wry humor, it failed in that regard, too. 

It's just like the clerk who says "yeh" or "there ya go" when the expression that's called for is "thank you." Sadly, Limbaugh makes boatloads of money for his caustic expressions. To further insult our intelligence or further his brand (redundant, come to think about it - insulting people an excellent way to characterize his brand) he went on to dismiss President Obama's call to Sandra Fluke as a way of checking "to make sure she's OK."

Yeh. There ya' go, Rush. Way to clear that up for the nation.

 *sometimes "zig-zag" is the best way to describe the radio host's thought process

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Quit sensationalizing news. Especially tragedies.

Of course we're all saddened and sick with grief and confusion over Monday's horrible tragedy in Chardon. Parents and teens probably feel it a little differently, but we all feel it. It's a human tragedy and a horrible thing. And I suppose, if I had a really magnanimous personality, I could excuse as "human nature" the news media's coverage of the event and its aftermath.

But I'm not that big-hearted or understanding. Even as I reeled from the shock of the initial reports, I was disgusted by my fellow journalists (?!) and their complete lack of respect for the victims' families, for the accused shooter(s), and for the privacy of witnesses who were certainly in a fragile state.

It's not how I was taught that professional journalists behave, and I wouldn't feel like one myself if I didn't state my objections publicly, somehow. There. This is it.

Shaking off my righteous indignation at the sorry state of my local news media (I have plenty left over for the national media) I have to say in this case, the platforms of Facebook and Twitter have been less sensational, and more humane and helpful, in their "coverage."

What can we do? I don't know. I'm sad and confused, like everyone else. I'm not giving up on the news media, and on journalists in general. I still believe it is a profession, and many will stand up to prove it, even now. More importantly, I have faith in our collective humanity, and believe that each of us will offer to others - friends, strangers, and even, especially, people we don't like or understand - an extra measure of kindness going forward. If that's through Facebook, OK. If it's a photo of a flower on a textbook on Pinterest, so be it. I won't be looking at local "reporting" vehicles for perspective on this tragedy, however.

Live and let live

Monday, February 27, 2012

Matriculate Monday: on Health

How robust is your vocabulary? Find out as the sixth Vocabula Quiz takes on health.  Just taking on The Vocabula Quiz Matriculate Monday challenge? I explain my (unscientific) reasoning here.

- - - Link not working? URL:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fellowship for Mid-Career Editorial Writer

SPJ does it again - here's an outstanding opportunity for professional editorial writers:

What the fellowship provides, straight from SPJ's description, is $75,000 "to an outstanding editorial writer or columnist to help broaden his or her journalistic horizons and knowledge of the world...(it can) cover the cost of study, research, and/or travel in any field."

The application deadline is June 22, 2012. More information at

Also note: SPJ's High School Essay Contest deadline is March 8.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Matriculate Monday: on Science

The fifth Vocabula Quiz takes on science.  Just taking on The Vocabula Quiz Matriculate Monday challenge? I explain my (unscientific) reasoning here.

- - - Link not working? URL:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thanks to The Quill - in its 100th year - for highlighting this 60-second spot as something of a Valentine to journalists. The brief video shares a few gems the world might have missed (or learned of far too late) if not for journalists.

I'm proud to say I love journalists, on Valentine's Day and every day.

Thanks, Quill, SPJ, and journalists everywhere.

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Watch it here:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Matriculate Monday Topic: Mental Health

Mental health is the topic of the quiz, folks. I don't mean the quiz will make you question yours. If you find it does - or even it doesn't - share your thoughts on today's test in the comments. Thanks for playing along!

Quiz number four (of The Vocabula Review's 45) can be found here:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Customer newsletters: Ignore at your peril

Read the latest studies on customer retention and loyalty, and you might need some cheering up. We're a fickle lot, and apparently, even more so when the economy is this bleak.

You've got to give new customers reasons to come back, old customers new reasons to return, and remind all of your customers that they love you so much they simply must recommend you to all of their friends.

In other words, you need a customer newsletter.

Form and content matter (consider the print v e-newsletter debate that still lives and will for years, here) but any newsletter is better than none. There are no hard-and-fast rules about discounts,  frequency, color schemes, or even distribution methods. There is one fact that can't be ignored, however: you need customers. Don't you?

If you don't need customers, you don't need a newsletter. There. Debate settled.

What should your newsletter look like, what should it say or do? When and how should you send it? These are questions only you can answer for your business. You'll have a better shot at finding the best answers for your business if you noodle over the questions with someone who has experience working with newsletters. (Thanks for asking. Yes, I do.)

The advice that seems to apply to almost every type of business - and non-profit organization, for that matter - is not surprising. Make it worth reading, and keep it short. If you leave 'em wanting more, and they know where to get it, your customers will find you. And isn't that the point?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Matriculate Monday

Matriculate with me as we move up to a "moderate" level quiz, the third of The Vocabula Review's series of 45 quizzes. Ready?

Here goes:

Monday, January 30, 2012

Matriculate Monday

Did you matriculate with me in The Vocabula Review's 45 quizzes last week? Have you recovered yet? If you're working on the quiz-a-week plan, it's time for quiz number two. It's rated "easy." Let's see what we think:

Share your results in the comments below...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Is everything dead, except communication?


Can you tell I'm fed up with doomsday headlines? For heaven's sake folks, newspapers are dead, Google+ is dead, e-mail marketing is dead, Facebook's barely breathing or maybe it's just sold its soul in anticipation of a going-out-with-style IPO. Oh, and today's teens are never going to learn how to talk to each other, thanks to that damn texting fad.

Communication isn't dead, folks. A hundred years ago (or so) when I was in J-school (when we still called it J-school, and OSU's J-school was still accredited) I was taught that breaking through "the clutter" and making sure your message was carefully targeted and repeated (nine times - seriously, that's what my notes say) was the only way to communicate because we suffered from such ungodly information overload.

That was before Al Gore invented the internet. When, if you said something off-mic, but the mic was really on, it probably took, like, three days for the story to make the rounds.

Journalism is changing, like everything else, and communication isn't dead. Those who give up on communicating, however, will die. To be clear, please know that I'm talking about businesses, not people.

Decide what your message is. Figure out who needs to hear it. And share your news. Then repeat it. Nine times.

The tools have changed, but good communication really hasn't gone up in smoke.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Handy Journalism Toolbox

Thank you @JournToolBox for this DIY Freedom of Information Act letter template.

Carl Hiaasen talks to CJR

Hoot, Scat, Flush, Team Rodent (How Disney Devours the World), Skinny Dip, Nature Girl, Paradise Screwed. Need further introduction, dear readers? Carl Hiassen started with The Miami Herald when he was 23 years old. Three decades and about a dozen books (and three movies) later, he still writes for the paper because:

"I've always felt fortunate and privileged, first of all, to write for a newspaper I grew up reading - learned to read on, actually - and secondly, to live in the place I grew up, where my roots are, and to have a platform for expressing my opinion. ... To walk away from the column would be to walk away from the fight."- Carl Hiaasen in Columbia Journalism Review

Be still, my heart.

In case that doesn't fully expose my J-school geekiness, I'll go on. The Q&A with Hiassen was just one of the articles I savored in the January/February issue of CJR. I'll admit I should have stopped reading  the next article, The Times and the Jews, to look up invidious (you too?) but I was too engrossed in that article by Neil A. Lewis. I would have looked it up when I finished the magazine, but by then The Algorithm Method had given me a headache, thanks to its too-lucid description of the frustrating ways in which measuring reading material in clicks and visits changes the course of the writing of said material. Sigh. You'll have to subscribe to read the whole thing. Which, of course, I highly recommend.*

*Subscribing. Not the headache.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ohio's Best Journalism: the SPJ Awards

This isn't news; the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Awards I'm referring to were presented last year. This is love letter, to SPJ and all the journalists that are, really and truly, professionals.

Each year when it's time to renew my SPJ membership, I have some qualms. They're fueled by feelings of inadequacy. Oh, on paper, I look pretty good. I have a journalism degree in my hip pocket, 20+ years of professional writing experience and clips a-plenty. But dare I stand shoulder to shoulder with REAL JOURNALISTS? When was the last time I made some muckety–muck quake because of one of my investigative reports? (sigh - never) And the last time I sweated a daily deadline in a newsroom? (same answer - repeat sigh.) 

I renew anyway. The real journalists who produce Ohio's Best Journalism, according to Ohio SPJ, deserve my support. Plus, I get to sit back and read their winning pieces, and bask in the glow of their excellent work. 

Links to a few samples of the most recently winning work are below. A complete list can be found here

The winners' circle wasn't full of just the usual suspects, by the way. Columbus CEO picked up three awards, Angie's List was honored for its consumer reporting, and the capital's entertainment publication, The Other Paper, garnered investigative honors for Lyndsey Teter's Tarmac Transgressions. (No wonder John Kasich doesn't like pesky newspaper reporters - he's surrounded. Thank goodness.)

Best Healthcare Reporting, first place:
How Valuable is Your Child's Brain. Tom Groeschen of The Cincinnati Enquirer delves into new laws designed to protect young athletes from additional concussive injuries.

Best Investigative Reporting, first place:
A Raid at Fair Finance. Jim McKinnon, Cheryl Powell, Akron Beacon Journal. (Original article not available; read McKinnon's follow-up here.)

Best Consumer Reporting, second place:
Utility Choice: Company Promises Easy Cash. Dan Gearino, The Columbus Dispatch.

Broadcast journalists are well-represented by SPJ, and many of the honored pieces can be heard on their respective stations' websites. (Like Vivian Goodman's Dana and Desiree, which took first place in Best Minority Issues Reporting for Goodman's employer, WKSU.)

Besides being impressed with the reporters' outstanding (and important) work, I like to support SPJ because I believe it's a highly professional organization, providing clues for new journalists who want to cover the system the right way, offering scholarships and contests for blossoming young people who will no doubt reveal things about our world that may not be pretty, but should be uncovered. 

Mired in my copywriting assignments and surrounded by the family commitments that I've allowed to push aside (some) career ambitions, I am not the "real journalist" I planned to become. But I'm thrilled to stand on the periphery, ever grateful those professionals are out there, doing their jobs. 

Write on.