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.

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~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.