Monday, March 31, 2014

Your Guest Post Could Be Here!

It's time for me to handle a couple of pressing personal projects that are a whole lot more important than managing this blog. *heavy sigh* Let me rephrase that: anyone want to offer some guest posts on writing, journalism, new media, old media, or ... almost anything involving words? Let me know.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Please Don't Tell Anyone: Free Marketing/PR Advice

Hey, you do marketing/publicity/press release stuff, right? Would you have any tips for me on publicizing my crowd funding appeal? Hey, I've got a Facebook page. I could make you a manager and you could write something for it! Can you tell me how to use the 'boost post' feature? That's advertising, right? Want to help me write a grant? plan? ...employee manual? 

Funny thing is, professional marketing/advertising/copywriter types are good at what they do because they stay current on industry and audience trends, write, rewrite, and practice their craft. They even attend seminars and stuff... sure, it's all available online. So is everything you'd need to drywall your basement. So, why don't you Google it and go for it?

Sorry for the snarky 'tude - I've been asked for free advice one too many times already this week. All right; if you came here to learn all the tricks of the trade, I'll dish. 

Whether you're crafting a business plan, press release, Facebook or email campaign, customer or employee newsletter, white paper or case study, here's what you need to know: they all start with the same basic ingredients.

All you need to do to write great copy

  • Look at likely prospects. What do you know about them?
  • Where are they, what do they read, what do they care about?
  • Why would/how could you appeal to them more than competitors would?
Once you answer those questions, you have all the raw material you need to craft your message. When you have the nut of what you need to say, you go back to the first step, which is understanding your prospects. Then, just tailor the message so that it's most likely to hit the target. To do that, all you have to do is hone the message to fit into the appropriate format (structure, length, tone, etc.) and stand out just a little.

Yep. That's it in a nutshell.

Please don't tell anyone about this post. The next thing you know, everyone will be creating great copy. And pretty soon, we'll have a glut of finished basements, too.

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Here's another secret: good copywriting only looks easy to write because it's easy to read. Effective copywriting doesn't get noticed because its job is to get your message noticed. I specialize in writing that works. Contact me so we can start getting your message out. And yes, my Website Reality Check is still available at the posted price. You'll find it here under "Looking for a Deal" 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

From one crazy profession to another

Poynter just never disappoints.

As (hundreds of?) thousands of journalists have done in the past few years, John Biemer, an AP reporter, decided to leave his profession.

He went into medicine instead. And that's why Dr. Biemer snagged a blog post at Poynter. It's worth reading, as is almost anything Poynter produces.

From one disrupted profession to another, eh? I suspect (and hope) that Dr. Biemer will tell us more stories.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lucky you - Matriculate Monday is back!

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2014! It's time to don your lucky green thinking cap and flex your grammar muscles: Matriculate Monday is back!

Courtesy of
Yep, I bring you yet another smart way to waste time... ehr, brush up on your grammar and build your vocabulary.

These games come courtesy of the Oxford Dictionaries site, which offers a multi-level spelling quiz and my favorite, an apostrophe challenge, among other tests for witty word-lovers.

Enjoy, smarty-pants.

Not feeling quite so smart? No worries, mon. Perhaps your mistakes, "entirely understandable and utterly charming," will move the language forward.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Good Copywriting Goes Beyond Typos

Who needs an editor, right?

I have a funny feeling that was the governing principle that allowed these three ditties to be published last month:
1. Did you know is one of the most common types of cancer? If detected early, it's also one of the most preventable.
2. ....many of us know there are hashtag and social media Nazi's out there. 
3. You know the people who are self-righteous know-it-alls that have an over-confident view and proclamation of the what’s, when’s and how’s of hashtagging properly.
I pulled (and didn't edit, in case you were wondering) each of these gems from articles intended to educate readers on the finer points of content marketing. It's OK to laugh; it's better than crying. 

A buddy makes your writing better
You don't need a rocket scientist to write web content (or anything), even a manual on rocket science. You need a second set of eyes. It's nearly impossible to effectively edit your own writing. 

So, what's wrong with the three items above? 
1.  If cancer is detected (early or anytime) it's not preventable. I'll admit this one is picky; however, it's wrong, if not grammatically, at least logically.  
2.  I tell clients (and friends, and my children) not to use the word Nazi unless they're writing about history or a fictional piece where it may be appropriate in dialog. If you use the offensive word with an apostrophe when you intend it as a plural, you look doubly bad. Repeating the word "there" in the last sentence just adds to the sloppiness.  
3. This one isn't picky; it's icky, for several reasons. First, don't take writing advice from a writer who writes something like that. (Again with the apostrophes!) Second, if your writing isn't clear, at least make it fun to read. This is neither. Third... well, I think "icky" covers it. 
I'm putting away my red pen now and am off to make mistakes of my own. Then, I'll heed my advice and ask someone else to take a gander before I press "send," "post," or "publish."

Looking for a second set of eyes or a second-guesser? 

I offer proofreading, wordsmithing, ghostwriting, and content management services.
I'm using Google Pages  +Diane Stresing and Twitter regularly while I revamp my website.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Content Overload!

Augh. "Fill in the blanks" storytelling. Sorry, but "Pick your story, fill in the blanks, then share it" isn't what I envision when I hear "good content."

In my opinion the problem isn't that there's a content void to fill. It's that most content isn't worth reading. And there's a lot more crap than there used to be, ergo, big ball of wax. While TheNextWeb seems to address the wrong problem (so great a need for content! so little time) generally, I think the advice it offered last month regarding managing messaging on a variety of social media channels was pretty sound.

I'll admit one of the subheads rubbed me the wrong way. IMHO, "How to max out each social network" really isn't the point.

I think marketing content overload is the problem, and I don't think it can be address with more - even better - content.

OK, better content helps. Better content appeals to more readers. But here's a crazy concept: so does better customer service. So does better product design. So much so that - hang on to your thinking caps - it can actually drive content. User-generated, believable content. Wow.

Now that's a concept worth tweeting about - don'tchathink?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Socrates of the 1980s

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. ~ Socrates

For months, my screensaver featured a photo of a rose hovering between bud and bloom. The accompanying quote, attributed to Socrates, tells “the secret of change.”

Recently, writing on the topic of change, I decided to look up the quote; you know, a little backstory can be so good for inspiration. I found the speaker was Socrates, all right - not the Greek philosopher, but a fictional character named for the famous sage. The character appeared in a book that was published in 1980.

Lesson learned? I guess sometimes the “change” that’s hard to accept isn’t a change at all, but a correction of a perception – or misconception. Ouch.

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My new book, Dumb Things We Say to Dogs, is a collection of essays inspired by some of the changes that life lays on us.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Journalism That Makes You Feel Better

Have I mentioned lately that I love CRJ? I love CRJ.

Have I mentioned lately how I worry about what we don't know because of journalism's continuing/eminent demise? I'm worried.

That said, CRJ's always a bright spot, even on my darkest days. Read Trudy Lieberman's excellent piece at CRJ's site - all of it, for free.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love CRJ?