To blog or not to blog

Between the needs of actual paying clients (editing two dozen articles for a professional journal and writing a series of press releases) and the requests of family and friends (reviewing a CV and statement of purpose and offering input on proposed submissions for a 7th grade poetry workshop), my mind has been filled to the brim with words and writing for weeks now. (When you dream about your red pen, you know you’ve just about had enough.)

What’s gone by the wayside is my blog. It’s not that I couldn’t have found the time to crank out a couple of paragraphs; it’s more that I just didn’t have the mental energy needed to come up with an interesting topic (or at least an interesting take on a mundane topic). So that leads me to today’s question: is it better to blog intermittently when you have something of interest and value to share, or is it better to simply blog consistently regardless of the depth of your comments?

I don’t know the answer, and I look forward to reading yours.

3 unexpected ways copywriters can help your business

So your Web site reads exactly as you want it to, your latest e-mail campaign is going strong, and your recent article is getting great reviews. What could a copywriter possibly do for you?

As it turns out, quite a lot. To get the results you want, all your messages–not just the obvious marketing ones–need to be credible, persuasive, and professionally written. Not convinced? Here are 3 examples where a copywriter can make all the difference:

  1. Dealing with an angry customer. A client of mine recently asked for help with a potentially catastrophic situation. A mix up over delivery dates led their best customer to send an angry e-mail threatening to void their contract and possibly sue for damages. When the customer wouldn’t return my client’s calls, he decided to write a letter of apology. If you’ve ever had to write one you know they are incredibly difficult, especially when you feel you’re not entirely in the wrong. Since, unlike my client, I wasn’t emotionally invested in the situation, I was able to write a cordial, clear-headed, and persuasive letter that at least got the customer to answer the phone.
  2. Communicating potentially unpopular policy changes to employees. Most of your employees don’t like change, particularly when it comes to policies and procedures that affect them directly. But in this economy, it’s often change or die, whether it involves switching to new software to improve productivity or restructuring employee benefits to reduce costs. The success of such changes depends on how well you communicate both the change itself and the reason for the change. In other words, you have to sell the change to your employees, and who is better equipped to do that than a copywriter?
  3. Working with your banker, your board, and anyone else who has an impact on your business. You might be one of the few people I know who has complete confidence in his or her writing ability. It doesn’t take you any longer–or involve any more stress–to dash off an e-mail to your banker or your board than it does to send one to your friend confirming lunch. But most people struggle to write well and end up wasting significant time and energy in the process. At the very least, a copywriter can proofread your draft, ask questions about points that could lead to misunderstandings, and help you communicate your message with efficiency and confidence.

A copywriter is a resource. If you’ve taken the time to develop a relationship with one, it only makes sense to use him or her to benefit your business as much as possible. And, if you haven’t, now would be the ideal time.

As always, I look forward to your comments.

When does a marketing molehill become a mountain?

Here’s the situation: A couple of months ago, my husband and I took a long-awaited cruise vacation. To be honest, the cruise was better than we expected — the crew was very good (and, in some cases, exceptional), the ship was tastefully decorated and well maintained, and the ports of call were interesting and fun. On the last night, as we enjoyed a beverage served by our favorite bartender at our favorite bar, he asked us to fill out a comment card recognizing his excellent service.

The card was a simple 8 inch x 5 inch rectangle folded in half. On the inside left was a letter signed by the company president and in the letter were 4 typos (to be fair, the typos were actually cases where two words ran together without a space). As a marketer and writer, I was struck by the incongruence of typos in a card designed to recognize excellence, and, as a vacationer, I was taken aback, wondering what else was going on behind the scenes that I had missed.

Now, several weeks later, when I think about that vacation and that company, I still feel generally positive – it’s not like 4 typos would lead me to never cruise with them again. But I still can’t get rid of the nagging feeling that the cruise line wasn’t all I thought it was, and, if someone told me they had been on the same ship and had a terrible experience, I think I could believe it. In other words, for me, 4 typos is the difference between confidence in a company and doubt.

What do you think? Am I making a mountain out of a marketing molehill? Are there times when a marketing mistake matters less — or not at all? I look forward to your comments.

It’s good … but shouldn’t it be shorter?

If I had to list the questions I’m most often asked as a copywriter, that one would be right near the top. There’s a persistent belief among many business people that shorter copy is better copy. On the surface, that makes some sense. After all, people are busy; they don’t have time to wade through long copy. And most of us aren’t great writers–the less we have to write, the better it’s likely to be.

But what if you’re trying to sell something complex or new? What if an anecdote would make your business case better than a few bullet points? What if your prospects are skeptical and you need to refute their potential arguments point-by-point (or risk losing them)? In those cases, is shorter copy still better–or just shorter?

So, how long should your copy be? Exactly long enough to present your idea compellingly and convincingly, whether that takes three bullets or five pages. If you’re a writer, you’ll probably have to convince your client or boss of that; if you’re the client or boss, all we ask is that you keep an open mind. After all, it’s the result–not the word count–that matters.

I welcome your comments.

 
Copyright 2014 Selectivity