Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Food for Thought: Words Matter

I'm pleased that the Washington Post took on the silliness of food labeling, and hope its light tone will garner attention for a rather serious problem: our food supply is sick.

Sure, it's about the best in the world, but - yikes. 

I would farm if I could; instead I read labels and fret over each item in my grocery cart. 

Here's the article and the explanation re: why kale isn't healthy. Read it and ... eat smart. 


Meanwhile, have you read Anticancer: A New Way of Life? If you have and would like to offer a review (or even just a few comments) please get in touch

Thursday, December 31, 2015

January, Janus Words, and other Two-fers

In our social media-obsessed world, it seems somehow fitting this year ends on a #TBT.

Translation for luddites: TBT is Twitter/Facebook speak for "Throwback Thursday."

Now, throwing it waaaaaayyyy back, I'm sharing an oldie-but-goodie from CJR about two-faced Janus words. Who knows how our language will evolve and change in 2016?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Customer Service Is Important to Writing Because - ?


There. That's the executive summary, in case you don't have time to read the rest. Here's the rest:

I've been a copywriter for -- well, a long, long time. Whether it's a service agreement, ad copy, a white paper or company return policy, there's a secret to writing it well: Remember who you're writing for.

The Secret to Good Copywriting

I started lodging service complaints when I was in first grade, so you might say my writing career started on a sour note. I prefer to say that my writing is always, always informed by my customer service bent.

In my pollyanna world then, a good copywriter must be at least part customer advocate. When approaching an assignment, I ask about a gilion questions - often digging in to customer service and operations issues. This can make new clients nervous.  (I've heard more than once, "We're not writing about that. We just want to tell them about our new product." )  What I often hear about the final copy from my clients is, "Oh, I think our customer will like that."

Ya think?

Sarcasm aside, it's business 101. Generally, my assignments are not designed to serve my clients. They're intended to serve my client's CUSTOMERS.

(Un) Common Sense & Courtesy

There's some evidence that common sense and common courtesy are not quite as prevalent as they once were. In order to keep it positive, I'll point out that some companies (like Zappos, for one) use good customer service as a differentiating factor in their marketing strategies.

It should be obvious, but it's worth stating: If "good customer service" is a key piece of your marketing message, you really need to have the service and operational chops to back it up.

Also worth noting: Providing good customer service doesn't mean you have to be a doormat. I like the way HelpScout (nice product, even better philosophy) puts it:
Help Scout is fond of the Ritz-Carlton principle, to be “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” We hold doors, offer a strong handshake, and will pass on the last piece of pie—unless it’s pumpkin.
As HelpScout tips often point out, there are courteous ways to resolve problems with customers that don't involve bending over, or even handing over the last piece of pie/last slice of your margin.

A little bit of respect, and a lot of questions, can go a long way in creating good business communications and delighted, repeat customers.

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If you need a copywriter who's a little nutty about customer service, I might be the right choice for you. If you can overlook how long it's been since I updated my website...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

6 Essay Contests for High School Students

As I remember it, the rub with essay contests for high school students was that first, there are a lot of crappy ones so the good ones are hard to find, and second, it takes a lot of time and discipline to write a solid, thoughtful essay for those worth entering. Here are five I think are worth the time. Good luck, all! 

1. SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) is accepting entries into its essay contest for high school students until February 16, 2016. The topic, Why is it important that we have news media that are independent of the government?' is both timely and near and dear to my heart. Write on, young citizens.

2. With a hefty $2,000 prize at stake, the Ayn Rand Anthem Essay Contest is open to 8th - 10th grade students. The deadline is March 25, 2016. Other essay contests related to Rand's books are also offered.

3. The 11th Annual DNA Day Essay Contest, sponsored by the American Society for Human Genetics, has set its deadline for March 11, 2016. This year, students are asked to either defend or refute the Society's position on genetic testing for adult-onset diseases and conditions. 

The organization's website offers a rubric as well as pitfalls to avoid when participating in the contest.

4. Hiram College has announced its second essay writing contest. The theme is "Borders," and the contest (with cash prizes) is open to 10th and 11th graders. Entry deadline is January 7, 2016.  

5. We The Students essay contest is accepting entries until February 7, 2016. Hosted by the Bill of Rights Institute, the contest is open to students ages 14-19 in grades 8 - 12. 

This year, students are asked to discuss in writing to what extent, in in what ways, our government has compromised individual liberties for the sake of general security or welfare. 

6. Profiles in Courage Essay Contest - read winning essays from recent years and get writing tips directly from students (and contest winners) on the organization's Facebook page.

Speaking of writing tips, the organization posted one from JFK, circa 1955.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Don't Be THAT Guy on LinkedIn

Shortly after publishing my first post on LinkedIn, I received a message from a Hubspot rep who had been pursuing my employer as a client.

First came the connection request, which I approved because we had a connection or two in common, so I thought there could be a legitimate reason we should connect. On the heels of that approval came a long and silly introductory note that began with the following.
"I have been reading your Linkedin posts for a while now and I think we might share a psychic 6th sense because literally ALL of your posts are verbatim my thoughts regularly. Especially the one about these sensationalist headlines the world has been completely swept by."

I do not make this stuff up.

In case you haven't had your morning cuppa, I'll repeat: it was my first, and only, post on LinkedIn, at least to this date.

Obviously, I'm pretty sure we don't share that 6th sense, because if we did, she'd know I wondered if she was accusing me of plagiarism. You know, because ALL of my posts "are verbatim" her thoughts.

Scary stuff. And snarky, on my part, I'll admit.

The takeaway:
Don't be that guy on LinkedIn. And if you know that guy on LinkedIn, remember, severing a connection is easy.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

What Do Your Images Say? What Do You Want Them to Convey?

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, you really need to choose your pictures carefully. Below, two examples I came across this week.

This one is good, because it's believable. 

And borderline great, because it's funny. 

This one is not so good. Because, we were never that close. 

Communicate what you want to communicate, people.