Results

You’ve hired a writer.  Defining Your ProjectCongratulations! I’m thrilled. You’re excited because your work is done. But wait.  We have to talk about that.

As I view the content landscape, I am convinced that people hire content writers  expecting magic—as in seeing instant results and an immediate increase in business. It would be lovely, a writer’s wish, a company’s dream-come-true if it worked like that.

It doesn’t.

Ongoing Content

How often do you look at automobile advertisements or the independent reliability reports, or fuel efficiency readings? Only when you’re looking for a car. But the auto companies advertise and provide content all the time. The do not look for an immediate increase in sales after they have put up one ad, one blog, one Consumer Reports review. They are in it for the long haul.

Automobile marketers pay attention to the number of people that visit their website: they pay millions of dollars (I worked for such a company) to measure every click on every web page and every minute and second prospects spent on the smallest detail of the brand’s offerings. They analyze the metrics down to the threads on the tires’ lug nuts, so to speak. But they cannot directly correlate sales increases to online behavior. They get close, and they can sometimes indirectly estimate sales upticks based on the analytics.

What they can measure is interest and then try to correlate it to sales. SO CAN YOU!

How to Get Great Results:

Be sure to garner your clients’ and prospects’ interest in your content by:

  • Employing good writers
  • Providing the writer with YOUR company’s content bullets and voice/tone. Very important.
  • Getting your website person* to measure the reaction (analytics) to your content on your web page.
  • Asking your social media person* to analyze the reaction to your Social Media posts. Who responds? What day, time of day, topics, words or word phrases are best? What channel is best? LinkedIn? Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? YouTube? The analytics are offered by the sites themselves, but how you react to them makes a difference. For example, changing the messaging might be necessary if the response is low, but it will not change itself. Someone has to do it.

* If this person is you, make sure you have this on your weekly To Do list. Either that or be willing to pay the writer to do it. Why? Conscientious writers want our words to bring you buzz and business! If they don’t, we will fire ourselves if you don’t fire us first. And then you start all over with another writer. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Bottom Line

Hiring a writer is a great first step. It’s not the last step. It’s important to conduct sessions in which the content — web page, post, product description, etc.— is studied for their results. The goals must be clear: More clicks? New leads? Increased sharing? Closed sales, higher email captures? There’s no shortcut. Stay the course with your writer and make sure to measure our results.

Professional writers want their clients to succeed and grow so we can grow with you!

Exclamation Points!!!

Has anyone noticed besides me? When I first started writing professionally, the rule was “only one exclamation point on a page.” What happened? The little devils sneak into so many places, they’re like ants, crawling through paragraphs carrying their dead and dropping them here and there, I guess. I don’t know. Exclamation pointDefining Your Projects are everywhere. (I had to restrain from an exclamation point on that last sentence because it’s all too easy to fall in the trap, the habit of it.)

The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” Do not use even one of these marks unless you’re convinced it is justified. Here’s the problem:

If everything is important, nothing is important.

In business writing and journalism, the exclamation point is not appropriate. So…what do you do? Make your writing provocative without the use of the little buggers. Using great verbs helps.

What else? Use exclamation points sparingly, one per page (like they said in the old days) so that when the mark appears, it means something.  Whatever the subject, the single mark on the page will stand out… not shout, but  speak loudly for readers that are paying attention. Even for those that aren’t aware of it consciously, they will sense it.

In writing as in many endeavors, it’s the little things that make a difference. The professional writer knows. We share. People grow. It’s good.

More to the point (pun intended) what does it say about society that we have to make everything astonishing? It says we have too much content and everyone wants theirs to be the best, the newest, the “mostest.” So we rely on this lowly mark, this unassuming line/dot that has suddenly found its way into the limelight, like the people who have recently died (Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, et al) who have become even more famous from a Social Media blitz that elevates these two, albeit already-famous personae, to demigoddesses. Over the top. Trop. Excess. It’s a way of life, and the exclamation point is but a symptom of the malaise. It seems we simply can’t leave things alone to stand on their own two feet. I am contributing content here, but at least I am not going to try to escalate the importance of this rant by inserting an exclamation mark somewhere to prove the point, so to speak. For the record, it seems that more exclamation points would be the next step… as in the title. But when does it stop?????

I’m done now. I think.

 

 

 

Stuff!

2013-10-12 04.16.31We lasted THREE (3) weeks on our trip to Europe each of us with only one carry-on suitcase. In the winter. That’s right: a few pair of pants, a few tops, washing every few days and drying over the towel racks, and VOILÀ.

It made me wonder when I returned home: Why do we need SO MUCH STUFF?

I overbuy. We overbuy. I buy when I’m bored, when I’m lonely, when I’m procrastinating. Then, I buy too much. Stuff I DON’T NEED. It’s the American way. Well, no, it’s the “affluent” way that keeps economies rolling and people in debt and working. Newspapers in Europe in early January carried articles bemoaning credit card debt (along with extra pounds) as the left over (maybe hung over, too) “blessings” of the holiday season.

I came home and threw out three pairs of socks that I absolutely hate to wear, but keep in my drawer because I made the mistake of buying them in one of the multi packs that Target and Costco sell. “Heck, I’m getting all these pairs for so little money!” I say to myself. And I end up with a bunch of things I don’t want and feel guilty about so I keep them, stuffed into already over-stuffed drawers and closets. When it’s dark in the morning, I grab a navy blue and black sock and wonder when I get to work, how THAT happened. Or wear navy blue hose with a black skirt. I hate that.

I think Henry Ford had the best idea. Black. Any color you want as long as it’s black. Wouldn’t that simplify our lives? And out of sheer boredom, we wouldn’t go shopping so much. Who needs another black outfit? And then the retail industry would falter, the automobile manufacturers would crash, and the worldwide economy would swoon. For a while. And then, all the brain power that drains into marketing stuff we don’t need would flow into important things like global warming, electric cars, solar energy, public transportation in Los Angeles, and real transporters, like on Star Trek, so we wouldn’t have to endure endless, cramped air travel to far-away places. We could live unencumbered.

Stuff makes me stuffy. It weighs me down. It forces me to pause to organize, dust, and categorize it instead of creating, thinking, writing, reading, and loving.

I’m de-stuffing this year. In fact, I read somewhere, that when you go into a drawer, a closet, or a cabinet to remove TEN THINGS in it and throw them away. I almost lost my wedding ring that way, but sanity prevailed. I get carried away sometimes, but I don’t want to get carried away by my stuff. Please. Don’t bury me with it. I plan to enjoy the other side. Without stuff. Heck. Without clothes at all!

© 2008

Saving Money

Saving Money with Freelance WritersSaving money by spending is my idea of a good time. As in, “Look how much money we saved when I bought that [fill-in-the-blank] on sale.”

Although buying something on sale to justify spending isn’t a good practice, it is the correct attitude if you really needed the item. Same thing goes for businesses. Really. Sometimes you spend money to save it. Like when you buy a machine to do work for you so that you don’t have to do the work yourself. Businesses often buy machinery to save time.  They hire a part time employee or an independent contractor so they don’t have to do the work themselves, but they don’t have to pay for benefits and keep a person busy even if there’s no work to do.  The company sees the benefits of spending money to save money.

Really SAVING MONEY is even harder.  That’s when people and companies simply do not spend it. They put it away in a bank, stuff it in the proverbial mattress. Squirrel it away in a jar or a … hmm…piggy bank or equivalent. It’s delayed gratification that is very hard to do, but the reward can be humongous. As Martha Stewart says, “It’s a good thing.” It’s more than that. It’s really good when the company loses a big customer, or if a person can’t work for a while. If that money is available, it can help avoid a bankruptcy. Or survive an emergency. The money is there, and the credit cards are not challenged to see how much they can pick up, like a heavyweight champion with buckled knees and bulging, vein-popping biceps.

Keeping the goal for the business or for a family always visible is very important. If we are conscious, we’ll hesitate before buying something we don’t need. Taking the money out of everyone’s clutches by having it withdrawn from the checking account automatically is wise for both businesses and individuals. The less liquid it is, the better. Simple savings accounts can even be tempting. Parking the money in a fund of some sort…with penalties if withdrawn, is safer. There should be a very good reason for transferring it back to spend it…an emergency. A REAL EMERGENCY.

People make budgets so they are conscious about what they spend. Businesses make budgets. Disciplined people and profitable businesses stick to them. Spend, yes. But spend wisely. Benjamin Franklin said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” He was a wise guy.

Saving money can be achieved, by the way, by hiring a professional freelance writer. We freelancers save businesses money every day by providing excellent written copy, but not adding benefit loads or overtime costs to the payroll.

Contact us today.

Image by Katie Phillips.

Voice, Tone, Style and Brand

I hear you! You’re saying…voice, tone and style are writing terms. What are they doing in a business blog? Lots. Voice has to do with who you are. It’s your identity. Your music. It’s your immutable, unalterable you that shows up in your speech, but also in your writing…in your emails, your message to the shareholders, or the correspondence to the members in youNew Voice and Styler club and on your website for gosh sakes! Voice is the name on your door. You are your voice. Your voice is you. The rhythm of your words, the cadence of the sentences, the word choices—they are all you. Using contractions like aren’t and haven’t will send one message. Or having no contractions in your messaging makes quite another statement. They all contribute to voice. Your “voice” defines your brand.

Ever heard of a writer with a strong voice? That’s someone with an identity that you can recognize… almost like recognizing a cartoon character by the human’s voice: Woody in Toy Story is Tom Hanks. You recognize his voice. Dory in Finding Nemo is Ellen DeGeneres. In the book Seriously…I’m Kidding written by Ellen DeGeneres, you hear her voice, not because you hear it, really, but the word choices sound just like her! Ellen DeGeneres is a human brand.

Tone defines your writing, your communication, your delivery. “Don’t take that tone with me, young man.” Oh how tone matters! Is your writing tone breezy? Erudite? Cozy? Funny? The tone of your life affects the tone of your writing, your website and um, your brand! Upbeat? Happy? Silly? Serious? Academic? Professional? Sad? Writing tone can send a company’s brand down the tubes or up to the clouds. Continue reading “Voice, Tone, Style and Brand”

Ghostwriting

Work that is written by someone other than the nominal author is ghostwritten. It’s purposeful and you’re hiring a ghostwriter because you either suck at writing, you don’t have the foggiest idea of where to start, or you simply run out of time.

Word has it that Aristotle was busy at the Lyceum and ran out of time. He had some great ideas, but he didn’t have time to sit down and write, so he hired a ghostwriter to capture his thoughts. It was quite difficult for the ghostwriter.

Ghostwriting
Image by Katie Phillips

Paper or papyrus (invented in 3000 B.C.E.) was still pretty sketchy during Aristotle’s time (circa 335 B.C.E.). Drafts were penned by hand, and erasers weren’t going to be invented until 1770. They used breadcrumbs or bread crusts as erasures back in Aristotle’s day. It was a great side business for the moms whose kids didn’t like crusts on their sandwiches. Anyway, you’d be surprised to know how much is ghostwritten these days.

Celebrities, politicians, business executives, professors, doctors, entrepreneurs, and website designers all use ghostwriters for their

communications. The range  can be from an essay to a magazine article, a memoir to a textbook, a piece of music, a speech, a press release, a blog, an RFP (Request for Proposal) and more.

Is ghostwriting (sometimes called ghosting) okay? Absolutely! In fact, it’s better for society because we would rather read well-written pieces than something a non-professional would create. We would prefer to see a professional tennis player than a high school tennis team player, unless of course it’s your son or daughter. That’s another reason. If the CEO has his mom read his book, she loves it. Moms love everything we do, but sometimes they’re not the best judges—right? Ghostwriters take longer works and organize them so they read well, so the pacing is better (not too fast, not too slow), and so the style and voice reflect the author better than the author may be able to do themselves. It is also nice for the author to give some credit to the ghostwriter, either “as told to” or in the credits.

Ghostwriting Trend Alert

As people become busier and busier, you will see and need more ghostwriting. There are ghostwriters that charge $50,000 for ghostwriting a book. Research shows that Barbara Fineman was paid $120,000 for ghostwriting Hillary Clinton’s book It Takes a Village. On an entirely different level, we find that many executives use writers to “ghostwrite” their email answers. Of course, famous speechwriters have ghosted for presidents throughout the ages, and a company’s annual report has ghosted articles and analyses if not from contract ghostwriters, then surely from internal employees that act as ghostwriters.

There are certificates now in ghostwriting, too! Ghosting is legal, moral, and non-fattening. It’s also much easier with computers than it was with papyrus and bread crumbs. And it’s on the upswing.

Curated Brands

Curated Brands

Image
The Getty

When is a post not a post? Hah. This post popped up on Twitter, but has yet to drop here.  It’s a mystery. Here it is today in my blog, and I hope it’s not a repeat for my followers.

Until now,  I did not tend to think of “brands” as being curated.  I think of museum pieces being curated. I think of a curator as in the Wikipedia sense:   “…from Latin, curare meaning “take care”). A curator is a manager or overseer. Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution (e.g. gallery, museum, library) is a content specialist responsible for an institution’s collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material. The object of a traditional curator’s concern necessarily involves tangible objects of some sort, whether it be artwork, collectibles, historic items or scientific collections.”

More things are being curated these days:  I see in the business world the brand manager as curator, in that he or she is responsible for how that brand enters the marketplace and where it is placed relative to other brands. In the same way a museum only shows a selection of its collection, the brand manager strives to show the finest assets of the brand. Or they may choose to carefully and thoughtfully promote their brand to certain demographics, focused on a narrowly defined customer experience.

The curated brands in a recent USA Today article included Gilt, Target, and Apple. The piece was about AC Hotels by Marriott, and the journalist described the AC Hotel target audience as younger travelers, that the experience would essentially be more “tech-y” and hip. [my words]

Another place to look for curated material is at TED.com.  Nowadays, you can find someone you respect/love/would like to know/never heard of/ and see which TED talks they have in their curated collection.  It tells you a lot about that person by seeing how they would curate the thousands of TED talks.

My goal: to curate my own brand. Not there yet, but it is food for thought. Besides, it sounds so cool.