copywriting

CORPORATE SPEAK – A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

July 15, 2012 by Leave a comment
Businessman talking corporate speak

"Due to our strategic goals to maximize performance for a sustainable outcome, I'm going to have to let you all go."

 

As a copywriter whose job it is to write as simply and clearly as possible, my pet hate is corporate speak. It’s not only business people who use it – politicians, government officials and many people in the public eye love it – because they can use lots of important sounding words to create the illusion that what they're saying is important. But when you analyze the words they’re meaningless.  Like balloons, they’re full of air. Prick them and you’re left with a shrivelled heap of rubbish.

Having worked in government departments for many years, I’ve been surrounded by corporate speak and it sets my teeth on edge.  It’s become so commonplace that people look at you strangely if you ask them to ‘please speak plain English.’

From my observations, there are three main reasons people use it:

  • Conformity. Everyone is using it so it’s easier to do the same. And it’s not as if you make a conscious decision to do it – it’s insidious. When others are using the words as everyday language it takes a supreme effort of willpower, as well as awareness, not to follow suit. It also gives the false impression of harmony and team spirit – that if you’re all using the same language it’s assumed you understand each other and are working towards the same goals
  • Habit. This follows on from conformity, Once you’ve been using corporate speak for a while it becomes a habit you’re not even aware of.  And perhaps it even spills over into your personal life. ‘I think it’s best practice,’ you tell your child,’ to take advantage of this window of opportunity to do your maths homework if you want a sustainable outcome.’
  • Laziness. It’s easier to come up with a sentence full of fudge words than to think about what you really want to say and express it in simple words. As someone said recently in an article I read – if you need to use jargon to express your idea, perhaps there’s no idea there.

So join in my campaign to banish corporate speak ! Let’s be proactive in raising the bar on the quality of our language. At this point in time I’d like to call on all thought leaders to bring to the table their focussed, dynamic and action oriented plans to rid ourselves of this inappropriate form of communication.  Moving forward, let’s push the envelope and aim for a ballpark figure of say, nil % corporate speak by the end of the year. It will require a paradigm shift in our thought processes, but I’m sure we can all leverage our resources to create a seamless transition. At the end of the day we’re all on the same page, aren’t we?

If you need help interpreting corporate speak here’s a handy resource.  And if you want to express your opinions and help fight the good fight, have a browse around Weaselwords.

What are your pet hates in corporate speak? I’d love to hear them.

 

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Published in Copywriters

WHEN DO YOU TAKE THE LEAP TO FULL-TIME WRITING?

April 6, 2012 by Leave a comment

 

Taking the leap to full-time writing

Taking the leap to full-time writing

Making the decision to be a full-time writer is a tough one – and scary. A myriad questions run through your mind.  Will I be able to earn enough money to pay the bills?  What happens if the work dries up?  How will I find well-paying clients?  Will I be able to promote myself as well as I can write?

It’s common sense that if you’re going to take the plunge from full time employment to freelance writing to have at least a year’s income saved up to allow you the time to get regular work. But many people are opting to do it the way I’m doing it – working part-time so that I still have a regular income, using the other days to do my marketing and get the work flowing in. The idea is that in the future I’ll have enough work to be able to permanently quit my ‘day job.’

But how do you know when it’s the right time take the leap from paid and secure employment into the unknown chasm of full time writing?

You may have a vision of how it’s all going to come together – as you build up your business and become known, you get more and more work until one day you sit down and do your maths, then jump up and shout, ‘Hooray!  Now I can quit my job!’

But life doesn’t conform to a plan and the transition is rarely seamless. In real life it’s often  flood or famine. You get deluged with work when you least expect it, causing you to stay up nights to finish it and stumble bleary-eyed into your ‘day job.’ Then just when you’re thinking ,’I can’t hack any more of this, it’s time to quit my job,’ the writing work dries up and it’s back to Marketing 101.

I know this because I’ve been there before.  Years ago I was doing this very same thing, working part-time and developing my writing business. In the end, it became too much to juggle both jobs, so I quit my job and wrote full-time – successfully, until for family reasons I returned to my ‘day job.’

It seems you have two choices –

to play it safe and wait until you’re  earning enough from your writing to live on, in which case you’re just about ready to drop dead from the exhaustion of holding down two jobs

or

take the plunge earlier when you’re not quite there, reasoning that the extra time and energy you have to devote to finding work will pay dividends, and that the need to increase your income will spur you on to greater heights.

I still don’t know the answer and I guess the right time is different for each person, according to their circumstances.  However you decide to do it, I think it’s a case of hold on to your dream and jump!

Chuck Wendig has an amusing but wise take on the subject in his blog post ‘How to be a full-time writer – 25 things you should know.’

Warning – don’t read it if you’re averse to strong language.

Have you made the transition from part-time to full-time writer?  I’d love you to share your words of wisdom.

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Published in The Writing Life

WHY DO PEOPLE BUY YOUR PRODUCTS OR SERVICES?

March 26, 2012 by Leave a comment
People often buy for emotional reasons

Buying for emotional reasons

Why do people buy your product or service? This might seem like a really obvious question to you – especially if you’re an accountant or mechanic or something straightforward like that.

But when you scratch the surface you might be shocked to discover that people buy your product or service for reasons that you weren’t even aware of.

You see, people buy for emotional reasons and back it up with rational reasons - so if you know both the emotional and the rational reasons why people buy your product, it will make your marketing so much easier.

Let’s take the accountancy business as an example.

You might think: “People buy my accountancy service because they need a tax return.”

But let’s dig a little deeper. What do they get when they buy your service?

1. A completed tax return yes, but what do they really get? Isn’t it peace of mind?

2. Maybe they buy your service because they believe that you can find more deductions for them than they can if they did it themselves? If that’s the case, they’re using your services to make money.

3.  Maybe they use you because they don’t have time to do it themselves - so maybe they’re seeking more free time to be with their family?

You see, when you know all the reasons why people buy, you can start to incorporate that into your copywriting:

Here’s an example of what that copy might look like:

“If you don’t have time to fill in your tax return this year, why not let us do it for you? 

Here are 3 great reasons why:

  • We know what you can claim and what you can’t so you won’t miss out on any deductions.
  • You’ll have your tax return done overnight - so you’ll get your refund back quick-smart. 
  • …and you’ll get to spend the weekend with the kids (instead of with your tax receipts!). 

Make money, save money and give yourself peace of mind knowing it’s done right the first time by choosing ABC Accountants to do your tax return this year. Call us on 123456 to make an appointment.”

As you can see, this example highlights a few of the reasons why people buy a product or service.

This post was reproduced with the kind permission of Bernadette Schwerdt, Copywriting Coach, Australian School of Copywriting.

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Published in Buying and Selling

WHY I LOVE COPYWRITING

March 18, 2012 by Leave a comment
Copywriter at work

copywriter at work

 

  • It’s a great conversation starter at parties. When people ask me the standard question ‘what do you do?’ and I reply ‘copywriter,’ they’re immediately intrigued.  Many don’t know what it is and associate  it with ‘copyright,’ perhaps imagining me as a person who goes around stamping documents with a little ©. Even those who do know what a copywriter is are curious to know more about what I do and I’m only too pleased to tell them.  Beats talking sport or politics!
  • I work with words, always elusive, fascinating and challenging. Take the word pulchritudinous. It means ‘beautiful’ but is surely one of the ugliest words in the English language.  Whoever thought that one up needs a medal – I can imagine as he sidled up to his wife as she was cooking dinner, eager to try out his new word, and whispered in her ear, ‘you’re looking particularly pulchritudinous tonight, darling,’ that he probably sustained a large blow to the head from a frying pan.

All credit to him, though, the word made it into the dictionary where it has been languishing ever since, getting dusty from lack of use.

  • As a copywriter my task is to cut off the lacy frills and flounces of language and slash complicated and abstract words.  I distil the essence of the client’s message and write it in simple, clear language that is at the same time attention-grabbing and enticing.

It’s a challenge, but I love doing it. Even as a child I loved the competitions where you had to describe in 25 words or less why you wanted to win a particular prize.  Not that I ever won any – perhaps lots of other aspiring copywriters entered as well. It’s my standard answer now when someone tries to explain something complicated to me, particularly if I think it’s going to be boring – ‘Tell me in 25 words or less.’

  • At the risk of sounding hackneyed, I like helping people. I get a glow of satisfaction from completing a job for someone, whether it’s writing copy for a web site or a one page flyer, that they weren’t able to do themselves. And often it’s not even the paid jobs, it can be just chatting to someone about their advertising options or referring them to helpful information and resources.
  • I learn lots of interesting stuff.  I research every business I write for, so that I have a thorough knowledge of their product or service and their competitors. In the process I learn lots of new things.  For example, did you know that an 85 year old woman from Australia is in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest yoga teacher?  Or that it’s a myth that St Bernard dogs wore flasks of brandy around their necks when they rescued lost skiers in the Alps?  (Probably spawned from wishful thinking). I’m now a constant source of fascinating trivia. (refer to reason 1).

They’re the reasons that spring immediately to mind, but I’m sure there are more. Any copywriters like to add to my list?

If you’re so impressed by my reasons for loving copywriting that you'd like to hire me, please contact me on 0402 937 773 or email me. 

 

 

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Published in Copywriters

SEVEN TOP TIPS FOR WRITING KILLER WEB COPY

March 5, 2012 by Leave a comment
my e-book

When you want to find a particular product or service, what do you do?

If you’re like most people, your first port of call is the internet.  Your website is often the first introduction of your business to the consumer, so it’s vitally important that it’s easy to read and navigate. Online attention spans are short and if the customer can’t find what he wants to know on your website or can’t understand it, he’ll quickly click off and go elsewhere.

There are copywriters who specialise in writing web copy, but if you’ve decided to tackle it yourself, here are some important tips to keep in mind.

1.      Think about the purpose of your website.

Is it to sell goods or a service, increase knowledge or awareness?  What are the benefits of your product to the customer? Who is your target market i.e. the people most interested in your product? What do you want them to do on your website?  For example, call for a free quote, sign up for your newsletter, phone to speak to a consultant etc.

This information will help you to focus your writing on relevant points

2.      Research the keywords relevant to your business.

Keywords are the words or phrases that people type into the search engines when looking for a product or service. There are many free keyword research tools available, such as Google’s Keyword Tool. Include the main keywords on your home page and in your headlines, to ensure search engines can find you.

3.      Create compelling headlines.

As in all advertising headlines are vitally important. They catch the reader’s attention and make them want to read further.  Start headlines with phrases such as ‘How to... What everybody ought to know about... How to get rid of...

For example: HOW TO HOUSETRAIN YOUR DOG IN TWO DAYS

WHAT EVERYBODY OUGHT TO KNOW ABOUT HOME LOANS

4.      Write for the customer.

It’s always about the customer, so keep their hopes, fears and concerns in mind when writing your copy.  Use ‘you,’ not ‘we.’ List the benefits of your product or service, rather than the features.

Features are all the different components of your product or service, such as turning up on time or a 100% money back guarantee.

The benefits are what's in it for the customer. For the features above, the benefits are that the customer is not wasting time waiting for you to arrive and if they’re not happy they can get their money back and not be out of pocket.

5.      Use Testimonials

Testimonials from satisfied customers are the best way to back up your claims about your product/service.  The more specific they are the more authentic they sound.

‘Miracle acne cream cleared up my skin in a week!’    J.B., Sydney

Is not as believable as

‘Miracle acne cream cleared up my skin in a week!’ Jacinta Brown, 18, West Ryde, Sydney.

6.      Provide a clear call to action.

Without a clear call to action you risk the customer leaving the site without doing anything. Give clear instructions on what you want them to do - call for a quote, put their name and email address in the contact form for a free e-book etc.

Give incentives for the customer to respond now, rather than later.  For example, a free upgrade, free shipping and handling, two for the price of one before a certain date.

7.      Use simple clear language.

Long words, jargon and convoluted sentences turn potential customers off very quickly. Write as you speak with simple, conversational language.

Short paragraphs are easier to read and a good rule of thumb is one thought or point per paragraph. Sub-headings and bullet points also help to break up the text.

BONUS!

Re-write and copy-edit.

You’ll almost certainly write too much in the first draft.  Leave it for a day or two, come back to it with fresh eyes and cut out unnecessary words. Then don’t forget to copy-edit – check for spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Chances are you’ve still missed something. Give it to a trusted friend or colleague for a final critique.

 

Thanks to Bernadette Schwerdt from the Australian School of Copywriting for her kind permission to use materials from the Copywriting – Writing for Profit home study course.

This is an extract from my free e-book, THE DIY GUIDE TO KILLER WEB COPY. In this short, easy to read book, I explain the top tips in more detail and add lots of others. After reading this book, you'll be an expert on web copy!   Please feel free to email me and request a copy.

If you'd like to hire me to write your web copy, I'm happy to discuss your needs with you. Please email me or phone me on 0402 937 773.

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Published in Web copy

THREE REASONS TO ADVERTISE IN NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES

February 20, 2012 by 8 comments
favourite reading place

magazine reading is still popular

Despite the popularity of online media, there are millions of people worldwide who still read newspapers and magazines.

Here are three reasons why print ads are an effective form of advertising.

  • Ads can be targeted to the consumers interested in the product – eg baby goods advertised in a parenting magazine, gym memberships in a health and fitness magazine. Readership of newspapers is broader because they cover a wider range of topics, but within the newspaper certain sections are targeted to special areas of interest – sports, motor vehicles, travel, recreation etc. If you’re aiming to increase your local business, advertising in community newspapers is effective and inexpensive.
  • You can ask for your ad to be placed on a specific page, perhaps next to a relevant article, or in a certain section that’s relevant to your business.  Rates will vary according to where you place your ad.
  • Magazines and newspapers in general have been around a lot longer than online media, so often have longstanding loyal readers who are more receptive to their ads.

HOW DO YOU CREATE A PRINT AD?

Print ads consist of three elements – the headline, the visual and the body.

As with all advertising, an attention-grabbing headline is vital.  Short and simple is best. For example:

Want to Lose Weight Fast?

How to reduce your mortgage payments.

The visual - the photograph or image - should be relevant to the headline and make people want to continue reading. You need to make it clear, bold and instantly recognisable.

The body is difficult to write as you only have a small amount of space and you can’t fit all the information in that you’d like to about your product.  So you need to think of the key message that you want to put across.

For example, if you’re a tax agent, you may offer many different services within that field, but your most important message for your print ad is that you help your customers get the maximum tax refund. So you tailor your ad around that concept.

WHAT IF YOU NEED HELP?

If you need help with your ad, you can hire a copywriter to write the words and a graphic artist to do the visual and the layout. The words and the graphics require very different and specific skills and it’s unusual to find someone who can do both well.

Click here to read a print ad I’ve written.

If you’re thinking of placing an ad in a magazine or newspaper you’re welcome to contact me for an obligation-free chat about writing the copy. Please email me or phone me on 0402 937 773.

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Published in Print Ads

WHY DOES YOUR BUSINESS NEED A BROCHURE?

January 31, 2012 by Leave a comment

 

essential for promotion

WHY DO YOU NEED A BROCHURE?

A brochure is the second most important item of advertising a business needs after a website. Although consumers get most of their information about products and services from the internet, most people like to have a hard copy to refer to.

A brochure explains what your business is about and is a useful item to have as you can display it, post it and hand it out.

WHAT SHOULD IT CONTAIN?

Your brochure should contain the following:

WHO: Who is your company, what do you stand for and who are the main members of staff?

WHAT: What are you selling? Who uses it? What are the benefits of using it?  What problems does it solve?

WHERE: Where is your business located? Where does the customer have to go to buy it?

WHEN: When is it available? What are your business hours?

WHY: Why should people use it in preference to other similar products?

Brochures come in all shapes and sizes, but one of the most popular and cheapest types is the DL  - an A4 page folded twice to make a 6 pannelled brochure. If you have a wide range of products or services you may need a stapled brochure which can have up to 16 pages, or more.

Your brochure should contain clear, concise information about your product or service, at the same time making it enticing to the consumer. You should also include a call to action, ie, an invitation to the consumer to email, phone, or visit your premises for further information or to buy the product.

It’s also important to include photographs, images and diagrams to break up the text and make the brochure visually appealing.

WHO DESIGNS IT?

Graphic designers do the design and layout of brochures and copywriters write the words.  Click here to see a brochure I have written.

 HOW DO YOU WRITE A BROCHURE?

Use the categories of who, what, when, where and why to decide what information to put in and write in simple, clear language. Unless you're good at layout and design, you'll need to hire a graphic designer.

If you don't have the time, the patience or the skills I'm happy to talk to you about writing a brochure for you. Please click on the contact form at the top of the page or phone me on 0402 937 773.

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Published in Brochures

HAVE YOU THOUGHT OF USING DIRECT MAIL?

January 23, 2012 by Leave a comment

Direct mail is delivered to your letter box

These days snail mail is a novelty

WHAT IS DIRECT MAIL?

Direct mail is advertising material, usually a letter or a flyer, sent by post. It’s often used by companies when they have a special offer or promotion or a new product to launch.

WHY USE IT?

Because it’s usually in the form of a letter, direct mail is a personal form of communication.  It’s especially effective if you use your customer database because you can personalise the letter by addressing it to the customer.  And customers are more likely to read something addressed to them than a standard, impersonal ad.

This also means you’re sending it to your target market  - ie people who are interested in your product or service, so you’re increasing your chances of a sale. It stands to reason that people who have already bought from you and are happy with your product are more likely to buy from you again.

Direct mail can also be used as a general promotion tool to find new customers and in this case is sent out by letter box distribution. This is effective if you target the areas according to your product - for example, if you sell children’s wear, do your letter box drop in a suburb where lots of young families live.

ISN’T IT A BIT OLD HAT NOW?

Some people think that with the advent of email marketing, direct mail is becoming obsolete. Emails are certainly cheaper to send, but with a one second press of a key they’re deleted, so they’re much quicker and easier to get rid of than a letter.

Email is the main form of communication for many people, and in business especially we can receive hundreds of emails per day.  With surface mail being much less frequent, direct mail is more of a novelty and more likely to be noticed.

Research has shown that 70% of all direct mail is either read by the recipient or passed on to someone else to read.

HOW DO YOU WRITE A DIRECT MAIL LETTER?

As with all advertising, the headline is the most important part of the letter. If the headline doesn’t grab the customer’s attention, he/she won’t read on.

The tone of the letter should be informal and friendly, but still contain all the necessary information about your product.  It should also contain an invitation to the customer to take action, eg ring you for a free quote,  use an enclosed coupon, visit your store by a certain date to take advantage of a special offer.

For an example of direct mail, read my letter to backpackers about Phillip Island Day Tours.

If you would like to discuss using direct mail for your business, or any other copywriting project,  please phone me on 0402 937 773 or email me via the contact form at the top of the page.

If you have any comments about this post, I'd love to hear from you. Please click on 'comments' below.

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Published in Direct Mail

WHAT IS A COPYWRITER AND WHY DO YOU NEED ONE?

December 10, 2011 by 1 comment

Blowing your own bullhorn

Copywriters help you to blow your own bullhorn

WHAT IS A COPYWRITER?

A copywriter writes advertising material. This comes in a variety of forms – newspaper and magazine ads, radio and TV ads, newsletters, brochures, direct mail, email sales letters, advertorials, media releases and website copy.

Those are some of the main areas of copywriting, although there are others I haven’t mentioned because the field is so broad.  But in a nutshell a copywriter writes any material that promotes your business.

WHY DO YOU NEED ONE?

A lot of people, especially small business owners, assert that they don’t need a copywriter. With businesses suffering from the economic downturn many people prefer not to spend the money, so they write their own advertising material.

However, this may be false economy because:

  • Writing your own material is time consuming and takes you away from what you do best – running your business.
  • If you don’t find writing easy, it’s a chore. This takes up energy which is more effectively and more enjoyably used doing the things you’re good at.
  • If you’re not experienced in writing advertising, you have no idea if what you’re writing is going to work.

Employing a copywriter will cost you more initially, but as you’re using an expert the chances of your advertising being successful are much higher. Which means more sales and more profit.

In my next post I'll begin a series on different types of advertising and when to use them.

If you have any general comments about my post or suggestions about topics, I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment below.

It you’d like to contact me about a copywriting project, please send me an email or phone me on 0402 937 773.

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Published in Copywriters