When’s the Last Time Your Politician Wished You a Happy Birthday?

Mine did – today (and, yes – it is my birthday).

Delegate David Englin, Virginia’s 45th District [info@davidenglin.org] 

Dear Andrea,

This is just quick note to wish you a Happy Birthday!  It’s an honor to serve you in the House of Delegates, and if there’s anything I can do to serve you better, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Yours,

David

I’m telling you – this guy is going to make a name for himself. Great marketing!!

How to Talk to Strangers: Finding the Right Tone for Social Network E-mails

One of the effects of social media is the ability to connect with so many people. We are able to reach out and form connections without regard to time or location. However, as in real life you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Here are two examples of e-mails that were sent to me through my social networks:

Dear Ms. Andrea

It is a great pleasure to be on your friend list with such intellectual and varied expertise. I feel we need to be in touch if not daily basis but at least on weekly basis for enhancement of knowledge with the experiences. Can I look for interactions to share these thoughts?

Have a nice weekend and warm wishes.

OK. Let me get this straight. You noticed that I’m a marketing consultant and you want to pick my brain every week. What’s in it for me? How is this a mutual exchange of knowledge? Plus, I’m so flippin’ busy that I can barely talk to my parents every week. Why are you different? Why should I bother forming a relationship with you? Why, why, why, why, why?

Needless to say, this is an ineffective way to form a relationship. You can’t force it or put boundaries around a new relationship. You have to get me interested first and then if we have chemistry we can choose to meet every week. Baby steps.

Here’s another e-mail that was sent:

Hi Andrea,

I am a proposal manager with a small consulting firm. My clients have been offering me more work than I can handle. I work as part of a tight-night community of consultants, but our current consultants are contracted through August. I would like to expand my network of consultants and was intrigued by your bio. I would really like to talk with you to see if you would have any interest – or know of anyone with the skills and interest – to provide proposal writing services. The pay is exceptional and the work is very much in demand. In most cases, the work can be performed remotely/virtually.

If you are interested, or know someone else who might be, please call me at my home office or e-mail me.

Thank you!

WOW! Of course I’m going to call. The benefits are clearly outlined and there’s a reason I should call. It’s obvious that this person took time to read my profile. I feel special – and obviously will get in touch right away.

When sending e-mails through your social network, keep it:

1. Short – Get to the point of your message quickly so I can easily “get it” and make a decision.

2. Conversational – I don’t want to feel like I’m being “sold.” I want to feel like I’m making a new friend.

3. Beneficial – Focus on what’s in it for me, not what’s in it for you. Give me a reason to reply.

4. Personal – Read my profile and reference specific points to make me feel special.

5. Actionable – How do you want me to get back in touch? Call? E-mail?

Adventures in Amazing Copywriting #1

One thing I love about Trader Joe’s is the copy on their private label products. Because of the catchy product titles & descriptions, I’m drawn to the private label products above the others. This is a great strategy for TJ’s because these are the products that have the largest profit margin. Ergo, excellent copy equals more moolah for their bottom line.

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The side of the box says:

What do you get when you cross fresh apples with a cereal bar?

A delicious anytime treat that’s ideally suited to an active lifestyle: whether you need a quickie breakfast, a fast snack or just something to tide you over to your next meal. The real punchline here is that these bars are made with organic grains and none of those dreaded hydrogenated oils (very un-funny).

Our cereal bars are jammed with delicious fruit fillings and like other popular bars, ours are individually wrapped for convenience. They’re also low fat, low sodium, and contain selenium.

No joke. These bars are really tasty.

Why this works:

#1 – Catchy Tagline – Get it? Apple filling is in the bar. We’ve all heard a joke “a (insert any random object here) walks into a bar” and this clever twist is both metaphorical and literal. This multi-layered tagline makes readers think (and if they’re like me, chuckle in public.)

#2 – Conversational Tone – Doesn’t it sound like the person who is writing this description is speaking specifically to you. Conversational tone is a great way to draw readers in and make them feel connected to your product.

#3 – Continued Metaphor – Notice how the “joke” theme is carried throughout the copy on the side with words like “What do you get when you cross…”, “The real punchline…”, “very un-funny”, “No joke.” Continuing the metaphor makes the copy feel cohesive and complete.

Genius! Trader Joe’s – your copywriter deserves a raise!

Make your hard work work hard for you.

Twenty years ago intellectual property was a different beast. Creators would put a big chain link fence around their work and say bluntly “back off!” to anyone who tried to spread their ideas.

Today, the landscape has changed. I remember sitting down with one of my clients to discuss her blogging strategy. I mentioned a quote I heard from I believe Seth Godin, but please correct me if I’m wrong – “Blogs are a way to create conversation, not control it.” With that in mind, the strategy becomes referencing other blogs, commenting often, linking strategically and sprinkling in your own opinion.  This new philosophy was one my client didn’t really get. She became concerned with bloggers stealing her ideas or being hunted down by the copyright police if she linked to another blog without their permission.

This is a fine line we walk. Andy Sernovitz posted some excellent insights into this topic.

“‘What if someone steals our stuff?’ is the wrong question. Ask ‘How can we get people to steal our stuff?’…When we advertise, we pay to spread our content. Don’t stop customers from doing it for free!” 

I have to say I agree with Andy. Make your ideas useful so your clients will spread the love. Of course as Andy points out, “Do insist that your content is properly credited, with a link to your site, but beyond that … encourage the sharing.”

As for blogging, it’s proper etiquette to link to the other blog when you are quoting (like I just did with Andy). You need not ask for permission ahead of time – that’s a part of the culture we’ve created. Linking helps them grow their blog. They will be glad you’re sharing their ideas with your readers. You would be hard pressed to find a blogger that says “No – I must protect my intellectual property. I don’t want your link.”

Convert Your Website to 2.0 in 5 easy steps!

Step 1: Change your font from Times New Roman to Trebuchet MS

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Step 2: If the name of your product ends in “er” remove the “e” so it looks cool.

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Step 3: Have a white background with any of the following colors: baby blue, light orange, spring green, or gray. Change your black text to dark gray.

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Step 4: Add the word “beta” to your site to encourage customer feedback.

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Step 5: Instead of using pictures of people – change to cute, cuddly cartoon characters.

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**Bonus** Sell your product or service on the basis of connecting people or improving productivity.

Welcome to Web 2.0! Compared to the hype – it’s really not all that different.

This proves I don’t have a Southern accent

The southern town I grew up in is so small we actually have a town song that we would get together and sing every year (you think I’m kidding?! – It starts off “Ashland, Ashland, center of the universe. Ashland, VA my hometown.” – you just can’t make that stuff up.)

Now that I live in the “big city” I’ve had to work hard to get rid of my accent. And as this quiz proves – I have! Granted I still throw in an occasional “ya’ll” and “sugar” just to throw people off.

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)Midland

(“Midland” is not necessarily the same thing as “Midwest”) The default, lowest-common-denominator American accent that newscasters try to imitate. Since it’s a neutral accent, just because you have a Midland accent doesn’t mean you’re from the Midland.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.

This got me thinking. When I read blogs, I assume everyone talks just like I do. I read in my own voice – but chances are there are some funky accents out there. What if all bloggers added a “welcome to my blog” podcast on their side bar (please don’t have it play every time I visit your blog – that’s just downright annoying). That way, I could play it and imagine your voice while I’m reading instead of my own.

The Blogger Writing Style Defined (Kind Of)

dragnet1.jpgOn my daily run between Market Square and Founder’s Park it hit me – the Writer’s Spectrum.

Writers dwell on a plane that lies somewhere between Dragnet’s “Just the facts, Ma’am.” and the insightful, introspective musings of the countless poets, novelists and philosophers we studied in high-school.

This all came about after a conversation with a friend of mine who is a screenwriter. As a copywriter, I am mesmerized at how someone can take a simple plot-line and blow it up with enough plot twists, character flaws, and details that it captures my attention for over two hours.

My job is the exact opposite. I take boundless amounts of information and form it into the most compact and concise sentences possible.

I even created a graph for you to explain my point (horray!):

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Maybe you notice the fundamental problem with the spectrum. Bloggers are everywhere. With every other type of writer, our product is narrow and concrete. Copy is copy. A Speech is a speech. A book is a book.

But with blogs – they can be whatever the writer wants it to be. There are blogs that are to the point and dare I say damn near close to journalism. On the other hand, some blogs are nothing more than the dribbling swill of some schizophrenic college student trying to be “deep.”

In marketing terms, this means we bloggers have a pretty serious branding issue. Non-bloggers see us as simply egotistical writers who have nothing better to do than post a journal online (well, maybe they have a point).

I blog because I am a writer.

I blog because it is a way to grow my business and get new clients.

I blog because I feel I have something interesting to say (and since I have dedicated readers who tell me I’m interesting, that gives me motivation to keep posting).

I blog because I’m a dork and have nothing better to do with my time (semi-true. Dork, yes. But I could definitely find other things to do with my time – like sleep).

I blog because it gives me a sense of community. I’ve met some crazy, funny, wonderful, quality people because of this blog and I love it!

I blog because I hate watching my local news. It’s always “So-and-so shot so-and-so at the corner of so-and-so.” That can get depressing – so I get my news from blogs.

But these are just the reasons I blog. Every blogger has a different motive and since the product is so varied it’s difficult to define.

Maybe one day we’ll be able to accurately define where blogging is on the writer’s spectrum. But for now – we’ll just keep blogging and hope somebody someday can make sense of it all.