Increase Brand Awareness with Clever Copy in the Nooks & Crannies

Hiding in the corners beneath the bold headlines, under the compelling benefit statements, and around the action-packed verbs are bountiful opportunities to inject your brand with personality. A recent trend is “nooks & crannies copy” as I’m calling it, because it often pops up in unexpected places. Here are three examples:

1. Yahoo Chat

Yahoo Chat Screenshot \

While it may be difficult to see in this picture, Yahoo has brilliantly introduced humor into their chat feature. Between the conversation above and the text box below is the status report indicating if the other person is typing a message. However, instead of a plain and boring “Apple123 is typing a message….”, yahoo has sprinkled clever anecdotes such as:

  • Apple123 really should learn to type with more than two fingers…
  • STAND BY FOR A MESSAGE FROM APPLE123
  • Apple123 is about to drop knowledge…
  • Apple123 is hammering out a wicked comeback…
  • Bate your breath, Apple123 is typing…

among a plethora of others.

While not directly selling anything, introducing conversational wit in this unexpected place allows Yahoo! to showcase their brand’s personality. It gives the user the impression that Yahoo! is a fun, easy to work with company that doesn’t take itself to seriously.

2. Verizon Wireless

Verizon Highspeed Internet Loading Icon

Located directly before a purchasing decision, this otherwise overlooked loading page has been transformed into a mini flash ad that reinforces the product’s effectiveness right before the sale. The ad shows an animated film strip loaded with a series of technological leaps. The last one, “From Dial Up…To High Speed Internet” subtly suggests “You wouldn’t live in a cave, would you? Then why on earth would you have dial up?” An effective suggestion, I would imagine.

3. You Need a Budget (YNAB)

YNAB screenshot

Jesse Mecham, the developer of YNAB, tells the story of how he and is wife needed a personal budgeting system. They developed a simple excel spreadsheet that over the years has developed into a sophisticated yet user-friendly budgeting tool. While the site has been dramatically improved on the design side, Jesse still maintains the heartfelt honesty in his conversational copy, as evidenced by the “Download Update” screen for his product. He is an accountant, and occasionally a grammatical error will pop up in his copy, but it doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to the bottom line. His conversational style is obviously effective due to the growth and endorsements of YNAB.

Related Links

Three Tips to Make Your Copy Conversational – by Mila Sidman

How to Make the Online Sales Copy for Your Website More Conversational – by Evelyn Lim

The Right Way to Write Sales Copy – by Anthony Vicenza

10 Ways to Become a Writer (That Gets Paid)

If you’re looking to transition your love of writing from hobby to vocation, keep reading – this post is just for you.

1. Own Your Talent – You are a writer. No matter how listless and gray your cubicle is, or how many people tell you “that would never work”, your passion is the fuel that will drive your career. Whenever you are in doubt, say to yourself (out loud if possible) “I am a talented writer and am in the process of building my successful career.”

Action: Check out The Secret for an emotional jump start.

2. Pick a Niche – Trying to be everything to everyone makes you nothing to nobody. Instead of trying to be a Jill-of-all-trades, pick a passion and write about that. Do you want to be a travel writer? a food critic? a copywriter? a fashion writer? a business writer? a sports writer? Owning a niche also helps others connect you with employers more easily.

Action: Start a blog about something you’re passionate about and use it as part of your portfolio.

3. Will Write for __________. While I am not necessarily an advocate for giving your writing away (see below for pro bono work), writing for barter is an effective way to beef up your portfolio without feeling like you’ve sold out your talent. When I first started, I bartered with a nutritionist, a life coach and a couple other services so that I could get my career off the ground. (Disclaimer: there are specific tax implications for working on barter and I would suggest discussing them with your accountant.)

Action: Write a list of services that you’d use given the opportunity. Keep your eyes peeled. You never know when an opportunity will come your way.

4. Pack Your Portfolio. As a writer, your portfolio is one of the most important tools of your trade. Pack it with your best work, testimonials from clients and visuals. Organize it based on category. For example, mine is a red, leather-bound three ring binder (office store under $15) with tabs labeled: Testimonials, Direct Mail, Web Copy, Press Releases, Fliers, Advertisements, and Articles.

Action: Purchase a high quality portfolio and nice, heavy paper to print your writing.

5. A Testament to Testimonials. In addition to the testimonials in the front of my portfolio, I also have testimonials beside their respective project. It helps reinforce the success of a particular piece and is a major selling point for using my skills.

Action: Send out a request for testimonials to all of your clients. No clients? Try friends, teachers, or family.

6. Pro Bono Can Pay Off. Charities and non-profit organizations are constantly seeking volunteers. Offering your services to reputable organizations can help you make connections, bulk up your portfolio and give back to your community.

Action: Do a web search for organizations in your area. Contact two that you find interesting and inquire about opportunities to volunteer your writing.

7. Publish Yourself. With today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to market yourself. Capitalize on networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Lulu.com. Submit articles to aggregate sites like work.com or about.com. And most importantly, have a blog and website to make your portfolio searchable.

Action: Set up an online portfolio using a simple web tool such as Yahoo! or GoDaddy.com

8. Make Business Cards. You are a writer, right? Then lend yourself some credibility with professional business cards. And don’t skimp on the quality. Nice, heavy stock paper with a clean design is an investment well worth the effort.

Action: Go to http://www.vistaprints.com and order business cards with your new title.

9. Designers Are Your New Best Friends. Want to get lots of clients quickly? Attend a networking function for graphic designers with your new handy-dandy business cards. Clients often go straight to a designer when they need work – seldom do they seek out a writer. And designers usually hate writing and will be glad to refer the writing portion of the job to you.

Action: Find an area networking event geared to graphic designers. Attend, shake hands and make friends.

10. Stop Whining. Start Writing. Quit complaining that you could be something more. If you want to be a writer – write! Every day. No exceptions. Becoming a great writer takes hard work and dedication. Don’t waste your talent.

Action: Write something every day. No exceptions.

Related Links

A Few Words on Laziness and Responsibility by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Do You Call Yourself a Professional Writer? by Laura Spencer

How to Be a Professional Writer by L.C. Peterson

Becoming a Writer Seriously by Thomas Colvin

How Do You Become a Writer by Amanda Eyre Ward

Build Your Own Credit Card – Captial One’s Card Lab

stuffed-mailbox.jpgWhen’s the last time you received a direct mail letter from a credit card company? If you’re like me, chances are you can’t remember the last time your mailbox contained only one.

Direct mail has traditionally been the cornerstone of credit card marketing and as we enter the era of customization, keeping up with the number of different offers means a mailbox full of direct mail letters.

Capital One is looking to change all that with their latest product – the Capital One Card Lab.

According to a Capital One press release, company spokesperson Pam Girardo commented how, “Consumers today want control and expect the ability to customize products to meet their needs. Instead of buying music albums in the store, people are compiling their own online – and rather than buying a car off the lot, people can now design and purchase the precise automobile they desire online. Capital One is pleased to empower our customers to build their own credit card online.”

The site is easy to navigate and intuitively designed. No doubt, we will still see a steady flow of promotional material in regards to this product, however at least now we can understand what we’re getting in plain English.

Related Links

Paymentnews.com

Mycardblog.com

Colloquy.com

How to Get Your Name in Print

market-square-in-alexandria.jpgEver wondered how people are chosen for feature articles in the newspaper? Here’s how it worked for me.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my “satellite office” at Market Square in Alexandria, VA. I go here on warm summer days because the granite benches surrounding the water fountain have power outlets right next to them. With my Sprint Broadband service and my power outlet, I have everything I need to work productively. And, might I add, the scenery calms me down and makes me appreciate my life as an entrepreneur.

During the lunch-hour, this place gets pretty packed, and strangers pass by, look at me and remark, “You look like you’re actually working – wow, I wish I had your job!” On this particular afternoon, a gentleman sat down on the bench next to me. He inquired as to the nature of my job and I replied that I was a “freelance writer and marketing consultant and I focused on Online writing like websites and blogs.”

Turns out this gentleman was a reporter with the Alexandria Times. We carried on for a bit with a conversation about the difference between “old media” and “new media”, I mentioned my involvement with the New Media Nouveaux Conference and we casually exchanged business cards.

Fast forward two weeks and I see in my inbox the following e-mail:

Hi Andrea, it was nice meeting you the other day. I want to write an article about you and blogging – what do you think? Let me know when is a good time to sit down and interview you – maybe at Starbucks or out on the market square like when we met the first time.”

So, if you want to get your name in print, be prepared to:

1. Do something different. Reporters need an angle – something actually worth reading about. If you’re doing the same-ol-thing as everyone else your chances for an interview are slim.

2. Have a tight elevator pitch. Be prepared to explain exactly what you do, how it is different from everyone else, in bulleted benefits and in less than 15 seconds.

3. Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers. You never know who you are going to meet. Networking is not reserved for places with nametags and an open bar.

4. Be yourself. Reporters (make that most people) can tell when you’re being authentic vs. when you’re being a flack. People like to work with people who are genuine.

5. Follow up immediately. If the media calls to ask you for an interview, drop everything you’re doing and reply right away. Otherwise, they will move on to somebody else.

Related Links:

Execupundit.com – Make it Pithy

Modern Magellans – Elevator Pitching

Scott Ginsberg – 10 Different approaches for your 10 second commercial

PR Squared – Pitching in Public

Toby Bloomberg – Relationships are the New Currency

Conversation Agent – Media as Connectors of Ideas and People

LinkedIn – WE WANT PICTURES!!!

View Andrea Morris's profile on LinkedInI’m on a mission.

I love LinkedIn – it’s by far the most effective social media tool I use for my business. But I have one big issue and I want to get it resolved. Why isn’t there a place to put your picture on your LinkedIn profile?

The other day, someone contacted me through LinkedIn referencing our meeting over a year ago at a networking event. I can’t remember her. The name sounds familiar and I know I had a conversation with her, but if I had her picture it sure would help me spark my memory.

Adding a picture to your professional profile would also help when you’re sending new invites. People remember faces easier than names or titles. If I had an invite with a face I recognized, it would increase my feeling of connection with that person.

So, in an effort to make this request known, I’m starting a petition to gain support for LinkedIn adding the option to upload pictures to their service.

To sign the petition, simply leave a comment below.

If you’re curious as to what LinkedIn is, or how to use it – check out these blogs:

LinkedIntelligence

LinkedInBlog

BuzzNetworker

LinkedIn Business Discussion Index

Boost Your Career With LinkedIn

LinkedIn Notes

LinkedIn User Manual

Myragan.com: Here’s Why I’m Totally Addicted

I belong to a LOT of social networking sites and I love it. My latest craze is myragan.com – a social networking site specifically for communicators (folks in Advertising/Marketing/PR, etc.)

What sets myragan apart from the gads of other networking sites I belong to?

1. Industry focus – Marketing folks seem to have their own crazy way of doing things (which is part of the reason why I find my job so fun.) It’s engaging to be plugged into a community that genuinely “gets” the way you operate.

2. Content Quality – Myragan is resource-rich and well organized. The forums are outstanding and the quality of the posts reflects the professionalism of the community. My favorite spot to visit is the funny pages – where I can find clips from youtube or other media to make me laugh.

3. Community Involvement – Most social networking sites are pretty laissez-faire when it comes to direct communication with users. Not so with myragan. They have a dedicated staff that reaches out and makes you feel at home – so if you’ve never ventured into the online community, this would be a great place to start.

4. Intuitive Navigation – The menu bar makes myragan easy to navigate and operate. This may sound simple and “duh”, but trust me – with lots of sites it feels like you need to learn a second language just to understand the navigation. Myragan’s simple design has me sold.

So, if you’re a member you can check out my profile. Feel free to send me a friend request if you’d like to network. Cheers!

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Andrea Morris is the Chief Idea Officer of Write Ideas Marketing and specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

Ghost Blogging Ethics Across the Globe

The world is getting flatter – as shown by my conversation at a recent party (same one from yesterday’s post) with a German publicist named Robert. Inevitably, the topic of blogging came up and Robert gave me an interesting perspective on the blogging beliefs across the pond. He explained that in Germany, blogging is seen more as serious journalism instead of the seemingly incoherent ramblings he runs accross in the U.S.

Robert also brought up the trend of ghostblogging, stating that so many American companies have a marketing/PR/communications person actually posting the content based on the ideas of the CEO. To Robert, ghostblogging is in violation of his PR ethics (typing that out sounds like an oxymoron…but I digress).

Shel Holtz posted a well thought out commentary on the ghostblogging debate. I agree with his points:

“The best analogy for good ghost blogging is signing for the deaf, which transmits the exact words and inflection of the speaker deaf members of the audience cannot hear.”

And…

“if a business leader ultimately does opt to have someone else handle the writing of the blog, he should disclose it. What’s the harm in a statement like this on an executive blog: “Welcome to my blog. Several times each week, I articulate my thoughts to Mary Jones, who runs communications for the company, and she posts them here ensuring that I make the points I want to make. But rest assured, while Mary makes me sound better, the messages you read are mine; they come from my heart and I read all the comments myself.”

To me, this is the bottom line – to commit to a quality blog takes an investment of time. If you are positioning the blog as the voice of one person – it should be THAT person who is posting to keep the voice authentic. S/he may have a team of people gathering research and submitting ideas (similar to a speechwriter) but the ultimate delivery is the decision of the blogger.

If time does not allow for this investment, why not turn the blog into the voice of the “company” instead of just the CEO? Time could be leveraged if multiple employees were encouraged to submit their thoughts on a  particular topic. Granted – an editor would make sense for obvious legal resasons.

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Andrea Morris is the Chief Idea Officer of Write Ideas Marketing and specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com