Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Writing a Press Release? Read This First

You've got something spectacular to share with the world, or at least with your organizations' target market. So, stop the presses! Alert the media! Issue a press release! Wait, you don't have a press release? You've never written a press release? You wouldn't know where to begin with a press release? Okay, never mind. Re-start the presses.

Actually, press releases aren't hard to create once you know how they work and what you need to include. Distributing is easier than ever, too, thanks to the online templates offered by so many of today's digital media publications. Just paste your content into the right fields, fill out the other information, make sure you've followed all the publication's rules regarding formatting and word count, and hit Submit. Of course, there's still the press release itself to be written -- but the following tips should make that go more smoothly for you as well.

Invert That Pyramid

First and foremost, a press release is a news story crafted for publication as such, even if it's actually submitted by a business for purely promotional reasons. News stories follow a traditional structure known as an inverted pyramid. The most newsworthy facts sit at the top (the wide end) of the pyramid; this is your "Who, What, Where, When, Why" section, a.k.a "the lead," and it should be the first information your reader sees. Once you've nailed these key facts, you then move to the middle section of the inverted triangle, or the "body." Here's where you fill out the key points you established in your opening with explanatory information, interview quotes, and detailed breakdowns of attractive features and benefits you want to impress your audience with. The upside-down point at the bottom of your inverted pyramid is known as the "tail." This is where you wrap everything up with final followup information. (See below.)

Just the Facts, Ma'am

When you're trying to talk up an exciting new development, product, or service, it's only natural to fall into hyperbole. If you think something is wonderful, why wouldn't you use the word "wonderful?" Well, it shoots down your objectivity, and journalism (in an ideal world, anyway) is supposed to read as an objective presentation of facts. If you remember "Dragnet," you probably recall the cops steering this or that eyewitness away from a rambling editorial diatribe with a gentle but insistent, "Just the facts, ma'am." If your story really does have items that your audience will respond to, let the facts speak for themselves. You can always add a bit of hype here and there by placing it in someone else's mouth via quotes: "We're excited about this wonderful new way to help our clients thrive," et cetera.

Tell Your "Tail"

Remember that "tail" I mentioned earlier? It might occupy the least distinguished level of the inverted pyramid, but that doesn't make it unimportant. On the contrary, this section provides crucial details such as whom readers should contact to get more details about the story. It also serves as a kind of passive call to action: "The company directs interested parties to contact so-and-so for additional details and a free initial consultation." 

Even if these pointers help to clear up any confusion you might have had about press release composition, you may still feel less than enthusiastic about actually sitting down to write the stupid thing. But you can remedy that hassle easily enough simply by contacting me and letting me put my years of experience as a freelance copywriter to work for you. So stop the presses (again), and let's get the word out!

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Bio Profile Dos and Dont's

The time has come to tell your story. Okay, maybe you're not interested in composing your memoirs, at least not just at the moment. But your boss has asked you to contribute a bio profile for the company web page, or some association wants to include a blurb about you in their publication, or you've been tasked with taking raw information about key team members and transforming that textual lead into gold. So what do you need to know about crafting an effective, informative, exciting bio profile, either about yourself or about someone else? The following dos and don'ts should prove helpful.

Do Organize Your Points

One problem I've seen time and time again when editing people's bio profiles involves scattershot organization. Key points get shoved down into the middle of the page (what journalists like to call "burying the lead"), while other points pop up in seemingly random spots or get repeated multiple times without much variation. While a bio profile doesn't serve the purpose of a resume and shouldn't read like one, you do want to follow an outline that breaks different subjects into recognizable chunks that follow a logical progression.

Don't Get Lost in Trivia Land

Many companies encourage their team members to include personal information alongside career achievements, work histories, and job descriptions. This information helps to break down the barriers and present each employee as a warm, approachable, real-life human being to clients and prospective customers. But you can always have too much of a good thing, including personal details. for instance, your readers may appreciate the fact that you own dogs without necessarily needing to know each pup's name and breed. Similarly, your personal history may have a direct bearing on your practical experience, skill set, and approach to your work, but we don't need to know about every single twist and turn your professional life has taken. With every point you add, keep asking yourself, "Why does this matter to my reader?" If you can't think of an answer, get out the red pen.

Do Create Long and Short Bio Profiles

If you need to craft a bio profile as a business leader or industry expert for a variety of future applications, keep in mind that some publications, sites, or other organizations will prefer a shorter bio, while others might prefer a longer, more detailed one. The answer to this challenge is simple enough: Prepare both a long version and a short version. It's usually easier to write the long bio first, and then cherry-pick the most important information for the shorter bio. You'll feel much better prepared to participate in a wider range of business opportunities once you've got these options ready for submission.

Don't Try Too Hard to Impress (But Do Try Hard Enough)

Some people prefer not to blow their own horn for fear that they'll appear full of themselves, resulting in a humdrum bio profile that triggers a "So what?" response. Others believe that they have to present themselves as the greatest thing since sliced bread by throwing all kinds of hyperbole into their bio profiles. Try to keep your statements reasonable and realistic, but not to the extent that you fail to talk yourself up at all. It's a fine balance to achieve -- but remember, you don't have to create that bio profile all by yourself. If you'd rather rely on the skills of a professional freelance copywriter, or if just you've got too many other items on your plate to spend precious time sweating over your bio profile, contact me and take advantage of my bio-writing experience You have a compelling professional story to tell -- so let's tell it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Taking Center Stage: Marketing Content for Events and Festivals

After two years of COVID-based cancellations, San Antonio's Fiesta finally returned in full force at the end of March, concluding on April 10th. This festival, which typically draws some 2.5 million attendees, featured over 100 events all over town, from cook-offs and band battles to parades. But of course San Antonio isn't the only metropolis that celebrates its identity and culture through major festivals. Austin has South by Southwest, Albuquerque has its International Balloon Fiesta, and you may have heard about a little shindig called Mardi Gras in New Orleans. A ton of business changes hands during these mega-events, with countless brands getting a welcome boost to their visibility. So how can your own organization get in on the act and grab a slice of all that action? Here are a few routes you can take, along with specific types of marketing content to help you claim the spotlight.

Creating Your Own Event

If you want to generate some serious interest in your company, you don't have to wait for the next big local or regional event -- you can simply create your own. This project might prove as simple as hosting a wine tasting, networking event, business seminar, or some other get-together that combines business with pleasure. Since you can't rely on the kind of public awareness that the big events enjoy, you'll need to generate as much advance word as you can. That means creating and distributing at least one press release announcing your upcoming event, along with direct mail marketing pieces to send to your current client and prospect lists. You'll also want to blog about this exciting development and post updates to your social media channels so your online followers will get fired up and mark their calendars.

Participating in an Existing Event

If hosting your own event isn't feasible, why not participate in someone else's? You might rent booth space at one of the enormously popular local festivals, or you might simply get together with a few other businesses and put together a collective expo of sorts. This approach allows you to share at least some of the promotional burden with these other organizations. You may even piggy-back on another small business's event in return for shouldering some of the costs. Make sure you've put together plenty of print marketing pieces such as brochures and onesheets to hand out at the door. Don't forget to order plenty of branded swag bags and promotional products to accompany those print pieces. Asl your print shop to equip you with branded standup banners, tabletop displays, and other oversized marketing pieces to draw visitors to your booth or table.

Building Event-Related Marketing Campaigns

Okay, so you've decided that you can't get directly involved in this festival or that event. There's nothing stopping you from tying your marketing efforts to that festival or event through imaginative leaps and compelling content. You see this approach all the time in seasonal marketing efforts, with various businesses leveraging Halloween, Valentine's Day, Independence Day, and other big days on the calendar to promote sales. Why not use your local big event for the same purpose? When excitement's already in the air, you want to ride that breeze! Think about how major holidays or seasonal changes might inspire unusual marketing campaigns that nevertheless make perfect sense for your brand. Then promote your event-related sale or public awareness campaign through a combination of blog posts, videos, social media comments, direct mail, and email notices. It sounds like a lot of work, but you can always hire a professional copywriter to produce a lot of that content for you. So contact me, and let's make the big splash your business needs!

Monday, March 28, 2022

4 Ways to Repurpose Your Marketing Content

Week after week, the struggle continues. Fresh drops of blood sprout from your forehead as you stare at a blank monitor, desperately trying to conjure up new and unique material for your marketing efforts. Of course, there's no getting around the fact that you do need to keep injecting relevant, compelling content into your blog, website, and various social media channels. But what if I told you that you already had a great deal of this content lying around, just waiting for you to put it to use in a recycled, upgraded form?

You can make your marketing work so much easier -- and get so much more mileage out of all the hard work you've already performed -- simply by repurposing pre-existing content, it's not even funny. Take a look at four smart ways you can reduce your time and effort curve while still producing a steady stream of marketing content that sells what you do, builds your brand, and keeps you front and center in the public eye.

1. Update Old Blog Articles

You might naturally assume that a blog article has a limited shelf life, with the possible exception of that evergreen anchor post that remains timelessly valid year after year. However, even if the details go rancid after a while, the underlying topic may not. Why not reopen that file and update the information to account for changes in your business, your target audience, or the world in general? Remember, your current blog audience might have missed the original post when it first came out, which should give you reason enough to revisit the subject. You can even opt to rewrite the whole thing from top to bottom, using all the core information that still applies instead of reinventing the wheel. Before you know it, what's old is new again.

2. Post Non-Blog Content to Your Blog

Don't fall into the trap of regarding your blog as some isolated chamber that can only accept content you devised specifically for it. Any point worth devoting time and effort to elsewhere in your marketing efforts can also prove its merits as a blog post. Think about that case study, white paper, press release, or other writeup you recently slaved over. Couldn't that content work equally well in blog form with a nip here and a tuck there? Blogs can offer considerable flexibility in their formats and subject matter, so you'd just be adding more diversity to your target readers' experience.

3. Create Ebooks Out of Pre-Written Content

If you've been writing various kinds of marketing content for months or years, you may have already created the guts of an ebook without even realizing it. Ebooks hold special appeal for prospective clients who want comprehensive, long-form answers to their questions and challenges. That's why they do such a good job as a conversion tool, enticing site visitors to provide their contact information in exchange for a copy of this valuable help. go back and look at your previous blog articles and other written marketing content. Chances are that many of those pieces will fit together (or can be made to fit together) into a larger, cohesive volume. It's certainly a lot easier than composing an ebook from scratch!

4. Transcribe Your Videos Into Articles (and Vice Versa)

If your social media content creation strategy includes YouTube and other video channels, you may have amassed a whole online library of videos relating to your products, services, brand, and industry. But some people naturally gravitate toward text instead of pictures and sound, which means that they may miss your mountain of videos entirely. That's why you should think about transcribing the narrative text of those videos and reworking it into blog articles. By the same token, consider recording your blog articles as voice-over narration for fresh videos. You'll get two pieces of marketing content for the price of one, even as you reach a wider audience and increase your search engine visibility.

Of course, even repurposing your marketing content requires some skill, time, and energy. If you're not sure how to proceed or would just rather leave it the pros, put a professional freelance marketing copywriter to work on the job. While you're at it, request all the fresh content you need as well!

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Don't Make These 3 Marketing Content Errors

In my previous post, I talked about some smart things businesses can do to enliven their marketing content and make it more effective. But for every set of "dos" in the world of marketing, you'll find at least as many "don'ts." So let's take a quick look at three kinds of errors you want to avoid as you plan, create, and distribute your marketing content.

Error #1: Content Personalization Problems

Do you know your ideal customer's age range, location, and background? Do you understand that person's buying likes, dislikes, goals, and frustrations? If not, then you can't know how to direct your marketing content toward that ideal person. Before you waste too much time marketing to nobody in particular, conduct market research, gather the marketing data you already possess, and construct a buyer persona. Now you can create marketing content for that mythical individual with a reasonable chance of hitting your real-life target dead center.

How much personalization counts as too much? Yes, you should try to personalize your content so that it really speaks to your target market. But you shouldn't personalize it to the point that it sounds like you've been peeping through your audience's curtains or rummaging through their personal calendars. 

Error #2: Blog Bloopers

I've said it before, and I'll say it again here: You need to blog. Businesses that maintain a blog snag 68 percent more of those lucrative leads than those businesses that just sit on their hands. not only do you need to blog, but you need to blog consistently. Maintain a regular posting schedule so your audience gets used to expecting more of that brilliant, engaging, useful content from you. Remember, if they like your posts enough, they'll share them with friends and colleagues!

On the other hand, more blog content can hurt instead of help if you throw quality out the window for the sake of sheer quantity. First, Google's search ranking algorithm gives preference to relevant, high-quality content over mass-produced garbage. Second, poor writing and off-target topics will just make you look indifferent at best and incompetent at worse to your prospective clientele.

Error #3: Lack of Content Diversity

I've been going on about blogging, but blogging doesn't represent the sum total of successful content marketing creation and distribution. If you only blog, you're missing out on the opportunities generated by other forms of marketing content such as infographics, Tweets (and other social media mini-posts), YouTube videos, case studies, white papers, eBooks, you name it. Your blog fills one channel, but you need to look at filling up at least some of these other channels as well.

I say "at least some," not "everything out there." No target audience member maintains a presence on every social media channel on Earth, so neither should your company. Remember your buyer persona? Look into that data carefully to see which channels your ideal customer most likely frequents. Then focus your own content marketing efforts on those few channels instead of wasting time and energy trying to impress the whole world. You don't need the whole world; you just need the people who will buy from you.

I've just scratched the surface here, but you get the idea. If you need help creating the right content for the right viewers, contact me and apply my professional writing services toward your marketing success!

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Want Livelier Marketing Content? Make These Smart Fixes

You always know when a piece of marketing really does its job on you, even if you don't know exactly how or why. The words leap off the page, grab you by the throat, and compel you to keep reading all the way to the end. By the time you reach that final call to action, you're dialing that phone number, clicking that email link, visiting that website, or placing that order. You also know when your own marketing content doesn't work -- because you don't see any of that responsiveness from your target audience. Where did you go wrong when your blog, print marketing, or web content may promise remarkable features and benefits that should get your buyers chomping at the bit? The problem may lie, not in what you say, but how you say it. If your marketing content just seems to sit there against a background of crickets chirping. take a closer look at it and see if you need to make any of the following fixes.

Replace Passive Verbs With Active Verbs

Question: What do "is," "are," "be," and "have" share in common, aside from their utter blandness as word choices? Answer: They all count as passive verbs. Passive verbs can suck the life right out of your marketing copy. Compare them to active verbs such as "make," "present," "establish," "pose," "offer," and "promise." Better yet, see how many of the passive verbs in your current content you can replace with these more robust, high-energy options -- and then see for yourself how those changes turbocharge your content.

Go Light on the Vocabulary

Of course you want to impress your audience with your intelligence, knowledge, and industry savvy. Just don't fall into the trap of fattening your text with five-dollar words. The more complex your vocabulary, the more potential obstacles you throw in front of your audience. If your ideal buyer doesn't know half the words you use, how can you hope to sell to that person using those words? A simpler range of shorter words will usually make a greater impact, not only because more readers can understand it, but also because it naturally hits harder and makes for easier, more pleasant reading (no matter how educated the reader).

Clear Away the Fluff

When you read a piece of marketing content, you probably find yourself thinking two things: "What's in it for me?" and "Get to the point." No matter how well you answer the first point, you can still lose your readers by fumbling the second. Don't spend paragraphs setting the stage for the goodness to come; start with the goodness and get better from there. My playwriting teacher used to encourage his students to start a scene in the middle and fill in the necessary background along the way. When reviewing your work, trim out all unnecessary verbiage. Fluff belongs in a vacuum cleaner bag, not in your marketing content.

Interact with Your Audience

Did you ever read a piece of marketing content that didn't seem to acknowledge your presence at all? If you can't think of any examples, you probably just don't recall the failed content in question -- and why would you? People like it when you talk to them or with them, not at them. Since your marketing content does your talking for you, you want to leave room in it for the reader's own imagination and internal responses. If you want an example, look at the beginning of this paragraph. I asked you a question, and your mind probably generated an answer. You interacted with the content, whether you realized it at the time or not. If you really want to maximize the power of this approach, ask questions that make your readers answer, "Yes." Get your target audience agreeing with you, and that final call to action will yield the response you want.

Make these changes, and your marketing content should make a much more vivid impact on your target market. Need some professional help from an experienced marketing copywriter? Contact me today!

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Writing for SEO: An Introduction

As you look around for ways to improve your business's visibility and marketing reach, you may stumble on the phrase "writing for SEO" again and again. But unless you live in the digital marketing world, your first response (and a completely valid one) is probably "What the heck does 'writing for SEO' mean?" So let's take a moment to examine that question and explore some basic ideas about creating content that helps you make a bigger online splash.

First things first: SEO stands for search engine optimization. It encompasses a whole range of techniques that content creators and web development specialists employ to help their clients score higher on online search results. The more frequently and prominently your brand pops up in response to your target audiences' online searches, the more successfully you can draw these valuable prospects to your website, at which point they've entered your sales funnel. (Keeping them there may call for other marketing measures, of course, including the placement of the right content in the right places. But that's a topic for another day.)

Effective SEO can involve everything from how your web developer structures, tags, and codes your website to the choice of URL. But it also hinges on what kind of content you write and how you write it. Fortunately, you can win half the battle here simply by writing web pages, blog articles, and other online content that genuinely matters to your target market. Google rates relevance very highly indeed, so the more relevant your content appears, and more of that content you produce, the higher you're likely to show up on those all-important search results.

Of course, you want both your audience and the major search engines to be able to understand and absorb that content easily. Consider breaking the content into easily digestible paragraphs, including bulleted or numbered lists where relevant. If you use headers, make sure to tag them with the proper hierarchy of H1, H2, H3 etc. The addition of images always helps, especially if the images contain relevant verbiage in their tags.

The presence of links can also play an important role in your content's SEO. When you include links to authoritative, respective information sources, you're demonstrating your own value and reliability as a trusted resource. If you really write high-quality content and build your reputation, other websites may even start linking to your web content, encouraging a fresh stream of incoming traffic from impressed readers who want to learn more from (and about) your organization.

You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned keywords yet. Yes, the use of relevant, commonly-searched keywords will help your content rank higher. However, the old days when you could just keyword-stuff a page or article and expect brilliant results are long gone. In fact, search engines now punish suspected keyword-stuffing efforts. So by all means use those keywords, but use them only as the content calls for them. Focus on creating relevant, high-quality content, and you can't help but use the right keywords in a sensible manner.

Need help creating the kind of content you need for successful SEO? Then you need the services of a skilled, experienced professional copywriter. Contact me today!

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Written Content and Visual Design: 2 Peas in Your Marketing Pod

 When the word "marketing" enters your head, do you think of arresting visuals, or do you imagine compelling statements that demand an audiences' attention and inspire further interest in your products or services? Most likely, you envision both of these elements working together -- which is just as it should be. The written content and visual design elements that express your brand image and marketing message must mesh in a concerted effort to make your business shine. So let's look at how to get the best possible use out of these two peas in your marketing pod.

First, let's establish what we mean when we talk about visual design. In this case, I refer to two primary skill sets: graphic design and web design. Graphic design traditionally includes all the static visual elements of your marketing "look," from your company's logo and color scheme to the way images lead the eye through a brochure, sales sheet, PowerPoint presentation, or trade show display area. Web design creates and positions these visual elements in a dynamic online format, with bits and pieces that may change according to what kind of screen the viewer encounters them on (a technique called responsive web design) or as you add continuous updates to your portfolio, services, or biographical data. 

Web design and graphic design may differ somewhat in their requirements. For instance, certain fonts and color arrangements that work like gangbusters on a website may not look good on a print piece, and vice versa. Ideally, you want to create a design language that will work equally well for both offline and offline media.

Where does content writing enter the picture, so to speak? Well, it may come at the beginning, or it may show up later in the process. Of course your designers will want to have the basic look of your brand firmly in hand right from the beginning, while your web team will probably have some clear ideas about the basic formatting and layout decisions for your website. But the content-first approach often makes good sense for print marketing pieces. I've worked with graphic designers who used my content as a creative springboard to generate visual ideas for a onesheet, brochure, or direct marketing postcard. In some cases, a web designer may also make layout decisions based, at least in part, on what the written content seems to call for.

Ideally, your copywriter and your visual design team try to complement each other as seamlessly as possible (under the direction of a marketing director or coordinator who keeps everyone moving in the same direction). When I'm writing for a project that will include visual design, I talk to the designer about the overall concept and try to leave plenty of room for visual elements in my work. If the designer has trouble fitting my content into the design, I may need to trim it down. If I present an idea that lends itself to a particular image, the designer may want to fit such an image above, below, or alongside it. The main thing is that we're aligned as a creative unit to produce a final result that sells.

As an experienced freelance copywriter, I maintain relationships with many graphic designers and web designers. If you need both written marketing content and marketing design skills, contact me today and I'll hook you up with both!

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Gaining (a Copywriter's) Perspective on Your Marketing Content

You may have all kinds of good, solid reasons for outsourcing at least some of your marketing content creation needs to a freelance copywriter. Maybe you don't happen to have a talent for writing, so creating your own marketing content takes up a huge amount of time that ought to go toward doing your day-to-day tasks that keep your business running. Maybe you do have the talent, but you hate, hate, hate using it. (Some people just don't enjoy writing. Heck, even I don't enjoy it sometimes. Of course I find the resolve when it's time to pay the bills.) Maybe you already have a copywriting team in place, but it happens to be stretched to the limit already. These are all great reasons to hire a copywriter, and in each case I'm happy to step in.

But there's another terrific reason to think about adding a copywriter to your creative team: the possibility that you may be "too close to the topic." Let's face it, you know your business inside-out. You're immersed in it on a daily basis. You work with other people who also know the industry, and you communicate with colleagues that speak the lingo as well as you do. You live in the world of your business. The thing is, your customer probably doesn't.

You may find it impossible to see yourself objectively enough to put yourself in your reader's shoes. Sometimes it's hard to pretend you're John Doe instead of Jane Manufacturing Incorporated long enough to really grasp what the reader wants to know, as opposed to what you want to tell him. Time to bring in an objective party -- one who happens to write marketing content for a living. Your copywriter can see John's perspective as well as Jane's, creating a message informed by one and aimed at the other.

You may also find that your industry speaks a language the general public doesn't understand. I recall the time I walked into an engineering company and the owner said, "Ah, so you're the guy who's going to rescue us!" The company's leadership team had spent so many years talking engineer-speak to engineers that they'd lost a handle on how to translate their features and benefits into common English. Again, copywriter to the rescue.

Whatever your writing roadblock may be, don't keep suffering with it. Contact me today, offload that specialized work to a specialist, and welcome a new brain to your company's think-tank.