Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Tips and Tricks for Writing About Yourself

 I've posted before about the nuts and bolts of writing bios and "About Us" content for marketing purposes. But for many of the business owners I've encountered in my 25 years as a professional copywriter, the real challenge lies elsewhere than in the mechanics of the writing itself. 

I've known many brilliant professionals who could write marketing content with ease and skill -- until they had to write about themselves. Some feel uncomfortable "blowing their own horn," while others simply can't distance themselves from the subject at hand (which is understandable, since they are the subject at hand). If you're struggling to create that much-needed website, brochure, or social media bio content due to some sort of psychological barrier, the following tips and tricks may help you move forward.

Pretend you're writing about somebody else. You might feel weird trumpeting your achievements to the world -- but would you have similar trouble bragging about an employee or colleague? Try creating a fictional person in your mind who has accomplished all those admirable things -- someone who also happens to have the same passions, interests, and background as yourself. Now write that person's bio. It's a lot easier, isn't it?

Keep the content other-directed. Yes, you're writing about yourself, but who are you writing for? Any kind of marketing content you create, including bio content, must be aimed at a specific audience to make them respond in a way that benefits your business. Keep your mission, vision, and values top of mind as you write your bio. Take every opportunity to turn the information toward the reader: "I've spent X number of years helping area residents just like you overcome Y challenge." The more you occupy your mind with how your work helps others, the less self-conscious you'll feel about the words you're putting down.

Experiment with different points of view. Some people find it awkward to write about themselves in the third person because it feels pretentious or unnatural to them. Others have trouble with the first-person direct address to the audience because it strikes them as too familiar or casual. Of course, the choice of point of view will depend partly on the voice and tone you've chosen for your brand persona. But if you feel intimidated, uncomfortable, or just plain stuck, try switching from one point of view to the other. The results might surprise you -- and you can always switch back again after you've got the meat of the content drafted.

Even if you find these tips and tricks helpful, you still might prefer to have an outsider write your bio for you, preferably a skilled, experienced copywriter. In that case, contact me today so you can shine like the star you really are!

Monday, February 27, 2023

3 Reasons to Choose Human Content Creators Over AI

I was participating in a networking conversation recently and got hit with an interesting question: "Are you worried about AI taking your job away?" Of course, this question had already been floated around various writers' forums and social media channels for some time, especially since Open AI unleashed the artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT on the world. It seems like everywhere you look, you see headlines pronouncing the imminent death of search engines and the end of Google as the dominant force in that arena. 

So, was I worried that machine-generated content was going to put me out of work? No, I answered. And as I started explaining why, I realized that my reasons made just as much sense for my clients' purposes as they did for my own. Let's look at three reasons experienced, skilled human content creators aren't going anywhere anytime soon -- and why you wouldn't want them to.

Reason 1: Google Can Tell When You're Using AI

Until Chat GPT and its ilk become the law of the land regarding search, the major search engines will continue to make the rules as far as what content ranks and what doesn't -- with Google as the head arbiter. Okay, so you can still go ahead and ask Chat GPT to create your written content for you and then post it, right? Yes, you can, but there's a potentially worrying catch: Google can theoretically detect AI-generated content with the aid of programs such as GPT-2 Output Detector. Google might not downrank your content simply because it detects it as "fake," at least not currently. But keep in mind that Google likes to tweak its algorithm from time to time based on new criteria for relevance and authenticity, so who knows whether the AI-generated content you post today will still rank in the future?

Reason 2: AI Provides Content Without Context

AI content creation has been around longer than you might think. Many years ago, I wrote a blog post about a program that could generate quick, accurate football and baseball game summaries. I noted that while this kind of straightforward journalism might suffice for recounting plays, scores, and penalties, the program couldn't really place those basic facts into any larger, more meaningful context. While I'm sure AI has evolved somewhat along these lines in the years that followed, it still can't provide the kind of editorial insights or commentary that lend a piece of writing real depth. If you're happy with a laundry list of information, maybe AI will do the job for you. But if you're looking for writing that has real thought behind it, you want to bring some organic gray matter on board.

Reason 3: It Takes a Person to Understand a Person

Robots don't buy your products or services; people do. How do people make their decisions about who to buy from and why? As I've noted in the past, you can throw all the facts and figures in the world at a potential customer without nudging them toward the proverbial "Buy" button. That's because the decision to buy hinges on emotions, not logic. At the end of the day, all information aside, people buy from you because your content inspires feelings of warmth, agreement, and trust. Professional copywriters know how to trigger those emotions -- not just because we spend years training ourselves in all the necessary techniques, but because we understand how your target audience feels and thinks on a human level as well as a data-based one. In other words, it takes one to know one.

Don't forget that when you work with a living, breathing marketing copywriter, you get more than just  content -- you also get a real interaction with a creative professional who can go back and forth with you on strategy, tactics, and ideas. If that sounds like something you want and need, contact me today and experience the real deal!

Monday, February 13, 2023

Want to Market Yourself More Successfully? Stop Selling and Start Giving

Recently I found myself chatting with a marketing consultant who expressed some frustration with a client's attempts at writing his own PR: "He's a great businessman, he's a strong writer, but he tries to turn everything into an ad."

A salesperson's first instinct is to sell. When given an opportunity to appear in print, we all feel an urge to bombard that empty space with the details of how great we are and why. But we must remember that the only articles that interest readers is one that gives them something of value instead of simply lunging for their wallets. If you want us to make an emotional investment in your brand, ell us why we should care about what you do and how you do it.

You can promote your value through any and all kinds of marketing content. For example, you can issue a press release announcing an item of community interest. Your company's grand opening, improved product line, or expanded service area is a news piece, and your audience gains immediately by knowing more about what's happening in their town or neighborhood. A sufficiently large announcement attracts the regional or national press. In any case, a good press release informs first and advertises second.

What about other forms of marketing writing that use subtlety to win readers' interest in your business? Again, the key is to give them something attractive and meaningful to their daily lives. Here are a couple of examples:

Solve a problem. How many of us have needed a quick, authoritative answer to some vexing question, from how to unclog a drain to how to choose a business broker? Post an online article providing ready answers to a question, and you've taken a thorn out of your lion's paw. Add your company's contact information to the bottom of the article, and that lion will reach out to you the next time a similar thorn comes along.

Entertain. A funny, touching, or exciting human interest story makes a great feature article. Entertaining your readers is a surefire way to grab their attention and make them want to learn more about your products or services. And true-life stories can be powerful testimonials. Touch their hearts and they'll think of you when it's time to buy.

I once knew an insurance agent who made a point of saying, "I don't sell insurance; I help people buy it." When we educate instead of sell, we help our potential customers get what they want. By increasing your value to your target audience by enlightening and entertaining them instead of hard-selling them, you earn their trust, respect, and loyalty. If you'd like help crafting the kind of content that can capture their hearts and minds, contact me so we can position you as the best thing that ever happened to your customers!

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Smoothing the Rewrite Road: Advice for Copywriters and Copywriting Clients

Here’s a quote from H.G. Wells, who knew a thing or two about writing: "No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft."

I don't know whether Mr Wells was speaking from some hard-earned personal bitterness, but few writers can completely avoid the occasional going over with a red pen (or its digital equivalent). In my work as a freelance marketing copywriter, I don't usually get a lot of rewrite requests. That isn't necessary boasting; for all I know, clients are rewriting my work themselves without mentioning it to me. But I've found that there are certain things both writers and writing clients can do to make the revision process less painful.

Writers: Ask questions, no matter how dumb they may seem. You may be the writing expert, but your clients are the ones with all the industry knowledge and inside data necessary for your project. Get clear on the basics and fill in the informational gaps as needed by asking questions. A quick email or phone call can prevent some major misunderstandings, not only on details but on the overall direction of the entire job.

Clients: Collect your notes -- all of them. You may be tempted to shoot some revision requests to your writer the moment you receive the draft. But if you do, be prepared to fire off another email, and another after that. And then there's your marketing person, and your CEO, and whoever else may care to pile on with suggestions. Nothing confuses a writer worse than dozens of emails, each with different and possibly conflicting rewrite requests. Make sure you have collected everyone's comments and parsed them for consistency before sending that ONE email to your writer.

Both parties: Be prepared and responsive. For writers, that means listening closely and making detailed notes right from the initial consultation. Before launching into the first draft, go over the job with your client to make absolutely sure you're both on the same page. For clients, it means answering the writer's questions and providing additional information in a timely manner. Work together to make that first draft as compelling and accurate as possible, and you may not need to go to a second draft at all. H.G. Wells would approve.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Key Questions to Ask Yourself When Writing Marketing Content

Most business owners recognize the crucial importance of written content in their marketing efforts. If you own a company or manage a brand, you've got to create website, blog, email, and sales letter content that makes a powerful impact and compels the proper action. If you've written your share of content that looked fine at first glance but failed to achieve the results you sought, don't despair -- you might have missed the mark due to some common, correctable missteps. Before you publish or send out your next piece of written marketing content, ask yourself the following key questions.

"Who Will Read This Content?"

If you've had any success in your business, you probably know who falls into your target market and how to reach those individuals most effectively. But in addition to understanding where to find your audience, you must also understand what segment of the population that audience represents. What do your typical buyers worry about or struggle with? What level of education do they have? What values do they uphold? What priorities influence their shopping choices? If you can't answer these questions with confidence, work with a marketing strategist to create an imaginary construct called a buyer persona. You now have an imaginary ideal customer to write for -- which means you write much more targeted content.

"What Benefit Does This Content Provide?"

Once you know the frustrations, concerns, and other pain points that make life more difficult for your ideal buyer. Have you addressed these pain points in your marketing content? Few approaches grab someone's attention more firmly and easily than sympathy for that person's situation. When you show that you know your audience's problems, you can position yourself as the solution to those problems. For instance, if you sell mattresses, you want to talk about the misery of restless nights, chronic back pain, and other issues that cause people to shop for an alternative to the torture device they currently endure night after night -- and then offer that alternative.

"Does the Content Inspire Responses?"

If you think of marketing content as a kind of one-way address system, think again. While your buyers can't intercept your message or reply to it in real time, you can (and should) evoke the illusion of a conversation. One of the more effective copywriting tricks in this regard involves asking question after question: "Do you hate scrubbing gunk off your dishes after every meal? Do you sigh when you see white spots on your glasses after you pull them out of the washing machine?" Et cetera. You can practically hear the aggravated audience member yelling "Yes! One hundred percent!" in reply. Notice that "Yes," by the way. When you keep throwing out questions with obvious "Yes" answers, you're achieving two important goals. First, you're using positive language instead of negative language, even when describing negative scenarios. (You don't want to establish yourself as a Debby Downer.) Second, you're getting your audience member to agree with you again and again, establishing that you're both on the same wavelength. Next stop, sale!

"Have I Trimmed All the Fat?"

Sometimes a perfectly acceptable-looking draft can reveal small but telling weaknesses on careful review. Check your marketing content thoroughly for any little extra verbiage that might dilute your message or bog down the flow. For example, do you see an "in order to" where a simple "to" would do the job? Look for any ways you could make your message more compact. Replacing passive phrase constructions with active ones should help you trim this fat while also adding power to your message. While you're at it, replace any needlessly fancy vocabulary with clear, plain words. The changes might prove as simple as "use" instead of "utilize," but the end results should include clearer, more readable text and a more direct impact.

Would you rather feel assured that your marketing content will always hit the mark without having to serve as your own editor and proofreader? Let a professional copywriter craft your content for you! Contact me today to learn more and get started on the easy path to greater marketing success.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Winter Marketing Content for a Happier New Year

Winter means different things to different people. For much of the country, this winter has meant devastating snowstorms and countless flight cancellations. Many folks think of winter as a time for seasonal sports, cozy evenings by the fire, or getting an early start on those annual tax returns. But what does winter mean for your business? Does your industry naturally lend itself to this time of year, or do you find yourself wishing your target market would thaw out a bit faster than the local scenery? Either way, you can bring in more revenue by using the season in your marketing content. Here are some tips and tricks for turning winter's chill into a profitable hot streak.

Create Holiday-Themed Promotions

While it's true that the super-hot shopping holidays such as Black Friday, Hanukka, and Christmas have passed, winter still offers some opportunities for holiday-based marketing. For instance, many businesses offer sales and other special deals during the MLK Day weekend, while others hop on the humor bandwagon with Groundhog Day promotions. Valentine's Day offers all kinds of marketing opportunities. Then there are the less well-known observances such as Dress Up Your Pet Day, National Popcorn Day, National Cheese Lover's Days, National Chocolate Cake Day, and National Puzzle Day -- and that's just counting January. Can you see how some businesses might profit by launching email, direct mail, and social media campaigns to promote their products and services on those days? Might your business be among them?

Appeal to Winter Comfort and Utility

Winter obviously gets a lot colder in some parts of the U.S. than in others, but that doesn't stop a lot of us Southerners from complaining whenever the mercury drops below flip-flop temperatures. Depending on your geographic reach, your target audience may be searching for everything from snow shovels and thermal gloves to windshield de-icer -- or they may simply feel like stocking up on hot chocolate, firewood, and cold/flu remedies. Even if you sell your products and services all year round, you may find some clever ways to attach their benefits to seasonal wants and needs. How can your offerings make people feel happier or more comfortable this winter? That's the message you want to build your marketing content around.

Use Seasonal Metaphors

Maybe you can't think of any immediate or obvious association between your products or services and the winter months. That's when some cute metaphors can step in to save the day. For instance, you might encourage your audience to "come in from the cold" and take advantage of a red-hot deal. Or you could use the new calendar as a springboard for promoting products and services that help your customers get a fresh start on a great new year. Leverage the excitement and potential of the year to come through your blog posts, email campaigns, TV/radio spots, and print ads.

Winter can be bleak and hostile, or it can introduce a whole vista of marketing options and strategies for your business. Once you've put your winter marketing plan in place, all you'll need is the visual and written content. A skilled graphic designer can provide the former, while an experienced freelance copywriter like me can provide the latter. So contact me, and let's get started on a winter wonderland of profits for your business!