What happens when you don’t write right

That’s a tweet I posted this morning. I was surprised by the lazy copy and wanted to share. It’s been four hours since I wrote it and I’ve moved from surprise to disgust to despair to frustration to blind fury. Well, perhaps not fury – more something akin to, “Why on earth would you even DO that?”

This promotional copy from TPG arrived in an Australia Post redirection service letter. We’ve been paying for redirection since moving from the big smoke two years ago. Apparently I had checked a box consenting to receiving third party offers. Righto, don’t remember that but not too fussed. However, this content cannot go unpunished.

First, my problem with the copy;

  1. Sentence two bears no relation – no link – to sentence one.
  2. The first sentence is valueless. I know it’s been two years since I moved – I don’t need you to tell me that. You just come across as a stalker with unsolicited access to my personal details.
  3. Why on earth would I consider a phone bundle two years after I’ve moved. The time to strike was … wait for it … TWO YEARS AGO.

I’m back to furious again. This is shit writing.

You know what I think happened? Here are three scenarios:

  1. The writer – quite rightly – wanted to relate the offer to Australia Post’s redirect service. This makes sense if the campaign is sent out within days of the redirect being set up – but not TWO YEARS after moving. Come on! I think this campaign was dug out from the vaults and not copy-reviewed for context.
  2. An intern wrote it in between reading Bob Bly’s ‘The Copywriter’s Handbook’.
  3. A five year old wrote it.

My second problem with it is still the copy. In particular, the spelling and sentence structure.

It has almost been 2 years since you moved home.

Redundant words such as ‘almost’ really grind my gears. Just go ahead and say, “It’s been two years …”

And while you’re at it, numbers up to ten are always spelt out, so don’t use ‘2’. Write ‘two’, damn it.

Wait – I’ve moved home? As in, moved back to my parents? BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT IT READS LIKE. Moved house suits the situation here – not moved home. Grr.

We suggest that you consider TPG’s ADSL2+ with Home Phone bundle deals

“We suggest … you consider TPG …” – what, we’re referring to yourselves in the third person? This is a TPG direct mail piece – why are you referring to yourself in the third person. WHY?

You know what? I ain’t even mad now. I just know I won’t be considering TPG as a service provider. Call me elitist, call me a grammar nazi, just don’t [heh] call me – I don’t want to do business with a business that doesn’t know how to write good [sic].

And the lesson today is just that: write good. Don’t be lazy. Write, then write again. Then review it. then review it again and again and again.

The first thing you write isn’t the right thing, even if it looks right. Why? Because it’s probably been written a million times before – that’s why it came easily to you. Write it again. Differently. Better. Challenge yourself. Then check it. And then get others to check it. And only THEN should you publish.

The rules are a little different online, but not much. You have editing power online, so you can publish quickly knowing you can edit later. But that only works if you DO in fact edit later. Sloppy writing is sloppy. It presents unprofessionally. And at its worst, it can turn consumers off you.

Just like TPG has turned me off. I certainly won’t be … [heh] … giving them a call …

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If you film it, they will come

I shot the video above on an iPhone. It was filmed in 30 minutes during lunchtime. I edited it in two hours. It was online within three hours of shooting it. To produce that in the same resolution (1920 x 1080) even five years ago would’ve cost thousands of dollars.

Video has come a long, long, LONG way in a short time. Ten years ago I was making television commercials with $50k+ broadcast cameras like this:

Ikegami broadcast camera

They looked impressive. They weighed a ton. And to get that authentic 16:9 ‘widescreen’ look, we would put black bars top and bottom in the edit suite. It’s true.

And now TV commercials, talk shows, even movies are being filmed with digital SLRs like the Canon 5D below. Amazing.

Canon 5D MKIII

The barriers to in-house video production are … well, there just aren’t any. It’s insanely cheap to set yourself up, and today we’ll delve into the Geurilla Guide to In-house Video Production. Here we go!

SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS

  • YouTube
  • Vimeo
  • Instagram

Join all three in the name of your business.

SOFTWARE

You’ll need something to edit your video with, and something to tweak your audio with. You can get away with using one application, but your goal should be to use separate, dedicated solutions. Personally, my toolbox contains:

I know of editors who use only Apple’s Final Cut Pro for both video and audio. Same, same with Premiere. Both have adequate audio editing capabilities, but not as adequate as the real thing such as the afore-mentioned Pro Tools or Apple’s Logic Pro for example.

Hang on, why do I need an audio editor?

Because sound is vitally, amazingly, ridiculously important. Good audio will make or break your production. Seriously, it’s more important than video quality. YouTube has conditioned us to tolerate poor quality video. Which is ironic considering the high quality / low cost tools we now have available for filming. There is NO excuse for crappy sound though. Good audio editing software (or if you want to get with the hip kids, Digital Audio Workstation or DAW) can help quash the sound of your air conditioner / bring up low levels / make a voice sound more vibrant and so on. It’s important.

There are also freeware / shareware / donation-ware options when it comes to video and audio software. I’ve used both Goldwave and Audacity in the past. Both are really handy tools, and probably a good place to start. Mashable has a list of other options you can try as well.

Windows Movie Maker is a freebie video editor that can you help you with the basics. iMovie is the Apple equivalent to Windows Movie Maker.

HARDWARE

Your basic setup for an in-house video production unit consists of the following:

  • A camera – the Canon 5D DSLR mentioned above is perfect
  • A tripod
  • Radio mics – microphones that clip onto your clothes
  • A decently specced computer – for handling the large video files
  • Three lights (a keylight, a fill, and a backlight) – for getting good depth in your indoor shoot
  • Green screen – if you want to have flexibility for backgrounds

Those first four are essential. You can add the other two when you’re ready to step up the quality levels.

WHAT TO FILM

What video content can you create that will provide value to your audience?

Do you sell products that require a steep learning curve? Perhaps you need to produce a series of ‘how-to’ videos.

Are you in a fast-paced, ever-changing industry? You might create a weekly show that looks at the latest industry news.

Are you running a competition? Think about how video can support it.

Remember, your content doesn’t have to directly sell your business, your products, or services. It doesn’t always need a call to action. But there should be a reason for the video.

THREE RULES TO LIVE BY

  1. Keep it short
  2. Get good audio
  3. Relax in front of camera

By the way, don’t try and make something viral. Viral just … happens.

UPDATE: I’ve been asked what the video above is for. It’s a promo for MYOB’s annual short film festival. The audience is MYOB staff, although in this case the promo has made it onto MYOB’s public channel.

Here’s one of my entries (made with @daylandoes and Lucky) from 2011.

And for bonus points (and seeing as we’re talking about social media and content creation), here are some promos I made for that video:

Check out the radio mic on my shirt in this video below …

Tools of the trade (OR … how to share great content)

So, you’ve decided you want to amplify your social media voice. Great, you have a few options open to you. Let’s dive in and find out what they are …

WRITING

Whether blogging, microblogging, commenting, or trolling, the most basic (READ: least technical skills required) method to get social is by writing stuff.

Writing GOOD stuff is the key here.

Stuff you know about. Stuff from your industry. Stuff that you think your target market (i.e. who you want as customers) will be interested in. You don’t need to make every goal a post a winner. That’s just not possible given you need to be providing fairly regularly to provide value. Nope, consistency is the key. Providing consistently relevant content.

So how to do that. If you could write a blog post every day, you’re a better blog post writer than me. It’s not easy. Although it’s worth attempting. Actually, scrap that … don’t try, DO. DO write a blog post every day. Even if you don’t publish, WRITE. It’s the only way you can get good at writing.

And what of content from other sources? How do you find the good stuff that is relevant to your audience when you just don’t have time to whip something up yourself? Content curation tools to the rescue!

Tools such scoop.it are just the ticket for finding great content that will make you look like you’ve trawled the web for great content. And it’s shareable, too. Not copyrighted. You won’t get in trouble. Just make sure you attribute it.

Up next, we’ll look at video …

Telling tales

The author performing on-stage in 'Bent' by Martin Sherman, Phoenix Theatre, Wellington, 1997
The author performing on-stage in ‘Bent’ by Martin Sherman, Phoenix Theatre, Wellington, 1997

My wife loves to hear me tell the story about my brush with royalty.

You see, I used to manage a live theatre venue in Wellington, NZ in the 1990s. It was an exciting time for live theatre, with half a dozen venues in town staging generally excellent local and international shows.

Unfortunately, the pay was atrocious.

Needing to make ends meet, I took a job as a dishwasher at the Wellington Club – back then the epitome of fine dining in town.

And while the shifts were hard work – generally starting at 5pm and finishing around 2am – it was worth it for a) the money, and b) the one square meal if eat each night.

On one particular night the number of dishes swelled from the usual 50ish place settings to well over 100; the stacks of plates teetering like porcelain towers of pizza layered precariously towards the ceiling.

And strolling through the kitchen later that night was the cause of such an outpouring of fine china … Prince Phillip himself, wandering between the ovens and chopping boards and sous chefs of my workplace.

He didn’t quite make it over to my area, but I was delighted to know that I had had the pleasureof brushing his royal highness’s saliva soaked pork crackling from his royal plate.

And THAT was my brush with royalty. I can’t say I know for certain which of the plates he’d licked clean, but it was at least six of them.

Why am I telling you this? Because storytelling is the old but very new way to market your business. People LOVE stories. We do. We love to be taken on a journey. Entertained.

So, tell tales when you’re writing for social media.

How does that play out? Don’t just say the facts; wrap them in a tale. Tell the benefits of your product as a story, not as a list of bullet points. Delight your readers. Surprise them.

Although my story isn’t all that exciting, it is a surprising to read it on a marketing blog. Perhaps your customers will be surprised when you tell tales, too.

+Alistair Nestor