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 …

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

Why can’t we all just work together?

It’s the final instalment in our epic content creation versus content curation discussion! Here are the previous stories in the series …

1 – A brief introduction to content creation versus curation
2 – What are we sharing for?
3 – The creationist theory

There’s every chance I come across as someone who isn’t a fan of content curators. To a degree, that impression would be correct. Personally speaking, I find curators spoil my social media experiences.

If I’ve followed a company that has tweeted something I liked, and then that company goes ahead and tweets curated content every hour on the hour henceforth, I’m not going to be following along for long.

My current Twitter feed is filled with tweet after tweet (after tweet) of curated content. Wait – I thought you were anti-content curation, man!? What happened? You sell out or something?

Nup – it turns out the majority of companies I follow have a struck a delightful balance in creating and curating content. And because they’ve given me good content in the past, I’m sticking with them until such time as the ratio of good versus bad is too high to be ignored. Er, is too high that I begin to ignore them. Uh, well – you know what I mean.

More to the point, they’ve written content that’s made me think, “Hey, this person knows their stuff. Therefore, what they share is probably spot on as well.”

And that’s the trick. Feel free to use content curation tools but … use them wisely. Only publish / recommend / retweet content you’ve read before sharing it. Content you believe in. Content you wish you’d written yourself. Content that represents your brand voice.

And for goodness sake, use your own content as well.

+Alistair Nestor

The creationist theory

Hey wait just a darn minute … have you read the other posts in this series?

1 – A brief introduction to content creation versus curation
2 – What are we sharing for?
3 – The creationist theory
4 – Why can’t we all just work together?

It took me a long time to understand why I didn’t recognise articles I’d written online a few weeks after publication. Sure, I would remember the topic, the theme, perhaps even the conclusion – I would recognize these things but still I would wonder, did I really write that?

Turns out, I did … and I didn’t.

Turns out, the SEO guys at work had been fiddling with my content.

Fiddling with it to optimise it for search.

Fiddling with it until I did not recognise my own writing.

Writing for search purposes is just one of the key reasons for writing your own content. In simple terms, if you write it, they might come. And having your content optimised for search (SEO) improves your chances from ‘might’ come to ‘more likely than not will’ come.

Creating your own good, relevant, interesting content for the web is wonderful for your reputation.

Let’s run through three reasons why being a creator is good for your brand.

1 – SEO

As touched on in the introduction, SEO is a MAJOR reason for creating good content online. People research online. They Google, they Bing, they Yahoo! What they DON’T do is search for your brand. Let me explain by way of example:

I’m looking for a toaster.

A quick search brings up the following in Google:

Google-search-toaster

The first four are department stores with 1,000s of SKUs and many, many visitors.

So Breville is our first toaster brand – beating out the likes of Sunbeam, Kitchenmaid and Morphy Richards for the honour of highest Google ranking. Let’s find out why …

Clicking the link takes us here:

Breville-toaster-page

Nothing too interesting here. Nothing particularly content focused. Let’s try the homepage, to see if something else on the domain is helping the search ranking:

Breville-homepage

And there’s our answer. – well, a very large part of the answer anyway A plethora of content …

Video content:

Breville-video-page

There’s also a blog (foodthinkers.com.au):

Breville-blog

In short, Breville has gone beyond a basic e-commerce website with items for sale; it’s actually a resource designed to ‘pull’ customers to it.

Which leads us (somewhat tenuously) to point two …

2 – Thought Leadership

Having a blog called Food Thinkers is pretty smart thinking for an appliance manufacturer. The title is the first smart move: not All About Appliances – not Electrical Small Goods. No, they haven’t referenced their products in the title at all.

Food Thinkers. People who think about food.

Here’s their blurb:

Full of delicious recipes, fantastic new products, helpful information and exclusive offers. Breville Food Thinkers is all about how to eat better, cook better and feel better.

A couple of references to their products, but essentially they’re positioning themselves as a lifestyle resource. Nice.

So now Breville has a platform for taking the lead on matters relating to their industry. In fact, they can potentially broaden their sphere of influence and talk about feeling better and eating better if they so choose to.

Thought leadership is a powerful tool for a brand – one of the few methods that a retailer still (potentially) has control over in today’s consumer-powered advertising world. Being an industry authority engenders trust. And that’s still a powerful factor in consumer decision-making.

3 – It gives you a fantastic marketing tool, resource and destination

Whether it’s a how-to video series, a blog observing industry trends, whitepapers, or infographics, having content on your corporate website gives you a call-to-action destination for your various marketing efforts.

Take, for instance, the humble tweet. Here are three in my feed tonight, all with shortlinks to content located on their corporate website:

Did you click on the short links? Where did they take you? Right through the front door of their business …

Those three Twitter accounts post a few times each day. That’s a lot of traffic they’re generating to their website. And it’s not just to buy, buy, buy. I think of it as an opportunity to break down the barriers of resistance. We don’t want to be sold to, generally speaking. But we do like to learn and be entertained. And that’s what Twitter accounts like the above do to get customers through their virtual doors.

And it’s not like you need to create new content for every tweet or Facebook status update you post. The ExplorerB2B tweet is a direct copy of one they sent out seven days previously! Some marketers link to posts they’ve written months, even years ago. And why wouldn’t you if it’s well-written and relevant? That’s the sort of invaluable resource you build when you become a content creator.

Think about it.

And then write about it!

+Alistair Nestor