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One of the 101 best copywriters in the world?

One of the elite 101?

This morning, I received an intriguing email from Miles Galliford, who gave me a free one-year subscription to PhraseHQ, “the world’s largest phrase thesaurus,” by virtue of my being, in his words, “one of the top 100 copywriters in the world.”

Is it true? Does it matter? In any event, I’ll take pleasure in the compliment. Why the hell not?

I don’t know how Miles compiled the list or what standards he applied in exercising his judgment, but whatever else, I’m certainly in good company. Some of the 101 are legends, like Bob Bly, Dan Kennedy and Herschell Gordon Lewis. Some of them are friends or acquaintances, like Diana Huff, Mike Stelzner and Steve Slaunwhite. Others, frankly, I’ve never heard of but that doesn’t mean anything — I don’t know lots of terrific people.

Miles asked, in his email, for constructive criticism (for which I may be rewarded with lifetime access) and here are a few points:

  • First of all, I think it’s a cool and necessary tool. Phrases can be confusing and/or ambiguous, so a helpful site/application like this is appreciated.
  • I’d like to see more phrases from foreign languages (especially Latin) that English-speakers are likely to encounter in their reading. Few things are as frustrating as an untranslated phrase that the author just assumes we should understand.
  • I’d also like to see special callouts or flags for nation-specific colloquialisms (U.S., U.K., Australia, etc.) that might be confusing to an English-speaker outside the country of the phrase’s origin.

Just my two-cents. (Do they say “two-pence” or “tuppence” in England?)

 

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Rich evening for rich media
Rich media panel, PRSA Boston, January 24, 2012

L to R: Nick Barber, Rob Ciampa, Lisa Kilborn, me

Last night, I had the prvivilege of moderating a panel discussion on rich media at the Microsoft NERD Center in Kendall Square. (See: The New PR – How to Use Rich Media to Create Winning Campaigns)

Worst part of the evening: Getting hopelessly lost in Kendall Square. Kendall Square is like Hogwarts, except that instead of shifting staircases, there are shifting streets. One expects little gnomes from Google and Microsoft to leap out and demand passwords. I circled the Square for three quarters of an hour, narrowly avoiding one traffic accident, almost hitting one runner (would we really miss one less smug runner in Cambridge?) and incurring the wrath of one driver who invited me to perform a physically impossible act of auto-eroticism.

Best part of the evening: The practical insights of the panelists themselves. In summary:

  • Lisa Kilborn of Zmags showed us how her company turned a simple survey about consumers’ use of tablets for holiday shopping into an infographic that landed 80 million hits plus favorable plugs from Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin. Nice!
  • Nick Barber of IDG played a couple of clips from CES that demonstrated the new reality of video: today, editorial and production are a Zen-like one. Got a camera, got a laptop? Then you got everything you need to make compelling videos on the spot, fast. No need to drag out crews of cameramen, audio techs, post-production gangs, etc.
  • Rob Ciampa of Pixability delivered some of the most memorable soundbites of the evening, including an exhortation that we should no more “outsource our social media than outsource sex.” (To each his or her own, I say.) With three videos at very different levels of production value, Rob demonstrated that video is NOT one kind of rich media, but actually covers many kinds of communications tactics (viral, “personal,” brand-oriented, etc.), each with its own virtues depending on audience and context.

All in all, a great evening and I deeply appreciated the warm welcome and hospitality I recieved from the PRSA’s Jackie Lustig and Denise Hutchins!

More Kranz speaking events.

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Sugru hacks some cool (and sticky) content

Get Sugru, get content.

As we plan our marketing strategies, we generally think of content as something we deliver before the sale as a means of generating leads, attracting interest, building communites, yadda, yadda, yadda.

But what about after the sale? Or within its fulfillment? As in delivering quality content when you deliver the goods?

That’s exactly what Sugru does when it fills its orders. Sugru is this incredibly neat, nerd-tingling, air-curing rubber compound that can stick to just about every surface, be shaped into just about anything you like, and cures within 24 hours to a water-resistant, flexible solid.

Now I, myself, am not a nerd, but I know some nerds…

OK, I’m a nerd. So I ordered some Sugru. Less than a week later, I got a nice little surprise with my packets of Sugru: a 7 Steps to Becoming a Sugru Guru booklet.

My Sugru order featuring the surprise booklet.

When I opened the booklet  I thought to myself: this is so freaking smart. Now the idea is nothing new — after all, Kraft and General Mills and the like have been offering recipes for years as a means of stimulating demand while increasing customer satisfaction. But Sugru has gone the extra mile with its content execution. Here’s what I admire about the booklet:

  • The medium is the message — the friendly, frolicky graphic design mirrors the promise of the product: using Sugru is easy and fun.

Design message: using Sugru is fun.

  • The booklet is brief, yet loaded with simple, practical tips that make success (and therefore satisfaction) more likely.
  • The booklet’s 7th and final tip encourages deeper engagement — users are invited to enter pictures of their projects into a monthly contest with neat prizes.

Get deeper into the Sugru.

Good stuff, right? If you’re delivering products to consumers, perhaps you should be packing it with some content, too.

Make better content for your customers through content writing training.

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10. Expect change

I started out writing consumer catalog copy, then moved into healthcare communications and B2B direct marketing. Today, most of my work is Web-content related. Things changed and my business has changed with the times. Ten years from now, who knows what I’ll be doing? How about you? You can’t predict the future, but you can prepare for it by rejecting overly-narrow specializations and embracing flexibility.

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7. Direct marketing methods remain relevant

Direct isn’t dead, but dominant. You know when the Web turned from a faddish plaything (late 90’s) to a real, commercial power (early 00’s)? When Google allowed us to apply tried and true direct marketing principles to the Internet: testing, metrics, offers and a relentless focus on specific audiences. If you think social media is any different, think again. The people who are successful aren’t merely “sharing the love” – they’re creating platforms for targeted offers with carefully crafted response devices. Watch and learn.

Example: How to write better response devices.

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6. Simple, cheap, effective: pick two

The fuel for every fad engine is the promise that this thing (whatever it is) will be the magic marketing bullet that every marketer craves – one that is simple, cheap and effective. But think about it: even if such a thing were possible, it couldn’t possibly last because everyone would do it and the competitive advantage would be lost. Truth is, you can only have two of the three virtues at a time: it can be effective and cheap (like blogging), but it won’t be simple; it can be effective and simple (like good PPC), but it won’t be cheap; and there are tons of simple and cheap things that aren’t worthwhile whatsoever. Abandon the fantasy. If you’re going to succeed, you’re going to pony up cash or sweat or both.

Another alternative: education. Learn how to be more effective through in-house marketing and content writing training.

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5. Fads come and go

Speaking of perfection, remember “excellence”? That was the big thing businesses were supposed to achieve back in the 90’s. After all, the pursuit of excellence made Japan the rising sun in the global economy. Then Japan’s economy sank and that sun, set – and the “excellence” fad went with it. Today, there are gurus who’ll tell you that blogging, Twitter, Facebook, mobile, video or the social media app du jour is the must-have thing for any with-it marketer. Now, I’m not saying any of these things are bad, just watch the bullshit. In business, the real question isn’t whether a given thing is worth doing, but toward what ends and at what cost? If you’re not weighing costs against benefits, you’re just following a fad, not leading a business.

In this podcast interview, I talk about the dangers of chasing airplane shadows, among other things.

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Creeeek…thump, thump. It’s alive!
Tomb of the Neglected Blog

Tomb of the Neglected Blog

Yeah, I know. I’ve neglected my blog. Bad Jonathan. I’ve been working on a major project I’m not going to talk about until it’s done. In the meantime, the weeds overrun my website. Weasels rip my flesh.

However, in a sign of life, MarketingProfs has published an article of mine: Five Things to Think about Before You Launch Your Next Website. Enjoy.

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The third in a series of five content marketing questions any communications strategist should answer:

3. Is your content distributed effectively?

Too often, great content is buried where prospects won’t ever find it. Please, don’t create a “resource center” on your website and expect visitors to dig through it to find relevant material — they won’t do your marketing work for you. On your site, distribute content links on pages with related subject matter. Better yet, reach beyond your site. Do the associations you belong to have sites and/or newsletters that could use your content? Have you formed friendships with bloggers who could post and/or talk about your material? What about, gasp, traditional media — are there journals or magazines that will run your stuff? Leverage the full value of your materials by being aggressive with distribution.

Next post: Time ROI.

 

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Metaphors are tricky things — push ’em too hard and your premise crumbles. But I think the ebook, 7 Infectious Diseases of B2B Marketing, manages its analogies in ways that are both clever and apt. Kathryn Roy, the ebook’s author and principal of Precision Thinking, tells us more about her book and why she wrote it:

I was spurred to write the 7 Infectious Diseases of B2B Marketing because I was working with so many companies that were confident they were doing the right things, the right way — but weren’t. It goes back to that Mark Twain quote: “It ain’t what we don’t know that will hurt us. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Take a look at what is happening with home pages. I have a big issue with what I call, “Sleep Apendea,” in which passionate marketing people try to convey all the messages they think might resonate with their visitors. For example, I see many more B2B websites use Flash video or slide shows to convey complex positioning messages to their visitors. But this assumes visitors will stay engaged as the screen changes. Eye-tracking studies show what really happens: people glance at something on a web page when they detect motion, stay there for 3 – 5 seconds to see if it’s what they’re looking for, and then scan elsewhere on the page. If visitors see too much irrelevant material, they stop reading altogether.

I’m working with clients to streamline what they say to prospects. Here’s one example of a before and after value proposition for a web site:

Roy Chart

In this example, XYZ company wants to claim leadership. But if you check Google Analytics, you’ll find that there aren’t a lot of searches for “3D direct modeling” not related to this company. So XYZ is emphasizing a category that’s based on terms searchers aren’t using. Your home page is just not the place to start educating prospects on what you call the category.

I think that many marketing people, like XYZ, give up before they have found a more powerful and succinct means of communicating their value proposition in terms that prospects understand. I hope that by posting more examples of how we can strengthen our messages, we can get more people to see what is possible and reconsider their own home pages and marketing materials.

Curing Sleep Apendea is no easy task — we’re dealing with addiction. I’m working on a new ebook to share more specific examples.

For more information on marketing cures, you can visit Kathryn at her website, http://www.precisionthinking.com

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