Tuesday, 12 June 2018

What could GDPR emails possibly teach you about persuasive writing?

Whether it’s the World Cup, final of Wimbledon, or the humble sales email, competition brings out the best in people (unless you play football for England).

Changes to EU data protection law, better known as GDPR, prompted a deluge of emails. Inboxes were awash with rather desperate requests for your consent, gentle reminders to opt-in, and needy pleas to ‘stay in touch’.

But not every brand did the obvious. In this post, we take a look at the some of the ones that stood out.

The Economist does not beg

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Copy that guarantees great meetings

Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, insists on unconventional six-page memos for all meetings. In this blog post, we provide you with essential tips for summarising the key issues in a way that is considered, stimulating and easy to read

Amazon’s owner and founder has many idiosyncratic business practices. Be it his ‘two-pizza rule’ for meeting sizes (never have a meeting where two pizzas couldn't feed the entire group), or his refusal to use an alarm clock. He recently hit the headlines for his insights into Amazon’s philosophy on memos.

Bezos revealed meetings begin with 30-minutes of silence where attendees read through a ‘narratively structured’ memo which he believes should take ‘a week or more’ to prepare. Bezos, however, struggled to articulate what exactly a ‘great’ memo is: ‘It would be extremely hard to write down the detailed requirements that make up a great memo’.

Sounds like a copywriting challenge. So here goes...

He didn't say what size pizza...

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Spring clean your copy

The sun’s shining, flowers are blooming, leaves are appearing.... it’s time to spring clean your copywriting – out with the old and in with the new!

1.   Cliché

Martin Amis published a collection of essays under the title, 'The War Against Cliché'. Author and language-grump George Orwell called cliché a ‘dying metaphor’, only used ‘because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves’. Cliché reveals a lack of original thought and makes any communication sound tired, derivative and slap-dash. It’s an insidious force in all marketing, branding and copywriting.

In travel copy, the cobbled lanes of the old town are seldom anything but ‘charming’. In recruitment copy, how many job ads promise a ‘dynamic, fast-paced environment’?

If it comes to mind straight away, it’s probably a cliché. Strip hackneyed phrases from your writing, dive a little deeper and your writing will improve instantly.

2. Placing the rational over the emotional 

If you’re trying to sell something – and most copywriting is, to a greater or lesser extent – one of the biggest mistakes you can make is just appealing to reason. People make decisions based on hot emotion, not cold facts.

Petrol-heads don’t buy a 277 mph top-speed, they buy the feeling of exhilaration. Those looking to fight wrinkles don’t buy the latest advance in dermatological science, they buy the promise of youth. By all means bring out the facts to back up the claim, but whatever you do, start with emotion.

It ought to make you feel good. It costs $2,100,000.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

2017 marketing trends and what's in store for 2018

2017 was a bewildering, rollercoaster year. But putting aside scandal, cryptocurrency, political chaos and a certain royal engagement, what did last year mean for marketers, brand agencies, copywriters and creatives? 

Here's a run-down of the most important trends we spotted this year - and why we think they'll continue shaping the industry in 2018.

1. The social media honeymoon is over

We all knew social media was awful for our attention spans and the plague of productivity, but 2017 saw storms gather as our understanding of the pitfalls of social media matured further.

Two Apple shareholders (holding about $2 billion in stock between them) called on the tech giant’s board of directors to investigate iPhone addiction amongst children and make it easier for parents to control screen time. Less screen time means fewer opportunities for brands, advertisers and marketers to reach their audiences.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Five brands getting social media right - and why

Communicating on social media is about relaxing the brand’s tone for the informal mood of the medium. Marketing on social media is about creating ideas that are simply irresistible to the audience. Here are five that work a treat.

1. Twitter: BTCare
Twitter and customer service are a match made in heaven and BT are getting both right. Not only does Twitter allow brands to handle customer problems much more quickly than over the phone, it gives big brands the chance to show a bit of personality.

Even God can come across as human on Twitter

Take these two tweets. In the first, BT maintains a friendly tone of voice without being too cutesy, letting the satisfied customer know they are there should any more problems arise. That conversational tone can really help diffuse customer anger and humanise a brand.
In this next tweet, BT really goes the extra mile, checking back in - unprompted - with a customer who was having difficulties the previous day. Here they maintain a personable, yet professional tone. After all, the last thing you want when experiencing technical difficulties is twee optimism.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Political brand language

Winning the war of words is key to winning votes in British politics. But how do once-benign terms crystallize into divisive political vocabulary? We investigate contemporary political language games and show how they aren't all that different to company branding.

What does the word ‘progressive’ mean? Chances are, your mind has gone straight to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. They’re always claiming their policies are ‘progressive’. In branding terms, they ‘own’ the word. And what a word to own! No one is against progress.

The term originally referred to taxation that progresses – i.e. the percentage of the tax you pay increases the more you earn. It could have easily been called something unpleasant like ‘loaded taxation’ or ‘ratcheting taxation’ but George Bernard Shaw was advocating the approach in a booklet published in 1889. So he chose an appealing word.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Coach, don't commission

You’ve got communications that need writing. Do you have a go in house or pay a copywriter to write it for you? Sometimes the best solution lies in a bit of both: hiring a writer to coach your staff.

Remember the Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”?

Pretty good advice if you want to stop people pestering you for fish, but what’s that got to do with copywriting?

No train, no gain
Well, we recently worked with a large recruiter who wanted to craft the perfect 'first approach' email. That's the one they send out cold to people who don't know them. They were getting a 25% response rate. They wanted to do better.

Hiring a copywriter to write these wasn't really practical. The six consultants in the team were sending ten or so a day each: there were simply too many. So we taught them to fish.

Not every pupil gets it...

We ran a day's training in the dark art of this sort of email writing (there's more to it than meets the eye).  A mix of theory and practice ensured the techniques were understood and assimilated. Everyone took away some writing tasks for the next couple of weeks to encourage practice and the formation of new habits.

The team's response rates doubled - up to 50%.

That was specific training, for a team, on site. But often coaching can be more general. And it can be one to one and conducted by email and phone. This is ideal when you have an individual struggling with a writing project. Especially if they'll need to do more of that type of writing in the future. We've helped individuals write sales brochures and email campaigns this way.

Each medium requires particular writing techniques. Emails are different to web pages; a product brochure is different to a flyer. And then there's the communications objective and sector. Each one tends to require a distinctive approach.

So, we can design a bespoke training module that takes into account the needs of the individual, the medium and the company.

So much writing to do; so little time
Today's businesses need a lot of copy written. Some of it will be genuinely mission critical, where improvement can dramatically improve profitability.

If you're in sales, you have to produce bid documents that differentiate your company and communicate how your proposals will be effective. Retailers need product descriptions that entice customers. Agency staff need to bring concepts alive or excite colleagues with compelling briefs. Almost everyone needs a blog or a newsletter. With good training, most people's writing can be made effective.

If you need to improve the writing of a team or individual, drop us a line. Just don't ask us how to fish.