Don’t Let Creativity Mute Your Message

For the last five years, I’ve written a blog from the point of view of my dog, Mayzie. When we first adopted her, she was fearful and I began writing the blog to keep track of her progress.

At the time, I thought I was probably one of only a handful of pet bloggers. Boy, was I wrong! Turns out, the pet blogging community is huge, filled with people as crazy about their pets as I am.

Since then, I’ve read hundreds of posts by dozens of bloggers. Whether they blog as themselves or their pets, the voice of each is as distinct as the person at the keyboard.

There were certain blogs, though, that I eventually stopped reading altogether: the ones that took the “I Can Has Cheezburger” talk a little too far.

The deliberate misspellings and awkward sentence structures employed by these sites meant I spent too much time trying to translate their message, and not enough time enjoying it.

They may have been creative but they were just too much work to read.

Interestingly, it doesn’t just happen in the blogging community. I’ve seen the same type of device used on some corporate blogs and websites.

It’s not surprising, really. Because of the industry we’re in, it can be super easy to fall into the trap of cutesy language or wordplay. And there’s certainly a time and place for that, depending on your audience and your brand.

However, when it comes to writing marketing copy – the kind that either builds your brand or sells your product or service – clarity trumps creativity every time.

"When writing copy, avoid sacrificing clarity for creativity." ~Amber Carlton, CommaHound.com

Remember, good copywriting:

  • Is easily understood
  • Is concise
  • Avoids jargon and hyperbole
  • Communicates benefits
  • Builds trust
  • Encourages a response or action
  • Never makes the reader feel dumb
  • Never makes the reader work too hard

Does this mean you can’t have fun with your copy? Of course not! People love to do business with companies that have a personality. But let that come through in your tone, voice and visual branding instead of trying too hard to channel Grumpy Cat.

Your turn: Are there any “cutesy” words in our industry that you think are overused? Tell me what they are in the comments.

And if you found this post helpful, I’d LOVE it if you’d share it via the little buttons below. No obligation, of course!

25 Easy Headline Hacks That Get You More Clicks

25 Easy Headline Hacks to Get You More Clicks, commahound.comLet’s say you’ve spent hours – days, possibly – laboring over your copy. Maybe it’s the landing page for your new course. Or the blog post that you’re sure is going to go viral. Whatever it is, you’ve put your heart and soul into it.

Finally, the big day arrives, you hit “publish” and…nothing happens. Silence. Not even crickets are chirping.

You don’t understand it. Your copy’s amazing. What went wrong?

Before you start all over, take a good, hard look at your headline.

The headline is the first thing people read. It’s what gets their attention. It determines whether someone reads your copy and then whether they decide to share what you’ve written.

David Ogilvy, who many consider the father of modern advertising, said:

On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents of your (advertising) dollar.

Yes, headlines are THAT important. And yet, many people overlook them because they’re kind of a pain in the tuckus to write well.

Luckily, there are some simple hacks you can use to create a compelling headline. Yes, they’re formulaic but they’ve been proven to work time and again. Why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to?

SECRETS OF…
Why it works: We all love to be in on someone else’s secrets!

1. The secrets of ______________ that ______________ doesn’t want you to know.

2. The top secrets of the best _________________.

3. Secret ways to _________________.

4. The secret that your _________________ isn’t telling you.

5. The secret _________________ that only the pros know.

MISTAKES
Why it works: Most of us hate making mistakes and want to avoid them.

6. Are you making these _________________mistakes?

7. The biggest mistakes you’re making with _________________.

8. Avoid these common mistakes when you _________________.

9. Don’t make this mistake when you _________________.

10. You’re probably making this _________________ mistake and don’t even know it.

PAIN POINTS
Why it works: It’s human nature to want to avoid pain or discomfort.

11. Warning signs that you may be _________________.

12. What you must know to avoid _________________.

13. What you don’t know about _________________ can hurt you.

14. Finding a good _________________ isn’t as easy as you think.

15. If you’re going to _________________, read this first!

NUMBERED LIST
Why it works: Promises value in an easy-to-consume format.

16. 20 ways to _________________.

17. The top 10 best _________________.

18. 3 easy steps to _________________.

19. 100 reasons to _________________ today!

20. The 27 things you need to know about  _________________.

HOW TO…
Why it works: The enticement to learn something new is almost irresistible!

21. How to _________________ in 10 minutes a day.

22. A step-by-step guide to _________________.

23. How to be _________________ without even trying.

24. How to use _________________ to _________________.

25. Learn to _________________ so that you _________________.

BONUS HACK

After you’ve created your headline, run it through CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to test how strong it is and then tweak as necessary. Want to take it a step further? If possible, do an A/B split with your audience to see what resonates most strongly with them.

Your turn: Do you have a favorite headline hack? Tell me about it in the comments!

As always, if you found this article helpful, I’d appreciate it if you’d share the love via the buttons below. No obligation, of course!

5 Super Easy Ways to Make Sure Your Copy Gets Read

5 Super Easy Ways to Get Your Copy Read from commahound.com

Psst! I have a secret to share but I’m going to need you to lean in. Closer. Clooooser.

Okay, here it is…

Shocking, right?

Don’t get me wrong. The words are important. They get attention. They paint a picture. They create desire.

But just as important is how the words look when they’re laid out.

Good copywriters understand this and they use tricks to keep the eye moving down the page.

Here are 5 super easy ways to make sure your copy gets read:

1. Bulleted or Numbered Lists
This is a great way to break up long copy into something that’s more easily consumed by your reader. It draws the eye by promising they’ll receive information that can be quickly scanned and absorbed.

2. White space
Repeat after me: “White space is my friend.” It is the literary equivalent of breathing room. Whenever possible, make sure you leave plenty of room both in the margins and in the body copy.

3. Short sentences and paragraphs
We’ve all been there. You land on a website that’s wall-to-wall words with long sentences and paragraphs that never seem to end. The thought of having to slog through all those words exhausts you before you’ve even started to read. Breaking up long passages makes it easier on your reader and helps keep them engaged.

4. Subheadings
If you have a lot of information to convey, break it into sections and add subheadings. This lets the reader scan through the copy to find what she needs to know to make a decision.

5. Italicized, underlined or bolded words
These devices let the reader recognize, simply by scanning, the most important info on the page. After you write your copy, be sure to test it by only reading the emphasized words. Then ask yourself if the words make sense and convey the right tone or message.

Your turn: Which of these is your favorite when reading or writing? Are there any I left out? Tell me in the comments.

As always, if you felt this post was helpful, please share the love via the little buttons below. No obligation, of course!

Want free publicity? 3 tips for a better press release

Something you may not know about me: I write a just-for-fun blog from the viewpoint of my pets. (What? That’s not crazy, right?)

In the last five years of writing the blog, I have somehow (through no real intention of my own) become part of the pet blogger “influencer” sphere. Because of this, I get more press releases than I care to count from companies wanting me to help promote them.

And you know what happens to most of them? They go straight to the trash.

Why? Because there’s nothing in it for my readers or me. 

Generally, these press releases are long advertisements, announcing the newest product, the newest hire, the newest…whatever. And they’re boring. So, so, SO boring.

If I…one itty bitty blogger…don’t find these press releases worthy of publishing, why would an actual media outlet?

Press releases can be a powerful tool in promoting your business. They lend legitimacy to your product or service and can get you free advertising (yes, please!) That’s why it’s so important to do them correctly.

So what’s the secret to a good press release? Make it newsworthy.

In my past position as a corporate copywriter, I put together many, many press releases. Most were targeted to our local news outlets and most were almost always picked up by at least one, usually more. Here’s what worked for me:

3 Tips for Writing Better Press Releases from commahound.com

 

1. Don’t announce your announcement

If I had a nickel for every press release I received that began, “XYZ Company Announces Its Brand New Dog Food,” I’d be rich. Most outlets view these types of press releases (and rightly so) as thinly disguised advertisements. Unless you’re Apple Computers, they’ll probably pass them by.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t make an announcement. Just do it in a more interesting, creative way.Think about what you enjoy reading about in the paper or online. Most people gravitate toward hard-hitting news, editorials or human interest stories. When crafting your press release, look for an interesting hook. Do you give back to animal rescue? Did your company help with disaster relief? Has your product been shown to increase pets’ longevity or reduce separation anxiety? Those are the types of stories that outlets will consider newsworthy and be more likely to pick up.

2. Write like a journalist

Media outlets always need stories to fill airtime or column inches. And the less work they have to do, the better. If they can pick up your story verbatim, they’re only too happy to do it.

Make it easy for them by writing it in good old-fashioned journalism style. Stick with the “five Ws and an H”: who, what, when, where, why and how.Quotes from executives, customers or others involved in the story tend to make a press release both more newsworthy and interesting. But don’t insert a quote just to have a quote. Make sure it adds to the story.

3. Keep it short

When you’re really excited about something, it can be hard to pare it down to just the essentials. But you’ll increase your chances of your press release being picked up if you keep it to one or two pages at most (around 300-800 words).

Sometimes media outlets have a very small space to fill, so they may only pick up a paragraph or two. Therefore, make sure the essential information is towards the beginning of the release. A good rule of thumb is to read the first paragraph only. Does it stand alone? If so, you’re in great shape!

Your turn: Have you ever used press releases in your business? How did they work for you? Any tips or tricks you’d like to share? Tell me in the comments below.

Also, if you found this post helpful, feel free to share it via the links below. No obligation, of course!

What You Need to Know about Breaking the Rules of Grammar

grammar-hammer-rules

Last month, I covered 10 grammar mistakes to avoid so that you make a good first impression on prospects and customers.

I also shared the post on LinkedIn and was surprised how many read it and gave positive feedback. Apparently, this is something people worry about and want to improve upon. And that’s GREAT. I’m thrilled that so many found it helpful.

At the same time, it made me uncomfortable.

Because here’s the thing: Rules — yes, even grammatical ones — are meant to be broken.

In The Elements of Style, the quintessential guide book to all things writing, the authors advise writers to “write in a way that comes naturally to you, using words and phrases that come readily to hand.”

In other words, if you don’t talk like Shakespeare, you don’t have to write like Shakespeare.

Actually, Shakespeare is a terrible example. He made up his own grammatical rules, along with entirely new words, all the time.

So on second thought, maybe you should write a little more like Shakespeare.

But before you grab your grammar hammer and start smashing rules willy nilly, you must have a firm grasp of what the rules are to begin with. Then, you should have a rock solid reason for breaking them.

For example, most of us, when speaking, end sentences with prepositions. So when you’re writing, it’s totally okay to end your sentence in a preposition if it makes the sentence easier to understand.

Being easy to understand is critical. If prospects can’t quickly grasp what you’re selling or why they need it, they won’t buy. Period.

So be clear. Be concise. And if that means breaking the rules sometimes, get out the grammar hammer and start smashing.

Your turn: What’s one grammar rule you frequently break and why do you do it? Tell me in the comments.

And as always, if you found this helpful, please share this post via the little buttons below. No obligation, of course!