Archive for the ‘Copywriting’ Category

I’m reviewing an internal policy document for a major organisation. Sure, I could simply change the language and spice it up a bit* but I’d like to use it as a marketing opportunity.

The policy is the usual legalese with lots of acronyms and passive language. Here’s a taste:

“It is the policy of XYZ organisation that all XYZAUs should ensure that laptops, computers, networks…”

and my eyes glazed over.

That wouldn’t be such a problem if the intention were that no one reads it.

However, the reality is quite different.

This policy is important, both for the organisation and the employees. It sets out employee obligations and rights (or lack thereof) so it’s critical for both parties that this policy is easily understandable. Employees need to understand what they need to do to comply with the policy and to avoid disciplinary action. The organisation needs to know that its employees have read and understood the policy to avoid security breaches and further repercussions.

I’ve reviewed the document and written a snappy summary, using active language and examples of what happens when you do this or that. My aim is to draw readers into the rest of the document.

Now, that’s pretty much my goal when I’m writing any marketing material. We need our casual readers to delve deeper because they’re interested.

My thoughts right now are that I should treat the readers (employees) as potential clients and put a call to action on every page. We can enhance the brand message and get engagement at the same time.

For this particular (ICT security policy) document, I’m thinking of something similar to:

“We rely on you and all users of the [organisation] network and devices to help maintain security, protect information and to use our systems and devices honestly and fairly

Find out more about how you can help.<Link to examples of best practice, and behaviour that gums up the works>

I’d love to be able to incorporate a little multiple-choice quiz (and award redeemable points) but that’s probably taking things a bit too far. Still, if I can walk my readers through the policy feeling that they’ve contributed and not wasted their time, then I’ll be delighted.

What are your thoughts?

Do you believe that all policy documents could be treated as marketing opportunities?

Have you managed to engage employees long enough to wade through compulsory policy reading? Let me know.

* I can do it. I know I can.


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What really happens when women make up more than 50% of the workforce?

Women in workforce

Cover of The Economist 2010

Have you noticed that the position of women in the workforce is actually declining, despite all the upbeat news to the contrary?

A major Australian corporation has a reputation of being ‘a bit of a boys’ club’ but, until recently, they’d been able to refute that perception.

No more.

Over the latter part of 2012, just about all the senior women were ‘encouraged’ out of the organisation, or effectively demoted.

Women still get paid less

In the news recently in Australia: women graduates’ starting salary is, on average, $5,000 less than that of male graduates.

You may accept that most of this disparity is due to industry choice. However, this recent post from the Harvard Business Review blog, Six Paradoxes Women Leaders Face in 2013, refutes this old chestnut.

Over the last six months, anecdotal evidence from overseas certainly suggests that women are being targeted unfairly and losing their jobs. Women are describing what’s happening to them as ‘a modern-day witch hunt’.

What have you noticed in your industry? Do you feel that women are being singled out?

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I’m sitting at my laptop on Saturday morning wondering whether or not I should refuse a potential client.

‘Why?’ I hear you ask. Well, it’s like this.

Understand your business
A few days ago, this potential client contacted me for help with her new business. When I asked for further information (such as ‘What do you need me to write for you? An A4 2-page flyer? Presentation?’), she was unable to specify exactly what she wanted.

A couple of phone calls later, I got worried. This potential client appears to have little or no knowledge of her market, no real business plan and, even after a 20-minute discussion, was unable to specify what she wants me to do. We’ve gone through the creative brief, and I’ve explained the information I need to estimate the job, but still I’m none the wiser.

‘I can get it cheaper’
Then it came to rates. I quoted my rate – very reasonable considering my experience and knowledge – and a rough estimate of the cost (around $250, based on a guess as to the actual job and how long it’s going to take me) and heard:

‘I didn’t expect it to be so much. I can get it cheaper from overseas.’

The conversation continued something like this:

Me: ‘Yes, you could. If you’re not really sure what you want, then it’s probably a better idea for you to get your work done through one of the freelance sites.’

Client: ‘Yes, but I want my job done professionally. I’m not going to get that from someone in India who charges $1 an hour.’

Me: ‘Yes, but even if you don’t get what you expected, you haven’t committed to too much money.’

Freelance writers
A colleague recommended me to this client so I don’t want to lose her. At the end of the call, I went online to check out the work of some freelance copywriters on Elance and guru. It was a gratifying exercise for me: so many typos, grammatical errors and just plain bad layouts.

One of the Australian contingent advertises himself thus: ‘I’m wondering if your able to imagine the difference this will make…’

Another: Let me right your copy. And yet another: Quality Copywriting Services Gauranteed

Hmmm…maybe not.

Use a professional Australian copywriter
A professional copywriter:

  • Is on the other end of the phone (or Skype) and easily contactable by email.
  • Will have a detailed discussion with you to tease out elements of your business that perhaps you hadn’t considered.
  • Has usually worked on your kind of product or service before.
  • Can help you with marketing tips, advice on markets to target and SEO.
  • Has knowledge of relevant Australian laws; for example: Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth), Therapeutic Goods Act. (This knowledge could save you thousands in legal fees and fines. I update my knowledge of both Privacy and CCA acts with formal training every two years so I’m aware of current legislation and amendments.)
  • Understands the local market and conditions.

Where to from here?
If you want a stay-at-home mum or semi-literate neuro-linguistic-programming ‘expert’ to handle your business, then head for the freelance sites. If you’d prefer that your copy is targeted, is appropriate for the local market, won’t cost you a bomb in legal fees, and uses the tone of voice that you feel suits your business personality, then give me (or another professional copywriter) a call.

Have you used a freelance writer from one of the freelance sites? What was your experience?

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Some weeks go by and my clients all disappoint me by being so clever; I don’t feel needed.

This week was better than usual and I was able to prove my worth. See my top 10 proofreading catches below.

  1. ‘Pubic’ instead of ‘public’. (Seriously, I suspected that this was one of those gaffes that rarely occur in real life…and then I found an example twice in a week. One of the documents was going directly to a senior government minister, and the error was in the opening paragraph. Lucky.)
  2. ‘Peak’ instead of ‘pique’. From someone who’s more aurally inclined.
  3. ‘Optimises’ when we needed ‘epitomises’. Not common but this isn’t the first time I’ve picked up this one this month.
  4. ‘Predominately’ rather than ‘predominantly’. This one is so common, I do a search for it before I start reading through the entire copy deck.
  5. ‘Per say’ instead of ‘per se’. Not used that often so it’s understandable that someone who’s only ever heard the phrase wouldn’t know how to spell it. I have the benefit of four years of Latin so I shouldn’t be too smug.
  6. ‘Brought’ instead of ‘bought’.
  7. ‘Conjour’ instead of ‘conjure’. No idea…really. Maybe they’re writing with a French accent.
  8. ‘Tenants’ instead of ‘tenets’. This may have been a spell-checking error so that client gets the benefit of the doubt.
  9. ‘Compliment’ rather than ‘complement’. This is one of those words that pays my mortgage. Very few writers, even when they know the difference, get this one right. I love finding this error…it’s like an old friend.
  10. ‘Premise’ instead of ‘premises’ “…because it’s only one business”. That client received a photocopy of the dictionary definition (and she still insisted on keeping ‘premise’). It’s sad because I can’t put that piece of writing and proofreading in my portfolio.

Well, that’s all for this week. Do you have any words that you trip over regularly?

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If you work from home (as I do as a copywriter, editor and proofreader in Sydney), it’s hard sometimes to connect with the outside world. Isolation can lead to a fit of the blues. You feel your life is so small and you’re an insignificant player. However, I’ve discovered that if I follow my ‘rules’, I’m much happier and more optimistic.

  1. Do a good deed every day.
    This doesn’t have to be a big thing. It’s about looking for the difference you can make in someone’s life that day – something that only you could have done. It’s about being aware of the opportunity to help – so you need to look out, not in. When you notice that opportunity, don’t miss it; it may be the only chance you have all day.
  1. Love everyone.
    You don’t have to like everyone all the time but love them for who they are, even if they annoy you. Never wish anyone ill.
  1. Be creative.
    Arrange flowers, paint, build the best swimming pool in your neighbourhood, help your child with a project, take up pottery or knitting or sewing or singing.
  1. Look for one ‘magic moment’ every day.
    Notice the sunrise or the sunset, notice the clouds, notice the musician busking at the station. See how beautiful the world is and appreciate that you’re in it.
  1. Have a goal.
    We all need something to aim for – a degree, a home, to complete an artwork, to improve our relationships. Work towards something, then you always know where you’re headed and feel a sense of purpose.
  1. Love your job.
    Someone wiser than I said: “If you do something you love doing, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Do your work with joy.

Try them out and let me know how you go!

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Thanks to Belinda Weaver of Copywrite Matters, I’ve been able to work on some great jobs with lovely clients. The Classic Blinds and Shutters website was a joy to do, with both Belinda and the marketing company, Green Chilli Marketing, being so receptive to my ideas. So, too, for the Overflow Café in Mt Waverton; lovely job. Both sets of clients knew exactly what they wanted so I could deliver the goods without any hassles.

However, not all clients are able to tell you want they really want. Not all clients understand the copywriting process (or the SEO consequences of plagiarism). If a client offers examples of websites that he or she likes, and asks you to emulate the tone, all well and good. Recently, however, we had a client who not only provided website examples, but also, wanted almost exact replicas. He wasn’t familiar with the usual protocols of using a copywriter and, as a result, thought he could ask for a major change on the third round of edits.

If you’re thinking of using a copywriter for your marketing or advertising copy, ensure that you’re given the chance to fill out a comprehensive creative brief. If you have any ideas you want incorporated on your website or brochure copy, then the creative brief is your opportunity to let the copywriter know. We want our clients to be happy with what we deliver but we depend on our clients to tell us what they feel and need.

Do you have any suggestions regarding how to use a copywriter?

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