Best Words http://www.bestwords.co.uk PR & Marketing Communications Sun, 15 Nov 2015 13:01:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.6 Technical language? You’ve got to be jargon! http://www.bestwords.co.uk/copywriting/technical-language-youve-got-to-be-jargon http://www.bestwords.co.uk/copywriting/technical-language-youve-got-to-be-jargon#respond Fri, 16 Oct 2015 19:04:12 +0000 http://www.bestwords.co.uk/?p=351 It’s human nature to want to control the world by putting things in boxes. This is also true for our understanding of language, but things are rarely as simple and clearly defined as we’d like them to be. You only have to look at dialects – which are really languages within  languages – to see how the complexity... [ More ]

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It’s human nature to want to control the world by putting things in boxes. This is also true for our understanding of language, but things are rarely as simple and clearly defined as we’d like them to be. You only have to look at dialects – which are really languages within  languages – to see how the complexity of language defies our attempts to put it in a box.

When we ask profound questions like ‘when does a dialect stop being a language-within-a-language and start becoming a language of its own?’ we really start to explore the close  relationship between language and culture.

Whenever groups or societies start to develop and share particular attitudes and customs, it’s just about inevitable that they will develop a language of their own as well. Trades, professions and interest groups have words and phrases which don’t make a great deal of sense out of their context. In fact, when they are used out of context, problems can arise, with potentially humorous results, as with this example:

Jargon-clash resulting in zero communication

A: Hello, and welcome home oh wife of mine. How was your day?”

B: “Ah, don’t get me started. The overflow response sprockets wouldn’t uptake to full capacity at the first drainoff differentiation fillback marker. So then we had to -“

A: “How dispiriting. Allow me to produce for you a cup of high-temperature Oolong Sapshong herbally infused leaf beverage-“

B:- completely rewallock every third sheet separation fibulator until near maximum bleedback ratio-

A:- upon ingestion of which, any deleterious constitutional symptoms should cease to present. 

And so on.

Most of us move in and out of ‘jargonised’ circles at different points in our lives, learning and using the words and phrases as necessary, and then forgetting them when we move on. These words, phrases or idioms can be useful in all sorts of situations for all sorts of reasons.

But there is also the ‘universal jargon’ of business buzzwords and clichés and it is so easy to become trapped in these. When we do, we start to diminish our powers of expression and communication. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll know my views on words like ‘passion’ and ‘awesome’, which lift us only one level or so above the caveman grunt. Look at this conversation between a copywriter and a client:

When clichés take hold and won’t let go

Copywriter: “Kerry, can you tell me in a bit more detail what your company does?”

Client: “We tailor optimised solutions to meet our clients’ needs.”

Copywriter: “OK. Can we spend some time talking about the solutions. What are they?

Client: “Well…they’re optimised…and…they’re-“

Copywriter: “-tailored.

Client: “Yes, brilliant. You’ve got such a good understanding of our company. I feel you’re just the right agency to help with our marketing.”

Copywriter: “Great. Yes, I hope so too, but it would be good to know more about the solutions.”

And so on. I’m sure they got there in the end, but it’s all too easy to grab at words and phrases and then think you’re creating clear meaning when you’re not. Using ‘proper’ sounding words can seem like the right thing to do, otherwise you’ll sound too basic and lacking in knowledge and expertise. This is understandable, but we have to keep the primary purpose of copy in mind – to sell in the right way, to the right audience. This is a simple concept requiring a lot of hard work to implement.

But then of course, there are the people who use obscure language on purpose, to hide behind. They construct impregnable walls of verbosity to establish positions of superiority or protect positions of power. Here’s one I made up earlier:

I hope you don’t know what I mean

“Listen here, young whippersnapper, I’m going to explain this in simple language, so start taking notes. You see, a piece of stratified, igneous or metamorphosed mineral material, when propelled down an inclined path, fails to gather an accretion of tiny cryptogamous plants.”

“Oh. You mean ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss.”

“Errr, well, that’s a bit of an oversimplication, but, yeah – OK…”

So, those were a few thoughts about the use and misuse of words – something I do find fascinating. But now, it’s time to bid you farewell. I guess there’s no use me hanging around here preaching about how people sometimes construct walls of words to make the meaning obscure. After all, denizens of vitreous abodes constructed from the material formed by the fusion of silica should refrain from projecting missiles constructed from stratified, igneous or mineral materials.

Now figure that one out.

Doug

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The headline – it’s the most important bit http://www.bestwords.co.uk/copywriting/the-headline http://www.bestwords.co.uk/copywriting/the-headline#respond Mon, 15 Jun 2015 22:56:24 +0000 http://www.bestwords.co.uk/?p=357 It is quite common for business websites to greet visitors with the headline ‘welcome to our website’. While it’s normal to want to greet visitors and make them feel welcome to the site, it is also important to bear in mind that a headline is an opportunity to engage visitors and draw them into a business offering. In... [ More ]

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It is quite common for business websites to greet visitors with the headline ‘welcome to our website’. While it’s normal to want to greet visitors and make them feel welcome to the site, it is also important to bear in mind that a headline is an opportunity to engage visitors and draw them into a business offering. In this sense, the home page headline does the same  job as a newspaper headline. It grabs attention.

The headline also does most of the work in keeping visitors on the page and enticing them along a particular navigation path. When you write ‘welcome to our website’ you are actually making the body copy of the page do more work than it should, because the reader glosses over the headline and, hopefully still being interested, glances at what is below. A good headline does a lot more than just say ‘hello, thanks taking the time to stop by’. It cuts visitors into the ‘chase’ of the content with an interesting, relevant and intriguing message or idea. 

It is understandable to feel that a headline that appears too glib or over simple may be in danger of compromising the veracity of the message. This really doesn’t matter as long as the rest of the copy develops the business offering and paints more of a complete picture of the proposition.

The next challenge, of course is to write body copy that does this in a tight, punchy way, drawing the reader to an appropriate ‘call to action’.

This is not necessarily a ‘buy this now’ command. That’s your ultimate aim of course, but the call to action here is more likely to be about which bit of the site you want particular segments of your audience to head to next.

The other important thing to remember is that the headline may not appear in your head until you have finished drafting the page copy. This is how it often works for me. Either way,  take another look at your headline and evaluate it in the light of what’s been said here. Perhaps you have an effective one already. If you’d like a second opinion, let me know and I’ll be happy to take a look.

Doug

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Passionate http://www.bestwords.co.uk/company-news/passionate http://www.bestwords.co.uk/company-news/passionate#respond Mon, 15 Jun 2015 22:53:33 +0000 http://www.bestwords.co.uk/?p=343 No no, not the *p* word! Here’s a little script written a while ago, which illustrates all I believe is wrong with using the word ‘passionate’. This is a bit of a pet hate which has come about from being overexposed to this word, which is now tired and meaningless. Q: How do you feel about... [ More ]

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No no, not the *p* word!

Here’s a little script written a while ago, which illustrates all I believe is wrong with using the word ‘passionate’. This is a bit of a pet hate which has come about from being overexposed to this word, which is now tired and meaningless.

Q: How do you feel about your company and the work it does?

A: I’m passionate about it.

Q: Well that’s great. What else are you passionate about?

A: Err… my wife of course. And running. Oh, and of course the kids, not forgetting them, he he! Oh, and model railways. That’s such a passion in my life.

Q: OK great. Are you passionate about all of these things in the same way?

A: Yep. Passionate about them all. Umm… well except the wife of course, he he. And of course the kids. I’m definitely more passionate about them, as I’m sure you appreciate.

Q: Yes of course. Close family relationships are a totally different thing, aren’t they?

A: Of course.

Q: A different kind of passionate, I guess.

A: Yes, almost needs a new word. Or you could add a word to it. Very passionate.

Q: So what about the company and the model railways. Are you very passionate about them?

A: Yes. Very p-  …D’oh!

Q: How about a new word entirely? I think that might be the answer.

A: Yes. You’re right. I think ‘hugely’ is good.

Q: What? You’re hugely about your work and family?

A: No! I’m hugely passionate about them.

Q: And you’re just very passionate about your model railways?

A: Well, more like ‘very very’. Let’s check out what the dictionary says about ‘passionate’.

Q: Eureka.  

 

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Why PR doesn’t work http://www.bestwords.co.uk/marketing/why-pr-does-not-work http://www.bestwords.co.uk/marketing/why-pr-does-not-work#respond Mon, 15 Jun 2015 22:52:32 +0000 http://www.bestwords.co.uk/?p=368 Or does it? It’s not uncommon to hear business owners say that PR didn’t work for them. I’ve heard plenty say this about social media too. Social media is a waste of time, you get nothing from it, and similar kinds of statements. My first reaction, and yours I’m sure, would be to try and find out... [ More ]

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Or does it?

PRIt’s not uncommon to hear business owners say that PR didn’t work for them. I’ve heard plenty say this about social media too. Social media is a waste of time, you get nothing from it, and similar kinds of statements. My first reaction, and yours I’m sure, would be to try and find out the way they wanted these things to work for them in the first place.

Sometimes we can put metrics in place to measure the effectiveness of aspects of our marketing. There is much action research that can be done with email marketing to establish which headlines work best, which subject lines work best and which kinds of messages gain most traction. The Cision PR tools we have at our disposal (the most powerful software suite available to the PR industry) tell us straightaway how much coverage we have achieved for our clients. But sometimes this kind of quantifying is not possible, or even desirable.

It is perfectly possible to achieve a good level of free editorial PR, but it is important to remember that we must clearly identify our target outlets, and understand them thoroughly too. There needs to be genuine synergy between your PR objectives and the outlet’s editorial objectives. This is such an important point to bear in mind during list-building.

Biggest is usually not best, just as precise targeting is far more effective than pattern-bombing. Once you’ve identified good target outlets, do your best to get to know the editors who are going to help you. No matter how things change in editorial PR, there will always be one constant: PR agents and their clients must dance to the tune of editors and journalists.

What’s your story?

Sometimes businesses try for free PR and fail. They may then be tempted to write the process off as a waste of time, but they would be better advised to spend time evaluating their activities and asking some fundamental questions. The most obvious of these would be: did you identify a story which was likely to be of interest to the target publication. More specifically – did you actually take a close look at the publication and see if you could offer it something of value?

Then look again at story. Could there some kind of angle not previously thought about? Stories sometimes take a bit of digging. Once you’ve identified the story, look closely at your release. Was it well crafted?

The release itself

THE most important aspect of writing a press release is the old ‘upside down pyramid’ idea. You must lead with the main point of the story. This is the opposite of the ‘settle back and let the story unfold’ scenario. In the press release, you must make sure that the headline encapsulates the main point of the story in a pithy, newsy and intriguing way. As you go through the release, adding details and colour, you also add credibility by inserting quotes from the main people involved. Then provide contact details and points for editors to follow up.

In the vast majority of cases, it is important to send a picture with your release. The words are half the job, pictures are the other half. If you have a relevant, hi-res shot to go with the story, you will really boost your chances of achieving coverage. If it’s for print, decent resolution is vital.

What’s in it for me?

OK yes, you’re only sending this release because you want publicity for your company or client. But this bit must go last, and be on the ‘back-end’ of the main story. Otherwise your release gets chucked in the bin because it’s seen as overtly promotional. But never mind, you can still get a solid plug, with details of the company and a bit of background too. If you get the name of the company in front of its relevant audience, you’ve succeeded.

So, a few thoughts about obtaining free press coverage, which I hope you found useful. This is the kind of work we do every day and we regularly achieve excellent coverage for our clients. Read this excellent piece by Guy Kawasaki, which develops some of these points in more detail.

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Why use white papers? http://www.bestwords.co.uk/company-news/why-use-white-papers http://www.bestwords.co.uk/company-news/why-use-white-papers#respond Mon, 15 Jun 2015 22:51:09 +0000 http://www.bestwords.co.uk/?p=370 Let the white paper speak More than ever, businesses are inundated with promotional material from would-be suppliers. The promotional nature of even the more targeted mailings means that they’re perceived as ‘junk’ and end up in the virtual or actual bin. It shouldn’t be a surprise, therefore, that people prefer to read items which are more unbiased and objective. And herein... [ More ]

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Let the white paper speak

More than ever, businesses are inundated with promotional material from would-be suppliers. The promotional nature of even the more targeted mailings means that they’re perceived as ‘junk’ and end up in the virtual or actual bin.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, therefore, that people prefer to read items which are more unbiased and objective. And herein lies the beauty of white papers. As reasoned, detailed treatments of products and their applications, white papers offer potential value to both writer and  reader.

Some ways that companies use white papers:           

1. To help launch new products. A detailed treatment of a symptom or problem is followed by a detailed explanation of a product or service designed to overcome that problem.  If something is truly groundbreaking, people need to know about it before they can be sold to.

2. To enable readers to see familiar products in new ways. If a product has been marketed in a traditionally promotional way, its features or benefits may have been overlooked by prospective buyers who try and ‘see through’ them.

3. To underscore a USPAs conventional marketing wisdom tells us time and time again, the key challenge is to stand out from our competitors. White papers can lend the USP a much more objective focus than may have been possible with more traditional marketing communications.

How to write a white paper

Like any kind of dissertation, your white paper must be the result of careful research and assimilation of ideas. So take time to spread the net wide. Gather all relevant source material and process it with care. Then structure it carefully. 

Unlike most dissertations, readers should not be expected to read white papers one way only. You must allow them to skim read certain sections and then pick up the more salient points. So break your paper up into section and make good use of bullet points, sub-headings, diagrams and charts.

Work on making the conclusion to the white paper particularly pithy and powerful. Although, as we’ve said, this is not going to be an overtly promotional piece, it is still a subtle sales piece, so the major major benefits should match the major problems.  

Outsourcing the writing 

As you can imagine, white paper writing is highly demanding, in both effort and time, which is why so many companies outsource the work to a copywriter. If you go down this path, should you choose a generalist copywriter, or one with particular specialism in your industry?

If you consider it more important to use a writer who can demonstrate broad, transferable skills rather than technical knowhow, it may make more sense to choose a generalist. Whichever path you take, it is vital that your writer is able to ‘get under the skin’ not just of the product or the service, but of your company too. 

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