Good Radio Is Good Writing

If you want a lesson in good writing, just listen to well-produced radio programs such as those on NPR. I listen to NPR as a news source but also for background music that doesn’t clash with my writing efforts as I work in my home office.

In thinking about what makes radio stories such a good illustration of solid writing that can apply to B2B copywriting, PR writing, or journalism, I came up with the following attributes.

Get to the point. Radio stories are usually short in duration—even on NPR—so they must immediately establish the story’s focus.

Clarity. I just read an email from a B2B marketer on the subject of clarity. Clarity reigns. It’s the basis of all successful communication. Good radio excels because it’s clear.

Simple words. This is especially true in radio. Listen closely and you’ll notice simple language. No fancy adjectives or crazy verbs. Radio words are easy to comprehend quickly.

Quotes. A well-selected and well-placed quote adds color to a radio story or other form of communication. Bland quotes, however, add no value and can actually detract from the core message.

Here’s a story NPR did last year on the Bank of Floyd, the hometown bank in my little town. It’s an interview format:

Amid Financial Turmoil, Small Banks Thrive


Magic Marketing Words

I’ve seen the word lists of copywriting legends and others. Now I’ve started my own word list below. My word list is not comprehensive, but is offered to help you think about words that have special marketing and selling power.

These words can be effective for B2B or B2C.


Continue reading “Magic Marketing Words”

The Power of First Person

If handled correctly, first person has an authenticity and power that’s often absent in today’s hyped-up communications.

Here’s the opening of a fundraising letter I wrote this week. The signer will be a grad school alum, and I strived to keep the message straightforward and dignified, which was how she struck me in the telephone interview:

This year marks my 50th anniversary as a graduate of the (prestigious university). The master’s degree I earned in 1958 launched my career as a junior high school counselor in the city schools, where I remained for 23 years until my retirement. My graduate degree had a lasting impact on me and those I counseled.

I have made a financial gift to the school each of the last 50 years. When asked why I am such a loyal supporter, I say I simply feel it is my place to give back …

And a paragraph later, the ask …

I ask that you please join me by making your next gift today.

I love first person. You transmit the thoughts and feelings of a real person as honestly as you can, with the right amount of persuasion thrown in.

Try it in B2B copywriting, blog posts, fundraising and other communications. It works.

5 Tips for Breezing Through a First Draft

“Writing is a hellish task, best snuck up on, whacked on the head, robbed and left for dead.”
–Ann-Marie MacDonald, author, The Way the Crow Flies

Can’t write? Intimidated? Scared out of your wits? Facing a first draft can produce a cold sweat.

Do as Ann-Marie MacDonald says: sneak up on the task. Here are five tips on what to do when the words won’t come.

1. Write “notes.”
This is a way to trick your brain into writing. You’re not writing the real stuff, just writing down a bunch of notes about your subject for the ad, Web page, or article. And with a little work those notes can be crafted into copy.

2. Create an outline.

Get organized: Make a list, bullet points, or an outline. This gets you into the writing process.

Continue reading “5 Tips for Breezing Through a First Draft”

A Sure-Fire Way to Attract Attention

Do you want to know a sure-fire way to grab the attention of a prospect or reader?

I just demonstrated it: ask a question.

Not just any question − a laser-sharp question that when posed to your audience arouses curiosity, promises a benefit, frames a problem, or taps into an emotion. This is a powerful device in B2B copywriting.

Where might you ask questions? Wherever it helps to keep your audience reading. Tip: Questions make excellent teasers and headlines.

A few examples:

Do you make these mistakes in English? (Classic ad headline by Max Sackheim)
Do you know where your kids are online? (Story headline at
How much money could you save on your next golf course project? (Web page headline by yours truly)

Write Like You Talk

In B2B copywriting, it’s smart to write like you talk. This will do amazing things for you.

One, it’s much easier and faster to write a draft. Just write what you would say. Then organize and polish the results.

Two, your copy will have a conversational tone that will make it more readable, enjoyable and persuasive.

Try it and see.

5 Deadly Sins of B2B Copywriting

No, these “sins” aren’t new. However, they’re very easy to commit when lost in the vast fog of media choices and marketing tactics. Be forewarned.

Deadly Sin #1: Not attracting attention.

If you don’t attract attention with a compelling headline or opening of some kind, it doesn’t matter what follows. As David Ogilvy famously said, “If you haven’t done some selling in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your client’s money.” Work diligently on headlines and don’t try too hard to be clever.

Deadly Sin #2: Not identifying an audience need, concern, or problem.
In journalism parlance, this is called the hook. This is what tells your audience you understand them and sets up how you can help them.

Continue reading “5 Deadly Sins of B2B Copywriting”