4 Telltale Signs of Boring B2B Copy

I saw this list at the B2B Marketing Blog. Do you agree that these are trademarks of flat, boring B2B copy? What else would you add?

1. Passive voice.
2. Industry jargon.
3. Vague.
4. Third person.

It’s pretty easy to get stuck in the boring copy rut. But you can do surgery on your copy before you submit it.

Get rid of the passive voice. Ditch that cold-blooded third person voice.  If at all possible, use “you” liberally  instead. And so on.

Pretend you’re writing to one person. In fact, don’t pretend—do it. (I often times put the name of a real person at the top of my copy.)

This will help you turn boring copy into engaging copy.


William Safire and the Art of Persuasion

New York Times columnist William Safire died on Sunday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. I knew of him but was not very well informed about his long career as a communications pro.

That might seem like an odd term for Safire, who is most recently remembered as a conservative columnist and defender of intelligent usage of the English language. But I learned a lot more about Safire in the few minutes it took to read one of the many articles published in recent days. He was, indeed, a pro who practiced the art of persuasion in a variety of settings throughout a long career, including journalism, advertising, public relations and politics.

Surprisingly, Safire was a college dropout (Syracuse University) who entered journalism and worked in all media, including TV in its early days. I didn’t realize Safire had a career in public relations, and was working in the field when Richard Nixon asked him to join Nixon’s 1960 campaign for president, which Nixon lost to John F. Kennedy.

Continue reading “William Safire and the Art of Persuasion”

Are Stylebooks Still in Style?

Although I sometimes write journalistic pieces, I’m not a journalist. Nonetheless, sometimes style questions arise for me.

The other day I wrote “David vs. Goliath” in a proposal. When I returned to that phrase during my final edit and proofread, I wondered if it was correct. More specifically, I wondered if “vs.” or “versus” was the correct usage.

I tried my luck with an online search, but since I don’t have an online subscription to the AP Stylebook (or any other stylebook) I wasn’t confident about finding a reliable answer to my query.

So I headed to my basement. That was the last place I remembered seeing my old AP Stylebook, the one with the faded red cover that I threw in a box when I moved my office back home in April.

There it was! I leafed to the V’s and found my answer: “abbreviate as vs. in all uses.”

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Are Canceled July 4th Celebrations Bad Community Relations and Marketing?

I’m all for fiscal responsibility, but I have to admit I’m disappointed to hear about all the canceled Fourth of July celebrations around the United States due to cutbacks by local governments.

On NPR yesterday, I heard about how the city of Colorado Springs canceled its Fourth of July event because they don’t have the $75,000 to spare. Ipswich, Mass., billed as “The Birthplace of American Freedom,” is in the same boat, as are many other locales.

Maybe I’m naïve or idealistic, but aren’t there alternatives? Something scaled back, or a campaign to rally the community to help fund a public celebration? The parks and community spaces already exist for some sort of holiday gathering.

It seems to me that in these difficult economic times we need to continue to take opportunities to promote civic pride and a feeling of togetherness. Canceling traditional community events isn’t helping to do that.

The Advertising Downturn and Other Thoughts

Ad spending may be down (print ads in particular), but there are still those who believe in advertising. A friend of mine who is a business owner expressed his belief early this year, recalling the blunt statement of a Coca-Cola executive (paraphrased):

“When I advertise, my sales go up. When I don’t advertise, my sales go down.”

That seems like a no-brainer for a mega brand such as Coca-Cola. Even in leaner times they surely have a gargantuan advertising budget.

But Coca-Cola was also bullish on advertising in its early days when the fledgling soft drink company painted farmers’ barns at no charge throughout the South. All re-painted barns prominently displayed the Coca-Cola name in bright red.

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Write to One Person

Writing persuasive copy is a challenging task, even for a pro. There are a lot of tips to consider, but today I want to mention one simple idea that will make every piece of your copy and each of your marketing communications (or other communications) marginally if not significantly better:

Write to one person.

Even though the size of your audience might range from dozens to thousands, think of just one person in your mind’s eye, someone who fits the key characteristics of your audience.

I gave this advice to a non-pro not long ago. The young woman had the daunting task of writing an appeal letter to raise her own financial support for a new ministry. A recent college grad, she is an extremely bright person and talented writer, but the prospect of writing a letter asking for money shook her up.

Let me give you one bit of advice, I said, a small secret. Write to one person. Immediately, her face looked a little more relaxed, and she thanked me.

I was reminded of this strategy today when I saw a post at copyblogger, Five Ways to Bulletproof Your Copy.

The five ways? Depending on the circumstances, Sean Platt notes that he writes to his (1) mother, (2) father, (3) sister, (4) wife and (5) his friend Marco.

By doing so, he’s writing to just one person. The result is more personal, compelling copy that can influence and motivate the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people who will read it.

4 Ways to Build Your Marketing Cred

In my post, The 4 C’s of Killer Copywriting, I mentioned that copy needs to be credible, otherwise the first three C’s (clear, concise and compelling) might be all for naught.

A commenter asked, “How does one accomplish the fourth ‘C,’ being credible?” Following are four ways.

1. Tell the truth.
Yes, be completely honest. Sure, you’re going to focus on the positives, but don’t even stretch the truth. The BS alarm will go off. This leads to the next point.

2. Back up all marketing claims.
If you make a marketing claim, back it up. Period. Think you’re the best, biggest, smartest, most experienced, most reliable, or whatever? Prove it. Give concrete reasons.

3. Use testimonials.

What do others say about your products or services? Get it in writing and get their permission to use their words. Third-party endorsement builds confidence and increases credibility.

4. Offer a guarantee.
Whatever you’re selling, boldly stand behind it. A guarantee shows your commitment to satisfying customers and clients, perhaps the greatest credibility booster of them all.