Archive for December, 2009

Can you commit?

December 18, 2009

Seth Godin has a gifted ability to get people thinking about complex subjects by writing only a few lines. One of his recent posts, The reason social media is so difficult for most organizations, is a case in point. It reads:

It’s a process, not an event.
Dating is a process. So is losing weight, being a public company and building a brand.
On the other hand, putting up a trade show booth is an event. So are going public and having surgery.
Events are easier to manage, pay for and get excited about. Processes build results for the long haul.

It’s not just social media
Public relations, in general, is a process that needs time to demonstrate deep results. As Seth’s comments point out, relationships are about process. Generally, when process is involved, time is necessary.

It’s not just about tactics. A new website, sending out a media release, starting a blog or internal newsletter; these are all tactics. Unless they are part of a unified strategy that involves cultivating relationships with stakeholders, you won’t see results. If you lose momentum and ignore your strategy, you won’t see results. You need to know that results won’t happen overnight or through random, intermittent bursts of activity.

Successful public relations is about having a plan and having the discipline to stick to it over time. If you’re in it for the big spark rather than the gradual, sustaining heat of the fire, you’re going to be disappointed.

As I won’t be posting again until after the yuletide season, I want to wish all my blog readers all the best for 2010. Happy Holidays!

Captivate with these copy secrets

December 7, 2009

Some people aren’t familiar with the term “copy writing”.  People outside of PR and journalism circles usually just call it “writing”. It’s  shorthand for writing content for websites, brochures , newsletters, articles etc.  Whatever kind of writing you undertake, clean, compelling copy is your goal. Jason Cohen offers a list of 10 secrets for more magnetic copy in a recent Copyblogger post. It’s an excellent list.

I would add two other secrets.

1. Shorten paragraphs

When I am editing the copy of others, I often have to break up a number of paragraphs that include more than one topic and simply go on too long. To keep your reader engaged and moving through the content, short paragraphs of no more than 3-4 sentences are best. This goes along with Jason’s secret #5, “Use short sentences”:

Short sentences are easy to read. They’re easy to digest. It’s easier to follow each point of an argument. Sometimes longer sentences — especially if divided up with dashes — are an appropriate tool, especially mixed in with shorter sentences to break things up. If you think short sentences are incompatible with excellent writing, read Stephen King. Or Hemingway. Or Basho.

Readers are overwhelmed by large tracts of text and after a while the content becomes difficult to follow. So, break it up as much as possible. Use bullets to make lists easier to read—even if it’s only two or three items.

2. Take care with structure

Make sure that what you’re writing follows a logical structure, with one point leading to the next. Also avoid changing tenses—pick one and stick with it.  I also often see writing on websites that ignores its own headings. Content that should go under “customer service”, for example, ends up in the “about us” section. Make sure that the copy under your headings fits.

As Jason points out, readers frequently scan for information without reading an entire document or page. Make sure they can find the content they are looking for easily.

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