Here, you can find some selected nuggets and brain pickings I've written down about the finer arts of copywriting, marketing and language in a professional context in general. If you like what you've read (or if you disagree!), don't hesitate to drop me a line, or maybe get on Twitter.
You can also read older insight posts from before 2016 right here.
nOT ALL GOOD STORIES ARE MARKETING, BUT ALL GOOD MARKETING IS A STORY
sEPTEMBER 2, 2016
Outbond, content or story marketing, call it what you will. It's not new, despite the hype in recent years. And it's a bit pompous. I recall sitting through one of my very first meetings in a corporate marketing context and inwardly rolling my eyes when the senior graphic designer worried about "telling our story", as if selling display equipment was a novel with characters, tension and psychological depth. But there's a kernel of truth here. Civilization is a collection of stories we tell ourselves and each other - for hunter-gatherers, they are the means of knowledge transmission, and for humans of the modern era, they remain powerful frames of reference to make sense of the world. In a way, for instance, the Bible and especially the New Testament are a marketing vehicle for the messages Jesus Christ was trying to get across (well, or Saul's, but that's another story). Some stories "market" only what the reader wants them to market, like 'The Lord of the Rings', which J.R.R. Tolkien always insisted had no hidden meaning. Not to him, at least.
In marketing, there isn't much story to "hey, buy this vacuum cleaner, it's good stuff". And that's fine. Not everything has to come with some sheen of faux-wisdom or how this and that was made with love. But it's true that the best-remembered marketing or branding campaigns have a story element to them (a "storeme"?). Lego could even afford to build an entire feature movie out of it. Apple, for its part, relied on the twin stories of Steve Jobs and its own rise from disgrace. Coca Cola claims ownership of the Santa Claus myth, plugging itself into the winter holiday cheer. So if you were to market what you do, what's your story? How does it unfold?
PLUGGING MY STUFF
MAY 15, 2016
So, most of my daytime work is devoted to working for another company, as some of you may or may not know. I decided it's time to show off! These two animations, one about PDF in general, another one about the middleware used to power PDF engines, are in part the result of my work. What do you think? I think it's pretty neat, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Do you understand what they're trying to convey? Each is only a minute long.
BECOMING LESS CORPORATE
MARCH 11, 2016
Some people labour under the idea that to be taken seriously, you must speak seriously and use serious words. In most cases, this translates into a corporate writing style, and in most cases, the end result is pretty awful. Even Microsoft, possibly one of the most corporate empires there is, uses lean language these days. In addition, I've seen companies wanting to jump on the story marketing bandwagon, but they come aboard with their corporate suits and ties, making an absurd impression of someone desperately trying to be hip while looking square as shit. Story marketing and telling stories in general are great tools, but you've got to ditch the corporate mindset first.
Is marketo the sap of marketing?
January 9, 2016
I always used to make fun of SAP, how they're basically a company whose marketing runs on making potential customers scared ("if you don't use SAP, the sky will fall!") and then creates systems that are so hideously complex customers are basically beholden to SAP for eternity.
Marketo could be similar. I don't like it. It was ostensibly designed by engineers and not by usability experts, and while you can use it as a pretty powerful tool to segment contacts, run campaigns and compose basic HTML and form pages, I have a keen sense that marketeers are just using it because there isn't anything more user-friendly currently on the market. Of course, once you master Marketo, you also have the added bonus of showing off that you've tamed the beast. But that's not what good marketing is really about, is it?
A new challenge awaits
November 5, 2016
I bit the bullet. From November 21 onwards, I'll be employed at Delaware Consulting as a senior marketing and communications consultant. Apart from the fact I'm looking forward to starting their something fierce, this will also have an impact on Eisbär. The details haven't been set in stone yet, but if you're a customer of Delaware or even a potential customer, that will in all likelihood mean I won't be able to work for you. I may have to scrap the copywriting leg of my activities altogether, but we will see how that goes. In the meantime and until this is officially sorted out, you'll still be very welcome to hire me as your editor and proofreader.
July 11, 2016
April 7, 2016 went by without me even noticing that I've been in business for a full calendar year now. I would say that's a good sign. But enough with the fake triumphalism - a year is nothing. Here's a quick overview of the things I think I did right, and the areas that are still up for improvement:
What I did right
Controversially, I stand by my decision not to pollute the social media airwaves with my business persona. Perhaps I had the luxury of already having had over seven years of experience, and a decent network to begin with. I think beginning to reject some types of work was also the right call, not because I didn't feel challenged, but because I knew I would have been unable to deliver quality. Crucially, about 75% of my customers have been satisfied and/or have done repeat business with me.
What I did wrong
Before I learned to say no, I said yes two times too many, with disastrous results that satisfied no party in the end. I also overestimated the fields of content I would be good at - my main expertises are still technology, finance and culture/history. The pragmatic rigours of the necessary but turgid manual and grunt writing are not my forte.
tHE ART OF A GOOD DEBRIEFING
APRIL 9, 2016
Everyone knows that a good briefing is important for a project's first steps to be successful, but frequently, people overlook the debrief. After a project has been launched, colleagues rarely sit down to discuss their workflow, what they could do better next time or where things went well. Yet, it's the number one way to eliminate preventable mistakes and to make sure everyone is still on the same page.
So how do we do debriefing well? By going over the steps of the project and identifying the points where things didn't go as planned. Then, by listing actions for everyone to take and to come back to before a new project starts. Key here is that the team leader or project manager takes this responsibility seriously - I've seen debriefings reduced to worthlessness simply because the project manager did nothing with the information offered. It's not just about sitting down and having a cup of coffee together, but about improving the quality of your projects.
February 26, 2016
I'm faintly surprised by the fact that cold calls still exist. I suppose this means that somewhere, somehow, they are still a viable route to profit. While it's hard not to feel a twang of pity for the poor sods who can't do get any other job, some cold callers are nasty pieces of work and they make my blood curdle. Has anyone actually ever had a positive experience with a cold call? And why do companies still invest in them when other low-level ways of contacting people are much cheaper? Ah, the mysteries of life.
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