The Copywriter's Crucible

Surviving the Vagaries of the Freelance Life

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Archive for the ‘Public Relations’ Category

BIG CHANGES are coming! Read more for the scoop.

Posted by rachelwriter on February 1, 2010

Photo Courtesy: Flickr/giarose

In life, change is good.  It keeps us challenged.  It keeps us satisfied.  It injects a healthy dose excitement into the everyday grind.  And it helps us to grow and learn.

I’ve experienced a great deal of change over the last few years.

First, I waved goodbye to my home state of New York and headed south—way south—to Birmingham, Ala.  (How’s that for a change?)  Then, I took a leap of faith, quit my career as an on-air TV news talent, and flocked 150 miles east to Atlanta, Ga., where I embarked on an exciting adventure as a freelance copywriter.  I adopted a dog, married my fiancé of four years, and finally (finally!) felt like I had a place to call “home.”

It’s all been wonderful.  And I wouldn’t change a thing.  But now, the time for change has come again.

Something Shiny, New, and GREEN in 2010

I’m proud to say that I’ve accepted a full-time position as the Public Relations and Communications Manager at the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute.  GREENGUARD is an Atlanta-based, national nonprofit organization that works to improve the quality of the air we breathe inside our homes, offices, and classrooms.  You may be surprised to know that indoor air is two to five times more polluted than the air outside.  How come?  Because most of the products we use on a daily basis—from our furniture and flooring to our laundry detergents, air fresheners, and tile cleaners—contain dangerous levels of chemicals called Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, that seep into the air we breathe.  VOCs can cause or exacerbate a host of ailments, including asthma, nausea, headaches—even cancer!

This is serious stuff—but it’s something that most of us don’t even think about.  Or, for that matter, know about.  So, I’ve decided to make it my job to spread the word.

You may or may not know that I’m a firm believer in sustainability and in keeping our planet clean and healthy.  In fact, I’m the type of gal who gets angry at people who don’t recycle and annoyed at those who cruise around in gas-guzzling combat vehicles.  I’m also pretty big on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  And, as an asthmatic, I consider clean air—both indoors and outdoors—extremely important.  So, for me, the transition to GREENGUARD seems pretty, well, organic.

Okay, but what about your copywriting biz?

Fortunately, the folks at GREENGUARD have given me the “green” light (get it? :)) to continue my freelance writing operation on the side.  I’ll still welcome new projects and new clients, but because my availability will be limited, I will accept only the projects that fit safely into my nighttime and weekend schedule—and, of course, only those that do not pose a conflict of interest with GREENGUARD’s brand.  I will no longer be available to work on any freelance projects during normal business hours, Monday through Friday.  And I may not be able to update this blog as frequently as I do now.

That said… I’ll still be here, people!  And I’ll still be able to provide you with outstanding copy for your business’s needs.  All you have to do is call or e-mail for a free consultation.  (I may have to get back to you after hours or on the weekends, but I promise not to leave you hanging!)

Oh, and if you happen to be an editor or reporter—*WARNING: shameless self-cross-promotion to follow*—please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at GREENGUARD for help with stories in the green space!  We’ve got lots of incredibly interesting, useful, and newsworthy information to share with a variety of audiences, and I’d be happy to help in any way I can.

So that, dear friends, prospects, and clients, is what’s changing in my life.  What’s changing in yours?

–Rachel

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Posted in marketing, Public Relations, The Basics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

How UPS effectively used social media to squash a rumor

Posted by rachelwriter on January 14, 2010

Photo Courtesy: Flickr/yung grasshopper

Yet another reason why it’s SO important for brands to be on social media to monitor what’s being said about them….

Today, I noticed that a Facebook connection had posted the following to her status:

“UPS is shipping anything under 50 lbs to Haiti FOR FREE! PLEASE FORWARD TO ALL or PASTE on your FB!!!! THANKS”

I’ll admit, at first, I was tempted to copy and paste her message to my own Facebook status and share it with the rest of my social media contacts.  But then, my inner journalist stopped me dead in my tracks: Oh yeah?  Says who?!?  (After all, I didn’t want any part in spreading rumors.)  Surely, if UPS was offering such an outrageous deal, it would be all OVER the company’s Web site–not to mention the mainstream media.  But, after a quick inspection, I saw that it was not.

What I did find, however, was a UPS blog post–yes! UPS has a blog! :)–in which the company cleared things up once and for all.  Turns out, what had been circulating on the ‘net about free shipping to Haiti was, indeed, a rumor.  But the company didn’t just use social media to squash the rumor; it also used it as a vehicle to promote the company’s benevolence and good Samaritanism during a time of need:

“At UPS, we’re committed to delivering aid and supporting relief efforts around the world. Through The UPS Foundation, we’re giving $1 million (USD) in cash and in-kind aid to help the people of Haiti.”

The blog then goes on to offer resources to those who wish to donate to disaster relief efforts.

What a terrific showcasing of the value of brands using social media to communicate their messages to their consumers.  Had UPS not been monitoring Facebook and Twitter and the blogosphere, they’d have stepped right into a global public relations nightmare!  (Imagine: millions of charitable folks, worldwide, lining up outside UPS with their care packages, expecting free shipment to Haiti… only to find out it was a big fat lie.  Definitely. Not.  Good.)

By being active and vigilant on the Internet, UPS was able to effectively monitor its brand, set the record straight about its response to the earthquake in Haiti, and squash a potentially devastating rumor long before it had the chance wreak havoc. 

If that’s not a reason for your company to jump on the social media bandwagon, then I don’t know what is!

–Rachel

Posted in marketing, Public Relations, social media | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

How the Internet and social media have drastically affected marketing and PR

Posted by rachelwriter on January 11, 2010

Image Courtesy: Flickr/Matt Hamm

I must tell you that I’m enraptured by The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott.  

As a communications professional in a rapidly-changing and increasingly technological industry, I’m always looking for new insights, tips, trends, and techniques to stay informed and competitive.  And this book (which I’m about halfway through) is already proving to be a great resource—particularly since copywriting goes-in-hand with marketing and PR

Scott examines how and why traditional methods of marketing and public relations (i.e., sending jargon-filled press releases solely to journalists to score media impressions in magazines and TV programs, or paying big bucks for one-way, mass-market advertisements) are practically obsolete in today’s market.  The reason, of course, is the pervasive influence of the Internet and social media—blogs, microblogs, vlogs, podcasts, etc.—on the creation and dissemination of information. 

You see, no longer do target audiences rely exclusively on news hubs like CNN or The New York Times to get the latest buzz.  Rather, they find it—and share it—virally via social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.  They’ll also get it from the blogosphere.  Or by plugging key words and phrases into an online search engine and sifting through the hits.  Or all of the above.  (Did you know, by the way, that blog posts and Twitter comments are indexed by search engines?  Delicious food for thought!) 

And the great irony is this: information often makes its way onto the social media scene long before it gets exposure on the “big time” news media outlets.  In fact, the reporter who’s covering a story on the nightly news or in the morning paper often gets tipped off from social media! 

Take my friend Stephanie Frost, for example.  She recently posted a homemade video to her blog about the importance of good customer service, and within a few days, it was picked up by The Huffington Post and ABC’s World News Tonight!  Did Stephanie send out press releases to the reporters and producers to get their attention and beg for coverage?  Nope.  Did she pay a creative agency to design some kind of flashy banner ad to get people to click on her blog?  Nuh-uh.  Did she cold-call her media contact list to cajole them into giving her a mention?  No way.  All she did was create meaningful, useful, relevant content and post it to her blog, and the rest is history.  Best part is, she scored the publicity without having spent a dime on PR or marketing!  That’s right; rather than seeking out the news media, the news media sought her. 

As a former journalist, I can attest to this phenomenon, too.  Rarely did I pick up a press release from the mountain of releases I’d receive on a daily basis and cover the “story” it pitched.  Rather, I’d research my own ideas for stories, gather my own information with the help of the Internet, and—based on the value of the content I’d find online— I’d handpick the thought leaders and industry experts to whom I’d grant coverage.  If all I found was a library of buzzwords and hard sales pitches, I wouldn’t give that company or organization the time of day.  If, however, I found informative, meaningful, value-based content that sought to educate me rather than sell me, chances were good that I’d reach out to that company or organization.

Anyway, back to that marvelous new book I’m reading….

I’ve been poring over it with a highlighter and pen in hand (I’m the kind of person who likes to make notes in the margins of my books—go ahead, call me a nerd), and, for the sake of furthering this discussion, I’d like to share a few excerpts that I find particularly important.  (Mr. Scott, if you happen to stumble upon this blog, I hope that’s okay with you. ;)) 

Here are those excerpts:

1. “New marketing on the Web…is centered on interaction, information, education, and choice….” (p. 7)

2. “Public relations work has changed.  PR is no longer just an esoteric discipline where great efforts are spent by companies to communicate exclusively to a handful of reporters who then tell the company’s story, generating a clip for the PR people to show to their bosses.  Now, great PR includes programs to reach buyers directly.  The Web allows access to information about your products, and smart companies understand and use this phenomenal resource to great advantage.”  (p. 11)

3. “Marketing on the Web is not about generic banner ads designed to trick people with neon color or wacky movement.  It is about understanding the keywords and phrases that our buyers are using and then deploying micro-campaigns to drive buyers to pages replete with the content that they seek.”  (p. 20) 

4. “Great content brands an organization as a trusted resource and calls people to action—to buy, subscribe, apply, or donate.  And great content means that interested people return again and again.  As a result, the organization succeeds, achieving goals such as adding revenue, building traffic, gaining donations, or generating sales leads.” (p. 21) 

 5. “Instead of writing press releases only when we have ‘big news’—releases that reach only a handful of journalists—we should be writing releases that highlight our expert ideas and stories, and we should be distributing them so that our buyers can find them on the news search engines and vertical content sites.” (P. 24) 

6. “PR is not about your boss seeing your company on TV.  It’s about your buyers seeing your company on the Web.” (p. 25) 

7. “…You will be much more successful if you forget about trying to get the huge article.  Big yields come from cultivating many small relationships rather than a focus on trying to get that one mega-success.”  (p. 30)

8. “What works is a focus on your buyers and their problems.  What fails is an egocentric display of your products and services.” (p. 35)

9. “Instead of just directly selling something, a great site, blog, or podcast series tells the world that you are smart, that you understand the market very well, and that you might be a person or organization that would be valuable to do business with.  Web content directly contributes to an organization’s online reputation by showing thought leadership in the marketplace.”  (p. 38-39)

10. “The Internet is like a massive focus group with uninhibited customers offering up their thoughts for free! … Just having a presence on the blogs, forums, and chat rooms that your customers frequent shows that you care about the people who spend money with your organization.”  (p. 81)

So… what do YOU think about these “new rules” of PR and marketing?  Do you agree?  Disagree?  Why or why not?  Obviously, I 100% agree with them.  But I would still love to hear from you!  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

–Rachel

Posted in marketing, Public Relations, The Basics | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Why strategic communication is both a science and an art

Posted by rachelwriter on January 6, 2010

Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Unitopia

I have a motto for strategic communication.  I describe it as “part science, part art; part brain, part heart.”

What I mean is that purposeful and meaningful communication—whether it’s in the form of marketing, advertising, or public relations—must be at once quantitative and qualitative; objective and subjective; proven and experimental; logical and emotional.

Say, what, you ask?

We all know there are certain time-tested “rules” of effective communication (know your target audience; avoid jargon and clichés; use fewer words; use shorter words; use proper grammar; etc.).  There are also ways to measure communicative efforts (micro-conversion rates; conversion rates; ROI; number of PR hits; etc.).  As you might have guessed, this is the science/brain part of strategic communications.

But there’s a spate of other factors that also influence the efficacy of your campaign—factors that are more intuitive and affecting than tried-and-true methodologies; factors that are measurable only anecdotally.  I’m talking about the humanization of communication.  The cultivation of real and trusting relationships with your target audience.  The engagement and interaction with not only your prospects, but also your current customers.  The sharing of relevant ideas and helpful information with like-minded groups and individuals.  The sincere display of interest in the lives of those whom your product or service benefits.  The positioning of your company as more than just a cold, corporate brand—but as a group of real-life, empathetic human beings who are just like everyone else.

You see, communication is all about building and maintaining relationships.  (The word “relations” in “public relations,” for example, underscores my point.)  And this is where art and heart come into play.

Social media (note, by the way, the term “social”) tools like Twitter are the perfect avenue for this, in my opinion: there’s simply no better or more immediate forum for engaging and interacting with your prospects and current clients than online.  And, even better?  You can take those online relationships and turn them into real-life connections.

Sure, the science and the brain behind strategic communication are critical.  But following your heart—that is, being genuine, human, and approachable—is an art that should never, ever be omitted from your strategic communications plan.

—Rachel

Posted in marketing, Public Relations, The Basics | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

How media/public relations, marketing, and copywriting share a common thread

Posted by rachelwriter on January 5, 2010

Photo Courtesy: Flickr/chefranden

I’ve been fortunate enough over the last few weeks to have met and spent some time with a few very talented and experienced professionals in the Media/Communications/Public Relations and Sales/Marketing/Advertising industries. We’ve had some wonderfully insightful and thought-provoking conversations.

Our discussions got me to thinking:

While copywriting may seem, on the surface, to be a horse of a different color, it actually plays an integral role in both Media/Public Relations and Marketing. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that an effective PR and/or Marketing pro needs to have, at minimum, a solid understanding of the mechanics of good copywriting.

Why? Because PR and Marketing are rooted in creating and implementing strategic messages that sway the opinions of a target audience and elicit a desired action. And that’s precisely what copywriting is all about.

What’s more, many PR and Marketing tactics are carried out through written communication. Press releases. Media pitches. Brochures. Web site content. E-mail blasts. Scripts.

You get the idea.

So, while each profession demands unique skill sets (media savvy in PR, for example), each also shares a common thread: in order to be successful, professionals in Public Relations, Marketing, and Copywriting must be able to articulate a message clearly and persuasively and, consequently, achieve measurable results.

No matter one’s level of media or business savvy, a PR and Marketing professional without exceptional communication skills—that is, without the ability to write cogent, compelling copy— is pretty much doomed.

—Rachel

Posted in marketing, Public Relations, The Basics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »