doubledawnwriting

Advice for better writing and marketing

Archive for the ‘Do-It-Yourself’ Category

Always on the Learning Curve

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I tried something new today.  It thrills and delights me to try new things, because I honestly believe that’s what drives the human core.  It keeps us fresh, thinking and stimulates the brain.

The other day, I came across a site called Blurb.  Have you heard of it?  It’s an absolutely fascinating site that allows the member to print and publish all manner of books.

I’ve done several photo books via Shutterfly over the years.  The quality is good, but it can be a little pricey, mostly due to cross border shipping costs.  So I plunged in and created a photo book on Blurb to give it a try.

I take my pictures very seriously.  My camera and I are often drafted for events and occasions.  My annual Year in Review photo books are now tradition.  So I’m always a little hesitant to try something new.

But Blurb appeals to me, because it’s also a place to publish and sell print books.  I love this idea.  I browsed through an assortment of novels, poetry collections and recipe books.  The price to print and publish is relatively low, so it’s a good resource to keep in mind if I ever get around to writing a novel.

I took a couple days and fashioned some of my more artistic and dramatic photos together with some poetry to create a starter book to test it out.  Now it’s just the agonizing wait for shipping to see if they live up to what I’m accustomed to.  However, once I did a little research and read some reviews, I felt much more confident that Blurb could deliver on quality.

Nevertheless, I did something new.  If you’d like to take a look at my book, here’s the preview link.   Let me know what you think.

So, what will you do that’s new today?

 

 

 

 

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Written by doubledawnwriting

March 27, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Word Blunders: Effect or Affect?

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The battle for grammatically correct content seems to be never ending. Words we use in every day conversations stump us when we type them out for the screen.

The effect of these common blunders affect the character of our message.

Words that carry the same linguistic properties can stump even the most seasoned professional. In some instances, the meanings are quite close. Affect and effect are a perfect example, since their meanings are intertwined.

Affect: This word means to have an effect on something. Yes, really. No wonder we have trouble keeping these two straight. However, I can give you some help.

Affect can be used as a noun or a verb, but it usually involves emotion or some sort of change.

She was deeply affected by his eloquent poem.”

In the context of that sentence, affect clearly refers to an emotional stir. Affect can also refer to an influence or impact.

Roses affect her allergies.”

In this context, affect is implying the influence that the roses will have to someone with an allergy to them.

Effect: This word is most frequently describing a consequence. It’s the end result of some other action.

His reckless actions at the track had a big effect on his family.”

In the above example, it’s easy to see that effect is not referring to emotion, but the consequence of the deed.

The proposed changes are scheduled to take effect next month.”

In this case, effect is used to describe the anticipated result and its potential occurrence. Again, note the lack of emotional context. Effect usually has a sense of being solid or absolute, more factual than emotional.

Memory Aids

It’s all good and well to read and understand how each word is used. But when you’re on the spot, it can be tough to remember which one you need. Here’s a little help.

Affect = Affection. Affect is most commonly used in terms of emotion and influence. Since affection is an emotion, it’s a good word association to help clear your thoughts and bring you to the correct spelling.

Effect = End Result. An effect is usually something final. The end result or anticipated end result. When you are looking at your use of the word in writing, think about “special effects” used in movies to help you remember the spelling. A special effect is used to create a final onscreen result.

If all else fails…

If you still find yourself stuck for which word to use, by all means, use a synonym.

She was deeply moved by his eloquent poem.”

Roses aggravate her allergies.”

His reckless actions at the track had a big impact on his family.”

The proposed changes are scheduled to take place next month.”

Making Videos Go Viral

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I was watching the Celebrity Apprentice the other night, and the task was to create a viral video. The entire concept of creating something with the intention of turning it into an internet phenomenon suggests it’s a daily business practice.

Yes, social marketing includes YouTube. Yes, many a marketing plan tries to lull in potential clients with the use of video. But can you really create a viral video? Is there a secret mix of creativity and clever distribution that can drive millions of views to a single broadcast?

Neither the men or the women on Celebrity Apprentice really seemed to nail the concept. I will say, good efforts were brought forth by both teams. No blame can be appointed, because it’s a tricky task. We rarely see commercialized product endorsements on the top 10 list of global viral videos.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It means marketing companies often fall short, but not for lack of effort. It’s the nature of the beast. They are simply too focused on endorsing a product. After all, that’s what they’re paid for.

Two Key Elements of Viral Videos

  1. Emotional Connection:   Viral videos are passed around by internet users who happen upon them and are compelled to click that share button. It’s an absolute, 100%, genuine, emotional response. Videos that trigger this reaction have touched the viewer in some way.

   It might be laughter, it might invoke our sense of outrage, it might make us feel sentimental. It might remind us of our past, or inspire us about the future. There are a few well orchestrated exceptions, but most viral videos are not created by a marketing firm. They are amateur. They are imperfect and sometimes barely in focus.

  1. Utter Lack of a Large Target Audience:    Marketing companies focus on brand imaging and target markets. Converting viewers into buyers is the name of the game. While they have some success within the intended audience, the true nature of viral videos crosses all the demographical lines.The videos that take the internet by storm, also take the owners of the clip by surprise. They were never intended to be online sensations. It was just a little something to share with friends, relatives or school chums. It’s daily life. It’s misadventures. It’s social awareness.Whether the video breaks your heart, makes you laugh until you cry or leaves you numb with horror, the call to action comes when you are instantly moved to share it with others.

How to Make a Viral Video

If you really want to make a viral video, brand promotion needs to be an afterthought. The most important element is to reach people. Touch them on an emotional level.

Go ahead and make the commercially branded, polished video to uphold your professional image. But when you’re done, take a close look at the cutting room floor. The instructional video about how to properly paint a ceiling is a great accent to a website. Yet the clips showing the paint tray flying off the scaffolding and splattering the walls and crew are a lot more entertaining to the masses.

Clever videos have been created using a series of bloopers and spontaneous moments that have drawn huge numbers of views. Adding a soundtrack just adds to the entertainment value (and saves you from bleeping any curse words).

Get Real and Get Inspired

Creating a viral video is not about thinking outside the box. It’s about thinking inside human nature. We can all relate to the mishaps and fallacies of life. Which little anecdotes do you share with friends and family? What are the classic, “I-can’t-believe-that-happened” tales that have been passed around for years?

Need some inspiration? Take a look at Urlesque’s list of 100 Most Iconic Internet Videos. Take note of the relevance, the emotional impact, the use of music and the play on pop culture. If you want to be a millionaire, take advice from millionaires. If you want to be an internet icon, study those who are already there.

The #1 Must-Follow Rule for Online Content

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I recently googled the term “business writer” (or it could have been freelance business writer), and took a look at the top search result. What I found was a woman charging about $130 USD for a 500 word article. Curious about the quality and context of her material, I just had to take a peek at her portfolio.

The first sample I clicked on led me to a website for a client. In the first paragraph I found a glaring spelling error. Well, technically, I suppose it was a phonetic error. Instead of using the word past it was incorrectly written as passed.

The shock. The horror. But then again, the client published it and didn’t even notice. At least I assume the client didn’t notice. Which brings me to proofreading.

We’ve all been there. Myself included. Skimming a page too quickly and missing obvious mistakes. A writer friend of mine was honoured to have his article praised (and reposted) by a national organization. When he read the review along with his piece, he was horrified at the number of spelling mistakes.

Image is Everything

Well written copy separates the pros from the amateurs. Would you trust your finances to a banker that called you buddy or dude? Would you be comfortable with a doctor who smacked bubble gum loudly and wore pants that showed his underwear? Not likely.

The fact is, we have expectations of professionals. We expect them to conduct themselves to a higher standard. They should dress better, speak better and behave better than the average joe.

Translating this sense of authority and professionalism online starts with your content. Don’t let a silly spelling error lower the opinion of potential clients. Proofread!

How to Proofread Properly

  • Do Not rely on spell checker software. Personally, I never use it. I correct mistakes as I write and once again when I proofread. If you do use it, don’t assume everything is perfect. You still must read what you have written.
  • Do read your content on a large screen. Slowly. This can be tough, especially if you have spent a great deal of time and have the writing almost committed to memory. Unfortunately, if you skim your content too quickly, your eyes will glide right over the mistakes.
  • Do Not post it and forget it. Always, always, always read your content once it has been posted to your webpage. The change of perspective will make mistakes jump out at you.
  • Do read out loud if you can. Our minds work too quickly. It’s a fact. Reading out loud slows down the thinking pattern and forces the mind to accept or reject what we are seeing. Again, you might be surprised how easily you spot mistakes such as to/too, they’re/there/their and so on when you read out loud. Even though they all sound the same, your mind will find the error.

If you’ve hired a content writer, you still need to proofread the work. Silly mistakes, like the one mentioned at the beginning of this post, can easily be corrected. Professional doesn’t always mean perfect, so if need be, find a fresh set of eyes to do your proofreading for you.

A Word or Two About Wordiness

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When it comes to writing, less is more. Always. Whether you’re writing a novel, an article or a blog post, wordiness can quickly take over and aggravate the flow.

Websites in particular tend to be victims of excessive word use. It’s a danger zone. The average internet reader only skims the content anyway. There’s no need to create long rambling sentences. They only serve to lose the reader’s attention.

How to Cut Down on Wordiness

Edit! Edit! Edit! The first two or three words of almost every sentence can be cut. Seriously. Try it. For example:

“If you have a sentence that starts like this…”

“A sentence that starts like this…”

you should Keep your writing as clean and concise as possible. Avoid using two words, when one will do the job if you can. Try to Resist adding words that don’t increase the value of the sentence.

Editing can be a daunting task. It takes practice to spot which words are not creating any value. However, removing excess words from your webpage will definitely give it a professional edge. It also makes it easier to keep the reader engaged as they skim your pages.

As a test, take a look at your own blog or webpage content and find 5 sentences that demonstrate the examples above. Putting on your editorial glasses will give you a renewed sense of objectivity, and increase the journalistic standard. You may need to rephrase some sentences for coherence, so don’t be afraid to click the thesaurus button.

Don’t stress. It’s not as tough as high priced editors would have you believe. Happy cutting.

 

Written by doubledawnwriting

March 10, 2012 at 11:25 am

The Best Way to Handle Critical Comments Posted Online

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A blog is a useful tool to keep the lines of communication open with consumers. However, if it’s not properly managed, it can create a poor reputation for your business.

Your company blog is a forum to offer advice, links to useful sites and keep your client base updated on changes in your company. It also allows your business to gain valuable insight into your market. Consumers who offer feedback and comments will give your company a comprehensive look into the perspective of the purchasing public.

How Do You Handle Critical Comments?

Deleting spam from your blog commentary is perfectly acceptable. However, deleting critical comments is detrimental. It gives the consumer a sense that your business is arrogant and doesn’t actually have concerns about building good customer relations.

Seeing a nasty or unfavourable comment from a consumer can invoke an angry reaction. (Anger tends to attract anger). Hastily posting an angry response diminishes your professionalism and actually offers validity to the customer’s upset.

A better reaction: validate the customers feelings and encourage a solution.

Take some time to really think about what the comment is saying. Most of the time, an angry customer just wants to be heard and validated. Unfortunately, many companies seem to have implemented an anti-apology policy. The fear of admitting any type of wrong-doing has taken over as the new mantra, replacing “the customer is always right”.

Taking the attitude that the company is never wrong sends an inappropriate message (even when you are 100% in the right). It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about changing how the customer feels.

Apologize for the Upset Without Apologizing for the Policy:

Don’t run from the apology. In fact, you will garner respect from every consumer who reads your response if you acknowledge the customers feelings. A good response to a customer complaint is to first and foremost, humble yourself with an apology.

That doesn’t mean admitting defeat. It doesn’t mean breaking the rules. It does, however, mean acknowledging the customers feelings. “I’m sorry you feel that way” and “I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a bad experience” are two perfect examples of your sincere dedication to making the customer happy.

Encourage In-Depth Communication:

Take the bull by the horns when it comes to a disgruntled customer. You certainly don’t have to settle the entire issue in the comments section. Follow your apology with a olive branch. “I would like to hear more details, can you please call 1-800-456-XXXX and ask for Jane.”

Not only does this move the conversation offline, but it gives the rest of the consumers reading the comments a chance to see what type of company you actually are. Rather than brush off the customer, you have validated the concern and offered them the opportunity to tell their story. Furthermore, once you have the person on the phone, it’s easier to neutralize the anger and resolve the misunderstanding.

The Worst Responses:

Never reply to anger with anger. Be the professional. Once you’ve posted a comment on the internet, it’s there forever. Take a few minutes to gain perspective and don’t take angry critiques personally. Responses sent in haste can haunt your business for years to come. Before you put anything in writing ask yourself – what if this goes viral?

Never blindly recite company policy. It’s cold and impersonal and will only aggravate the situation. Again, it’s like saying the company is never wrong. If you can speak with the customer on the phone, you can explain the reasons behind the decision. The verbatim “this-is-the-policy” response never works.

Last, and probably most importantly, be willing to listen. By listen, I mean don’t interrupt, interject or try to defend your company’s position. Wait for the customer to tell their entire story. It can be harsh listening to a complaint, but allow the customer to fully vent their frustrations. Take the high road and don’t get pulled into an argument.

Not only does active listening show respect, but it brings you 80% of the way to solving the problem. More often than not, the customer just wants to tell their story. Even if you don’t have a solution or can’t fix the problem, listening, being respectful and valuing the person’s business are often all it takes to resolve a customer’s unhappiness.

 

Why Company Bios are a Must

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Do you have a bio on your webpage? Most businesses have a page that explains the company history, or the standard “about us” page, yet they fail to include a biography.

A bio is an essential element to add prestige and professionalism to your business. Unlike the other pages on your site, a bio’s explicit function is to showcase your experience and accolades. It’s similar to a resume in the sense that it highlights all your company’s best features.

You may add several biographies to your website. Fortune 500 companies always post bios for top executives and key team members. Just because your business is a little smaller, doesn’t mean you should forgo this feature.

If you are the sole operator and employee of your business, a personal biography can include professional as well as personal attributes. Include your working experience, the year you started your business, acquired education and a little personal insight. This might be volunteer work, family life or interesting hobbies.

If you have several key employees, a short biography on each of them to promote and support their role in the company will enhance their expertise and increase consumer confidence. This is particularly important if an employee has achieved a field designation, university degree or other credentials and experience that shows their qualifications.

Bios that Inspire Confidence

Some bios are strictly business. Others infuse a sense of personal connection with the audience. Still others emote a sense of passion for the company. Bios may include as many or as few personal nuances as you wish.

If you’re looking for inspiration to write a bio, start browsing the backs of book covers for the author bios. You can stroll through the home page of almost any national conglomerate, and find links to biographies of personnel.

Whether you create individual bios or one for the whole company, this is the area that inspires confidence and demonstrates your capabilities. Your bio is all about you, so don’t be afraid to let yourself shine.

Tips to Write a Bio

Professional bios are written about you, but not by you. Therefore make sure you are writing in third-person, rather than using I or we. Include important dates or milestones, such as the year of graduation, length of experience in a particular field, or the date your business was started.

A good bio also includes past experience. You’ll notice on most executive bios, past employers are included. “John Doe was the Human Resource Manager at ABC Enterprises for 7 years before joining XYZ Corporation in 2008”.

Keeping a chronology in your biography helps solidify your expertise. “After graduating in 1987, Sara started working overseas at Japanese 123 Inc. There she discovered her passion for teaching, and went on to become the ESL coordinator for global executives and their families.”

Your company biography is a tool that tells potential clients and customers why they should choose you and not your competitor. Neglecting this opportunity to showcase your talents is like going to a job interview and not stating why you’re qualified. Furthermore, a good biography helps define your business, giving you the professional edge to move to the top.

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