Archive for July, 2008

In a past life as a video producer/director in the marketing communications department of a major health care manufacturer, I hurled so many scripts in frustration that I tore a rotator cuff. Well, not really, but that’s the kind of vivid language you’re paying for!

…From Lively Exchange’s Copywriting for Video Page

That’s mostly the truth. I got into scriptwriting out of sheer necessity. Here’s a basic rule for you…when it comes to corporate video, there are two types of folks who shouldn’t write the scripts:

  • Marketing managers
  • Whatever they call the guys who write the service manuals

…one of whom gives you too much useless information, and the other gives you too much useless detail.

After too many video shoots spent wondering why we were using 75 words to say, “press the Power button,” I realized it was time to grab the reins.  I started with the how-to videos, and branched out from there.

Now, I have posted some samples of my work on the Copywriting for Video page for your perusal, or at least a cursory glance.

So, if you need a writer/producer/director for your next video outing, my rotator cuff is healed nicely and I’m ready to pitch at least six innings!

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“What do you have in mind…a sales brochure? Carefully crafted bullet points for a quarter-page ad? A 300-word advertorial? The subtle sell of a ghost written “trends” article in a trade magazine? If you’re serious about getting a consistent message out across a variety of media, you’ll eventually need a little of each. And you’ll need a writer who can distill your salient points and tweak them to fit each application.”

Well, that’s the pitch, anyway. I’ve always enjoyed working in print, because it frees you up from all the minutiae of SEO and allows you to really get poetic about the latest rat trap or zit cream. Until now, though, I haven’t had any way to share print samples with my visitors. That is, I never took the time to figure out HOW to share samples. Reading directions has never been my bag…which explains a lot.

So, as a further drill-down from my Copywriting for Print page, I have a link to some print samples. Sadly, I cannot share with you the initial thrill of seeing my work in the pages of “Gun Nut Monthly” or “Laminated Cardstock Review.” You’ll just have to use your imagination. … LINK.

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First of all, if you ever meet me at a party, don’t get me started on Baby Boomers. I’m, shall we say, not in love with their self-absorption, their buying power, and the fact that they are the generation right before me. So, all my life I have watched Boomer-targeted TV ads using tired-ass Boomer songs like “Turn, Turn, Turn” to first sell blue jeans, and now investment advice and, someday soon, denture adhesive. But hey, maybe that’s the Gen-X cynicism talking.

Anyway, I just received an email blast from MediaPost entitled Boomers Are Not Bloggers.  It’s the result of a recent ThirdAge/JWT Boom study that confirms that the over-40 crowd does use the web extensively for email, product research and online shopping. However, they are really not interested in blogging or social networking.  Here are some numbers. According to the study, the following percentages of Boomers have little or no interest in the following online activities:

  • Writing blogs 67%
  • General social networking 63%
  • Online multi-player games 62%
  • Podcasts 55%
  • Downloading music 44%

I have a few reactions to this list. As for blogging, I’m a little confused. Given their famous self-absorption, I find it surprising that Boomers don’t blog. Then again, it takes time. Only the very earliest of Boomers are starting to retire, so maybe they’re too busy making a living. If I didn’t feel that blogging was an essential marketing exercise for my business, I might not do it. I certainly wouldn’t do it with the frequency I do now.

As for social networking, again, I mainly do it because that seems to be something they ask more and more in job ads and interviews. “Do you use Facebook? LinkedIn? MySpace?” Yes to all three, but it often feels awkward. I do appreciate hooking up with old friends, but the obsessive-compulsive race to have the most “friends” really annoys me.

And if you are a Boomer who has an interest in Facebook, you’re likely to feel just a touch out of place. I signed up, and started browsing through my high school. I saw so many “Class of ‘09/’10/’11 profiles that I began to get concerned that “To Catch a Predator” was going to knock on my door.

In the end, I suppose we should be happy that the internet is finally bringing us closer together, regardless of age, instead of driving us farther into our shells.  I just wish that the discourse went a little deeper than “Thanks for the add!!”

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In my experience “Up North,” if you attend church, you don’t really discuss it.  It may be a more private matter, or it may be that fewer people regularly attend. Likely, it’s a little of both. However, it’s a bit different here in Charleston SC. Here, when you meet new people at work or at a gathering the question, “where do you go to church?” will usually come up pretty quickly. It’s just assumed that you attend somewhere.

So, for the freelance writer or video dude in Charleston, it’s not uncommon for religious communication gigs to work their way into your mix. For me it has been mostly video production, sometimes with my own gear (lights, audio, editing, etc.) and sometimes with theirs. And lately more web copywriting work has been popping up.

The thing I found as I got my feet wet (not a baptism reference!) is that my religious copywriting or video production task is not all that different than if we were selling tires or real estate. For example:

  • You must still identify your audience
  • You must know their needs and communicate to them
  • You need to show value, i.e. how attending this church will be more satisfying than attending another. So, that means…
  • You must know your “competition”

My clients understand this, for the most part. These are the non-denominational churches that are attempting to be different. They are trying to reach out to the “unchurched” or those who have “drifted” or however you want to say it. And they are trying to reach them the way you reach people these days: by presenting their message with the aid of quick cuts, a pounding soundtrack and sizzling graphics…whether that’s by way of print, video or the web.

Hey, whatever works, right? Just try not to be too shocked when you stumble across your pastor’s Facebook page!

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Just like a pink satin bow on a Hefty bag, it’s your Weekly Wrap!

Monday: The week began with a client questionnaire I produced to help speed along an initial website meeting. Every client’s busy, but this one has been so busy that it took two months to schedule this meeting. So I ginned up these questions as a way to optimize everyone’s time and add value, which is kind of my thing. Emailed them off a day in an advance. Of course, the first words out of his mouth at the meeting were, “Got your questions. Didn’t get a chance to look them over.” So check out Monday’s tale of attempted value-added awesomeness, Web Content from the Ground Up.

Tuesday: You look at the potential projects on your whiteboard. There’s a bunch of them…they’re meaty as hell …and they’re entirely fictional until they happen. I wish I had some sage advice about “the 5 signs that this gig is for real,” but I don’t. The lesson here…one that I never tire of learning, it seems…is to not get my hopes up. Because misery loves company, you should check out Managing Expectations.

Wednesday: The real world of increased workload and shifting deadlines had the nerve to intrude on my little blogging fantasy, so no real post that day. However, I did swipe a nifty hourglass to illustrate the situation. So there.

Thursday: A look in the mirror as we discussed some expert “do’s and do not do’s” of blogging, AKA Best Practices. All the standard advice applies, including keeping it relevant, packing your content to the rim with keywords, and telling interminably long stories about “the guy at that place with the thing.” Seriously, there’s some good advice here. Please to enjoy Blogging Best Practices: A Self-check.

That’s the wrap. If you, like me, are concerned that Dark Knight has only pulled down $200 million domestic so far, then you know what to do this weekend!

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Blogmeister Rich Brooks, of Flyte New Media, has a top-nine list of best practices designed to make your blog a more effective business tool. This prompted me to do a little self-check to see where I stand.  Here are a few of the more relevant tips and tricks, and how I think we rate here at LivelyExchange.

Blog for your audience. That is, write about what your audience cares about.

Of course, this assumes you have an audience. Writing timely, relevant posts about copywriting…hell, about anything…is hard to do on a daily basis. At best, I’d say LivelyExchange is about half and half, relevance vs. war stories.

Make your blog search engine friendlier. Cramming your posts and titles with keywords and whatnot.

I could do better here. My posts are actually in good shape. Too often, though, I use clever (!) punny post titles that you don’t comprehend until you’re halfway through the post. Apparently this is bad!

Engage your most active commenters. If someone comments, RSVP dang it!

Done and done. Whenever anybody comments, I respond ASAP. My commenters have been duly impressed…all six of them!

Comment on influential blogs in your niche.

Now this one’s hard. First of all, this takes TIME, man! Second, it always sounds so fake. Like those spam posts that say, “Excellent point! I agree! BTW, have you tried hotwealthysingles.com?”

Leverage your blog traffic into real business. Remember why you’re doing this…to get name recognition, hits and leads!

Ideas include writing posts that always conclude with a relevant, business-generating action step. Such as: “To learn more about how we destroyed the Crown Room at the Denver Airport, and how this somehow relates to your business communication needs, contact Mike at mlively2002(at)yahoo(dot)com!” …See what I mean? It’s tough!

Anyway, if you’re interested, you can find the rest of Rich Brooks’ tips here.

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It’s a busy day in the world of corporate internet newsletters. Posting has been moved up by a day, and suddenly every contributor feels the need to, you know, contribute. Between you and me, I get the sense that performance reviews are approaching!  Oh well, making the internal client look good is part of the job, yes?

By the way, despite underwhelming site visit statistics I managed to hit number one for the first time on Google for “copywriter+charleston+sc.”  So there’s that.  Hasta manana!

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Dateline: A Dark Place. As freelancers, we know this fact: if all the jobs we had penciled in over the years had actually come to fruition, we’d be fabulously wealthy. Right now I’d be using my fortune to fight crime and/or subsidize the torture of all who had ever wronged me. At the very least, I’d be paying someone to write this blog and you’d probably be paying someone to read it for you.

I’m not talking about clients I’ve pursued but did not win. I’m not talking about hunches or guesses based on past experience. I’m talking about:

  • The client who says, “How’s your April looking? I’ve got something huge for you!” Then you finally hear from them in June that the whole project was scrapped.
  • The massive, 30-page website that becomes six pages.
  • The sales meeting that will consist of three video scripts, a welcome brochure and four speeches…that ends up being one video script and one speech.
  • Or, my most recent and most painful example, a $7500 brochure job that turned into a cloud of disappointment.

You think I would learn not to count my chickens before they hatch. But it’s the same every year. I look out over the rumored and promised projects ahead and say, “Dang. If these 7 things happen, it’s going to be a good year!” Then, invariably, four of the seven just disappear.

The thing is, there’s really nothing to be done about it. Nothing except learning to manage my expectations better. After all, it’s something we do on every project, with every client: under-promise and over-deliver.  So, here’s my advice to myself: plan to survive on a diet of Kost-Kutter brand cat food. Then, if you somehow manage to afford Fancy Feast, you’ll feel like a million bucks!

Just don’t eat it from a crystal bowl like on the commercial …nobody likes a showoff.

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Today, I’m off to an initial meeting with a web client. They have an existing site, and they will be doing their own design and programming. They just need a copywriter. I have studied their site and are familiar with some of their collateral materials, so I have my own ideas on how to improve it. But I want to hear from them some very basic information on their market, their current marketing efforts and their competition.  I have a generic questionnaire, and I thought I would share it with you, my ink-stained wretches. Please to enjoy!

Initial Website Questionnaire


What has “changed” recently? Very often, a change in marketing efforts is preceded by other changes, such as changes in:

  • Management,
  • Product, process or services provided,
  • Audience or customer preferences, or
  • Competition (either entities or the products and services they provide.)

So, what’s changed?


Describe your audience in terms of demographics.

Describe your audience in terms of their wants and desires. When they perform a Google search, looking for the types of product or service that you provide, what are they looking for?


In  your opinion, how well do your current marketing materials meet those customer needs?

Describe your thoughts about the content of your current site: Message, theme, tone, length, etc. In general, what works, and what doesn’t?

More on Content: In light of your new situation, some parts of your message are stronger than others. Let’s go though your current materials and rate each section. Basically OK? Needs some tweaking? Trash it and start over?

Are there other unique aspects you wish to highlight? Examples might include:

  • A “family” company,
  • 100 years of service,
  • Technological leadership, or
  • Industry recognition

Again, consider this in terms of what your customer cares about.


Going back to customer expectations, how do you meet those needs better than your competitor? What is your competitive advantage?

Do your current marketing materials state that advantage clearly?

Obviously, you have studied your competitor’s website and literature. What are THEY doing right? Are there aspects of their messaging that you would like to adopt/adapt?

*     *     *

So, those are the basics. As I said on my Defining Your Message page, figuring out the answers to these questions helps make for a coherent, targeted website. Often, it gets a client thinking strategically about their “message” for the first time. To me, that’s adding value.  Later, skaters!

Also, sorry I’m a little late to post this AM. It still hurts to sit because The Dark Knight kicked my ass so hard!!

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It’s a slow news day, and…

OK, that’s a lie. I’m just vibrating with anticipation for The Dark Knight and I can’t concentrate on anything else. (See Photo)

Vibrating with Anticipation

Vibrating with Anticipation

By the way, I know you probably haven’t heard much about the new Batman movie, but try to make time to see it. I would hate for this charming little art-house picture to go unnoticed.

Today, in lieu of actual content, I thought I would share a video that has been blowing my mind for for a few weeks. Whether you appreciate the art of video editing, or beautiful Japanese ballet dancers, you’re sure to dig it. Speakers up?…..Domo Arigato!

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