Posts Tagged ‘brochure’

Question: What’s more cynical than deliberately writing a post about Facebook because it is guaranteed to draw hits?
Answer: Facebook itself.

I hope you’re sitting down when you read this (we pause as a million chairs drag across the scarred linoleum floor of our global consciousness) …but retarded Facebook apps like Farmtown and Mafia Wars are cynical cesspools of personal information-gathering disguised as “community”…and worse. This according to an article in The Consumerist, inscrutably titled “Mafia Wars CEO Brags about Scamming People from Day One.”

Long ago I wrote a cranky, Andy Rooney-esque piece called “Putting the Grr! in Facebook,” in which I grumbled about the various idiosyncrasies of hapless users. This post is consistently my top drawing piece – even surpassing my scholarly (!) review of the film Lars and the Real Girl (my top post among perverts searching for Artificial Partners, wink wink.)

Since that post, I have mellowed out a bit and hooked up with all kinds of friends from the past. But a constant beef has continued to be all of the stupid apps. Jenny has sent you a hug! What famous dead composer are you? And a bunch of others I can’t recall because I “HID” them long ago.

But the games are the worst. I got as far as Scrabulous, meaning, I signed up for Scrabulous, knowing that it was nothing more than a scam for gathering personal information, but hey, I like Scrabble. But the first time I saw on  Facebook’s News Feed: “Michael has spelled the word INCONTINENCE on Scrabulous! Can YOU do better? Sign up NOW!” …I pulled the plug.

Trust me, I “get” Facebook. If you know anything about Web 2.0, this practice should not be a surprise. While everyone whines about the ads, I say “that’s why it’s free.” But you read something like “Mafia Wars CEO Brags about Scamming People from Day One,” …and you are looking at the epitome* of corporate cynicism.

*Epitome: The embodiment or precise representation of an ideal. Pronounced “uh-PIT-oh-mee”…or “eppa-tohm” if you’re from West Virginia (like me.)

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vet pic

Photoshop presents a dude with some other dude's arm holding a picture he forgot to bring!

Well, we set out to honor America’s veterans, and to sell medical devices. I’m confident we did the honoring part. The selling? It’s too soon to say.

Despite a last minute freakout caused by someone watching an old rough cut and asking for changes that were made two weeks ago, the Veteran’s Day videos are up.

So HERE is the LINK. What you will see is a nice rah-rah about the Veteran’s Health Adminstration and its care mission, and how this healthcare manufacturer’s mission coincides. To drive home the point, the rah-rah is followed by interviews with employees of the manufacturer who also happen to be Veterans.

There are four videos at the bottom of the page. Sort of the donut effect, where the openers and closers are the same, with the interviews filling the donut hole. (mmmm….DONUTS!)

Anyway, check ’em out (and I suggest you do it sooner than later – The client can be touchy about this sort of thing.) And Happy Veteran’s Day! That’s next Wednesday, commie!

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It occurred to me that I just completed my most visible copywriting job ever: an in-store PA announcement script for Kroger Supermarkets, a name instantly recognizable to anyone in OH-KY-IN-WV and thereabouts.

Growing up in Ohio, long before Wal*Mart had busted out of its Arkansas ghetto, Kroger was just Kroger, THE premiere name in grocery shopping, having been founded in Cincinnati in 1880 or so.

Today Kroger is everywhere, though you might not know it. They bought up tons of regional players, and then very wisely kept the regional monikers including Ralph’s, King Soopers, City Market, Dillons, Smith’s, Fry’s, QFC, Baker’s, Owen’s, JayC, Hilander, Gerbes, Pay Less and Scott’s.

My longtime associate GG, who I have known since the ¾ SP video days, happens to be the media production director there, and he suggested me to their agency of choice. It has been a fruitful relationship, and I have done several internal merchandising pieces for Kroger—mostly video scripts.

This latest project takes it to a whole new level…into the grocery store. You see, September is Wine Month, and Kroger is promoting the crap out of it. I wrote two scripts, a :30 and a :15, that play in between the Muzak. Here then is the :30…

When I entertain, fine wine is always on the menu—and so is a visit to the Kroger wine department.

In September, Kroger is “Celebrating the Crush” – the annual salute to the grape harvest, when vintners begin crafting the wines we love.

Kroger’s huge selection and great prices make it easy to branch out and try new wines. And they always offer helpful tips for new and interesting food pairings.

Fine wine is one of life’s little pleasures. The Kroger wine department makes it even more pleasurable.

I assume they substitute the regional name for Kroger in each market. At any rate, it is clearly the widest exposure I have ever had. (This includes the time I was floor-directing the 7pm news in Dayton.We went to a break and I called “We’re clear!” and broadcasting legend Don Wayne said, “Finally–I’ve got to go to the can!” But, in fact we weren’t clear and 100,000 people heard both of us. Good times.)

I would like to see a statistic on how many people live within the realm of Krogerdom, the Krogosphere or el Krogomundo, if you prefer. I would look it up, but that reeks of effort! I would rather have a glass of wine.

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Yeah, well, now you know how I feel!

Yeah, well, now you know how I feel!

A while back I mentioned the therapeutic little ritual I perform every so often. I sit and list everything that’s going on at The Exchange, either to assure myself that things aren’t as quiet as they seem or (in the current instance) to try to get a handle on the swirl of projects at their various stages of completion. Right now I am in Swirl mode. So, come. Circle the bowl with me!

Community College web copy. I am rewriting an online course catalog. It’s a modest start, but one that promises to explode later. A nice project because, other than some brochure work for a vocational/college prep high school in Dayton, education is not a niche I have spent much time in. I like it because it speaks of opportunity, hope, growth and other aspirational wonderfulness.

Various web copy, article writing and blog projects for area realtors. Sort of the opposite of opportunity, hope and growth. It’s a nice challenge working in a “down” business. But it can be emotionally draining working with folks who are in various stages of panic about their futures (hey, I should point them to the Community College!) Also tough because they all feel the need to step up their marketing, which is good, but they don’t have any money. I want to be part of the solution, but….

Various websites for clients in:

  • Insurance/benefits/investments,
  • Custom home plans-for-purchase,
  • Home HVAC,
  • Commercial construction,
  • Forensic psychiatry,
  • Commercial cleaning, and
  • Commercial in-building wireless signal enhancement and bridging (which is a thing now, apparently.)

Like I said, a swirl. Next time, we’ll do a “Where Are They Now?” of old projects. Try not to let the anticipation ruin your Labor Day weekend…because that’s Jerry Lewis’ job!*

* Oh, snap!

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My web marketing clients near Charlotte are turning the corner to complete-itude on this residential HVAC website I have been contributing to. A few more tweaks, maybe one more page of copy, another round of client approvals.  About this time, you usually start looking back, admiring the work in progress, counting your chickens before they hatch, and so on.

To wit, the project manager made some random comment about the name of the suburb this HVAC place is in. “Oh, when people see that name, they will think upscale, quality and superior service, and then transfer that image to the client…and your writing manages to capture that.” And I thought, “Um, yes, by accident!” Nobody told me anything about this particular suburb, and I am embarrassed that I never asked. Though I promise I will in the future!

Two things this illustrates: first, it can be a handicap doing business for distant clients over the web. Kind of like the brand new weatherman at a TV station that gets his big break the night of the killer thunderstorms. It’s his chance to shine, but he mispronounces the odd names of the local towns and looks like a moron because assholes production assistants (like me) misinformed him on purpose.

Secondly, I always say that it’s my job to add value for my client, and to paint the client as adding value for their customer. That often includes phrases like service excellence, not selling you what you don’t need, value at any price point, etc. Had I known this was a swanky suburb with a discerning, well-to-do clientele, I’d like to think that my prose wouldn’t be much different.

OK, maybe if they were doing an install in your double wide trailer, I wouldn’t have written “Our conscientious technicians always wear cotton booties so they never scuff your floors!”

And one more thing: when your client tells you how awesomely you have added value, you don’t have to tell him it was a complete accident. Just put it in your blog where no one will ever read it!

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Captain’s log, supplemental:
Whenever I am thinking that things seem a little too quiet, I like to do a post listing all the projects I have going on. It’s therapeutic, I suppose. And it’s easier than coming up with a real topic in time to make the 10:45am showing of Star Trek at the local IMAX. (see gay illustration.)

beam me up, and whatnot

beam me up, and whatnot

Anyway, the week began with a lunch meeting that, if I could only tell you about it, would neatly illustrate why lunch meetings are deader than disco. I promise full scoopage when the check clears!

Then, I revisited a web project that I update from time to time…biographies for a commercial real estate firm. People come and go, and so do their life stories. Check it out!

I finished up work on the cold-call success story from last week: a website for a Luxury Boutique Hotel located on a nude beach in Miami. I will post a link as soon as I get clearance. (Sorry, I have no photos! And besides, if I did, it would probably be of some fat German tourist wearing nothing but sandals and black socks.)

I finished web copy for a service that hopes to help restore public faith in the integrity of collateral valuations…what regular folks would call “home appraisals.” Shenanigans in this business were a big cause of the mortgage lending collapse, according to my 5.25 hours of research.  Again, link when available.

And, though I haven’t whined about it in a while, my architectural web and print brochure project continues. It’s coming up on its first birthday! We’re going to have cake in the break room. And bourbon, straight.

pathetic, yes?

pathetic, yes?

Well, looking at my WATCH, that seems to be all the TIME I have. Have a great weekend!

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A timeless LivelyExchange classic written for one specific day of the year. So, really, it isn’t timeless whatsoever and, at one year of age, I would hardly call it classic.  However, you can’t deny that it was written. So, there’s that.

*     *     *

This is a touchy subject. If you wish someone a Happy Administrative Professionals Day, they will either A) thank you, or B) take offense that you consider them a “secretary.” Regardless, it’s a risk I am willing to take..but you can bet I try to be cool about it! As a freelance writer, when I deal with the big corporate client, I am likely to spend most of myface time…or ear time… with an Admin. She routes my calls, sets up the phone conferences and, most critically, tracks down those invoices!

If you have this kind of corporate relationship, and you don’t treat this lady like she is your best friend on the inside, then you just don’t get it! So take a moment to send her an email, or one of those dumb animated greeting cards! (I did…mine showed a centipede using all her arms to answer phones, make copies, etc. SUBTLE!)

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Obviously, we all have a slightly different work styles when it comes to writing. How we gather information, how we get inspired. I have one method that I hesitate to reveal.  Not because it’s so inventive, but because, at first glance,  it seems to be a waste dubious investment of time.

The best $12 I ever spent.

Phone Tap: The best $12 I ever spent.

I refer to tape recording my initial discovery meeting with the client… either in person or by telephone with a line tap.  Afterward, I transcribe the call and distribute to everyone present and ask for any additional notes or impressions.

There are a couple of benefits to this practice:

Digesting a Corporate Culture: At your initial discovery meeting with the client, they will dump on you every brochure they have produced in the past ten years.  It’s almost always T.M.I., man! How much of this stuff matters? More specifically, how much of this stuff matters to THESE people asking you to do THIS job TODAY?  Best recent example: A Big Important Company with every reason to crow about their history…and lots of background material to prove it. In the meeting they said, “We know nobody cares.  Show a couple of dates, a couple of mergers, a couple of technological advances, and move on!”

Flesching Your Kincaid, so to speak:  Ever write a page of brochure or web copy, then run the spellcheck and find that you are 35% passive, a 3 on readability, and writing at the 12th grade comprehension level?  Come on, it can’t be just me!  Parenthetical phrases, five-dollar words and other examples of fancy-schmancyness abound. Now, spellcheck an interview transcript. Zero passive, 65 readability, 7th grade comprehension. Truly, you are writing the way people speak.  That’s usually what I am after, so I try to preserve the language as I transition from transcript to copy.

Breaking the Back of the Story: I don’t know how I came up with such a dire name for this concept. Considering the frustration you feel when trying to find your inspiration, it’s a pretty good title.  In this instance, transcribing an interview and arranging it into neat sections and ideas is the perfect activity while you are waiting for the inspiration to arrive. When it does, you will have all the dumb little details organized. You have broken the back of the story, and now you can throw your head back and laugh maniacally as the guts spill out! Charming.

Drawbacks? Of course, this takes time. I am a decent typist (for a boy!) Indeed, my two index fingers are a blur on the keyboard.  But it can be slow going. But I budget for it, and I always tell the client to expect it. And, for all the reasons stated above, I feel it’s worth it.

Besides, when this copywriting thing falls through, it might make a decent plan B. Did you know that thousands of court reporter jobs go unfilled each year?!

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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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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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