Posts Tagged ‘interviewing’

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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Not long ago I attended the summer blowout of a very famous  commercial cleaning and disaster mitigation business. Trust me, you’ve heard of them.  These are the guys that clean up after your business has had a fire or hurricane or something.

Big party, big beer-and-BBQ bash (because this is South Carolina, after all!) I met the principals, toured their million-dollar disaster-response RV, and had my picture taken next to their NASCAR racer (because this is South Carolina, after all!)

Afterward, I thought about e-mailing the principals, thanking them for the booze and cholesterol, and offering my copywriting services.  But, since this was ME, it didn’t happen. Besides, I am NOT a salesman. I work with several fine web developers, but I do NOT feel qualified to represent them.

Several weeks go by, and I get a call from one of my web-development clients. He has sold this same company on a new website, and now HE is calling ME for copywriting services.

And this is where the cryptic title of this post comes into play. As I said, I am not a salesman. I have never had a talent for approaching a lawyer, landscaper, or garage door installer and selling them on a new website. Instead, when I moved to Charleston SC, I decided to sell to the creative folks who make the websites for the lawyers, landscapers, or garage door installers. I let THEM do the heavy lifting and then contract ME. Not because I’m so clever, but because I know where my strengths lie.

It’s a niche, kids. Long ago I realized that I will never be Donald Trump. I will always be the guy selling concrete to Donald Trump. Or the guy who sells the aggregate to the guy who sells concrete to Donald Trump.

At any rate, it’s all good. I’m employed, the web designer is employed, and the client is getting a much fuller package than he would have if I had  approached him at the summer beer bash.

The way this gig worked out is a total justification of my entire business model. Hook up with talented designer/programmers, let them do the selling, and then I fulfill my role. Synergy! Or something.

Anyway, check out my kickass NASCAR picture! I feel like a true redneck now (instead of merely a West Virginia hillbilly!)

NASCAR Fan: “Awesome! What kind of car was it?”
Lively: “Ummm, a YELLOW one?”

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In interviews, and in general, I often claim that one of my strengths as a MarComm writer is “my ability to dive into an unfamiliar situation and quickly learn enough to market some product or service that I may not even heard of a week before.”
And the person I am speaking to says, “Fascinating!”
And I’m like, “Thanks!”
And he says, “No, I think it’s fascinating that someone who writes for a living would open his blog with a 46-word sentence.”

Anyhooo…the Quick Study is a talent, and in the Agency Environment (another of my big buzzwords) it’s critical to your success and longevity. This is particularly true in these times when the $20K projects are all dormant, and you have to substitute four $5K gigs in their place.

My point (that only took 3 paragraphs to reach) is that there is a specific place where I learned these things—a tenacious little Dayton OH agency called Concept Company. Concept has been around many a moon and does a bit of everything…print ads, public relations, web development…for a variety of clients. However I think one of their biggest strengths is in locking up a really arcane niche: Graphic Arts, or GA for all you abbreviators out there.

GA is pretty much anything involved in printing and packaging:

  • Commodities like ink and paper
  • Services like printing, labeling and converting
  • Capital items like presses, splicers, and feed/rewind devices

Glamorous, no? Um, no.  But to me, that’s the genius of it.  My samples are full of Concept/GA projects, as well as other Concept projects in manufacturing, defense contracting, real estate, sporting goods, and so on. So take a look at some samples. And visit Concept Company’s site today! (a call to action, even…I really did learn something there!)

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eat the mic. eat it!

eat the mic. eat it!

Interviewing seems to be in the air lately. Not as in “job interviews”–though I had an interesting one last week.  Instead, I am talking about the interview that gets the story for whatever print, web or video project I am working on.

It seems I am doing  one of these discovery interviews every four days or so.  So much so that the trusty Sony microcassette that I swiped fell into my bag at T*y*ta finally gave up the ghost.  I went and bought a sweet little digital number with 30 hours of storage or something.  It’s endless hours of fun scrolling through the chapters looking for that interview with, “you know, that GUY… at the PLACE….with the THING?”

As I have reported before, I have a long history with interviewing. A couple hundred thousand miles, in 100 or so hospitals, offices and nursing homes across this great land of R’s.

It seems that every one of my stories that is a) shocking, b) bizarre, or c) not as funny as I think it is… happened on an interview trip. Such as:

  • The time our cigars set off the fire alarm at the Monteleone in New Orleans.
  • The time in Ontario CA when we were forced to land Donald Rumsfeld-style in the pitch black to find the airport closed, so the night watchman unloaded the passengers 4-at-a-time in a station wagon.
  • The time I asked that nurse in New Jersey what was that interesting perfume she was wearing? She breaks down sobbing: her dead husband’s cologne. Uh, stop tape.
  • And of course, the time we killed Snowball.
Love ya, Aunt Lu!

Love ya, Aunt Lu!

In other interview news, I now have 3 different video production associates in 3 different towns are getting into the Life Stories video thing.  I think the bulk of it is to interview your older relatives and get their stories on tape before they kick. It’s a great idea. I had at least one aunt I would have loved to know more about…(see photo.)

So that’s today’s interview ramble.  The final word goes out to the fellas in the audience. Healthcare interviewing is an odd niche, but it’s a great way to meet nurses. They may not wear makeup, but they also don’t mind when you reach up, down or sideways into their shirt to pin a microphone on them.  If that’s your bag, baby.

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Are you a hyphenated professional? I always considered myself as one. Once upon a time I was a shooter-editor, then a producer-director, a manic-depressive, a writer-producer and, more recently a model-slash-actress.

Lately, though, I have have been reassessing my status. And it’s a funny feeling. My mix of business is exclusively writing these days, for web, print and video. Since the video production for my church tapered off at the beginning of the year my lights, audio gear and non-linear edit system have gone unused. I did manage to make a few bucks renting out some gear. Otherwise, it gathers dust.

So, it’s a time of transition and, as I said, it’s weird. It’s not like I saw video production as my calling or anything–though, after failing out of engineering college, it sure saved my butt. And for the next 15 years, for better or worse, video was it, man.

As for the big transition away from video and toward writing, I believe I may have stayed in one place too long. I got a little restless.  I remember writing in the ITVA newsletter:

“After shooting my 10,000th hospital bed video, I began to notice subtle but alarming changes in my personality; things like strange apocalyptic visions and voting Republican. The aneurysm was the final straw–I knew I had to shake things up, to break my routine. Nowadays, when I show a nurse demonstrating, oh I don’t know, the foot brake function of a bed, I’ll shoot the wide shot as I normally would. But when I go in for the close up, I have her wear a different color of socks. Sometimes I’ll even use a dude’s foot–or maybe his hand. Believe me, it helps relieve the stress during those long re-edit sessions. Eventually I’ll be fired, and I won’t have to shoot hospital beds any more. Talk about a change of pace!”

Yeah, so, I got out of that, tried poverty for a while and then slowly built up the writing biz.  Now, instead of stultifying sameness I have a dizzying variety of work. And I do mean dizzying. More than once I have written to Jimmy at ABC Web Design with a project update—when I really meant to write Jerry at XYZ Web Design. Oh, and Jimmy and Jerry are blood enemies. Hilarity ensued.

But overall, no complaints. Not too bad for July 3rd, my forty-(coughs, muffles voice) birthday. 

Anyway, sorry if this post is 5% more rambling and incoherent than usual. I’m off to the beach! Happy Birthday America. And me!

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What defines a “longstanding” business relationship? And, what is it before it officially becomes longstanding…is it merely standing?

Obviously, defining a long-standing relationship in the web marketing business is a subjective thing. However, a year seems quite a while… especially when you work with the speed and efficiency of Revenflo.

Previously (and repeatedly)  lauded as “hardcore Web 2.0 perpetrators who get all up in yo’ strategery and whatnot,” Revenflo is located in the Charlotte exurb of Rock Hill SC. They provide expert web solutions to midsize and small businesses of all stripes. Services include:

  • Web Team: Consultants, Designers, Developers, Writers (that’s ME!) and SEO jockeys.
  • Content Management Systems (CMS): Design, Build, Customize, Implement and maintain Open Source CMS websites.
  • Leads Management: Manage web traffic and lead generation systems.

I have to say, one of my favorite things about working with these guys is that I am always is as close to the ground floor as the project allows.  I work with a few shops that closely guard the client contact, do all of the discovery behind closed doors, then toss the raw material over the transom* and tell me to figure it out.  So, my raw info is stale and any questions I have for the client must be filtered through the shop. Time-consuming and definitely NOT value added.

Well, Revenflo doesn’t do it that way.  My Revenflo info is so fresh it’s…it’s APRIL fresh! Sometimes I just hold it up to my face and take deep breaths! But first I unplug the phone…that’s ME time.

Anyway, it just so happens that the thing that I like most about working with Revenflo (the freshness thing, pay attention) is also something that adds real value to the client.

So, it’s been a very productive year, with more projects and satisfied clients than I can count because I just woke up. But thanks for having me guys. Let’s keep adding that value-added value!

Transom: Architectural reference. Obscure? Yes. Descriptive? You bet. Particularly funny? No.

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famousFrom the comix blog “Pictures for Sad Children.” Go there!!

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Here are a few random happenings at LivelyExchange Shadowy International Writing Cartel, a division of SarcastiCo.

  • A commercial janitorial website is turning the corner to complete-a-tude.
  • An HVAC contractor website is just beginning. I am interviewing the principals later today.
  • The healthcare sales newsletter rolls along, as always. Did I tell you that after three years, I have still never seen it live? It’s internal, obviously. Someone once sent me a frame grab once, that ‘s the only way I know that the thing actually exists.
  • Of course, the architectural brochure project creeps along.
  • I just picked up a regular (and much appreciated) writing gig, contributing to  a web marketing firm’s News page.
  • I have been ghost-blogging for a Charleston realtor. Lots of fun. She is all about the selling the charm of Charleston and, as I am still pretty new in town, I am learning a lot about my new home.
  • I have also been ghost-blogging for a mobile marketing firm. I am totally at sea on the high-tech subject matter, but I am slowly getting a grasp. Hopefully, not at straws.

From the “your guess is as good as mine” file:

  • I keep expecting the Business Courier article I wrote in April to pop up, either in Dayton or in Sarasota.  It was a 1200-word article about off-site data loss prevention as it pertains to natural disasters. I don’t know the status of the Midwest tornado season, but I do know that hurricane season has just begun.
  • Also, do you recall the biotechnology website from way back when? I do, sort of. It’s been completed for a while now, but has yet to go live. It should be a nice piece…I will definitely keep you posted.

In LivelyExchange news:

  • I have updated web writing Samples page with a few new links.
  • I added a couple of new recommendations on the Rave Reviews page. The newest entries are always at the top.

Speaking of which…Is it me, or are the recommendations on LinkedIn getting less valuable? I know people mean well, but recommendations are becoming yet another by-product of “friending,” and it’s getting pretty obvious.  “Dude! I haven’t seen you in 15 years and we only worked together for a month. Let’s swap recs!”

Overall, I am trying to even the pace, keep a lid on things, hold down the fort, keep my head above water and mix my metaphors for the next week or so,
until my California trip. We shall see…

Have a great weekend!

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The range of experiences one gets to, you know, experience in this business can be sort of entertaining. This assumes you get a moment to look back on jobs when they’re finished. This also assumes that you ever get to actually finish jobs, so that you can officially reflect on them instead of searching for the light at the end of the tunnel.

I have a couple of recent website projects that illustrate this range of experiences. What they have in common is that  a) they are on the web and, b) they were the result of cold-calling. Other than that, they couldn’t be more different.

Today, let’s look at Sense South Beach Hotel.  A “luxury boutique hotel located on sizzling Brazilian Beach” near Miami. And yes, “sizzling” means topless.

I contacted the agency in Myrtle Beach on a Wednesday. Truly, my target demo…a shop that does kickass graphics and interactive, but not much writing. I happened to hit them at the precise moment they needed me, Praise Be.  Anyway, I got an immediate response, submitted a quote, and then got the gig.  Basically, I wrote four pages of copy: Home (scroll down,) Beaches, Shopping and Nightlife.  It took a bit of research, and a few hours of writing, but I was done by the weekend and collected a couple of bills.

It’s a fun project to look back on because, what do I know about South Beach? I’ve been to Miami enough times to have an entire cargo van full of video production equipment stolen from me (that was a fun phone call to make the next morning) but never South Beach. I wasn’t even aware that they had topless beaches, and that seems like the kind of thing I would know.

Despite this handicap, I feel like I captured the vibe pretty well. And hopefully, the speed and quality of the finished product will lead to more work with this agency down the line. Hey, maybe some on-location fact finding research to sizzling Brazilian Beach! (sound of frying pan hitting head, writer collapsing unconscious.)

Next time: the OTHER end of the web production spectrum!
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A while back, I wrote something called “A Mile Wide, an Inch Deep” that described my approach to research. It’s tricky learning just enough to get the copywriting job done, but not so much that the budget is drained just on research.  Simply put, the client is not paying me to become an expert on his topic and, honestly, I don’t want to learn that badly.

Besides, I discovered long ago that there is a finite amount of space in this writer’s brain. Now at age (coughs, muffles words,) every time some new knowledge is added, it seems that an older bit goes away, just like the memory card in mom’s camera.

So, I need to absorb what I can, write the copy, and git! As they told Matt Damon in Ocean’s 11: You want to capture his attention, and then make him forget about you the moment you walk away.  I think I am remembering that line incorrectly, which proves my point. I have also forgotten my point. Sigh.

To illustrate, here is a website I wrote for regarding home appraisal reform, and new software for mortgage lenders.  I alluded to it last time, but wasn’t sure I have clearance to discuss it. Now, having read an announcement about it on LinkedIn, I am guessing it’s OK.

At any rate, I know next to nothing about mortgage lending, home appraisals or, for that matter, software. With that king-sized caveat in mind, take a look. See if you think I captured the essence.
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