Posts Tagged ‘producer’

An awards logo that's bold, proactive and in your face!

Welcome to Lively Exchange, where our shakes are thick and creamy and our horns are self-tooting!

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Usually, it’s the first thing you learn about me after my name, as in “Michael Lively, comma, award-winning copywriter…”

Why? Because, as a potential client said to me today, “this is a business of perceptions.” I agree, and one perception is that if you don’t have a bunch of awards up on your wall for your copywriting or web design or video production, you are something less than truly successful. I think that’s BS. On the other hand, I have my share of awards.

Which is the long, tortured way of saying that a piece I wrote copy for just got a Bronze Addy from The Charleston SC Advertising Federation. You’ve seen me mention it a couple of times: The Dead Battery Anxiety website for Philips. The wacky videos were recognized in the “Internet Commercials” category. So, kudos to Philips Art Director Kit Hughes, the gang of creative creatives at Slant Media… and me!

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If YOU would like to see what the award-winnin’ is all about, contact LivelyExchange (at) gmail.com!

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Re-using old Baby New Years: Part of the "new austerity"

January 2011: New Year, new resolution to blog more consistently, blah blah bling bling blah.

Anyway, so far so good in the new all-freelance era of Freelance Copywriter Charleston SC (see what I did there?) The Philips stuff is less prominent but more satisfying, pound for pound, so there’s that.  The healthcare client is undergoing some personnel changes, but I am confident it will find its equilibrium.  My Charlotte web marketing client is hitting the ground running in 20-oh-11, and apparently they aren’t sick of me yet.  I’m doing a couple of web and print projects for a giant Midwestern grocery chain.  A law firm in Columbia SC needs some web copy. A Charleston realtor needs some blogging, a mental health professional needs web content, and so on. My biggest new project has been cooking along for about 4 months now – social media coordination for a marketing website. Nice steady tentpole gig, Praise Be, though the workload and the success of it is a primary reason for my lack of personal blogging lately. What, you mean I have to log out of THEIR WordPress site and log back in to MINE? That reeks of EFFORT!

So, that’s the update. I actually have several ideas for blog posts upcoming, so consider yourself warned! Talk soon!

Please contact livelyexchange (at) gmail.com

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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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I learned a big lesson this week. I took on an unfamiliar topic and an unfamiliar work habit at the same time, on the same project. As Sheriff Taylor might say:


I was all happy about tackling this new biotech client. Big new client, new subject matter…just new, you know? And I have had some success in the past boiling down complex subject matter for regular folks.

In my enthusiasm, however, I ignored one important element of that past success.  You see, one thing I like to do when I write web content, is to nail down the introductory page. Whatever you call it – Landing page, Home, About, etc – this page is a microcosm of the entire site. It has all the DNA (so to speak) of the rest of the site, boiled down to 200 words or so.  So, I usually like to nail that one down, submit it, and then wait.  I don’t write another word until they tell me I have at least captured the essence of the company and their message on the landing page. This way, if it’s a complete air ball, I have only wasted a couple of hours.

Yeah, well, that didn’t happen this time.  For whatever reason (maybe the client was blasting off for a long business trip and wanted to read on the plane…not unreasonable) they wanted to see as much as I could get done by a certain date.  I knew this was a bad idea. I should have pushed back, but did not.  So I sat down to write.

And, of course, it was all wrong. Eight web pages and 12 hours of wrong.  To his credit, the client was gracious as hell, not angry or suddenly doubting the decision to hire me.  And while it was depressing to see all the red ink on the pages coming across the desk at me, I could only blame myself for not following my instinct and doing it the way that works for me.

As I see it, clients aren’t just hiring talent and experience, they are also hiring a work style. Like I said a couple of weeks ago about taping and transcribing the discovery meeting: useful or wasteful, it’s what I do. I budget for that time, I bill it, and the client is aware of it.

So, consider this to be the latest instinct that has made the jump to an official work habit. “The writer will compose and submit a representative page that encompasses the client’s company, industry, ideals, etc. The writer will submit that page only, and wait for critique before continuing.”  BOOM!

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Have a good weekend. Enjoy the Oscars, but remember, Sunday is a school night (for everyone but ME, suckers!) Go Slumdog!!!

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feast-or-famineFeast or famine…it never ends.  Lately I have been wondering what sort of control we have over the business cycle.

You see, back in the spring and early summer of 08, it was definitely famine.  It was so faminely faminatious that I actually took a full time gig pulling a giant oar on an ancient wooden ship, feeling the sting of the bullwhip whenever my efforts flagged for even a moment.

Crappy job, but I got to work with Chuck Heston

Well, not that, actually…just its copywriting equivalent. That gig sucked so hard that, even with no other prospects lined up, I bailed after a month. I did get to keep the iron collar and loincloth, though.

I bring this up because it’s definitely feast at the moment, and for the immediate future.  I’m grateful because I know that God is looking out for me. But I also know that He expects me to do everything I can on the ground to keep the ball rolling.  Lately, though, it seems I finish some web assignment at 1:30 in the PM and I’m like “nap time!”  Or I finish up my corporate newsletter on Thursday evening and decide to take Friday “off.” And I see that, once again, I am becoming lax in that ongoing effort to “keep the pipeline full.”

I don’t need a prophetic dream of 7 skinny cows devouring 7 fat ones to tell me that these current conditions won’t last forever.  But, with no bullwhip for motivation, I have to force myself to remember what actions helped bring me into this current time of feastish feastitude. Then I open my trusty Excel spreadsheet and start harassing everyone on my list.

Every video production house, ad agency, web designer, programmer, and hosting solutions genius in Charleston, Columbia,  Charlotte,  Myrtle Beach…you get the idea, should be expecting to hear from their old irritant “Freelance Writer Seeking Opportunities.” I can see the giddy anticipation on their faces as they open Outlook, see my name and groan, “Oh man, has it been three months already?”

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For your weekend reading, please to enjoy some previous posts on this same tired topic.   Mmmm…feasty!

Self-promotion: It Never Ends

Mr. McGrumpy’s Copywriting Reality Check

The Self-Marketing Game

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Snakey, wingy medical thing

Snakey, wingy medical thing

…I traveled to over 100 hospitals in over 30 states. I interviewed healthcare personnel including executive level, nurse management, environmental, purchasing, floor staff, maintenance, and so on. The result was several dozen testimonial videos built around the timeless question, “Would you recommend this product?” Pretty standard fare, but which offered the opportunity to learn about issues and circumstances that affected their daily lives, and their buying habits…issues such as rising acuity, tightening reimbursement, patient and caregiver safety and so on.

LivelyExchange Health Care Communications Page

Everyone develops a niche, whether you intend to or not. For me, it’s health care communications.  Medical manufacturing, hospitals, nursing homes, home health, pharmaceuticals, insurance… I’ve had a long, complicated but fruitful relationship with healthcare as a copywriter, video producer, director…and even, briefly, a convention exhibits manager.

To me, a niche is a nice base of business; familiar but, hopefully, never stale. Like, when I’m stressed or under the gun or I have four projects going on and I couldn’t possibly handle another, but…oh, it’s healthcare? I can handle that.  I’ve done the research.  I know the players, the audience, the politics and so on.

Of course, there’s the potential of getting lazy or complacent. Or thinking that I know more than the client, just because I have been doing this since Mr. MBA was in junior high.

So, it remains a challenge… a comfortable challenge, if that makes any sense. Like I said, it’s complicated.  So, that’s my useless advice….develop a specialty. Be the best at something, if possible, or at least strive for it.

By the way, is healthcare one word or two? I’m trying to look authoritative, here!

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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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Successful freelance writers, video people, talent…entrepreneurs in general, live by a creed: It’s a Business First. This was the first piece of advice anyone ever gave me (thanks, Scott.)  And it’s the part of the business I am still endeavoring to master. Specifically, self-marketing.

Oh, do I hate cold calling. As a consequence, I do very little of it. Whenever I do, I always picture the receptionist at the first agency I worked at. She relished taking cold calls from nervous job seekers and, basically, messing with them.

So I tend to burn up the emails. The old “Freelance Copywriter Seeks Opportunities” bit.

The responses tend to go down one of several paths:

  • Completely Ignored: A timeless classic. Always a popular choice.
  • Acknowledged but No Need for Copywriting Services: Seeing how often you get ignored, it’s pathetic how grateful you are to get a polite rejection!
  • Acknowledged, No Need, but Keep Checking Back: Yes, and the first time you do it’s “I said I’d keep your portfolio on file, you stalker!!”
  • Mild Interest, Request for Writing Samples: Don’t get your hopes up. Often, this is the polite way of ignoring you. Rejection that finds a way to humiliate AND waste your time…that’s efficiency!
  • Potential Writing Projects Coming Up, Let’s Meet: Certainly, you suppose, a Creative Director or Executive Producer at an agency wouldn’t waste his own time, right? You’d be surprised.

In the end, I believe it’s timing. All my recent successes have come because I happened to cast my line at exactly the right moment. Conversely, my biggest frustrations have been when I connect with someone who I have solicited 3 times in the past year, only to hear that they just finished up a big writing project that would have been perfect for me. So, somehow, my email of two months ago was too early, and today’s was too late. So much for keeping my info on file.

It never ends, and neither does the need to keep hitting their IN box. So I at least try to have a reason to bother them, however thin the premise. “Just finished a big automotive project, and it reminded me of all the…um…graphic arts work you guys do!”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a couple dozen emails to write. Until next time, I am a Freelance Copywriter Seeking Opportunities!

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Looking back on the LivelyExchange era…all 90 days of it!

Biggest Day So Far: April 17, 2008. This was the day I got a mention in the Low Country Blogroll, a compendium of Charleston-based blogs.

Most Active Post, Due to Content: Social Networking (Old School!) Imagine… MCAI people came out in force to defend their media production trade group…just because I said they were irrelevant! Actually, it was a great back and forth. Still the most read post.

2nd and 3rd Most Active Pages: Defining Your Message and My Experience. Yes, I know it’s because they are permanent pages. But it’s nice to know that my Resume and About page are being seen. Sort of the reason I’m doing this. That, and the glory.

Most Active Post for All the Wrong Reasons: Movie Moment: Lars and the Real Girl. Nice piece, but the film’s subject matter (shy guy falls in love with an inanimate latex female companion) brought out the pervs, big time. I still get 2 or 3 search engine hits a day for, ummm, inanimate latex female companions.

Favorite Post that Nobody Read: On the Road with the Cat Killers. Gee, was it the title?

Best Example of Restraint: Tunneling to Freedom. I had so much to say the day I quit my full time web-marketing gig. I think I managed to channel my rage quite nicely.

Early Post I’m Glad Nobody Saw: None really. There are certainly some more relevant, or more interesting than others. However, they all read pretty well to me. I have to admit, “Nature’s Savage Ballet,” the one about the dead snake in front of my writing window, was pretty arcane.

Posts I Have Yanked: 3 so far. Typically, it’s when I tell someone I have a blog and then remember, oh crap, I wrote about that one guy in the place with the thing…the thing we swore a blood oath never to tell!  And, so far, I have re-posted two of them.

Thing I Used to be Very Good About, but Have Neglected Lately: Packing posts full of links. This one doesn’t count.

Thing I Seem to be Doing a Lot Lately: Adding pictures. It’s fun, and a lot easier to do in WordPress than adding links!

Thing I know already, So Save It: My posts are too long. This one included.

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The scene opens on a farm in the foothills of Tennessee. A hitching post stands in the foreground, camera left.  A silver-haired man approaches, riding a donkey.  This is Gary, gentleman farmer and 6-time sales leader for a hospital supply company.

The donkey stops and Gary dismounts. He approaches the camera and says,

“Get off your ASS and sell the entire product line!”

That’s a wrap, people! Thanks for making the two-hour flight to Nashville, followed by a 90-minute drive to…wherever we are. See you at Cannes!

That was just one stop on the “Our Company Has Too Much Money” tour of 1998.  Everyone involved…the video crew, Gary, the donkey…was a little embarrassed by the proceedings, but we had a job to do.

The day began with the 7:30 Comair from Cincinnati to Nashville, followed by the usual baggage claim and rental van hassles. Then, a long drive further and further from civilization. Finally, we hit a dirt road (no kidding) and make the turn into the holler (oh, yes) to find a charming little farm at the foot of a mountain.

Gary was en route, so his wife showed us around. She introduced us to all of the critters; ducks, dogs, donkeys, pot-belly pigs and loads of cats. “That one’s Precious.  That one’s Butch, and the all-white one is Snowball.” And so on.

We were able to back the van up to the shooting location, which was a treat. We rarely ever get the opportunity to drive into the 4th-floor conference room of a major metro hospital! We popped the hatch, unloaded the bare essentials, and then shot the classic scene I only WISH I could have written.

Suddenly, we’re finished…and the ITCH hits: maybe we can make the 1:30 flight instead of the 5:15! Gotta go! Just throw the crap in the van…I’ll pack cases while you drive! We threw, slammed, and blasted off…fishtailing and tossing gravel just like every episode of Dukes of Hazzard.

We made the 90-minute drive in fifty-six minutes, and screeched to a halt at Delta check-in.  Doors fly open, bags start tumbling out, skycaps approach and I reach for my wallet. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a flash of white.

“Holy crap…it’s SNOWBALL!” I turn to see my partner standing and pointing, his jaw hanging open.  I follow his point, and see a white cat zipping down the sidewalk in a complete panic, over suitcases, under baggage carts, between legs. I race after the cat (go, OJ, go!) and very nearly catch her when she leaps onto the moving baggage conveyor, heading right into…wherever it goes. Call me a cat-lover, but I scrambled onto the belt myself. My last glimpse was of Snowball descending a long, slow ramp into the darkness. Then two skycaps grabbed me by my belt and dragged me out of the chute.

We agonized over this all the way to Crown Room, where we promptly did rock-paper-scissors to decide who was going to call Gary.  And what do you say? Snowball’s not dead, exactly. She’s merely…transcended this reality.  Yes, existentialism should cloud the issue nicely. Start dialing!

In the end Gary was, shall we say, NOT devastated by this news. “So, you killed one of my fifteen cats, huh? That’s life on the farm. Have a good trip, fellers.” But the lesson was learned. New policy: on all future donkey farm shoots, close van doors tightly. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

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