Do you have a person in mind when you write marketing or social media copy? Geoff Drake, senior web writer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium (what a cool job!), writes for his imaginary friend Sue. “Get personal with your persona,” he says. “We have a kind of pact, Sue and I. She needs a vicarious experience, and I want to foster a connection with the Aquarium, and our oceans. A day never passes when I don’t try to uphold my end of our little bargain.”

Something else that’s cool about Geoff – he’s a former editor of VeloNews and Bicycling magazines, plus he wrote the book, literally, on Team 7-Eleven, one of our earliest professional cycling teams in the U.S. And that’s my segue into a great post about organizational culture by cycling fan, and my pal, Mary Nations on the Undiscussables blog: Cycles of Silence.

Mary gives her take on Lance Armstrong, the reign of omerta in the professional cycling world and how it all relates to our organizations.

“When a scandal breaks, the news often exposes evidence that undiscussable elephants have been stomping around, leaving squashed, altered bits of reality and stinky piles of consequences that are difficult to clean up. The mess existed all the while, but new publicity puts it on amplified display, under harsh lights, perhaps to a wider audience that is finally drawn to look.”

She asks, “What does this saga mean for you? Are there places where you suspect elephants are creating a mess? If so, are you ready and willing to help generate positive change in the future?” It’s a fascinating read that might make you think differently about cycling and your organization.

For a different perspective on content marketing, check out Giselle Abramovich’s article at Digiday about Patagonia’s Content Machine. “Many brands feel like they are faced with a dilemma: They can either make great content or try to sell products. (Bill) Boland (Patagonia’s digital creative director) doesn’t see it that way. He sees great content and conversations around products as something that naturally occurs, without the need for marketers to be so heavy-handed.”

Well, it happened again, another week, another mention of TMG Media’s Engage blog. I swear there aren’t any kickbacks going on here! We’re obviously sympatico in our interests. This time, Brittany Siminitz shares examples of 20 brands that “don’t typically incite thoughts of colorful, pin-able things,” for example, insurance and financial planning services, and banks. Yet, their creative Pinterest boards prove “that you don’t have to be frilly to make it on Pinterest.”

In The Facebook Flea Market, Tom Webster calls out Facebook ads for what they are: “a junk shop.” He says they’re “a seemingly random miscellany of hastily constructed, poorly targeted and (sometimes) vaguely seedy-looking pitches for things I couldn’t even conceive of clicking on, let alone purchasing.” And he has some advice for the advertisers that should know better and for Facebook – although do they ever listen?

Only Shelly Alcorn would watch Dave Grohl’s new documentary Sound City and come out thinking about membership. Ok, maybe there are other association geeks who might do the same thing. Ok, maybe me. But Shelly is the one who wrote this great post about the beauty and power of the tribe: Membership IS the Value of Membership!

“Yes, associations are changing. Yes, technology is changing. Yes, communications are changing. Yes, we can talk all day long about dues models, governance models, etc., etc., etc. To me, what is not up for debate is the fundamental concept of belonging – the group, the community, the tribe. Maybe it’s free. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s narrowly defined, maybe it’s broadly defined. Maybe we call them associations and maybe we don’t. There is a lot of room in the middle about HOW it manifests, and what role we can or can’t play in facilitating those connections – but the question about WHETHER it manifests or not is just not debatable.”

Sing it, sister!

Do you know Kate? She’s just an ordinary girl with an ordinary family. She might even live in your community. But there’s something you don’t know about her. Share this one with your kids.

Heads up, New Yorkers and others in the tri-state area: The Who and Elvis Costello are playing a benefit concert on February 28 at the Madison Square Garden. It’s your opportunity to see a once-in-a-lifetime show and support a great (and underfunded) cause: Teen Cancer America, Roger Daltrey’s foundation. I’ve seen The Who more than any other band and absolutely LOVED their Quadrophenia show in November. Number two on my most-seen list is, you guessed it, Elvis, a performer and entertainer like no other.

Long live rock! And Happy Friday, everyone!

Roger Daltrey says teens with cancer need a different kind of hospital environment, one where they're not surrounded by kids or older adults.

Roger Daltrey says teens with cancer need a different kind of hospital environment, one where they’re not surrounded by kids or older adults.

 

Yes, you’ve got to read these posts…

Do you make time for Twitter every day? I schedule two 30-minute sessions for weekdays, one in the morning and one at the end of the day. I make Twitter part of my daily schedule so I can get my random tweets of knowledge and deepen and extend my network. What if you have only 20 minutes a day? The folks at Bufferapp have a 20-minute Twitter plan for you. Here’s one of my Twitter tips: maintain a Word document of posts and retweets to share with others. When you get on Twitter, you’ll have a ready supply of valuable and interesting tweets.

Allison Boyer at the BlogWorld blog put together a collection of 25 social media posts everyone should read. This post has been making the rounds for good reason. It’s especially helpful if you’re new or rusty with social media. Save it for the weekend.

Here’s a list for your bulletin board: 100 spam trigger words that can kill your email copy by Dean Rieck at the ProCopyTips blog.

Need marketing inspiration? With limited resources, savvy nonprofits have to get creative. Kivi Leroux Miller collected dozens of examples of quirky, kooky and off-beat approaches to nonprofit marketing and fundraising.

Lots of people know just enough about marketing to be dangerous. They make it difficult to distinguish wishful thinking from facts. “If you give your content away for free, prospects will never buy your full-fledged offering.” Wrong! In fact, “Sharing free, relevant content online helps search engines & prospects find you.” Pamela Vaughan at the HubSpot blog will set you straight in 42 Tweetable Facts to Squash Marketing Fantasies.

Are you sick of hearing about innovation? I hope not. Although a buzz word, innovation is healthy for organizations. Frank Fortin, Chief Digital Strategist at the Massachusetts Medical Society, discovered The Sexiness of Unsexy Innovation. Although written for the association community, he gives solid advice that any business should heed.

Kickstarter is inspiration central. Brilliant creative people use it to seek funding for project ideas. 150 years ago Mrs. Isabella Beeton wrote THE authoritative Book of Household Management. Whiskey and Wheatgrass Productions hopes to bring the original domestic goddess back to life in a new video series, but they can only do it with your help. Head over to their Kickstarter page to get a taste of the education and entertainment they promise with Bella Beeton.

reid all about it freelance writer copywriter

photo by Fergus Ray Murray (Flickr)

I get my ideas for articles and blog posts by thinking about readers. Yes, you, you’re always in my thoughts. I think about how I can help you solve a problem or make your job (or life) a little bit easier. Or I aim to share something interesting and valuable.

When I begin work on a copywriting project, I also think about the ultimate readers — my client’s customers, prospects or members. I can’t communicate effectively to them unless I first get to know them. If only I had Vulcan mind meld skills, this part of my job would be a lot easier. Instead I rely on consultation with my client and lots of research and reading.

Studying customers is only the beginning, but let’s stop there for a moment. What if you’re on your own without a marketing vice president or a freelance writer, what do you do? Like me, you must completely understand your customers before you can determine how best to communicate with them.

I’ll share with you some of the questions I usually have; perhaps they’ll help you create a list of your own.

First, create a descriptive profile for each type of customer (or member) you serve. Heck, give each one a name too. If your customers are businesses, the profile will include characteristics that a consumer profile wouldn’t, and vice versa. Here are some suggestions to start, but you’ll end up with others specific to your business:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Employment status
  • Marital or family status
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Lifestyle
  • Purchasing history
  • Memberships
  • Career stage
  • Position in organization
  • Role in purchasing process
  • Place in conversion process
  • Educational background
  • Comfort with technology

The most interesting part of customer research comes next – the big meaty questions. Again, these will vary depending on your business. Since I usually work in the business-to-business sector, my questions have that slant.

  • What are your customer’s biggest problems at work?
  • What keeps her up at night worrying and stressing?
  • What does she fear?
  • What annoys her? What frustrates her?
  • What would make her life and job much easier?
  • What does she yearn for?
  • Why does she have these problems? Why aren’t these problems solved yet? What are the obstacles to solving them?
  • How do prospects like her usually find you?
  • What type of questions do your prospects and customers frequently ask your sales, social media and customer service staff?
  • What do they search for on your website? What search terms bring them there?
  • What hurdles (mental or real) prevent them from taking the next conversion step?

Spend some time where your customers hang out – blogs, forums, Twitter chats, face-to-face meetings, radio shows or podcasts – so you can get a sense of the language they use and their industry’s or profession’s culture.

The whole point of this exercise is to get into your customer’s mind to understand their perspective and needs, so you can connect their desires or worries to a solution you provide.

There are many more questions I must answer before I start writing, but that will be a topic for another post.

customer persona profile understand copywriting marketing

A Vulcan understands his customers.

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