We all speak English. I just happen to do it for a living.

Facebook as Your Company Intranet

Posted: October 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: management, social media | No Comments »

A year or two ago, I did a newsletter for my then-employer, Webtrends. I took all our news and put it into a Facebook-like format then emailed it out. Several people asked, “Is this our new intranet? What’s my login?” I laughed at them until a few months ago.

My unofficial bike team (the Muddy Iguanas) talks on Facebook. A LOT. And since our wives and girlfriends sometimes also see that stuff, we took the conversation into a “group,” and we made it “secret” so that it doesn’t clog up other people’s notifications and emails. But since then, it’s become a little bit of a clubhouse where we can talk about spending stupid amounts of money on hand-made sew-up tires, sharing videos of awful crashes, linking to photos from the previous night’s race, and sharing how-to articles. The Muddy Iguanas are now fully 90% of my Facebook experience.

So it occurs to me that if I needed a company intranet, I would use a “secret” Facebook group. You get all the power of Facebook — it’s in your feed, photos, videos, status updates, links, commenting, updating via email — except it’s kept away from everyone else’s Facebook stream.

I’m sure that someone nefarious could hack it. Or someone wily could figure out what you’re doing by targeting ads at you or something. But is it any less secure than whatever other cloud-based intranet tool you’re using? Plus, it dumps any work posts into your normal Facebook stream, so you see work-stuff while you’re screwing around on Facebook!

I dunno. Seems like the perfect tool to me. And honestly, having used Jive and 37 Signals, they’re pale imitations on the social level. (Basecamp is still awesome for project mgmt, though.)


Webtrends: The Great Bike Fiasco of 2009 Research Report

Posted: March 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: editing, interactive marketing, management, online copywriting, portfolio, social media, webtrends | No Comments »

In a way, I started on this project before I even joined Webtrends, when I wrote a blog post titled: “Portland Bike and Marketing Freak Out.” It’s a good description of what happened when Webtrends bought an ad on the side of a TriMet train asking, “should cyclists pay a road tax?”  I stand by that analysis of the campaign today — a near miss. Read the rest of this entry »

Webtrends: A Facebook Contest for Nerds

Posted: March 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: copywriting tips, facebook, interactive marketing, management, online copywriting, portfolio, social media, webtrends | No Comments »

Click to giganticize the Webtrends Great Data Giveaway screenshot

Early on at Webtrends, we decided to run a Facebook contest. That was pretty much the direction: let’s run a contest to see how it works.

So we wondered: what would make Webtrends’ faithful excited? And I came up with this idea of embracing the data nerd element. “Fly your nerd flag high” was an ad headline I remember.

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Bernbach’s Law and Family Ties

Posted: November 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: copywriting tips, editing, interactive marketing, management | No Comments »

Go read this first. Or just read my blockquote below:

At my company Fight, we call this “the 80% rule.” It goes like this:

When you convey a difficult concept, you’re better off being 80% right and simple, than 100% right and complex. Read the rest of this entry »

Rant: The Marketing You Deserve

Posted: September 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: copywriting tips, management | No Comments »

Q: How many copywriters does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None, because we’re not changing anything!

I love that joke because, frankly, most copywriters are all sharp elbows and big egos. They’ve sweated through it, considered the angles, and now you want to change it? Are you crazy?

Writing isn’t easy. Staring at your screen until your fingertips bleed isn’t easy. But after a few days Read the rest of this entry »

I Swore I Would Never Write about Mad Men.

Posted: August 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: interactive marketing, management, social media | No Comments »

It burns me to write this, but dammit, this Mad Men scene is such an epic argument about data vs. creativity. Data that looks backwards vs. ideas that lean forward. “You can’t tell how people are going to behave based on how they have behaved.”

As a marketer and a company, you sometimes have to decide that the data won’t guide you. Today, it’s both easier and harder to take a creative leap.

Testing an idea — creating an ad, buying some targeted placements, measuring the results — is relatively easy. It’s never been easier to produce amazing, compelling stories. It’s easy to test them in a controlled metro area.

However, when you make a really big creative leap, it IS harder than ever to keep them quiet. Especially if you’re a big brand. Social media, YouTube, email, whatever. We’re connected like never before. The new NIKE World Cup video got a few hundred thousand hits on YouTube before NIKE launched any other support for it. People found it and shared it.

One Person Will Write. Two People Will Stare at Each Other.

Posted: June 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: editing, interactive marketing, management | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

As I’ve been trying to ramp up the blog at Webtrends, one of the things I have to do is shoot out ideas to people and ask them to write something. Often, there’s more than one person who could write it. Or I want to do a Q&A with multiple experts.

Groups Suck
What I’ve found is that sending one email and cc’ing multiple people routinely fails at generating anything. They all stare at each other and assume someone else who is less busy than them will take care of it. And after all, it’s just the blog. It’s not like the earth will stop turning if we don’t post something.
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Tips for Writing Interviews

Posted: June 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: copywriting tips, editing, interactive marketing, management | No Comments »

When interviewing people, I think young writers can get a little carried away with the Rolling Stone-ness of it all. They want to describe their subjects’ looks and the way they treat the waitress and the African art on the wall. And maybe that’s important. Maybe there’s enough space to fit all of that in. Maybe the person is famous enough to warrant it. But usually not.

This is the real world where you’re interviewing CEOs of small businesses. And the reader typically needs to get something out of it — if you’re not thinking ahead about why the reader would bit.ly your link and send it along, you’re dooming yourself to obscurity.
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Inside Sales

Posted: May 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: copywriting tips, management, posted via iPhone | No Comments »

I had a writer editing a whitepaper today, and he was really carving into it. I suggested he take it to the author — a product manager — and start selling the edits early on.

He didn’t like the idea. Said there’s no better way than to just give back the text all marked up.

I approached it differently:

“You’re gonna scare the crap out of them with so many edits. Show them a few examples of your edits before you finish. Get them comfortable with those. Then they won’t fight as much when you hand it back mostly rewritten.”

He said he’d try.

When you have time to do so, sharing work early makes life easier. People get bought in. You can incorporate good ideas. You make them a participant. You spread the accolades.

The risk you run is that you share an idea too early, and the critical feedback you hear nips a good idea before it can bloom. This often happens when you’re still exploring a concept, and the unfinished nature of it freaks people out.

It’s more important with original work than edits. But if you deliver a piece back that’s bleeding with red ink, you’re best served prepping the soon-to-be-bruised ego. It’s not heartbreak if they agree with you.

So here’s my test about when to start you inside sales job. If you can answer yes, then go start selling:

Can you explain it to your significant other?

Does it have a catchy headline or tagline?

Do you have a specific concept or idea you want feedback on?

With those, you will represent the concept well. You will give your audience a fully-formed thought. And you will likely get some decent feedback as you put on your inside sales hat.

Email Marketing in 1,500 Words or Less

Posted: October 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: email marketing, interactive marketing, management | 1 Comment »

I have a friend applying for a project management job with a local company that focuses on email marketing. She’s an excellent project manager, but doesn’t have much experience with email marketing. I don’t have anything else going on, so I wrote up a primer to get her through the interview.

GmailI can’t say it’s the best organized writing in the world, but perhaps handy if you’re trying to quickly understand email marketing.

How Marketers Measure Success in Email

  1. Numbers of emails successfully sent: Sometimes you get bounces, spams, or bad emails. It’s good to track those numbers and clean the list occasionally.
  2. Open rate: Total emails sent out / Emails opened = open rate percentage. The biggest three contributors to whether people open an email are:
    1. Do I know who sent this to me? The name and email address in the from: field.
    2. Is the subject line interesting to me? Words like “Free” usually end up in spam, but knowing that it’s the user’s birthday or that their anniversary is coming up can generate interest. The more relevant personal information you can add in the subject line (in a way that’s not creepy), the higher your open rate.
    3. Is this a good time to talk to me about this? Emails about insurance sent at 5 pm on a Friday? Not going to get opened. Emails about “three fashion tips you already have in your closet” at 4 pm on a Friday might get opened for the “going out” crowd.
  3. Click-through rate: Total emails sent / # of clicks in all emails. Typically, just like a web page, the biggest visual will get the most clicks. And the stuff at the top of the page will get the most clicks. Know what your client really wants from their email campaign, and put it up there.
  4. Spams and Unsubscribes: A certain number of people will categorize your email as spam and a certain number will unsubscribe. Marking an email as spam is easier than unsubscribing, and many people use it. It kinda sucks, but you’ll get a few. Unsubscribe is fine, because you can  at least offer them incentives for staying in the course of unsubscribing, like a free flashlight or something. Or you can ask why they’re leaving: “Hey wow, bummer. Did we not send you interesting content? Maybe you could choose from one of these three things to help us do better next time.” At least you get a very short exit interview.

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