They say the shoemaker’s son has no shoes. Few fields illustrate this principle better than marketing: so many of our fellow flacks neglect their own websites that it can be hard to take them seriously.
That’s why (after far too much procrastination), we finally made a few critical changes to JRG’s site. They’re nothing dramatic, but they facilitate major improvements in SEO and UX. Here are the details:
Visual aids make writing easier and reading more enjoyable.
Smart writers know a secret. They know that what you write — your choice of words — is only half of any project. The other half is how those words look — everything from your font size to your margin widths. Packaging and presentation matter more than most people appreciate.
This is one reason stores like Gucci and Whole Foods can charge a premium: The layout of their bricks and mortar gives rise to a certain appearance and ambiance. By contrast, while I have nothing against Marshalls or Giant Food, when it comes to aesthetics, their displays just can’t compete.
Have you ever told someone, by way of apology, “I’m sorry if you feel that way”?
If so, please know that this is not an apology. In fact, this all-too-common phrase is one of the most specious in the English language. It’s a head nod toward contrition, but it’s utterly devoid of sincerity.
There are at least three major problems with these seven little words.
If you’re reading this, you no doubt have a LinkedIn profile. What you may not have is a full understanding of LinkedIn’s hidden powers — how it can transform your online presence from an afterthought into a model of thought leadership.
Here’s a quick example. LinkedIn offers two fields for your title: one is your career title (how you describe yourself at parties); the other is your job title (what your business card says).
To illustrate: have you ever heard of the guy known as the “Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs”? Here’s a hint: you know him by his job (rather than career) title: the “National Security Advisor.”
Sadly, when it comes to social media, most people conflate these two appellations. As a result, they miss an invaluable opportunity to optimize their brand in search results — not only on LinkedIn, but also in Google.
Because looking good on paper is not the same thing as being good.
When hiring a professor, nearly every college uses commonly agreed-upon criteria. Among these, perhaps the most important is whether the applicant has a graduate degree.
On one hand, credentials are a critical part of a school’s brand. Given that students are coughing up an arm and a leg for today’s tuition, it’s helpful when a school can boast that “every single one of our faculty holds an advanced degree.” Indeed, this percentage contributes to a school’s ranking.
This argument makes sense, especially from a marketing perspective. Yet it’s less compelling when applied to adjunct, rather than tenure-track, professors — i.e., those who teach as a sideline. We adjuncts typically have another job that pays the bills; we don’t teach for the money, but because we love doing it.
Many thanks to Sloane Shearman, who attended my writing workshop yesterday at the Institute for Humane Studies, for drawing this nifty cartoon:
What PR agencies can learn from news organizations.
The hard drive of every PR pro is crammed full of them. The inbox of every reporter is groaning from them. Even as pundits predict their passing, the market for them in Google AdWords is competitive and costly.
What are they? News releases. Unloved but ubiquitous, the release dates back to the founding of our industry. Of course, that was in 1906, when you needed a full-length novel to capture the public’s attention. A few things have changed since then, yet the staple of our industry resists modernization. No wonder every year brings forth those declarations of death.
But the rumors are exaggerated. The news release may be dying, but like Charles Foster Kane’s Inquirer, it still has a lot of life left—especially if the SEC has any say in the matter.
In fact, we can resuscitate our old friend with a variety of tactical tweaks. The trick: we need to stop thinking like a flack and start thinking like a hack—specifically, like editors at today’s buzziest news outlets.
When it comes to e-newsletters, everyone knows that your subject line is the silver bullet. What’s more, to point out that you should test this line is, by now, so self-evident as to be a cliché. Yet there’s so much more to the rich tapestry that is email marketing—starting with what we call it.For example, think about the message you’re sending when you refer to your emails as a “blast.” Do you really want to conjure up an image of spam (or bacn) clogging an inbox?
Or consider your sign-up form. Do you thoughtlessly ask people to “subscribe” or to “submit” their email address? C’mon, you can do better than that! Take a cue from the presidential aspirants, who carefully label their CTA buttons “I’m in” (Ted Cruz) and “Join us” (Hillary).
In other words: seize every opportunity for a semantic nudge (a subject I’ve plumbed at length in another deck, Sweat the Small Stuff).
Here are a few more questions to spur your mental gears:
In today’s the-world-is-flat era, few things can differentiate you better than polished communication skills. Indeed, even at the world’s top PR agencies—among people who make their living off the written word—those who can write well are shockingly few (and increasingly well-compensated).
Happily, the mechanics of good writing are eminently learnable. For most of us, the problem is readily diagnosable: our last English class was in college, and from our corporate perch today, we look down on continuing education—“Do I really need a two-hour seminar on something I do every day?”
News outlets should be mortified by the way they describe themselves on Twitter.
Every high schooler knows that you can’t choose your nickname. Happily, social media offers a remedy for people of all ages: the chance to write your own bio.
This ability to self-brand is priceless. Yet many fumble it. In fact, major media outlets approach their Twitter bios as if they were students cramming to finish their homework on the bus, rather than world-class wordsmiths. At a time when publishers are increasingly interested in driving social traffic to their sites, such box-checking results in a lost opportunity.
Does this description hit close to home? Does your Twitter bio read like a homework assignment dashed off en route to class? Fear not: here are 11 ways to burnish your brand.