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.
This is what happens when you let an engineer write your website copy:
“Sorry, this page isn’t available. The link you followed may be broken, or the page may have been removed.”
Gee, thanks, Facebook. Couldn’t you at least have displayed a list of similar pages? Maybe linked to some frequently asked questions? At the least, you could have conveyed a witty apology or summoned a brand-appropriate quote. And, if all else fails, bring forth a kitten pic!
Sadly, Google is no better than its neighbor to the north. Here’s what the minds of Mountain View deign to tell the poor soul who gets lost on google.com:
“404. That’s an error. The requested URL was not found on this server. That’s all we know.”
Really—that’s all? That’s the best message a company known for its NSA-like amount of data, along with its whimsical and beloved doodles, can conjure up?
Surely, you jest.
You can tell a lot about a person from his emails.
Who would you want to have a beer with?
That question kept racing through my mind as I read the replies to a solicitation I recently sent out. The emails, which within an hour numbered more than a dozen, ranged from the pedestrian to the eloquent.
I’m publishing a representative handful to correct a widespread misperception among consultants in every industry: from publicists to painters to pet-sitters, what ultimately separates the winning vendor from the runners up isn’t the quality of your work. It’s whether people want to work with you. In other words, your likability.
Whether you love it or love to hate it, the New York Times is the king of digital journalism for a simple reason: it’s always innovating. Beyond making “snowfall” a verb, the so-called Gray Lady has in recent months overhauled its website, introduced new revenue streams, produced a viral video based verbatim on a deposition, bought its own native ads, launched an explainer microsite, and built a suite of apps.
These bells and whistles aren’t just pretty ornaments for a press release, but enlightening enhancements for the everyday user. Indeed, there’s something for every audience: the designer, the stockholder, the videographer, the advertiser, the reporter, and the reader on the go.
For the social media strategist, the paper’s most significant innovation is a tiny tactic that makes stories easier to tweet. Often overlooked, this trick ought to be standard practice on every major website today. Let’s take a look.