Burnt Toast Editorial

Writing that smokes

Category Archive:Copywriting

David Ogilvy’s 10 hints on how to write for clarity and precision.

David Ogilvy CBE (1911-1999) was the doyen of advertising in America in the 1950s and 60s. Whilst his mother was Anglo-Irish, his father was a Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highlander. During the Second World War David Ogilvy worked for the British Intelligence Service at the British Embassy in Washington where he analysed and made recommendations on matters of diplomacy and security.

It was his reputation as a superb wordsmith and communicator on Madison Avenue that established him amongst his peers as the pre-eminent ad-man in America, and his ideas on effective writing and branding are still highly influential. The character of Don Draper in “Mad Men is loosely based on Ogilvy and another famous ad-man of the 1960s, Leo Burnett.

On one occasion Ogilvy crafted a memo for his employees at Ogilvy and Mather, identifying 10 “hints” on how to write for maximum clarity and precision:

“The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well. Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches. Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well.

1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson ¹ book on writing. Read it three times.
2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
6. Check your quotations.
7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning – and then edit it.
8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.”

¹ How to Communicate Effectively in Business, Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson. See: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Writing-That-Works-Communicate-Effectively/dp/0060956437/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332602643&sr=1-1

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Ogilvy 

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When a #wonkyword means business.

Blog. It’s a #wonkyword isn’t it? By that I mean it’s an odd, unusual word. What’s its meaning? First of all it’s a noun and a verb and a shortened version of “weblog”. According to Wikipedia a weblog (blog) is:

“a discussional or informational website consisting of discrete, often informal diary style text entries”.

Blogs have developed from the single-authored single-subject site to multi-authored blogs (MABs) written by large numbers of authors, sometimes professionally edited and most commonly published by newspapers, broadcasters, opinion makers, universities, public sector bodies, and now account for the increasing numbers and quality of blog traffic. Add to this the exponential growth of micro-blogging and social media and you get a sense of what a huge phenomenon it’s become.

I know there are people who can’t see the point of writing blogs. Of those that do some may write sporadically. Others begin writing blogs rather enthusiastically and then tail off because they’re not seeing immediate results. There are also those who don’t like writing or think they can’t write; and let’s not forget those who don’t even know what a blog is.

Would you like to know how many small businesses don’t have a website let alone use it to write blogs? In 2010, 51% of small businesses in the UK did not have a website and by 2015 this figure had reduced – to 50%. Yes, 50%. Surprising ain’t it? When you put this in the context of the record 5.5 million UK private sector businesses trading at the start of 2016 and with SMEs forming 99.3% of this sector, it’s hard to compute such a sizeable disparity even when taking “white van man” or the small local shop owner and sole trader into account.

These days the internet is an essential marketing component for any company big or small. However, unless you can hire specialists in social media and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), learning how to maximise your social media often comes through trial and error. Not a bad way to learn the ropes but you have to factor in the hours spent doing so.

Here’s why I think you should blog.

Information

This is how it should flow.  Your blog is a deliverer of information about you (mission, aims, expertise, brand, services, value, benefits, USP). You want your readers to visit your site to learn about all of these fabulous things that you embody and then become interested in what else you have to say. Create the opportunity to hear from your readers e.g. encourage comments and feedback. Ask for their opinions. Dialogue of this kind establishes initial engagement, then further engagement, and hopefully profitability – I hasten to add here that profit is not always of the monetary kind. Use your blog to link to other blogs you may have written, to studies and research, hot topics in your field, and other weblogs. Build a “web” of links across the internet.

Reputation

Blogging enhances the reputation of your business, organisation, or whatever you want people to know about, follow and support. By blogging you demonstrate your expertise, prove your credentials, and position yourself as the “go to” person for ideas, advice, creativity, problem-solving and let’s face it, to do business. People want to associate with the best, the original thinker, the innovator, the success story, the opinion maker. Blogging gives you the chance to demonstrate your capabilities and create your own niche.

Keeping your clients happy

Writing regular, interesting, and “authentically you” blogs means that when you wish to stand back from the more obvious sales pitch you can do so without losing touch with your client base. Blogging keeps your finger on the pulse without having to have “face time” as good and helpful as that is.

Website ranking

That Was The Week That Was

This is important as it’s the way that search engines will find you online and therefore more visible to potential clients and supporters. Once again we get back to the necessity of writing good content and regular news items for your site. You may also want to explore vlogging, the video clip equivalent of blogging. Research other websites to see the creativity of vlogging and then experiment yourself. With the benefit of smart technology on tablets and mobile phones you don’t need to use a video camera. Just think of Facebook’s new “Live” streaming where users can upload real time videos and you will get a sense of how popular vlogging has become. And now add Instagram (who are owned by Facebook) to the mix with their live streaming facility.

Extend your reach

Blogging is not about creating content solely for your website but your social media too. Publishing and sharing your blogs on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+ (or whatever permutation of social media you use) will boost your reach and penetration of your target market, and as with website ranking increases your visibility. The overall aim is to persuade people to contact you because they like what they see and the answers and solutions to what they need. Start to see blogging as creating search engine optimisation (SEO) that is promote-able, with the power to generate business and brand value.

Building up your brand

Mojo

Blogging is a wonderful way of expressing your company’s mojo and by extension its brand. The informal nature of blogging means that they it is brilliantly suited for brand strengthening because its reasonably affordable, allowing you to manage your promotional messages and values in a cost-effective way.  The main cost or should I say investment, for this is what it is, lies mostly in the time it takes to write good copy.

Media engagement

Picking up from the usefulness of blogging in building your brand it should also start to attract media attention. This may be local to begin with but with regular postings that demonstrate your expertise, industry knowledge and writing dexterity, you may find that the national media will notice your work and and be compelled to contact you for a news story.

Finally and to reiterate, good blogging brings you:- 

  • Reputation
  • Prospects
  • Existing customers
  • Potential employees
  • Brand awareness
  • Marketing partners
  • Potential investors
  • Media engagement

Have I convinced you? If so, perhaps the “wonky word” is worth getting to know a little better?

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