Archive for May, 2011

Freelance Writer Files: Why You Need a Social Media Expert

Posted in Advertising Related, freelance business, Helpful Hints, social media marketing, writing well on May 31st, 2011 by liz – Be the first to comment

The unfortunate reality in social media marketing today is this: many clients think “someone on the staff” can handle the company’s social media program “in their spare time.”

Overworked worker

Spare time? What spare time?

“Social media? Not worth wasting time or money on.”
Some clients see social media planning as an afterthought that’s not important to waste money on. They don’t see any need to hire a dedicated social media manager or train someone on staff to conduct the social media program full-time, let alone hire an experienced consultant to create an effective social media marketing strategy.

Who has time for strategy? Why not just go ahead and implement?

To a “naive” social media marketer (meaning someone who is just getting into it), it may not even be obvious that a strategy is necessary. Heck, social media is free, isn’t it? So why bother? Just do it! Tweet, blog, get a FB page, and you’re golden, right? WRONG.

Social media marketing requires a strategy, just like traditional advertising and marketing. And a sound strategy comes about by knowing the answers to some very specific marketing-related questions.

Not every staff member you might pay to tweet or blog for you will know how to ask the right questions to inform a marketing strategy. You don’t jump into even the simplest purchase at Walmart before asking a few questions, do you? So why would your company’s image on the Web be less important than the functionality of the camping stove you asked a hundred questions about? Ask the right questions, or regret it when your social media marketing program either dies or blows up in your face.

What are the right questions?
What is it we want to sell (Often not as simple as “a widget.”)? What’s our unique benefit? What’s our message? Who do we want to hear it? What’s our tone? Where do we need to show up so our audience will hear us? How do we combine social media with traditional media?

Okay. Now I know the right questions. So what?
Answering the questions is only the first step. Companies need expert help in formulating and executing a social media marketing plan based on the answers to those questions, just as companies have needed it in any other communication endeavor. And yes, time and money will need to be spent. It’s a fact of social media life.

Who can help?
The person who puts together your social media strategy can be a stated “expert in social media marketing plans,” a social-media-hip agency, or an independent contractor. But whoever you hire, make sure they know the right questions to ask. Anyone who has spent time as a writer at advertising agencies should have a basic list of questions to ask before suggesting you jump into execution of an ad hoc marketing plan. And some idea of how to proceed from there.

During my couple of decades as a senior ad agency writer, I learned how to develop marketing strategies, then added two other tools that help fine-tune the communication needs of the client and the campaign. Armed with these tools and my experience, I can help any client develop an effectively targeted, well-written and pitch-perfectly voiced marketing plan in traditional and/or social media.

Think like a successful marketer.

Fact is, I don’t know HTML from STP, and there are lots of people you can get to write code. But when you plan a marketing campaign, whether traditional or social media, you need the ability to think like a successful marketer. You need to ask (and answer) the right questions before you plunge into implementation. And I can help you do that.

My budget’s too small to hire an expert.
If you have a small budget, you can’t afford NOT to hire an expert to help you focus your traditional or social media marketing efforts as sharply as possible. If you need your marketing brain sharpened, give me a call at 913.236.7595. Let’s think together— about making your campaign a success to be proud of.

Queenie & Barack et al.

Posted in Other Stuff on May 25th, 2011 by liz – Be the first to comment

No offense. I really respect the British royals, but I just had to show you this photo from their visit with the Obamas. Which person in this group looks as if they have just soaked their Depends?

Blimey!

Freelance Writer Files: What to do when there’s nothing to do.

Posted in freelance business, Helpful Hints, Motivation, Other Stuff, writing well on May 25th, 2011 by liz – Be the first to comment

Got that done.

Biz sure has been slow this week. Everybody slacking in anticipation of the Memorial Day weekend. So what am I doing? Nothing, income-wise. Ho hum. But there is still plenty to do, even if there’s nothing that makes me money. There’s stuff that always needs to be done, but you’re glad you’re too busy to do it. So do it now, when you’re not busy. C’mon, try it. You’ll like it! I suggest you try the following:

1. Improve your chi.

Boost your chi!

Some spell it “qi,” which probably is more authentic, but however you spell it, it means “energy.”

OMG. Where to start?

Closets, bureau drawers, file cabinets and basements are full of stuff you don’t use, don’t need, maybe don’t even like. Like that godawful avocado-colored lazy susan your aunt Marie gave you for your first marriage. Get rid of it. Or those clothes from a former life that don’t fit (and even if they did, they’d only be in fashion if the 80s came back). Or all those old files in your home office. And books you’ve either already read or never will read (Those you can sell on Amazon.com. It’s easy!).

Excess clutter blocks chi, which means energy in the form of income, opportunities, friendships, and lots more. Think how much more energetic your office and your mind would be without clutter.

Wherever you start, sort your excess stuff into three piles: Keep, Toss, Donate. When you’ve done a box or two, take a good hard look at everything in your Keep pile, and ask yourself, “Is this thing either beautiful or useful?” If the answer is “No,” then move it to the Toss or Donate pile. Be ruthless.

2. Spiff up the yard.

If you own a yard, it probably has weeds. Weeds are symbolic of distractions in your mind, by the way. I’ve always found pulling weeds to be a calming, meditative, useful activity. Gets me out in my little patch of nature, improves the look of my yard, and kills my back when I forget to use a stool instead of stooping over from the waist. That last is not a benefit, by the way. It’s what I call a “stoopid.”

Trimming shrubberies is fun, too. Gives me a chance to express my inner sculptor. It requires just enough mental energy to distract me from whatever big, heavy issues have been worrying or distressing me. For a time, I’m Chauncey Gardener (From “Being There.”) Mindless, happy, content.

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Mowing the lawn can be rewarding. It’s a good workout, and I kind of enjoy it. It’s sweaty, honest work. It’s the ritual of getting out the mower, filling the tank, priming it and taking off that satisfies. Then, the hard work begins. There is some mental, as well as physical, effort. I’ve been experimenting for years with various ways to mow around the giant oak tree in the front yard: in circles, in vertical lines around the perimeter, mowing around it a row at a time, then tackling what’s left. It’s these little problems that make life interesting.

3. Write a blog post.

Well, you see I’m taking my own advice.

Happy chi day!

Freelance Writer Files: Can Product Hate Build Loyalty?

Posted in Advertising Related, writing well on May 20th, 2011 by liz – Be the first to comment

The current Miracle Whip TV campaign features Jersey-style hate for the mayonnaisey, yet sweet, product.

It appears that Miracle Whip is playing on the generally accepted fact that there are “Mayo people” and there are “Miracle Whip” people, and never the twain shall meet. Each thinks the other’s fave sandwich spread is yucky. It probably has to do with which one your mom used to make tuna salad.

But this TV spot features Pauly D, who hates Miracle Whip and anyone who likes it. Huh? Does that hatred inspire brand loyalty among MW lovers? Make them feel defensive, so they clutch MW to their collective bosom to shield it from Hellmann’s bullies?

Turning a negative into a positive for MW?

The commercial encourages mayo lovers to taste MW to see if they really do hate it. The last time I tasted it was when I was about ten years old. I still remember the shock, disappointment and anger I felt when I took that first bite of my friend’s mom’s tuna salad sandwich. It was a terrible situation: I was famished, and I love tuna salad, but this tuna salad had been RUINED by the sweet, sticky, overpowering flavor of Miracle Whip. I was a Hellmann’s kid and had never tasted this other stuff before. I reacted like a baby tasting creamed spinach for the first time. Except I didn’t spit it out, because my mother taught me to be polite. The fact that the MW brand has remained popular to this day isn’t so much a miracle as a mystery to me.

Spread it ALL over?

In like fashion, Brits love a certain bread spread called Vegemite. It’s concentrated yeast extract in a jar. Mmm! To the Vegemite virgin, it tastes like something that ought to be used to lubricate machinery and have a label warning of dire consequences if you ingest it. But the Brits gobble it by the gallon (or the litre) every year. Apparently, they even use it under their eyes when they play rugby. And down their… well, never mind.

Obviously retouched to remove the grease...

And on this side of the pond, how about White Castle burgers, better known as “sliders?” Briefly, there was a White Castle nearby. White Castle was exotic and new to me. When it opened, I rushed over and ordered a bag of sliders. With the first savor of burger number one, what impressed me most was how little meat and how much cheese and grease was packed between those eensy buns. I imagined the goo oozing its way through my arteries, toward my aorta. I threw the rest of the sliders and the oil-soaked bag away. Amazingly, these tiny death-bombs are so popular that for fans who aren’t near a White Castle, there are sliders in the grocery store freezer case. Go figger.

But back to the Miracle Whip versus Hellmann’s or Kraft controversy. The MW commercial casts aspersions on people who like Miracle Whip, yet it’s a commercial FOR Miracle Whip. This is a radical twist on the traditional approach, which is to show happy people smiling as they tuck into whatever foodstuff is being promoted. In that sense, the commercial is refreshing. There isn’t a single “bite and smile” shot in it. But will it sell Miracle Whip? I imagine it’s aimed at younger audience members (What are they now, Gen Y or Gen Z?) who are skeptical of anything pushed at them via TV in the traditional way. This message is ironic, edgy and unexpected. So who knows, that may be the recipe for Miracle Whip success.

But as I said, I think preferences are based on what you’re raised with. I say if you’re a MW person, you’re going to use it as always. If you’re a mayo person, you’re not. What do you think?

Freelance Writer Files: Need Proooofing?

Posted in Advertising Related, freelance business, Helpful Hints, writing well on May 17th, 2011 by liz – Be the first to comment

Someone recently stuck this flyer in my door. I was about to throw it away, when I became riveted by the copy. Not because of the content, but because spelling errors dotted its landscape like landmines. See how many you can spot.

Flyer in desperate need of proofing

Friends don't let friends print flyers until they've been proofread.

I imagine English is not the first language of the author of this flyer. I hope s/he finds someone to look over future advertising pieces. Poor spelling gives the impression you don’t care about detail, at the very least. Or that you are dumb, at the very worst.

Need a good proofreader to make you and your business look its best? Give me a call. 913-236-7595.

Freelance Writer Files: To contract or not to contract.

Posted in freelance business, Helpful Hints, Motivation, Other Stuff on May 4th, 2011 by liz – Be the first to comment

Is it rude to ask a client to sign a contract and pay you some money before you do any work for him or her?
Hmm. Some freelancers seem to think so. They rush headlong into client relationships without even the promise of a kiss, then sometimes end up being jilted and cheated of what we all work for: money.

To those timid freelance graphic designers or writers, I ask, is it rude for Time Warner Cable to ask you to sign a contract? Or a remodeling contractor to have you sign off on an estimate before he gets to work? Of course not! That’s bidness, y’all.

signing a contract

"A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on."—Yogi Berra

If you’re a freelancer who is scared stupid to ask a client to sign on the line with you for fear you’ll lose him or her, I have three words of advice: Get Over It. Someone who won’t agree to sign onto normal terms of payment is someone who doesn’t see paying you as an absolute necessity. You don’t want a shaky or shady client anyhow, do you?

We freelancers constantly have to remind ourselves that we are a business. And any business requires a contract that cements a legal bond between them and their clients. It should help both parties feel safe, because you’ve agreed on the rules in writing. And freelancers should feel particularly safe, because in most jurisdictions, a written contract is considered binding, even if it isn’t too fancy.

In 10 years of freelancing, I never had a contract. Or let’s say, I never had one I could get clients to sign. I think there are two reasons why.

1. I didn’t project confidence in asking them to sign it.
I felt embarrassed to ask for them to agree to pay me money, a common freelancer disorder. The vaccine against it is a hard look at your income and outgo every month. If the first is smaller than the second, then screw your courage to the sticking point and ask for the signature and some upfront money. Because your time and effort are worthy of recompense.

2. They were not financially stable, so they weren’t sure they could honor it.
They were the wrong clients. You have to kiss some froggy, financially strapped clients before you find the princes and princesses… but heck, you don’t have to go steady with them. Why waste time you could be spending on clients who will sign a contract with you?

Now I have an Engagement Agreement, a one-page document that sets out my terms. It deals with how I will bill the client, how much per hour, what constitutes billable activity, what happens if they don’t pay within 30 days (a 1.5% daily add-on or being strapped down and forced to listen to indie hip-hop 24/7 until they pay–just kidding!), and so on. My last two new clients have signed it and paid me the deposit I requested, too. Will wonders never cease.

indie hip-hop album cover

Please, no more! I'll pay you double!

If you decide to work a tightrope without a net, okay and good luck. It worked for me nearly all the time (except for the solid year I dunned a client for a measly $400). But there will be times when you’ll wish you’d had one.

And if you’re a client who’s on the up-and-up, you absolutely should expect to sign a contract with your freelancer. It prevents misunderstandings that can ruin a nice relationship.

To contract or not to contract? I say, “Contract.”