Overcome fear to tell your story

All businesses need to create a presence so that customers know that they are there. Whether this is through marketing and advertising or from word-of-mouth recommendations, awareness is essential for getting work.

I find that many people are still wary of trying out many of the marketing tools that are available to them. In my role as a business writer for a local newspaper, I often receive phone calls starting with a business owner saying gingerly “I don’t know if you’ll be interested in this . . . ” and then going on to tell a cracker of a story. Of course, the opposite of this is the business owner who sends in press releases regularly with ‘news’ that is only of interest to them. I believe many businesses have good stories to tell and need the confidence to tell them.

While an effective PR consultant can help, businesses without a budget can . . . and do . . . achieve media exposure through their own efforts. With thought and planning, a clear idea of what you want to achieve and a focus on what you will and what you won’t talk about, public relations can be a very cost effective tool.

This applies not only to PR but also to blogging, social media and more. Perhaps you see your competitors getting exposure and feel that you offer a better service than they do, but how will people find that out? Often a voice can tell us that “no one wants to hear about that”, but it’s probably that we’re afraid of standing up and telling our story, a bit like the fear of public speaking.

I’m often encouraging people to talk about their businesses because so many are fascinating and deserve wider exposure. With social media, colleagues and associates can help to share your stories and support you.

There really are many opportunities to tell your stories and people who want to hear them.

Robert Zarywacz is a copywriter and journalist who has written thousands of magazine and newspaper articles. He also researches and writes press releases, case studies and newsletters for clients as well as managing social media and PR campaigns at z2z.com. Robert is the business writer for the North Devon Journal, chairman of COMBEbusiness and courtesy consultant for the National Campaign for Courtesy. Follow @robertz on Twitter.

Are you on benefits?

Every now and then a word gets into my bad books.

At the moment, it’s ‘benefits’.

This is a shame, because it’s not such a bad word and originally meant a kind deed or something well done. Then one day people like me got hold of it. Copywriters grabbed it, bundled it together with ‘features’ and tossed both into copy for brochures, press releases and other marketing and PR materials.

The kind, friendly element was drowned by the dressing to ensure the ‘you must buy it because it’ll be so good for you’ message always got through. “Forget features, sell the benefits,” people say.

The more I look at the original meaning, the more I like the word. Perhaps what I don’t like is the approach to marketing that reduces everything to a formula, which when applied automatically tends to fall flat. (Thinks back to weigh up own guilt.)

Another use of the word, to describe state social security payments, hasn’t helped either. With a stronger attachment to the failure of government systems rather than the relief given to genuine claimants, the poor word doesn’t stand a chance.

Now I regret it being in my bad books. I want to like benefits again and restore its benign impact, but this means working harder to find better ways of talking about features and _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .

 

More words are not any easier to understand

One of the disadvantages of being a copywriter is having to wade through so much material to produce a piece of writing that means something and which people will want to read. I’m doing some research at the moment and whatever I read seems to take far too long to get to the point. It’s not as if I’m reading a novel where the scene has to be set or a play where the atmosphere has to be created: this is business.

There is a temptation, especially when an argument is a bit shaky and there is not sufficient evidence to back a point, to write more words in the hope that repeating it will convince the reader. It’s a bit like repeatedly shouting the same words at someone who does not speak your language in the futile hope that repetition and volume will force them to understand.

For busy people who are looking for information fast, clear and simple is best.

Of course, this can be complicated by the needs of internet search engine optimisation which can require keywords to be included in online content for the sake of technology, not the reader. There are also techniques to increase recognition of a brand or an argument through using repetition.

Such writing techniques require balance. Text written purely in keywords will sound like someone who’s swallowed a product catalogue, while aimless repetition of a point will sound like the cries of a market trader. Crude use of these techniques will turn readers away as the text won’t sound natural.

However clever a writer wants to be, if there are too many unnecessary words, the reader will tire and stop reading.

After yesterday’s blog, what have you done to progress your marketing and communications today?

z2zine tomorrow: public sector dehumanising language

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