Well, the long wait is over and it's finally here!
No, not my newsletter though it would be lovely to think it was so eagerly anticipated ...
I'm talking about the latest and final instalment of Harry Potter. My other half and I got our copies at 12.30am on Saturday 21st July and have been immersed in a world of wizards and witches ever since.
In this issue
High literature it might not be but who cares? When did you last see people of all ages and backgrounds queuing round the block at midnight to get their hands on a book?
I finished it on the following Tuesday and felt a twinge of sadness at reaching the final page of Harry, Ron and Hermione's last adventure.
JK has created a perfect world of escapism through creative and imaginative story-telling.
While I'm reading Harry Potter I'm convinced I can do spells and I'm always dismayed to find my summoning charms don't seem to work.
What I'd like best though is Hermione's Time Turner; then I could sit and read AND work at the same time!
Hints & tips
Drop those woolly briefs!
The Hints and Tips section this time isn’t about grammar. It’s about getting the most out of outside help by making sure you brief them properly.
By outside help I’m talking about copywriters, designers, PR and marketing consultants, web-designers - basically any service you don’t have in-house.
First things first
You need to be very clear about a couple of things before you bring anyone in to pitch.
Why do you need the service in the first place? Let’s say you want a website or brochure designed:
- Why do you want it?
- What job do you need it to do for you?
- Who are you targeting?
- What type of people are they and what are their interests?
The more information you give to your consultant, the better the job they will do for you.
Give your consultant some background to your business. Who are your customers and who is the competition? What is it that you do best?
They will need a very clear idea of what you want to achieve. If you are briefing a designer or writer, it’s likely the project will be part of wider marketing or PR activity. Put it into context for them so they can see what else you are doing.
Point them at material or projects you particularly admire from other companies, and tell them why. Equally you can show them material you think has failed.
Set out a clear timeframe for the project. This should include a date for the first draft as well as your deadline.
The first draft is what is says – a draft. It’s your chance to make tweaks and changes to the tone, get rid of anything you’ve had second thoughts about, and add more information if you need to.
Sometimes when I’m writing for a client I make assumptions based on what I’ve found out about the company or sector. At the first draft stage they are suggestions. If the client likes them they will make any factual corrections that are needed. If they don’t like them, then out they go.
No nasty surprises
Make sure you don’t get any nasty surprises at invoice time. Get a quote for the maximum time the project will take. Anything over this will need to be renegotiated – that applies to both parties.
If it does look like it will go over the estimate, for reasons neither of you could have known about, you should be told as soon as possible.
On the agreement letter check whether or not expenses such as travel, telephone and post are included in the quote.
Make sure everyone on the project knows who the main contact is and who will have final sign-off.
Who owns the work
Who will own the intellectual property rights to the material produced for the project? Usually this is owned by the person who initiates the work. You need to get an agreement if you want to use the work outside of the original brief.
Remember though, circumstances can change during the life of a project. All parties need to be flexible. It could be that you need to add elements that weren’t part of the original brief. This is where good, clear communication is vital and you will need to let your consultant know immediately if there are any changes.
Domenica di Lieto is commercial director of online marketing agency, Shine Marketing.
“It’s all about the customer when you’re writing a brief,” she says. “What will appeal to them? What do they expect? If you don’t know, you need to find out.
“You also need a very clear idea of your objectives. We need to know from our customers what they want from an online campaign or website in the first place. “Do they want to sell direct, generate leads, capture data, or maybe all of these?
If you don’t know your customer or your objective, you can’t brief a consultant.”
It might seem like a lot of extra work, but it will save time over the period of the project. And it means you’ll get a much better result at the end.
Proof of the Pudding
“Elaine grasped the brief immediately, took the task in hand and spun her magic with initiative and pace"
Natasha Dwyer, MD Return to Glory
“Throughout the project Elaine communicated on a regular basis and delivered the material on time and on budget. We have had some very pleasing comments from new clients about our brochure and the directors are very pleased with the final results. We will certainly be using Elaine’s expertise for all of our future projects.”
Kevin Bye, Infinity Outsourcing UK
“Elaine's contribution was fantastic. She grasped the brief with minimal input from us and wrote clear, crisp and engaging copy."
Reena Mukherji, Director, Octavia Foundation.
Brochure for Infinity Outsourcing
When Kevin Bye and Mark Hamilton were setting up Infinity Outsourcing in the UK, they asked me to help with copy for a brochure.
The company has been operating in The States for some time and the marketing materials are written for that audience. Kevin and Mark knew this wouldn’t work in the UK and wanted a brochure that was more suitable for the UK customers. They wanted a professional and clear style that was light on jargon.
“Elaine provided examples of previous work as well as a glimpse of how she would rewrite our material.
“It gave us the confidence to appoint her and clearly demonstrated her skills and ability to turn the US version, heavily littered with jargon, into a highly professional and easy to read brochure."
Website for Return to Glory
Natasha Dwyer wanted a more fun, personal tone to the website for her at home beauty services. She told me to ‘be creative, make it fun but above make people really feel our services.’
So, a dream brief really and lots of fun to write. It’s a fabulous idea too. You don’t have to leave your home so you get the full benefits of the treatments you choose.
“Our website text was functional, repetitive and blunt,” says Natasha. “Elaine smoothed over the cracks, created a unique tone of voice and talked to our customers as they wanted to be talked to. Our site is smooth, delicious to read whilst still being informative."
Leaflet for Octavia Foundation
Octavia Foundation is part of Octavia Housing and Care based in west London. Octavia has just taken over The Notting Hill Charity Shops and wanted a leaflet to reassure customers that proceeds from their donations and purchases would still be put to good use.
The Foundation’s director, Reena Mukherji asked me to write the copy for the leaflet. She wanted a style that would appeal to the customers. It needed to describe Octavia’s work, reassure and encourage donors to continue to support the shops. She asked for a friendly, chatty and engaging tone.
“Elaine's contribution was fantastic. She grasped the brief with minimal input from us and wrote clear, crisp and engaging copy.
“Although the transfer has not taken place, we are ready to go with the leaflet as soon as it does. We wouldn't have been able to do this without Elaine's help."
Busting the jargon
Sorry, but I simply can’t forgive a journalist for trotting out business speak. And especially not a BBC correspondent.
The following irksome word was uttered by John Sopel while covering the news of Tony Blair’s resignation back in May:
“Thank you for that upsum of the situation”. Upsum? Really John you should know better.
I recently came up against the term ‘ridership’, as in ridership of public transport. I’m guessing that’s passengers to you and me.
A contact who wishes to remain anonymous to protect the guilty, and keep her job presumably, sent me this puzzler:
“I’d like your newsletter readers to ponder these terms for a second and guess what they might mean: output users and input users.
“No? Well output users are people who are looking for information. Input users, on the other hand, are the organisations that have the information.”
And the winner is …
However this issue’s prize goes to Kerrie Keeling of A Woman’s Touch.
“During a presentation, in my last job, in just one sentence I managed to say that we ‘should pick the low hanging fruit, because we were singing from the same hymn sheet and there was no need to shift the goal posts because we could get them pregnant with the idea’!
“I knew it was time for me to leave and do something different.”
And it’s for the rather dubious and fairly un-PC phrase ‘get them pregnant with the idea’ that Kerrie wins a copy of “An A-Z of Offlish”.
By the way, Kerrie’s company is well worth a look if you need a reliable plumber, electrician, decorator – you name it, Kerrie’s team of women can do it. As her website says ‘the cowboys are trembling in their boots!'
The last word
Business writing that works
I’ve just done a couple of business writing workshops for people who didn’t have English as a first language.
I took in some examples of badly written internal communications and we picked over them together. They caused furrowed brows and lots of giggles. Even though their English was pretty good, there were parts of the emails they didn’t understand at all.
All the examples were written in that weird style some people adopt for official memos or letters. They suddenly start to use the literary form of a telephone voice and use pompous words. Gems like beverage, ascertain, pertaining to, prudent, deemed necessary, and my personal favourite – egress (exit in case you don’t have a dictionary to hand) were sprinkled liberally throughout.
It achieves the opposite of communication. If you want to get a point across, particularly an important one, every-day, unpretentious language is always best.
While I was putting the workshop together I was given a really useful book. It’s called ‘Read this! Business writing that works’ and it’s by Robert Gentle. It covers all the forms of written communication you’re likely to come across in business. As well as writing it covers the importance of layout for clarity. There are examples of bad writing with the corrected version on the opposite page.
Throughout the book Gentle practises what he preaches so everything is very clear and easy to look at. It’s the kind of book that’s great to have to hand as you can dip into it as and when you need.
Cover price is £9.99.
Know what you want to say, but you can't find the right words?
Writing copy for your own business isn’t easy. You’re too close to it for a start. You can overlook some really good things; simply because they’re second nature to you. Hopefully, the main reason is that you are just too busy running a successful business. The copy for that website or newsletter that you know you need somehow always gets put off. It could just be that you hate writing …
However, I LOVE writing! I love working with words: making them flow; making them sparkle. So why not let me bring some flow and sparkle to your copy? My services include copywriting for:
- direct mail
- copy evaluations
If you’d like to talk to me about a project or just to find out if I can help you, drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call: 0208 390 8429 / 07963 722 330.