Author Archives: kbansemer

About kbansemer

His 15+ years of online marketing experience building brands for companies including Shindigz, Abercrombie & Kent, Readers.com, Stumps Prom & Party, and others gives My Web Writers’ daily insight into the challenges e-Commerce managers face. And, that’s not all. Watch one of Keith’s videos and you’ll soon discover that the guy has pipes. His 14 years prior to Internet marketing were spent in radio broadcasting in suburban Chicago – both on the air and off as a program director.

Advanced Press Release Pitching

How to Write a Media Pitch that Attracts Viral Attention

Press release pitching is one of the most difficult parts of a public relations profession. Combine your tight deadlines with the stress of unrealistic clients who want front page Wall Street Journal coverage for every new product launch or charity event, and you are destined for a stressful day.

Advanced Press Release PitchingBusinesswire.com has a great article on writing press releases that will gain you media attention. However, while the tips for writing a press release that draws media attention are not much different than those needed to write a strong pitch, there are additional considerations needed to ensure you capture the attention of the one or two media journalist you want to see coverage from. That said; it’s helpful to keep these tips in your back pocket when developing a pitch.

Sell a pitch that includes several of the top eight importance factors in the body.

The Public Relations Journal recently released a study on the correlation between what journalists view as important news compared to what public relations professionals view as important news. While the study highlights that more times than not, media and public relations professionals weight the importance factors equally, pitches do not always include the details to draw media into those attention-grabbing facts.

Make sure that your pitch highlights at least three of the Journal’s eight importance factors, which include:

  1. Localness/proximity – relevant to your market / area
  2. Timeliness – recent or in the near future
  3. Immediacy – breaking news
  4. Prominence – includes people / places of interest
  5. Cultural proximity – how the topic relates to your local audience
  6. Unexpectedness – unique statistics or facts readers wouldn’t expect
  7. Human interest – entertaining/interesting
  8. Significance / consequence / importance – why people should care

Journalists are people too.

Just like you, journalists are people with real lives and crazy workloads. They are balancing their 200+ daily work emails with trips to the dry cleaners, late night soccer practices, and overnight deadlines. They do not have time to read a 500 word pitch. Keep your pitch short and to the point. Offer just enough detail to help them envision the start of their story before they even pick up the phone to talk to you.

Additionally, it is important to make your pitch personal. Begin a pitch addressed to the specific journalist’s name. If possible, bring up a personal detail about your relationship with him.

“Hi Jim – it was great meeting you at the trade show last week. I’d love to schedule some time for us to chat more about the new product launch I referenced during our conversation.”

A personal touch goes a long way. You might not always get the response you wanted, but you should at least get a response that will leave the door open for future pitch conversations.

Keep your pitches original.

Every journalist wants to have a breaking story. Pitching the same content to three leading newspaper publications will not receive a favorable response if more than one accepts the interview and they end up writing the same story. Include items in your pitch such as, “These details are exclusive and only will be shared with your publication,” or, “We wanted to share this news with you first.” If the publication is a strong one, it might be worth giving an exclusive interview to secure leading coverage and a great working relationship with the publication for the future.

Not sure you agree with the original approach? Check out this article from Forbes on the top tips for press release pitching, written by Mikal E. Belicove, a top Forbes columnist.

~ Katie

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Filed under Content, Marketing, Press Release Writing, The Writing Process

Writing for Your Audience: How to Keep Them Engaged While Still Selling

How Social Media Holds the Keys to Successful Business Writing

NewspaperAccording to The State of the News Media: 2013 Report by The Pew Research Center, “Newspaper website audiences grew 3 percent as measured by unique visitors from November 2011 to November 2012. However, total visits decreased almost 5 percent in the same time period.” These numbers point out an interesting phenomena occurring in media as consumers are transitioning their readership to online channels, while spending less time reading the news than they did in the past.

So as a writer, how do you keep your audience engaged, especially when your end goal is to sell your product? What are the emerging trends in business writing sales and how can you help stay abreast of the latest writing techniques needed to make a sale? Believe it or not, social media may hold the insider’s tips into keeping your audience engaged.

Keep it Short and Simple

The shear metrics behind the Twitter website should demonstrate consumer’s demand for short and to-the-point information consumption. According to the company’s website, average monthly users soared from 100 million in 2011 to 255 million currently. This represents a 155 percent increase in just three years. Compared to the 3 percent growth for newspaper website audiences, it’s clear to see Twitter has the emerging market cornered.

That said; how can you capture audiences using the same characteristics of Twitter? Well for starters, consider keeping messages short, simple, and to the point. Twitter has a 140-character limit for a reason; people don’t have the time or attention span to read anything longer. Imagine how successful your next media ad text would be if you sold every key benefit within the first 140 characters. Or, what if you wrote a sales blog that got to the point in three paragraphs instead of seven? While short and sweet definitely has its place, the theory of “less is more” cannot be lost when it comes to writing to sell.

Visual Interest Is Crucial

Dog Watching ButterflyImagery is a necessary part of any successful business writing piece. In fact, imagery, be it a company logo, creative photo to accompany your advertisement, or even a fun video to go along side your blog, can be the difference between capturing an attentive audience or receiving a high website click through rate before your readers actually absorb any of your content. For example, organizations such as the Business Marketing Organization are recognizing the value of using up-to-date, intriguing visuals, and are updating their brand imagery accordingly.

Social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest provide leading examples of the use of effective imagery which brands should be striving for. True-to-life, action shots of average people in real life settings are the business imagery that will resonate in the future. Gone are the days of staged portraits with professional actors who know nothing about your product. Looking for great imagery to accompany your business writing piece? Try photographing some of your actual clients using your product in a real-life setting. Or, use customer submitted photos. If you think it would get a “Like” on Instagram or a Pin on Pinterest, it’s probably a solid image.

Relationship Building Is a Necessary Step

NotebookYour business writing piece should speak to your audience in a way they can relate to. Just like your Facebook followers, users who regularly visit your business blog or look for your advertisements will expect a certain caliber and stream of content from you. For example, the content created on a Facebook page for a local rock band would be much different than the Facebook content created for the corner garden and nursery supply store. Keep in mind the audience you are speaking to about your business just like you would your Facebook page:

  • What will my friends/family/followers want to know about this product or service?
  • Will this information actually interest them?
  • Have I already talked about this idea in the recent past?

Likewise, make your business writing a two-way conversation. While this specifically applies to blogs, it is crucial that your audience feels like you are talking with them, not at them. Solicit commentary from your audience. Welcome guest bloggers. Make your writing a conversational piece verses simply just a straight sales pitch. The more social engagement you can bring into your piece, the stronger your final sales results will be.

~ Katie

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Filed under Audience, Capturing Audience, Content, Content Marketing, Sales, Social Media, Technical Writing, The Writing Process

Two Unforgettable Keynote Speeches and Why They Were So Good

It is that time of year when the successful, the esteemed, and the sages are orating all over the country. We’d all benefit from turning an ear to their decrees of wisdom.

2014 Graduation SpeechesThese days, we are all privy to the pearls wisdom from the elite through social media. As a result, we have on record some of the most profound and universal principles that have guided the successful for decades.

Graduation and commencements are still taking place. Bill and Melinda Gates will be speaking at Stanford in a few weeks. The first of its kind joint commencement speech will surely have some noteworthy truths shared. But for now, we have chosen these two very different speeches to glean from.

Colin Powell at High Point University

Colin Powell gave the May 3rd commencement address for High Point University. The General’s calm authority is powerful. His recent talk echoed much of his core beliefs regarding the importance of a life dedicated to service, compassion, and making the choice to be a problem solver for others.

Here are some of his words of advice for the class of 2014:

  • “Make sure you share the talent and the time and the treasure you have with others who are in greater need than you.”
  • “Go forth and raise strong families remembering that all you can ever leave behind is your reputation, your good works and your children for the next generation.”
  • “As you go through life, listen to the other side. Have your eyes and your ears and your heart open to counterviews…”
  • “If you want to save the world, start by saving just one kid. That’s what it’s all about.”

You can see General Powell’s speech here in its entirety.

Jennifer Lee at the University of New Hampshire

Jennifer Lee was the honored speaker at her alma mater, the University of New Hampshire. Who is Jennifer Lee? Lee is simply the first female director of a Walt Disney Animation Studios feature film and the first writer at any major animation studio to become a director. That is a big deal. Then she takes it up a notch and writes a little screenplay, Frozen, which goes on to win the Academy Award for the Best Animated feature film.

Looking like she may be a former model, Lee was humble and honest in her appeal to the graduating class of 2014. Like many creative people, it seems that this groundbreaking director has wrestled self-doubt and won. She shares, almost in the tone of a “12 Step meeting,” what happens when self-doubt takes root. She describes how it clouds everything you do and see. It is the opposite of wearing rose-colored glasses. Lee shares, “The lenses of self-doubt are nasty and thick, big and filthy and covered in swamp scum. They are the lenses of, ‘I’m not good enough.’”

Ms. Lee shares from her heart for nearly fifteen minutes. She takes us on her journey through adolescent and young adulthood. Her story is one that everyone can identify with on some level. All, except that blockbuster hit she has on her resume, of course!

Ultimately, Ms. Lee’s speech was worth sharing as another example of how women are respectfully breaking through ceilings. Even having the vulnerability to share authentically, in the vein of Brene Brown, is a bit revolutionary. She implores the graduates to join the revolution.

“When you are free from self-doubt, you fail better. You accept criticism and listen,” Lee told grads. “If I learned one thing, it is that self-doubt is one of the most destructive forces. It makes you defensive instead of open, reactive instead of active. Self-doubt is consuming and cruel and my hope today is that we can all collectively agree to ban it.”

Ban self-doubt? We couldn’t agree more.

There is also no doubt that there will be other great speeches given over the next few weeks that deserve to be shared. Let us know if you spot one so we can all learn from the lives of the successful.

~ Jennifer

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Filed under Colleges, Keynote Ideas, Leadership, Speeches

Leverage the Power of the Second Axiom with Customers

The way you look at the world today is not the way you looked at it when you were ten. Back then, the teacher who frowned and ordered, “walk in the hallway” was “mean.” Going back to visit today, you’d probably find that not only is the building a little smaller, but that mean old teacher is, too.

Teacher and Student RelationshipsIf you were to take her to lunch, you might even find her to be rather “nice” and full of interesting stories and insights about you, your family, and the other kids you knew. You had no idea what the principal was really doing or how two of your favorite teachers never really got along. Maybe she’d even share a story about a child who she really helped. Further, as you think about it more, you might discover that child is you!

The second axiom of Paul Watzlawick’s Interactive Communication Theory is:

“Every communication has a content and relationship aspect such that the latter classifies the former and is therefore a meta-communication. Each person responds to the content of communication in the context of the relationship between the communicators.”
(Wanterfall)

Knowledge and experience shape how we see a situation and react to it. Whether we’re young or old, living in a hut or in a mansion, we bring our own worlds to each interaction. Meta communication is the sub-text through which the real message is found. “It is based on the idea that the same message, accompanied by different meta-communication, can mean something entirely different, including its opposite, as in irony.” (Wikipedia)

Watzlawick’s Interactive Communication Theory suggests that:

“Communication happens because all of the communicators are not ‘speaking the same language.’ This happens because people have different viewpoints of speaking.”

Communication BreakdownThis second axiom begins to explain why some customers don’t respond well to certain emails, commercials, websites, or blog posts- yet alone the newest sales guy on your team. Customer perspectives alter your message.

Just like the teacher didn’t seem so mean after the boy grew up and had a perspective change, so your clients might one day appreciate your product, service, brand, or channel when needs or experiences change perspectives. Of course, until then, you might want to further analyze how to alter how you say what you say, so that it’s more favorably received.

Dominos decided to change the perception of its pizza. Executives spent eighteen months perfecting their product before hiring an ad agency reshape the brand’s message and image. According to Adam Toporek, “All of the campaigns mentioned above blended… the three legs of the modern marketing stool: traditional advertising, public relations, and online/social. The Turnaround Campaign did not approach public relations in isolation and made sure all campaign components supported its core messages.”

JC Penny, on the other hand, lost market share when trying to turn around losses in sales. Because of his previous experiences at Apple, the new CEO was out of step with the majority of Penny’s shoppers when he rid the retailer of couponing. Some say that bargain hunting is part of a female shopper’s DNA.

The relationship one has to the content determines how the content is received. What could make your message more effective?

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Filed under Branding, Education Strategy, Marketing

The Future of DuckDuckGo as a Viable Search Engine

Ever since the World Wide Web came into existence, the business of creating the best of the best search engine has been never-ending. When someone asks a question they do not know the answer to, a typical response is, “Why don’t you just Google it?” Obviously, Google has elevated its brand to be a proprietary eponym, a product that is so successful, that has come into general use to refer to the its generic class of objects rather than the specific brand type. Google is trusted by millions of Internet users around the globe.

Duck Duck Go Search EngineSoon though, there may be some new competition in the world of search engines. Instead of saying, “Google it,” you may hear people saying, “Duck it.” This is because DuckDuckGo is climbing the ranks in the search engine business and only time will tell how far it will get up the usage and acceptance ladder.

With so many search engines available, it seems that everyone has their favorite go-to engine for any information they may be seeking. Aside from Google, some of the other top search engines that the average Internet user knows include Ask.com, Bing, Yahoo, and YouTube (of course, it is owned by Google). Even Twitter and Facebook are used extensively for search. So what would make a user of any of these well-known search engines try out DuckDuckGo? Is there something that makes this newer search engine different? Is there something that clearly sets it apart from Google, Yahoo, Bing, and the others? Quite simply, the answer is, “Yes!”

DuckDuckGo has something known as Zero Click Information that provides you with info that goes above the traditional search results. It’s called Zero Click Information because you get what you are looking for right on the search page without having to click on a link unless you need further information. The information you get with this Zero Click technology includes, but is not limited to, a summary of the topic, images, and direct answers to whatever your questions are.

In addition to the perk of the Zero Click, there is also what is known as semantic topic detection. This technology lets the search engine take your questions and quickly sort through all available links, but only showing the topics it detected in your queries. For example, if you input a vague search item such as “apple,” DuckDuckGo actually inquires which meaning you want. Are you looking for information on fruit? Do you need some stats about the company Apple? This allows your search to be better targeted for the optimal results. And perhaps the biggest reason that DuckDuckGo may beat out other more popular search engines in the near future is that it is much less cluttered than other search engines. They have fewer advertisements and their spam is at the bare minimum. Clutter reduction is one of DuckDuckGo’s top priorities.

So, how is DuckDuckGo quacking along? Numbers don’t lie and when it was first introduced on September 25, 2008, the web traffic went up 50 percent in only eight short days. And if the above reasons aren’t convincing enough to convince you that DuckDuckGo is real competition to the other search engine giants, check this out: DuckDuckGo is not putting out a track on you. That’s right.

Duck Duck Go billboard adUnlike its competitors, such as Google, DuckDuckGo has a stellar privacy policy. And unlike other competitors, such as Yahoo, DuckDuckGo does all it can to simplify your search experience. You know how Yahoo and Google add suggested links at the top of your search? DuckDuckGo doesn’t do this. They actually WANT you to find what you need without a hassle. How refreshing is that?

It will definitely be interesting to see where this new search kid on the block ends up…at the front of the class or at the back of the bus.

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Filed under Marketing, Search Engine Marketing

Nothing Fits “All of Your Needs”

The phrase appears everywhere.  Our service or products will fit “all of your needs.”  Wow!  This is it.  I’ve hit the Holy Grail.  ALL of my needs.  Where do I sign up??  I need a new wardrobe.  I need someone to wash my dog.  I need more time to watch Shark Tank Tuesdays.  I need a vacation.  And on and on…

The reality is, nothing fits “all of your needs.”  Not any one person, company, or product.  A search of Google yields about 121,000,000 results for “all of your needs.”  That large a number says that there are a lot of people and businesses that believe they can do it all.  (Humorous sidetrack:  the number one search result on Google for “all of your needs” returns a link to a Bible passage from Philippians 4:19 that says, “And my God will meet all your needs.” Score one for the big guy.)

Delete trite phrases

Delete trite phrases

One of the lessons that should be taught to content writers during their Marketing 101 course is to avoid using the phrase “all of your needs” in copy.  Forever.  In fact, there should be a law against using such a trite phrase that’s guaranteed to underdeliver.  Besides “all of your needs,” the Harvard Business Review released their own Bizspeak Blacklist of overused word phrases that display an absence of actual thought.  Some offenders:

  • Think outside the box

  • Mission-critical

  • Hit the ground running

  • Push the envelope

  • Value-added

  • Level the playing field

SHIFT Communications took overuse of a trite phrase one step further and sampled 62,768 press releases from 2013.  Their goal was to find the top 50 most overused words marketers penned in press releases.  Do you use (or overuse) any of these:  new, first, most, leading, best, great, largest, better, special, or better?  If so, you are not alone.  They made the 50 most overused words in press releases list for 2013 along with mobile, professional, current, real, and top.

4 Steps To Avoid Trite Marketing Phrases

  1. Describe what makes your item or service unique from others like it.  This is your chance to take a 30-second elevator pitch and translate into a few short sentences.  Some items to cover in your written description may include a guarantee, something that will be fixed, benefits when used, and specialties that will stand out from the crowd.

  1. Wrap your product around words that trip the senses.  Effective copy crafts words that make the reader believe they cannot possibly live without the product or service.  Paint a word picture that appeals to one or more of the five senses.  Create a sensory experience with words that let’s the reader see a vision, remember a smell, or desire to touch.  For inspiration, click on a few of the products from one of the best eCommerce brands today that knows how to appeal to the senses.  The Duluth Trading Company uses humor through the words on their t-shirt product descriptions.  One solves the problem of confronting the unsightly shock of happening upon someone with a much-feared “Plumbers Butt.”

  1. Share a true story or testimonial.  For marketers, nothing is better than word-of-mouth referrals where one customer sells another on a product or service.  BazaarVoice, a leader in gathering product or service reviews, reports that items with positive feedback convert 12.5% better than those without.  Let the praises of your customers sing for others and add their words in a quote format to your marketing copy.

  1. Appeal to the imagination.  The art of poetry is lost.  Bring wordsmithing back with words that evoke images for your products or services.  Words to Use is a website that can help remove writer’s block and find the right words about anything.  Can you describe a rose?

While you won’t be able to entirely eliminate trite phrases from your writing, editing with a mind toward using words with sizzle will bring your marketing prose to the next level.

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Filed under Blog Writing Tips, Content, Descriptive Writing, Narrative Writing, Revising & Proofreading, The Writing Process, Words Which Sell, Writer's Block

Use a Mutual Fund Strategy to Counter Google

Diversify your search portfolio

Diversify your search portfolio

Investors learned the trick long ago. Place your hard-earned money in just one stock and it is win big or go home. Diversify your monies and invest in multiple stocks through mutual funds and minimize your risks. It’s a winning strategy eCommerce marketers should look to as well.

Why Build a One-Legged Stool? 

When it comes to search engine marketing, conversations drift towards how tactical efforts will affect the search engine result page ranking on Google. Of course, there are Bing, Ask, Dogpile, Duck Duck Go and a bunch of other search engine “also-rans,” but with two-thirds of all searches being conducted on Google according to comScore, they are the tail that wags the dog in search.

The attention given solely to and dominance of Google is not a good thing. Having all your marketing eggs in one large search basket places too much pass-fail risk in one channel. And, it’s one channel you can’t control. (Think of the next Google Panda or Penguin update.) This is similar to what investors learned to circumvent 80 years ago. Marketing diversification is the key to long-term growth and success.

Broaden Your Definition of Search 

Sure. Google is the #1 most visited web site according to Alexa rankings with its primary purpose being search. Facebook is #2 and is primarily a social network. But, at the very top of the Facebook site, there’s a search box! How does your product, brand, or service rank when searched on Facebook?

There’s a search box at or near the top of #6 Wikipedia, too. And #8 LinkedIn, #11 Twitter, and #12 Amazon. Of course, there’s Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, SlideShare, and dozens of other heavily visited web sites that all have search engines. Does a click on their search engine result pages lead to your site?

Internet Shoppers Leverage Amazon Reviews 

Why Amazon Matters Now More Than Ever

Why Amazon Matters Now More Than Ever

Forrester Research recently published a report called, Why Amazon Matters Now More than Ever. The study surfaced that, in 2012, 30% of online consumers were already using other approaches to search for and research products, like reading Amazon customer reviews, before making a purchase decision.  These shoppers were not necessarily making their purchase on Amazon. This behavior is on the increase. According to the study, only 13% of online users are researching a potential product purchase solely online through search engines like Google. Chalk one up for including Amazon in your search strategy. Be sure to add other review sites like Epinions.com, Buzzillions.com, ConsumerReports.org, ConsumerSearch.com, and CNET.com to your search marketing strategy list.

Smile for the Camera 

With more people than ever carrying smart phones with mega-pixel cameras embedded within them, consumers are being trained to digest image content quickly and easily. Three of the four top social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) have the same common characteristic – they place an emphasis on sharing images. The recent rapid rise to success of Pinterest and Buzzfeed only adds testaments to the viral power and search potential of image-based content.

Mean Stinks Photo Sharing

Mean Stinks Photo Sharing

Proctor & Gamble leveraged this trend recently with their “Mean Stinks” Secret deodorant campaign by creating a photo searching and sharing application to spread an anti-bullying message.  According to P&G, over 1.5 million girls spread awareness about girl-to-girl bullying through the generation of these images.

Successful brands that receive the most social image shares also have another common characteristic. They know how to pepper in some well-placed, creative images into their written content that drive consumers to search for them to share.

Spread the Wealth 

A solid search engine marketing strategy creates content that aims to improve the search engine results page rank for as many visit driving sites as possible, not just Google. Both what you do with content on your own web site, as well as these other web sites, can have a positive impact on many ways people can find your business or service when they search. Having a diversified content strategy in place also insures your site against being at the mercy of the next Google Dance, when your rankings on just that search engine slip a bit.

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Filed under Business Strategy, Content, Content Marketing, Marketing, Search Engine Marketing