September 2009
Copywriting Curiosities
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Ask the Copy Bitch
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Dear Robyn,

I'm introducing a provocative topic this month--"Ask the Copy Bitch--one that will likely recur in future issues. Now before you go searching for that unsubscribe button, hear me out. I say "bitch" with a lotta love, as many of my clients do (well, they better be saying it with love!).

In fact, there's a joke around the virtual office that I'm a "copy bitch by day and novelist ninja by night." (I'm actually thinking of adopting it as my tagline.) All joking aside, what it comes down to is this: I receive many questions from clients, prospects, marketing colleagues, fellow writers, and students, and I happily dole out advice and provide insight. It recently occurred to me, however, that I should compile these Q&As and share them with you. Thus, "Ask the Copy Bitch" was born.

In other news, I'm excited to share my latest venture with you: Rent My Noggin. For three low package prices, you can rent my "noggin" for 1.5 hours, 2.5 hours, or 4 hours. The benefit? Together with your to-do list and my noggin, we'll get things DONE. No more procrastinating, no more ignored marketing tasks, and no more "I'll get to it next week or next month." I designed these introductory prices to work for small- to medium-sized businesses, so Rent My Noggin now before the costs go up. (And be sure to read the Rent My Noggin FAQs.)

See you next month.

Ask the Copy Bitch

Q: I have a Facebook fan page for my company. Now what?

A: It depends on the type of business you have, specifically whether you cater to a b2b or b2c audience. But I've been picking people's brains about fan pages, and one thing my colleagues and Facebook friends have said is this: when they fan a company (regardless as to whether it's a b2b or b2c business), they don't want to be bombarded with endless promotions or ads.

So, to start, I'm thinking a 3-times-a-week wall post strategy is smart for b2c and a once-a-week strategy should work well for b2b. Create themes. Maybe "Survey Friday" or "Q&A Monday." This doesn't mean you can't occasionally break your wall-posting "tradition" with a special offer or promotion. It all depends on your particular fan base, so pay attention to how they respond. And remember, if you're not sure, ask your fans directly (through a poll or direct question) what sort of page they want.

Q: What's the rule on this: Is "Each" considered to be singular and as a result described by "is" in this case or can it also be described by "are"?

a) Each of these seven forms and templates is individually listed below and fully described with a complete set of instructions.
b) Each of these seven forms and templates are individually listed below and fully described through a complete set of instructions. (also swapped out "with" with "through")
c) Each of these seven forms and templates is individually listed below and fully described through a complete set of instructions.

A: The trick to use is this: if you can add the word "one" after the word "each," then it's singular. So "a" and "c" would be correct. In terms of the with/through debate, I prefer "through."

Q: I met a chiropractor in my local BNI chapter who is looking to possibly launch a blog. I took a look at his website today, and it seems that he has used this special web provider for chiropractors: [name redacted]. This provider provides all sorts of content with automatic content updates and a full newsletter library. The trick is, you have to be a "member" to log in and see this content.

Do you have any ideas about what benefits this doctor will get by having a personal blog that he won't get by simply having the mass-produced content available? The one thing that I can think of is that potential customers who are just browsing for information may not want to become a member just yet, and that this requirement may send them away never to return. But based on your fabulous newsletter topic in March "How to Create Kick-Butt Blog Content", I thought you might have some additional ideas.

A: Okay, if I'm reading this right, it sounds like he has a blog with automatically generated content, but people need to login to view the blog posts. If that's the case, here's my take: I can't think of any business blogs where people have to register to see the content. The whole point of the blogosphere is to have immediate, relevant content at your fingertips when you need it. Many blogs require people to register in order to post comments, but I can't think of any business blogs where you have to register just to SEE the blog (personal blogs are different; many people lock those, and for good reason). He'll lose a lot of people right there who don't want to bother with registration or who don't want to surrender their info. And he'll also lose those valuable inbound links. One reason businesses have blogs is so that people will link to their blog posts. Those links can help rankings (if the blog is integrated correctly with the website) and help drive traffic to the business site.

As for the auto-generated content, there are two issues. First, Google doesn't like duplicate content. So if a blog post is being published on his blog and 20 others, Google doesn't like that. No one (except the folks inside Google) can say what sort of "penalty," if any, exists, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid duplicate content. Which brings me to the second issue. One of the other reasons to have a blog is so that you can create a community, engage with your customers or potential customers, position yourself as an expert, and give something back for free: your expertise. The best blogs do all of these things.

I imagine he's doing the auto content thing because he feels he doesn't have enough time to devote to a blog or that he doesn't have enough ideas. The key to blogging is consistency; I always encourage my clients to blog at least three times a week. But blog posts needn't be long or Pulitzer-prize worthy. They need to be real, relevant, and conversational. As a chiropractor, I bet he has a ton of topics to blog about. If he doesn't have the time to do it, he could:
  • Hire someone to ghostwrite his posts
  • Hire someone to be his blog writer
If he gave you 30 minutes of his time per week, he probably could give you enough copy points for at least three blog posts (and they don't all need to be text heavy; you could link to interesting articles related to chiro or other forms of complementary medicine, you could have a poll or survey, you could post a relevant cartoon, or you could do "video cam" posts [e.g. an exercise demonstration that helps with lower back pain]).

Encourage him to make his blog public and to create fresh, customized content.

Q: I think you made a mistake in my copy because you used the word "home" here, and I think it should be "hone": She knew exactly what area of the artwork to home in on.

A: The Copy Bitch is not above admitting to mistakes, but this isn't one of them. The word hone is often misused in print and electronic media. When you "hone" your skills, you improve them. When you "home in on something," you aim your attention to a direct target (think of a homing device). In this example, "she" knew what area of the artwork to direct her attention to.

Q: Is it okay to end sentences with prepositions?

A: The Copy Bitch says yes, especially if it sounds too clunky to rewrite it "correctly," but grammar purists hate me for it. That's when I pull out a quote (often attributed to Winston Churchill) to make my point: Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.

Q: What exactly does a freelance writer do anyway?

A: I didn't write this essay, but I could have. The essay nails what we freelancers do and why we do it. My favorite line: "Face it folks, sentence spawning is sexy."

Got a question for me? Ask the Copy Bitch now!
Don't forget to Rent My Noggin! The 1.5-hour package is perfect to start: only $100!
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