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Is LinkedIn killing your business?

Rosemary Gillespie - Tuesday, April 30, 2013


You’ve probably seen the data: there are over 200 million professionals on LinkedIn. If your firm’s employees have LinkedIn profiles – and who doesn’t these days? – then your business may be an example of what Sydney-based social media experts Lead Creation call the ‘fault line’ between old and new marketing.

Marketing communications traditionally focuses on what a business says and does. But these days, we’re all publishers. The shift towards content marketing means that social media such as LinkedIn gives everyone the opportunity to present a profile and connect professionally. Hence, it stands to reason that the company will become less important as the influence of employees who are active on social media grows. 

Earlier this year Lead Creation looked at how over 200 top B2B Australian companies are using social media. In its report Australia’s Social Media Presence in 2012: A Road Map for 2013 Lead Creation identified that most of the largest B2B companies are not performing well.

For the top 30 companies in the study, one only company’s rating was not dragged down by the personal LinkedIn profiles of its employees. 

In fact, individual employees’ profiles were found to lag below the professionalism of the companies’ own profiles on LinkedIn. Incomplete profiles, unprofessionally presented with poor grammar and lots of typos can clearly harm a firm’s reputation. 

How to make LinkedIn work for your business

The key is maximising LinkedIn so that your employees’ profiles enhance your firm’s brand and reputation. When your staff can easily complete their social media profiles to the same high standard, using your firm’s keywords and demonstrating their expertise and credibility, then your firm will stand out. 

As Lead Creation points out, a B2B business that regards each employee’s LinkedIn profile as a mini website will benefit from the power of consistent, high standard profiles that speak with the same message. Good profiles also make it easier for people to find your business and your professionals on LinkedIn and can help to improve Google SEO ranking.

And as it’s free (unless you chose to upgrade to a premium service), LinkedIn is a business development opportunity open to a B2B business of any size. 

For more information on the Lead Creation study, go to http://www.leadcreation.com.au/resources/bizclout/

For help with your firm’s LinkedIn profiles, contact Rosemary Gillespie at Proof Communications on 02 9314 6506 or 0411 123 216.


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Telling Tales – connecting with your readers

Rosemary Gillespie - Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The best presentations are those where the speaker tells a story, right? Likewise, when we find a book riveting, we’ll pass it around. Stories may inspire us, sadden or thrill us. Whatever the emotional response, a story evokes a connection with the storyteller. Which is why telling tales in your B2B communications is so important if you want your readers to connect with you.

The more details and facts in your story, the more likely we are to believe it. So everything you say about your service or business or yourself, in print, online or verbally, needs to include details and facts so that it rings true. And that means using unambiguous, concrete words.

In 2010, a study by Joachin Hansen of New York University and Michaela Wanke of the University of Basel showed that concise, clear statements win out over wordier ones.

In their study, they asked participants to read one of two statements and say if they thought it was true or not. The statements were:

1. Hamburg is the European record holder concerning the number of bridges.

2. In Hamburg, one can count the highest number of bridges in Europe.

More people believed the second. While each statement says the same thing, the second gets to the point quickly and presents a clear image – of counting bridges.

That’s because concrete words are more precise. For example, if I told you I ate a pizza for dinner, you might ask what type. But if I had told you I ate a Hawaiian pizza for dinner, you’d immediately have an image of the pizza and not have to ask what topping I chose.

Verbs can also be concrete. There’s little ambiguity about ‘sleep’, ‘run’, ‘swim’ or ‘jump’. But verbs such as ‘help’, ‘love’, ‘enjoy’, ‘assist’, ‘deliver’ are less precise and often come a myriad of  interpretations.
So, if you want your readers to connect and believe you, tell the truth using solid, unambiguous words.

For more information, see www.heskethtalking.com.

For help with your B2B writing, contact Rosemary Gillespie on 02 9314 7506 or 0411 123 216.


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How a little thought goes a long way

Rosemary Gillespie - Wednesday, June 13, 2012

If you find writing a tender or any business document hard work, pity your reader. There is no one on earth that wants to spend longer than necessary reading business documents.

When writing, the goal is to make it as easy, and quick, as possible for your reader to understand what you are saying.

But how do you do this without getting bogged down?

Well, here are a few easy rules to help you to structure what you want to say:

1. Start slow. Think about what you want or need to say. What is your overall message? And what key points do you need to make to get your message across? Do you need evidence, quotes, testimonials, facts or figures? The more time you spend thinking (not writing), the better your document will be. Its messages will be clearer and more logical.

2. Jot down your thoughts either in pen, pencil or on screen. You may like to make a list, but mind maps are more useful – they free up our thinking so it becomes easier to identify all the points we need to make. Don’t worry about the quality of your writing, its grammatical correctness or sequence. That comes later.

3. Put your key points into order so they follow on logically from each other. When a document flows, it is easier, and quicker, to read.

4. Now you can start writing sentences. This is when you can shift your key points from notes to complete sentences and paragraphs. Use short words and don’t waffle. Use active voice, not passive, and use personal pronouns where possible. Useful phrases link the paragraphs together, such as “for example”, “consequently” and “subsequently”.  

5. Edit and proofread. Many people edit but forget to proofread. When editing, look out for superfluous and clichéd phrases. For example, “in order to” and “push the envelope”. When proofreading, print your document and read it aloud. It makes a big difference.

Finally, ask yourself, have I made myself clear?

For help with writing your business documents, contact Rosemary Gillespie on 02 9314 7506 or 0411 123 216.


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Which word? Picking the right one every time

Rosemary Gillespie - Tuesday, February 01, 2011

It’s a rainy Tuesday and your deadline for an important tender is fast approaching. You’re doing the final proofread and everything is looking good… When, suddenly, it glares up from the page. A word that can trip up the most experienced writer: ‘affect’. The doubts creep in. Is it right? Are you sure it shouldn’t be ‘effect’?

You are not alone if you are sometimes stuck by doubts as to when and how to use some of the following words. Even the experts get caught out and need to check the rules. But don’t worry. We have got some simple ways to remember your ‘affect’ from your ‘effect’ and your ‘which’ from your ’that’.

Which/that
Which and that are commonly used interchangeably, but they actually do different jobs. "That" defines something, while "which" gives extra information about it, usually in a clause enclosed by commas:

This is the cake that Mary made.
This cake, which Mary made, is delicious.

You can delete ‘that’ from a sentence and it will still be grammatical (this is the cake Mary made) and this can be a good way to edit your writing. But a sentence using ‘which’ won’t make sense without it.

Affect/effect
It’s one of the most difficult to get right, but you’ll be OK if you remember ‘effect’ is usually a noun and ‘affect’ is always a verb.

She was greatly affected (verb) by the latest news. Smoking will affect (verb) your health.

Take care of your personal effects (noun). The effect (noun) it had was amazing.

The only exception is when we write in a formal style. Then we sometimes use ‘effect’ as a verb meaning ‘to carry out’ or ‘to cause to happen’:

The lawyer effected (verb) a great result. We hope to effect (verb) a change soon.

It’s/its
When do you use an apostrophe for ‘it’ plus ‘s’? It is intuitive to think it is when you use ‘it’ possessively as you do for ‘Mary’s cake’ or ‘Martin’s cheese’. But you’d be wrong. The possessive form of it does not include an apostrophe:

The cat is eating its fish.

The only time you use an apostrophe is when you want to shorten ‘it is’ or ‘it has’:

It’s a fat cat. It’s been a while since we met.

Advice/advise, practice/practise
Advice is a noun, and advise is a verb, just as practice is a noun and practise is a verb.

Take her advice (noun). She runs a large legal practice (noun).
I advise (verb) you to keep quiet. I will practise (verb) every day.

If you’ve got any others, let me know.


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The Sad Truth about Commas

Rosemary Gillespie - Thursday, July 29, 2010

In her book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Lynne Truss explains why we need commas:

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

'Why?' asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

'Well, I'm a panda,' he says, at the door. 'Look it up.'

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. 'Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.'

The sad truth is that we can't do without commas. And, to make it worse, while there are some set rules about how to use commas, writers and editors do not always agree about some of their other uses. This ambiguity means that people tend to abuse and misuse their commas.

Here’s what I mean:

All the children who love pizza will be there on Friday.

This means that only those children who love pizza will be there on Friday. Compare this to:

All the children, who love pizza, will be there on Friday.
 
All the children will be there on Friday and, by the way, they love to eat pizza.


How to use commas - lists

At school, the first use we learn for commas is to separate items in a list. For example:
 
When I go shopping I buy shoes, dresses, coats and gifts.

Sometimes, particularly in the US, we include a comma before "and" as in “dresses, coats, and gifts”. This is called an Oxford comma, or serial comma, because it was used by editors, proofreaders and printers at Oxford University Press.

In Australia and the UK it’s unusual to use an Oxford comma, but feel free if you think it adds clarity, particularly if the last two items in your list are not separate words.

For example, if we write, "I love margarita, meatlovers and ham and pineapple pizzas”, it is not clear if the last pizza is a single ‘ham and pineapple’ pizza or two pizzas: a ham pizza and a pineapple pizza. In this case, we could add the Oxford comma to say, “I love margarita, meatlovers, and ham and pineapple pizzas”.


How to use commas with adjectives

Commas in a list of adjectives are not always needed. As a guide, if you can change the order of the adjectives, use a comma. If not, there’s no need for a comma. Here’s what I mean:

The report was long, boring and too detailed.

You could shift the order of the adjectives:
The report was boring, long and too detailed.

My daughter has beautiful blonde hair and clear blue eyes.
As we can’t change the order of these adjectives, we don’t need commas.


How to use commas – to add extra information


Sometimes we add extra information to our sentences to make them more interesting. For instance:

Our business, the world’s largest producer of eggs, is opening a plant in Rio.

We could easily remove the information about ‘world’s largest producer of eggs’ without changing the meaning of the sentence.

How to use commas to join two clauses together

Use a comma to join two clauses together. These are two separate parts to a sentence joined by conjunctions such as and, but, so, or, yet, but could be separated by a full stop. For example:

I love eating pizza, but I don’t like anchovies.

This could also be written as:

I love eating pizza. But I don’t like anchovies.

There is a move away from using these commas, so if you feel the meaning is clear without a comma, go for it.


How to use commas after introductory statements

There is also a trend towards not using commas after introductory statements, which is fine if the meaning is clear. Whichever option you choose, be consistent. One of the biggest errors I see when proofreading is inconsistency – one sentence has an introductory statement with a comma and the next does not.

Here are some examples:

At Proof Communications, we help our clients to win more business.

On 5 September 2011, we will be holding a party with hundreds of guests.

You could write either of these sentences with no comma.

How to use commas around ‘interrupters’

Sometimes, to add emphasis, we use an interrupter in our sentences. These always need commas before and after:

She was, however, feeling sad about missing out on the pizza.

I asked her, reluctantly, if she would get take-away.

How to use commas: the last piece of advice

Commas give us a pause in our writing. They give us room to breathe. If you’re not sure when to use a comma, read your writing aloud. You’ll hear the need for a pause.
If you suffer from comma confusion, let us know now.


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What Bananas in Pyjamas Can Teach Us about Marketing

Rosemary Gillespie - Monday, May 17, 2010

When my daughter was about three years old, we were watching an episode of that classic Australian TV drama, Bananas in Pyjamas. B1 and B2 were struggling to persuade a cow to re-enter its barn.

The cow would not budge.

Despite B1's and B2's pushing, pulling, shouting and feet stamping, the cow stood unmoved.

After a short while, Rat in a Hat came along. Rat, of course, asked, "What's going on here?" The Bananas explained.

Rat bent to the cow, whispered in its ear, and the cow happily strolled into the barn.

The Bananas were astonished. "What did you say?" they exclaimed in surprise. 

"I just said the magic word," replied Rat. 

"What's that?" asked B1 and B2.

"Please", said Rat. 

As we all know from when we first start talking (parents take great pride in their toddler's first "ta, ta"), good manners go a long way, and not just when you have to get a cow into a barn.

While I'm sure there have been occasions when I've inadvertently failed to thank a client, business friend or contact for their referral, help or advice - I admit I'm no etiquette expert and nor am I infallible - I do know that after 10 years in business saying thank you builds business relationships. It's good marketing sense.

But you have to mean it.

You don't need a special reason to say thank you. Thanking a potential client for making the time to meet with you is simply a polite way making yourself memorable. I know there are projects I've been invited to work on, partly because I sent my prospective client a handwritten note to thank them for their time.

I have specially designed and printed thank you cards. I'm not pretending to be an innovator here, but quite a few of the recipients over the years have asked me if they can 'borrow' my idea and get their own cards printed for themselves, or for their companies. 

In 10 years, I can only recall receiving one thank you note myself, from a fellow copywriter to whom I gave some advice on starting a new business. I have had phone calls and emails of thanks, of course, which I always appreciate.

So, in the words of Rat in the Hat, remember the magic word (or words). They can make a thankful differerence to you business' development.


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How well do you know the company you keep?

Rosemary Gillespie - Sunday, May 02, 2010

Your business is a singular collective noun.

What do I mean?

I recently edited a marketing document for a thriving business that got its grammatical position as a singular collective noun correct from the first draft.

I admit I was surprised. Why?

Well, it’s very common for writers (both professionals and in-house staff) to describe the company (or organisation) they work for in the plural. This is something I see constantly, and it's incorrect. A business, company or organisation is a single entity. It is a singular collective noun.

For example, we often read, “TWP are the biggest online publishers”. It should say, “TWP is the biggest online publisher”.

Or, “RST have won the biggest government tender”. It should say, “RST has won the biggest government tender".

Remember though, it’s correct to use the plural when writing about your business as “we”. So, it’s fine to say, “At RST, we have the best tender writing team in Australia”.

 


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The whole truth and nothing but the truth

Rosemary Gillespie - Thursday, April 15, 2010

Are you skeptical about the claims made in adverts? Especially those for creams that claim to lessen the lines around your eyes?

Perhaps honesty is the way to go when you're copywriting sales and marketing materials.

When you consider that people buy from you because they like you and trust you, isn't it better to be honest?

At the very least, it reminds our readers that we are human. It's more credible to read that, yes we sometimes get things wrong but as soon as we know about a problem we do our utmost to fix it.

Here are some suggestions for honest business writing that make you sound human.

Share stories in your tenders, proposals, sales letters and websites. These could be case studies that reveal why you love your work, why you love your industry or why you started your own business.

Show emotion. Perhaps the work you do is, at times, exciting, stressful, worrying, energising, thrilling, joyous, satisfying, or all of these things.

Ask your clients to write a testimonial about how you helped them to overcome a problem (or write it for them). This is a great technique for e-books, blogs and articles as well as tenders and proposals.

Personalise your copywriting. Use words like 'you', 'your', 'I', 'we', 'our'. 

Admit things are not perfect. Imagine you are invited to write an article on how your business or firm became so successful. It's great to share positive stories, but what people want to know is how you resolve obstacles. You could mention the time the bank turned down your loan application, or the time your biggest client didn't pay you for 4 months. How did you deal with these situations?

Simply using any one of these techniques will make your marketing and sales materials more credible.


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Bullet-proof: Tips for better bullet lists

Rosemary Gillespie - Sunday, March 14, 2010

Clients often ask me, “What do you think about bullet lists?” The question usually comes when they are writing a proposal or a tender, or copywriting a website or brochure. They come to read their work, only to realise it’s full of endless bullet lists.

I find B2B documents with lots of bullet lists hard to read and tend to skim over them. By zoning out, I probably miss some key messages.

Yet bullet points are great when they are used well. Here are 5 tips to make your bullets more readable.

  1. Turn a bullet list into numbered list, just like this one. Numbers make the list seem more important, and more likely to be read.

  2. Put a box around the bullet points, with or without shading, or just use shading. Highlighting your bullet points makes them stand out for your readers.

  3. Bold or underline some of the key words for emphasis and to attract your readers’ attention.

  4. Make each bullet point a stand-alone sentence so your readers get the message quickly. It saves them having to refer back to the lead-in sentence.

  5. Start each bullet point with a verb in the present tense, where possible. That’s what I've done in this list. It’s punchier and faster to read. 


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Rosemary's not-so-secret tips to copywriting great headlines and subject lines

Rosemary Gillespie - Monday, November 30, 2009

There's an 80/20 rule for everything, including copywriting headlines. Read anything about copywriting and you'll discover that the headline, or subject line, of your email, article, brochure or letter is where you need to spend 80% of your writing time. That's right: only 20% left to copywrite your article or brochure.

It does depend on what you're writing, of course. When you're writing tenders and proposals there's rarely time for a catchy headline, whereas writing headlines or subject lines for your letters, articles, emails and brochures gives you time to play.
 
Like most things in life, there are a few good tricks to help you write a great headine or subject line.

The most accessible ones are:
 
"How to..." suggests we'll learn something useful without much effort.

"The Secrets of..", or "Revealed..." hint at something a little mysterious that we really need to know.

"Discover the..." means we'll find something useful.
 
5, 7 or 10: we're all used to Top 10s. Five and 7 are great too and more credible than even-numbers except 10. But when you're writing about large numbers, it's more persuasive to use the precise figure than a rounded figure.

Don't forget, you can combine these for even more attention-grabbing headlines and subject lines. For example:

  • Discover how to...
  • How my aunt saved $46,729 on her tax bill
  • 7 deadly copywriting sins...how to avoid...
  • Copywriting secrets revealed
  • Discover the 7 secrets of copywriting
  • Revealed: the 7 secrets of copywriting
  • How apostrophes can get you arrested
  • Top 10 tender mistakes

Why are these so useful? Because they work. They're simple, straight to the point, attract attention and make your reader curious about what's coming next. In my article Is This the World's Most Attractive Headline?, I've written about other attention-grabbing words for headlines. Put them together and you get:

  • Discover 7 easy ways to write for a living
  • Revealed: 5 simple tricks for younger looking skin
  • How to get the haircut of your dreams - for free!
  • Faster, better copywriting in 5 easy steps
  • Save $2,397 a year with this foolproof money-saving tool

Another useful headline trick is to ask a dramatic question. My free guide, Do You Make These Mistakes in English? is very popular because people wonder what mistakes they might be making. 

You can download the guide right from this website.

 

 


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