Professional writer and press manager

The Importance of Being Earnest (In Your Copy)

So since it’s my job to create engaging and readable copy for both myself and clients, does it not display some arrogance to assume I can write good copy and what’s more tell you about it? Maybe. But then it’s not as if I just woke up one day and decided to be a copywriter. Writing is a skill I have honed through years of hard work and practice.

And editing? Editing is a skill I still hone daily. Thankfully my MA taught me the importance of editing, right after my BA taught me to just write until the page has enough on it to motivate you to carry on. At least, that’s how I write. I know this is not the same for everyone.

Anyway, back to the topic in hand: the importance of great copy.

I’ve worked with scores of small businesses, and OK I’m maybe a bit more eagle eyed than some ‘normal’ visitors to your website, but if I see typos, misplaced apostrophes or random capitalisation, I really might go and look elsewhere for my product. It implies a lack of professionalism: not checking things through.

copywriting is an acquired skill

Well crafted copy should invite you to look deeper

For me, though, the spelling and punctuation is merely the tip of an ever approaching iceberg. I love to be entertained. We all do. So if I land on your website, of course I want to see some pictures explaining what you do, but I also need to read about it.

But I don’t just want to read like a manual. I want to hear a story. I want to care enough about the characters, feel connected enough with the vision to actually buy into the ideas of your company.

But for some reason loads of companies still think it’s ok to write boring copy.

For what it’s worth, when I’m writing copy for clients these are the factor I consider, and advise you to do the same.

Make a relevant, snappy headline.

OK, articles about writing always bleat on about this. And I have got it wrong heaps of times myself. So I am definitely qualified to tell you: choose your words carefully! Whether this is the headlines of news items or actual page sections: make it clear what the customer will read.

Be funny.

Don't be afraid to be funny in your copy

When I write for Tasting Britain, I reveal funny facts about my life

Don’t be afraid to make jokes, puns and be funny. It makes people like you and trust you and feel comfortable. Even bad jokes are OK, so long you as you acknowledge that they’re bad. So, more importantly write to potential customers the way you would talk to them.

Just be yourself.

I know this isn’t a dating advice column, and even if it was that is so tired and clichéd, but seriously: just be natural. Speak to potential clients through written words the way you would face to face. Client relationships, after all should be about longevity and trust. Who trusts someone who says ‘utilise’ instead of use just because it sounds bigger? Not me!

Don’t dumb down

That said, don’t dumb down what you’re trying to say either. If it’s appropriate, people can handle technical terms or big words; hopefully using context to help understand. There is definitely no need for pretention – it won’t make you seem any more trustworthy.

Be personal

Address the customer as ‘you’, use personal pronouns like ‘I’ and ‘we’ or even mention names. This all helps engender trust and build relationships, which is your primary goal once you have got people on your website.

For more about how to raise your online profile, please read other blog posts. To have a chat about how I can help you, please call 07729263818 or email me laura[at]palavermaven.co.uk

Professional writer and press manager

A storyteller’s tale of a year in business

Buena’ dia’, whistled the man through his gapped teeth and ratty moustache. The plastic bottle of aguardiente ensconced in his dirty jacket hung as a Christmas decoration from his bailer twine. He took advantage of the first available space to nestle his head into the bristly seat cover. I studied his face. A face you could climb up; its crags and boulders mimicking the Andes; rising in the surrounding pueblos. His left eye was a pastiche of the lake at Cotopaxi – minus the perpetual rainbow thrown into the sky. Outside the rain tapping on the leaves applauded in the last month of the year. Its gentle beat was the quietest sound as November departed. The road from Quito to the jungle is long and winding.

 

Deciding to spend my holiday this year working on cacao farms in Ecuador; the days involved trekking through muddy paths, wielding a machete and learning permaculture; evenings marvelling at the combined sounds of a bassy frog, honking goose and cascade of cicadas. The rhythm of a rainforest rave like nothing I’d ever slept through before, it became a prize, a comfort at the end of a long day.

with an incredible content of antioxidants real bean chocolate is having a resurgence

Bespoke bars come from aerated beans

Waking up to the sounds of a rainforest couldn’t feel much further from the skreigh of gulls ripping bins apart on my backstreet doorstep in Falmouth. Further again from the swollen black sky of Tokyo where I was living a few Decembers ago. Having chosen hummingbirds to decorate my website and associated social media pages, it seemed serendipitous that the end of my first full year as a fledgling business I should be surrounded by them; their call part of the soundtrack to my day.

Having started 2014 reproached by my failure to teach full time, I ended it by returning to several things I love: Ecuador, volunteering and (yes) chocolate. Not entirely unrelated to the work I’ve been doing with Cornwall’s only bean to bar chocolate producer, Also I am looking for social responsibility projects to support as part of my long term vision for the business.

What I expected to learn and what I eventually have; like the best laid plans of mice, men, hummingbirds and writers – well, went astray. But it did provide me the space to take a look at the future of Palaver Maven and what I want to happen next. From the fantastic work with  sustainable seaweed harvesters The Cornish Seaweed Company and their propulsion into mainstream media, to the attention The Chocolarder has received from luxury magazines and food blogs; it’s been an amazing year. My small business has made connections to big press on behalf of small businesses, and

I’ve been blown away by meeting each and every person who has dropped their job in order to live the dream.

Recently having started writing adventure stories for Sharing Socks, I feel happy to combine my love for adventure with social projects; particularly those surrounding education and equality. As 2015 beckons, presenting with it the option for expansion, I’m excited to be offering the opportunity to help young people in Cornwall find an in-road to media careers.

with a love of words as obvious as my own, Thomas is a hero

A Child’s Christmas in Wales: Dylan Thomas’ inspiring poem

So as December arrives, we’ve got tasting menus to try around Cornwall, and exciting events such as returning to the rainforest here in Cornwall to tend to, it’s a great time to be in Cornwall. And it’s an even better time to be a business in Cornwall.

From brand relationships, case studies, press campaigns and white papers to newsletters, website copy and regular content, have a browse around the site and let me know if there’s something you think I can do for you.

Professional writer and press manager

Is your content part of the user experience?

Content marketing remains the Marmite of discussion on my favourite hangout for engaging with copywriters across the globe: twitter. Some love it: singing its praises as a new way to make brands connect with customers. Others prefer the more traditional methods of emailing and calling. But with this incessant marketing, how many websites are getting the content right? How many are weaving it throughout the core of the user experience?

Nobody puts content in the corner

Excellent content uses all of the space

About ten years ago, I met someone who walked around the beautiful beaches of Cornwall in ripped up shorts, a guitar and an obsolete lack of direction. Soon, he turned the MSc in Physics he’d gained into a mastery of SEO: which was a mystery to me at the time. I wrote a lot, and was prolific on social media; one day he told me I’d probably be a really good copywriter.

“I write for passion!” I exclaimed dramatically, never dreaming to deign to write for corporations.

Now I am a full time copywriter, I do think back to those days; knowing that my values haven’t really changed. Yep, I write for small local businesses now, but I still write with passion. My storytelling on client websites is driven by my innate fascination with words, etymology and storytelling. I want to shout it from the rooftops. Even the funny ones.

But how are clients; corporations, brands using their approach to content? Every single word shaped on this site, on any site, should be making use of the great storytelling capacity of copywriters.

No copywriter  puts content in the corner

Like the gunpowder mills at Kennel Vale, Cornwall, content can become obselete

It’s as important as the design! I don’t want my well-honed stories to sit there redundant; like the old gunpowder mills at Kennel Vale. You see, some websites treat content as a disease: something that should be hidden away in a category labelled ‘blog’ just because that’s the new SEO, don’tcha know?!

Remember school discos in the 80s? Maybe before. Either way, I remember the early ones as boys on one side; girls the other. We forgot to use the whole space.

This is the problem many websites have with content.

Content is everything within that site. And out of it too. Social media interaction? Content. Product descriptions? Content. About Us? Content. Images? Content. Landing page? Yep, content too. Don’t limit it to blogs and don’t relegate them to some dark corner.

Nobody puts content in the corner.

 

Integrate content throughout the site to optimise and enhance user experience of the whole space. Link everything together: from the images of your staff party to your ethos, from the press success you have had to the funny anecdotes about what went wrong this week.

All of this is content, all of it is communications and all of it helps people to engage with your brand.

Our very name palaver maven means expert of communications in ye olde playful English and so we know a little bit about effective content use and communicating with brands, for brands and with customers. To have a chat about anything related, please call on 07729263818 or drop me an email on the contact page. A

And if it’s just the content you like, have a signup to our email and get our updates to your inbox. You just pop your email address in below and we’ll do the rest!

 

 

Web content that captivates

How to Improve User Experience on Your Website

From last week’s post about the brilliant, inspiring minds we meet in Cornish businesses at The Launch event, we were lucky enough to connect with Victoria and Stuart from Cornish Pixel. Their website is beautiful.This is a guest post by Victoria from Cornish Pixel.  Victoria writes the weekly Cornish Pixel blog which provides advice on helping businesses make the most of their online presence.

 

Pencils are a copywriter's best friend

Excellent writers know where they are with pencils

I don’t really like computers; I’m a pencil and paper kind of girl. You always know where you are with a pencil. It sits comfortably in my hand and it moves wherever I choose. It doesn’t get sick and the only update it demands is a ten-second spin in a pencil sharpener. Of course, its life isn’t limitless and it will one day die. Luckily, its twin brother can be bought for 20p. I love pencils.

Unfortunately, the same feelings cannot be felt for my new computer.  It seems neither PC nor tablet, but a frustrating combination of both. And whilst it looks pretty and could probably double-up as a GCHQ code-breaker, it’s a huge tease!

This latest oh-so-cool time-saving device is actually costing me time; its favourite game of hide and seek is killing me. I can often be heard yelping across the office: ‘Aaarrrgggh! Where the hell has my desktop/settings/photos/documents/control panel disappeared to?’

Much consideration has been given to the design and technical capabilities of this particular computer, and the experience of the user has been neglected; style over substance. A curse many websites also fall victim to.

Of course, websites should look good (and ideally like they weren’t designed in the 90s) but, it is far more important that web visitors enjoy being on a website, and are able to access all the information they need simply and quickly. Therefore, it is vital that online businesses consider the ‘user experience’ (UX).

A good web designer/developer should be versed in user experience design or UED/UXD.  Being able to craft a beautiful looking website without considering how the site will make a potential online customer feel, is much like serving a scrumptious looking roast chicken with an unexpected rose-pink centre.  Looks wonderful, but makes the customer sick.

Effective web design should prioritise the needs and wants of its users; websites should not be an opportunity to showcase the designers’ fabulously versatile and kooky creativity.  If I visit a website looking for a supplier of paving slabs, I do not need to see an eye-popping headache-inducing cabaret show of a homepage. I will not think, ‘Ooh look, they can put on a show like Jean-Michel Jarre, their patio slabs must be awesome.’ Instead, I’m more likely to bounce off the website immediately and find a more-soothing and inviting website to browse.

People do not visit websites to be entertained, unless they’re after Netflix or Foxy Bingo. They visit to find information. No one needs to see an outdated Flash animation on a homepage; of images turning, rotating, spinning and swirling.  It’s puff.  And it’ll make users feel like they’re staring into the hypnotic eyes of the snake in Jungle Book.

Keep browsers on your website by following these tips:

  1. Try not to make visitors dizzy and disorientated with over-stylised moving images. Keep things clean, simple and pleasant to view.
  2. Avoid irritating visitors with pop-ups and ads. They’re an annoying distraction.
  3. Do not test visitors’ patience by making them search for information. Ensure site navigation is straightforward and intuitive.
  4. Avoid boring visitors with useless information. Keep all written content succinct.
  5. Do not use an illegible typeface. Choose one which is easy-to-read and doesn’t require special spectacles.
  6. If your website’s ‘call to action’ is to contact you or buy a product, ensure the steps the user takes to reach your desired outcome are as straightforward and apparent as possible.
  7. Make sure your website can be easily viewed on various platforms such as tablets and smartphones. Users browsing on a mobile device will not wait for large files to load. They’ll bounce off to a responsive website instead.
  8. Encourage interaction by connecting with your social media platforms.
  9. Avoid 90s’ clipart and irrelevant photos. Choose appropriate images to foster positive feelings.
  10. Don’t make customers hunt for your phone number. Ensure your contact information is easy to find.

Websites should be inviting, comforting and useful; like a cup of tea and a bowl of soup on a winter’s day. If your website is an uncooked chicken, don’t be surprised if customers go elsewhere to find both style and substance.

We know a thing or two about user experience and web design. Hop on over to Cornish Pixel to learn more.

Thanks for reading.

Victoria.

 

Author bio: Victoria is the co-founder of digital agency, Cornish Pixel.  Based in Wadebridge, the team offer bespoke web design, e-commerce and SEO services to businesses across Cornwall. Pop over and say hello at www.cornishpixel.com or via Twitter: @cornishpixel.

Great content starts with research

Why high quality content is so important to your SEO

Once upon a time…

…arguably, like humans ourselves and the parts of the world we can lay claim to having created; the internet was a kind of easier place. In its very being both alien and robotic, we had preconceived ideas about the way it worked, and in its infancy, we could program these ideas in its memory.

High quality fibre optics

Endless fibre optic content of cyberspace

Search engines, those newly born sponges they were at the time, were easy to fool with the ‘art’ of SEO. Back then, it was hardly an art; stuffing keywords into content, which was barely legible and certainly not entertaining, but it didn’t really matter. No-one read it anyway, apart from the machines. Which we’d created.

In many ways SEO was a game: the quicker content was released, the more swollen with target phrases, words and repetition, the easier it was to win. We were writing for robots and we were winning. But remember; the internet itself was a robot: a mysterious collection of wires that somehow connected us to parts of the world we’d only read about in books.

A cold, alien space many of us could not comprehend; like all new landscapes a terra incognita, a myth.

With the passing of time, we created social networks, and established digital marketing, optimised branding and organic results. We’ve turned the internet from a frigid hinterland into a fresh and friendlier place. Google rolled out responses, which have levered the cumulative effect of ridding that barren landscape, dominated by machines; of the manipulative practices of game players. Like our closest friends, Google is intuitive to our search wants and needs.

The internet evolved to be less alien and, rather like R2D2 from Star Wars once was and Jibo, the friendly robot, today; it has won its place in our hearts and as part of the family. Along with this has come brand friendliness too. So SEO, naturally, has matured into a friendlier, more human orientated art form.  Creating and maintaining friendships, relationships and trust by aligning content with your audience’s intentions. And being in it for the long haul.

Ultimately, what this means is that success can only be merited when you try to achieve your goals through meeting your clients’ needs. And herein lies the ancient art form of storytelling. Better know, in trendier circles as #contentmarketing. Like all good robots, Google wants to mimic its masters. It does this by tracing your online behaviours and using the gathered data to create a kind of customer prototype.

SEO is a game

If content is king, then research is queen

Your branding needs identity. Your identity must reflect that of a typical member of your audience. If content is king (and these days, it really is), then research is queen. By creating an ideal customer, you can build an idea of where they hang out, which channels of communication they use and what their daily obstacles are. And how your content can help them overcome them.

Just as you do in a real friendship, understanding this prototype, this ideal buyer; their desires, their needs, their questions; and supplying gripping, well researched and high value content will create meaningful relationships.

Just as robots are a serendipitous by-product of evolution, an anthropomorphic creation; the ramifications of this process are that you will naturally build up the keywords and phrases that improve your organic search ranking.

Why Google’s algorithm change means you should use small PR companies

Those with their fingers on the algorithmic pulse ought to have been aware of Google’s latest changes in the form of Panda 4.0. But what will it mean for your business?

Google is renowned for being a smart company. As it strives to provide rich content for searchers, changes have happened to the way in which ranking works yet again. Focused on a developing the most efficient form of search, Google has and will continue to make changes to where results are placed within its ranks. Designed to weed out sites with flimsy keyword loaded drivel in the content pages, as writer I wholeheartedly endorse these changes because they mean more sites will be providing quality content.

In terms of blog posts and regular articles, ensure that your content is being updated regularly and with real information. It’s pleasing to see that many SMBs and SMEs are following this trend; providing solutions to industry specific questions and building relationships with clients.

An article I read yesterday forecasts a bleak future for large PR wires who prefer the tactic of spamming writers with many press releases, bursting with flimsy links but no real content. The great thing about using a small company to write your press release is knowing that it has been created by someone who cares about their company, so won’t rush the release just to make up numbers.

More importantly, a smaller company has a reputation to consider;and as such is less likely to risk spamming journalists. It’s better to take time building specific lists tailored to a journalist’s own preference. I always put a copy of the release onto my Cision news page and promote this using social media as well as sending to relevant journalists, which ensures the release is gaining exposure. This method of distribution takes time and effort to constantly evolve and respond to changes, but that’s how Google are working and more widely how all technology is adapting and small businesses should adapt with it.

It’s a recommended form of distributing to take time to build a targeted list, maintaining relationships by phone call rather than just emails. Effectively, the more penalties incurred by automated press release sites;, the higher benefit there will be to real PR services who genuinely wish to support clients, rather than being overly spammy.

Google is big brother: they are watching you, they know what you’re going to do next and this latest development is ensuring press release distribution companies are taking their jobs seriously and contacting the right people with the right information.

For free, no obligation advice on press release or any other content, please call or email for a chat and I will do my best to help you.