Professional writer and press manager

Bring in a writer at the (re)branding stage

As snow wages war with sleet and rain across the country, and temperatures even on this idyllic peninsula drop to below zero, the colours in the sky present a phenomenal palette of pinks and shades of blue and grey. The first daffodils, crocuses and even snowdrops have started to appear in Cornish hedgerows and on the fields of Cornwall’s treasures: The Scilly Isles. Seasons are marked clearly in Cornwall: on-season and off-season.

For many, the on-season starts as the days get longer and warmer in April, and draw to a close some time around the October half term. As such, now many local restaurants and foodie places are taking their annual leave, in order to be refreshed when the new season starts. Some businesses in Cornwall use this opportunity to have a think about their goals and objectives for the coming year. The Blue Bar is closed for refurbishment, The seaweeders are tending to environmental needs across the seas, and pioneering companies are getting ready to launch around the spring.

As a contemporary, professional writer, it’s not rocket science to guess why I might think bringing a writer in to the process early on is a good idea. Whilst I do love my work, and seek further opportunities to work with companies to achieve greater success, I can honestly say this saves time and money in the long run. I recently became acquainted with a new copywriting service called Red Letter Ltd. They produced this wonderful piece of copy to demonstrate my point here.

Copywriting in Cornwall is fuelled by creativity

Hiring a professional saves time and money

Sometimes, trying to get the message right internally actually takes up too much of everyone’s time, which could be used on production. Choosing someone whose job it is to produce and implement great copy: through article creation, optimising the words on the site or creating a new brochure text, will save the rest of your staff time. Ultimately this saves money; allowing people to focus on their strengths.

Having recently been researching Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with reference to employee engagement as part of a marketing white paper I am creating for a client, it occurred to me that many staff members likely feel deflated when they spend ages labouring over copy, which then gets replaced by that of an expert. Hence, businesses should think ahead to the costs saved by getting an expert to tame and shape words.

A copywriter can create text expertly

Businesses can ensure staff feel valued by getting professionals to do professional jobs

The main goal of excellent copy is to make people care. Emotional connections need to be established to draw people forward towards even thinking about a sale. A copywriter knows how to use these words to establish a connection from the seed to the fruit.

Having someone help to brand, rebrand or product launch, gives you the confidence to know that each word will count, emotions will be carefully brought into alignment with business goals and your message is clear and concise.

This is what sells.

Connecting with people who are familiar with a problem, demonstrating that you can solve it, and ultimately gaining and strengthening trust that they are in safe hands.

Professional writer and press manager

Control Room: Sail Away

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in an amazing project in Bristol, where the city council have started letting out empty spaces for art takeovers. Sail Away betroths the seas of Cornwall to the river of Bristol through art and poetry. Situated in the old control room that operates Redcliffe Bridge, it maps my life: when I lived in Bristol, I lived on this river; in Falmouth I have observed the sea.

With over 100 origami ships sailing the seas of the controls for Redcliffe Bridge, the space is minimally decorated; telling stories of the river.

River stories in Bristol

Poetry and art speaking of the sea

As a professional writer, the idea of the installation was to get people interested and promote reading and literacy. I decided to use some of my poetry about rivers and tales of the sea to decorate the exhibition too.

Poetry featured in the exhibition includes:

Colours

Blue is the colour of the deep sea, of high skies and of cracking ice in Antarctica; a place of bleak austerity where nothing grows and hardly anything lives. Blue overrides everything, blue is nothing, and blue fades into blue when we try to locate the horizon. Blue is the colour of the curling tendrils of smoke that dance from a thousand cigarettes, the colour of body bags and the colour of the dark veins running along the hands that hold you. Blue is the eyes that haunt me.

 

Black is oil pouring from crevices in the ocean, black is the bottom of a mine, the back of a cave and the hollow centre of an eyeball. Black is death and cancer. Black is engulfing, endless and enduring, and like its counterpart, black is at once both empty and full, nothing and ceaseless possibility.

 

Green is the colour of newness, freshness, of jungles and fruit trees and the glowing guardian of springtime. Green glistens on giddy waters and ripples through riparian banks. Green is also duplicitous; it stains rooftops of decaying copper

Voices

I was looking for new ways to talk about old things.

Is that not the job of the poet, like the magician,

as Wordsworth says;

to present ordinary situations about low and rustic life

in familiar language?

But to present them in a way that makes them extraordinary.

We start our journey in Falmouth,

taking us through its stages and ours within and without it.

You can even smell the flocks of florists displays

and see the fragments of shredded love notes

the school-girl trickled from her pockets on the journey home.

Like a modern day Gretel,

whose words clatter like pebbles on the cobbled streets

and whose gingerbread

is the sweet taste of nicotine

inhaled at the bus stop.

 

And feel the acrid blade of urine hit your throat when you walk

beside the old man who sifts the ground

to perpetrate his respiratory problems

with the used ends of anything he can;

menthols,

cigars

and Lambert and Butler.

Liquorice,

and thick papers, thin papers, tobacco from around the world.

 

Breathe the singed skin smell of the tattoo parlour .

Cough now as the tar mix hits the back of your throat and your head

rattles with the pneumatic drill in all its

irregular,

erratic and

irrational

repetition.

 

Listen to the sepulchral organ;

grinding out of tune and into the streets.

Its deadening chords in synch with the relentless

sighing chime

of time

of the bell.

 

Past the secret doorways, favoured by thieves;

each echoing times now changed.

Glimpses between houses;

like picture postcards showing snapshots

of seascapes,

sliding into the sea with its rattling flotilla

gently tugging on the water of one of the deepest natural harbours in the world.

Caustic waves

of vinegar from a thousand fish suppers

under the bunting.

And feel the tiny droplets of rain moisten your cracked and dried lips

as you see the colours lighting the sky

and in the rain and the storm;

the war ships stand grey and cumbersome

while the peace dove roosts on the rooftops

and coo-coos under

the sound of thunder.

 

This is the town where nothing happens.

 

Cornish writer installs ships in Bristol harbour

Overlooking the river, words set sail to the sea

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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

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.

How being a teacher prepared me as an excellent employee

Awoken by another dream of standing in a classroom unprepared for a lesson, whilst paper balls fly around my head, my eyes focused on the sandy graveyard for flies encasing the windows. Panicked breaths punctuated the morning’s motoring murmur as I began to prepared for another day of battle.

Whilst I always loved teaching and seeing the creative young minds develop, I also lamented the loss of time for writing. I worked hard and was dedicated, but most of the reading I did was educational or children’s books, and the longest writing I did was producing resources for lessons. I gave up teaching to become a full time writer and I haven’t looked back since.

When I first thought about leaving teaching, I was terrified but below are some reasons why teaching has prepared me to be an excellent employee. (I should know, I employ myself!)

#1 Teachers are organised

Having to prepare lessons and their related resources, books and homework takes inventing an organised system. Teachers have to develop their own way of being organised, which also means they are independent. As a writer, prioritising and creating timetables helps me to be efficient, meaning I draw upon these organisational skills daily.

#2 Teachers work long hours

Most teachers like to get into school to have a little bit of time in their domain before the students arrive and will spend several hours after classes in that room, tidying, making displays and marking books. Particularly when starting my business Palaver Maven, I worked really long hours. This included writing for many hours of the day, but also tweeting regularly and creating and updating my own website as well as the many clients I was lucky enough to have found. I thought then, and still think now, nothing of working 12 hour days: it’s just normal to me.

#3 Teachers are resilient

No matter how bad things got in teaching and no matter how exhausted I was, I still had to come in refreshed the next day. Teachers are some of the most resilient people I know. This has been really helpful when setting up a business. I had to be persistent in contacting people and resilient to inevitable criticism in order to persevere.

#4 Teachers are diplomats

“OK, so Adri, please apologise to John for calling him stupid and John please say sorry to Adri for pulling her hair, and now have a hug.” Teachers are almost always negotiating and being diplomatic. Be it between learners, or colleagues and parents, these skills of diplomacy are invaluable in any profession. Particularly as a writer, sometimes it’s necessary to liaise between different departments or to make suggestions for edits. How you frame this is key to getting good results.

#5 Teachers are intuitive

One of the things that makes great writers really great is their intuition. As teachers, we get to know a variety of people from all sorts of backgrounds and have to make a connection with them all. This means we have to be empathic. This is great in any job, but especially as a writer because writing excellent copy is about creating worlds that include people.

#6 Teachers are reflective

As par for the course in teaching, we constantly analyse and reflect upon lessons and how to modify them in future. Making small adjustments minute by minute, teachers are always striving to achieve more, which makes them progressive and reflective workers. Being able to adjust and improve my practises as a writer has really helped me to grow my business.

#7 Teachers are fantastic editors

Well versed in common mistakes, teachers can spot an error a mile off. Admittedly, I had the upper hand here as I was an English teacher. Misplaced commas or incorrect capitalisation were my bread and butter, but it makes error identification and correction quicker, the more you do it.

#8 Teachers know their subject

The best way to really understand something is to teach it. Again, having taught Media, Journalism and English I had a massive advantage for my industry, but teachers will have a very thorough knowledge of their subject and probably a good understanding of related areas too. Also teachers are really good at explaining things.