August 2010

Talking About Yourself Is Talking to Yourself

Fixating on establishing your “brand” can leave you kind of lonely. You’re at risk of neglecting what’s most important in building relationships with customers, clients, and readers: communicating how you can help them. If you talk about yourself too much you’ll soon just be talking to yourself. No one really cares, and won’t be listening for long. Instead, tell stories about how you can make your readers money … save them time … improve their lives. Before crafting your narrative you have to know why people buy. Notice number 16 on the list below culled from the book Rapid Response Advertising by Geoff Ayling – “to communicate better.” PubArts understands that in helping you (our customer) communicate better, what we really need to discover is what YOUR customer desires. We don’t want to prattle on about ourselves in this moment (and choke on the irony), but do point out that we can also help you (and yours) with numbers 1, 2, and 3, among other goals. And while we might be at a loss with number 11, we are quite practiced with rejuvenating communication materials and strategies. People buy: 1. To make more money 2. To save money 3. To attract praise 4. To increase enjoyment 5. To possess things of beauty 6. To avoid criticism 7. To make work easier 8. To speed up work 9. To keep up with others 10. To feel opulent 11. To look younger 12. To become more efficient 13. To buy friendship 14. To avoid effort 15. To escape or avoid pain 16. To communicate better 17. To be in style 18. To avoid trouble 19. To protect family 20. To express love

Tiptoeing Through the Typo Minefield

So you’re writing an article about new laws. Being thorough, you do a computer spell check when you’re finished. Now, thanks to technology, you’re good to go. Too bad the word you meant to write as “statutes” came out as “statues,” and the computer didn’t think to correct it. Because statues is also a word. And because computers don’t think. That’s your job. Consider yourself lucky: you could have typed “pubic” instead of “public.” It happens. You have to be careful; there are so many ways to get caught with your pants down when it comes to professional communications. You may be writing about policies, but end up with polices. Resigned can become re-signed. Just. Like. That. Or you might type a word according to how it sounds and end up with sense instead of since. Or peak instead of pique (or peek), woe when you meant whoa. Editing is integral to good writing, and it has many levels, from structural to proofreading. The more important the document, the more crucial it is to have an outside editor assist you in your cause. Even as simple a task as proofreading may seem, it’s difficult to perform properly on your own work. That's because your brain knows what you meant to say and will read something that isn’t actually on the page or screen. Your brain is just trying to be helpful -- helpful like a lame friend who doesn't know how to tell the truth you need to hear. One way to avoid an ugly confrontation with yourself is to proofread your work backwards, from the end to the beginning. This forces you to read each word individually instead of scanning whole sentences. Still, reading backwards is most effective if you are only looking for incorrectly spelled words and less so for catching correctly spelled, but incorrect, words. So you might also employ the following trick: search for “danger words” after you’re finished proofreading. For example, if you intend to use the word “public” be on the safe side and search for “pubic” when you're done. Similarly for “manger” if you use manager in your publication, “contact” for contract, "county" for country. Or vice versa. A sloppily edited piece makes you look bad and may even cripple your objective. If you don’t have the time, inclination, or aptitude to proofread (or do other editing) properly, contact PubArts. We guarantee a 24-hour turnaround on small projects. We'll help you out. Unlike that unreliable so-called friend of yours, your brain.

Through a Tunnel, Darkly

Finally, through the gloom of our economic circumstances we can see a beacon. Thing is, it’s attached to an oncoming locomotive called the China Express. The People's Republic has left behind Japan, Germany, the UK, France and Italy. Already the world’s biggest exporter and energy consumer, it has its sights on soon overcoming longtime number one America. But outside of bragging rights, why should we care? Why get our delicates in a twist? Nationality matters far less today than skill sets. Whatever your citizenry you can prosper -- if you stay ahead of the train. (Indeed, some argue that countries are passé anyway. It’s the key global cities that matter: http://bit.ly/buP8Y2) Determination to avoid irrelevance propels us to adopt new gadgets and adapt to new lifestyles. That’s why we’re all learning to communicate through social media, right? We were all going about our business just fine before its advent. And now you hardly engage the world without it. Social media is increasingly where the jobs are -- for instance in tourism, the world’s largest industry by some measures: http://bit.ly/c5zqGY. No profession has changed more than journalism. Some newbies despair of entering a field in such economic upheaval (http://bit.ly/b029Er) while institutions like Columbia University scramble to keep up by offering a new degree in journalism combined with computer science. Some things will stay the same, though – change for change’s sake be damned. You can’t afford to lose your authenticity as you continually refresh and refashion your skills. Your character is still and ever will be your greatest asset. That’s what customers, like friends, truly value. Don’t lose sight of that, for instance by focusing more on what you aspire to do than what you can realistically provide today. And then deliver.

Keeping Up With the Joneses

Sometimes when Monday rolls around and the blog is screaming for attention, you can't help but feel a little "dial up" in a broadband world. Gotta keep going, gotta keep up ... but, oh Lord, how? You haul yourself to the computer to feed the little monster. You're motivated by the fact that seemingly everyone else is doing it, breeders who have put a little bit of themselves out there to carry on. Technorati says there are more than 100 million blogs out there and proliferating quickly -- along with Facebook pages, Tweets, and whatnot. One must keep up with the Joneses -- and the Ramirezes, Chans, and Nahasapeemapetilons. What's the reward for this ceaseless communication? Recognition, influence, and customers (if that's your bag). I seek an engaged readership and the off-site SEO (links from other sites) that catches the eye of search engines. But that all comes only after you nurture your little bundle past its vulnerable (to say nothing of messy) infancy. At this point, most people avert their eyes. That's OK, I don’t take it personally. I don’t think my baby’s ugly. At some point, however, it really may take a village to raise this child, so I hope others can assist the little fellow's long-term prospects. Which isn't a hint for birthday presents, but an invitation to contribute some content with your comments.

News Organ Gets a New Master

What do you get a 91-year-old billionaire who has everything but youth? How about a faded news organ to amplify his voice? The nonagenarian is Sidney Harman, founder of Harman International and its stable of high-end audio brands. The periodical is Newsweek, owned for half a century by The Washington Post, which is increasingly positioning itself as an education company through its Kaplan division. [See http://yhoo.it/harmannewsweek] What Harman is buying for a reported $1 is a media property that has posted an operating loss of more than $41 million in the last two years and must continue printing at a loss for a while if only because of the $40 million in subscription money it’s taken against the delivery of future magazine issues. Reporting- and editing-intensive news weeklies are also expensive to produce, carrying expectations of instant analysis that more thoughtful monthlies don’t have to meet. Having “week” in your name probably doesn't help either in a 24/7 mobile digital info ecoystem. Sounds more like "weak." If anyone doubts that no one buys the past, only the future and its alluring promises, consider the recent sale of Associated Content for a reported $90-100 million to Yahoo. Its asset base is basically an army of scribes who are willing to work for little to nothing, grinding out forgettable, keyword-laden advertiser bait. Hey, who needs the expense of thoughtful analysis and a stable of Pulitzer Prize winners? In a rapidly changing age where web-based news aggregators and blog factories make moguls of the likes of Arianna Huffington, print news magazines seem like faded sirens from yesteryear. But Harman is not alone in seeing life in the old gals yet. After all, money-hemorrhaging Newsweek drew several bidders and multi-billionaire Michael Bloomberg parted with $5 million in pocket change to pick up BusinessWeek recently. (But the financial information empire had a clear strategic purpose for a business magazine and quickly redesigned the publication for that role.) If long-time operators like the Post and McGraw-Hill are desperate to get out (and they were), why are others trying to get in? Harman and his wife, a longtime congresswoman from California, no doubt enjoy intellectual tussle and the satisfaction of influencing public policy. Perhaps they’ve jealously watched Bloomberg mount multiple peaks of business, media and politics, or Mort Zuckerman for that matter. And consider one of the toughest, shrewdest investors in the world, Carlos Slim of Mexico. He has accumulated a stake in the New York Times second only to the controlling family’s (in the form of lucrative bonds so he probably can't lose). What’s going on here? Business contrarianism? Far-sighted vision not available to us mortals who can’t see around corners? Vanity? Whatever, Harman’s not worried about his new property’s waning fortunes. He said today he will give the magazine “years” to turn itself around. His determination to stay in the game is admirable, but honestly … years? We all know that only Sumner Redstone is immortal.
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