Treasure grove

June 12, 2015 at 11:44 am | Posted in copywriting | Leave a comment
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I recently helped a client with the piece below. Aaron’s aim was to give a personal perspective of his profession. When we were done, however, we realised the content wasn’t ‘newsy’ enough for the Latest News section of Ecology and Heritage Partners‘ website.

It’s more of a blog post, but the site doesn’t have a blog (yet). So I suggested I host the post here until then. I think it’s a great story that ought to be told. So, over to you Aaron! (Click the pics to make them BIG.)

 Treasure grove

Finding a threatened species in an exotic plantation.

Aaron Organ, Director / Principal Ecologist, Ecology and Heritage Partners.

This true, personal tale – though small in scope – touches on many state, national and global environmental themes.

A tiny adventure

On a family holiday in Bright in Northeast Victoria, we drove past a large Radiata Pine (Pinus radiata) plantation. Having read of many fairy-tale forests, my six-year-old son asked if we could go into a real one.

His request reminded me where my ‘spark’ began: catching tadpoles in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, camping on weekends and taking long road trips with my own parents.

Into the wild …

So I turned onto a dirt track and drove deep into Crown land with an appropriate sense of stewardship …

The journey begins

From outside, the forest didn’t look much.

Inside, it appeared pleasant, but fairly sterile to my ecological mind.

Yet my son was entranced, so we went for a walk to see what we could find.

Not much to see in this monoculture.

The sun shone and the road sounds faded. After a while, we came to a shallow gully formed from a rain-eroded drainage line.

Barely an understorey to speak of.

It was then that we heard this sound.

Now it was my turn to be entranced! Because I’d heard this sound before. And I knew it was a Bibron’s (or Brown) Toadlet (Pseudophryne bibronii).

Why was this so exciting? Because the Bibron’s Toadlet:

A quest!

Eager to track the tiny sounds to their source and show my son, l fossicked among the forest debris.

To my delight, I soon caught a beautiful specimen in the undergrowth and displayed him (ironically) on the sawn stump of a tree.

You little beauty!

Simple lessons; profound truths

Had my son not asked to see this forest, at this time of year, we’d not have had this experience.

Happily, it seems my love of the outdoors has rubbed off on him. That’s why he was looking out the car window instead of down at some screen. This is vital, because if our kids don’t know what’s out there, they won’t care when it’s gone.

Not that I’m against technology. While these photos and sounds aren’t fabulous, the power to capture them – instantly – on a mobile phone, would’ve been unthinkable to naturalists even 20 years ago. This bodes well for the (much needed) rise of citizen scientists.

What I am saying is that society should slow down and enjoy the outdoors. People also need to encourage and empower the next generation to appreciate and care for the environment – before it’s too late.

This trip also reinforced my thinking that we should all look at ‘degraded’ environments with more circumspection. Though our planet has taken a pounding, it can still pleasantly surprise.

From ‘waste’ to habitat.

If a toadlet can persist in what could fairly be described as homogenous pine, what else is out there where we least expect it?

Finally, residents of (and visitors to) Bright may derive even more enjoyment from the environs if they know that, deep in the forest, a special creature still calls.

Learn more!

Like to know more about what my expert team and I do with toadlets and other native animals? Drop me a line at aorgan@ehpartners.com.au or 0425 873 159.

I’d love to hear from you!


Thank you, Aaron.

I greatly look forward to hearing what our readers think!

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Pics and recording by Aaron Organ.

Tanks for the memories – the importance of research

May 29, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Posted in copywriting | 12 Comments
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What tank is that? (Original.) Click to make BIG.

I love doing research.

This is lucky, as copywriters must do stacks of it to be any good.

Get one fact wrong and you can:

So when it comes to looking stuff up, I’m pretty damn methodical.

Even when it’s an informal request from a friend, I take research very, very seriously – as Chris learnt last week:

‘Dear Paul,

In flicking through one of my father’s photo albums, I found quite a few ‘in the field’ photos.

I am intrigued by this one (shockingly fuzzy though it is) and thought that I would enlist your expertise to identify the type of tank.

All we’ve really got to go on is the shape of the turret and the gun.

I’m thinking it’s either a British Cruiser tank or a Panzer IV.

I believe that it was tank in early ‘45, possibly near Overloon.’

Chris enclosed the pic you see above, so I replied:

‘Hi, Chris.

What a fascinating challenge!

I thought it might be a Panzer IV, but I believe most later models had a turret ‘bustle’ at the back – for radio and other gear.

So I increased the contrast to see there’s no bustle on this tank.

What tank is that? (High contrast.)

What tank is that? (High contrast.)

Then I thought it might be a Panther, and so cross-checked the profile.

My best guess.

Second guessing.

There seem a lot of points of correlation:

  • Long gun (if you deem the white bit in the photo as part of a gun).
  • Two-stage gun mantlet.
  • Gun holder (and position thereof).
  • Tall commander’s cupola (which may have given the idea it was a British Cruiser).
  • Long rear engine deck.

Then I checked Overloon, to see if there were any Panthers in the area at the time and, blow me down (or up)!

The culprit?

The culprit?

So, from preliminary research, Panther seems a fair bet.

See if you agree.’

Chris seemed pleased with progress.

‘By jingoes I knew that you were the man for the job! That photo from the Overloon war museum leaves me gobsmacked!

I did find this photo of a Panzer IV variant which I though fitted the turret profile (without bustle), but I think that the stepped profile of the front of the tank would have been apparent in the photo despite the background vegetation.

The silhouette in the photo does more closely resemble a Panther, for the reasons that you mentioned as well as the taper angle on the rear of the turret.

Outside chance?

Outside chance?

I’m not ruling out the Cruiser Mk.II yet – look at the antenna arrangement (or maybe that’s just a tree in the background of the photo) and the ‘steps’ at rear of the turret.

Then again the stepped profile of the front of the tank doesn’t match, nor does the gun length.

Sentimental favourite.

Cruising for a bruising?

I prefer to believe that it’s a Panther in the photo, though. Much more exciting!

Tally-ho!’

When a client is happy, so am I.

‘Great stuff, Chris.

Your antenna argument may have merit.

If you say the word, I could post the mystery tank pic on Twitter with a request to crowd source its identity.

Chances are, certain sections of my followers would be all over it.

Or you could leave it for your readers to decide.

Either way, very exciting.’

‘Yes, let’s crowd source it!

Attached is a higher resolution scan – you can zoom in and see that what we thought might be a gun support and aerial respectively are in fact trees in the background.

Cheers.’

‘Golly!

The plot thickens … ‘

‘The reason I mentioned Overloon is that on the same page of photos there are two references to that town – one in an inscription on a photo; on another photo, a road sign featuring that town’s name is visible.

I’m happy for you to include all of this in a blog post.

Let’s see where this goes!

I’m keen as la moutarde!’

‘Tremendous!

All good grist.

Leave it mit me.’

So here we are.

I’m almost certain that tank is a Panther, but not positive.

What I do know for sure is that my readers know infinitely more than I ever will.

And so I’m putting this mystery out there.

In other words …

RTEmagicC_We-Need-You.jpg

Yet another contender. (See Paul Huysing's comment below.)

Yet another contender. (See Paul Huysing’s comment below.)

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

The true tale of Elizabeth Frensington-Smythe

March 23, 2015 at 12:22 pm | Posted in copywriting | 7 Comments
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Lady Elizabeth Frensington-Smythe (of Abbotsford).

I was rewriting a large website for a client with the glorious double-barrelled name (changed for this tale) of Elizabeth Frensington-Smythe.

With big projects, I often begin with small bits and work my way up at increasing speed.

Staff bios (profiles) are a great starting point.

When I got to Elizabeth’s bio, I recalled that she’d introduced herself to me as Liz.

She also signed her emails as Liz, yet her email address was Elizabeth@Frensington-SmytheEnterprises.com.

And so I wrote:

‘Dear Liz,

Are you predominantly Liz, Lizzy, Elizabeth (or some other permutation) to your various audiences?

The name they read should be the one they use.

If we can pick one variation and use it consistently across all communication channels, we’ll strengthen your brand.

If, however, use is situational, we can give this idea a miss.’

Liz replied:

‘My name is Elizabeth Frensington-Smythe.

Business cards, emails etc all use Elizabeth.

99% of people call me Liz.’

So I said:

‘Thank you, Liz.

So, all your business comms are in sync with just 1% of your audience.

As you’re obviously rebranding, can we ditch Elizabeth for Liz in all instances going forward?

Liz is shorter, friendlier and more accessible.

(Three traits that are particularly attractive when one has a double-barrelled surname.)

It’s impossible to misspell Liz.

And you’ll never again have to start a relationship with, ‘Please, call me Liz’.

This may remove small but unsettling uncertainties for some anxious folk.

Make sense?’

Liz said:

‘Liz it is.’

And so started our website optimisation collaboration.

Liz not only ended up with perfect online content.

She also got a sharper, stronger and more consistent personal brand.

I love it when that happens!

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Pic by #1 Airsoft Mom.

Library books

March 16, 2015 at 9:01 am | Posted in copywriting | 2 Comments
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Imagine Day. Paul Hassing's book of surreal short stories.

Write once. Use many times.

Having edited a client’s book for much of last year, I was delighted when he sent me a box of ten shiny copies to give to prospects and friends.

By chance, my own book (pictured) had come out just a few days before.

Once I got over the warm fuzzy of seeing my name and website in my client’s acknowledgements, I thought about how to leverage his content.

And so I wrote:

‘Hi there!

Having just had my own book published, I was wondering if you or your publisher has sent copies of your new book to:

It’s not just a legal thing, your title goes onto the databases and becomes globally searchable.

This increases exposure and is very good for your personal brand.

My searches of these databases did not yield anything written by you.

So I wanted to make sure you get onto this if you haven’t already.

Kind regards,

P.’

My client was very grateful.

And, as usual, I got a kick out of offering some free value-add service beyond the project itself.

I can’t wait to see what our respective publications do for us this year.

🙂

PS. Here’s the National Library of Australia entry for my dad’s autobiography. And here he is in the State Library of Victoria.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

From DL to PDF to online & beyond!

October 1, 2014 at 11:39 am | Posted in copywriting | Leave a comment
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Leverage your content worldwide!

Leverage your content worldwide!

Remember that jolly DL brochure I edited?

It’s not back from the printer yet, but it did throw up a further lesson during the design process.

Never one to stop seeking value, I asked my client:

‘Once this brochure is finalised for printing, do you reckon we’ll also leverage the file into a PDF?

Doing so would let you post it on your website for downloading any time.

You could also email it to any (younger?) prospects who flag a preference for screen browsing over snail mail (especially if you need to get a brochure to them fast).

If you think this URL idea has legs, I can add a few handy hyperlink suggestions (e.g. behind headshot photos and company logos) so online readers can easily explore.

More bang for your buck, and all that.

These URLs would not be visible in or affect the printed brochure (i.e. if you printed the PDF yourself, it’d be identical to the commercially printed brochure).

I’m definitely not suggesting we run two versions of this brochure – merely that we augment the master file to suit two channels.

Please let me know what you reckon.’

My client agreed this was worthwhile.

Thus spurring me to ever greater efforts to give him value for money.

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

 Pic from Wikipedia.

Notes on DL brochures

September 16, 2014 at 7:33 am | Posted in copywriting | 5 Comments
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An easy way so see DL.

An easy way so see DL.

A client asked me to edit a brochure and suggest a format.

Once I saw what the brochure was for (promoting a course to time-poor execs) I suggested ‘DL’ format.

So what the hell is DL? Swim Communications puts it very well.

In short, DL is a third the size of A4 (the size you stick in your printer).

My client, who had imagined an A4 format, asked why I preferred DL.

So I said:

‘DL is easier and cheaper to post to many prospects.

Also, I feel it looks more businesslike.

If you go flat A4, you’ll either have to post it folded anyway, or add cardboard to stop it getting mangled en route.

But if you hit a non-A4 letterbox, it’ll get mangled anyway.

Not a good look for your brand.

Folded DLs are also easier to hand out at events, display in foyers and carry away.

Finally, the beauty of a DL brochure is that you can add as many panels as you need to cover the content and it still fits in a standard business envelope.’

My client was impressed.

I can’t wait to see what the designer does with our optimised content.

I wrote this post to demonstrate that expert copywriters and editors don’t just focus on words.

They think about your business, your brand, your communication strategy, your audience, your costs, your desired results and how to wring every drop of value from your investment.

And though they may not be design experts, they know from long experience what works and what doesn’t.

So when you send your perfected copy to a designer for finishing, they’ll have the best possible chance of smashing it out of the park.

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

 Pic by The Internet Printer.

Cliche of the Titans

December 18, 2013 at 9:45 am | Posted in copywriting, Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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A fight to the death.

A fight to the death.

One of my clients makes high-end breakfast products.

So when she wrote on her labels that breakfast was:

the most important meal of the day,

she knew it.

And meant it.

But this didn’t stop me challenging her.

You see, every person and their pet know and use this time-worn truism.

So I suggested we change it to:

the day’s most vital meal.

My client then had the temerity to suggest she preferred important to vital!

And so I mounted my defence:

  1. Vital is shorter than important.
  2. Vital packs more punch.
  3. By ditching most important meal of the day for day’s most vital meal,  we kill the cliché and own the concept.
  4. This switches the passive voice to active.
  5. It also gives superior cadence.
  6. Finally, vital stems from the Latin word for life/living (which is much in sync with a food brand).

So, do you still want important?!

My client replied:

‘You win a million times on this one. Thank you!’

Gracious, intelligent, enlightened and humble clients like this keep me copywriting.

And make me strain every nerve to advance their prosperity.

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Handle with care

September 20, 2013 at 9:37 am | Posted in copywriting | 11 Comments
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A delicate operation.

A delicate operation.

Word up!

When you edit a website to relaunch a high-end muesli range, every word counts.

To this end, a clever client and I recently had an interesting exchange:

She

I bought some yogurt today. They have ‘handcrafted’ as part of their product description.

I currently use ‘hand mixed’ on my website and labels.

Do you think ‘handcrafted’ could be a better word for my range?

What about ‘hand made’?

Me

‘Handcrafted’ used to be a novel take on ‘hand made’, but it isn’t anymore.

Your muesli isn’t furniture.

And you aren’t God.

Therefore, ‘crafted’ is not the word I’d go for.

I think you’re already totes on the money with ‘hand mixed’.

And, for the record, I’d like as few hands as possible in my yogurt!

Morals

So we’re sticking with ‘hand mixed’.

Copywriting is a deeper process than some people think.

That said, if a client has already nailed something, a good copywriter doesn’t try to gild the lily or fix what ain’t broke.

For that is our

craft.

What do you think?

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Pic by Jay PH.

The quick & the dead

May 13, 2010 at 9:12 am | Posted in copywriting | Leave a comment
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In tough times, small is beautiful.

As a freelance copywriter, I watched clients past and present deal variously with a year of ‘interesting times’:

  • One client terminated a chronic poor performer, so he could keep his better staff.
  • A second gave accounts payable to his wife – who paid my invoices twice as fast!
  • A third saw contract termination as a happy excuse to knock on different doors. He scored a fresh, new role in just two weeks.
  • A fourth used his quiet time to commission a blog and reengineer his website for the soon-to-be-obligatory live Web 2.0 feeds.

These were all small to medium firms. The smaller they were, the faster they moved and the more they treated the global financial crisis as an opportunity, rather than a threat.

On the other hand, two larger (former) clients took a more traditional approach:

  • One suspended their industry newsletter, just as customers sought leadership and staff needed a morale boost.
  • Another retrenched all but a skeleton crew. These unhappy few were given cruel workloads and a 20% pay cut. The pressure was crippling and word of their torment spread far. And wide.

Brands have been damaged; perhaps even smashed. I can’t see either of these companies racing ahead any time soon.

Though my data are obviously insignificant, my observations suggest that in tricky times, small is beautiful.

Leaner, keener, stronger and smarter for their experience, I fully expect my nimble SME clients to lap their competition in the sunnier season ahead.

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

How to name things

March 31, 2010 at 10:17 am | Posted in copywriting | 12 Comments
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Some names stand alone. Others need a little help.

When naming a company, course or other corporate thing, there’s a risk your choice may be a little ‘dry’.

You don’t want to put your audience to sleep.

On the other hand, you can’t be so ‘way out’ that you damage your brand.

A good solution is to have a creative title with a ‘sensible’ subtitle (or vice versa).

This two-pronged approach usually satisfies most audience members.

I used it this morning, with an article on leadership.

My title, Learning Leadership, was dry but functional.

My subtitle, How to Get Support from Above, Around & Below, added meaning and context and was a bit more ‘with it’.

When trying to come up with name options, the blank page can be very daunting. So I use what I call the ‘shotgun’ approach.

I define this in the intro I write for lists of names I prepare for clients:

This list comprises a broad spectrum of serious suggestions, potential thought starters and light-hearted ideas. By casting the net as wide as possible, I hope to either catch a winning idea or produce one in the mind of another.

Recombine components for more permutations. If you can’t decide between several suitable names, run them past a trusted group of people from the audience/s you wish to reach. Their feedback should guide you to a single choice.

This approach can take a while, but it invariably produces an ideal result.

If you’re stuck for a name, think of mine! 🙂

Paul Hassing, Founder and Senior Writer, The Feisty Empire.

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