Sunday, 13 October 2019

Weird and wild call to actions

I just remembered something great from the gig I went to the other night.

It was some interesting call to actions from the musicians.

They were trying to let folks know about the merch stand. You could tell they felt awkward about it and, I get it, when you're in a creative profession it's hard to "sell yourself". Also, the guys on were left-wing protest singer-songwriters so that makes it harder too.

This is how both singers "sold" themselves:

First went something like:

"So, I have some CDs for sale. My sister bought them when I was skint so she's bothered if you buy them, but I'm not."

Chuckles all round.

Second went:

"I'm a independent artist, so If you can buy some merch, please do. I know socialism, right?...*laughter*...but it really supports what we do. Thanks."

Very weird call to actions. But funny, honest and down to earth.

I can't argue quantatively that this style was more effective, but the merch area seemed busy at the end. And, no one objected to it either.

I think the only thing that could've made it better was explaining why buying merch and CDs is better than the assumption that you can get stuff later. The first artist wasn't on Spotify so if they mentioned that, it may have prompted us to buy a CD. But I can only base that on my experience.

The gig was great and there was obviously a keen audience, but you do have direct that audience to build loyalty. People don't always do things, unless they ask. A simple, clear and relevant call to action that has been briefly explained will do just that.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Wholesome encounters with strangers

Sounds weird doesn't it?

I probably could put it in better words.

But, you know when you have a small conversation with a stranger it it is genuinely nice? You just can't help sharing it, right?

Last night I was at a gig at a local pub. There were 2 gigs on and ours was in the smaller new room. There was a small bar there, but I went to the main bar because...well, I thought it might be quicker.

It wasn't. I eventually got to the front and while waiting someone pointed at me and said, "Careful, you're gonna get your arm wet."

I hadn't realised I was leaning my arm on the soggy, beer drenched bar.

"Thanks," I said.

"You don't want to get that nice jacket ruined with beer."

It was a funny but kind thing to do. It made me feel good so I tried to keep the conversation going.

"You off to the gig?" I said pointing behind me to the room where the folly protest gig was on.

"We're off to that one," they said pointing behind them to a gig with a band called "Jimbob" or something.

"Ha, you're going to the cool gig," I joked. "I'm off to the need gig."

"That one is pretty cool too."

I then mumbled some nonsense about us never being cool because we all wear glasses.

We laughed, collected our drinks and never saw each other again.

But it's good to talk to strangers sometimes.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

The one brutal rule to follow when coming up with slogans

As a copywriter, I'm often required to come up with witty slogans and short catchy phrases.

I might sound silly for me to say but I both love and hate the process.

The writing is fun, it can be a playful and joyful process.

But some folks always expect more. 

They expect hilarious puns for their niche b2b services. They expect their homepage to have a 5 word catchphrase that sums up every aspect of their business. They expect to have a witty phrase on their signage that brings all the customers to the yard.

It's the expectation that this is the only type of copy out there that bugs me.

I can do it and I love the challenge, but it's hard to get right. 

And, also, it's not always the best choice.

Sometimes simple, clear copy will do the job much better than witty, silly stuff.

There is a rule that should be followed when coming up with slogan-type copy. It's pretty simple: if they don't get it, don't use it.

If you come up with something, and your audience doesn't get it, scrap it. Even if you think it is clever or funny because it refers to some in-joke.

Scrap it.

We have limits to our lanaguage, we can't always come up with a pun that's funny enough and makes sense. Do you see Tim Vine writing B2B finance slogans?

If it doesn't work, why should it stay?

I once tried to write a clever line for a logistics company whose USP was it's focus on interpersonal communication, the people stuff rather than the technical stuff.

I wrote something like "to say we are people people is an understatement".

You can probably see what I was trying to go for here. But it wasn't enough. It didn't work immediately, it was too obscure for folks to "get".

I remember the awkward meeting I had when the client said "I don't get it." I tried to explain and then gave in realising, actually, it just wasn't a good bit of copy. So I just let it go. I remember it more because I held on to it for so long but really I should've ditched it before then.

But I've learnt now.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

The rule of nine

Here is a mantra that you should stand by if you want to commit to writing.

Assume that for every ten ideas you have, nine won't work.

It's a way to help you focus your creative process. If you lose the expectation to succeed every time, you stop your inner editor from holding you back.

It can help with writers block. Sometimes you feel like you have no ideas, but that's not true. You always have thoughts and ideas, but you're value judging them beforehand. If you come up with 10 ideas, you are increasing your chances of coming up with something that works.

It can help the creative process by giving a target to work for e.g. come up with 10 headlines for a blog, and you might have one you like.

I use this as a technique to get started with writing, but not as a rule to judge all if my ideas. That's a different process.

I like the way it is put in the book The Comic Toolbox: How to be Funny Even if You're Not:

"I invoke the rule of nine not as a truism but as another useful fiction to help me in my never-ending battle against fear."

It's a way to combat fear of failure and to just keep on working.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Would you get your haircut in a shed?

I just came back from a walk around in my local area.

I quite like discovering new streets and areas to walk around in. You also get some interesting insights into local community and local businesses. I saw one house that had branding outside for "child minding services". I found this kind of interesting as my mum was a child minder when I was growing up.

I also come across something very unexpected. There was a creepy shed near a street. As I walked by I noticed it had a sign about haircuts and the door was sort of open.

Imagine walking into someone's shed to get your haircut. Is there enough room to wait? Do they have enough light for magazines? Do they get mixed up with the garden sheats?

I am fascinated by this barber shed. I can't remember where I found it.

But I'm not interested enough to walk in, I might never walk out again.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Parenting classes to help with difficult children

A King's College London study has suggested giving families who struggle with difficult children "parenting lessons".

The researchers say that if parents skip class, they will have to spend detention doing their kids homework.

A "joke" inspired by this news story on BBC News "Parenting classes 'could help reduce social costs"

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Late night thoughts on giving yourself a job title

I've just come back from a really wonderful workshop on freelance journalism.

Something that came up in conversation within the group was the idea of calling yourself a "freelance journalist". We all felt embarrassed to call ourselves one if we hadn't done any freelance journalism.

I found this interesting because I think job titles are fascinating things when you start to break them down and be a nerd about them (I think the term is analysing...!?)

Some titles we have to actually earn. Obviously, I couldn't call myself a doctor as I need certain qualifications.

Other titles we feel weird to call ourselves unless they have been "approved" by other people.

Years ago I felt weird about calling myself a "copywriter" because my job title was "marketing executive". I didn't like the title. It was vague, it seemed like a cop out.

But, copywriter, well, to me that meant something. It felt good to say

I wanted to be a copywriter. I wanted to call myself one. I wanted to tell people I was one, even if they didn't know what it was.

And I couldn't tell you why. I never idolised copywriters. I didn't, as a teenager, have a poster of David Ogilvy on my wall instead of David Bowie.

I heard the title and I wanted to have it. But I didn't have it until I was given the title with my first agency role.

It was like I had to be christened with it.

And, I think there was something about idolising a certain title in the workshop group, we felt we couldn't give ourselves the title, someone else does.

It's normally because we're worried what others think, being called out as a imposter.

Also, if someone doesn't get it. We have to explain it, that feels weird.

I regularly tell my naan what I doas a copywriter, I think she gets it. I had to explain it to a workman at home the other day.

It felt weird but it still felt right to say the title.

Even if we don't always understand what that job is or what it entails we get an interesting vibe about them.

We hold onto certain titles, have our own feelings about them, give them our own value, worry how others value them.

But that doesn't mean they are completely valueless.

And it also doesn't mean we can't grant ourselves that value.

I still won't call myself a freelance journalist. I can't prove it yet. But I am a writer. I can always prove that. And my naan knows what that means.