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Tag Archives: words

Five reasons not to blog

closed sign - reasons not to blog

You don’t have to write a blog. It’s not the law. Here are five popular reasons not to do it.

1.You can’t be bothered. Really, what’s the point? Your marketing is working fine, you don’t need any more clients, thank you very much.

If you’ve got a steady stream of leads, and more of the kind of work you want to do than you can handle already, then maybe you don’t need to blog. But if you’d like to pull in additional leads, get referred more, and build your business, then maybe you should give it a go.

2. You don’t want to give information away. And why would you? You worked hard to learn all this stuff, publishing it for free is a crazy idea.

People buy from people they trust, and it’s hard for people to trust your expertise if it’s all locked away in your head. Sharing some of your ideas and experiences in a blog is a great way to show not only what you know, but your individual approach. Being helpful and sharing pays off. As far as know I haven’t lost any writing work through writing about how to write.

3. You’ve got nothing new to say. The internet is awash with blogs. The world doesn’t need another one.

Well, yes, that’s true. But you do have something original to say. Think about the way you solve your particular clients problems and write from that perspective. Don’t worry about being a world authority on your subject, just be the great guy who knows his stuff and gets it done.

4. You’re not a writer,you’re a lawyer/architect/IFA/designer/*insert your own job title here.

True, but you probably can write well enough. Be clear, to the point, and avoid jargon. Don’t think of it as an essay written to impress, write it as you would say it, and you’ll find your voice. (And if that doesn’t work, you can always cheat and get someone like me to write it for you.)

5. You’ve got writer’s block. You know you need to do it, but the blank page is staring at you and try as you might, it just won’t work.

We’ve all been there, but the way to get out of it is to take action. Write something silly, write something provocative, write anything. The act of crafting ideas into words will get things moving, and once you’re in the flow you can switch back to the subject you’re supposed to be writing about. Or not. The best blogs sometimes start in the strangest places.

This blog was supposed to be ‘How to write a brilliant article,’ but I was distracted by helpful Twitter responses to my question ‘what holds your writing back?’ That one’s coming next, so watch this space.

Apostrophe catastrophes and how to avoid them

the wrong 'it's' sign

I saw this today, and it stopped me in my tracks.

I wondered how many people had okayed the copy before it got made into a sign, and how many people who walked past noticed. And does it even matter? I still understood not to walk down that path, so you could argue that the sign did its job just fine.

As a writer, I think it does matter. Getting it wrong muddles the meaning. This sign is confusing, and signs should be clear.

And I know there are bigger things going on right now than apostrophe catastrophes, but it’s just as easy to get it right as get it wrong, if you think about it like this.

The it’s/its rule

It’s is short for ‘it is,’ while its is possessive. Its is just like his or her or their or your – think of them as a family. Reading your sentence aloud should make it clear to you which it’s/its you need. In this case ‘it will seriously damage it is health’ doesn’t make any sense, so it must be the other one. To check, try substituting another of the possessive family of words, and read it aloud again. ‘it will seriously damage his health,’ is a clear sentence, so that’s the one you need.

And the you’re/your rule

Another one it’s easy to get wrong is your and you’re. I see it a lot in blogs, and on websites that you would have thought would have known better. And it’s such a silly mistake to make. Your means it belongs to you, while you’re is short for you are. Again, if you’re not sure, say the sentence out loud. Test ‘your gorgeous, darling,’ by substituting a different possessive word. ‘Her gorgeous, darling’ won’t get you the girl, while ‘you are gorgeous, darling’ just might do it.

Of course, even people who know this get it wrong. I get it wrong in first drafts. We type faster than we think. So always check, and re-check before sending something off to print, pressing publish on your blog, or whizzing off that email.

The 7 deadly word sins

apple with 'sin' written on it

(Or 7 words you won’t find on Valuable Content websites, and which shouldn’t be on yours.)

We write lead generating websites for businesses, so we get through a lot of words – thousands of the things. There are some we try not to use any more – either because they’re overused, or because they’re not clear, or because we just don’t like them.

1. Solutions. Offering solutions to a clients problem is a hackneyed way of saying you can help. Next time you’re sitting in a traffic jam count the number of vans with ‘solutions’ written on them. Dry rot solutions, office furniture solutions, decorating solutions. Be more specific about exactly how what you do will improve your client’s situation.
2. Facilitate. Don’t use it if you mean ‘set up,’ or ‘organise.’ It’s a bit of a prissy word, sounds like you’re trying to make something simple sound more important.
3. Orientated as a suffix, like results-orientated, or worse, solutions-orientated. Of course you work towards resolving the client’s problem. Just bunging ‘orientated’ on the end of a word doesn’t help show your method or describe your USP. Say how you do it, specifically.
4. Focused as a suffix. Or worse, focussed. See above. Results-focused, solutions-focused, we don’t like it.
5. Dynamic. Maybe we’re getting old, but we don’t really like dynamic agencies. For a start it’s a bit of a cliche, a lazy way of saying you’re not lazy. Plus, if you say you’re dynamic we imagine you wearing patterned socks and running round screaming into your Blackberry like an Apprentice wannabe. We’d rather see examples of original thought and genuinely helpful content.
6. Passionate. Being passionate about customer service makes you look a bit silly. No one believes it, so don’t say it. Caring is good, so is attention to detail, but passion? Save it for your lovers.
7. Synergy. Paradigm. Proactive. Just stop it.

If you want help writing the right stuff, let me know on 07985 015300

How to stand out from the crowd

How to stand out from the crowd

Let’s face it, you’re probably not the only one in your field. There are other designers, consultants, suppliers all doing the same as you, give or take an inch or two.

You can niche all you like, but there’ll always be somebody else, with a similar offer, ready to snatch potential clients away.

So how do you stand out? How do you frame your offer to get them to pick you and not them?

Here’s a quick guide to using words to make you stand out from the crowd.

1. Be the clearest. Chances are your business is mired with jargon. Be the one who strips that away and writes about how you help in a way that your clients really understand. It’s refreshing to find someone who tells it like it is – so be that person.
2. Be the most understanding. Always write from the clients viewpoint. Put their problems before your solutions. (But don’t use the word ‘solutions’. It’s on my banned list.)
3. Be the boldest. Copy that’s written with attitude is invigorating to read, so inject some va-va-voom into your words. Active verbs, no conjunctives, short and snappy.
4. Be the brightest. Brightest doesn’t mean complicated – it can mean seeing things from a different angle – making connections that can surprise and inspire. Write thoughtfully and your words will rise above the crowd saying the same old thing.
5. Be the smartest. Invest in good design so that your words look as good as they can. Good design shows you care.
6. Be the most useful. Fill your website with content that’s valuable to your potential clients, so they’ll turn to you first for help.
7. Be the most in demand. People want to work with the best, and the best are likely to be busiest. Use your website and social media to let the world know what you’re up to. Write about the nuts and bolts of what you’re doing – it shows you know your stuff. Walking the walk and not just talking the talk – that’s what get results.
8. Be everywhere. Blog it, tweet it, comment on forums, ask questions, answer queries – spread your words around to raise the chances of being found.

What have I missed? I’d love to know your tips for standing out from the rest. And if you need help with making your copy unmissable, call me on 07985 015300

Our perfect couple – design and content

royal wedding tea towel

We haven’t quite decked Valuable Content Towers in bunting, but we’re getting into the Royal Wedding spirit by celebrating the perfect couple.

And while we wish Kate and William all the luck in the world, our perfect couple is something quite different. At Valuable Content, the marriage made in heaven is ‘content and design.’

As wordsmiths, you might expect Sonja and I to argue for the supremacy of the written word. But the deeper we get into the world of brilliant content, the more strongly we realise the inseparable link between what we do and design. The greatest words in the world won’t get read if the design’s all over the place. The smoothest design in the world will trip up if the words don’t make good sense.

As Lizzie Everard, one of our favourite graphic designers puts it,

“Flashy, superfluous and self-indulgent design that exists for itself is like having a Prada handbag filled with Superdrug costmetics.

but…

Brilliant, well-crafted words and insights that are not dressed for the party will miss all the fun.”

People won’t take your words seriously if they’re not professionally presented. And they will be equally disappointed if your design makes empty promises.

Iain Claridge, the Valuable Content web designer agrees.

“First Impressions are lasting impressions.

The visual design of a company’s logo, its products, its website, printed matter, etc should not be optional concerns. In a split-second someone can look at a shoddily designed website and decide “This company doesn’t look professional enough.” There is a critical period in the very first moments a potential customer sees a logo, product or marketing material that informs the rest of their relationship with that customer. There is always the danger that without an appealing aesthetic front, a potential client will have written you off mentally before you ever make it to delivering the meat of your pitch. Oh… and consistency is key.

Strong visual design generally promotes a clear, consistent identity, which in turn reinforces trust.”

So, to inspire trust and instill confidence and to give your content the very best chance of being loved, you need both; the great words and strong design.

All our projects start design and content simultaneously – and we run the two together – design and content, back and forward. It means we’re not just thinking of the message, but of the way the words work on the page. We favour clarity and simplicity of both text and visuals, always approaching both with ‘what does the reader/user want here?’

Get the marriage right, and your content will live happily ever after.

Five things to bear in mind when designing your content:

1. Readability. Can your reader quickly find the information they need? Pay attention to the layout and look of your copy. A clear structure and hierarchy, carefully selected typography, use of headers, bullets and call outs all help.
2. Images for interest. Give your words a focus and your readers pause for thought with graphical interest – helping you tell your story and hold their attention.
3. Consistency. As Iain Claridge says, a consistent theme or a thread to your content design will give you a recognisable identity and means the reader knows what to expect. Keep it neat and tidy and make your content more usable.
4. Space. It’s a busy, crowded world. Give your readers some thinking space by not over-stuffing your content.
5. Attractive content works better. Look professional. Show your readers that you care.

That’s our view from the content perspective. We’d be fascinated to know what the design fraternity thinks. What do we all need to consider when designing great content?