Telling People a Story They Want to Hear

I really enjoyed Hugh MacLeod’s interview with Seth Godin (two great reads who read great together). And it was especially interesting to hear about the frustration Seth feels when people sometimes don’t get what he means.

This reminds me of some of the flack he caught when his book All Marketers Are Liars was released. Now, I’m quite sure Seth knew exactly what he was doing when he titled the book (students of headlines take note). But I think he might have been caught off guard when some people didn’t get the real points within the pages (like the reviewer from Publisher’s Weekly).

Good marketers aren’t liars, except to the extent all people are—because we all lie to ourselves constantly. We want to hear stories that fit our existing world views, whether those views are accurate or not. And we want to primarily satisfy emotional needs, because ultimately that’s where we all seek happiness and contentment.

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Journalistic Superiority at Work

Could one of only two remaining daily British broadsheet newspapers be so desperate as to steal blog content?

This past Thursday Claire Zulkey of MediaBistro Toolbox did a hilarious riff on my 5 Signs Your Blog Post is Going Horribly Wrong. She essentially committed each of the five sins in a purposeful train wreck of a post that was so out there is was actually quite compelling.

Today, as I marveled that traffic was still coming in from her post, I noticed a few hits coming in from The Daily Telegraph in the UK. Now that’s something I’ll definitely go check out.

I’m shocked when I click and see that it is Claire’s post (now down, here’s the cached version at MSN), only with a different headline. Even Claire’s reference to her home town of Chicago is unchanged, though this post was ostensibly written by features contributor Melissa Whitworth, who is located at The Daily Telegraph’s New York bureau.

No attribution to Claire or Media Bistro. So I email Claire, and it suffices to say that she is not pleased to see her work republished verbatim without permission, much less attribution.

Not by an RSS scraper, but by a newspaper founded in 1855!

I find this quite incredible. Does Ms. Whitworth not realize that we notice things like this? And while the only thing connecting the two posts was a link to me, I do happen to have an audience full of other bloggers.

Or as mere bloggers, should we just allow this type of stuff to continue within the hallowed halls of journalism? I just don’t understand how so-called professional writers think they can get away with this stuff.

If the Telegraph post changes or comes down prior to a formal retraction and apology, I’ll post my screenshots for clarity.

UPDATE: Here’s Claire’s thoughts on the matter.

UPDATE 2: The Telegraph removes the offending post, but the cache lives on.

UPDATE 3: Melissa explains here. While yesterday I couldn’t imagine a plausible explanation, this sounds like it could be true. Who knew, as easy as it is, that she doesn’t even post to her own blog?

So, giving her the benefit of the doubt, I’ll go ahead and apologize as well.

Sorry Melissa, but you have to understand that it looked really bad. And how this got posted by mistake is still beyond me. It shows a breakdown in the editorial process at the Telegraph in any event.

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Copywriting Books You Should Buy

Here are my favorite copywriting books, for beginning to intermediate copywriters:

Advertising Secrets of the Written Word

I have a lot of copywriting books and courses, and if I were starting out fresh from square one today, I’d want to start here. Joe Sugarman is a direct marketing legend, and he does a great job of getting basic copywriting concepts across in an enjoyable way. So if you’re brand new to copywriting, start here.

Tested Advertising Methods (Fifth Edition)

When going back to the source of ad copy that is both audience and benefit-focused (as well as backed up by empirical testing), many will point to Claude Hopkins and Scientific Advertising from 1923. I own that book too, but my favorite “old school” copywriting book is the updated version of John Caples’ Tested Advertising Methods. Timeless advice, but written in an easily-digested modern tone.

The Irresistible Offer

While Marketing 2.0 pundits burn bandwidth trying to come up with clever new buzzwords to replace the word “marketing,” Mark Joyner simply hands you the answers for success in the post-mass-marketing environment. While not technically a copywriting book or a product/service development treatment, it’s crucial to both. When you start with the right offer, the product and the message are identical. Then (and only then) you can “get out of the way” and let your customers sell for you.

Persuasive Online Copywriting

The best copywriting books around are not written specifically for online, as you can tell from this list. But you should have at least one, and it’s a close call. I chose Persuasive Online Copywriting by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg (with Lisa Davis) over Nick Usborne’s Net Words only because the former is slightly newer. But both are excellent.

Breakthrough Advertising

Here’s the money book, courtesy of the late, great Eugene Schwartz. When you’re ready to take it to the next level, this is what just about any highly successful copywriter will tell you is the Holy Grail of deep psychological insights that lead to breakthrough marketing campaigns. The book is rare—before it was reissued by Boardroom it was selling on eBay for $900 (no joke). It comes with accompanying audio CDs that provide helpful supporting material from top copywriters who have built on Schwartz’s work.

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Blogging Grows Up

It’s no surprise that I think blogging is the biggest thing since, well, the ezine when it comes to effective, low-cost online marketing. While email newsletters are similar in that they use cheap information publishing to concurrently build relationships and authority for small businesses, the ezine can’t match the power of the blog.

Blogs are truly a huge step forward because of their ease, and because of the blogosphere itself. The interlinked conversation, playing out within the larger framework of the social media environment, is the greatest opportunity ever to build a business without spending money on advertising.

Unfortunately, it’s just a basic reality that many existing small businesses and solo professionals have neither the time nor the inclination to blog themselves. And that creates a huge opportunity for savvy bloggers.

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What’s New in Video Blogging?

“Television is a medium because anything well done is rare.”

I’ve always liked that clever little quote from comedian Fred Allen. As a radio star of the 1930s and 40s, Allen may have been a bit biased, but here we are over half a century later, and many of us wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments about the overall quality of television. And despite the huge amount of buzz about it in 2006, you could likely replace “television” with “online video” and the statement would be even more obvious.

It’s certainly cool to watch those rare talents making great online video entertainment and news shows, such as zefrank, Amanda Congden, Cali Lewis, and of course the Rocketboom folks, just to name a few of the more prominent. And You Tube means anyone can be a star, so everyone’s got to try. Even Paris Hilton.

Of course, there are other uses for online video that have huge potential beyond entertainment. Some have already started using it as a teaching tool, and I personally think that’s where many big opportunities can be had using this powerful communication medium.

Back at my 6 month Copyblogger milestone, I mentioned in passing that I was working on a new project. It’s a video blog, and we’re just about ready to launch it.

(Which is code for ‘there’s so much left to do I don’t see how we’ll ever get it done’)

The site provides video tutorials that teach people how to effectively create, publish, market, and do business online. You can sign up for the feed or for email alerts, and you’ll be the first to receive the initial tutorials when we go live.

Oh yeah… it’s called Tubetorial.

Did I mention it’s free?

5 Signs Your Blog Post Is Going Horribly Wrong

It happens to us all.

Fired up by a great idea, you sit down ready to crank out that killer post. But as you get farther into it, your enthusiasm is replaced by a sense of dread.

Clearly, you’re getting bogged down. You’re not sure what the problem is, but the piece is not coming together the way you thought it would.

You put your head down and keep writing, but the dread intensifies faster than your resolve. You now realize that you’ve got a complete mess of a post on your hands.

OK, let’s relax, take a deep breath and a step back, and run through this quick five-part checklist to see what’s gone wrong.

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Are You a Resourceful Blogger?

If there’s one characteristic that I believe leads to success, it’s resourcefulness. Finding a way to get things done is the skill that makes for an effective person—in business and otherwise—and finding that way without throwing money at the problem is often the most effective answer.

But being a resourceful blogger has a double meaning.

In Viral Copy, I set forth four categories of content that tend to attract links. One of those was providing free resources to your readers.

It’s naturally my favorite of the four.

Dan Zarrella nails it when he simultaneously affirms the value of resources and rejects the “content as filler” philosophy:

Content is dead and resource is king.

Yep.

Titles That Tell a Whole Story

Sometimes, in those rare special cases, you’ll have subject matter so captivating that a simple straight-forward statement of the relevant words is enough.

No formulas, templates, or linguistic trickery is necessary with these types of titles and headlines.

They are stories in and of themselves.

How else can you explain the magic of these four simple words?

Snakes on a Plane

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Why Plato Would Have Blown it as a Blogger

Yep… you read that headline correctly.

Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher who studied under Socrates, mentored Aristotle, and founded the Academy in Athens, would have likely crashed and burned as a business blogger.

Why?

Well, first it’s helpful to talk a bit about those other two guys who came before and after Plato — Socrates and Aristotle.

Socrates pretty much gets credit for laying the foundation of Western philosophy. He devoted his life to teaching, and did so by what became known as the Socratic Method.

Socrates examined moral concepts by answering a student’s question by posing another question in return. In this way, Socrates fueled a continuing dialogue designed to allow his students to discover answers for themselves.

In other words, he was all about the conversation.

In contrast, Aristotle was all about authored content. He knew how to present compelling-structured stories that took the reader from Point A to Point B by engaging the emotions. His philosophy was that one can effectively teach and persuade through the art of rhetoric alone.

Contrary to Socrates, Aristotle might utilize rhetorical questions. His style was to use queries not to illicit an answer from the reader, but rather to make a powerful point.

Plato was the middle child. Because Socrates apparently never wrote down his teachings, much of what we know about him comes from Plato’s writings, which were most often in the form of dialogues.

Early on, these dialogues were structured in true Socratic fashion, and often featured conversations between Plato and his mentor. Later on, these dialogues turned to conversations in format only, and became more about what Plato wanted to emphasize rather than a recording of a true Socratic conversation.

This led to what’s known as the Socratic Problem. How much of what Plato wrote can be viewed as the actual teachings of Socrates, as opposed to a literary device designed to persuade the reader to accept Plato’s point of view?

Plato understood the power of conversation, but his methods made people doubt his authenticity.

In my opinion, you’ve got to provide strong, persuasive content like Aristotle to be an effective business blogger. But you’ve also got to have a healthy dose of Socrates in you, because the conversation is where the true power of blogging is.

As for Plato, well, let me ask you a question.

Given what you know about the swarming pile-on nature of the blogosphere, what do you think might happen if someone is discovered trying to manipulate the conversation through nefarious marketing and public relations techniques?

Whoops, sorry . . . I guess that’s actually a rhetorical question.

But I would like to talk with you more about it. :)

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Link Karma and the Sandbox of Gloom

Stuck in the Google sandbox?

If you’ve just started blogging, you probably need links more than you want to read link posts. So, I’m going to dedicate this installment of Link Karma to resources that will help you score links.

Here we go…

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