Calling on you to discuss the joys of writing and the importance of creativity in our personal and business lives.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Nine different ways to say, “Thanks for having me.”

You’re being interviewed on television, or on the radio, or while creating a video. The interviewer politely says to you: “Thank you for joining us.” And you reply with: “Thanks for having me.”

Thanks for having me? Sure, it’s a swell reply. After all, it’s brief (always a plus). And your words show appreciation and project a bit of sophistication. 

But you wish you could have replied with something more original. 

So, below are nine fresh ways to say, “Thanks for having me.” (And don’t forget to tweak the reply to reflect whether it was a face-to-face or remote interview.) 

1. “I enjoyed being here. Thanks.”
2. “It was my pleasure.”
3. “Glad/Great to be here.” 
4. “It was nice speaking with you.”
5. “Anytime. Thank you so much.”
6. “This was great. Thanks.”
7. “Always great to be here, [name].” (Of course, that assumes you are a repeat guest.)
8. “I enjoyed speaking with you.”
9. “Thank you. It was fun.” (Assuming it was fun, and not a verbal beatdown.)

Author Joe Starin heads up Hit by a Brick, an independent copywriting resource.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Seven things I will NOT do as your new copywriter.

Copywriting is a great profession. Every day I get to learn and write about new companies, new industries, new products, and new services. And the ultimate goal is always the same: make you look good, make your company look good, differentiate what you are marketing, and make your firm more competitive.

But, I have a stubborn side. Hire me as your new copywriter and there are some things I simply will NOT do. Period. Done. Over and out. Have a nice day.

For example, when creating your company’s offline or online marketing messages, I WILL NOT:
  1. Use the word “hero” to describe your product. Or service. Or company. Or employee. Heroes are rare. Heroes are special. Even the word itself is special.
  2. Tell your customers that your product or service will “give them their life back.”
  3. Tell customers that “It’s not your fault” when describing a problem that your product is designed to eliminate. (Ninety percent of the time it is their fault.)
  4. Use the words “I,” “we” and “our” in your marketing copy unless threatened with a pointed stick. Why? Because these words talk about your company when you should be talking about your customer.
  5. Use a fifty-cent word when a nickel word will do. Simple words are better (unless the message needs to be highly technical or sophisticated).
  6. Disrespect the reader by using wild superlatives, making claims that can’t be substantiated, or forcing the reader to plow through massive amounts of text.
  7. And finally, I will never write that your product will deliver an almost-sensual experience (even if your company does make really great chocolate).
About the author: Joe Starin heads up Hit by a Brick, a Midwest copywriting resource.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hit by any of these great tag lines? Read why they’re so good.

Some of these great tag lines are current. Some are classics. All the great tag lines and brands below are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies. Maybe you have some great tag lines of your own?

Love them back -- CESAR Canine Cuisine. Begins with a verb – always a plus. Taps that emotional connection people have with their dogs. And yes, people do look for ways to give back to their beloved pets.

Good. Better. Behr. -- BEHR Paints. If you insist on saying that your product is the best, this is a fine way to do it.

Click It or Ticket -- NHTSA’s seat belt communications program. It’s a bit clumsy -- IMHO, both parts should be verb phrases. But you can’t beat the rhythm and the rhyme. And you can’t argue with the results: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Click It or Ticket is the most-successful seat belt enforcement campaign ever, helping create the highest national seat belt usage rate of 85 percent.

Drive one -- Ford. Okay. Maybe I will.

Proud sponsor of the comeback -- MetroHealth System. My new favorite tag line. And it’s all in the great word “comeback.” After all, isn’t that what everyone is trying to do when battling an injury or disease?

We bring good things to life -- General Electric. A positive “feel good about us” line. Suggests that GE products and services have a “higher purpose.” Clever play on words.

You’re in good hands with Allstate -- Allstate Insurance. Using the word “you’re” (and putting it up front) makes this tag line intensely customer focused. Creates a picture in the minds of the readers -- nice. Stayed relevant for decades, which is no small task.

Can you hear me now? -- Verizon Wireless. Verizon took a phrase commonly uttered by phone users and built a brand around it. Verizon stayed with the line (important), used it in good commercials, put massive dollars behind it, and the rest is history. And, when your tag line becomes a part of American pop culture, you’ve really hit it big.

Talk to Chuck -- Charles Schwab. Makes a huge company sound like a buddy. Nice. Begins with a verb. Asks for the order. Three short syllables.

Be all that you can be -- U.S. Army. And here it is: IMHO, the greatest tag line ever. Uses only single-syllable words, six syllables total. Begins and ends with the same word (not sure that’s ever been done in a tag line before.) Aggressively challenges the reader. Used from 1980 to 2001.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Why I love radio.

There are many ways to receive and consume media these days. But here’s a toast to radio. May it never, ever go away. Why? Because radio is…

real time
. Need to push something out to scores of people right away? Radio is ready.

best for multitasking
. Listening to the radio requires just two ears. (And you can even close one ear if you want to be really efficient.) Every other sense, every finger, every thumb, every toe (not common, though) is available to work on something else.

. And we all worship wireless, don’t we?

. No matter what you like to listen to, it’s somewhere on the radio. I even heard a show the other day where three people discussed an entire novel on the radio in one hour. Sort of like the audio version of CliffNotes. Interesting.

. With few exceptions, radio doesn’t cost a dime. Want to listen? Just grab it out of the air.

national security
. In the event of an emergency, radio can reach millions of people in seconds. No smartphone needed. No computer necessary.

emotional. Try finding another medium that has played such a personal and important part in your life. It has a history of being there during those best moments. Oh, and your 10 most-favorite bands? You probably discovered most of them on radio.

Okay, so radio isn’t very social. It’s a one-way communication (unless you’re calling in to win concert tickets, request a song, or butt heads with the on-air personality. But now you’ve added another medium: the phone. And that’s cheating.)

And radio falls big-time short when it comes to delivering images and video. But so what. Sometimes you need your eyes for other things.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Nine and a half ways to boost confidence.

If you're a confident person, you'll likely be a confident writer. Or artist. Or musician. Or designer. But how can a creative person keep himself or herself thick skinned and feeling strong? Here are some interesting ways to feel powerful.

1. Do it yourself. Stop asking people so many questions. Go online and Google the answer. Or start an online discussion. Get fired up and fix it. The solutions are out there. And every task that you accomplish by yourself, large or small, is a win. And winning feels good.

2. Learn new things. It’s another way to get that intoxicating, winning feeling. I was taking adult learn-to-skate lessons a few years ago. One of my fellow students revealed that she learned something new every year. Learning to skate was her challenge that particular year (although from her attitude, I’m guessing it wasn't really a challenge.)

3. Revisit skills you already have. Why not do some of those things that you were really good at, but stopped doing as life got busier? There’s a reason you learned how to paint. Or picked up the guitar. Or worked on cars. Revitalizing those activities will make you feel good once again. And you’ll get a second, third, and fourth shot of confidence when others notice your talents and compliment what you do.

4. Avoid negative people. Avoid family members and friends who will -- and do -- steal your joy. I’m not suggesting that we abandon those who are having difficulty – in fact, helping others is often a feel-good for both parties. And I’m not suggesting that we hide from the real world. But there may be people in your world who are chronically negative – and that’s not good for anyone’s confidence.

5. Get outside. That’s where the real world is. A long hike, bike ride, jog, whatever, will energize your body, clear your head, give you some time to reflect on what’s good in your life, maybe even find answers to what’s not working so well. Besides, the natural God-given world is truly awesome and will bring a smile or two to your face. Guaranteed. Or your money back.

6. Surround yourself with positive media experiences. I used to be a big fan of TV crime shows – still enjoy them from time to time. But often times I’d go to bed thinking: “I just spent two hours watching people get terrified, dismembered, and murdered.” (And, when did red become my favorite color?) Studies have shown that these negative images and situations work behind the scenes to slowly steal our joy – and we don’t even realize it’s happening.

Interesting observation: One night my wife and I rented/watched two movies back to back. One was the violent The Departed followed by the overly simple and quiet Chocolat. Separately, we both commented on how that second movie made us feel so, so much better.

7. Engage people. Face to face, whenever possible. IMHO, there’s a simple reason social media is so popular: People want to connect with people, even if it’s a virtual connection. It’s what makes us human. Money magazine, November 2008 issue, published the results of a University of Michigan study that asked people: “Once you retire, which of the following is likely to have the biggest affect on your happiness?” Some of the choices were: “the size of your nest egg,” “your blood pressure,” “a hole in one….” But the most popular answer was: “The number of people who came to your birthday party.” Wow.

8. Adopt better eating habits. Besides the obvious health benefits, you just feel good when you get into a habit of, say, eating a wildly healthy breakfast every day, without fail. Even if you don’t start to lose weight or feel better immediately, you’ll feel stronger because (1) you’re doing the right thing, and (2) you’re taking a bit more control over your life.

9. Make every day a full day. Have you ever felt badly after realizing that you wasted a great day or a great opportunity? I have almost no trouble sleeping at night. Why? Because I can rest knowing that I've put in another honest, solid day of something.

9-1/2. So, what’s the half tip? Get yourself a nice pair of pajamas. Really. They don’t have to be expensive. Forget the lounge pants and the “sorta matches” NBA T-shirt. This is the gear you’ll wear more than any other. Every night, in fact. Might as well look as good as you can in the morning mirror. Start the day off right.

Author Joe Starin is an independent copywriter and owner of Hit by a Brick.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Too many promotional emails?

People often complain about the number of emails they receive. Since I have a home-based copywriting business, I get a decent amount -- business and personal mixed. But, I'm careful. And I block nasty ones regularly. So the e-mail flood is manageable.

However, I'm amazed (and sometimes annoyed) at the number of emails I get from a select group of companies. I remember opting in for some of these companies. But I certainly didn't expect to get almost daily emails from The Cleveland Indians, Epson, Border's, CompUSA, and a few others. A big deal? Maybe not. But add them up and you're talking nearly 1,500 a year from this group alone. Now we're talking big numbers.

Here's a simple suggestion to online marketers: Ask us how many emails we want to receive per year. Or give us a chance to select from among various email frequency levels. For example, I could choose to receive: (1) only critical announcements, or (2) critical, plus important new product/service announcements, or (3) every email the company could possibly dream up. We'd all get exactly what we want. And no one could complain.

I hate to see otherwise fine companies turn themselves into spammers.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Hello, my name is....

Been networking lately? Of course you have. Almost everyone is doing it, whether to seek new business, find a new job, or for many other reasons. If we're going to do it, let's do it well. Some tips....
  • Arrive at the event early. It's a much tougher gig if you arrive when the room is already full and conversations are well underway.
  • Place your name tag on your right side. Most people greet by extending their right hands -- and that's the side where your name should be.
  • If you can get a list of attendees in advance, decide whom you want to meet before you even arrive. If not, walk the room, glance at name tags, and selectively introduce yourself.
  • Have a 60- to 90-second "elevator pitch" ready that explains who you are and what you do.
  • Be efficient. Don't spend too much time with any one person or group, even if that person is someone you absolutely, positively want to engage. Respect their time.
  • When handed a business card, show interest in that person and his/her card. Scan it quickly, but carefully. You may find some information that will trigger a good comment or question.
  • When introduced to someone, help yourself remember that person's name by repeating it out loud three times. No, not in a row. But something like this: "Denny? Hello, Denny. Pleased to meet you. Denny, it looks as though your company is in the logical security business...."
  • Be positive. Or, better put, don't be negative. It's okay to have candid conversation, but keep the whining in check.
  • Ask questions. Listen. Ask questions. Don't ramble. Ask questions. Be brief.
  • Offer to help people. If you do, it may lead to a positive outcome for you later.
  • Make sure your discussions are win-win events for you and for those you encounter. If a person provides you with key information, gives you a contact to call, etc. find a way to return the favor.
  • Follow up with a brief email or note -- you'll stand a better chance of being remembered.

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