Tag Archives: copywriting

Twitter, Comedy and Writing with Constraints

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Conan on comedy writing on Twitter, from one of my favorite blogs, Bobulate:

What’s interesting about Twitter is that because you’re limited to 140 characters … it’s actually a great comedy-writing tool. There’s this economy of words. So I’m constantly writing things, and I run them past [Blair] and he’ll say that’s actually three words over. That forces you to look back at the sentence. It forces you to crystalize your comedy idea, which is fascinating.

The Statusphere is changing the way we’re communicating.  In a world where every character counts, how is your communication evolving?  For me, less is more. Constraints in speech are a blessing.

Want more? Check out Conan’s full interview at Google and The Onion’s web editor, Baratunde Thurston’s Web 2.0 expo talk “There’s a #hashtag for that” below for an in-depth look at how comedy “works” on Twitter.

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Your marketing copy doesn’t talk like real people do

Until yesterday I had never flown JetBlue.  I had never dealt with the brand outside of their advertising campaigns, the various news about customers stuck and their make-goods and the constant championing of the brand by my brother (he’s a big fan.)  So on my recent trip to NYC I decided that I would use them.

The first line of the first email that I received from them upon booking my travel was the most memorable part of the experience:

Welcome and thank you for transacting with JetBlue Airways.

As a person who deals with copy and marketing communications everyday the existence of this sentence could only have one plausible explanation.  It was written by a group of people.   See, a person would never tell another person “Thanks for transacting with me.”  If they did you’d run, or check to see if they’re part of SkyNet; but either way you’d be surprised.  Because people don’t talk like that.

You know who does talk like that?  Tortured marketing copy.  Copy that gets hammered by teams of reviewers, product people, marketing folks and copywriters trying to write for everyone.  I can almost see how it came about in my head.  How? Because I’ve been there. I’ve written plenty of bad copy, been too complicit in group meetings where these sentences get mulled over for an eternity until someone comes up with a catch-all.

The first round of this email undoubtedly said  “Thanks for flying with JetBlue.” Someone else says, “well maybe they’re booking a hotel, or a car and haven’t booked a flight, then that sentence doesn’t make sense,” and then someone else says “or maybe they’re changing their flight dates, or requesting a refund or help with lost luggage.”   And the teams get so wound up over talking to everyone and every use case that they come up with “transacting” and in the process end up talking to no one.

When the first line of the first email to a brand new customer is “thanks for transacting” you’ve taken a potential relationship and designated it solely as a transaction.  Fine, we’ll transact.  Here’s my money, thanks for my flight.  We’ll do business again maybe, when the transaction makes sense for both parties.  You miss on the opportunity to create a relationship by over-contorting your words so you boil it down to nothing more than a transaction.

The lesson? When you use group think to write for every use case you’ll end up not writing for any single customer.  And that’s a problem.

What to do about it? When you’re done writing, read everything with a fresh set of eyes (or better give it to someone who could be a customer) and say “Does this sound human? Does this sound like a human I’d like to get to know?”  If not, go back to it until you get it right.  It’s critical to getting any new relationship off to the right start.

Thank you for reading.

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