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Archive for Copywriting’ Category


Comments Off on The Certifications You Need to be a Digital Marketing Expert

The Certifications You Need to be a Digital Marketing Expert

Jennie Ford

Jennie Ford

Stevens Strategic Communications (SSC) is thankful to have hard-working and results-driven employees. When it comes to working in the digital age, continued education is even more critical. We encourage our employees to embrace opportunities that enhance their talents and deepen their skills. One of the most educated and driven women on our team is our Director of Digital Marketing, Jennie Ford. Since joining our company, Jennie has been laser focused on growing her pool of knowledge and expanding her department’s capabilities to provide our clients answers, exceed their expectations and blow their minds with fresh and creative tactics to engage their target audience.

Staying up-to-date in the quick-changing realm of digital marketing is more than a full-time job. With social media strategies, search engine optimization, pay-per-click campaigns and analytics, it seems that there is always something new to learn. Jennie knows the importance of staying current and she is on top of it even encouraging everyone at SSC to embrace learning opportunities as they arise.

Jennie realized early that Google Analytics can tie PR success to client website traffic. With Google Analytics certification in hand, she can track key metrics and understands the best ways to implement changes to improve campaigns. Along with certification in Google AdWords Jennie has certifications for HubSpot, Hootsuite, Woo-Rank, Search Marketing, Marketing Measurement & Analytics, Marketing Copy Writing and Email Marketing.

No matter what direction digital marketing takes, we know Jennie will stay one step ahead. If you want Jennie to discuss your digital marketing situation with you, she has a wealth of knowledge that she loves to share. Send your questions to her.

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Comments Off on Five Quick Tips for Managing an Agency Blog

Five Quick Tips for Managing an Agency Blog

Editorial Calendar for August 2013

Are you the manager of your agency’s blog? Are you the one responsible for making sure all of the entries come in on time, are edited properly and posted in a timely fashion? We know your job may be tougher than it seems! Here are some tips to help make the process a little smoother for you.

1. Create an Editorial Calendar: Creating a schedule you can distribute to the staff is crucial. This will keep everyone aware of the deadlines for the blog entries, topics, authors, and posting dates. Here is an example of the editorial calendar we create for our team.


2. Choose Broad Topics: If the topics you assign to your team are too narrow, some on your staff may find it difficult to get their blog completed by the deadline due to heavy amounts of research and detail needed. Here is where you can allow some flexibility. In the editorial calendar above, we don’t pinpoint the five tips to offer to the audience. That is up to the author. And, if the topic doesn’t work for the author that month, let him/her know it’s OK to come to you to discuss alternative topics.

3. Never Steal Photos from Google: This is something you should never do. Saving photos from a Google images search can lead to your agency receiving a cease and desist letter from the company that owns the photo. And, that letter can come with a hefty bill. When searching for photos for your blog, first see if there is anything you can snap a picture of quickly in your office. If that doesn’t work, try visiting www.all-free-download.com to see if you can find a suitable, royalty-free photo there. But, BE CAREFUL! Not all of the resources are allowed for commercial use. If in doubt, contact the photo author for details.

4. Send Reminder Emails to Your Staff: You’re busy. Your team is busy. This is understandable. However, that doesn’t mean your agency’s blog should be put on the back burner. Blogging is a great way to spread the word about your agency’s services and products while showcasing your knowledgeable staff. Believe it or not, well-written blogs can lead to potential clients, equaling potential revenues. If a deadline for a blog entry is approaching or has passed, do not hesitate to send the author an email or have a quick conversation about the due date. You should be able to work something out so the schedule doesn’t go awry.

5. Don’t Bombard Yourself: An agency blog should be a team effort. Do not allow yourself to write a month’s worth of blogs with no help if your team has agreed to participate. As long as you keep up with your editorial calendars and reminders, everything else should fall into place.

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Comments Off on Public Relations Tips: Build a Better News Release

Public Relations Tips: Build a Better News Release

Marking Up a Document

Constructing a top-notch news release requires a solid structure, from the headline down to the boilerplate.  Take your time and get it right; a well-formed, succinct, grammatically correct news release will generate the greatest coverage.

Before you even get started, be sure all of your source information is at-hand. Depending on the topic, this may include meeting notes, product literature, sales memos and website copy.  It’s best to have these materials in electronic format so you can cut and paste directly from existing materials. Why re-invent the wheel? If client-owned copy has already been approved for another purpose, incorporate some of this language into your release when it makes sense to do so.

While your headline should be simple and to the point, it also has to quickly grab the reader’s attention.  Utilize an active voice rather than a passive one.  Focus on keeping it short and sweet. Add a sub-head if you need to convey a great deal of information.  Most importantly, make certain your headline supports the overall message of your completed release.

When writing the lead paragraph, think back to Journalism 101. Be sure your opening answers the essential Who, What, When, Where, Why and How questions. Weave in as much information as you can into a single sentence. Remember, blending completeness with succinctness is the overall goal.

Enhance your body copy by adding quotes from company experts. Every release should contain information an editor can’t find anywhere else. This is a perfect platform for forward looking statements and commentary from company spokespersons and the geniuses behind new product developments.

Add deep links to take readers directly to more information on the exact topic covered in the release. Don’t make them jump through hoops by sending them to the site homepage and forcing them to navigate their way to the specific page they need.

Every release should end with the company’s official boilerplate. This begins with a brief statement about the company, the products and services it provides and the industries it serves. It is essential to also include the mailing address, phone number, fax, general email and website URL.

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Comments Off on Running a Public Relations Firm

Running a Public Relations Firm

Stevens Strategic Communications, Inc.

The debate rages on.  Just what is a public relations firm?  Over the years technology and our economy have caused the definition to change.  In many ways, when I think of the words public relations, the word Catholic or universal comes to mind.

In essence the public relations firm is one that deals with our relationships with all of our publics.  That means our customers.  Our employees.  Our communities.  Our world.

We create messages for audiences and determine the best ways to reach that audience.  Is it advertising?  Social media?  Videos?  Media relations?

Yes, we used to have advertising agencies, public relations firms, and specialty shops.  We even had agencies of record.  Now we provide the best we have to our clients.  Timing, messaging, quality and cost are critical.  Now that we have an understanding of what a public relations firm does—just about everything in terms of communications—then how do you staff?

In the military, I was always impressed with our Special Forces.  These were teams of soldiers with more than one refined skill.  They are linguists, mechanics, snipers, medics, demolition experts.  They are people who accomplish their mission.  In fact, in the military we learned the value of being resourceful even when we weren’t green berets.   So many of us were crossed-trained to do more than our primary military specialty.  That’s how I see the public relations firm of today.

We have social media people who are great account executives.  Crisis specialists who know advertising.  Video producers who know how to write.  Engineers who can create speeches.  Art directors with audio engineering expertise.  Research executives who can handle direct marketing.  Wow.  Our guys are talented.

Survival in the business world today requires that we have many skills, stay up to date on trends, and work hard to stay ahead of the pack.  We want to do all of this while we are having a good time helping our clients succeed.

(FLASH) That is my snapshot of running a PR firm today.  It’s providing the right climate for great, talented people—so they can do great things for great clients!

— Ed Stevens, APR
President, Stevens Strategic Communications

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Comments Off on Technical Writing: The Difference Between Warnings and Cautions

Technical Writing: The Difference Between Warnings and Cautions

Warning!  Caution!

It’s that time of year when television weather forecasters wave their arms around to inform us of yet another winter storm headed our way. The impending doom and gloom are described as watches and warnings, but what do those terms really mean?

The National Weather Service issues a Winter Storm Watch to alert us to the possibility of an impending storm. They issue a Winter Storm Warning when hazardous winter weather is imminent or occurring. But, even they recognize that we might be confused about this distinction (http://nws.weather.gov/haz_simp).

Likewise, in technical writing, the subject matter often calls for warnings and cautions. We need to know the distinction between them and how to write them effectively.

– A Warning explains dangers that might result in personal injury or death.

– A Caution explains hazards that could damage a product, including data loss.

If both results are possible, a warning takes precedence.

To write a warning or caution:

– Start with a simple, clear command.

– Write to the intended audience, for example a machine operator or a maintenance technician.

– Choose your words to be specific, leaving nothing to uncertainty.

– It might be necessary to add an explanation to make the risks clear. This will make the warning or caution longer, but more effective.

– If conditions are necessary before starting a procedure, list the conditions first.

Of course, warnings and cautions should not be buried in the text. They should have headings and graphics to grab the reader’s attention. Waving your arms is optional.

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Comments Off on E-mail Etiquette

E-mail Etiquette

Email on a Computer

The importance of E-mails in this digital age cannot be bargained. E-mails are used not only for personal communication but also for business or official correspondence. Over the years, the excessive use of E-mails as the primary means of communication has led to most people overlooking the etiquette that should be observed when composing emails. However, whether the E-mail is personal or official, there are some rules that need to be followed.

Subject Line

First and foremost, you must have a subject line. Many people receive hundreds if not thousands of E-mails on a daily basis and needless to say, they do not have the time to read all of them. Most people just skim through the unread E-mails checking for the ones that look important. This is usually done by reading the subject lines of the E-mails. In other words, if you do not have a subject line for your E-mail, your recipient might not even open it.


You should always have a salutation. This can be as simple as “Hi Pat,” A salutation shows that you care about the other party and as the saying goes, people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. It also helps the recipient to know from the onset that your E-mail is not spam since you have mentioned his or her name. This is especially true if you are doing some E-mail marketing.


Using humor in E-mails might be counterproductive. Sometimes, what you consider funny might be considered offensive by another person. So unless you are very sure that the joke is not ambiguous, it is best to avoid it altogether and just stick to the main point. The rule of thumb is, it is better to be safe than to be sorry.


You should also be careful about how long your E-mail is. Most people want to spend very little time reading through their E-mails. If you write a very lengthy one, your recipient might just read a few lines from the first paragraph and ignore the rest. Try as much as possible to be concise. If the information you want to share is available online, just share the links instead of rewriting the entire Web page in an E-mail.


Ensure proper use of BCC and CC fields. The CC (Carbon Copy) is for adding addresses of other recipients of the E-mail. The BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) works just as the CC. However, when you add addresses in BCC field, the different people that receive the E-mail in the BCC field will not know who else was listed there with them. It is important to note that some E-mail interfaces may allow the BCC list of E-mail recipients to “Reply To All” of the E-mail addresses listed within the To, CC and BCC fields, thereby disclosing all of the E-mail addresses as well as the specific way the E-mail addresses were categorized. For this reason, it is often most suitable to forward a distributed E-mail to a contact instead of using the BCC field.


Last but not least, you should always reply to your E-mails. A reply is an acknowledgement to the sender that you have received the E-mail. Of course there are some exceptions such as spam or E-mails that come to your inbox as a result of a subscription on a certain website.

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Comments Off on 9 ways to get more payback from a case study

9 ways to get more payback from a case study

Case Studies

Marketing professionals sometimes make the mistake of using a case study in only one way — as a press release, for example — rather than disseminating that success story across other sales, advertising, PR and marketing channels.

A case study is highly versatile. It can benefit your company at multiple points along the communications spectrum

Here are some ideas:

1. Use it in a press release

A case study can quickly be abridged and reformatted into a press release. Be sure to note that a longer, more complete case study version is available. Editors might pick it up.

2. Mail it to prospects and customers

This is a terrific way to keep in touch, raise awareness about a new product or service, and even convert prospects into customers.

3. Give it to sales

Sales people love case studies. They use them in presentations, to illustrate key points and as testimonials. A case study is often more convincing than a brochure.

4. Post it on your web site

Want to improve traffic to your site? Keep refreshing and adding solid content. A case study certainly qualifies.

5. Use in as a story in your newsletter or ezine

Success stories based on real-world applications get the highest readership in company newsletters and ezines.

6. As a speaking topic

If your executives speak at meetings and conferences, a case study makes an excellent presentation. The content can easily be converted into PowerPoint™ slides. The printed case study itself can be used as a handout.

7. In lead-generation programs

A case study makes a terrific “free giveaway” in an ad, email, direct mailer and on a website.

8. For testimonials

Testimonials help make benefits believable. The quotes you gleaned from happy customers for the case study can also be used — with permission, of course — in ads, brochures, websites and more.

9. As a trade show handout

Case studies are a great way to break through the clutter of flyers and brochures that permeate trade shows.

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Comments Off on Business to Business Copywriting Tips

Business to Business Copywriting Tips

A Notepad on a Keyboard

At our agency, there is no such thing as a typical account. Our client list runs the gamut from pizza franchisees to manufacturers of industrial machinery. Though the main goal for copywriting, whether consumer or B2B-focused, is to clearly and effectively deliver the client’s message, the tone and style varies greatly based on the target audience. When we put on our B2B copywriting hats, we are faced with the challenge of taking complex technical subject matter and crafting communications that will be suitable for a wider audience.  While this can be difficult, some tried and true tips can help ensure your final B2B copywriting piece is engaging and informative.

1. If you don’t understand it, your audience won’t either.  Clients often hand over installation manuals, white papers and other materials written by engineers to be used as source.  For a copywriter without a background in the field, the concepts are often tough to absorb.  However, don’t simply cut and paste source material, edit for AP style and call it a day. Take the time to really understand the subject matter and define technical terms.

2. A picture is worth 1,000 words.  Early on in the writing process, gather and/or review the images that will complement your piece. Weave in copy that refers to the images rather than simply depending on captions. Still product shots are okay, but application or “product in action” photos can really help you tell your story.  To add interest and make the piece more timely, work with your art department to create charts and graphs that illustrate current industry trends.

3. Add some style.  Just because the topic may be a bit “dry,” doesn’t mean the writing has to be! Write the first draft with the goal of clearly conveying the concept. Once you are confident you have accomplished this task, go back and add in some flair. If you’re bored reading it, you still have some work to do.  Add quotes, sub-heads and transitions to break up the copy and make it more digestible.

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Comments Off on Success with Writing Case Studies

Success with Writing Case Studies


A case study is a product success story showcasing what one company did for another company in a sales or problem-solving capacity. “ABC Company just helped solve a major product purity problem by installing an advanced x-ray system for XYZ Food Processing, Inc. The result was a 95 percent improvement in detecting unwanted contamination.”

Case studies are among the most powerful sales tools because they are the most credible. They demonstrate how actual customers have succeeded in using the featured company’s product or service.

Copywriters craft these as short articles explaining how a product or service helped a company to solve a challenge or become more successful. The story includes precise numbers, direct quotes from key personnel and contact information. Companies then use the completed case study as a download on their website, as handouts for sales personnel or submit the feature to trade media for possible publication.

Writing a case study involves several steps:

– Use multiple resources to help gather background information. This includes, but is not limited to, industry trade publications, PowerPoint presentations, training manuals, product spec sheets, Internet sites and press releases

– Interview the customer at a time convenient to him or her.  Interviews are usually completed over the phone and last between 30 and 45 minutes. Sometimes, you can forward a questionnaire so the interviewee knows what to expect.  Also, it’s a good practice to interview a sales representative who has first-hand knowledge of the product and why the customer chose Product A over Product B.

– After fact gathering and interviewing, you’re ready to write the case study. Case studies are normally 400-1,000 words in length, written in standard feature article format. The manuscript will include headline, subheads, pull quotes, bullets and other text elements.

– Be clear about the approval process. Typically, both the client (the company/organization requesting the case study) and the customer (the company/organization using the client’s product) must review and sign off on the case study. This is particularly relevant if the case study will be ‘pitched’ to the media as a feature article. Editors want to know if the copy has been approved for publication.

 A well-written case should be part of an integrated marketing communications and public relations campaign. The steps above might appear time-consuming, but the results can return your investment many times over.

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