Katy Evans-Bush copywriter & editor http://katyevansbush.com Copywriter and editor, coach and workshop facilitator Mon, 08 Sep 2014 09:14:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.6 How not to be Hyacinth Bucket http://katyevansbush.com/2013/12/05/how-not-to-be-hyacinth-bucket/ http://katyevansbush.com/2013/12/05/how-not-to-be-hyacinth-bucket/#comments Thu, 05 Dec 2013 16:14:43 +0000 http://katyevansbush.com/?p=1123

So there’s a social media storm going on and it’s about Kent University’s creative writing department website. Not exactly Miley Cyrus twerking on international telly, I grant you, but it’s caused a massive Twitter storm, followed by articles and counter-articles in the papers, and it’s got the writing community in an uproar.

Here’s what it said:

At Kent we are committed to high quality literary fiction, and the most exciting and experimental contemporary poetry. We love great literature and don’t see any reason why our students should not aspire to produce it. We are excited by writing that changes the reader and, ultimately – even if it is a very small way – the world. We love writing that is full of ideas, but that is also playful, funny and affecting. You won’t write mass-market thrillers or children’s fiction on our programmes. You won’t write old-fashioned ballads with forced rhymes, or unthinkingly use conventional metre. Instead, from your very first session with our world-leading tutors, you’ll be encouraged to look deep inside yourself for your own truth and your own experiences…

The next paragraph said, and still says:

We want our students to write important, dazzling work that is not just published but also highly acclaimed. We don’t want our students to write inside genre and formula but outside, where real art is found.

The key sentences are, ‘We love writing that is full of ideas, but that is also playful, funny and affecting. You won’t write mass-market thrillers or children’s fiction on our programmes. You won’t write old-fashioned ballads with forced rhymes, or unthinkingly use conventional metre.’ Predictably, the children’s writing and poetry communities got a bit cross. Children’s books not funny or affecting? Rhyming poetry not playful or full of ideas? Tell that to Carol Ann Duffy or Philip Pullman.

The row started on Twitter, where the university compounded their faux pas by replying to an angry children’s writer: ‘Sorry for the slow response. We were writing adult novels’. And later: ‘We are penitent! The offending passage will be removed. As soon as we can work out how to do it’.

The Kent creative writing programme has a reputation for excellence. It’s vibrant and dynamic and has brilliant people on it. One of them has written a book on novel-writing – Scarlett Thomas’ Monkeys With Typewriters – that I love so much I have three copies of it (since my significant other packed the first one into a box in a garage, just before I needed it for a series of writing workshops with teenagers – one of whom had just been given it for her birthday, as it turned out). (I also have the e-book.) Nothing I’ve ever heard about this writing programme has sounded as toffee-nosed as this website blurb. It seems to be trying to stress excellence; but it relies on adverbs like ‘unthinkingly’- but it just comes over as inadvertently snobbish as the Lady of the House trying to impress callers…


So the whole thing blows up, the Young Adult novelists and rhyming poets and successful genre-inspired novelists and children’s book reviewers get hold of it, and (a few embarrassing tweets later) the text is slightly changed:

We love writing that is full of ideas, but that is also playful, funny and affecting. You will find at Kent a place where – with a focus on leading contemporary authors and poets – you will immerse yourself in literature that challenges and inspires. From your very first session with our world-leading tutors, you’ll be encouraged to look deep inside yourself for your own truth and your own experiences…

But they’ve left most of it in place and I feel this is the moment for a good look. Because they clearly want to look excellent – who wouldn’t? – but they probably didn’t want to look snobbish. There are solid rules of writing that could have helped the university avoid the whole thing.

  1. Don’t make the mistake of pre-judging customers. How can you tell which one is more important to you, before they’re even a customer? Oprah being told she ‘probably couldn’t afford’ a handbag in a Swiss boutique; Jonathan Franzen refusing to let Oprah choose The Corrections (‘this is a serious work of art’) for her massively influential book club, because ‘her viewers wouldn’t understand it'; Hyacinth leaving the vicar lying under her car when the phone goes, because ‘It’s bound to be someone important’. It’s like looking over the shoulder of your date to spot the cute guy.
  2. Think about what your reader wants, not about what you want them to want. This text just reads like you’re not going to let them write thrillers, kids’ books or ‘conventional’ poetry. You’re not, in advertising guru and copywriting genius David Ogilvy’s phrase, ‘selling the sizzle'; you’re selling them the low-fat gluten-free organic sausage from the farmers’ market on the edge of town. Your heart may be in the right place, but…
  3. Use positives, not negatives. (Yes, I know I used one above. It was cautionary.) Unfortunately, your Don’ts, by being the thing you mention, will upstage the Do’s. This text says ‘you won’t’ do a number of things, and these things – ‘write mass-market thrillers’, ‘write children’s books’, or ‘unthinkingly use conventional metre’ – are specific. You can picture them. Meanwhile, the things you will do – ‘look deep inside yourself for your own truth’, and even ‘write important, dazzling work that is not just published but also highly acclaimed’ – are vague. They’re aspirational. They’re Hyacinth Bouquet dreaming of going to the annual county Ladies’ Association gala VIP ball. And in a market where a plain old literary novel can barely get published at all, lots of people would LOVE to write a mass-market thriller like, say, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
  4. Use descriptive language instead of value judgements. Unless you really are setting your own offering up against a specific, inferior, product – ‘bad’ writing, say, instead of ‘genre’ or ‘children’s’ writing – why turn off potential customers who use the other products? They’ll only get annoyed and go to the other place  instead of to you. They could have had both. And you could have had them.
  5. Your website is only a shop window. It’s not the place to try to say everything. This text tries to explain a whole aesthetic position – literary and important, non-genre, non-mass-market, non-formula – in two paragraphs. But two paragraphs isn’t enough space to discuss how Raymond Chandler wrote formulaic genre fiction of genius, or how plots themselves are a kind of formula that you can produce art within – as discussed in Monkeys With Typewriters. Even the bit about how slowly some people write isn;t doing much to make the course sound dynamic. Better not to go there on the website – you’ll only say half of it and give the wrong impression. Just tell them in class.

And here is my BONUS POINT. Maybe the most important one of all:

Whatever else you do, make sure the people who do your social media really get it! They need to get your organisation’s tone, the key messaging, the facts,  the context. They need to get your objective, the obstacle, the wider dynamic. In fact, they need to get that it’s a narrative. Even Hyacinth knew this, which is why you see her over and over, dashing to get the phone herself. Unfortunately, Hyacinth was too busy playing Lady of the House to actually talk and listen openly to the person on the other end.

When it comes to writing about specific things for a specific purpose, there’s more of ‘The Good Life’ in it than ‘Keeping Up Appearances’. You just have to roll up your sleeves and feed the pigs.

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The beauty of being precise http://katyevansbush.com/2013/11/19/the-beauty-of-being-precise/ http://katyevansbush.com/2013/11/19/the-beauty-of-being-precise/#comments Tue, 19 Nov 2013 11:44:29 +0000 http://katyevansbush.com/?p=1119

Everyone agrees, precision is what technical engineering is all about.

This video – this truck commercial – is actually beautiful. It not only is about technical precision, it’s a virtuoso demonstration of that precision, and it uses its own power to show you just enough. In other words, this commercial does what it promises. Of course, it uses film to say it – action, not words – so it isn’t about writing.

But someone had to write the pitch. It made me think about what I do with writing. The written word needs to be precise. It needs to do what it says, working with the other (precisely chosen) words around it, so that the reader gets the exact  impression you want them to. Maybe they even think they thought of it themselves, it seems that effortless.

What your organisation or company says about itself may need to find a way to balance between two elements: your aims, for example, and where you are now. Or the needs of your customers and the needs of your funders. How you talk about yourself is a balancing act.

The trick is making it look natural, and even beautiful.

(I’m editing in here to say that the crucial element is also, clearly, the co-operation here of the technical teams and the teams whose job it was to make it beautiful. The music, the light, the colours. It’s good not to be afraid of beauty. Or, to put it another way, not to be afraid of what human beings love, because that is also why they’ll go for you. That in itself, for my money, is one of the bravest things about this commercial.)

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How copywriting is like hostage negotiation http://katyevansbush.com/2013/11/17/how-copywriting-is-like-hostage-negotiation/ http://katyevansbush.com/2013/11/17/how-copywriting-is-like-hostage-negotiation/#comments Sun, 17 Nov 2013 18:48:52 +0000 http://katyevansbush.com/?p=1114

I belong to a successful network of writers called 26. It was started ten years ago by a group of mainly agency copywriters, I think, to create a space to celebrate both our 9-5 writing and our other writing.

And yes, we all do other writing.

On Saturday I went to 26’s third annual ‘conference’ (if you want to call it that) – or ‘Wordstock’. I’d been at the first one and had a great time. (There were no tents or facepaints.) Last year I missed it because I was busy being Blogger in Residence at a big poetry festival on the Suffolk coast. So this year I scraped up the very reasonable fee, and went along.

And OMG, as the kids say! What an amazing, chock-full day. We saw chat-show-style interviews with the writer Kate Mosse and an ex-Scotland Yard hostage negotiator.We watched seven people make live pitches to a film production company, and then heard the producers’ live critiques of those pitches. There were workshops to choose from: I signed up for ‘How to Run Better Workshops’ and ‘How to Listen’ (a truly gripping hour with the terrorist negotiator). There was a crazy book swap where the only rule is that you have to find someone whose book you want and pitch your own swap book to them. In the cracks, there were a mad rolling story you could add sentences to, and a series of postcards with funny starts of sentences on them. And then there was 10th-birthday cake and champagne.

In short, lots of chances to practice your skills, learn, have fun, and meet new people. In the pub afterwards I chatted with a ghost writer, two business language consultants, an aspiring playwright, and a woman who has an incredible travel book to write about entrepreneurialism, the jungle, and a relationship gone wrong, if she wants to.

I came home a slightly different person – with two books, a series of special printed 26 bookmarks, a clutch of business cards, and three firm convictions:

1. There really is a family of people who  build their living, the same way as a sentence, out of words. And we can all learn from each other.

2. Whether you’re doing business, advertising or corporate writing, or ‘creative’ writing, you’re doing the same thing. You’re creating an atmosphere; you’re being as precise and specific as you know how to be; and you are persuading the reader. We use these skills all the time.

3. And I need to get more involved with 26.

Most of the people I met on Saturday do a few different kinds of writing, and most were pretty impressed when I listed all the kinds of writing I do. Every single person I spoke to agreed that their own creative work had made them a better business writer. Some take this knowledge into organisations and work with them to improve both writing, and creative problem-solving, in their teams. All are on a mission to convince both their employers and their creative colleagues of the real, bottom-line value of excellent writing. (CLUE: the key to this is in the last paragraph. It is ‘persuading’.)

By far the most heavily subscribed session of the day – we were tempted to stage a sit-in, and not let him finish – was former hostage negotiator Dick Mullender’s How to Really Listen workshop.

What! you say. Listening! What’s that got to do with writing?

And you’re right. Hostage negotiators don’t write in their negotiations on post-it notes. They don’t file them in a report. They don’t really need to write at all. So, in answer, I will leave you with Dick’s top-line message. It echoes what I’ve been saying about my work ever since I was figuring out how to do a weekly news/advertorial page for Tower Hamlets housing dept, all those years ago.

My mantra was to imagine a council tenant, who would be reading my page and saying: ‘What’s in it for me?’

Dick’s is: ‘If you want to persuade someone, you will be much more successful if you persuade them using their words, and expressing their values, than if you use yours.’ Or, as he also said: ‘It ain’t about you. It’s about them.’

Whatever it is you’re listening to – or listening for – the listening is always the first step in the writing.

 

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An editor’s life for me http://katyevansbush.com/2013/09/20/an-editors-life-for-me/ http://katyevansbush.com/2013/09/20/an-editors-life-for-me/#comments Fri, 20 Sep 2013 13:22:05 +0000 http://katyevansbush.com/?p=1108

Life in the Galleys  source: Wikimedia Commons

Two days ago a very bright and bubbly young friend of the family sat in my kitchen. ‘Can I ask you something?’

‘Sure’, I said.

‘What exactly is editing? I mean, how does it work?’

I know! She should be out, living her life and getting some fresh air! But this girl is 19 and has set up a filmmaking partnership, and has two journalist parents. In fact, her dad subs part-time at the Guardian. She went on, ‘I know it’s different things, like, there’s film editing…’

So, over the remains of my daughter’s birthday pancake breakfast, I told her about the kinds of editing I do – ranging from the light ‘house-style-&-inconsistencies’ kind to the kind where you’re restructuring the entire document, asking for new sections, giving it a main message it doesn’t as yet possess, and querying research conclusions.

Once, a report I was working on made a conclusion that seemed to me to be the complete opposite of what had been revealed by the research. I simply inserted the word ‘not’, and suddenly it all made sense. It felt like a revolutionary thing to do, but like all revolutionaries I had to work for the greater good of all, and no amount of finessing helped the original to make any sense. I flagged it up a bit sheepishly to the author when I sent it back to her, and sat expecting a ruckus of some sort where I would have to justify my position. I didn’t mean to insult her analytical ability. Well, when the dreaded phone call arrived, she was effusive in her joy. ‘Thank you so much!’ she said. ‘You’re so good at this! You’re better at saying what I want to say than I am myself!’

Phew. Then I told my friend what it’s like to be the person who’s edited.

Every writer knows what it’s like, and that you can’t complain. A punctilious editor once sent me 19 queries on one book review. That’s about one query per 50 words. I hadn’t liked the book. I had flu. I had tried to be clear, to justify my position with quotations, and to be as morally neutral as possible… I went back to work on it and answered his 19 queries. He replied, ‘Thanks. I think you’ve been entirely fair’. That felt better after the thorough checking.

She will do well. Anyone who’s interested in the nuts and bolts of a job will do well.

Anyway, this morning, still sort of buoyed up by her enthusiasm and curiosity, I found this article by Andy Bodie in the Guardian: a sub-editor, a voice normally unheard, describing life down in the galleys. I love it because he simply says what he does. Everyone thinks they can write – and some people actually can. But it takes an editor to make it go.

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A pun to remember – or maybe not http://katyevansbush.com/2013/09/12/a-pun-to-remember/ http://katyevansbush.com/2013/09/12/a-pun-to-remember/#comments Thu, 12 Sep 2013 12:09:11 +0000 http://katyevansbush.com/?p=990

Essie name

Marketing people! Be careful out there. The rule of thumb where puns are concerned – we can call it the thumbnail rule, for the purposes of this post – is that both senses of the pun need to make some sort of sense. And that is where this sad attempt falls down. Disastrously. Because, once I finally worked out what this was even supposed to mean, it just made me wonder if there was a new nursing procedure that involves brightly coloured ice lollies or something.

They haven’t even spelled it with an ‘a’ in the middle; at least then it would bear some relation to Ipanema – which I assume was their intention. At least they got the two ‘p’s in ‘poppy’.

It seems safe to say that, instead of the ‘Music to Watch Girls By’ tone they were aiming for, they’ve got ‘A Label to Look Away Politely From’. It’s a catastrophe that could have been avoided if only the people in the Naming Department of my favourite nail polish company had given their idea for this one just a tiny little bit of thought.

 

 

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Happy New Year! Superheroes are here. http://katyevansbush.com/2013/01/03/happy-new-year-wake-up/ http://katyevansbush.com/2013/01/03/happy-new-year-wake-up/#comments Thu, 03 Jan 2013 10:28:09 +0000 http://katyevansbush.com/?p=838

If these guys were your big report, I could sort them out. 

Happy New Year! Right now the world situation looks a lot like this picture. Yesterday even my guinea pigs were looking like this picture, when I put their clean beds down. And not even the Text Pixie can sort it out. But she can do what she can, and I can do what I can to make my little corner of things cleaner, truer, more functional, and better.

In the past year I’ve been doing a lot of digital PR activities – tweeting, blogging-in-residence, acting as a consultant for people setting up new blogs; I even ran an ambitious blog tour that had measurable impacts. (Kind of like the Green Lantern, only nice.)

I’ve done writing: articles, news in briefs, press releases, pitches and submissions, interviews, reports.

I’ve done editing, lots of editing. And written a series of articles for MsLexia magazine on digital media. (This year: a series on e-publishing.) I was even interviewed as an expert for Communication Director magazine.

As well as syntax, I can kick into place your grammar, your corporate messaging, your good news stories, your readability – even your technical documents.

I’ve also been running a lot of creative writing workshops – and while that isn’t quite the same thing as ‘copywriting’, it is very much about seeing what the possibilities are and then choosing the one that works. Technically. And gets your readers to feel what you want them to feel. So it is the same thing, kind of. I’ve been working with people from where they are, not just slapping a load of rules on them. See what they say.

 

I’ve been mentoring people who want to improve their manuscripts, or just their ability to write, and make their words sing (and not ‘like a canary’). They’re getting published so it must be helping.

 

In short, I’ve been putting my powers to good use, and thinking a lot about how we communicate with our audiences; how we put forward our narrative to get the results we want. That’s what I’ve been doing in the past year, and this year I want to do more of it. (Which is where you might come in… )

And by the way, I never advocate the use of guns. As it happens, my superhero power is correct use of a semi-colon.

Drop me a line to find out more.

 

 

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Happy holidays from us to you http://katyevansbush.com/2011/12/22/happy-holidays-from-us-to-you/ http://katyevansbush.com/2011/12/22/happy-holidays-from-us-to-you/#comments Thu, 22 Dec 2011 16:37:32 +0000 http://katyevansbush.com/?p=831

It should be said, I also hope to do more posting in the New Year. I suppose the economic situation has escaped no one’s attention by this stage, and my attention lately has necessarily been more on the work itself – getting it, doing it – than writing about it. I’ve been doing copywriting, journalism, interviewing, and editing, training; tutoring, mentoring; press & PR work, including social media; and am currently helping someone restructure and rewrite a website for a new venture.

So even in bad old 2011, I’ve been lucky to do some really exciting, good work. I’ve met some wonderful, committed, energetic, creative people this year. I’ve worked on great stories and projects, in a spectrum of sectors: renewable technology, energy=saving, the arts and publishing, and others. I’ve put a lot into it, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve been able to use what I learned.

I’ve helped some people really put all their ducks – I mean snowmen – in a row. I’ve helped clients get technical reports accurate and readable, and start or improve their blogs and websites, and get their books published, and learn to get their messages across more clearly.

As my attention turns to food preparation and my family, I realise I can look back and feel I made a real difference to a wide variety of clients in 2011. Even with the uncertainty we’re currently looking into, that’s a great feeling.

So along with my two snowman pals, let me wave you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, and a very prosperous New Year. And I really do hope to work with you in 2012.

Now, let’s get festive.

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If it ain’t one thing… how to avoid a vacuum and obey the law of nature http://katyevansbush.com/2011/10/17/if-it-aint-one-thing-how-to-avoid-a-vacuum-and-obey-the-law-of-nature/ http://katyevansbush.com/2011/10/17/if-it-aint-one-thing-how-to-avoid-a-vacuum-and-obey-the-law-of-nature/#comments Mon, 17 Oct 2011 15:17:45 +0000 http://katyevansbush.com/?p=793

Well, and to continue with the outlaw theme, I stole this from the man who made it, who owns a design agency in Rapid City, South Dakota.  (I love that.) (But as he posted it up on Facebook, where I found it doing the rounds, I thought it might be more like borrowing…)

Thinking about why this gave me so much pleasure – aside from the sound of the ‘s’s where we’re used to hearing ‘sh’, and the brushing-up of teeth against expectations – is that the small absence of the ‘h’ has created a new thing.

That is, it follows the law of nature, which abhors a vacuum.

If you apply the word ‘vacuum’ to meaning, you get the word ‘vacuity’. Vacuity is what you get when a statement, in whatever medium, carries too little meaning to fill it up. All the bigness of it, the significance, either melts away, or is dragged heavily around under the weight of its pretensions.

In other words, as this picture demonstrates:  if it ain’t one thing, it had better be something else.

That’s the law.

This applies to all fugitive letters, parts of letters, punctuation, spaces, meanings in words in context, and runaway jargon trains.

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Social media, social marketing: getting behind the YES http://katyevansbush.com/2011/10/11/social-media-social-marketing-getting-behind-the-yes/ http://katyevansbush.com/2011/10/11/social-media-social-marketing-getting-behind-the-yes/#comments Tue, 11 Oct 2011 13:41:30 +0000 http://katyevansbush.com/?p=781

Great: but will they do it when they're home alone and there's no one to tell?

I got into an interesting conversation the other day about social media as a channel for social marketing – and, oddly enough, came over a bit socialist. Social marketing is where the thing being marketed isn’t a product or service – i.e., something you want your readers to buy – it’s a behaviour you want them to adopt. Social marketing applies to things like quit-smoking campaigns; 5 a day is social marketing. The conversation I was having – on Futerra’s blog – was about using Facebook to get people to go green, and the fact that Facebook is increasingly like a big shopping mall, with shops – or adverts – all round the sides of it. It was quoted (from Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy) that ‘marketing has done a very good job at creating opportunities for impulse buying’.

Now, this is true. But social media, while it contains marketing, is more flexible than that – it contains the constituent parts of marketing, broken down and rearranged. And as various as people are, they are that various in how they use social media.

Look at how two lovers can stand and kiss under a hoarding, oblivious to its message.

I can say that I have never once clicked on an advert on Facebook. I’m a writer: the writers are all over Facebook. We use it as an office. It’s like a big office block with levels and floors and meeting rooms and water coolers and corridors along which no one wants to be seen to prowl. We use it for networking, debating new developments in the publishing industry, debating prize results, debating new books, debating literary politics.

Debate is an intensely social experience, with all the ups and downs and subtleties of a social experience, and it has the power to change minds. Look how important the agora was in Ancient Greece, or the forum in Rome.

I’ve made strong professional alliances on Facebook, as well as actual friends. I’ve bought books I wasn’t planning to. I’m sure social media influenced my purchase of a Kindle. It’s influenced my attendance at book launches and other events – an influence on both my networking and exposure to new work, and also my book purchasing.

I’ve also commissioned writing – excellent writing – from people I’ve only met or heard about via Facebook, which means that to some extent they acted as ads for themselves. In many cases, such is the facilitating nature of the medium, they were people with whom I already shared big things (such as a publisher) in common.

In a social marketing sense, and specifically a green sense, it’s harder: as it was said in the discussion, it will be very interesting to see someone try to influence people to buy (or do) LESS.

In a specifically green sense, I ran the blog and tweeted at the Energy Saving Trust for nearly a year – and the irony of the audience having to switch on the electricals in order to receive the message was not lost! On us or, as it happens, the readers, who really know their stuff.

Come to that, there was also considerable irony in the fact that a single Google search uses as much energy as boiling a full kettle. (Try watching a smart meter while you boil a kettle. You might think twice about making tea for a day or two.)

Clearly, social marketers in social media need to recognise – and learn to negotiate – this irony.  We need to remember that in some area, or on some level, the reader almost certainly knows at least as much as we do. You can’t pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. This is something lots of organisations are not yet quite to grips with.

Neither has anyone yet found a fruitful way to ‘negative-advertise’ back into NOT. (Even the word ‘fruitful’ negates the NOT.) We have to create the positive, YES, value, and – in Ogilvy terms – sell the sizzle back to the public. But this is more than just sizzle. We need to find out what the positive value is – is it the neighbours smelling your sizzle? Is it future, the kids? In the immediate term, is it low energy bills?

David Ogilvy’s book , while we’re on the subject of things Ogilvy, is full of masterful long copy, which relies on facts and information. He sold his agency itself on its knowledge. Knowledge appeals to people in all kinds of subtle ways. For one thing, they feel flattered to have it. For another, it is power. I myself feel the power of knowledge every time I feel guilty for making a Google search, and using all that electricity. Someone should do something on Facebook to deepen this guilt, so I’ll start really wanting to avoid it. Or maybe innovate a less energy-intensive , crowdsourced way of getting information…

So back to Rory Sutherland. He says another thing social media marketers need to think about. (It’s all in his TED talk, ‘Life lessons from an ad man’.) He says: ‘The interface fundamentally determines the behaviour.’

This is a fancy way of arriving back where we started. We need to learn, as fast and well as we can, what are the best, most reward-driven, most delayed-but-gratified, and most social ways of getting people to say YES, and MEAN it. We need to forget the whole selling-and-consuming paradigm, and find something new – or, maybe, as old as the forum.

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Annual reviews: the journey http://katyevansbush.com/2011/08/11/annual-reviews-the-journey/ http://katyevansbush.com/2011/08/11/annual-reviews-the-journey/#comments Thu, 11 Aug 2011 14:13:51 +0000 http://katyevansbush.com/?p=659

Next year: the matchbox...

I’ve written a few annual reviews in my time, oh yes. And here’s my experience: they’re getting smaller. At least the ones I’ve worked on. Smaller and, in these straitened, digital times, sometimes not even printed on paper.  They’re changing.

(I once produced a visual style guide on a CD, where the guideline book formed the CD booklet, and was also on the CD itself, along with correct logo files, as a pdf.)

But I’ve never seen one this small! The British Heart Foundation‘s new annual review – based on feedback from stakeholders that even last year’s A5 number was too big – is a compact, concept-driven model, running on the twin engines of a travelcard-sized booklet and an interactive web-based map.

‘With you all the way': the idea is journeys. And wherever your life journey takes you, the British Heart Foundation (like the moon) will be right over your shoulder.

The annual review I wrote last year was smaller than the previous one, and the project process was streamlined, too. It was very much about resource issues – fewer people to work on it, less time to mess around – but there was an equal element where attention also seemed in short supply. Were stakeholders really going to want to sit and read through that much detail? There had been a restructure the year before, there was another one coming; many stakeholders were in the same position; and forty pages of bragging no longer feels quite appropriate… We went for a page-spread for every service offering area, a spread for carbon emissions & sustainability issues, and one for financials. Top-line messages and some good, solid, tight creative production: people stories and positive impacts. Bish bash bosh, as they say.

Now I’m really interested to see this one. You can read more about the whole thing, and the designers and the website, at the ever-wonderful Creative Review. (Oh, and by the way, click on my links page and you’ll see Asbury & Asbury, who did the copywriting. See, I only know the best…)

I think the concept may have missed a trick, though? The first thing I thought of when I saw it wasn’t the credit card, or the travelcard it was modelled on: I thought of a donor card.

 

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