Expert Columns

I still write things out longhand. Not everything, but when I’m working on sales copy and web content, I usually end up putting my ideas on paper so I can see the ideas and connect the dots. This past week, I was working on a sales piece, but was stumped for ideas…so out came the notebook and before I knew it, I’d reverted back to Copywriting 101 and was asking the three tough questions that we’ve all been taught to ask when writing spots. Seeing them on paper was a good reminder of how important those questions are to crafting a quality sales piece. Ask these questions the next time you sit down to write copy:
What am I trying to accomplish? Most people start with the audience question…but sometimes the first step is to figure out what’s expected. In other words, begin with the end in sight. Figure out the purpose – are you selling widgets or asking for donations – and stick to it.
Who is my audience? Who is going to buy the product? Who is signing the monthly donation check? Who is bringing the kids to your family fair? Don’t be content to say, “Females, ages 25 to 45.” Be specific: Mom has two boys, 6 and 8 years old. She’s getting up early to drive the kids to sports practice, then stopping by your remote for free pizza. She needs a break and hopes that she can get to your event, grab some pizza, and head home. Knowing this helps you better understand your audience, and you can speak directly to their needs. And speaking of needs…
What problem needs to be solved? Find a person’s “pain points” and show them how your product or service meets that need. Pain points can be real – “I have headaches and need a medication to stop them” – or perceived. “I need the new Honda because it has a  cupholder and plays mp3s.” Your job as a copywriter is to find and solve those problems…then move people to take action.
Once you answer these questions, you’re on your way to getting people to pay attention and respond. So whether you’re a newbie who’s writing spots for the very first time, or you’re a geezer like me, I hope that seeing these questions help you create powerful spots.

From time to time it’s good to go back to the basics. If it’s been a while since you’ve run promotions, or you have a new person on the team, here’s a look at some of the entry-level things you need to know about promotions and community events.
Community events are great ways to connect one-on-one and build relationships in your neighborhood or city. As you look toward new opportunities, here are a few things to remember when planning your next event:
1) Know why you’re doing this. What do you hope to accomplish at each event? Do you want to connect with young families? What is your goal? Know what you want to accomplish and plan accordingly.
2) Determine the take-away. What do you want people to remember about your station? Do you want them to visit your website? Do people know what you want them to do? Decide on a clear call to action, then order the promotional tools and plan the messaging to support your goal.
3) Set up a checklist and keep track of your plans. Take time to plan ahead. Think through the event and include details in a checklist. Show the list to other team members and Invite them to add details you might have missed.
4) Don’t forget permits and insurance. Do you need a permit from the city or the event organizers to run the attractions at your booth?  Then, call your insurance agent to see if your current plan covers bounce houses, jogging trampolines, or ball pits. As simple as these things might seem, your station could wind up paying medical costs if someone gets hurt and you don’t have the proper insurance.
5) Stay focused but flexible. Events can take on a life of their own, and the next thing you know, you’ve spent a lot of money, but accomplished little. Stay focused on your goals…but remember that events are meant to be fun! It’s ok to adjust to the flow of an event, but remember why you’re there.
Got anything else you’d add to this list for your team? What things do you keep in mind when you’re planning a big event? Feel free to share!

Now that you've settled into the new year, it's time to check in on your station brand and messaging to make sure it's up to date and ready for your 2015 promotions. Why is this so important? Because a brand is a promise you make to your audience. It's more than a logo or on-air ID. It's the reason people tune in. You've promised a certain “sound” or “connection.” Do you keep that promise? Here are five simple questions to ask yourself as you review your station brand. Take your time and answer each one honestly. 1) Have you made a specific promise to your listeners? A promise that when they come in contact with your station, they can expect a certain type and level of communication and care. What is that promise? 2) Are you keeping that promise across each and every station channel? This means that whether people listen live in the mornings, visit your social media pages during the day, or visit you at a remote, or receive a monthly newsletter they hear a consistent message each and every time. 3) Can people repeat your core promise? Can they describe your station in one word? One sentence? If they can't, then maybe you should consider simplifying your message. 4) Does your staff know – and can they repeat – your core promise? Your team is key to communicating your brand, so give them a one-sheet that explains the station brand and how they can live it out across all channels. 5) Does your promise drive all of your messaging and events? Your brand promise is not just a public image, it's the driving force behind all you do. If you're planning events or messages do not reinforce your brand, your audience will know it, and it will weaken your credibility. Your brand is what sets you apart from other stations in the market. It sets you apart from Pandora and Spotify. It makes you unique in the minds of listeners and advertisers. So make sure that you are consistently delivering on your brand promise. It does make a difference.

Ever get down to the end of the day and realize you still have a pile of copy left to write? If your answer is “every day,” then here's something that might help.
Recently blog.BufferApp.com ran a list of 189 power words – proven words that strengthen copy. That list now has a permanent place on my desk at work and I use it often. One section of the blog, though, referenced the “Most Persuasive Selling Words” and it dates back to 1961. Surprisingly, what worked in advertising five decades ago is still relevant today. Here's the list:
• You
• Discover
• Easy
• Proven
• Safe
• Money
• Guarantee
• Health
• Happiness
• Love
• Results
Sound familiar? Because they still work. If you regularly write ad copy, keep these words nearby and use them. Sure, advertising is changing. It's much more targeted, tracked, and sophisticated. But there's still a human on the other end of the ad. And you still need to get them to respond. These 11 words will go a long way toward connecting with the person who's listening to or clicking on your ads.

New year...new plans...new opportunities! How will you tackle 2015?
While you're still penciling in promotional ideas for the new year, here are three big Video/Film projects you should know about in the coming year. (Full disclosure: I'm working on church-curriculum products related to A.D. And God's Not Dead, but this is not a paid endorsement of those films or products.)
1) Fifty Shades of Grey. The books have sold like wildfire and the movie opens Valentine's Day weekend in the United States. How will audiences receive this big-screen version of a sex bondage tale? Look for massive over-hype in the weeks leading up to its first showing. What can you do about it? The film is definitely non-Christian in its approach to sex...and that means it will be tough to talk about on air. So how about presenting God's designs for intimacy? Talk with marriage experts about ways couples can strengthen their marriages. Give away a romantic weekend for a husband/wife. Encourage your staff to come up with Date Night ideas they can share on air. Simply put, we know the Author of Love...so share His Word and His heart on the subject.
2) A.D. - The Series. From Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. This new series begins Easter Sunday on NBC Television and tells the story of the Early Church. The storyline follows the first 10 chapters of the Book of Acts and weaves in the political intrigue/persecution Christ's followers faced in the first century. Check out NBC.com/AD to watch the trailer.
3) Do You Believe? The release of  God's Not Dead surprised the box office. As of year-end 2014, the film starring Kevin Sorbo pulled in 66-million dollars. Now the company behind God's Not Dead is planning a follow-up film titled, Do You Believe? There's no set release date for the new film, but it is planned for Spring 2015.
Can you capture the conversation being generated by these – and other – events coming up in 2015? Look for those “big rocks” in our culture and start becoming part of people's everyday lives and conversations.

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